Weenen massacre

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Depiction of a Zulu attack on a Boer camp in February 1838. The Weenen Massacre was the massacre of Voortrekkers by the Zulu impis.

The Weenen Massacre (Afrikaans: Bloukransmoorde) was the massacre of Voortrekkers by the Zulu on 17 February 1838. After the massacre of Piet Retief and his delegation (about a hundred persons), the Zulu King Dingane sent his impis to exterminate the remaining voortrekkers who were camped at Doringkop, Bloukrans (Blaauwekrans), Moordspruit, Rensburgspruit and other sites along the Bushman River (Zulu: Mtshezi), in the present province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.[1] The present day town of Weenen, situated close to these sites, derives its name from the Dutch word for "weeping".[2]

Among the Voortrekkers, 41 men, 56 women and 185 children were killed.[3] In addition another 250[3] or 252[4] Khoikhoi and Basuto that accompanied the Voortrekkers were killed,[5] bringing the casualties to about 534. The murdered included George Biggar, the son of Alexander Biggar, a trader at Port Natal. Biggar and his second son, Robert, subsequently participated and died in retaliatory attacks on the Zulus. Most people camped at the Klein- and Groot-Moordspruit were murdered. Here a Boer woman Johanna van der Merwe sustained 21 assegai wounds but survived.[1] The camps at Rensburgspruit, where Hans van Rensburg and Andries Pretorius were camped,[1] were successful in defending themselves.

Monument marking one of the conflict sites

Hans van Rensburg's party were compelled to leave their wagons and retreat on foot to a hill, Rensburgkoppie, which was protected by a cliff on one side. Here they were cornered by the Zulus, whom they kept at bay with limited ammunition. When their ammunition was almost depleted, a young man by the name of Marthinus Oosthuizen arrived on horseback. By shouting instructions they informed him where to locate and salvage ammunition from their camp. This Oosthuizen was able to deliver by charging with his horse through the Zulu file, while covered by the defenders of the hill. With the defense strengthened, the Zulus retreated.[6]

Two months afterwards, on 15 April 1838, Andries Pretorius reflects in his journal: "As we were separated from one another, they succeeded in their attack at daybreak at Blaauwekrans, thereby killing 33 men, 75 women and 123 children."[7] This implies a total of 231 deaths at the Blaauwekrans camps. The name Blaauwekrans (Zulu: Msuluzi) refers to bluish cliff faces present in the area.[1]

The town of Weenen was established two months after the massacre.

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d du Plessis, E.J. (1973). Suid-Afrikaanse berg- en riviername. Tafelberg-uitgewers, Cape Town. pp. 204–205, 281, 307. ISBN 0-624-00273-X. 
  2. ^ Raper, P.E. (2004). South African Place Names. Jonathan Ball, Jhb & Cape Town. p. 402. ISBN 1-86842-190-2. 
  3. ^ a b Theal, George McCall (1886). Boers and Bantu: a history of the wanderings and wars of the emigrant farmers from their leaving the Cape Colony to the overthrow of Dingan. Cape Town: Saul Solomon. p. 106. 
  4. ^ Van der Hoogt, Cornelius W; White, Montagu (1900). "The founding of Natal". The story of the Boers : narrated by their own leaders: prepared under the authority of the South African Republics. New York: Bradley. p. 86. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  5. ^ Johnston, Harry Hamilton (1910). Britain across the seas: Africa; a history and description of the British Empire in Africa. London: National Society's Depository. p. 111. 
  6. ^ Carstens, R.; Grobbelaar, P.W. (1988). Voortrekkerlewe. p. 47. ISBN 0-620-12295-1. 
  7. ^ Preller, G.S. (1920–1938). Voortrekkermense VI. Nas. Pers Bpk., Cape Town. p. 8. 

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