Deconstructing the Myth of the Deaths of Piet and Dirk Uys

A Reconstruction of the Battle of eThaleni, 10 April 1838

In: Journal of African Military History
Michał Leśniewski Uniwersytet Warszawski Instytut Historyczny Poland Warszawa

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The Battle of eThaleni was an important Zulu victory during the early stages of the Zulu-Boer War of 1838–1840. There is a surprisingly large number of studies on this battle, yet most focus on the deaths of Piet and Dirk Uys, and the heroic circumstances of their deaths, rather than on the battle itself. The lack of classical studies on this battle has led to the persistence of several assumptions concerning this battle and the causes of the Voortrekker defeat. Among these are the crucial role played in the defeat by the conflict between Potgieter and P.L. Uys, and Potgieter’s over-cautiousness during the battle, which supposedly put P.L. Uys in danger and led to his death. The goal of this text is to discuss and question these assumptions. The author argues that blame should be more evenly distributed, and that P.L. Uys was no less responsible than Potgieter for the defeat. Moreover, this text seeks to better appreciate the role of the Zulu commander, Nzobo kaSobadli, whose generalship was crucial to the Zulu victory.

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