Under the Union Jack, No. 21, Vol. 2, March 31st 1900

March 31,1900.) UNDER THE UNION JACK. .483 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. THE COLLAPSE OF THE FREE STATE REVOLT. WHEN these pages went to press last week we were able to chronicle only the bare fact of the trium phat Bloemfontein. Now there is the duty of recording the full extent of the success which has been wrought by Lord Rob erts’s splendid plans, so ably •outworked by his staff and so magnificently executed by the troops under his comm and, who have shown that they can both do and endure. Words fail to express the admiration Englishmen feel for the officers and men who have proved themselves such excellent soldiers both in marching and fighting power, and wherever our tongue is spoken voices have been loud in praise of the army— both regular and colonial— which has accomplished so much. “By the help of God and by the bravery of Her M a je sty’s soldiers, the troops under m y command have taken possession of Bloemfontein. The British flag now overflies the Presidency, vacated last evening by Air. Steyn ,late President of the Orange Free Slate .”In these brief and very significant words did Lord Roberts announce his success from Bloemfontein itself at 8 p.m .on March 13th .It was a triumph indeed. His army had crossed the enem y’s boundary on February 12th three days later Kimberley was relieved. On February 27th the bulk of the Boer army which had besieged that place surrendered under the most popular general the enemy possessed and on March 13 th— twenty-nine days from the commencement of the operations— the capital of the defeated State was occupied. It was on the night of March 12th that General French seized the railway six miles south of Bloemfontein, and in the course of the same evening an act of great gallantry was performed b y Major H unter-W eston, of the Royal Engineers, with ten men. They passed through the Boer lines, cut the telegraph wires, and blew up the railway on the north side of the town. The result was that tw enty-five locomotives and a large quantity of rolling-stock <ell into our hands, with very important results for the immediate settlement of the country. Before that time there had been angry debates between the Boers in the capital. A strong party of the FreeS taters were in favour of surrender, but Mr. Steyn ,with a number of recalcitrants of fighting capacity, wished to defend it to the last, and the Transvaal Government put very strong pressure upon the Free State leaders to make a stand, while K rug e r’s captains at the front threatened to turn their guns upon the town if the wish was not carried out. The upshot was that Mr. Steyn, with the fighting components of his forces at Bloemfontein, fled at 6.30 p.m .on the 12th to 'Win burg ,whence they marched to Kroonstad, thereto setup a pseudo- government for what remained to them of the late Orange Free State. The hands of the more placable officials at Bloemfontein being thus relieved, the Mayor of the town, Dr. K ellner, the Landdrost, Mr. Papenfus, and M r.F ra se r,an influential member of the Executive, came out to Lord Roberts and met him two miles from the town, where they presented to him the keys of the public offices in token of surrender. This occurred at 1 1 a.m .on March 13th ,though a Boer report dated March 12th at Bloemfontein had announced to the burghers that prepara­tions were being made for a sturdy defence of the capital, and that we had been defeated at Abraham Kraal’s two days before. The first to enter the town were three men of Rim in gton ’s Scouts, with some newspaper correspondents, and Lord Roberts then prepared to make a formal entry, which he did at the head of a cavalcade. Ashe approached with the troops great commotion was observed among the inhabitants, but they were soon reassured, and Lord Roberts was welcomed by smiling faces, fluttering handkerchiefs, and repeated cheers, and when he entered the garden of the Presidency the crowd suddenly began to sing “God Save the Queen,” everyone standing upright, and the civilians raising their hats. The Union Jack was then hoisted amid another scene of enthusiasm .The kindliness with which the veteran Field -Marshal had reassured the representatives of the people, and the excellent dispositions which he made for their safety and security, not less, perhaps, than the statesmanlike grasp which he has shown of the drift of affairs, soon won for him the esteem and the regard of Bloemfontein, and a most cordial welcome was extended to his gallant troops, who were the objects of admiring scrutiny from men who know what fighting is, while the ladies of Bloemfontein were thereto look Thereon. were, indeed, scenes of great enthusiasm when General Kelly-Kenny with the Sixth Division marched through the town on the next day, and, as regiment after regiment filed past, cheer after cheer again broke forth. Lord Roberts especially congratulated the officers and men of the Guards’ Brigade, who presented a magnificent appearance, on the splendid manner in which they had per­formed the march of thirty-eight miles twin enty-eight hours. H e said he had hoped to enter Bloemfontein at their head, but he promised to lead them into Pretoria. The marching qualities of the soldiers have surprised the critics at home. The Seventh Division with the Gordon Highlanders left Poplar Grove on the 10th and marched toP etru sb u rg, and started thence at daybreak toD riekop, moving on the following morning to V enter’s V lei, after a march of twenty miles, and marching thence to Bloemfontein. The per­formance of the Sixth Division was also remarkable, for the men fought a hardly-contested action on the 10th ,and then marched on successive days to A asvogel K op, V enter’s Vlei, and Bloemfontein. It appears that a large portion of the infantry averaged sixteen miles on three successive days. Lord Roberts had made great demands upon his soldiers, but he knew their qualities, and the success which attended his calling up of the Seventh Division and marching onto Bloemfontein amply demonstrated his wisdom .Events soon showed that opposition in the late Free State, unless, perhaps, in the extreme north of it, had com­pletely collapsed. The fighting Boers have retreated, and the bridges behind them were blown upon March 18th .The proclamation of clemency to those who would lay down their arm sand engage themselves to take no further part against us has, however, had an excellent effect, and hundreds of rifles have been handed in. In Bloemfontein itself, where General P retym an is the Military Governor, commerce and social life have resumed almost their ordinary course, and communication having been opened up by the railway to CapeTown ,the place has become an important centre for our further operations. It was an extremely happy thought of Lord Rob erts’s to encourage the starting of a newspaper for the special edification of the troops, under the manage­ment of a committee of war correspondents, and the paper opened well on St. P a trick’s Day with averse telegraphed from CapeTown by Mr. R u d yard Kipling, concerning the“W earin ’ o ’the Green .”The Advance from the Sou th. One great object of Lord Rob erts’s march had been to secure the railway which would bring him into communica­tion with CapeTown ,and he was able to telegraph on March 16th that his object had practically been attained. General P o le-C arew with the Guards’ Brig a dew assent down “UNDER THE UNION JACK ”HAS BEEN REPRINTED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
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