Isandlwana 1879: The Great Zulu Victory (Praeger Illustrated Military History Series)

Overview

The battle of Isandlwana fought on January 22, 1879 was the greatest defeat suffered by the British Army during the Victorian era. A Zulu army of 24,000 warriors had moved undetected to within striking distance of the British camp in the shadow of Isandlwana Mountain. From the start the 1,700 defenders underestimated the danger descending upon them. They were swept aside with horrifying speed and the final stage of the battle consisted of desperate hand-to-hand fighting amid the British camp. Ian Knight employs ...

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Overview

The battle of Isandlwana fought on January 22, 1879 was the greatest defeat suffered by the British Army during the Victorian era. A Zulu army of 24,000 warriors had moved undetected to within striking distance of the British camp in the shadow of Isandlwana Mountain. From the start the 1,700 defenders underestimated the danger descending upon them. They were swept aside with horrifying speed and the final stage of the battle consisted of desperate hand-to-hand fighting amid the British camp. Ian Knight employs new archaeological and historical research to provide a completely new interpretation of the course of the battle.

The battle of Isandlwana fought on 22 January 1879 was the greatest defeat suffered by the British Army during the Victorian era. On 20 January 1879 the Centre Column of the British invasion force under the British Commander in Chief Lord Chelmsford, reached a distinctive, rocky outcrop known as Isandlwana. Chelmsford's spies suggested that a Zulu army was on its way to attack him and he was concerned about a range of hills to his right front. On 21 January he sent a strong force of auxiliaries into the hills to scout them and at dusk on the same day they encountered a Zulu force at Mangeni 12 miles away. In the poor light they could not establish the size or intentions of this force. When news of the encounter reached Chelmsford he decided to take part of his force to attack the Zulus and marched out at about 3.00am leaving some 1700 white and native troops at the camp. Chelmsford was chasing shadows, however - the main Zulu army of 24,000 men had moved across his front (it was stragglers from this movement the scouts had encountered) and was marching to attack Isandlwana. From the start the British in the camp underestimated the danger that was descending upon them. The British line was eventually outflanked and the finals stage of the battle consisted of desperate hand-to-hand fighting amid the British camp, played out against the backdrop of a solar eclipse. Of the 1700 men in the camp over 1300 were killed; scarcely 60 Europeans survived. At least 1000 Zulus were killed outright and hundreds more mortally wounded. This title employs new research - including the archaeological survey of the battlefield carried out in 2000 - to describe the battle in greater detail and provide a new interpretation of the course of the action.

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Meet the Author

IAN KNIGHT is widely regarded as a leading international expert on the Anglo-Zulu War. He is an Honorary Research Associate of the Natal Museum and Vice President of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society.
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