The British camp had only seen the Boers posting a picket on the mountain during the day and resolved to take the mountain before they decided to also picket the mountain at night. Joubert, the Boer Commander, had already decided to do exactly that but ironically on the eve of the British ascent on February 24th 1880, the first night picket got lost and camped half way up the mountain.
In the dark of night, in complete silence, fully kitted with several days' rations and entrenching tools, 579 British soldiers with their General, Sir George Pomeroy-Colley, scaled the mountain.
The next morning, Sunday, the Boers were completely surprised to see redcoats on the summit. By using cover and covering fire, the Boers managed to advance over the summit.
Finally when Colley realised the seriousness of the situation he made a lone stand and was shot at close range.
The training of the average British soldier was poor, with very little rifle practice and in the ensuing rout the 150 more experienced Boers exacted a terrible toll from the British redcoats. The British losses were 100 men, with 130 wounded. The Boers lost one man with one wounded.
After the battle, the Boers treated the wounded British in a very courteous manner having met and entertained Colley in Pretoria and they allowed the British to maintain a hospital tent on the summit.
There was much recrimination amongst the British troops as to who exactly was to blame for the rout and when a British delegation in the Boer camp complained about their defeat, the Boers who traditionally did not fight on Sundays, replied "What do you expect from fighting on a Sunday?"
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