They succeeded in taking a few prisoners; but most of the enemy fled to Sanna's Post. Only one of the Heilbron burghers was wounded Piet Steenekamp, the son of the Commandant. And now our road was clear; and we passed through! General Fourie joined us two hours after sunset. Then we marched on to Dewetsdorp where we arrived on January 31st.
The latter was the case at Witkopjes, five miles to the south of Heilbron, and again, near Makenwaansstad. But on only too many occasions they managed to surprise troops of burghers on their camping places, and, having captured those who could not run away, they left the dead and wounded on the ground.
To this end I went with these officers to the other side of the railway line, in order to meet General Philip Botha in the country to the south-east of Heilbron, and also, if possible, General Hattingh, who was in command of the Harrismith and Vrede burghers. We succeeded in crossing the railway between Roodewal and Serfontein siding, but not without fighting.
I myself, with Commandant Nel and some of his adjutants, followed them when the sun had set. We rode the whole of that night, and reached the township on the following morning. We immediately arranged that the Government should withdraw from Kroonstad, and that very day it was removed to Heilbron.
For a few days Lord Roberts remained at Kroonstad, but about the 18th of May he again began to move his enormous forces. He sent out four divisions. The first he despatched from Kroonstad to Heilbron; the second from Lindley to the same destination; the third from Kroonstad to Vredefort and Parijs, and the fourth from Kroonstad along the railway line.
It happened that the point of convergence lay near the spot, not far from Reitz, where De Wet and Steyn were in hiding. The propinquity of the columns drove them out of their retreat, and taking a circuitous route past Heilbron and thence along the left bank of the Vaal they crossed the river near Commando Drift, and on March 17 joined Delarey near Wolmaranstad in the Transvaal.
Commandant Mears, with his fifty men, I ordered to remain with the guns and the artillery, and to guard them by very careful scouting. In less than a fortnight seven large columns of the enemy were operating in the district between Heilbron and Bethlehem and Harrismith. These columns burnt all the houses within their reach, and those which had been spared before were now given over to the flames.
Although this was not very satisfactory, still it was just as well that I should meet the Commandant-General of the Transvaal. We had much to discuss and, after a long talk, we parted with the firm determination that, whatever happened, we would continue the war. On the 27th General Botha returned to the Transvaal, and I to the Heilbron commando.
We also learnt that Steyn was ill, that he was hiding on a farm near Heilbron, that he was a prisoner in De Wet's camp, that his mind had given way, that he wouldn't let De Wet surrender, that De Wet wouldn't let the burghers surrender, that the burghers wouldn't let Steyn surrender, ad fin. ad nauseam.
However, I shall not discuss it any more. I am disgusted with you. Mafeking day is about your form. Frankfort, November 23, 1900. Frankfort is one of our small garrison towns. It exists in a perpetual state of siege, like Heilbron, Lindley, Ladybrand, Winberg, Bethlehem, and a dozen others in this neighbourhood; in fact, like all the towns held by us not on the railway.
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