Crossing the Buffalo

Crossing the Buffalo

  • Author: Adrian Greaves
  • Publisher: Weidenfield & Nicholson
  • Publish Date: 31/07/2005
  • ISBN: 0-297-84700-7
  • Price: 25.00
  • Number of Sales: 4,500 UK 2,000 S Africa

Review By : David Charles

Review by David Charles Former Battlefield guide and SA radio broadcaster. East Coast & Ballito News, Kwazulu Natal July 2005 In a definitive book shortly to be released in South Africa, Dr Adrian Greaves, acclaimed author and editor of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society journals, brings this epic conflict sharply back into focus. Crossing the Buffalo the Zulu War of 1879 is a must read for anyone with a sense of adventure and an interest in the recent history of this fascinating part of our country. Although extraordinarily detailed, it reads like a novel and puts all of that musty old South African history into fascinating perspective.

For an intriguing break, take a copy of this book with you on a weekend trip to the battlefields near Dundee and let this unchanged topography work its magic it will be a weekend that you will never forget.

 Peter Weston Western Daily Press

This is a fine, dramatic account and chronicle of heroism and atrocity which casts a dark stain over the pages of our 19th century history. Highly recommended

Friday 17th of November 2006 02:56:15 PM

Review By : Gavin Bulloch

A thoroughly comprehrensive and well researched work by Dr Adrian Greaves provides a vivid blow by blow account of the Zulu War of 1879.
Immensely readable, this account differs from a sequential account in that it covers every part of the campaign in its historical context, for example the disaster at Isandlwana is described first and is then followed up by an account of the various enquiries and cover-ups that then took place and their effect on the British public in South Africa and Britain: all this before the war is completed. It allows the reader to read of the action and then judge for himself about the subsequent behaviour of those immediately involved before proceeding on to the next portion of the campaign.
A sorry tale of missed opportunities vividly and accurately recorded by Adrian Greaves leaves the reader with a great deal to reflect on when considering British affairs in Africa at that time.


Friday 17th of November 2006 02:59:04 PM

Review By : Asst. Prof. S. Miller University of Maine, USA.

Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research Winter 2006, Volume 84, Number 340 CROSSING THE BUFFALO: THE ZULU WAR OF 1879, ADRIAN GREAVES. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2005. ISBN 0-29784-700-7, 544pp., maps, illus., £25.00.

Pen & Sword, a British publisher of military history with whom readers of the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research will be quite familiar, described Adrian Greaves'  last book, Redcoats and Zulus, as containin 'everything one needs to know about the Zulu War. Now a year later, Greaves presents yet another tale of this struggle entitled 'Crossing the Buffalo: The Zulu War of 1879'.

So was there anything that one still needed to know? Perhaps not, but Greaves, the editor of The Journal of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society, is a fine storyteller and breathes new life into the well known battles fought at Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana and Ulundi. His emphasis is decidedly on the British actors, chief among them Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford, the officer in command, whose failure at Isandlwana could only be made worse by his (largely successful) attempt to shift blame onto his fallen comrade, Lieutenant-Colonel A. W. Durnford. Greaves does a nice job in explaining how recently uncovered orders have vindicated Durnford. Greaves also succeeds in clearing up the mystery surrounding the deaths of N. J. A. Coghill and T. Melvill, two junior officers who managed to escape Isandlwana with the colours, only to perish in their flight, next to the Buffalo River. The recreation of the story is a nice piece of historical scholarship and detective work.

Readers interested in the Zulu story are best directed to look elsewhere. John Laband's excellent The Rise and the Pall of the Zulu Nation (1997) comes to mind. Although Greaves provides some background into Zulu military strategy and tactics, the pre-war events which shaped nineteenth-century Zulu history are largely overlooked as are the Zulu personalities involved in the conflict. Readers should not expect, for example, to walk away with a better understanding of Cetshwayo, the Zulu King. The aftermath of the story, as well, is mostly untold. It should be remembered that the British not only defeated the Zulu on the battlefield but they erected a destructive political system which effectively prevented the re-emergence of a unified Zulu nation and led to years of violent civil war.

Readers interested in the British army and in tales of heroism and testimonies of ruthlessness, however, will find Crossing the Buffalo: The Zulu War of 1879 much to their liking. The storys Drift, complete with its heroes, Lieutenants John Chard and Gonville Bromhead, and its villain, Major H. Spalding, the man who should have directed British operations, is nicely retold. Greaves is at his best when he describes Chelmsford's attempt to save his reputation and the bravery of the British infantry in the insurmountable square employed at the Battle of Ulundi.

However, this is not a book for scholars and careful readers of military history. There are few footnotes, a short bibliography and not much analysis to advance our understanding of the conflict. But general readers of military history and perhaps those who watched the films 'Zulu\' and 'Zulu Dawn' and want to learn a little more about the subject will enjoy Crossing the Buffalo. Some nice illustrations and carefully prepared maps make the reading clear, to the point, and great fun.

STEPHEN M. MILLER University of Maine, Orano, Maine

Monday 18th of December 2006 09:16:11 AM

Review By : Editor , Bulletin of the Military Historical Society August 2006

Adrian Greaves is one of those writers, whose books, once begun, are difficult to put down. A welcome paperback at a modest £8.99 comes from Cassell with the title: Crossing the Buffalo.

Set around the monstrous routing of a highly trained and well armed British regiment by a poorly-equipped but well-lead and determined band of warriors at Isandlwana, and the remarkable defence of Rorke\'s Drift, there is much more to the war which resulted from the unnecesary and unauthorised invasion of the nation of our Zulu allies. In this full history of the war, which pivots around the accounts of bravery and heroism, we are presented with the politics and background to the fighting and answers questions such as: Why was Zululand invaded? How was the British force defeated? Including the defeats at Hlobane and Ntombe, what of the death of the Prince Imperial? Having finally defeated the Zulus, why did Britain abandon the country?

The book uses the latest research and archaeology and the author\'s great detailed knowledge of the battlefields as well as of all the documentary sources. If you can afford the space for just one book on the Zulu War of 1879 on your shelves, this is the one.

Friday 15th of December 2006 10:10:37 AM