News of the massacre at
Isandlwana hill had hit
Britain hard and in response a flood of
reinforcements were sent to Natal. For the
renewed offensive Lord Chelmsford fielded 1,000 cavalry, 9,000 infantry and a further 7,000
men with 24 guns, including the first use of Gatling
On 3 June the second major attempt to invade
principle homestead at Ulundi began.
As the British forces advanced,
King Cetshwayo dispatched envoys from Ulundi,
reaching Lord Chelmsford on
4 June. The envoys brought the message that the King
to know what terms would be acceptable to cease
Lord Chelmsford sent a Zulu-speaking Dutch
trader back with his terms - oxen, guns, elephant
tusks, among other demands.
On 23 June,
envoys again appeared bearing
some of what the British commander had demanded �
oxen, a promise of guns and gift of elephant tusks.
The peace was rejected as the terms had not been
fully met and Lord Chelmsford turned the envoys away
without accepting the elephant tusks. He replied
that the advance would be delayed one day
to allow the Zulus to surrender one of their regiments.
On the same day Lord Chelmsford received a
telegram from Sir Garnet Wolseley, who had been sent
to South Africa to supersede Lord Chelmsford in
command of the forces in the Zulu War. The message ordered
Chelmsford not to undertake any
serious actions until he arrived.
Chelmsford�s was just 27km away from Ulundi when Sir
Garnet Wolseley arrived in Cape Town on 28 June.
Chelmsford, who had no intention of letting Wolseley reap the reward
of his efforts, did not reply to the telegram.
Wolseley send a second telegram on the 30 June
"Concentrate your force immediately and keep
it concentrated. Undertake no serious operations
with detached bodies of troops. Acknowledge receipt
of this message at once and flash back your latest
moves. I am astonished at not hearing from you."
Wolseley, keen to snatch victory from
Chelmsford, planned to sail to Port Durnford
and join the 1st Division along the coast. From
there he hoped he could move the Division forward
and reach Ulundi in time to lead the attack.
A final message was sent to Lord Chelmsford explaining
that Wolseley would be joining 1st Division and that Lord Chelmsford should
retreat if he was compelled to. However rough seas
Wolseley had to travel much of the way by road. As Wolseley was riding north
from Durban, Lord Chelmsford was preparing to engage
the enemy - Wolseley's frantic efforts to reach the front
were in vain.
The redcoats of the British soldiers were now
visible from the Royal Homestead and with the enemy in sight,
King Cetshwayo knew he would not be bale to get
one of the Zulu
regiments to surrender.
Desperate to prevent imminent destruction the
a further hundred white oxen from his own herd along
with Prince Napoleon�s sword, which they had
captured on 1 June 1879.
However, the Zulu impi overlooking the
White Mfonzi river where the British were camped
refused to let the oxen pass. The final stages of
negotiation were confused and on 3 July, with
negotiations having broken down, a cavalry force
crossed the river.
A group of Zulus were seen
herding goats near and British troops were about to
round them up round them up when, on a hunch, the
officer in charge ordered them to stop and
prepare to fire. His instinct proved
right; 3,000 Zulus rose from the long grass and fired a fusillade before charging
A rapid retreat meant that only three
British soldiers were killed, but Lord
Chelmsford was now convinced the Zulus
wanted to battle. Chelmsford replied to Wolseley�s third
message, informing him that he would retreat
to the 1st Division if the need arose, and that he
intended to attack the Zulus the next day.
At 6:00am on 4 July 1879 the British advance
on Ulundi began. Lord Chelmsford formed his infantry into a
large hollow square, with mounted troops
covering the sides and rear. Neither wagon
laagers nor trenches would be used, to
convince both the Zulus and critics that a
British square could �beat them fairly in
No Zulus in any numbers had been sighted
by 8:00am, so the Frontier Light Horse were
sent forth to provoke the enemy. As they
rode across the Mbilane stream, the entire
Zulu inGobamkhosi impi rose out of the tall grass in front of them, followed by
impi after impi rising from all sides.
20,000 Zulu soldiers
stood in horseshoe encircling the north,
east and southern sides of the square. They stood
ground with their feet and drumming their shields
The four ranks of British infantry opened fire at
2,000 metres into the advancing Zulu ranks. The pace of
advance quickened and the range closed
between opposing lines. The courageous Zulu troops
rushed forward in an attempt to get within
stabbing range, but their cowhide shields
proved no defence against bullet and shell
from the artillery and Gatling guns
In the space of half an hour the Zulu
power was broken. British casualties were ten killed and
87 wounded, while over a thousand
Zulu dead were counted around the square,
with about five hundred dying in the pursuit
and as a result of wounds.
Lord Chelmsford ordered the Royal
Homestead of Ulundi to be burnt � the
capital of Zululand would burn for days.
Cetshwayo had been sheltering in a
village since 3 July and fled upon hearing
news of the defeat at Ulundi.
The day after the Battle of Ulundi, Lord
Chelmsford was told that Sir Garnet Wolseley was
taking over command. Lord Chelmsford replied
to both the Secretary of State For War and
Wolseley that he took his replacement as
criticism of his conduct, and since he had
now defeated the Zulus he requested
permission to return home, which he did.
The British forces were
dispersed around Zululand in the hunt for
The King was eventually captured on 28
August 1879 and sent into exile on Robben
Island near Cape Town.