exploring the Eastern Cape
9 Frontier wars
Cape Frontier Wars in South Africa
The history of the Eastern Cape is extremely violent with a total of 9 Frontier Wars over a 100 year period from 1781-1878 of intermittent warfare between the Cape colonists and the Xhosa. Cape Frontier Wars also called KAFFIR, OR KAFIR, WARS (1781-1878), Each war ending in resettlements, normally new boundaries and always the seeds of bitterness, that led to the next war.
As Boer and Xhosa settlements became more closely interwoven across the Zuurveld between the Sundays and Great Fish Rivers. Violence between them became more common. It started with a cattle raid and developed into war. The first four frontier wars where between the Boers and the Xhosa confined mostly to the west of the Fish River were minor skirmishes by comparison to what followed.
The wars dragged on as the Xhosa used the thick forests to evade Boer commandos, emerging at night to recapture their cattle. By mid 1781 the war ground to a halt. Such were the difficult circumstances of the time in these parts that it led to the Great Trek. The Boer left for Natal and the British step in and fort against the Xhosa.
In the cape frontier wars it was not easy for the British Army as the nature of the terrain was harsh. South Africa's dense bush provided further torment. The area is broken and rugged, with vast areas of either dense lush indigenous forest or thick valley bushveld ideal for guerilla warfare.
The uniforms were one of the main problems. The British soldiers had to often go into the bush in their tightly buttoned red jackets and white trousers which was tragic as well as ridiculous. They made them such easier targets for the Xhosa.
On top of all this the British soldier had thick heavy boots of the were too cumbersome for long marches. Climbing up and down the cliffs of the Amatolas the British soldiers feet got agonizingly blisters by there boots.
The British Government sponsored the emigration of 5000 British Settlers to the Eastern Cape where they were given 40 ha plots each (unsuitable for wheat and too small for successful pastoral farming).
Forts later were established by the British military after the war of 1834-1835 to guard the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony against further attacks by the Xhosa groups and to prevent them from recrossing the Fish River boundary. At many frontier posts there was seldom enough to eat and uniforms and clothing were in rags. Forts where also crowded such as Fort Beaufort, where 100 men were crowded into a space insufficient for half that number.
One of the most prolonged struggles by African peoples against European intrusion, it ended in the annexation of Xhosa territories by the Cape Colony and the incorporation of its peoples... No South African battlefields tour would be complete that left out the costly, bitter and drawn out Frontier War's of the Eastern Cape.
If you interested in exploring the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape and would like to go on tour to Forts, graveyards, mission stations and churches then have a look at our historical tour packages.
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