site of the Battle of Blood River
site of the Battle of Blood River Review
Off the R33 northeast of Dundee is the site of the Battle of Blood River, one of the most important events in the history of South Africa. This battle, fought between the Boers and the Zulus in 1838, predates the Anglo-Zulu War by more than 40 years. After the murder of Piet Retief and his men at Mgungundlovu in February 1838, Dingane dispatched Zulu impis to kill all the white settlers in Natal. The Voortrekkers bore the brunt of the Zulu assault. For the next 10 months their future hung in the balance: entire settlements were wiped out, and a Boer commando was smashed at the Battle of Italeni. By November a new commando of 464 men and 64 wagons under Andries Pretorius had moved out to challenge the Zulus. On Sunday, November 9, the Boers took a vow that should God grant them victory, they would forever remember that day as a Sabbath and build a church in commemoration. They repeated the vow every night for the next five weeks. On December 16 an enormous Zulu force attacked the Boers, who had circled their wagons in a strategic position backed by the Blood River and a deep donga, or gully. Armed with only spears, the Zulus were no match for the Boer riflemen. At the end of the battle 3,000 Zulus lay dead, but not a single Boer had fallen. The immediate effect of the victory was to open Natal to white settlement, but the long-term effects were far more dramatic. The intensely religious Voortrekkers saw their great victory as a confirmation of their role as God's chosen people. This deeply held conviction lay at the spiritual heart of the apartheid system that surfaced more than a century later, in 1948. Indeed, when you see the monument here, there's no mistaking the gravity and importance that the Nationalist government ascribed to its erection. The laager, a defensive circle of 64 wagons, has been reconstructed in exacting detail, made from a mix of cast steel and bronze. It's a truly haunting monument, made even more so by its position on empty grasslands that seem to stretch for eternity.
- Address: Off R33, between Dundee and Vryheid, Dundee, 3000
- Phone: 072/088–3544
- Cost: R20
- Hours: Daily 8–4
- Location: Dundee