He did not realize that Vendutie Drift was not a Magersfontein which he could hold indefinitely, or that during the last few weeks the British Army had been greatly increased. One result of his obstinacy was the desertion of several hundred Free Staters, who had not served very willingly under the leadership of a Transvaaler. Most of them returned to their homes.

But the final cause of the failure was Lord Roberts' error of judgment in putting Kitchener into virtual command of the Vendutie Drift force, thereby superseding senior officers of greater tactical ability.

Two miles S.E. of Vendutie Drift, a hill, to which the name of Kitchener's Kopje was afterwards given, rises out of the veld. In the tactics of the assault on the laager, it was not a position of much importance, but in the Paardeberg drama it was a striking scene.

The obstacle was French's attenuated Cavalry Division which, in obedience to Kitchener's summons, had left Kimberley before sunrise that morning, and after a march of twenty-six miles had reached the spot indicated by Kitchener for the heading of Cronje. As the Boer wagons were about to cross Vendutie Drift the shells of French's Horse Artillery began to fall upon them.

To De Wet and especially to Ferreira, whom he knew to be not far off, he looked for help, and even without them he believed that he would be able to cross Vendutie Drift. Ferreira was indeed not far off, but an obstacle suddenly sprang up between him and Cronje, and the aspect of it was so alarming that he withdrew in the opposite direction.

It is said that when Kruger heard of the capitulation of Vendutie Drift he exclaimed, "The real war will now begin." To the British public, the surrender of Cronje, followed in a few hours by the relief of Ladysmith, seemed to prove that the real war had now ended.

It seems to have been chosen as the official word because the hill was the only distinctive physical feature shown on the banks of the river in the incomplete surveys of the time, and because the alternative would have been Stinkfontein, a farm near the field of battle. The Battle of Vendutie Drift would have been a more correct term.

At midnight he passed half of his transport over to the left bank at Paardeberg Drift, himself going on to Vendutie Drift, where the remainder, with the women and children against whose presence in camp De Wet had vainly protested, joined him next morning.

Within ten miles of his laager were Brandvallei, Paardeberg, and Vendutie Drifts, each of which would give him access to the southern bank. The task before the pursuing army was therefore to drive in his rearguards from their successive positions and prevent him getting comfortably away to secure a passage across the river. At nightfall on February 16 it seemed likely that he would succeed.

The laager was holding out, and the chief result of the day's work was a contraction of the line held by the Boers on the river; an attempt by Kelly-Kenny to recapture Kitchener's Kopje had failed; fully one quarter of the perimeter commanding Vendutie Drift was in the possession of the enemy; the troops were exhausted and the casualties exceeded 1,200.