Isandhlwana, Battle of


Isandhlwana, Battle of
(1879)
   A major Zulu victory over British forces led by Frederic Thesiger, Viscount Chelmsford, in the Zulu War of 1879 in South Africa. In January 1879, Chelmsford led an army of 5,000 British troops and 8,000 Africans in an invasion of Zululand, where Zulu strength was estimated to be 40,000. Chelmsford had requested and been denied additional troops but was nonetheless confident enough to divide his army into three invasion columns that were ultimately to converge on the Zulu capital at Ulundi. Commanding the center column himself, Chelmsford was camped near a hill called Isandhlwana when he received word that a scouting party had made contact with the Zulu. He then compounded imprudence with recklessness by dividing his force and taking half of it in support, leaving 1,800 men behind at Isandhlwana under an inexperienced command. A disciplined force of 20,000 Zulu was able to approach the British camp at Isandhlwana by stealth and overrun its poorly deployed defenses. Only 55 Europeans and 300 Africans survived. The defeat registered shock all over Britain and temporarily brought the invasion of Zululand to a halt. It was partially redeemed at Rorke ’ s Drift before Chelmsford won a decisive victory over the Zulu at Ulundi.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Duminey, Andrew, and Charles Ballard. The Anglo-Zulu War: New Prespectives. Pietermartizburg: University of Natal Press 1981;
    Morris, Donald. The Washing of the Spears. London: Cape, 1965.
   CARL CAVANAGH HODGE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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