Out4Blood & El_Cap's Rise of Nations Strategy

Saturday, December 13, 2003

The Boers and the Boer War... A Strategical Insight.
Boer Tactics. They weren't soldiers, but farmers who lived in a harsh land, and a harsher rule.

The commando which rode out to do battle with the Matabeli numbered, it is said, a hundred and thirty-five farmers. Their adversaries were twelve thousand spearmen. They met at the Marico River, near Mafeking. The Boers combined the use of their horses and of their rifles so cleverly that they slaughtered a third of their antagonists without any loss to themselves. Their tactics were to gallop up within range of the enemy, to fire a volley, and then to ride away again before the spearmen could reach them. When the savages pursued the Boers fled. When the pursuit halted the Boers halted and the rifle fire began anew. The strategy was simple but most effective.

The Battle of Talana Hill:

In my own words:
Major-General Sir William Penn Symons had two choices for strategic positioning at the onset of the war: 1. To fall back to Ladysburg and reinforce with the main contingent, or 2. Make a stand at Dundee against 3 times the enemy force with bad territorial positioning. He made the stand, and decided to ambush the first wave of oncoming Boers in the valley of Talana Hill. However, he decided against guarding Talana Hill, so the Boers just snuck up the Hill at night to position some cannons at the summit. General Symon's had 4,000 men. The Boers had only 1,500 men on Talana Hill, and the rest positioned at the other end of the valley (roughly 2,500 with 8,000 more to arrive within a few days).

The luck was with the British that day, because the thick mud of the valley prevented the Boer's percussion shells from exploding, while their own artillery were able to do considerable damage at the summit of the hill. General Symon's numbers weren't enough to flank around the hill, so he did the only thing strategically viable: he sent his infantry to charge up the hill (which is usually a tactical mistake), and he sent his cavalry to charge through the valley to cut down the fleeing Boers after the Hill was taken back.

Although the battle was won for General Symon's (who eventually died from that battle), most of the battle was to fight for the hill that he could have already secured before the battle even took place.

The British force eventually had to leave Dundee to head back to Ladysburg because reinforcements weren't going to arrive.

The Strategic Moral of this story? If you have a tactical advantage, use it... or prevent the enemy from using it. Even if you think you know your enemy, at least make preparations for a move you would do yourself that would have given you the better advantage if the situation were reversed. The British were lucky, and they still suffered more losses to win a victory it should have never needed fought for.

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