Title:  General Jan Smuts & his long ride

Authors: Taffy and David Shearing.

ISBN no:  0-620-26750-X.

Publication: Published by the authors on 21 November 2000.

Format: Soft cover, 240 x 70 mm, 248 pages, 9 full page maps and 92 photographs. The war record of 323 of his men is included. The book is fully referenced.

Retail price: R200.00 plus R30.00 postage and packing in South Africa.
Prices for other countries or for the trade on application. Place an order here.

Content:

Smuts, State Attorney of the Transvaal Republic, proved to have an extraordinary capacity for leadership, adapted to new situations and exploiting the smallest advantage. His great reputation as a guerrilla leader was born on the long ride.

The trail we follow today is not that of the international statesman, the Prime minister or the Commander-in-Chief. Our trail is that of a dour young man who kept his own council, a man who proved he could run rings around people; both physically and mentally. This book follows his epic journey through the Cape Colony and the fight in the north-west Cape.


INTRODUCTION : AN EXCERPT

Night fell and the General stood in front of the homestead whispering to a couple of his officers, encircled by men leaning on their rifles, too weary to care. He had sent Reitz and Henry Rittenberg to the edge of the escarpment, and they reported that troops were pouring out of a train far below. They had also been fired on by pickets on the alert. The noose was tightening. What now?

Success in war is often due to luck. Some have it; others don’t. Smuts had it. There was a stir, and somebody led a hunchback to him. Hans Kleynhans, a pathetic sight on small crutches, was a tenant-farmer living on Tipperary, a stone’s throw away.

He was also an unlikely genie, as most genies apparently are. He humbly offered to lead the General and his men through the bog and over Staffelberg, to where they could get away. Their feet would get wet, he warned, and they must all be quiet.

After one incredulous look, Smuts didn’t hesitate. He never did. He and his men had been fighting for the past 12 hours and he had spent his energy leading them backwards and forwards into the dead ground, seeking protection from the pom-poms aimed at them as the cordon tightened.

He had had precious little sleep since they had crossed the Orange, but was now rapping out orders in his crow-like voice with its Malmesbury brei, or burr. He said farewell to the faithful Riekert and another wounded man in the spare room. Four others, less injured, said they would take their chance. And then he was gone.

Outside orders were whispered, the commandos marshalled, the horses muffled. Then Smuts, working on trust alone, called Opsaal! Certainly 'he who will not risk, cannot win’, but what did Smuts know of Kleynhans?  The cripple, lifted onto a horse, led the way into a wall of mist. It wasn’t a silent world because the south-easter, which brought the mist, was blowing. There was a thrumming noise with it, and they heard unwelcome voices drifting in from the invisible soldiers camped around them.

A ghostly procession of hundreds of men in grain bags, for all the world like caricatures of medieval knights, led their miserable horses and spare mounts through the farm gate. They vanished into the bog as quickly and quietly as a herd of elephant are swallowed up by the bush.


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REVIEWS

As the two first books this is fantastic storytelling based on thorough research. No history library can be without this book, neither in South Africa nor in Europe or North America

And also:
This is the third in the fantastic series on Cape Rebels by the Shearing couple. They have, for twenty years, studied the history of the Cape Rebels, who with small resources and few men struggled against the power of the British empire. The first in the series was "Commandant Johannes Lötter and His Rebels" and the second "Commandant Gideon Scheepers and the Search for his Grave". As a reader and reviewer one can only hope for more of these books during the centenary of the Anglo Boer War.
           Bertil Haggman, Author and Member of the Swedish Writers' Union.

Containing a large number of maps and photographs, this book is a must for Anglo-Boer War and Smuts followers.
           Eastern Province Herald, Port Elizabeth.

You succeed in revealing the daily realities of being on commando a hundred years ago. Every aspect of it. From the tiniest, such as one man’s experience of being barefoot and without a horse, to the most important, such as Smuts’ ability to inspire people through those extremely difficult situations.
            E de Villiers, 2002

 

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