On February 14 1838 a 69 man delegation from Piet Retief's trek party met wtih King Dingane to negotiate a land deal for the Voortrekkers, who had by this time reached the Drakensberg mountains on route from the Cape. In exchange for much of southern Kwa-Zulu Natal the King wanted Retief to recover some 700 head of cattle, 63 horses and some rifles that had been stolen from him by some other tribe.
Retief immediately sent word to the Voortrekkers that his negotiations had succeeded and they began to move into Zululand. Meanwhile Retief recovered the cattle and and horses and returned them to Mgungundlovu, but on 6 February 1838 at a party in their honour, where they were requested to leave their firearms outside, Retief and all of his followers were executed on King Dingane’s orders.
The King was very weary of the settlers, as he had seen how the British moved into Natal, so he gave the order to exterminate all Voortrekkers.
On 16 & 17 February, ten days after Piet Retief’s execution, the Voortrekkers who were stretched over a distance of 45 miles by 25 miles and were expecting good news were unexpectedly attacked and many families were killed at their camps along the banks of the Bloukrans River (later known as Moordrivier).
The fact that some distance separated the camps meant that there was no chance of a unified defence (such as Blood River) but it did allow time for the Boers further down the river to prepare a defence of sorts, unlike the first camps that were taken by surprise.
By the end of the two days over 500 people had been killed in the Boer camps and the Zulu raiders had suffered similar casualties.
Bloukrans is a memorial to the Voortrekkers who were killed during the battle.
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