South Africa today is counted a prime destination in Africa all over the world. The country glimmering today had its dark days, such as the war against the British invaders.
The Zulu tribe didn’t just resist the British troops but defeated them in what was dubbed “the Battle Of Isandlwana”.
This was the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22nd, 1879. The war which turned out bloody and almost lost to the British later proved to be a significant and unexpected victory for the Zulus.
Since the arrival of the British troops in South Africa at the start of the 19th Century, Zululand had proved to be a troublesome nation in their attempts to control the region. While the founder of the Zulu Empire was on the throne, Shaka, and his immediate successors, the British dare not make an attempt to challenge them. For the first three decades, the Zulu people were fearless and powerful.
Later from 1840s through the 1860s, the British (and Boer) power gradually increased and the Zulu military control grew weaker. By the 1870s British expansion into the diamond and gold-rich interior was received by the Zulu Empire. This led the British High Commissioner of Southern Africa, Sir Bartle Frere in 1878, provoked a war with the Zulu, hoping for a short attack leading to the destruction of Zulu military power and its kingdom.
Prior to the war, an ultimatum was sent to Zulu King Cetshwayo on December 11th, 1878, by Frere, commanding him either to dissolve the military system of his nation or face war with the British Empire.
Efforts made by King Cetshwayo to avoid going into war with the British were futile; however, he discovered that it was impossible to comply with this request. As anticipated by Frere, Cetshwayo declined the offer to disband his Zulu army and instead prepared for war against the British.
On the 22nd of 1879, the British troops invaded Zululand. Their army consists of both British and African men from the neighboring British colony of Natal numbering almost 1,800 troops.
The British were fully assured of their victory due to their sophisticated arsenal, despite fighting a force of roughly 20,000 Zulu warriors.
Nonetheless, the battle that was winning at a time turned around to become an embarrassing defeat for the British as they were out-maneuvered by the Zulus. At the end of the battle, the British troops lost around 1,300 while Cetshwayo’s men suffered a relatively light loss, 1,000 men.
However, the Zulus was able to taste victory but didn’t last long. As the British thought that the embarrassing defeat could lead to other nations attempting to revolt against them. In a bid to preserve their Imperial image of power and prestige, the British launched a nine-month counteroffensive that brought at least 17,000 British troops. It was the largest Army they sent to Africa.
The British troops emerged victorious in this Anglo-Zulu War. The British forces captured Cetshwayo on August 28th, 1879, and forced him into agreeing to dissolve the Zulu Empire into 13 small states.
Eight years later, all the small states were ambushed and captured by the British. The Battle of Isandlwana, however, remain a significance symbol in the history of Africa as an example of defiance of an African state against European terrorism and Imperialism.