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Empress Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP of Empress Miniatures writes:

The Orange River Wars

Our Basotho figures are suitable for the period 1840-1880, including 'Major Warden's War' (1851), the Battle of Berea (1852), the conflicts with the Orange Free State in the 1850s and 60s, and the 'Gun War' (1880). Note, however, that by the time of the Gun War at the tail-end of the bracket, a much higher proportion of warriors would have been wearing hats and European clothing, and that some would have been armed with rifles, including a few breech-loaders, such as the Snider-Enfield.

28mm Iron Duke Orange Wars

Molapo 'Jeremiah' Moshoeshoe (1814-1880), aged 37 at the Battle of Berea (20 December 1852), was the second son of Chief Moshoeshoe's First House. At the Battle of Viervoet, during 'Major Warden's War' of July 1851, Molapo had commanded one of three Basotho cavalry divisions. At Berea, he again commanded a major mounted formation, embracing both Basotho warriors and an allied Bataung contingent led by the sons of Chief Molitsane.

Conventionally said to be 700 strong, my own research leads me to believe that Molapo's division was almost certainly twice that size. Evidently a commander possessed of real 'cavalry dash', Molapo surprised Lt-Col George Napier's cavalry 'brigade' (it was only 2 squadrons strong) as it was retiring from Berea Mountain with 4,000 captured cattle. The rearguard half-troop, under the supervision of Maj. William Tottenham, the acting CO of the 12th Lancers, was very badly mauled in a chaotic withdrawal from the mountain. Tottenham himself played a genuinely heroic role in the retreat and was fortunate enough to survive.

Subsequently, Molapo had some of his warriors dress up in the jackets and white forage caps of the dead lancers. Carrying captured lances and formed up like cavalrymen, the impostors rode towards Colonel William Eyre's infantry column, on another part of the plateau. Eyre mistook them for General Cathcart's escort and rode towards them, accompanied by his headquarters staff officers and the handful of lancers that had been assigned to his column. Eyre was obliged to defend himself with his revolver, but was able to gallop to safety. His DAQMG (effectively his chief of staff), Captain Walter Faunce, 73rd Regt., was less fortunate. Reportedly a poor horseman, Faunce was hemmed in, taken prisoner, and clubbed to death some short while later.

After fighting Eyre's infantry for a couple of hours, Molapo led his people down from Berea to participate in the climax of the battle around Pelea's Kraal in the Phutiatsana (or Little Caledon) river valley, opposite Moshoeshoe's mountain-top stronghold at Thaba Bosiu.

28mm Iron Duke Orange Wars

Job or "Jobo", properly known as Lelosa, was a younger half-brother to the Basotho paramount, Chief Moshoshoe. Back in the 1830s, Eugene Casalis of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) befriended Moshoeshoe, and was granted permission to establish a mission at the foot of the Thaba Bosiu mountain-top stronghold. Lelosa converted to Christianity in 1841, and was still a senior member of Casalis's congregation in December 1852, when General Cathcart and his army drew nigh.

There were French missions scattered all across Moshoeshoe's realm, but none of them had more than a few score converts. The missionaries were typically accompanied by wives and children – Mrs. Casalis was known to the Basotho as 'Ma Eugene' – so that consequently the converts were prevailed upon to wear European-style clothes around the missions. Jobo took the Ten Commandments to heart, and on the basis of 'Thou shalt not kill', faced a bonafide struggle with his conscience in advance of the Battle of Berea.

In the end, he took up arms and participated in the fighting. Not only did he participate, but he played a leadership role, displayed great courage, and provided an inspirational example to those around him. The morning after the battle, Moshoeshoe's sons sang their uncle's praises in the presence of the paramount. "Job was not afraid because he is a Christian," Moshoeshoe remarked in response.

28mm Iron Duke Orange Wars

Although Casalis rose high in Moshoeshoe's counsels, becoming both a friend and confidante, and effectively acting as his foreign secretary in his dealings with the British and the boere, it was expedient that the paramount adhered to the majority view amongst his people. As a result, Casalis was never able to pull off his great ambition of converting the paramount himself. Moshoeshoe's aged father, Mokhachane, inevitably a great traditionalist, detested the idea of Christianity and was hostile to the French presence.

Importantly, PEMS policy was to side with the British in the Cape, for fear of the the threat that boer republican rule posed to Africans, so that the temporary breakdown in Anglo-Basotho relations over the period 1851-2 was in no way attributable to the French influence in 'Lesutu' [today, Lesotho].

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Text edited by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian
Graphics edited by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian
Scheduled by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian