Chapter VI. Elandslaagte

The scouts erected their tents again on their former ground. The remaining inhabitants of Dundee were jubilant over the victory that had been won, and did their best, by hanging out flags from the windows, to decorate the town. Jack and his companion had returned to the camp with the spare horses as soon as the hill was carried, and had the fires lighted by the time the party came in. In spite of having worn their blankets as cloaks, all were wet through, but after changing their clothes, they went into the town to gather the news of how the hill had been won, and by the time they returned their meal was ready.

"What do you think of affairs, Chris?"

"I think that the officer at Ladysmith was right, and that it was a frightful mistake to divide the force and send four thousand men up here. They have thrashed the Boers today, but they may be back again on the top of that hill tomorrow. Besides, we know that Joubert's force was not engaged to-day, and they and the Free Staters will be gathering round. We might win another victory, but we are certain to be obliged to fall back soon, and my opinion is that we shall be very lucky if we get through safely."

"Why not start to-morrow morning, Chris?" Peters said. "We shall be of no use scouting here, and not much use if there is hard fighting. I hear that some natives have brought in the news that there was some firing to-day at Elandslaagte. If that is the case, we must have troops there, and the chances are that they will be there to-morrow." "Yes, that is very likely," Chris agreed. "General White will be sure to hold the line there if he can, for he must feel sure that the force here will have to retreat now that it is attacked in earnest. When we were talking to-day to the cavalry, one of the officers mentioned that we had still telegraphic communication with Ladysmith, for although the wires by the railway are cut, it is possible to communicate through Helpmakaar. The Boers seem to have forgotten that, for it is quite out of the direct line, and nearly double as far round. Well, as we had no orders to come here, I suppose there is no occasion to get orders to go back. I think Peters's proposal is a very good one, but on a point like this everyone ought to give an opinion. My view is that we might be a great deal more useful there than here, and that if we stop we shall run a great chance of being captured. I think that it would be a fair thing to put it to the vote."

He took two or three leaves out of his pocket-book, and tore them up into narrow slips of paper.

"Now," he said, "write 'Yes' if you are in favour of going back, 'No' if you are for stopping here. Drop them into my cap and the majority shall decide."

When the strips of paper were examined, it was found that only two out of the twenty-one were in favour of remaining.

"That settles it," Chris said. "It is thirty miles down to Elandslaagte by road, and as from here to Glencoe is five miles, and we are no nearer there than we are here, by cutting across to Waschbrank we shall have only five-and-twenty miles to ride. It is well that we should get there as early as possible, so we will settle to start at five o'clock, which will take us there by eight, in time to see anything that is going on. No doubt we shall be able to hear from natives as we go along whether the troops are still there; at any rate if they are, we are sure to hear firing before we get there, unless, of course, the Boers have retired."

The horses had already had an extra feed, and the Kaffirs were warned of the hour at which they were going to start. The pack-horses were able to keep up with the rest, for their loads were by no means heavy--in fact, they carried less weight than the others. The two hundred pounds of biscuits given to the hussars made no difference in their baggage, for this had been bought at Dundee, as the lads decided to keep their stores as far as possible intact for a time when they might for some days be away scouting in a district where no provisions could be obtained.

At four o'clock the sentries roused the others, and having taken a cup of coffee and some cold meat and bread, and led the horses down to the stream while the Kaffirs were loading up the packets and bundles, they mounted at five o'clock and set off at a trot, Jack and Japhet, a name suggested by Field, who was the wag of the party, were allowed to ride on two of the horses that carried the lightest burdens. All the lads were provided with compasses, but these were not necessary, as both the natives were well acquainted with the country, which was wild and mountainous.

When they reached Wessels station, nine miles from Elandslaagte, they heard the sound of guns. At this proof that there was still a force there, they turned off from the road, and riding west, struck the point where the main road to Meran crossed the Sundays River, and then, still keeping a mile west of the line of railway, found themselves abreast of the station. Just as they did so, a body of mounted volunteers galloped up towards them. As soon as they were seen, they exchanged their hats for forage-caps, and some of them, by Chris's orders, hoisted their union-jacks on their rifles.

"It is well that you raised those flags," the officer in command said. "We made sure by your appearance that you were Boers, and rather took your change of caps as one of their slim devices, and had our rifles ready to give you a warm reception. I suppose you come from Dundee? We heard news yesterday evening of the battle, and were sorry to hear how heavy the losses were, and particularly of General Symons' wound. I suppose you have no later news?"

"No, beyond that we heard he was very dangerously hit indeed. He is either at the church or town-hall. Both have been turned into hospitals."

"There is a good deal of anxiety at Ladysmith," the officer said. "The general opinion is that, with the Boers closing in all round it, the position is a very serious one."

"I am afraid so, sir. There is nothing to prevent the Boers from returning to their position on Talana Hill to-day; and soon after we left the town this morning we heard the sound of guns away on the right, and supposed that the Free Staters had approached Glencoe. As mounted men are of very little use there, and our party is too small to be able to do any good, we thought it would be best to come back here, especially as there was a native report that there was firing in this direction."

"Yes; a party of our cavalry under French came up with a battery of field artillery. There was a little skirmishing, but in the evening the Boers were strongly reinforced, and our cavalry returned to Ladysmith. It was only a reconnaissance to ascertain the general situation. To-day we are stronger. Squadrons of the 5th Dragoon Guards, 5th Lancers, the Natal mounted, battery, and several detachments of mounted volunteers, including the Imperial Light Horse, and half the Manchester Regiment, are coming up in an armoured train. I suppose you are not attached to any other corps?"

"Yes; we form a section of Captain Brookfield's corps of Maritzburg Scouts. As you see, we are not in uniform; it being thought that, as we are all from Johannesburg, and speak Dutch and Kaffir, we should be of more use for scouting if able to appear as Boers."

"A very good idea," the officer said, "but somewhat dangerous; for if they caught you they would assuredly shoot you as spies."

"We don't mean to be caught if we can help it, as you see we are very well mounted."

"Uncommonly well. Brookfield's subscriptions must have come in handsomely for him to be able to buy such horses as those."

"We provide our own mounts and equipments," Chris said, "and consider ourselves very lucky in getting hold of this batch of horses from Mr. Duncan on the day he arrived at Maritzburg. I really think they were very cheap at sixty pounds each."

"They were not dear, certainly; and the fact that they came from him is in itself a sufficient recommendation. We have got some thirty from him, but they are a different stamp of animal and did not cost half that figure. And now we must be riding to join the rest of our fellows. We made you out when you were a couple of miles away, and were sent off to ascertain what you were. By the way, you will find Brookfield there. He arrived with his men by rail last evening." Riding on, they soon came upon the mounted corps, and were warmly received by Captain Brookfield.

"You are back just in time," he said. "I suppose that you saw something of the fight yesterday, but, as I see your number still complete, you can scarcely have been in the thick of it?"

"We were with two squadrons of Hussars, and captured a good many waggons and did a little fighting, but nothing very serious. There were only a few casualties. We heard, however, from Colonel Yule, who has succeeded poor Symons, that up to ten o'clock last night, another of the squadrons of the Hussars and a company of mounted infantry with them had not returned, and nothing was known of their whereabouts."

"Had they not got into camp when you started?"

"I did not hear, sir. In fact, we set off by daylight. But last night it was hoped that the squadron, which was acting independently, had lost their way, and would come in this morning. Where is the Boer force now?"

"Our batteries have shelled them out of the station. They were wholly unprepared for it, and bolted at once to those hills a mile and half east of the line. Their camp lies at the bottom of that conical hill. You can make them out from here with your glass. There, French is moving forward."

The order had indeed been given to advance, the artillery accompanying the cavalry, and halting every two or three minutes to deliver their fire. The ground was flat, but cut up by gullies. As soon as they came within range, the colonials dismounted and added their fire to that of the guns. An immense confusion was seen to reign in the Boer camp, and thirty-seven British subjects, including the officials and staff at the railway-station, and some of the coal-miners, took advantage of this and ran forward to join their friends. They were at once sent back into Ladysmith, after having given the information that General Koch was in command of the Boers, and that Commandant Miellof and the German Colonel Shiel, with many of the Johannesburg commando, were there. Chris and his comrades felt great satisfaction at the news.

"We have a chance of paying off old scores on the right persons now," Chris said. "I do hope that the fellows who insulted us when we were coming down are here, and that we shall manage to get among them."

For the time, however, this wish was not gratified. The Boers now seeing that they had such a small force opposed to them, steadied themselves and opened fire with some guns, Maxims, and rifles from the crest of the hill, while a swarm of horsemen and dismounted men poured out to threaten the flanks of the British. The odds were too great; the comparatively heavy guns of the enemy were well aimed and served, and quite overpowered the fire of the light cannon of the field and mountain batteries. The order was given to fall back, which was done in good order, though the troops were harassed by a hot fire from the enemy concealed in the gullies. On reaching the high ground near Modder Spruit, the country was more in favour of the British, who were now extended on each flank. The Boers were unable or unwilling to move their heavy guns from their position on the hill, and being now beyond their range, and exposed to the fire of four batteries as well as the infantry, those pressing forward fell back. General French had brought out a signalling apparatus with him, and the telegraph wires were tapped, and a message sent to General White asking him for reinforcements in order to carry the Boer position.

The fight now ceased for a time. A party of the Boers occasionally crept forward and opened fire, but the Colonial Horse dashed forward and sent them flying back to the hills. From nine o'clock till a quarter to two the troops remained idle, but the reinforcements then arrived, a battery of field artillery, several squadrons of Dragoons, Lancers, and Colonials, and the Devonshire regiment and Gordon Highlanders, the infantry being brought up by train. These were under the command of Colonel Ian Hamilton, who had a thorough knowledge of Boer tactics, and knew how to handle his troops. It was well that it was so, for, led by a less experienced commander, they would have suffered terribly in their advance. While the infantry detrained, the Colonials, followed by the 5th Lancers, rode towards some low hills, whence some parties of Boers had maintained a distant fire. These were at once scattered. The infantry marched along some ridges parallel with the railway, but a mile away, while the Devonshire regiment kept along the low ground by the line. The 5th Dragoon Guards, with some troops of Colonials and one of the field batteries, moved forward on the left.

The Manchesters were on the right of the infantry, the Gordons in the centre, and the Devons on the left, as they set their faces towards the Boer position. At three o'clock the action began, the Boer riflemen opening a heavy fire. It was still too distant, however, to do any serious execution, and the British moved forward as regularly and unconcernedly as if it had been a field day. The Boer fire grew in intensity, and one of our batteries opened with shrapnel to drive them from the lower ridges. At half-past three the Boer artillery joined their deeper roar to the rattle of musketry and the sharp cracks of the British guns. Although it was still early the light was indistinct, for a heavy thunder-storm had been for some time brewing, and this burst before the heat of the action really began. The darkness was all in favour of the advancing infantry, who in their khaki uniforms were almost invisible to the Boers.

The troops were now in extended open order, and advanced towards the foot of the hill by rushes, taking advantage of the ant-hills that studded the plain and afforded an excellent cover, being high enough to cover them while lying down, and thick and compact enough to resist the passage of a Mauser bullet. The Highlanders were suffering the most heavily, their dark kilts showing up strongly against the light sandy soil, and while the Devons and Manchesters sustained but few casualties, they were dropping fast. They and the Manchesters were somewhat in advance of the Devons, who were guarding their flank, which was threatened by a large number of Boers gathered on the ridges on that side.

The storm was now at its height, the thunder for a time deadening the roar of the battle, but through the driving rain the infantry pressed on until they reached the foot of the Boers' hill. Large numbers of the enemy were on the slope, hidden from sight by the boulders, but these could not long maintain their position, for the British marksmen shot as straight as the Boer. Our batteries, which had almost silenced those of the enemy, scattered their shrapnel among those higher up the hill, and as the Boers rose to fly before the bayonets of our cheering troops, they were swept away by volleys of the Lee-Metfords. So, with short pauses when shelter was obtainable, our troops bore upwards, cheering and even joking, until they reached the last shoulder of the hill. The Boers made a short but plucky struggle, numbers pushing up from behind to help their comrades, but nothing could check the impetuosity of our troops. The magazines of the rifles were now for the first time set in action, and the Boer force withered away under the terrible storm of shot.

The men of the Imperial Light Horse, who had dismounted and joined in the advance, were fighting side by side with the Highlanders and Manchesters. The pace was now increased to a run, and shouting and cheering the men went forward with levelled bayonets. Many of the Boers, lying behind rocks, maintained their fire until the troops were within two yards of them, and then rising, called for quarter. The men, furious at seeing their comrades shot down when all hope of resistance was over, would have spared none, had not the officers with the greatest difficulty restrained them from bayoneting the Boers, and many of these were in fact killed. As the troops, now joined by the Devons, were rushing down upon the camp, the Boers raised a white flag, and the bugle sounded "Cease firing". The men halted for a moment and then were advancing quietly when a tremendous fire broke out from the Boers, who were scattered over the ridges of the hillside and a slope leading to its summit.

Hitherto the British loss had been wonderfully small considering the storm of bullets through which they had passed, but numbers now dropped, and taken wholly by surprise, the troops ran up the hill again. But not for long. Halting when they reached the crest, and furious at the treachery that had been practised with such success upon them, they turned again, and rushed down the hill, scattering the Boers, who still clung to their shelters, with their fire. It was just six o'clock when the Devons carried the last defence of the Boers and then with the Manchesters swept down into the camp. It was now the turn of the cavalry. These had in the darkness moved forward unnoticed, and the Lancers and Dragoons, with a few of the Colonials, among whom were the Maritzburg Scouts, fell upon the flying Boers and cut them up with great slaughter, and, although it was now quite dark, followed them for upwards of two miles, and then returned to camp.

The losses were heavy. The Gordons had lost four officers killed and seven wounded, and a total of a hundred and fifteen casualties among the four hundred and twenty-five men led into action. The Imperial Light Horse lost their colonel and had seven officers wounded, and eight men killed and forty wounded. Two hundred of the Boers lay dead upon the field. Their wounded were vastly more numerous, and most of the principal officers were killed or captured. General Koch, two of his brothers, a son, and a nephew were all wounded; Shiel, Viljoen, and many others killed or captured. Everything had been left behind. Three guns, all their baggage, their waggons, a great quantity of arms and ammunition, and many horses fell into the hands of the victors. Several battle flags were also captured, and two hundred prisoners were brought in by the cavalry. The night was a dreadful one, the rain still continued to come down, the cold was bitter, and it was next to impossible to find, still less to bring down, the wounded. Nevertheless the soldiers carried on the work during the greater part of the night. Boer waggons were turned for a time into hospital tents, and here by the light of their lanterns the surgeons laboured unweariedly in giving what aid was possible to those brought in, whether Boers or Britons. Chris and his band worked as hard as the rest, and carried down a great number of wounded; but in spite of all the exertions of the troops many remained on the hillside all night, the sufferings from the wounds being as nothing to that caused by the wet and cold. The lads' flasks were of great use now, and enabled many a man, too badly wounded to be carried down the rough hillside, to hold on till morning. General White had arrived from Ladysmith while the battle was going on, but he left the command in the hands of General French. On the following morning orders came for General French to retire, as strong parties of the enemy had been seen further south, and it was hourly becoming more and more evident that it would be impossible to hold the country beyond Ladysmith, and many were of opinion that even this position was too far advanced.

The splendid valour shown by our soldiers at Dundee and Elandslaagte, and the heavy losses they suffered, had been practically thrown away. The coal-fields of Northern Natal had been lost, the loyal settlers had been plundered and ruined. Colonel Yule's force was in imminent peril, and all that had been obtained was the temporary possession of the two heights, both of which had to be relinquished on the following morning. Beyond showing the Boers how enormously they had underrated the fighting powers of the British troops, no advantage whatever had been gained by the advance beyond Ladysmith.

Three of the Johannesburg Scouts had been wounded in the charge among the Boers. None of the injuries were severe, being merely flesh wounds, of which they were hardly conscious during the fighting, and which would not be likely to keep them long from the saddle. None of them applied for medical assistance, as the surgeons were so fully occupied with serious cases. Their comrades bound up the wounds and placed them in the most sheltered position they could find, five of their comrades remaining in charge of them and the horses, there being no possibility of finding the two Kaffirs and the spare animals in the confusion and darkness.

"We have had one lesson," Chris said, as at seven in the morning the party assembled, worn out by the long night's work, "and that is, that blankets are well enough against a passing shower, but that when there is any probability of wet we must carry our waterproof sheets with us. Of course they would have been no good last night, but on occasions when there is no need for us to be using our hands they will be an immense comfort."

"But we should have been wet through before we lay down, Chris."

"Yes, they would not have kept us dry, but they would have gone a long way towards keeping us warm. It would be like putting oilskin over wet lint; we should have felt as if we were in a hot poultice in a short time. And even while riding it would have been very comfortable, if we had worn them as we did the blankets, with a hole in the middle to put our heads through."

"But that would spoil them for tents," Carmichael said.

"Well, we could have flaps sewn so as to cover the hole."

"Our blankets were very useful last night," Horrocks remarked. "I don't know how we could have got many of those poor fellows down the hill if we had not carried them in the blankets. It was infinitely easier for them and a great deal easier for us. I saw lots of soldiers using theirs in the same way." "Are you sure you will be able to sit your horses down to Ladysmith?" Chris asked Brown, Capper, and Harris, the three wounded.

All laughed. "One would think that we were babies, Chris," Harris said. "We could ride to Maritzburg if necessary, though I feel my arm rather stiff, and no doubt it will be stiffer still to-morrow. I felt a bit miserable at sunrise after lying there shivering, and envied you fellows who could keep yourselves warm by working; but I am beginning to thaw out now, and the sight of the Kaffirs coming towards us with the horses half an hour ago, and the thought of hot coffee, did even more than the sun to warm me."

"It will be ready soon," Willesden, who was specially in charge of the stores, said. "It was a capital idea bringing that large spirit stove and the paraffin with us; even a native could not find any dry sticks this morning."

"Except as the soldiers have done," Chris said, pointing to where, a quarter of a mile from the spot where they had gathered, a dozen fires were blazing, the soldiers having utilized some of the Boer waggons that had been smashed by the shell for the purpose of firewood.

"Yes, but if we were by ourselves, Chris, there would be no broken waggons; besides, after all I should not care to go down and scramble with the soldiers for a place to put a kettle on. At any rate, the stove will be invaluable out on the veldt."

"We all agree with you, Willesden," Peters said, "and it was because you were the one who suggested it that we promoted you to the office of superintendent of the kitchen. It is a comfort, too, that we have some clear water instead of having to get it from one of these muddy streams. The storm has done good anyhow, for if it had not been for that there would have been no breakfast for the troops until they had moved to the river."

In another twenty minutes they were drinking hot coffee and munching biscuits. At ten o'clock the bugle sounded the assembly, and the troops formed up, the wounded were placed in ambulance waggons or carried on stretchers, and all returned to Elandslaagte station. Here the wounded were sent on by train, while the infantry and cavalry returned by road. Talking to some of the officers of the Imperial Horse, several of whom were friends of his father, and had only left Johannesburg a short time before the declaration of war, Chris learned that the principal object in fighting the battle was to drive the Boers off the line by which the Dundee force would retreat; for Colonel Yule in his telegraphic despatch had stated, that although a victory had been won he felt that the position was untenable, and that he might at any moment be forced to evacuate it. He also learned that the safety of the line beyond Ladysmith was already threatened, but whether Sir George White would decide upon falling back towards Pietermaritzburg or would hold Ladysmith no one knew. Certainly nothing could be determined upon until General Yule rejoined with the division from Dundee.

The position there was indeed growing worse every hour. While the battle of Elandslaagte was being fought the Boers had opened fire from the hills above Glencoe on the British camp, and had compelled it to shift its position. The next day they were again obliged to move by artillery on the Impati mountain, and it was then that General Yule decided to retire at once on Ladysmith. A cavalry reconnaissance which was sent out found that the Boers were in great strength in the pass of Glencoe, and it was therefore determined to move by the roundabout way through Helpmakaar. Some stores of ammunition that had been left under a guard in the other camp were fetched, and with full pouches the little army started on its long and perilous march at nine o'clock on the evening of the 22nd. The camp was abandoned as it stood. The wounded remained with some surgeons under the protection of the Red Cross flag. All the available transport accompanied the column, but the men's kits and all other encumbrances were left behind. They were obliged to pass through Dundee to get upon the southern road, but so quietly was the movement effected that but few of the townsmen knew what was happening.

The column was led by Colonel Dartnel, chief of the Natal Police, whose knowledge of the district was invaluable to the troops. The roads were heavy, and the rain continued to pour down in torrents. Each man carried three days' provisions; they tramped along silently through the night; stoppages by swollen streams were frequent, and by daybreak the next morning they had only accomplished nine miles of their journey. Early in the morning the townspeople had woke up to the fact that the army had gone, and there was a general exodus of all who could obtain conveyances. The Boers remained for some time in ignorance that the force whose capture or destruction they had regarded as certain had slipped away. They saw the tents, but the fact that neither men nor horses were visible puzzled them, and it was eleven o'clock before some of the more venturesome galloping down found that the English force had escaped.

Then from all sides they poured into the town. Had they at once pursued they might still have overtaken the retreating force before nightfall; but they immediately set to work to loot the great stores of provisions left behind, and to gather their pickings from the deserted houses of Dundee, and so let slip their opportunity, and no pursuit whatever was attempted. For four days the column continued its march, resting for a few hours each day and usually marching all night. The road was terribly bad, leading through narrow mountain passes, and had but a small force of the enemy held the Waschbrank gorge, where the sides were for three miles nearly perpendicular, a terrible calamity might have taken place. Happily, however, the Boers were in absolute ignorance of the road which the British troops were following, and concluded that they must have somewhere crossed the railway and were making their way down by the roads to its west. That they had gone through Helpmakaar does not appear to have occurred to them, for after marching some thirty miles to that town the column was as far off Ladysmith as when it started.

The anxiety at the latter town was intense. The line being still uncut, the arrival of the column at Helpmakaar was known, but beyond that no communication could be received. On Tuesday the 24th Colonel Dartnel arrived in Ladysmith with the news that the column was now twenty miles away, all well, and he at once returned to them with supplies and a small relief force. On Wednesday many of the men came in, and on Thursday the remainder arrived and were heartily greeted. On the 24th-- in order to divert the attention of Joubert and the Free State Boers, both of whom were converging upon General Yule's column, still making its way through the passes--a force composed of three regiments of cavalry, four of Colonial Mounted Infantry, three batteries, and four infantry regiments went out. The enemy were found near Reitfontein. No actual engagement took place, but for some hours an artillery and rifle duel was maintained and the Boers fell back. The number of casualties was not large, and these were principally among the Gloucester regiment, who, on entering a valley supposed to be untenanted, were received by a heavy fire from a strong party of the enemy hidden there. The fight, however, fulfilled the object for which the advance was undertaken, that of occupying the Boers' attention and enabling the column from Dundee to make its way into Ladysmith unmolested. The Boers were now closing in on the latter town from all directions, and preparations for defence at once began. The town-hall and the schools were fitted up as hospitals and everything arranged for the reception of wounded. As the Boers had already been seen near Colenso, sixteen miles to the south, it was certain that the communications would ere long be cut.

No more unsuitable place for a military camp could well have been selected than Ladysmith, which had indeed been chosen, years before the war was thought of, on account of its position on the railway, and the vicinity of the Klip river. The fact that the country immediately round was fertile and forage was obtainable no doubt influenced the military authorities in their selection. Lying in the heart of a mountainous country, it was commanded by steep and rocky hills at a distance of from two to four miles. Just as many castles built in the days before firearms were in use were rendered untenable against even the clumsy cannon of early days placed on eminences near, so the improvement in artillery and the possession of powerful modern guns by the Boers had gravely imperilled the position of Ladysmith. The military authorities could never have anticipated that the town would be besieged by foes armed with artillery that could carry over five miles. But such was the case now, and all there felt, as soon as it was decided to defend the place till the last, that the position was a precarious one.

Fortunately, a considerable store of provisions had been collected, and so long as the line was open additions were being sent up by every train. The line was a single one, winding along through passes among the hills, and therefore open to attack by small bodies of the enemy. In point of size Ladysmith was the third largest town in Natal. Durban boasted a population of thirty thousand, Pietermaritzburg of twenty thousand, and Ladysmith of four thousand five hundred, being four hundred larger than that of Dundee. It was the point at which the line of railway forked, one branch running north through Glencoe to the Transvaal, the other northwest through Van Reenen's Pass to Bloemfontein. It was a pretty straggling town with its barracks, government buildings and large stores. Almost all the houses were detached and standing in their own gardens, and as these were largely wooded its appearance was very picturesque, with the Klip river, a branch of the Tugela, running through it. The houses were, for the most part, one-storied, and the roofs were all painted white for the sake of coolness. No perfectly open town had ever before undergone a siege by an army of some thirty thousand men provided with excellent guns, and yet the garrison awaited the result with perfect confidence.