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Mzilikazi Attacks the Voortrekkers
It was on 16th October 1836 that the party received news of a Matabele army approaching. Potgieter rode out with his men hoping to negotiate with them but were attacked in the traditional Zulu-type chest and horns fashion. The Voortrekkers then employed a known successful tactic - charging up to just outside assegai range, loosing off a volley, retreating whilst reloading in the saddle and then repeating the maneuver.
The 5,000 Matabele warriors surrounded the laager and then sat and waited for several hours. Potgieter eventually tied a red rag to a whip that had the effect of goading the warriors into action and they rushed the laager. The trekker's guns eventually became too hot to hold and were recharged by spitting the slugs down the barrels from the trekker's mouth where they were stored and tamping down the charge by banging the butt of the gun on the ground. There was no time for anything else. Lucas van Rensburg (right) took part in the battle at age 12.
As the range shortened, there was hand to hand fighting until eventually the Matabele withdrew - the very first time they had failed in battle. Guns were then cleaned in the respite and powder replenished. Then came a second attack that was barely beaten off. Wounded warriors were identified by their sweating and finished off ny fire from the laager.
After the Battle
Thirty-three men and seven boys had defeated five thousand determined, trained Matabele warriors killing more than five hundred. The Matabele retired with all the trekker stock. Two Voortrekkers had been killed, including Potgieter's brother. After the fight 1,137 assegais were collected from inside the laager.
The Voortrekkers then felt truly that they really were on a mission from God. They were however not yet out of danger - they were alone in the veld, tired, hungry and with no stock. Because of the hundreds of rotting corpses surrounding the laager, the wagons were pulled by horses to a site some short distance away. Potgieter's brother was then sent to Blesberg for help and returned with oxen and food some two weeks later.
Potgieter's thoughts turned to revenge and the recovery of his cattle.