The Battle of Colenso
was the third and final battle fought during the Black Week
of the Second Boer War
. It was fought between British and Boer
forces from the independent South African Republic and Orange Free State in and around Colenso
, South Africa on 15 December 1899.
Inadequate preparation and reconnaissance, and uninspired leadership led to a heavy, and in some respects humiliating, British defeat.
Shortly before the outbreak of the war, General Sir Redvers Buller
was dispatched to South Africa at the head of an Army Corps, and appointed Commander in Chief of all British forces in South Africa. On arrival, he found British garrisons besieged on widely separated fronts, with limited communications between the fronts. Having detached forces under Generals Lord Methuen
to the western and central fronts, Buller assumed command of his largest detachment and proposed to lead it to the relief
of a besieged British force in Ladysmith
, in Natal
On this front, the Boers had made some raids and reconnaissances into the southern part of the province, but in the face of a large British army, they had retired north of the Tugela River
at Colenso and dug in there, blocking the road and railway line to Ladysmith. Buller originally intended making a flank march to cross the Tugela at Potgieters Drift upstream of Colenso. On hearing that Gatacre and Methuen been defeated at the battles of Stormberg
, Buller felt he needed to relieve... Read More