Episode 166 - Colonel Lindsay lashes a local lad, Fort Peddie attacked and the Battle of Gwangqa River

History of South Africa podcast

14-04-2024 • 20 mins

The Seventh Frontier war has burst into flame, and across the Ceded Territory and down into the land around Port Elizabeth amaXhosa warriors are on the warpath, the British have been forced into the defensive.
If you remember, Sir Peregrine Maitland declared war on the amaXhosa chief Mgolombane Sandile Ngqika on 1st April 1846 — but the eastern Xhosa, the Gcaleka under Sarhili, had remained out of the latest war - at least for now.
The amaXhosa have notched up two major victories against the British, one in the Amatola mountains where Sandile ambushed Gibson’s column, destroyed over 60 wagons then attacked a second wagon train from Grahamstown on its way to Fort Peddie with supplies which lay just over sixty east.

More than 40 wagons were destroyed in the second attack, and the English cavalry and infantry were forced to shelter inside Fort Peddie with it’s 8 sided earth walls. Phato of the Gqunukhwebe had been particularly successful — but the amaXhosa were going to commit a cardinal error in warfare.

Allow hotheaded soldiers to dictate tactics.

On the 28th Mary 1846 the largest amaXhosa army in the Eastern Cape since the failed attempt at taking Grahamstown in 1819 surrounded Fort Peddie. The warriors hadn’t needed much convincing, because the British were now torching every single amaXhosa homestead they came across.

The fort was a strategic target. It developed from a frontier post established in 1835 and named Fort Peddie, named after Lieutenant-Colonel John Peddie who led the 72nd Highlanders against the Xhosa in the Sixth Frontier War.

Eight thousand men from every clan from chieftans west of the Kei River had joined forces and at midday they launched their attack on the strong defensive position. Fort Peddie had been regarded as a relatively safe outpost, surrounded by the resettled amaMfengu people, as well the Gqunukhwebe who had been allies of the British. But no more, Gqunukhwebe chief Phato had switched sides and he was eyeing the amaMfengu for special attention.
As the tension rose in the fort, and awaiting the inevitable amaXhosa assault, a terrible incident was recorded which further damaged the British soldier’s honour.

It was 26th May and Lindsay unleashed his rage up on a young colonial boy .. a wagon driver .. who had refused to go out and cut wood in fear of the surrounding amaXhosa.

In what can only be called a shocking display of bombastic lunacy, Lindsay had this young teen tied to his wagon and was then subjected to 25 lashes. This after the child changed his mind and said he would go out into the bush, preferring to take his chances with the amaXhosa than the lash. Too late said Lindsay, it’s the lash for you.

Ten days after the Peddie assault, Siyolo and Mhala moved towards the Fish River crossing points separately. There was enough British ammunition at the strong points on both sides to replenish the amaXhosa’s gunpowder barrels.
Henry Somerset, yes the very same man we met so many episodes ago, was leading a force of cavalry nearby. They’d been sweeping the countryside, and came across the tracks of Mhala’s army, after a short skirmish the amaXhosa disappeared. But soon the cavalry came across the soldiers of Siyolo, Mhala’s nephew. Caught in the open along the Gwangqa River. The amaXhosa were to suffer a major defeat.