09 JUNE 1900
The prophets who foretold the speedy and utter destruction of the Boer at the time of the outbreak of this war are at it again. Johannesburg and Pretoria have fallen—ergo the Briton has written ‘Finis’ to the Boer.
I confess the decision of the Boers not to defend Pretoria has surprised me. To anyone who knows the Transvaal and the Transvaaler the reasons for the surrender of Johannesburg are intelligible enough. But the case is different with Pretoria. The city was as well fortified almost as a city could be. It is nonsense to say that the guns were away with the Natal force—two or three may have been, but no more. I do not think treachery was the cause of the retreat from Six-Mile-Spruit and abandonment of the city, although I espy the names of Loveday, the Englishman, and Marks, the Jew, on the ‘Committee of Safety.’ I surmise the real reason was the desire to save the men and guns for the second part of the war. A garrison of six or seven thousand would have held Roberts and his melancholy men at bay for many months, but eventually it seemed certain that city and men and goods would fall into the hands of the English. As it is, Roberts has got the city, but he has taken no prisoners and captured no guns. These are, if I am not wofully mistaken, at Lydenburg by this time.
Whether the decision to abandon Pretoria was—assuming my surmise as to the reason to be correct—wise it is useless to discuss. Provided by the Peace Party—the Lovedays, Markses, Jappes, and others of that ilk, who need not be necessarily taken to be dishonest—do not get the upper hand the war will continue for an indefinite period and end in the overthrow of British supremacy in South Africa. No one should prophesy unless he knows—I prophesy because I know.
With a rallying centre at Lydenburg, the Boers should make things lively in the Transvaal, Free State, and North Natal for the buccaneers. The Lydenburg district is a natural fastness of freedom. Water is plentiful, the cattle pasturage is excellent, while mealies grow abundantly. The Boers will still be able to supply themselves with gold, for besides the Pilgrim’s Rest mines, which will be in their hands, the metal can be won in quantities from the streams, and by fossicking. Lydenburg itself is popularly known as ‘The Irish Town,’ but I shall write anon about that. If, as President Kruger says, he will fight to the bitter end—then the name of Lydenburg will become immortal.