The Battle of Blood River Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal represents a unique way of Historic storytelling because there are 2 separate interpretive centres, each dealing with 1 side of the story of events leading up to the famous battle between Zulu impis and the Boer Voortrekkers.
The most interesting feature of the Blood River Heritage site is; that it tells the story of the Battle of Blood River, an epic battle fought in 1838 between Zulu impis and Boer commandos, from both sides.
On 6 February 1838, Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and 67 of his men were killed by Zulu forces under the Zulu chief, Dingane. The Voortrekkers had come to the royal kraal to negotiate the rights to settle in parts of Zulu territory. The Zulu impis (warriors) then killed more than 500 of Retief’s party at what was later called Weenen (Place of Weeping), on 17 February.
Much later that year, on 9 December, another prominent Voortrekker leader called Andries Pretorius and his group made a vow to God that if they were granted victory over the Zulus, they would build a church in his name and keep the day sacred. A week later they took on Dingane’s army.
The evening of 15 December 1838, when a massive Zulu force of between 10 000 and 20 000 warriors, divided into their various regiments, began to encircle the Voortrekker encampment or 'Laager' of circled wagons. A heavy mist had begun to settle. Preparations for a pitched battle had begun on both sides.
The Boer laager was well placed, between the Ncome (Buffalo) River and a 'donga' (which is a deep natural drainage ditch). Trekker leader Andries Pretorius and his 470-strong group had their muskets and 2 cannons at the ready. If the next morning brought rain, their gunpowder could be compromised, as well as the visibility outside the laager. This would be a great advantage to the Zulu army, led by King Dingane’s generals, Dambuza and Ndlela kaSompisi.
But the next day was clear and sunny, and the sight of the massed Zulus around the laager must have been a thrilling and terrifying one.
The battle began, and wave upon wave of Zulus were repulsed by the Boer guns. By midday more than 3 000 Zulus lay dead, with only 3 Boers wounded.
At the nearby Ncome Museum – with its Zulu war horn formation displays and reed garden – you will hear a similar account of the battle. Where the 2 interpretive sites differ, however, is in their interpretation of events leading up to that fateful encounter at the river.
Situated in the centre of Corthern KwaZulu-Natal, Dundee has long connections with coal mining, military conflict and a rich and varied History. Although coal mining is no longer as prominent as it once was, the History and scenery of the area provides a wealth of interesting activities for visitors.
The town is characterised by numerous historical buildings with historical connections that date back over 100 years. Named by Peter Smith in memory of his links with Scotland, the town and area still echoes a number of those links, borne out in the names of farms, villages and mountains. Today the area is noted for its agricultural industry, particularly dairy, beef and game ranching.
Tours specialising in the military history, Zulu culture, game viewing, “hunting, birding and fishing”, hiking and horse trails, are all on offer. This is where the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902 began and the Talana Museum, Heritage Park and Battlefield has superb exhibits on the battles of the area.
It is also the home to the Coal Mine Museums of South Africa, an exquisite glass collection, Peter Smith’s home and farm steading and much more.
Dundee is an excellent central base for visits to Rorkes Drift, Isandlwana, Fugitives Drift, Blood River/Ncome Museum, Maria Ratschitz and a host of other interesting sites.