The main British force, accompanied by Lord Chelmsford, the British commander-in-chief set out to invade the centre of Zululand.
They crossed the Buffels River at Rorke's Drift and on 20 January 1879 camped on a grassy plain dominated by the strangely shaped hill known as Isandlwana. The British were unaware that the main Zulu army of about 14 000 men were hiding nearby.
At about noon on 22 January 1879 the Zulu commander Ntshingwayo sent Cetshwayyo's brother, Dabulamanzi with about 3 600 men to cut the road from Rorke's Drift.
The main Zulu army went straight for the British camp. The British were ill-prepared with most of their ammunition out of reach and they had to face the Zulus with fixed bayonets.
By two in the afternoon the fight was over and the camp was a gory mess. The British had lost 858 soldiers and 470 African allies and about 1000 Zulus lay dead. Lord Chelmsford withdrew the remnants of his central column to the safety of Natal.
The battle of Isandlwana was the greatest defeat suffered by the British Army during the Victorian era and the foothills of Isandlwana is covered with the monuments and graves of the British soldiers who died in this major Zulu victory.
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