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Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana: 22nd January 1879: Minute by Minute
by Chris Peers (January 2021)

Publisher : Greenhill Books (January 28, 2021)
Hardcover : 224 pages

A Review by Brian Williams

List of Maps
List of Illustrations
Prologue: 1:30 am, 22 January 1879
Chapter 1: Before the Dawn, 22 January 1879
Chapter 2: Early Hours
Chapter 3: Late Morning
Interlude: ‘Gentlemen in England now abed...'
Chapter 4: High Noon
Chapter 5: Afternoon
Chapter 6: The Siege of Rorke's Drift
Chapter 7: The Night Battle
Chapter 8: 23 January
Chapter 9: The Aftermath
Sources and Suggested Reading

On January 22nd, a British column of about 1,800 troops began their invasion of Zululand in South Africa from the Natal province. Unbeknownst to the British, 20,000 Zulu warriors awaited them. In a classic Zulu pincer movement, the British were encircled and annihilated in what became one of the greatest defeats of the British Army. With nearly the entire force destroyed, survivors escaped to the southwest back towards Natal and Helpmekaar (approximately 10 miles south of Rorke's Drift). Not satisfied with the destruction of the main British force, approximately 3,000 Zulu warriors split off and attacked Rorke's Drift which was defended by just over 150 soldiers, some 8 miles to the west.

In Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana: 22nd January 1879: Minute by Minute, Chris Peers provides a superb chronological account of the disastrous British defeat at Isandlwana and the heroic defense of Rorke's Drift. I really enjoyed the way Peers breaks down the timeline of the Battle of Isandlwana, the subsequent siege of Rorke's Drift and the aftermath. After reading Chapters 1-5 (the Battle of Isandlwana), I was totally exhausted. This is a good thing because as the reader, I felt like I was there at Isandlwana with the men, enduring the chaos, the eventual defeat and escape. Then, after all this, it was on to Rorke's Drift which was just as harrowing. The book contains perfectly placed maps and photographs of the terrain and buildings just when the reader needs them the most. I really appreciated the many photographs showing what the battlefields looked like from the various perspectives.

I greatly enjoyed reading Peers' Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana. It gave me a complete picture of what led up to the Battle of Isandlwana, the errors and misjudgments of the battle itself and the siege of Rorke's Drift. I highly recommend it to anyone who is even casually interested in learning more about these two battles and the events leading up to the Anglo-Zulu war. After reading this book, I'm spurred to read more about the Anglo-Zulu war and the battles of Intombe, Hlobane, and Ulundi.

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© 2023 Brian Williams

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