THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
12. THE STRUGGLE OF THE BUSHMEN FOR EXISTENCE
We have attempted to obtain a view of most of the leading groups of Bushman clans which once held possession of the country. Several have been omitted, such as those of the Langekloof, the Tarka, Great Winterberg, and Koonap, as it will be necessary to treat of these more fully when we come to speak of the eastern advance of the Dutch colonists and the later English occupation. In the same manner we have deferred considering the breaking up of the clans of the Middle Veld of the present Orange Free State by the intrusion of the Koranas and other invading tribes. There were also a number of minor groups intervening between the larger ones which we have mentioned, but of which little now is known except that they once existed, and that most of them were shot down by those who seized their country, because they resented the unjustifiable wrong and attempted to resist.
Such was the fate of those who once inhabited the rocks of Thaba Nchu and the caves in the surrounding mountains. Harris, when passing through this country, found the slope of a hill near the present site of Bloemfontein besprinkled with the mouldering bones of Bushmen, and a few years ago there were numerous spots in the Free State which told the same melancholy tale of the fate of the aborigines. These unhappy fugitives at last became so terrified at the sight of any human being that there were portions of the country where they concealed themselves so effectually that a traveller might pass through its length and breadth without seeing a single soul, or even, if he were not aware of the fact, suspecting that it was inhabited. Harris informs us that when he passed through the 'Kolong basin, once the home of a powerful group of tribes, such had become their general distrust of visitors that the males would never approach them, except when forced to do so, and then always evincing great trepidation, no object being more unwelcome to their sight than a troop of horsemen on the plain.
We shall now collect such evidence as is available to illustrate some of the closing scenes in the terrible drama in which they had to fill so important a part of the role in their struggle for existence, when they found the hand of every man was against them, when a civilised government sanctioned the policy of extermination, when the subjects of that government, fleeing from their own supposed wrongs, seized the vast country beyond the borders and there followed the example of their fathers, and acting up to their traditions forced the unfortunate Bushmen into the position of pirates of the desert.
As Moffat describes them, they ascended the mountain's brow, or peak, with an acuteness of sight superior perhaps to our common telescopes, and surveyed the plains beneath, either to discover game or cattle, or to watch the movements of those whose herds they had stolen. If danger approached, they ascended almost inaccessible cliffs, from which nothing but the rifle ball could dislodge them ; when closely pursued they would take refuge in dens and caves, in which their enemies have sometimes smothered scores to death, blocking up the entrance with brushwood, and setting it on fire.
Such deeds as this, and the carrying off of their women and children into bondage, raised the bitterest feelings of revenge in their breasts, until they seemed at times animated with a desire to wreak their vengeance not only upon their relentless persecutors and oppressors, but upon every living thing belonging to them which fell into their hands. Thus when they had taken a troop of cattle, their first object was to escape to a rendezvous, a cave or overhanging precipice, or some sequestered spot, difficult of access to strangers for want of water. As soon as they perceived any of the cattle too fatigued to proceed, they stabbed them ; and if the pursuers came within sight and there was the slightest possibility of their being overtaken, they would thrust their spears or arrows, if time would permit, into every animal in the troop. This habit, which obtained universally among these unfortunate people, exasperated their enemies to the last degree, and vengeance fell on every man, woman, and child, whenever they came within reach of their missiles.
It is somewhat surprising after the remorseless butchery and indiscriminate slaughter of the unhappy Bushmen, that their enemies should charge them with fighting " without conscience " ; yet the writer has heard numbers of the old voortrekkers express this opinion. Their conflicts with the farmers themselves had taught them this lesson so frequently, that in their wild and desperate struggles to maintain the birthright they had inherited from their fathers, and which, as we have seen, must have been in their possession from a very remote period, they neither showed nor expected mercy. Every race of man, savage or civilised, that came in contact with them, appropriated their land without a single pretext of justification, and waged a war of extermination against them as soon as they resisted or resented the wrong that was done to them.
The pastoral tribes of natives and colonial flock owners could not appreciate the feelings of attachment which those who lived by the chase alone had to their hunting-grounds, while the constant encroachments which were made upon them impressed the untutored minds of the hunter race with the idea that the whole world was arrayed against them. Their almost fierce love of independence, their almost equally unalterable determination to maintain and die in their primitive modes of life, utter contempt — at least of the majority of them — for all pastoral or agricultural pursuits, made them to be looked upon by all the larger and more robust of the African races as a species of wild animal which it was praiseworthy to exterminate whenever an opportunity offered.
But in this struggle for existence, their bitterest enemies, of whatever shade of colour they might be, were forced to make an unqualified acknowledgment of the courage and daring they so invariably exhibited. Even when surrounded and borne down by a host of enemies, the Bushman seldom or never asked for mercy from his hated foes. Wounded and bleeding as he might be, he continued obstinately fighting to the last. Shot through one arm, he would instantly use his knee or foot to enable him to draw his bow with the one remaining uninjured. If his last arrow was gone, he still struggled as best he might, until finding death remorselessly upon him, he hastened to cover his head that no enemy might see the expression of death agony upon his face !
Many instances of vengeance have been recorded against them, in which uncontrollable feelings of revenge have hurried them into the committal of terrible atrocities. One or two examples will suffice to show the nature of these. A considerable tribe of Bushmen once inhabited the rock-shelters which are found at the foot of the low precipices surrounding Bushman's Hoek, near Bastaards Drift, on the Noku Mogokare or Caledon river.
After the Boers had commenced settling in the country, one of them began to build a small house in the Hoek, and cultivate land about it. At first things went on quietly between the intruder and the old inhabitants, but after a time for some real or pretended depredations the caves were cleared, and their owners driven from the neighbourhood. Enraged at this ejectment, they formed a plan to revenge what they considered an unjustifiable intrusion into their ancient possessions. The house was attacked and set on fire in the night, all the older members were shot as they tried to escape from the burning building, while the younger children were thrown back into the flames. The ruined walls where this fearful tragedy was enacted are standing at the present day.
Many charges of acts of equal cruelty and revenge have been heaped upon this hunted race, some being of the most terrible description, such as the disembowelling of unfortunate women who have fallen into their hands and leaving them to die in the most frightful agonies. On one occasion they surprised a party of five, the wife and daughter of a Dutch farmer who had rendered himself obnoxious to them, and three native women, one of whom was a tamed Bushwoman, at a washing place, and treated them all in this horrible manner.
All the available evidence, however, with regard to the vindictiveness of the Bushmen proves that it was not a part of their natural character, but rather a developed feeling which gradually took possession of their breasts : it was the outcrop of desperation and despair. As the encroachments of the stronger races increased, the Bushman was kept in a perpetual state of alarm, not merely for the security of his little property, but for his personal safety and that of his family. He was obliged to inhabit rocks almost inaccessible to any foot but his own, and was perpetually called upon to remove from place to place lest the colonists should discover his abode. When he ventured forth in quest of game or roots, he was in the utmost fear of discovery, and had consequently leisure for nothing but the necessary regard to his own personal safety.
In the first days of his intercourse with white people these disturbing influences did not exist, and therefore no such vindictive feelings were manifested. In the beginning the strangers were looked upon as beings of a superior order, endowed with supernatural powers, men who had thunder and lightning at command, and who could slay the swiftest and most ferocious animals by some invisible means, even at a distance from them. In those days, instead of looking upon them as pernicious enemies, the hunting parties of the whites were welcomed, from the abundant supply of food which they furnished, the spoils of the numerous elephants and hippopotami they killed affording means of feasting and festivity.
In 1824 there were men still living who could remember this state of things in the Cape Colony, and in 1876 there were voortrekkers who could recollect when the hunting parties that first crossed the 'Nu 'Gariep were received in a similar manner north of that river, when the men of the old hunter race hailed their advent as visitors bringing in their train days of plenty and rejoicing. But when their land was in question, the case was altered. Depredations commenced on the one hand, and commandos on the other, retaliation followed, and commandos, until they became a portion of an established system, which left absolute power in the hands of the very men who most benefited by their continuance. The grown up people were therefore shot down without mercy, and the children were dragged into a state of perpetual servitude ; injuries were inflicted on both sides, and mutual hatred, as a natural consequence, increased in intensity.
Little is now known of the final struggle of the clans that once occupied the present Cape Colony. The actors therein have with few exceptions passed away, and the only remembrance preserved is that in every instance they maintained the hopeless conflict with an unconquerable spirit, fighting " without conscience" to the very last against the men who had predetermined to destroy them utterly. The tragic fate of the last clan of all the numerous tribes which once inhabited the extensive range of the Sneeuwberg will give an apt demonstration of this, and will vividly illustrate the relentless manner in which they were followed up to the bitter end. This touching episode was related to the writer by Dr. R. Rubidge, F.G.S., who spent the greater portion of his youth in wandering about the rocks and crags of those mountains.
He stated that after committing some depredations, the clan was surrounded by a commando which had pursued them and succeeded in cutting them off among the rocks of a projecting shoulder of a great precipice. Here the retreating Bushmen turned for the last time at bay. Their untiring enemies were on one side, a yawning gulf without any chance of escape on the other. A dire but hopeless struggle for life commenced. One after another they fell under the storm of bullets with which their adversaries assailed them. The dead and dying were heaped upon the dizzy projecting ledge, many in their death struggle rolled and fell over among the crags and fissures in the depths which environed them. Still they resisted, and still they fell, until one only remained ; and yet, with the bloody heap of dead around him and the mangled bodies of his comrades on the rocks below, he seemed as undaunted as when surrounded by the entire band of his brave companions. Posting himself on the very outermost point of the projecting rocks, with sheer precipices of nearly a couple of hundred feet on either side of him, a spot where no man would have dared to follow him, he defied his pursuers, and amid the bullets which showered around him he appeared to have a charmed life and plied his arrows with unerring aim whenever his enemies incautiously exposed themselves.
His last arrow was on the string. A slight feeling of compassion seemed at length to animate the hostile multitude that hemmed him in ; they called to him that his life should be spared if he would surrender. He let fly his last arrow in scorn at the speaker, as he replied that " a chief knew how to die, but never to surrender to the race who had despoiled him ! " Then with a wild shout of bitter defiance he turned round, and leaping headlong into the deep abyss was dashed to pieces on the rocks beneath. Thus died, with a Spartan-like intrepidity, the last of the clan. and with his death his tribe ceased to exist. Dr. Rubidge assured the writer that on his last visit to the spot, only a few years previously, some of the bleached bones of this exterminated tribe were still to be seen on the inaccessible ledges where the bodies had lodged in their fall.
Not content with destroying these unfortunate creatures to the south of the 'Nu 'Gariep or Upper Orange river, commandos, long before the emigrant farmers moved in a body across that stream, were sent to scour the country to the north of it and to destroy as many of the hordes as they could discover. Three commandos of this kind carried havoc amongst them in the year 1830. One of these, consisting of one hundred and nine mounted " Christians," under the command of A. L. Pretorius, passed one of the fords near the present town of Aliwal, in order to attack the caves in the mountains along the course of the river.
It was of this commando that an old Bushwoman who had made a kind of hut under some overhanging rocks in the neighbourhood of Wepener, gave the following reminiscences, when questioned upon the subject of their artists by the writer. She said that her name was Se-liha, that her father's name was 'Koot-seli, and that he was still living at Thaba 'Nchu. When asked if she remembered any of the traditions of her tribe, and who were the painters in the caves, she replied, " We know nothing of our grandfathers, we do not know who painted our pictures ; the Dutchmen shot them all down at the great slaughter, and carried us, the children, away. I was a little girl, six or seven years old, at the time.”
Mr. Jacobus du Plessis, who acted as interpreter to the commando under Louw Pretorius, gave the following description of the operations of the division to which he was attached, at the time that the Bushmen of the Genadeberg were exterminated. He informed the writer that about the year 1830, from the frequent complaints made by the Boers of robberies and other outrages committed by Bushmen to the various fieldcornets, strong representations were made by these officers of the necessity of repressing the marauders and driving out the thieves. The thefts were principally of horses, in or about the Cradock district. These were immediately driven long distances and exchanged for others obtained in different directions, and thus Bushmen living even at as great a distance from the scene of depredations as the Genadeberg were said to be implicated in them. The government apparently, without any further examination, acceded to the strong representations, and recklessly issued orders which proved the death-warrant of several hundred unhappy wretches, many of whom must have been perfectly innocent of the crime so sweepingly ascribed to them.
Accordingly, armed with these letters of marque, three commandos were marshalled in the above year to be sent against the distant clans of Bushmen, with the intention of attacking their strongholds simultaneously at three different points. One moved through the country south of the Stormberg ; the second through the present Burghersdorp arid Wodehouse districts, through the Washbank, attacking all the known caves up to the branches of the Drakensberg ; the third, to which Mr. Du Plessis was attached, moved along the Orange river towards the site of the present town of Aliwal North, where, crossing the river, they pushed on and attacked the tribe that occupied the caves of the Genadeberg.
This division consisted of one hundred and nine Dutch burghers, under the old commandant Pretorius, and Nicolaas Erasmus, as fighting commandant, second in command. The attack commenced by an attempt to drive out the Bushmen from the caves and strongholds on the western side of the mountain. The principal of these were near and under the waterfalls, in the two principal ravines running into the main range, the approaches to which were covered with enormous loose masses of rock, large trees, and thick brushwood, making an advance upon them an extremely hazardous undertaking. Here the hunters defended themselves very determinedly, and it was only with great difficulty that they were driven from point to point, until they fell back to an almost inaccessible position under the great waterfall. They were, however, forced at last to abandon this post, probably owing to the failure of their supply of arrows, when they effected their retreat through the thickly wooded and precipitous glen that forms a narrow pass to the opposite side of the mountain, to the great cave of their chief in Poshuli's Hoek.
This cave is one of great extent, affording secure shelter to its inhabitants. It has deep ramifications on either side, with an enormous arch of rock stretching across the entire breadth of the ravine. Over the far projecting edge of this, during the rainy season a torrent of water precipitates itself into the chasm below, which is choked up with great masses of rock that have rolled into it, while its mouth is still more shielded by trees, which spring up in the interstices of the loosened crags. These barriers not only made the stronghold a difficult and formidable position, but the well-known daring of the chief, who now in his last retreat had turned upon his pursuers to defend it, rendered it prudent to try to induce its defenders to come to terms and surrender themselves, without the hazard which any attempt to take it by force would necessarily involve.
For this purpose the attacking commando occupied both sides of the ravine, thus closing up all the approaches to the cave and cutting off any chance of escape should its occupants attempt to get away. From these points the more central portions of the cave were exposed to the invaders' fire. After thus beleaguering the place, three attempts were made to parley with the Bushman chief.
On each occasion he allowed the interpreter, Du Plessis, then a boy of fourteen years of age, to enter his rock-fort to deliver his message, and then depart unharmed, without any attempt to molest him. It is well worthy of notice that the Bushmen, wild and untamed savages as they were considered, almost in every instance respected the person of an envoy sent to them ; and it was not until after due notice had been given to him three distinct times to depart, that they considered the truce at an end, and that any further delay was at his own peril. This intimation was given by the repetition of the word 'Kamans ! Be gone ! with a short interval between each.
'Korel was the name of the Bushman chief on this occasion. He was rather larger in stature than any of his tribe, but had a defect in one eye, that rendered it useless. Notwithstanding this, as a bowman he far surpassed any other Bushman. His bow was larger than those in common use by the men of his tribe, and his arrows were longer, which enabled him to project one of his shafts with fatal effect to a distance of one hundred and thirty yards.
On Du Plessis' admittance into the cave, he found this wild hunter chief seated in the middle of a circle of his followers. 'Korel was urged to surrender, and promised safe conduct for himself and the people of his tribe if he would submit ; the hopelessness of resistance against the strong armed force by which he was surrounded was pointed out ; but the chief, although told by the messenger that to ensure his safety they would walk hand in hand until they came into the presence of the commandant, had no confidence in the promises made to him. At last, becoming impatient, he said, " Go ! be gone ! Tell your commandant that I am not a child, and that (striking his hand upon his breast) I have a strong heart here ! Go ! be gone ! My eyes cannot bear the sight of you longer ; and tell your 'Gousa my last words are that not only is my quiver full of arrows, but they are filleted also round my head, and that I shall resist and defend myself as long as I have life left ! 'Kamans ! Go ! be gone ! "
The envoy departed, and was allowed to return to the commandant in safety. Then commenced the attack and resistance in earnest, and showers of arrows flew whizzing around any and every one of the besiegers who exposed himself too much, or approached too near. Storming parties were organised, and attempted to advance under cover of their rudely improvised shields ; now they advanced a little, now they were brought to a sudden stand by the difficulties of the ground, or driven back in confusion by the killing or wounding of one of their companions. The shafts of the chief were shot with unerring precision, and thus seven of the attacking party were struck by them.
Commandant Pretorius became most anxious for the safety of his men. The resistance was of the most determined character, and the position was critical. Erasmus, seeing that the only chance would be to form a lodgment in the cave, called for volunteers to carry this design into execution. Thirty of the burghers responded to the call. This time a kind of great shield or screen was made, by extending their long duffel cloaks upon cross sticks, these being found impervious to the slender reed arrows of the Bushmen, their points merely becoming entangled in the texture of the extended garments, and then hanging down like enormous elongated bristles. Under this cover they advanced cautiously in a column. A chosen marksman, named Myburgh, was told off to make a flank movement, so that from his ambush he might shoot down any of the defenders of the cave when they exposed themselves in aiming at their advancing foes.
The Bushmen, determined to the last, made a desperate effort to beat back their assailants, who although slowly were now steadily advancing upon them, until the undaunted 'Korel, too frequently showing himself at the same point, made himself too prominent an object to the concealed marksman, when he received a shot and fell back dead among his faithful and equally undaunted followers. They fell to a man, and although their enemies lost seven of their number in killed and wounded, not a soul among the Bushmen escaped the snare that was spread around their cave. Thus perished the Bushmen of the Genadeberg, and thus ended the Bushman occupation of the great cave in Poshuli's Hoek.
Among other places which this commando attacked were several caves in the mountains near Matateng, or Komet Spruit Poort, also called Roode Poort. Here at one of the strongholds where all the defenders were shot, a Bushman, although his leg was shattered by a bullet, continued to defend himself, and succeeded in keeping his enemies at bay as long as his arrows lasted, when a second ball through his head put an end to his existence.
'Kou'ke stated that in addition to this there was another Bushman captain, whom the Boers called Uithaalder, who had been driven from point to point between the Orange and Caledon rivers by this commando, until he and the remnant of his tribe were hemmed in by their pursuers among the rocks and krantzes of the same Roode Poort. Here, finding himself at bay, he resolved to make a final stand ; and although an almost incessant fire was maintained upon himself and his doomed band, he determinedly and successfully repulsed every attack that was made upon him during seven long days. By the evening of the seventh day, scarcely one of his men had an arrow left. Feeling the hopelessness of further resistance, and knowing that they must be overcome the next day, when he was certain to meet the same fate that had overtaken so many of his countrymen, he during the night successfully carried out a plan that those acquainted with the locality would have deemed impossible.
In the dead of night he and all that remained of his tribe, men, women, and children, silently scaled the steep precipitous cliffs that overhung his position, along ledges and small projecting points where even a baboon could scarcely have obtained a footing, carrying with them whatever they valued, yet so cleverly was this desperate and daring enterprise carried out that not the least alarm was given to the camps of those who beleaguered them. In the morning his enemies woke up to find a deserted cave, with nothing more than the bare and silent rocks about them, while long before dawn the Bushman captain and all his people were many miles away, making good their retreat until they found a secure asylum in the rugged fastnesses of the Drakensberg.
After this commando crossed the Orange river, others were not long in following ; others again penetrated into the glens of the Washbank, and Commandant Greyling was sent as far to the east-ward in 1835-6 as the noted Gatberg. In 1836-7 the emigrant farmers began to flock into the country north of the 'Nu-'Gariep, when the more systematic extermination of the Bushmen commenced ; and there are many localities scattered over the present Free State where terrible tragedies were enacted, but which have been hidden from the eyes of too prying curiosity. The Bushmen who lived in the caves in Knoffel Spruit and Riebeeksdal were all shot in the year 1836, by a commando sent to root them out.
It was thus that the Bok-poort Bushmen perished ; and the fate of the last survivor affords another instance, among many of the personal intrepidity of the men of this race. His name is unknown, but he was the captain or leader of a party that was attacked by a strong patrol on the rocky ridge formed by the great dyke that runs from the present homestead near the poort, towards the Caledon. All his companions had fallen under the bullets of their assailants, and now he alone was left to withstand the entire brunt of the attack. This he did, nothing daunted, by sheltering himself behind three or four oxen that the Bushmen had with them, now shooting over their backs, now launching his arrows from between their legs. This he managed so adroitly that he never once exposed himself to the fire of his enemies, while at the same time the steadiness of his aim kept them all at such a respectful distance that they began to fear that he would ultimately escape.
To prevent this, they commenced a parley with him ; at first he would not listen to them, and only replied by letting fly an arrow or two to prevent approach. At length, probably from the diminishing number of his arrows, and under strong assurances that his life would be spared, he consented to capitulate. He left his cover, and advanced amongst them ; but immediately he was in their power, in utter violation of the promises that had been made, one of his enraged captors treacherously shot him through the head, and a heap of stones was hastily thrown over his body. Thus ended the career of the last of the Bok-poort Bushmen.
From year to year the same system was continued, and year after year some horde or other was exterminated. In 1849 the Boers made a commando to destroy some Bushmen that were on a hill in Oliver's Kloof, on the Caledon.
Under the rule of the Sovereignty the same ruthless policy was perpetuated. The last of their strongholds were attacked, and the unhappy occupants shot down when they could not manage to escape. These operations were sometimes carried out under the personal superintendence of the British Resident.
The great caves of the Matlakeng or Aasvogelberg were taken by storm, and the clans that inhabited them disappeared from the face of the earth. The Bushmen of Thaba Patsoa had retired for safety to the precipitous table crest of their mountain, but their fancied security proved their ruin. In the dead of night, the force of the Resident climbed to the top of the mountain by a craggy path, and then as the dawn was breaking, by a coup-de-main the sleeping horde was overpowered and the greater portion of them slain.
The last Bushmen of Boloko or Groote Vecht Kop were under a chief who had obtained the name of Danster and was living with his people in one of the great caves there. There is no evidence to show whether this man was the same individual as the treacherous murderer of the Windvogel and Lichtenstein people or not, but this Bushman of Boloko was slain and his people destroyed by a Mosuto of the name of Raphotho.N
Notes: Memoir by Miss L. E. Lemue. Notes by Charles S. Orpen.
Mapaya was the last captain of the Bushmen inhabiting the caves of the neighbouring range called Mapayasberg. He repulsed the commando that was sent to drive his people out of their caves, notwithstanding that they attempted to do so by the use of hand grenades, a number of which exploded in the stronghold of the chief himself, which he had fortified by the addition of a small parapet was of rough stones piled together ; but although the assailants succeeded in lodging a considerable number within this enclosure, their explosion seemed to produce no other effect than that some bleeding and wounded women made their appearance and came crawling towards them. One of the besiegers, an Englishman, was killed on the spot with a poisoned arrow. They found it impossible to obtain a position whence they could command the cave, while the defenders kept up a determined resistance, not only with flights of arrows, but by rolling down great masses of rock upon their assailants, aided by a few bullets from some muskets which they had managed to get into their possession. This storm of missiles effectually checked the advance of the attacking party, and they were ultimately obliged to retire, baffled and beaten by the resolution of this Bushman chief. No other attack was made upon them, but after a time the mountain was found abandoned.
When the chief and his clan evacuated the mountain no one knew what had become of them, nor was any further information ever obtained, although it was believed that they had made a secret march to their fugitive countrymen who had sought a refuge in the depths of the Malutis.
Although the Basutu tribes invaded the mountainous parts of the old Bushman territory, the original inhabitants, who escaped the rapacious jaws of the cannibals, tenaciously held, in most instances, their mountain strongholds until the great Basutu war with the Free State, when the Basutus, retreating themselves to these mountains, seized and fortified all the available caves and ejected the ancient owners.
In this struggle, these scattered remnants of Bushman tribes in many instances made common cause with the Basutus, and frequently their individual bravery did much to check the superior forces of the Free State, and even on some occasions turned the tide of battle. Numerous incidents of this kind are related even by those who were opposed to them.
One of the great caves of the Langeberg is situated in a precipitous ravine in the rear of the kraal of Lacoa, a son of Molitsane, chief of the Bataung. It is of great extent, and its innermost ramifications are lost in darkness, with dripping springs in several parts of it. A great number of cattle might be driven into it. This cave had been from time immemorial one of the strongholds of the Bushmen of the mountain, but as the stronger tribes of natives kept forcibly filling up the country, they had gradually disappeared, either under the clubs, the battleaxes, or the assagais of the invaders, until its sole inhabitants were one solitary Bushman with his two wives.
At the commencement of the war the cave was occupied by the Basutus, and fortified by them with a strong stone breastwork. It certainly might have been made a formidable position, for the greater portion of the cave was completely bomb-proof.. It was attacked by a large commando supplied with artillery. The numerous marks both of bullets and cannon shot testify, even at the present day, how heavy was the fire directed upon it, A storming party had gradually worked its way up the almost precipitous ascent, they had gained a footing near the breastwork itself, a young man named Massyn had already leaped upon it, revolver in hand, the Basutu defenders were shrinking back into the deeper recesses of the cave, when a kind of panic seized the almost victorious, but breathless storming party, and on a sudden they fell, some almost rolling, back in confusion, leaving their comrade alone on the breastwork to escape as best he could.
This sudden change was occasioned by the old inhabitant of the cave, who having concealed himself behind some rocks commenced plying his whizzing arrows amongst them with such rapidity, while they were unfit after the severe climbing they had performed, to take steady aim, that they saw no safety from the Bushman's poisoned shafts except in prompt retreat. After this no other storming party had the courage to make a second attempt, and the siege of the cave was raised. At the close of the war, when he was asked why he defended that spot so determinedly for the Basutus, he replied that he did not fight for them, but to protect his ground and the dwelling of his father.
A somewhat similar instance occurred of a Bushman defending the old cave of his tribe after the Basutus had taken possession of and fortified it, as a shelter during the same war. When this place, which was situated near the Leeuw river, was attacked, he took up his position on a projecting but nearly inaccessible ledge immediately above it, where he had erected a small breastwork for his own special occupation. From this coign of vantage he positively kept for a considerable time the whole commando at bay, and entirely prevented them from making any decisive movement against the cave, until at length a chance shot put an end to his resistance and his life at the same time.
The tenacity with which isolated survivors of once powerful tribes of these Bushmen stuck to their old caves is astonishing. They preferred to linger out their lives in abject misery, so long as they could remain in their neighbourhood, rather than follow those of their race who had removed to a distance, a step which would have forced these unhappy outcasts to abandon them for ever, an idea which they could not endure. Much pity is often expressed for the poor natives, the descendants of tribes of savages who but two or three generations ago so ruthlessly invaded and appropriated to themselves the hunting grounds of this most primitive race ; but little commiseration has been expressed towards the ancient owners of the land, who even now have left evidence behind them that they must have remained in undisturbed possession of it for thousands of years.
Numerous instances might yet be collected of this devotion and passionate attachment of the ancient aborigines to the homes of their fathers and their ancestral caves, of which the painted walls at one time formed their pride and their glory.
The last remnants of the painter tribes took refuge in the Malutis, where their numbers gradually increased until they were able to muster some hundreds of fighting men. Some of their clans were scattered through all the fastnesses of that most precipitous range, and here their artists once more adorned their caves with the latest productions of their talents. Here the last of the elands had attempted to find an asylum, and the sole survivors of the hippopotami, which once swarmed in all the great rivers around, tried to hide themselves in the deep black pools of almost inaccessible glens which so deeply serrated with chasms and tortuous windings the very heart of the lofty range. Their principal mountain fortress was formed of the projecting shoulder, fitly named the Giant's Castle, whose towering crags rise, like the castellated ruins of some old-world Titanic fort, thousands of feet above the hills and plains below which form the coast belt of land and stretch away in the distance in dim perspective till lost in the haze of the great southern ocean.
This formed their last retreat, a fitting one for a race of cave dwellers, after they were harried out of the western portions of the range by the Basutus. Here, their game having been destroyed and a mountainous region yielding few of the roots and tubers necessary for their subsistence, they were forced to levy continuous blackmail upon the stronger races which had seized their country and had thus become their hereditary enemies. This portion of the struggle, however, was not of long duration.
On the one hand the Basutus slew them without mercy, whenever any of the marauders fell into their hands. The Baphuti chief Morosi, who was himself a half caste by his mother's side, destroyed the men of entire clans in order that he and his people might possess the women and girls, and only a few years before his death he made a grand final raid upon their remaining strongholds, when some hundreds of them perished, all the surviving females were captured, and the remnant of the unhappy fugitives was forcibly amalgamated into his tribe. Up to the time of the breaking out of the colonial war with this old mountain chief, a great number of Bushmen, some of them very old people, were residing in the territory which he had seized and claimed as his own.
While the work of extermination was being thus carried on by the stronger natives, the forays of the Bushmen into the lower country were followed with equally severe chastisement. Frequent patrols were sent in search of them, who sometimes pursued them to the caves in which they had taken shelter.
It was on an occasion like this that the last known captain of the Maluti Bushmen met his tragic fate. His name was Sweni, or 'Zweei, " the Knife." He had been followed up to his stronghold, where he was besieged in his cave by Allison's people. He had a few guns, and he defended himself vigorously both with these and his poisoned arrows. At length the arrows were expended, but he still kept up his musketry fire, until it was noticed by the besiegers that his firing was without effect, and that the unfortunate Zweei had been for a considerable time firing merely with powder. He had no bullets, and he had imagined that the noise alone would be sufficient to keep his pursuers at bay. It certainly succeeded until all his arrows were finished ; but when his enemies found out the harmless character of his apparently desperate resistance, a rush was made upon his position without further delay, and the last stronghold of the last Bush- man captain of the Malutis was taken by storm. Even then he was not overcome until his native weapons failed him and he had nothing left as a means of defence but a few miserable guns and some powder which he had obtained from the invaders.
The last known Bushman artist of the Malutis was shot in the Witteberg Native Reserve, where he had been on a marauding expedition, and had captured some horses. He was evidently a man of considerable repute among his race. He had ten small horn pots hanging from a belt, each of which contained a different coloured paint. The informant of the writer told him that he saw the belt, that there were no two colours alike, and that each had a marked difference from the rest. This relic, which unfortunately appears to have been lost, proved the advance some of these native and self-taught artists had made in the manufacture of various shades of colour.
Thus perished the last of the painter tribes of Bushmen! Thus perished their chiefs and artists ! after a continuous struggle to maintain their independence and to free their hunting grounds from the invaders who pressed in from every side for upwards of a couple of centuries, a period which commenced with the southern migration of the Hottentot hordes, and did not end until the last surviving clans had been exterminated with the bullet and the assagai, and their bones were left to bleach amid the rugged precipices of the Malutis.
The undying attachment which many of these people displayed to localities where they and their fathers had lived has been too frequently and clearly demonstrated to admit of refutation. In this feeling, and in their attachment to their tribal hunting grounds was shown their love of country; and their determination to hold and defend it— savage as they may have been, degraded as their enemies ever delighted to depict them— evinced their patriotism in a no less unmistakable manner. Had they been men of any race except that of the despised and often falsely maligned Bushman, the wrongs which were heaped upon them, the sufferings they endured, their daring and intrepidity, their unconquerable spirit, and the length of the hopeless struggle they maintained when every other race was arrayed against them, coveting their land and thirsting for their blood, would have placed them, notwithstanding the excesses into which they were betrayed, in the rank of heroes and patriots of no mean order.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong