With Buller in Natal, or A Born Leader by G.A. Henty


With Buller in Natal

Plot: With Buller in Natal, is set in the 2nd Boer War of 1899-1902. The Boers were Dutch immigrants who had settled in South Africa before the 18th Century. It was dominated by the English from 1806 onward. The 1st Boer war, 1880-81, was a Boer struggle for political freedom. They won this war mostly because of the timidness of English officials.

The 2nd Boer war came about because of the mass immigration of foreigners, Uitlanders to the Boers, who came because of the discovery of gold. This alarmed the Boers, who wanted a Dutch only state. The Dutch arrogance resulting from their victory in the first war caused them to declare war on the English government. This conflict was almost entirely new to me, so it was very interesting reading about it. According to Henty, the Boers were extremely rough, uncivilized folk, who denied every kindness to the English people. The main character and a number of people from Johannesburg, their place of abode and livelihood, made their way down to Maritzburg, held by the English, at the beginning of the story. On the way down, men, women and children were described as roughly insulted and very brutally treated by the Boers. The main character, Chris King, and a score of his friends from Johannesburg form their own corps, and are attached to the volunteer Maritzburg Scouts as an independent contingent. They armed themselves with rifles they had confiscated from a Boer farmer, and mounted themselves with money their fathers had given them to cover expenses for the trip down, as they were all from wealthy families. They often posed as Boers while scouting and engaged in a number of expeditions, repeatedly times defeating bands several times their size. Chris and three other young men from his band attempt to blow up a bridge connecting Portuguese East Africa and Boer territory, by which the Boers were importing arms. They were unsuccessful, but they instead blow up a large train carrying cannon, rifles, and a great deal of ammunition. This action brought Chris and his comrades to the attention of General Buller. They were mostly inactive during the big fights, since they were mounted, and the heavy fighting was carried on by infantry. Much of the book was centered on the relief of the town of Ladysmith, which was besieged by the Boers. The English relief force was commanded by General Buller, from whom the title of the book is derived. When the war is over, Chris joins his parents in England, who decided not to go back to Johannesburg. Other than that, there wasn’t much of a plot. It was mostly a historical account of the British campaign to thrash the Boers, with a few personal experiences of the main character thrown in. This type is not usually the rule with Henty’s books, but rather the exception, at least as far as I’ve read. He wrote about 120, and I’ve read about 40+. This definitely was not one of his better books.

Positive: He gives you a great historical account of the South African War, if you can manage to follow along and catch all the minute details.

Negative: The Boers are brutal. A Boer farmer who refuses to sell them bread and milk for the ladies, and then threatens them with a rifle, is severely thrashed by the main character.

It was fairly dry, and it wasn’t Henty at his best.

On the side, I have read elsewhere that the British first introduced the concept of concentration camps in this war, occupying them with women and children whom they forced to leave their homes so they could not aid Boer guerrillas. Though treated humanely, crowded conditions caused rampant disease. I don’t know how true that is, but it gives pause for thought. The part of the War dealt with in the book was on the campaigning of 1899-1900. Guerilla warfare continued until 1902, the year Henty died. This book is about 370 pages.

You can get a hardback version here.

You can get it from Gutenburg here.

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4 thoughts on “With Buller in Natal, or A Born Leader by G.A. Henty

  1. Another G.A. Henty reader, yay!
    I love reading books by him, we have almost 40 in our small library,
    but I have yet to read them all.
    Thanks for the review, it was good. I will probably read it if we have it, mostly for the history, though it may take longer if its not as exciting as some of his others. (namely “In the Reign of Terror, to name one)
    I should have a review on the current G.A. Henty I am reading soon.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Hurrah for Henty! I have about 16 or so, mostly antique copies. A friend of mine has the current Vision Forum issue of Henty’s, about 70 or so. So I’m fairly unlimited with my Henty reading. The Henty’s offered by Vision Forum now are published by Robinson out of Oregon. They probably switched from Preston Speed because Robinsons are modeled after old copies. Also, they have more Henty’s republished already.
    “In the Reign of Terror” is a good one indeed! My dad and I are reading “The Young Franc-Tireurs” right now. It is about the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Too bad he uses the French perspective…we won’t hold that against the main character, who is, true to form, at least part English. I’ll have to review that one when we’re done. It looks like it’ll be pretty good.

  3. Yup. All the pictures are from Amazon and link to Amazon. (Not that it makes me any money, but I keep hoping for affiliate cash.) I think I earned $4 in 4 years….

    I prefer the look of the old style books, but this is what they had and this one is cropped more correctly for a website.

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