Remarkable People

ID #5255

Jan Smuts 4 Second Anglo-Boer War.

After the Jameson Raid, relations between the British and the Afrikaners deteriorated. By 1898, when war seemed imminent, Orange Free State President Martinus Steyn called for a peace conference at Bloemfontein to settle grievances. With intimate knowledge of the British, Smuts took control of the Transvaal delegation. Alfred Milner, head of the British delegation, took exception to his dominance and conflict between the two led to collapse of the conference. In October 1899 the Boer republics invaded the British colonies, beginning the Second Anglo-Boer War. In the early stages of the conflict, Smuts served as Kruger’s eyes and ears, handling propaganda, logistics, communication with generals and diplomats, and anything else that was required.

In the second phase of the war, Smuts served under Koos de la Rey, who commanded 500 commandos in the Western Transvaal. Smuts excelled at hit-and-run warfare, and his unit evaded and harassed a British army forty times its size. Smuts left with a small force of 300 men while another 100 men followed him. At this point, the British scorched-earth policy left little grazing land. One hundred who joined Smuts were too weak to continue so he left them with General Kritzinger. With few exceptions, Smuts met all the commandos in the Cape Colony and found between 1,400–1,500 men under arms -- not the 3,000 men that had been reported.

By the time of the Peace Conference in May 1902 there were 3,300 men operating in the Cape Colony. Although many were enthusiastic about a general rising, there was a shortage of horses. There was an also an absence of grass and wheat which meant that he was forced to refuse nine tenths of those willing to join. His forces raided supply lines and farms, spread propaganda and intimidated those opposed them. However they never succeeded in causing a revolt against the government.

His raid was one of the most influential military adventures of the 20th century and influenced the creation of the British Commandos and other special forces which followed. It led, ultimately, to the development of military doctrines such as deep penetration raids, asymmetric warfare and, more recently, elements of fourth generation warfare.

To end the conflict, Smuts sought to take a major target, xhoosing the copper-mining town of Okiep. Since a full assault was impossible, Smuts packed a train with explosives and tried to push it downhill into the town. Although this failed, it proved that Smuts would stop at nothing to defeat his enemies. Combined with their failure to pacify the Transvaal, Smuts' success forced Britain to offer a ceasefire and a peace conference.

Before the conference, Smuts met Lord Kitchener at Kroonstad station, where they discussed the terms of surrender. Smuts then took a lead role in negotiations between commandos from the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal). Although he admitted that, from a military perspective, the war could continue, he stressed the importance of not sacrificing the Afrikaner people for that independence. He was conscious that “more than 20,000 women and children have already died in the concentration camps of the enemy”. He felt it would have been a crime to continue the war without the assurance of help from elsewhere and declared, "Comrades, we decided to stand to the bitter end. Let us now, like men, admit that that end has come for us, come in a more bitter shape than we ever thought." His opinions were representative of the conference, which voted 54 to 6 in favour of peace. Representatives of the Governments met Lord Kitchener and at five minutes past eleven on 31 May 1902, Acting President Burger signed the Peace Treaty.RSAJCS4

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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:27
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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