General – Nicolaas Jacobus Smit

General Nicolaas Jacobus Smit
Nicolaas Jacobus Smit was born at Doornbos, Graaff Reinet, Cape on 30 May 1837. He was the son of Nicolaas Jacobus Smit and Elizabeth
Magdalena Smit. He was a Boer general and politician. During the First Boer War, he led Boer force to victory during the Battle of Majuba
Hill. The Battle of Majuba Hill (near Volksrust, South Africa) on 27 February 1881 was the main battle of the First Boer War. It was a
resounding victory for the Boers. Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley occupied the summit of the hill on the night of 26–27 February
1881. His motive for occupying the hill remains unclear. The Boers believed that he may have been attempting to outflank their positions
at Laing’s Nek. The hill was not considered scale-able by the Boers for military purposes and thus it may have been Colley’s attempt to
emphasize British power and strike fear into the Boer camp.
The bulk of the 405 British soldiers occupying the hill were 171 men of the 58th Regiment with 141 men of the 92nd (Gordon) Highlanders,
and a small naval brigade from HMS Dido. Besides the Gordons, most of his troops were inexperienced and their regiments had not seen
action since the Crimean War. General Colley had brought no artillery up to the summit, nor did he order his men to dig in against the
advice of several of his subordinates, expecting that the Boers would retreat when they saw their position on the Nek was untenable.
However, the Boers quickly formed a group of storming parties, led by Nicolas Smit, from an assortment of volunteers from various
commandos, totaling at least 450 men, maybe more, to attack the hill.
By daybreak at 4:30, the 92nd Highlanders covered a wide perimeter of the summit, while a handful occupied Gordon’s Knoll on the right
side of the summit. Oblivious to the presence of the British troops until the 92nd (Gordon) Highlanders began to yell and shake their
fists, the Boers began to panic fearing an artillery attack. Three Boer storming groups of 100-200 men each began a slow advance up the
hill. The groups were led by Field Cornet Stephanus Roos, Commandant D.J.K. Malan and Commandant Joachim Ferreira. The Boers, being the better marksmen, kept their enemy on the slopes at bay while groups crossed the open ground to attack Gordon’s Knoll, where at 12:45
Ferreira’s men opened up a tremendous fire on the exposed knoll and captured it. Colley was in his tent when he was informed of the
advancing Boers but took no immediate action until after he had been warned by several subordinates of the seriousness of the attack.
Over the next hour, the Boers poured over the top of the British line and engaged the enemy at long range, refusing hand-to-hand combat
action and picking off the British one by one. The Boers were able to take advantage of the scrub and long grass which covered the hill,
something that the British were not trained to do. It was at this stage that British discipline began to wane and panicky troops began to
desert their posts, unable to see their opponents and being given very little in the way of direction from officers. When more Boers were
seen encircling the mountain, the British line collapsed and many fled pell-mell from the hill. The Gordons held their ground the longest,
but once they began to rout the battle was over. The Boers were able to launch an attack which shattered the already crumbling British line.
During the Anglo-Boer War 1- also called Transvaal War of Independence or Anglo-Transvaal War- a Boer force of about 200 (under General
Nicolaas Smit) defeated a British force of about 600 (under the leadership of Major-General George Pomeroy Colley) at the Battle of Ingogo
Heights, near Schuinshoogte. The fierce battle lasted the whole afternoon amid a heavy thunderstorm. When night fell, Colley withdrew
under the protection of darkness. The battle claimed the lives of 8 Boers and nearly 100 British soldiers.
He died in Pretoria on 4 April 1896