In the year 1830, my mother and I embarked on board the cutter "Circe,"
Captain Blinkenstock, bound to Port Natal, to join my father, Richard Wood,
who was in the "employment of Mr. Collis, at that port.
The captain, my mother, and myself having landed, we proceeded towards a Zulu kraal, where
we were treated kindly. We then set off for Mr. Collis's, and got there
without any accident.
I had been living there about six months, during which time Endeavoured
to pick up as much of the Zulu language as possible.
We travelled as far as the Togela River [spelled Thuleka in 2001],
where we were met by Mabeyantee, Dingaan's principal messenger, who acquainted
us that it was the king's order that the English at Natal should arm themselves
and come to him at Megoomloof [Umgungunhlovu], as he wished to send them
against an enemy who had robbed him, and who had placed himself in such
a situation that the king's troops were of no avail in capturing him, as
spears could not be thrown by hand to reach him, and firearms alone could
Thomas Halstead, an Englishman, being at the place at the time, volunteered
to carry Dingaan's message to the people at Port Natal, and immediately
set off for this purpose.
When the residents at Port Natal were acquainted with Dingaan's orders,
they made preparations for fulfilling them; and when they had mustered
as many as they could bring together, their strength consisted of about
thirty English residents, amongst whom were John Cane (who commanded the
party), Thomas Halstead, Richard Wood (my father), Richard King, Robert
Russell, Thomas Carden, Richard Lovedale, and William Kew; also about forty
Zulus, all of whom were armed with guns. John Broer and I waited for them
at the Tugela River, and when they arrived we joined company and travelled
until we came to the Umhloti River, where we halted, and the rest proceeded
on their journey to Ngungunhlovu. We remained at the river until the king
sent for us. As it may not be uninteresting to my readers to hear how this
affair terminated, I shall, previously to closing this narrative, give
a true account of it.
We had been about a fortnight at the Umhloti River when a messenger
arrived from Dingaan, who told us that the king wished to see us. We immediately
set off, and after travelling for some days, arrived safely at Ngungunhlovu.
Having arrived at a small hill which rises at the back of Dingaan's
kraal, they fired a salute; upon which the king was greatly alarmed, and
sent a messenger to ask them what they meant by firing. They said it was
customary for all kings and great men to receive such tokens of respect
from those who carried arms. This answer dissipated the king's fears, and
he sent them an invitation to come into his kraal and refresh themselves,
which they did. Next day they started in search of the enemy, reinforced
by a large body of Dingaan's troops, commanded by Inhlels. Having travelled
some days, they arrived in the vicinity of the Umpongola Mountains, where
a party of Sapusa's people were posted, and lest these should discover
that Inhlela had Europeans with him, they covered the English with their
shields while ascending the mountain. Sapusa's people had taken up a very
good position on the top of a hill, immediately over, and commanding the
entrance to, a natural cavern, in which they had placed the cattle they
had captured from Dingaan. By rolling down large stones, they had for some
days prevented the approach of a party of Dingaan's troops who had before
attempted to recapture the cattle.
The nearest approach which could be made to them with safety was
by ascending a small hill opposite. This the party did, and found themselves
separated from Sapusa's people by a deep gulch at the bottom of which ran
the Umpongola River. As they were within speaking distance, John Cane,
who commanded the Europeans, spoke to them, and told them to deliver up
the cattle which they had taken from the king, or he would fire upon them;
adding that it was useless for them to resist, for that Dingaan him-self
had taken the trouble to come so far to get his cattle, and was determined
to have them.
On hearing this, Sapusa's people made no reply, but turned their
backs to them in token of contempt. John Cane's party then fired a volley
over their heads, and he again begged of them to agree to his demand, and
told them that if they delivered up the cattle, he would allow them and
their wives and children, who were still with them, to depart unharmed.
They still returned no answer, and he then fired at them and shot three
or four. Cane repeated his demand, but they treated him in the same manner,
upon which his party again fired and shot some more of them. A Zulu woman
was then seen to approach the brink of the precipice, leading a boy of
about twelve or thirteen years of age by the hand, and having an infant
fastened at her back. Looking towards the Europeans, she cried out, "I
will not be killed by thunder, but will kill myself," saying which she
pushed the boy over the precipice, and jumped in herself after him.
The firing still continued, until the party cried out for mercy, and
promised to give up the cattle, which John Cane sent a number of men round
to receive. He then distributed a few head amongst them, and commenced
his journey to Ngungunhlovu (Dingaan's kraal).
The form of Dingaan's kraal was a circle. It was strongly fenced
with bushes, and had two entrances. The principal one faced the king's
huts, which were placed at the furthest extremity of the kraal, behind
which were his wives' huts. These extended beyond the circle which formed
the kraal, but were also strongly fenced in. On the right hand of the principal
entrance were placed the huts of Inhlela (Dingaan's captain) and his warriors,
and on the left those of Dambuza (another of his captains) with his men.
The kraal contained four cattle kraals, which were also strongly fenced,
and four huts erected on pole, which contained the arms of the troops.
At a short distance from the entrance was the trunk of a large tree, which
was in a state of decay, and which no person was allowed to touch, being
the tree under which Dingaan's father died, and which he valued very highly.
Near this tree grew two other trees, which are called by the Zulu's milk-trees.
The other entrance was from that part of the kraal behind Dingaan's wives'
huts, and this was considered private.
The huts in which the Rev. Mr. Owen and myself resided were without
the kraal, and facing a hill which had been the grave of thousands.
About sixty farmers, [Dutch-African Emigrant Boers] at the head
of whom was Mr. Pieter Retief, accompanied by forty of their servants,
all well armed, with a view of convincing Dingaan that they meant him no
harm, attacked a chief who was an enemy of the king, and defeated him,
taking from him about seven thousand head of cattle, which he had captured
from him on a former occasion. With these cattle they approached the kraal
of Dingaan, to whom they delivered them: and at the same time expressed
their earnest desire that peace might exist between the king and the emigrant
farmers, whom they now represented.
Dingaan gladly received the cattle; but his attention was arrested
by sixty horses and eleven guns which the farmers had taken from the enemy,
and he told them he must also have them. Retief, however, told him that
he could not comply with this demand, as the cattle were his property,
but not the guns and horses. With this Dingaan appeared satisfied, and,
shortly after, told them that the cattle should also be theirs; likewise
promising them a piece of land extending from the Tugela to the Umzimvubu.
Retief accepted his offer, and a treaty was signed between Dingaan on the
one hand and the emigrant farmers on the other. The farmers had been at
Ngungunhlovu about two days, during which they walked about the kraal unarmed,
but had taken the precaution to place their arms under the protection of
their servants or after-riders, who had taken up their quarters under the
two milktrees without the kraal. On the morning of the third day, I perceived
from Dingaan's manner that he meditated some mischief, although from his
conversation with his captains I could not perceive that he had given them
any orders prejudicial to the farmers. I, however, watched my opportunity
to warn them to be on their guard. This occurred when some of the farmers
strolled into the kraal, and, having come near the place where I was standing,
I told them I did not think all was right, and recommended them to be on
their guard; upon which they smiled and said: "We are sure the king's heart
is right with us, and there is no cause for fear."
A short time after this, Dingaan came out of his hut, and having
seated himself in front of it in his arm-chair, ordered out two regiments.
One was called "Isihlangu Mhlope," or white shields, and the other the
"Isihlangu Mnyama," or back shields: the former were his best men, and
wore rings on their heads, formed of the bark of a tree and grass, and
stitched through the scalp: and the latter regiment was composed entirely
of young men. These troops he caused to form in a circle, and, having placed
his two principal captains on his right and left hand respectively, he
sent a message to Retief, inviting him to bring his men, and wish the king
"farewell," previously to starting. Retief a short time after this entered
the kraal, accompanied by the other farmers and all their servants, with
the exception of one or two, who were sent out to fetch the horses; their
arms being left unguarded under the two milk-trees without the kraal.
On Retief approaching Dingaan, the latter told him to acquaint
the farmers at Natal, as soon as he arrived there, of the king's desire
that they should soon come and possess the land he had given them; also
to remember him to them. He then wished the party an agreeable journey
to Natal, and invited them to sit down and drink some "tywala" [Kaffir-beer]
with him and his people, which invitation they unfortunately accepted.
Retief sat by the king; but the farmers and their servants sat in a place
by themselves, at a short distance from the king and his captains. After
drinking some beer together, Dingaan ordered his troops to amuse the farmers
by dancing and singing, which they immediately commenced doing. The farmers
had not been sitting longer than about a quarter of an hour, when Dingaan
called out: "Seize them!" upon which an overwhelming rush was made upon
the party before they could get on their feet. Thomas Halstead then cried
out: "We are done for!" and added in the Zulu language, "Let me speak to
the king;" which Dingaan heard, but motioned them away with his hand. Halstead
then drew his knife, and ripped up one Zulu, and cut another throat, before
he was secured; and a farmer also succeeded in ripping up another Zulu..
The farmers were then dragged with their feet trailing on the ground,
each man being held by as many Zulu as could get at him, from the presence
of Dingaan, who still continued sitting and calling out "Bulala amatakati"
(kill the wizards). He then said, "Take the heart and the liver of the
king of the farmers and place them in the road of the farmers."
When they had dragged them to the hill, "Hloma Mabuto," [Mustering
the soldiers] they commenced the work of death by striking them on the
head with knobbed sticks, Retief being held and forced to witness the deaths
of his comrades before they dispatched him. It was a most awful occurrence,
and will never be effaced from my memory.
The Rev. Mr. Owen and I witnessed it, standing at the doors of
our huts, which faced the place of execution. Retief's heart and liver
were taken out, wrapped in a cloth, and taken to Dingaan. His two captains,
Inlela and Dambuza, then came and sat down by Dingaan, with whom they conversed
for some time. About two hours after the massacre, orders were issued that
a large party were to set off and attack the wagons that contained the
wives and children of the murdered farmers, which were at a considerable
distance from Ngungunhlovu, as Retief and his party had left them there,
not wishing to bring their families into any danger.
A large body of men were immediately in readiness, and the captains,
previously to starting, approached Dingaan singly, and made a mock attack
on him, thrusting their shields and then their spears close to his face,
and going through a variety of movements; at the same time giving him various
titles and praising him, as all his people who approach him must do; and
occasionally calling out, "We will go and kill the white dogs !" A short
time after the party set off with great speed in the direction of the wagons.
The result of that attack is well known. The farmers who were guarding
the wagons were taken by surprise, when many of them fell, and some hundreds
of women and children were inhumanely murdered, but not without retribution,
as a great number of the enemy were slain, and the remainder obliged to
retreat with precipitation.
After the murder of the farmers, Dingaan sent a messenger, named
Gumbu, to the Rev. Mr. Owen and me, telling us not to fear, as no harm
should happen to us; informing us at the same time that the farmers were
"Tagati," or wizards, and that that was the king's motive for killing them.
Mr. Owen told me to tell him that he had nothing whatever to do with the
transaction, and could not help what had transpired. He then turned round
and walked off. Knowing Dingaan's jealous and treacherous disposition,
I did not give the messenger the answer of Mr. Owen, feeling assured that
it would have caused our deaths; but I told Gumbu to tell the king that
we considered that he had acted perfectly right in killing the farmers,
as no doubt they would otherwise have killed us, as well as him and his
This answer pleased the king, and he sent us a present of an ox.
Not long after, we saw between fifty and sixty men approaching the house;
and it need scarcely be observed that this circumstance caused us not a
little fear. When they came up to the house, they acquainted us that Dingaan
wished to see us, and repeated the promise of the king that no injury should
happen to as. We went immediately to him, and his first question was, "Are
you afraid?" upon which I saw that the opinion which we had formed of the
king left no room for fear. He then laughed, and said we had acted as we
should do. He then asked, "Do you wish to return to Natal?" but we answered
"No." He then dismissed us to our huts.
The next day we waited on the king, when Mr. Owen asked permission
to go to Natal, but was refused. A messenger came, however, the same afternoon,
bringing the king's permission for us to depart, but not to take our cattle
or servants with us. On the following day he informed us that we might
take both. We remained four days longer without making any preparations
for our journey, in order to show Dingaan that we did not expect any violence
from him, and were therefore free from fear on that account, and not over-anxious
to leave his kraal. Mr. Owen, who had two wagons, then commenced packing
up his things; but in the midst of his work was interrupted by the arrival
of a messenger from Dingaan, who told him that he must leave the best wagon,
together with his cattle and servants, behind: to which orders Mr. Owen
thought fit to submit; and everything being in readiness, we went and bade
the king farewell, when he shook hands with us and wished us a pleasant
journey. I must here observe that Dingaan was averse to my going, and told
me that during the time I had been with him I had received nothing but
kindness; that I had been allowed to do as I liked; that he had given me
a herd of cattle, and a number of boys as 'companions'; and he then asked
why I wished to go away from him, telling me at the same time that I could
do just as I liked, but he would much rather that I should stay. I told
him that, having seen the farmers killed, I was so filled with fear that
now I could not be happy any longer, and wished much to go to my father
at Natal. "Well," said he, "I am sorry you are going; but if you are not
happy, I will not detain you."
A small party of Zulu's was sent with us to drive the wagon and
take care of the oxen; and a messenger was sent before us to the different
villages through which our journey lay, with orders that we should be supplied
with everything we needed, and that every assistance we might require should
be granted to us.
When we had got about four miles from Megoonloof [Ngungunhlovu], Dinguan
sent a message to Mr. Owen that he should come to him, and immediately
afterwards another came, saying we might proceed.
Having continued our journey to Natal, and not meeting with any further
interruption, we rested for two days at one of the missionary stations,
and then resumed our journey, being closely watched by two spies, whom
we supposed Dinguan had sent after us. We rested at several villages on
our way, where we were treated with great kindness; and in due time arrived
at Natal, where we found the news of the massacre had preceded us, and
active measures were being taken for the defence of the place against any
attack which Dingaan might meditate against it.
A fortnight after our arrival, the English at Port Natal came
to the determination of attacking Dingaan, and avenging the deaths of Thomas
Halstead and George Biggar, who had formed part of Retief's party, and
who were their particular friends; and for this purpose immediate preparations
were made accordingly. When they were ready to start they numbered their
forces, which consisted of about thirty Europeans, a few Hottentots, and
fifteen hundred Zulus. The latter had fled from Dingaan at different times,
and had settled at Port Natal;therefore the Natal people could depend upon
their doing their best, as they well knew what awaited them if they should
fall into Dingaan's hands. The Europeans, Hottentots, and about 200 of
the Zulu's had guns, but the other Zulu's had only their county arms. Previously
to starting the Zulus danced, sang, and went through a variety of manoeuvres,
boasting of what the) intended to do with their enemies. One of their songs
was something thing in this style:- "We are going to kill the elephant
who killed our forefathers, fathers, mothers, wives, and children, and
who deprived us of our cattle. Now we are going to kill him and eat him
cattle. And if we catch him, we will cut him in pieces."
The following persons formed part of this commando - Robert Biggar',
who was the leader of the expedition, Thos. Carden, W Bottomly, Richard
King, John Cane, Richard Duffy, Robert Russell Richard Wood (my father),
William Wood (my uncle), and Mess Blanckenberg and Lovedale. Having started
from Port Natal, they travelled continuously into Dingaan's country, in
the direction of Ngungunhlovu, and had been only four days on their journey
when they fell in with a party of Zulus, having about seven thousand head
of cattle. On seeing the party the Zulus fled, and left the cattle in the
hands of the English, who then returned to Port Natal, where the cattle
were distributed among the captors.
It appeared that, during their absence, the Zulus whom they had left
at Natal to protect their property, &c., had taken prisoner a Zulu
spy. He had appeared among them dressed in farmer's clothes; and, upon
their questioning him, told them he had come from Graham's Town; but, unfortunately
for him, he was recognised by one of the people as one of Dingaan's best
spies, and therefore they proceeded to put him to death. When he found
that there was no chance of escape, he confessed he was what they pronounced
him to be, and said: "I have deserved death long ago; for I have been the
cause of the destruction of great numbers of people. It will not be long
before you will have Dinguan amongst you." When Robert Biggar's party had
arrived with the cattle, the above was the information which they received
from the Natal Zulus of what had transpired in their absence; and the reason
they gave for not keeping the spy until the party had returned was, that
they were afraid the English would save his life, and they thought it better
to be rid of such a dangerous subject.
Some eight or ten days had elapsed, when the same commando again
started from Port Natal, in search of Dingaan, and proceeded as far as
the Mavootie River [Unvoti] without meeting any opposition. Having crossed
the river, they ascended a hill on the other side, and from thence discovered
a party of about 150 men on the brow of a hill further on: on which three
spies were sent to reconnoitre. Those spies having stolen upon them, fired
a few shots, which apparently so alarmed them that they fled, leaving their
food on the fires, and a few assagais and shields which they had dropped
in their haste to escape.
The spies having returned, a stronger party was sent to watch the enemy,
and came up with them in the ruined huts of the Amapieke, on this side
the Tugela River. On firing amongst them, the enemy fled, as on the former
occasion, and the spies returned to the main body, who were advancing.
When they had arrived at the Tugela River, they sent forward some spies,
who soon returned with the information that they had observed the same
party of Zulus, who had fled from them twice before, lying asleep in the
village of a captain named Zulu. It being late in the evening, the party
did not cross the river until the next morning, when they advanced upon
the above-named village, where they found the Zulus mentioned by the spies,
and, commencing an attack upon them, they immediately fled. Biggar had
taken one of them a prisoner, and was in the act of questioning him, when
he observed large bodies of Zulus closing him in, and found retreat was
impossible. In a short time the battle commenced, and the English had succeeded
in driving them off three times in succession, when another large body
of Zulus was seen advancing in their rear. It was then a step was taken
by the leader of the party which involved the whole in ruin; for he divided
his force, and sent part of it to oppose this body which was advancing,
which induced the enemy to make a desperate rush, by which they succeeded
in getting between the divisions, and destroying the whole party, with
the exception of four Englishmen and about five hundred Zulus, who succeeded
in making their escape to Port Natal.
There were two of the Natal Zulus who, when they saw the imminent
danger in which they were placed, threw themselves upon the slain and counterfeited
death. One was quite a young man and the other of a more advanced age.
In this situation they heard a spy of Dingaan's, who had arrived when
the battle was over,say to the captains: "The farmers are approaching from
that mountain." And the reply was: 'What is the use of going up to them?
The white dogs have nearly killed us all; and, if we go to the other dogs,
they will finish us." The dead and wounded were then examined; and, some
of the enemy coming near the spot where the two men were lying, one of
them said: "Some of those are not dead let us cut them open;" upon which
the young man jumped up, and was immediately killed; but the other lay
still, and escaped to tell the story.
When we who were at Port Natal received intelligence of this shocking
occurrence, we kept a sharp look-out, and had our spies on every hill,
one of whom at length brought us information of the near approach of a
large body of Dingaan's men, who seemed to take their time, and did not
travel quickly. When the spy had left they had lit their fires; and, it
appears, had encamped for the night on the banks of the Umgeni River.
Providentially, the "Comet" (brig), Capt. Rodham, was then lying
in Natal bay, within the bar; and on board that vessel all the Europeans
got that evening, leaving the Natal Zulu, many of whom had guns, to make
for themselves the best shift they could.
The following are among those who got on board the (brig) The
Rev. Mr. Owen, Mrs. Owen, and Miss Owen; Mrs. Champion, Mrs. Adams, the
Rev. Mr. Grout, Dr. Adams, Capt. Gardiner, Rev. Mr. Champion, Mrs. Rodham,
Mr. Biggar, senior, Mrs. Gardiner, Dr. and Mrs. Towey and child, Charles
Adams, Jane Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Dunn and children, Mr. and Mrs. Miller,
Mr. and Mrs. Pitman, Mr. and Mrs. Heyward and children, Mr. and Mrs. Hull
and children, Mrs. Wood (my mother), Mr. Richard King, Mr. Ogle, George
Duffy, Jas. Brown, and myself.
The next morning several of us went towards the shore in a boat, and
perceived that the Zulus were occupying Natal. Having approached very near
the shore, one of the captains called out to us and said, "We have killed
the principal people of Natal, and now only want Mr. Ogle !" Upon which
Mr. Ogle, who was in the boat, stood up, and said, "Do you want me?" And,
on being answered in the affirmative, he replied, "Then you shan't get
me." The same captain then, addressing me, said: "Who are you?" "Do you
not know William," said I, "who was so long with the king?" he replied;
"Come here, I want to speak with you" To which I answered, "I am not such
a fool as that yet!" We then rowed back to the ship.
The Zulus kept possession of the place for nine days, and then
returned to Dingaan, after having destroyed everything that came in their
way. Some of our party having landed, sent out spies, and found that the
enemy had left the place in earnest. Only eight or nine of us remained
at Port Natal, the others thinking fit to proceed with the "Comet" to De
la Goa Bay, whither she was bound, and from thence to the Cape in the same
vessel. When we landed we found that some of our Zulus had shot numbers
of the enemy. Two we found lying dead, dressed in my mother's gowns, with
full sleeves, and in stockings, without shoes. Others had shawls on; some
had blankets, others sheets rolled round them; while some had ladies' waist-bands
tied round their heads, etc. Sundry articles of provisions such as flour,
coffee, sugar, fat, and plums-were taken from Mr. Ogle's house and thrown
on the ground, into which they had poured a keg of French brandy, and having
stamped it with their feet, left it for him. We remained but a fortnight
longer at Natal, and then my mother and I left it, in company with Mr.
and Mrs. Edwards and family, for Graham's Town.
--- THE END ---
The above was taken from a FACSIMILE REPRINT:
ANNALS OF NATAL,
1495 TO 1845, By John Bird, Volume 1
C. STRUIK / CAPE TOWN / 1965
This document was copied from the original by Robert Dean Wood, Pleasanton,
Copyright rests with said Robert Dean Wood who may be contacted by e-mail
1. William mentions in the first paragraph, "In the year 1830, my mother
and I embarked on board the cutter "Circe," Captain Blinkenstock, bound
to Port Natal,"
He mention NO BROTHERS or SISTERS.
He does not mention Mothers Name.
Other writers mention 'Her Children" I thing this is in error.
2. Date either of the *brothers arrived in South Africa? *brothers:(2)William
and (1) Richard. (guess; with Collis?)
3 Did their parents come with them from England?
4. He does not mention their starting point, My assumption is Cape
Town (England or South Africa?)
5. Date of death of the parents of the brothers in England: (Ellen?
amd (1)William Wood (My guess: shortly before the brothers left England.
6. Where in England?
7. Est.date of death of; (3)William and Mary Alicia (O'Connor) Wood
1862 -1865 in Saganaw, Bay County, Michigan
If 18 in 1849 when she married and died at *age 36 the date of death
would be 1867 *age of death as given in Grandpa journal.
They were the parents of (3) Son of Richard b. 1849 and daughter Mary
Alicia Wood b. 1850 In Rio De Janerio, Brazil. Documented
Conflict of dates between the: Battle of Tugela April 15 1838
And Death Notice of Richard Wood: "... deceased, Feb. 1838.
I was told this was not uncommon, the April date was proabley the date
the death was recorded.
If you can answer any of these questions please contact me.
Robert Dean Wood - E-mail:
Note: "..the English at the Bay sent sent two expeditions against
the Zulus (March/April 1838) - the second, culminating in the first Battle
of Ndondakusuka in which of the 17 Whites that sallied forth, only
four survived, and of the 800 Black followers 600 perished. Both of Ann
Dunn's brothers (sons of AH Biggar) where killed in the action packed 3
months ... on the 11th of May the Comet sailed for Delagoa Bay and ultimately
Algoa leaving behind only about 9 of the Port Natal residents ... Mrs Dunn
and her children were said to be on board ... Mr Dunn may have been among
the few who remained at Port Natal ....''
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