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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Death of the Prince Imperial; Napoleon IV. (Finale)

On the morning of first June the Prince Imperial set out with an escort of six mounted troopers, one Zulu interpreter and Lt. Carey. There should have been six more mounted men of the Edendale contingent with them. These six men had reported earlier but to the wrong tent. Louis decided to leave anyway they would pick up the extra escorts along the way. The country side around was full of patrols and troops going about their business, so it was thought to be safe enough.

At noon Louis ordered at halt at a deserted kraal so they could rest and make coffee, no lookout was posted and the area was not scouted, although it was surrounded on three sides by tall grass. At about three the interpreter came and said he had seen a Zulu approaching. It took about 10 minutes to round up and saddle the horses. The men stood at the head of their horses ready to mount. Louis gave the order "prepare to mount."

Either Louis or Carey cried out, "Mount!" but the command was lost in the earsplitting crash of a volley that ripped out of the tambookie grass a few yards away, stampeding the horses and destroying in a split second the bonds of discipline that linked the men. Forty Zulus burst out of the edge of the grass, screaming "uSuthu!" and bounding after the frantic horses. Most of the men had reached the saddle, and their horses carried them off to the main donga. Rogers' horse had drifted farther than the others and he was still adjusting his girth when the order came. His horse bolted, and from the corner of his eye Grubb saw him dodging around one of the huts, his carbine leveled at a Zulu as he fumbled to load. Le Tocq was up, but he dropped his carbine as his horse sheid. He slipped off to pick it up, got his left foot in stirrup and threw himself across the saddle on his belly as his horse bounded away. Grubb was up but not firm in his  saddle, and just after his glimpse of Rogers he saw Carey put spurs to his horse. Then a bullet whistled pas his ear and smacked into Abel's back below his bandoleer. Abel threw up his hands and slid back off his horse.

Louis could not mount. His foot was raised as the command was given, and the restive Percy sheid violently and then dashed forward. Only Louis grip on the holster saved him from a fall, and he could neither get his foot into the dancing stirrup nor slow the horse. For over a hundred yards he clung to the holster, gripping the stiff leather so hard that it collapsed. To a rider of his talents, the situation hardly qualified as an emergency; a firm grip on the pommel and a hard shove and he could easily vault into the saddle, but his grasp on the tapered leather was far from firm, he dared not shift his grip and he could not gain leverage for a thrust. Le Tocq thundered by calling out, "Depeches-vous, s'il vous plait, Votre Altesse!"  - so that the last intelligible words he heard were in his native language - and then the strap holding the holster gave way, tearing almost across, and Louis slipped and fell under the horse. Chub saw Percy trample on his right arm as he flashed by, and then they were all gone and Louis was alone.

He rose to his feet, groping for his great-uncles sword. It was gone; it had slipped out of the scabbard as he tried to mount. He drew his revolver with his left hand and ran down the sloping bed of the arm of the donga.The Zulus, far fleeter, raced after him, and in a widening of the ravine, by a little mound, he turned at bay. Seven Zulus were coming up and a man in the lead named Langalabalele threw an assegai that caught Louis in the thigh. Louis pulled it out and rushed at him, but he dodged behind a man named Zabanga, coming up behind him. Louis fired twice and missed, and Zabanga hurled his assegai and struck Louis deep in the left shoulder. For a moment he held them back, fighting desperately with the assegai and using his left arm toward off blows, so that he was unable to fire again. Mores Zulus were dropping into the donga, and he finally sank into a sitting position, exhausted by the loss of blood. There was a brief hacking flurry, and it was all over.

Imperial standard.

Donga; Gulley

Excerpt, Washing of the Spear, By Donald R Morris.
Other Sources, Internet.
Pictures, Internet.

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