Book 3 of The Life and Times of George Clarke Musgrave - a Victorian Adventurer: author, journalist, war correspondent, soldier, hero and family man
George Clarke Musgrave introduces his third book, a hard-hitting chronological account of the second Boer war, by railing in strong terms about the easy methods followed by some authors of writing war histories by sitting at home and compiling “fat newspaper dispatches.” In his preface, he argues that this prevents a true analysis and understanding of the war and shows contempt for those, on both sides, seeking to explain their conflicting views and aspirations. He then sets out his position that, while one cannot be blind to the machinations of capitalism or the blunders of imperialists, a careful review of the facts will lead to the realisation that the ideals of the Boer are in fact, in antithesis to the very independence, liberty and progress that they seek.
The scene is set with the sending of the Boer ultimatum from President Kruger to England, followed by a general overview of the South African republics and the key factors which led to the war, building to the opening of hostilities at Kraaipan in October 1899, and the military operations that followed. In vivid and graphic detail, based on his own experiences, and with special emphasis on the actions of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Redvers Buller and his General Staff, the narrative can be commended for its clarity and comprehensiveness. The Boer sieges and the subsequent battles for the relief of Kimberley, Mafeking and Ladysmith are covered both in strategic terms and in the intimate detail that is the reality of individuals fighting, suffering and dying for their country.
Despite the downfall of General Buller, following three critical defeats in what has become known as “Black Week,” we are reminded that he, too, deserves due acknowledgement. While his replacement, Field-Marshall Lord Frederick Roberts, will reap most of the credit and the deserved praise for his own success, we should remember that it was the fierce and dogged fighting of Buller’s forces that relieved Ladysmith. History will ultimately record in favour of both generals.
The span of history will also deliver the analgesia to soothe the savage breasts of those having to deal with the treachery and back-stabbing of the self-serving cheats, liars and money-grabbers that inevitably rise from their slime in times of conflict. There were many such despicable opportunists abroad in America as the war gathered momentum and the concluding section of the book details the vicious diatribe arising from the activities of arguably the worst of them; a certain Webster Davis.