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PERILS OF A MISSIONARY FAMILY IN THE KAFFIR WAR.
FROM the well-known fact that missionary operations have been carried on for a number of years among the various tribes of South Africa, it has been most erroneously assumed, by parties only partially acquainted with the circumstances, that the Kaffirs and their adherents, who have risen in arms against the British Government, are converts to Christianity. But this is so contrary to the facts of the case, that the Kaffirs, though not the “irreclaimable savages” they have been sometimes represented to be, still remain, as a nation, in a state of heathenism. In connexion with the Missions established among them by our own and other Societies, individual instances of conversion have occurred, but not in sufficient numbers to make any impression upon the main body of the people, who are as much addicted to lawless and predatory habits as at any period antecedent to the arrival of the Missionaries.
And in regard to those Hottentots and others, who have left the Mission Stations to join the Kaffirs, it is to be remarked, that nothing short of a searching and impartial investigation on the spot will enable the public to form a correct judgment on the case. This much, however, is certain, that the Missionaries resorted to every available means to confirm the loyalty of their people; and it has been ascertained, on the most satisfactory evidence, that at the principal settlements to which these observations apply,–the Kat River, for example, the partial defection that took place was not spontaneous, but the result of intimidation and artifice on the part of the Kaffir leaders. It should also be added, that by far the larger number of the Christian Hottentots have either taken no part in the war, or attested their fidelity by rendering active service in the Government levles.
With these preliminary remarks, we have now to present the following impressive narrative of the dangers and sufferings encountered by a Missionary family, on their escape, at the outbreak of the war, from Union-Dale, Kaffirland, to another station at Chumie, twenty-two miles distant. The writer, the Rev. Robert Niven, is in connexion with the Mission of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland; and we feel assured, that the readers of his very interesting narrative cannot fail to be struck with the evidence it affords, that God is indeed a very present and pecular help to his people in those trying seasons, when every human resource appears to fail. It is, moreover, a significant circumstance, that when this unprotected and distressed family became an easy prey to their savage and brutal assailants, they were, as the facts clearly prove, preserved from the last acts of outrage and murder, by the sort of instinctive respect entertained even by these lawless men for the
name and character of a Missionary teacher — t
Abridged from the Rev. R. Niren's Narrative, published in the UNITED
PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE of November, 1851.
The INSURGENTS ATTACK THE BRITISII Force NEAR THE BOMA PASS.
“I little thought, when I last wrote, that my next would be in such altered circumstances. On Tuesday, the 24th of December, 1850, 600 troops under Colonel M'Kinnon, chief commissioner and commandant of Kaffraria, marched from Fort-Cox, under his Excellency's orders, and unexpectedly ascended the Keiskamma, past the kraal of the paramount chief of the Kaffirs, and through the bush, in which he has been lurking since outlawed. Near the Boma pass, the chief body-guard attacked the colonel's rear, killed nine of the infantry, and a Dr. Stewart; four baggage horses, laden with 3000 rounds of ammunition, fell into the hands of the insurgents. Five on the British side were wounded, two of them officers, Major Bisset and Mr. Catty. The Kaffirs lost two Illesl.
“At three P.M. of the same day, the troops came up near to our station at Union-1)ale, and prepared to make their camp for the night. A few minutes after, half-a-dozen of the Cape mounted rifles came up to my study door with a letter from Colonel M'Kinnon, informing me of the attack, suggesting the immediate necessity of taking means for the safety of myself and family, and expressing a wish to see me at his encampment. I went over, accompanied by the chief Vika, saw the wounded, ascertained from Dr. Fraser what he required for them, which was asterwards sent, and talked a little with the commander. IIe expressed his surprise at the attack, declared the movement of the troops was a mere demonstration—a march up, and back again next day—and that he so little dreamed of hostile shots, that the muskets of the infantry were not even loaded.
“I returned immediately, and assisted by several soldiers who came over to the station for the purpose, set about the making of stretchers for the wounded, after which I visited the encampment again to ascertain the colonel's route uext day, and to
“In the morning, which was Christmas we set off at seven A.M., mounted on five horses. Our party consisted of Mrs. Niven and myself, Miss Ogilvie (Mrs. N.'s niece), our four boys, Robert, Thomas, John, and Walter; Ball, the carpenter, an Englishman, lately discharged from the Rifles, and who had been employed in fitting up our church; Tausi, a native female Christian, sister of Tiyo Sogo, and three native attendants. One of the boys walked. Ball, the carpenter, led the horse which Johnny the second-youngest rode; Walter, the youngest, was seated in front of me on the saddle. Tausi was also on foot, with the three native attendants, who carried small bundles of clothes and provisions for the way. Their assegais (a kind of javeline, and the chief weapon of war among the Kaffirs) they left behind them at my desire. The distance to the Chumie by this route is twenty-two miles, across the head of the Wolf and Matole rivers (tributaries to the Keiskamma), and down thence into the basin of the Tyume. For the first five miles we saw only women. The men had disappeared with the cattle. This we ascribed to the dread of retaliation by the troops, for the attack of the preceding day, which had occurred in their neighbourhood.
“Our conviction that the excitement was local, gathered strength from sceing the kraals along the Wolf River all occupied, and their separate herds of cattle grazing quietly as heretofore. On gaining the ridge dipping into the Matole, our favourable impressions were strengthened by seeing the whole valley at peace, and the cattle in various directions around the kraals. I remarked the circumstance to Nkenye, one of Wika's men, who was with us. He coincided, but added, ‘I have just heard the “klaba umkosi,” the war-cry, passed from kraal to kraal, and I saw the * men assembling, but they have dispersed again.' Thus, my suspicions were as quickly allayed as they had been excited. We slowly descended the long and difficult steep down to the Matole River, where we off-saddled. The ladies set about preparing a refreshment, for it was now noon. Some girls drove up a few goats they were herding, and drew off some milk, for which they were well pleased to get sixpence and some pieces of bread.” ASSAULTED AND PLUNDERED BY ARMED RAFFIRS. “I had made a distribution of the saddles and saddle-cloths under a shady thicket, and seated Mrs. Niven and her niece, with the children, resting myself a few minutes beside them. I got up and walked out a short distance to ascertain if the horses were not getting out of sight among the bushes. My attention was arrested by the advance of armed men to the number of a dozen, all with assegais. They stood on the path that crosses the river, and sharply questioned Nkenye about us. I did not know any of them. Nkenye's indirect replies to their questions indicated fear, and excited my suspicion that he perceived they were unfriendly. I more than once attempted to draw the attention of the principal interrogator to myself for satisfactory explanations as to who we were, and our object, assured that this alone was necessary to enlist the friendship of the party, as I had often done in many a critical case. I was rudely told to keep quiet, and not interrupt the examination of Nkenye. I did so, and soon perceived our perilous situation, when the person I had been addressing bawled out to the quaking Nkenye, poising an assegai for a dart at him, ‘Why are you helping the enemy? This is a white man, and you are our enemy in helping him against our nation.' With this, he made a feint to
stab my petrified attendant. Nkneye fled. Yedwa, another, on remonstrating, was pursued down into the river, where I thought his life was to atone for his fidelity, but his call for mercy prevailed. Before his assailant returned to where I was standing, his companions fell to plunder, some running to the horses, and others seizing saddles; and, now, assisted by half-grown lads, others rushed under the bush where Mrs. Niven and Miss Ogilvie were sitting with the four boys, and it seemed as if they would make quick work with every one and everything. (See Engraving, page 21.) The children screamed, and plunged into the darkest of the thicket. The ladies were composed, and resisted, not without effect, the pillage going on around them. I was, meanwhile, soothing the assaulted, rallying the children, and, assisted nobly by Tausi, Soga's daughter, I was endeavouring to secure the horses. Failing in that, I besought the use of one horse for Mrs. Niven, and followed them, protesting against such unheard of behaviour toward a missionary. Tausi, in return for her efforts on our behalf, was stripped of her head-dress. Nothing daunted, she crossed the river after the miscreants. This emboldened two of my attendants to follow, and plead for the return of Vika's son's horse, which had been lent me by the owner. I was about to cross the river to join Tausi in her pleadings, when an unmistakeable attempt on poor Ball's life, which I assisted in resisting, convinced me of the extreme danger of our situation, and turned me back. Nkenye said, ‘It is of no use to go;' and Yedwa added, ‘You will be killed.' These two now ran off, preceded by our third attendant; and as they scampered off, they dropped a word to Tausi in a low voice, ‘The teacher will be killed, the rest of you will escape.' I knew not this at the time, and called the fugitive to return, and not forsake us. It was in vain. Not knowing what next to do, I saw a mounted Kaffir descending the hill by the road we came, calling to the plunderers (who were all now mounted on our horses, and standing in debate with some of their neighbours) to wait till he came up. I made up to him, begg" him to use his influence with them, and to restore the horses. He reprobated their com" duct toward a teacher, and crossed over * He remonstrated with them; but in vain. I then asked him to escort us to the Chumie. At that moment one passed with my faithful horse, Shamrock, and Mrs. Niven's saddle. This excited me to make one effort more to get this animal for my poor wife, whom I could not suppose able to walk ten miles over rugged mountainous ground, filled with infuriated rebels. The man seemed half inclined to yield. Indeed, all along there was a hesitancy betrayed in their wildest sallies of fury, showing a want of confidence in their conduct, and emboldening me to expostulate with them, by appealing to their reason, conscience, and humanity. I pleaded with him, he dragging on the horse, and at last he said, ‘Come, and we will talk of the matter to that man,’ pointing to one before him, who had my horse. I soon saw that neither of them would part with their prey, and left them. Returning to the person who had come up on horseback, I saw him leaving. I renewed my entreaties that he would take us on to the station. Bulane (for that I now learned was his name, a counsellor of Tyali's tribe on the Chumie), objected that he had no time; but added, “These men will, pointing to two or three who seemed his own people. I made up to them, and thanked them. They had by this time two saddles, books of Tiyo's, and sundry articles which escaped the former pillagers, and which I thought they were carrying for us. So far relieved, I said, ‘Come, men, let us go." One of them carrying my saddle, beckoned me to him. I went, and to my surprise he pulled off my neckcloth, rifled my coat pockets, and with the assistance of another, was now pulling to get off my coat. I resisted, supplicated, and got off—surprised to find my fancied escort were animated with a ruder spirit of assault than the party from whom we had just escaped. “Xayimpi now came up with several armed men. They listened without emotion to all we said, and refused to give us any protection or assistance in getting out of this sequestered Matole glen, now a den of thieves. Most providentially, Mankosi, a Kaffir, who had joined us at the Wolf River, going to Chumie, kept by us when the other three natives fled for their lives. He calmly seconded Tausi on our behalf—the one well known to all in
them. I followed.
front of us, and the other equally so, to the district from which we came. Our explanations, unless corroborated by theirs, would have had little effect with suspicious strangers, now thirsting for white men's blood; but they succeeded in enlisting the favour of one or two persons in these savage companies, by their knowledge of them and their relations. Without their support, it is not difficult to perceive what our fate must have been particularly Ball's and mine. At this juncture two men came up unarmed, driving four head of cattle. One of them I knew, and both consented, for a blanket each, to accompany us to our destination. We once more faced the hill, and after many a weary step, and occasional rest, we all felt thankful to see that there was only a short grassy slope between us and the summit.” NEW AND ALARMING INCIDENTs. “Scarcely had we breathed this relieving prospect, when a strong side-look of Mqonka (one of our new escort), drew my eye in the same direction, and I saw two mounted persons, with assegais, bearing down on us from a height to the right. To save about £50 in money in my pocket, I handed it to Mrs. Niven, who was more likely to escape rudeness and plunder. They were now up with us and I saw they were two of the first party and were riding two of our horses. They being the two who seemed half inclined at the bottom of the hill to give us back the horses, I fancied they might now restore them, having gratified their curiosity by surveying the noble expanse of country stretching out from the Tyume. Little did I then know what sights of savage triumph over the sacked and blazing military villages before us had fanned the flame of their vengeance. I begged the first kindly to favour my wife with the use of Shamrock to the station, as I knew not how she could reach on foot, and promised to give him back there. With a scowl, he said in Dutch, “Sta stil.' I stood accordingly. He beckoned to Moonka, and asked ‘Who is this person? is he a teacher?' On being told that I was, and learning my name and place of labour, he alighted, and came up to me, drawing one of his assegais, so far as I recollect, and said “Strip;' and to make his design intelligible, pulled off astripe of cloth I had tied around my waist to abate a pain I felt in my side on climbing the hill. His companion made quicker work with poor Ball's hat and upper dress. I repelled the ruffian when he put in his hand to undo my clothes, and said, ‘It must not be that a teacher shall be made to walk naked.” “Empty your pockets, then,' he said; and feeling them outside, he added, “there is money, is it not?’ ‘Yes,' I replied. ‘Give it me, then, he said; which I did, presenting him with a purse containing one pound in silver. ‘There is something more,' he said, I feel something hard.’ It was my watch. I thrust my hand down into my pocket to convince him there was no more money, as I thought. A tinkling was heard, which he noticed, and I anticipated him by producing two shillings, which must have dropped out of my purse. He then let me off, and made for Ball, who I really thought could not now escape death. We gathered round him, with ejaculations to Him who is a refuge to the distressed, and with struggles, cries, and importunities, seconded latterly by the two men who had promised to escort us to the Chunnie, we succeeded in extricating him, with the loss of his hat and jacket. I should not omit to state, that my escape from denudation, or something worse, was materially owing to female tact. Robert, on seeing the Kaffir attempting to strip me, ran off with most plaintive cries, which assected one of the women who had carried up Walter, and she upbraided the man for his rudeness, pointing to the child, and he desisted whenever he looked round and saw the boy's distress. Mrs. Niven hastened after her child. He turned when called back; but his mother, urged onward by a new suspicion about me, rushed past him down the rocky face of the hill, heedless of any, till I overtook her, and halting, we again collected, and supporting Mrs. Niven, began to descend.” A TREACHEROUS FRIEND. “What a dismal spectacle met our eye in every direction! The country desolate—the kraals deserted—Woburn and Johannesberg smoking ruins; and, not least appalling! dark naked figures were seen leaving both places, many of whom we were sure to encounter, impelled by the wildest passion. A little further down one of them met us, a young man habited in a policeman's coat, and
carrying a stand of assegais. He stood and spoke civilly, heard our case, and as he expressed surprise at the treatment his countrymen had given to a teacher and his family, I asked him to go back with us and see us past the excited warriors below. He consented, rather, yielded in a kind of hesitating absent manner, which I did not take much notice of at the time, though I clearly understood it afterwards. Conversing as we descended, I was struck with Tausi's manner. She was walking on my right, and this new guide beyond her, on the same line. Suddenly she clung to me, grasping my arm, and whispered, “I am suspicious of this person. He intends mischief.' I was so unsuspecting of evil as not to apprehend anything personal to myself in her warning; but supposing it to refer to herself, I feared he might have been indicating some indecency, and told her quietly not to be afraid, I would protect her. Again, she clenched my arm, and whispered, ‘Take care, he will do harm.’ Thereupon, I saw the assassin's hand drawn, armed with an assegai, aiming at me across Tausi's person! She sprung towards him, at the same time laying hold of his extended arm, and calling out, “Musa,’ ‘Dont.' I stood and reproved him. He stammered out something about handling his instrument thoughtlessly, as one does in walking with an assegai in his hand. This only made his design the more obvious. He replaced the weapon, when desired, among the others in his left hand, and we proceeded. At a convenient point, I halted, thanked him for his convoy; and reminding him of his hesitation at first about coming with us, said, we would not ask him to proceed further. Taken aback, he turned, nevertheless helping himself to the most seizable things he saw; and we passed on, with the blended emotions of gratitude to God, and to the heroic Tausi, for another escape.” ALTERNATE IIOPES AND FEARS. “Proceeding now alone with our faithful Mankosi, we came nearer and nearer to the straggling bands which were exultingly returning from the total destruction of the military villages and their inhabitants. Pass through their ominous lines we must. Some seemed, at the distance of miles, to be bearing toward us. We looked in vain for thicket or gully or crag to hide in. Miles and miles of