Carlton House: a history

This history of a Leytonstone House is now available.
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A Letter from a Soldier of Caffreland. Preston Guardian, 1852

“Dear Father.-I received your letter, which I had long expected, on the fourth of this month, whilst in the camp of Yellow Woods, just under the Waterkloof, for it happens that I am one General Cathcart’s cohort and I have been with him on all his visits to the different military posts in this country, and therefore was with him when I received your kind letter. We had marched from Fort Beaufort that morning. The General went to see with his own eyes the attack made on the great Waterkloof where so many brave officers and men of our army fell. He stayed and saw the attack made, and passed one night in the Kloof, and a most awful one it was for cold and rain. He then marched down to the camp the next day, and left them fighting as hard as they could. There were the 9th Rifles, the Rifle Brigade and a division under Colonel Mitchell and another under Colonel Napier of the Cape Corps. They all advanced into the Waterkloof from different points and when we left them there was one man of the Rifle Brigade shot dead and several more wounded, and as far as I could learn, a great many of the Caffres killed. There were thousands of them there; but they generally drag their killed and wounded away, so we can never form a proper estimate of what is done.

After I wrote to you last year, we marched to get over the Kel river. This was my first patrol and after we marched off the patrol, and had got about one mile on the road, it commenced raining which was rather an unpleasant occurrence, as we travelled very slowly. First of all there were the 12th Lancers, the Cape corps, the 60th, about 100 waggons, the 6th regiment and a host of levies-foot and horse, and also the Negroes. We outpanned at the Yellow Woods for about one hour and then marched to Hangman’s Dash that night and pretty vulnerable I was, as it rained. When we got there, we commenced cooking, and after a good deal of puffing and blowing, we managed to do pretty well. Then there was bed-making. We had no tents with us, so we constructed a kind of tent with two sticks and a lance pull from one to the other and the saddles we stuck at the end, where we intended our heads to be, and we crept in at the other end. This did for two comrades, so you see the tent took one horse blanket, then the other we laid on the wet ground, and with one camp blanket on that, we stripped, put our saddle bags under our heads, and our jackets on the top of them, and sometimes when dry enough to do so, we pulled off our overhauls and laid them there too. We then pulled the remaining blankets over us, and also our cloaks, so that we formed a tolerable roost; but mind you this did not always do, for it rained incessantly for the first ten days, so that our blankets became wet, as also did our cloaks. No wonder as, our horses became knocked up, when our blankets were so heavy that we could scarcely lift them on the poor horses’ backs, but more of this hereafter.

We met General Somerset’s division about four days after starting and we stayed at his encampment about one day, and baring no wood about us, we were obliged to take our horses’ nose bags and fill them with cows’ dung with which to light fires and cook our feed. We did very well, and if it had not been for the cow’s dung, on the other side of the Kia, we should often have been without fire, as we might search for miles without seeing a single bush or tree. But it is beautiful land; it would grow anything in fact. It is first rate land nearly anywhere above King William’s Town, and when the war is over, it will form, I have no doubt, a fine field for emigrants.

We marched next day with General Beaumont to the banks of the White Kia. We got there about three o’clock in the afternoon, and just as we formed up to dismount, it commenced thundering, lightening and raining most dreadfully; in fact I never saw anything like it before, but have seen plenty since. We passed a most miserable night, but we made a very large fire, and put a cart load of wood on it, so that the rain could not put it out, and with carrying wood and wading about in the water to get it, I was in a dreadful state. I had just got my back to the fire, when there was a gentleman come and inquired if there was such a man as Robert Lofthouse in the Lancers. I shouted here he is, and he came up to me and shook hands with me, and then I saw by the light of the fire that it was our assistant doctor in the 5th, named Ardean, who is going to be Head Doctor of the 91st Regiment, but was on the staff with our patrol, and he had come to enquire for me to assist his servant to put up his tent, for which I got a good stiff glass of brandy, which did me a power of good under the circumstances, as I had that day been troubled with the dysentery a little, and I think it drove it away. –Give my respects to all my friends, and tell some of my brothers to write to me and I will answer them. I will continue this in my next.

From you son, R. Lofthouse

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