Thursday, December 16, 2010
Today [December 16] is a public holiday in South Africa.
The Day of Reconciliation holiday came about in 1994 following the end of apartheid, and is intended to foster a spirt of reconciliation and national unity.
However, the date chosen comes from a much earlier event.
On December 16, in 1838, was fought the Battle of Blood River. On the bank of the Ncome River on that date, king Dingane, with an army of close to 15,000 men, attacked 470 Voortrekkers. The Voortrekkers, under the command of Andries Pretorius, of course had provoked the attack, though they hadn't counted on quite that large of an opposing army.
The Zulus attacked the Voortrekkers in waves, with only spears for weapons. The Dutch soldiers had muskets and cannon. By the end of the day, the river by the hippo pool had actually changed color.
In the ignoble (some say) carnage on that killing field, over 3000 Zulu warriors were slaughtered. The Trekkers had 3 slightly wounded, including Pretorius himself.
The Zulus lived to fight another day, and with much greater success.
Read more about the Battle of Blood River, its causes and its aftermath here.