The battle of Isandlwana in 1879, in which a force of 20,000 Zulus annihilated a British contingent of 1,800 men, became a symbol to black South Africans that white domination was not an inevitability.
The Battle of Isandlwana began on 11 January 1879, when the 5,000-strong main British column invaded Zululand at Rorke’s Drift. Just eleven days later, a Zulu force of around 20,000 warriors attacked a section of the British main column, consisting of around 1,800 British, colonial and native troops. The battle was a victory for the Zulus and has since been widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest defeats in its colonial history. Immediately after the battle, on 22 January 1879, a tiny British garrison of 140 men fought for 12 hours and succeeded in repelling repeated attacks by up to 3,000 Zulu warriors at Rorke’s Drift.
After the British defeat, they left their dead on the battlefield and only came back to bury them months later, so each mound has six or seven, or even more, bodies. The bones were white and scattered when they came back, so they did not know who was who and they buried them together in mass graves.
The defeat at Isandlwana stunned the Victorian world and left them questioning whether this was the beginning of the end of the notion of white supremacy.
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