South African Battle: 22 January 1879

Battle of Isandlwana

The Battle of Isandlwana, fought on 22 January 1879, was the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. Eleven days after the British commenced their invasion of Zululand in South Africa, a Zulu force of some 20 000 warriors attacked a portion of the British main column consisting of about 1 800 British, colonial and native troops and perhaps 400 civilians.

The Zulus were equipped mainly with traditional assegai iron spears and cowhide shields, but also had many muskets and old rifles. The British and colonial troops were armed with the modern Martini-Henry breech-loading rifle and two 7-pounder (3-inch / 76 mm) mountain guns deployed as field guns, as well as a Hale rocket battery.

Despite a vast disadvantage in weapons technology, the Zulus ultimately overwhelmed the British, killing over 1 300 troops, including all those out on the forward firing line. The Zulu army suffered anywhere from 1 000 to 2 500 killed.

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