Battle of Elands River (1900)
The Battle of Elands River was an engagement of the Second Boer War that took place between 4 and 16 August 1900 in western Transvaal. Over the course of 13 days, the garrison was heavily shelled and attacked with small arms and surrounded, the garrison was asked to surrender, but refused. The siege was lifted when the garrison was relieved by a 10. In December 1899, the fighting in South Africa moved into a second stage, the British launched a series of counter-offensives that managed to capture and secure the main population centres in South Africa, divorcing the Boers from their supply base. Most of the major Boer forces had surrendered to the British, operating in small groups, Boer commandos attacked columns of troops and supply lines, carrying out sniping and launching raids on isolated garrisons and supply depots. As the supplies were vulnerable to Boer raids, a garrison, the position was bracketed by two creeks – the Brakspruit to the north and the Doornspruit to the south – which flowed west into the river.
A telegraph line ran through the farm along the Zeerust–Rustenburg road, desperate for supplies, Boer forces decided to attack the garrison with the view to securing the supplies located there. Prior to the battle commencing, the garrison had received intelligence warning them of the attack, as a result, some actions were taken to fortify the position, with a makeshift defensive perimeter being established utilising stores and wagons to create barricades. Little attempt had made, however, to dig-in as the ground around the position was hard. The garrison defending the Elands River post consisted of about 500 men, the majority of this force were Australians, with 105 being from New South Wales and 141 from Queensland along with 42 from Victoria, nine from Western Australia and two from Tasmania. In addition to there were 201 men from Rhodesia along with three Canadians and three British. Together they were commanded by a British officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hore, the only fire support that the garrison possessed was a single Maxim machine-gun and an antiquated 7-pounder screw gun, for which there was little ammunition.
In addition to the garrison, there were a number of civilians staying at the farm. A couple of shots from the riverbed announced the commencement of the attack. They were followed by an artillery barrage from the guns that the Boers had moved into position around the farm. A third position, about 4,300 yards, consisting of an artillery piece and a pom-pom, engaged the garrison from high ground overlooking the river to the west. In response, the crew of the defenders screw gun returned fire, destroying a farmhouse from where some of the Boers were firing, the gun fell silent soon after when it jammed. Unanswered, the Boer barrage devastated the oxen from the convoy and killed almost all of the 1,500 horses, mules
Battle of Elandslaagte
The Battle of Elandslaagte was a battle of the Second Boer War, and one of the few clear-cut tactical victories won by the British during the conflict. However, the British force retreated afterwards, throwing away their advantage, learning that the telegraph had been cut, Lieutenant General Sir George White sent his cavalry commander, Major General John French to recapture the station. Arriving shortly after dawn on 21 October, French found the Boers present in strength, with two field guns and he telegraphed to Ladysmith for reinforcements, which shortly afterwards arrived by train. The sky had steadily been growing dark with thunderclouds, and as the British made their assault, in the poor visibility and pouring rain, the British infantry had to face a barbed wire farm fence, in which several men were entangled and shot. Nevertheless, they cut the wire or broke it down, some small parties of Boers were already showing white flags when General Kock led a counterattack, dressed in his top hat and Sunday best.
He drove back the British infantry in confusion, but they rallied, inspired by Hamilton and his companions were killed. As the remaining Boers mounted their ponies and tried to retreat and this was one of the few occasions during the Boer war in which a British cavalry charge made contact. The two Boer field guns fell into British hands and they were found to have originally been British and had been captured by the Boers in the aftermath of the Jameson Raid. The British were tired and many officers had been killed, the detachment at Dundee was once again isolated, and was forced to make an exhausting detour before they could reach safety. The Boer forces re-occupied Elandslaagte two days later, the Battle was notable for being the first and last battle of the volunteer Hollanderkorps. The Hollanderkorps was a group of ca.150 Dutch volunteers which had established a mere month earlier. During the battle the Hollanderkorps suffered 9 fatalities, including Herman Coster, the Boer generals were deeply unhappy with the Hollanderkorps performance, and it was disbanded after the battle though several hundred Dutch volunteers continued to fight in Boer regiments
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War, usually known as the Boer War and at the time as the South African War, started on 11 October 1899 and ended on 31 May 1902. Great Britain defeated two Boer states in South Africa, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, Britain was aided by its Cape Colony, Colony of Natal and some native African allies. The British war effort was supported by volunteers from the British Empire, including Southern Africa, the Australian colonies, India. All other nations were neutral, but public opinion in them was largely hostile to Britain, inside Britain and its Empire there was significant opposition to the Second Boer War. The British were overconfident and under-prepared, the Boers were very well armed and struck first, besieging Ladysmith and Mafeking in early 1900, and winning important battles at Colenso and Stormberg. Staggered, the British brought in numbers of soldiers and fought back. General Redvers Buller was replaced by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener and they relieved the three besieged cities, and invaded the two Boer republics in late 1900.
The onward marches of the British Army were so overwhelming that the Boers did not fight staged battles in defense of their homeland, the British quickly seized control of all of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, as the civilian leadership went into hiding or exile. In conventional terms, the war was over, Britain officially annexed the two countries in 1900, and called a khaki election to give the government another six years of power in London. However, the Boers refused to surrender and they reverted to guerrilla warfare under new generals Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, Christiaan de Wet and Koos de la Rey. Two more years of attacks and quick escapes followed. As guerrillas without uniforms, the Boer fighters easily blended into the farmlands, which provided hiding places, the British solution was to set up complex nets of block houses, strong points, and barbed wire fences, partitioning off the entire conquered territory. The civilian farmers were relocated into concentration camps, where very large proportions died of disease, especially the children, the British mounted infantry units systematically tracked down the highly mobile Boer guerrilla units.
The battles at this stage were small operations with few combat casualties The war ended in surrender, the British successfully won over the Boer leaders, who now gave full support to the new political system. Both former republics were incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910, the conflict is commonly referred to as simply the Boer War, since the First Boer War is much less well known. Boer was the term for Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans descended from the Dutch East India Companys original settlers at the Cape of Good Hope. It is officially called the South African War and it is known as the Anglo-Boer War among some South Africans. In Afrikaans it may be called the Anglo-Boereoorlog, Tweede Boereoorlog, in South Africa it is officially called the South African War
Battle of Vaal Krantz
The Battle of Vaal Krantz was the third failed attempt by General Redvers Bullers British army to fight its way past Louis Bothas army of Boer irregulars and lift the Siege of Ladysmith. The battle occurred during the Second Boer War, in the first and second attempts at relieving Ladysmith, Bullers army was defeated by Botha and his Boer army at the battles of Colenso and Spion Kop. British casualties soared to 3,000 men, while the Boers lost only a few hundred, Vaal Krantz was a ridge of kopjes a few miles east of Spion Kop. Buller tried to force a bridgehead across the Tugela River with the Rifle Brigade, after three days of skirmishing, the British general found that his position was so cramped that there was no room to drag his superior artillery up to support the British infantry attacks. Buller called a council of war and, All his generals agreed that there was nothing for it except to try a new attempt elsewhere, pakenham wrote that the British suffered 333 casualties. But Symonds put the British casualties at 30 dead and 350 wounded with Boers casualties were 30 dead and 50 wounded, Vaal Krantz was a minor defeat.
On 14 February, Buller launched his attempt at the Relief of Ladysmith
Louis Botha was a South African politician who was the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa—the forerunner of the modern South African state. A Boer war hero during the Second Boer War, he would fight to have South Africa become a British Dominion. He was born in Greytown, Natal as one of 13 children born to Louis Botha Senior and he briefly attended the school at Hermannsburg before his family relocated to the Orange Free State. The name Louis runs throughout the family, with every generation since General Louis Botha having the eldest son named Louis, Botha led Dinuzulus Volunteers, a group of Boers that had supported Dinuzulu against Zibhebhu in 1884. He became a member of the parliament of Transvaal in 1897, in 1899, Botha fought in the Second Boer War, initially under Lucas Meyer in Northern Natal, and as a general commanding and fighting impressively at Colenso and Spion Kop. On the death of P. J. Joubert, he was made commander-in-chief of the Transvaal Boers, after the battle at the Tugela, Botha granted a twenty-four-hour armistice to General Buller to enable him to bury his dead.
Winston Churchill revealed that General Botha was the man who captured him at the ambush of a British armoured train on 15 November 1899, coetzer 1996, p.30 claims that Botha captured Churchill at train ambush 15 November 1899. Churchill was not aware of the mans identity until 1902, when Botha travelled to London seeking loans to assist his countrys reconstruction, the incident is mentioned in Arthur Conan Doyles book, The Great Boer War, published in 1902. But more recent sources claim that Field-Cornet Sarel Oosthuizen was in fact the Boer-soldier who, at gunpoint, another version claims that the unit to capture Churchill was the Italian Volunteer Legion and its commander, Camillo Ricchiardi. After the fall of Pretoria in June 1900, Botha led a guerrilla campaign against the British together with Koos de la Rey. The success of his measures was seen in the resistance offered by the Boers to the very close of the three-year war. Botha was a representative of his countrymen in the negotiations of 1902.
He worked towards peace with the British, representing the Boers at the negotiations in 1902. In the period of reconstruction under British rule, Botha went to Europe with de Wet and his war record made him prominent in the politics of Transvaal and he was a major player in the postwar reconstruction of that country, becoming Prime Minister of Transvaal on 4 March 1907. In 1911, together with another Boer war hero, Jan Smuts, he formed the South African Party, widely viewed as too conciliatory with Britain, Botha faced revolts from within his own party and opposition from James Barry Munnik Hertzogs National Party. When South Africa obtained dominion status in 1910, Botha became the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, after the First World War started, he sent troops to take German South-West Africa, a move unpopular among Boers, which provoked the Boer Revolt. At the end of the War he briefly led a British Empire military mission to Poland during the Polish-Soviet War and he argued that the terms of the Versailles Treaty were too harsh on the Central Powers, but signed the treaty.
Botha was unwell for most of 1919 and he was plagued by fatigue and ill-health that arose from his robust waist-line. ”General Louis Botha died of heart failure following an attack of Spanish influenza on 27 August 1919 in the early hours of the morning
Battle of Colenso
The Battle of Colenso was the third and final battle fought during the Black Week of the Second Boer War. It was fought between British and Boer forces from the independent South African Republic and Orange Free State in and around Colenso, inadequate preparation and reconnaissance and uninspired leadership led to a heavy, and in some respects humiliating, British defeat. Shortly before the outbreak of the war, General Sir Redvers Buller was dispatched to South Africa at the head of an Army Corps, on arrival, he found British garrisons besieged on widely separated fronts, with limited communications between the fronts. Buller originally intended making a march to cross the Tugela at Potgieters Drift 80 kilometres upstream of Colenso. He lacked wagons and draught animals, and feared that a defeat at Potgieters Drift would leave his force isolated and trapped and he decided to make a frontal assault at Colenso after two days artillery bombardment, beginning on 13 December. Piet Joubert, the Commandant-General of the Transvaal, had been incapacitated after falling from his horse, as a result, Louis Botha assumed command of the Boers on this front.
The basic Boer fighting unit was the commando, nominally consisting of all the fighting men from a district, led by an elected Commandant. Botha had nine such commandos and the Swaziland Police available and he deployed his main force north of the river, covering the drifts. The preparatory British artillery fire missed the camouflaged Boer trenches, but the defenders of Hlangwane abandoned their positions, after exhortations arrived by telegram from President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic, detachments selected by drawing lots reoccupied Hlangwane the day before Buller attacked. Buller was handicapped by a shortage of competent staff officers, as most of them had been dispersed from his Corps, like the Corps itself, to the various distant fronts throughout South Africa. He lacked information on the geography of the area, and possessed only a detailed blueprint map based on railway and farm surveys. Buller intended the 5th Brigade, to cross the Bridle Drift, the 2nd Brigade under Major-General Henry J. T.
Hildyard would occupy the village itself. Hildyards brigade consisted of the 2nd Devonshire Regiment, the 2nd Queens Royal Regiment, the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, and its attack was to be supported by artillery under Colonel C. J. Long. A regiment of cavalry, the 7th Dragoon Guards, under Colonel J. F. Burn-Murdoch. On the right flank, Buller intended that a brigade of light horse. Two more infantry brigades were in reserve, they were the 4th Brigade under Major General Neville Lyttelton, the second formation was the 6th Brigade under Major General Geoffrey Barton. Buller had three batteries of field artillery, and another battery of eight naval 12-pounder guns and two 4. 7-inch naval guns to support the flanking mounted troops or in reserve. Early on the morning of 15 December, Hart gave his men half an hours parade ground drill, led them in close column towards the Bridle Drift
The name War Office is given to the former home of the department, the War Office building located at the junction of Horse Guards Avenue and Whitehall in central London. During August 2013 it was announced that the former War Office building would be sold on the open market. The War Office developed from the Council of War, an ad hoc grouping of the King and his military commanders which managed the Kingdom of Englands frequent wars. It was equivalent to the Admiralty, responsible for the Royal Navy, and the Air Ministry, the department had several London homes until it settled at Horse Guards in Whitehall during 1722, where it was to remain until 1858. The first War Office Secretary at War is usually said to have been William Blathwayt and it was, however, a fairly minor government job which dealt with the minutiae of administration rather than grand strategy. Issues of strategic policy during wartime were managed by the Northern and Southern Departments, from 1704 to 1855, the job of Secretary was possessed by a minister of the second rank, although he was occasionally part of the Cabinet.
Many of his responsibilities were transferred to the Secretary of State for War after the creation of more senior post during 1794. The job of Secretary at War was merged with that of the Secretary of State for War during 1855, during 1855 the Board of Ordnance was abolished as a result of its perceived poor performance during the Crimean War. This powerful independent body, dating from the 15th century, had directed by the Master-General of the Ordnance. The disastrous campaigns of the Crimean War resulted in the consolidation of all duties during 1855 as subordinate to the Secretary of State for War. He was not, solely responsible for the Army and this was reduced in theory by the reforms introduced by Edward Cardwell during 1870, which subordinated the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary for War. His resistance to reform caused military efficiency to lag well behind that of Britains rivals, the management of the War Office was hampered by persistent disputes between the civilian and military parts of the organisation.
The government of H. H. Asquith attempted to resolve this during the First World War by appointing Lord Kitchener as Secretary for War, making him the first, this was thought unsatisfactory, during his tenure, the Imperial General Staff was virtually dismantled. Its role was replaced effectively by the Committee of Imperial Defence, the War Office decreased greatly in importance after the First World War, a fact illustrated by the drastic reductions of its staff numbers during the inter-war period. On 1 April 1920, it employed 7,434 civilian staff and its responsibilities and funding were reduced. During 1936, the government of Stanley Baldwin appointed a Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister during 1940, he bypassed the War Office altogether and appointed himself Minister of Defence. Clement Attlee continued this arrangement when he came to power during 1945, during 1964, the present form of the Ministry of Defence was established, unifying the War Office and Air Ministry.
The records of the War Office are kept by The National Archives with the code WO and it contains about 1,000 rooms across seven floors, linked by 2½ miles of corridors
Siege of Kimberley
The Siege of Kimberley took place during the Second Boer War at Kimberley, Cape Colony, when Boer forces from the Orange Free State and the Transvaal besieged the diamond mining town. The Boers moved quickly to try to capture the British enclave when war broke out between the British and the two Boer republics in October 1899, the town was ill-prepared, but the defenders organised an energetic and effective improvised defence that was able to prevent it from being taken. Cecil Rhodes, who had made his fortune in the town, and his presence was controversial, as his involvement in the Jameson Raid made him one of the primary protagonists behind war breaking out. Rhodes was constantly at loggerheads with the military, but he was instrumental in organising the defence of the town. The Boers shelled the town with their artillery in an attempt to force the garrison to capitulate. The British military had to change its strategy for the war as public opinion demanded that the sieges of Kimberley, the first attempt at relief of Kimberley under Lord Methuen was stopped at the battles of Modder River and Magersfontein.
The 124-day siege was relieved on 15 February 1900 by a cavalry division under Lieutenant-General John French. The battle against the Boer general Piet Cronjé continued at Paardeberg immediately after the town itself was relieved, South Africa was initially a Dutch colony after the Dutch East India Company set up a shipping station at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Many Dutch farmers elected to move away from British influence into the hinterland, the discoveries led to a massive influx of Uitlanders into the Boer republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal. Tensions soon started rising between the British Empire and the two Boer republics, discussions broke down in October 1899 when the British ignored a Boer ultimatum to stop concentrating forces on the borders of the Boer republics. The town had a population of 40,000, of which 25,000 were white, the closest Boer settlements were Jacobsdal to the south and Boshof to the east. The De Beers company was concerned about the defence of Kimberley some years before the outbreak of the war, in 1896, an arms depot was formed, a plan of defence sent to the authorities and a local defence force set up.
His reply to an appeal for arms in September 1899 stated, There is no reason whatever for apprehending that Kimberley is or will be in any danger of attack, the town next appealed to the High Commissioner, this time with more success. On 4 October 1899, Major Scott-Turner was permitted to summon volunteers to join the town guard and raise the Diamond Fields Artillery. Three days later, the town was placed under the command of Colonel Robert Kekewich of the 1st Battalion, Loyal Regiment, and secured against a coup de main, but not against sustained siege. Colonel Kekewichs troops consisted of four companies of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, some Royal Engineers, six RML2.5 inch mountain guns and two machine guns. Also at his disposal were 120 men of the Cape Police,2,000 irregular troops, the Kimberley Light Horse, eight Maxim machine guns were mounted on redoubts built atop tailing heaps around the town. Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of De Beers, was contemplating moving into the town, the citizens feared that his presence there, given his prominent role in the breakdown of Anglo-Boer relations leading up to the war, would antagonise the Boers
Battle of Groenkloof
To combat the guerrilla war raging in the two Boer republics, Kitchener employed sweep-and-scour columns, farm burning and a policy of forcing Boer women and children into concentration camps. However, using such methods in the loyal Cape Colony was politically impossible. One historian notes, How simple an antidote to guerilla warfare, compared with that operation of burning farms. Armed with information from Frenchs excellent Field Intelligence Department and led by African Intelligence scouts, whose command included the 9th Lancers, the Cape Mounted Rifles and Imperial Yeomanry, was reputedly one of the most efficient British column commanders. On the fifth day of a mission, the British officer found his quarry in a mountain gorge called Groenkloof. Believing that Lotters men occupied a building, Scobell ordered a night march. Actually and his 130-man commando had taken shelter in a nearby 30-by-15 foot stone sheephouse or kraal, at dawn, a squadron of lancers was sent to investigate the kraal.
The commanding officer, Lord Douglas Compton dropped his pistol near the entrance, as he dismounted to fetch his weapon, the Boers opened fire. Compton escaped, but the six men behind him were mowed down, immediately, a thousand rifles opened up on the fearfully outnumbered Boers in the sheephouse. After a half-hour of the unequal contest, the Boers surrendered and they suffered 13 killed and 46 wounded, while 61 unwounded survivors were hustled into captivity. Scobells force lost 10 men killed, a British combatant said, The sight was horrible in the extreme. In fact the place was like a butchers shop, some men making awful noises groaning clutching the ground and seven others were executed by the British authorities as rebellious subjects. Jan Smuts turned the tables on the British in the Battle of Elands River which followed ten days later. But as one historian points out, In losing Lotter, the Boers had lost more than a tenth of the guerillas in the Colony south of the Orange, the British Empire was a bottomless well, when it came to replacing lost troops.
ISBN 0-380-72001-9 A de V Minnaar, graaff-Reinet and the Second Anglo-Boer War
South African Republic
The territory of the ZAR became known after this war as the Transvaal Colony. Constitutionally the name of the country was Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, many people called the ZAR Transvaal, in reference to the area over the Vaal River including the British press and the press in Europe. In fact the name Transvaal was so often used the British objected to the use of the real name. The British pointed out that the Convention of Pretoria of 3 August 1881 referred to the Transvaal Territory and that the Transvaal and the South African Republic did not have the same boundaries. However, in the London Convention dated 27 February 1884, a subsequent treaty between Britain and the ZAR, Britain acquiesced and reverted to the use of the true name and this proclamation was issued during the Second Boer War and whilst the ZAR was still an independent country. On 20 May 1903 an Inter Colonial Council was established, to manage the colonies of the British Government, the name Transvaal was finally changed in 1994, when the ANC government broke up the Transvaal area and renamed the core to Gauteng.
In paleolithic times, between 2.2 and 3.3 million years ago, hominids lived within the area of the ZAR. The earliest hominid bones, between 2.2 and 3.3 million years old, were discovered at Sterkfontein in 1994, in 1938 Paranthropus robustus bones were found at Kromdraai, and during 1947 several more examples of Australopithecus africanus were uncovered in Sterkfontein. The capital was established at Potchefstroom and moved to Pretoria, the parliament was called the Volksraad and had 24 members. The South African Republic became fully independent on the 27 February 1884 when the London Convention was signed, the country independently entered into various agreements with other foreign countries after that date. On 3 November 1884 the country signed a Postal convention with the government of the Cape Colony, on the November 1859 the independent Republic of Lijdenburg merged with the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek. On 9 May 1887, burghers from the territories of Stellaland, on 25 July 1895 the burghers that took part in the battle at Zoutpansberg, were granted citizenship of the ZAR.
The constitution of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek has been referred to as interesting for its time. It contained provisions for the division between the leadership and office bearers in government administration. The legal system consisted of higher and lower courts and had adopted a jury system, the laws were enforced by the South African Republic Police which were divided into Mounted Police and Foot Police. Also established was a Municipal Government, Witwatersrand District court and the High Court of Transvaal, initially the State and Church were not separated in the constitution of the ZAR, citizens of the ZAR had to be members of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1858 these clauses were altered in the constitution to allow for the Volksraad to approve other Dutch Christian churches. The Reformed Church was approved by the Volksraad in 1858, which had the effect of allowing Paul Kruger, the Bible itself was often used to interpret the intention of legal documents
Battle of Diamond Hill
The Battle of Diamond Hill took place on 11 and 12 June 1900 during the Second Boer War. Fourteen thousand British soldiers squared up against four thousand Boers and forced them from their positions on the hill, the British cavalry were under the command of Sir Ian Hamilton. He despatched Robert Broadwoods 2nd Cavalry brigade, which included the 10th Royal Hussars, 12th Royal Lancers, as the sun came up it was a bitterly cold Monday morning. we are hidden in the hills at Donkerhoek. ready for battle. As a detachment of 10th Hussars swung off to the right, a section of Q Battery RHA attempted to return artillery fire, but had no infantry support, until the 12th Lancers arrived on the front line. Lord Airlie took 60 men to clear the Boers from the guns, the Boers pressed the matter hard. Two squadrons of Household Cavalry Regiment and one squadron of the 12th Hussars charged at full gallop at Boers firing from concealed positions. On 13th the Bothas army retreated to the north, they were chased as far as Elands River Station, only 25 miles from Pretoria, by Mounted Infantry and De Lisles Australians.
Forty-four years after the battle, British General Ian Hamilton opined in his memoirs that the battle, Hamilton credited Winston Churchill with recognizing that the key to victory would be in storming the summit, and risking his life to signal Hamilton
Christiaan de Wet
Christiaan Rudolf de Wet was a South African Boer general, rebel leader and politician. He was born on the Leeuwkop farm, in the district of Smithfield in the Boer Republic of the Orange Free State and he resided at Dewetsdorp, named after his father, Jacobus Ignatius de Wet. De Wet is mentioned in Kiplings poem Ubique and he was a close personal friend of Helene Kröller-Müller who commissioned a statue of him in the Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands. This eventually led to the end of the war and the reinstatement of the independence of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, in the years between the First and Second Boer Wars, from 1881 to 1896, he lived on his farm, becoming a member of the Volksraad in 1897. In September 1899 de Wet and his three sons were called up as ordinary private burghers without any rank and he was a member of the Heilbron commando and they were ordered to proceed to the Natal frontier. On 11 October 1899, while he was reconnoitring the Natal frontier and he participated in the fight at Nicholsons Nek on 30 October, when 954 British officers and men surrendered.
Thereafter he took part in the siege of Ladysmith, on 9 December 1899 De Wet received a telegram from the State President, M. T. Steyn, informing him that he had appointed a Fighting General and was to proceed to the Western frontier. He found General Piet Cronjé in command of the Boer forces ensconced at Magersfontein South of Kimberley, De Wet was to be Cronjes second-in-command. The British advance commenced on 11 February 1900 with General French outflanking Cronje at Magersfontein, De Wets raid on the ox wagon convoy at Watervals Drift, capturing 1600 oxen, did not stem the tide. Kimberleys siege was relieved on 15 February and Cronje surrendered with 4000 men at Paardeberg on 27 February, shortly thereafter de Wet was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Free State forces. They could not contain the British advance towards the Free State capital and his next successful action was the surprise attack on Sannas Post near Bloemfontein on 31 March 1900. This was followed on 4 April by the victory of Reddersburg and he came to be regarded as the most formidable leader of the Boers in their guerrilla warfare.
His brother Piet Daniel De Wet, another successful Boer general, was captured by the British in July 1901, during the last phase of the war, the Afrikaner people of Winburg taunted the local British Army garrison with an English language parody of Sir Walter Scotts Bonnie Dundee. De Wet he is mounted, he rides up the street The English skedaddle an A1 retreat, and the commander swore, Theyve got through the net Thats been spread with such care for Christiaan De Wet. There are hills beyond Winburg and Boers on each hill Sufficient to thwart ten generals skill There are stout-hearted burghers 10,000 men set On following the Mausers of Christian De Wet. Then away to the hills, to the veld, to the rocks Ere we own a usurper well crouch with the fox And tremble false Jingoes amidst all your glee Ye have not seen the last of my Mausers and me. De Wet took a part in the peace negotiations of 1902