Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This Day in Southern African History: 11 April, 1838, Zulu warriors ambush Piet Uys and his men at Italeni

Following the murder of Piet Retief and his followers by Dingane, Petrus Lafras Uys (Piet) went to Natal, where he was elected commander-in chief in a campaign to aid the Natal Voortrekkers. Owing to discord between the leaders, the Voortrekker force was split up between Uys and Andries Hendrik Potgieter. They engaged the Zulu impi at the foot of the Itala mountain, a few kilometres west of Dingane's chief kraal. The strenght of the Zulu army was estimated at 6 000, under command of Tambusa. During the battle, the Zulu managed to lure Uys' commando into an ambush and mortally wounded Uys whilst he and his fellow combatants were trying to shoot their way out of the encircling movement. Uys stayed behind to try to distract the Zulus from pursuit. His fifteen year old son, Dirk Cornelis Uys, commonly known as Dirkie, could not bear to see his father die alone. He turned his horse around, went back to his father and fought the Zulus alongside him. Eight other Voortrekkers also lost their lives in the battle. The heroic deaths side by side of father and son led Piet and Dirkie Uys to enter the folk history of South Africa.

  1. Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds)(1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU, v. 6, p. 164.
  2. Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.

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