Friday, January 25, 2008

A Comparison of the Zulu War of 1879 And The Sioux War of 1876-1890



The Pottsville Miners Journal Article


British Soldiers as they looked at the time of the Zulu War from the "The Diehard" Company, members of the Victorian Military Society ~ Our aim is to educate.


As most military historians will remember this past January 22nd marked the 129th anniversary of the worst defeat ever suffered by British forces against native opposition at the hands of twenty thousand native Zulu warriors at a place called Isandhlwana, in Zululand, now known as South Africa, in the year 1879.
Now the question arises as to what did this have to do with Schuylkill County? Actually nothing. There were no Schuylkill Countians who fought at Isandhlwana or at the famous fight at Rorke’s Drift were 150 British redcoats, members of 2/24th Regiment achieved an improbable victory over a large Zulu force. And in the end of this brave defense eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded. The most ever awarded at one time in a single battle in British Military History. Although the people of Schuylkill County did know about this defeat by way of a story written in the Miners Journal.On February 14, 1879.
My point in writing this little blog is to give a comparison and contrast to the Zulu war and the battle of Isandlhwana and the Custer massacre in 1876. (As we all know three men from Schuylkill County fought and died along with General Custer on June 24th, 1876 at the Little Big Horn. If you didn’t know this read my blog Schuylkill County at the Little Big Horn.)
The interesting thing after studying these two battles is the similarities between both and the impacts that they had on our countries. The Sioux and the Zulu wars were both manifestations of the late 19th century imperialism. Both wars were very aggressive with many casualties. The main point is that non-industrial people, The Sioux and the Zulu both defeated industrialized nations. The United States and Great Britain in major conflicts. On the other hand both victories would culminate in their basic defeat and subjugation. The Sioux forced to reservation living and the Zulu’s turned into a cheap slave like labor force for the British. The Sioux and the Zulu’s both had a very efficient military system, they were feared and hated by the local populations, they both confronted imperialism at the same time and both had a major victory in battle, The Little Big Horn and Isandhlwana. They both acquired and used firearms, but had no means to manufacture them. They took advantage of major mistakes made by the commanders of both the U.S Cavalry and the British Forces. Although quite the normal procedure for military at the time both Custer and Lord Chelmsford split their commands creating a weakness that was utilized by the Sioux and Zulu’s to their advantage. In comparing the Sioux and the Zulu’s life styles there exist many comparisons; the Sioux were nomads roaming the Great Plains while the Zulu’s were farmers and cattle herders. The Sioux were excellent warriors and hunters. The Zulu’s had an efficient fighting force learned from their famous war Chief Shaka.
Their major faults as a society included many internal economic problems, they had no structured system of political factionalism, but the main force against their society was the ever increasing white settlers moving into their area of control. or what we called in the U.S. Manifest Destiny.
Concerning the big military victories. The Zulu’s fought the battle of Isandhlwana on January 22nd, 1879 in an effort to stop the British control of their homeland after they annexed the Transvaal two years earlier. Here they combined their forces and defeated a large British Army killing over 1200 troops. On the other hand the Sioux fought the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 24th , 1876 in an effort to stop American’s in infringing on their Black Hills after Gold was discovered there. Broken promises of never infringing on their land by the United States Government caused this conflict and in the end Gen. Custer and 240 men of the famed 7th Cavalry were killed.
As I said earlier these victories would result in a major subjugation of both the Sioux and Zulu. The U.S. Army would go on the offensive for the next 14 years and tiredly defeat the Sioux in almost every engagement they encountered them. They would chase Chief Sitting Bull all they way to Canada where he would try and hide, they killed the famous war Chief Crazy Horse while he was in custody. The final defeat for the Sioux came On December 29, 1890, when 500 troops of the U.S 7th Cavalry supported by four Hotchkiss guns (a lightweight artillery piece) capable of rapid fire, surrounded an encampment of Miniconjou Sioux (Lakota) and Hunkpapa Sioux (Lakota at a place called Wounded Knee and massacred them. And by the way we also had a Schuylkill Countian present at Wound Knee, non other than Henry A Smith (Cap Smith) from Orwigsburg who was a gunner on one of the Hotchkiss Guns. This action was actaully A total revenge for the 7th Cav’s defeat at the Little Big Horn.
The Zulu nation was pursued relentlessly by the British, fighting many battles against them.
On the 4th of July 1879, 17,000 British and native troops fought against some 24,000 Zulus and destroyed the Zulu army At Ulundi. They then removed Chief Cetshwayo to captivity in Cape Town, set fire to his Royal Capital of Ulundi, slaughtered many Zulu’s, they annexed Zululand in 1888 and made it a part of the British Colony of Natal in 1897.
The final outcome for the Sioux and Zulu was total dependence upon the United States and Great Britain for self sufficiency in their nations.
Oh well I found this to be very interesting, I hope you also found it interesting.

1 comment:

steve said...

Comparative history is interesting, but the conclusions must include context. I don't see the importance of the comparison, other than to say "hey neat."