24 July 1878, The battle of Dithakong (Takoon).
(Pictured are Luka Jantjie and Charles Warren.)
Luka Jantjie’s Batlhaping defeated by Colonial force
The battle of Dithakong – also known as Takoon, Litako or Lattakoo was one of the decisive actions of the 1878-1879 popular uprising and came some three weeks after a Batlhaping victory over Commandant Ford’s Barkly Rangers at the battle of Kho.
In this Kho action on 2 July the Luka Jantje-led Batlhaping had defeated the colonial volunteers in a day-long battle, five of the Barkly Rangers being killed and four seriously wounded, of whom one would die within the week.
Jantje’s force suffered one man killed and several wounded including Jantje with a bullet wound to the leg.
The Batlhaping made the defences at Dithakong stronger, positioning themselves on a low ridge along the Mashowing river, Dithakong being the settlement of Kgosi Merwe and some 60 kilometres north-east of Kuruman. Luka Jantjie would not fight in the coming action because of his wound, but did assist with preparing the defences. All men of fighting age – some 500 – remained in the defensive positions while the balance of the inhabitants moved away to other villages.
Ford’s volunteer Barkly contingent, battered after Kho, had been reinforced by Colonel Charles Warren’s 400 strong force that included artillery. Led by Colonel Owen Lanyon, this more disciplined and experienced force left Bothithong pre-dawn and were in position by 10h00 on 24 July 1878 when Lanyon ordered the artillery to commence firing. This bombardment ceased after three hours and the colonials advanced from two directions, one a frontal assault and the other a flanking move along the ridge.
The artillery had caused many deaths and injuries and the infantry led by Lanyon was steady and unrelenting. The ridge was captured, but most of the Batlhaping defenders had managed to escape.
Batlhaping killed in the battle amounted to 39 men with many wounded while the colonials suffered five deaths – three white soldiers of the Diamond Fields Horse and two men of the Zulu contingent who bore the brunt of the advance. At least 12 colonial soldiers were wounded.
“Some idea may be formed of the great strength of the above place from the following statement. The range of hills is about two miles long, and it is covered throughout with a network of walls. The town is situated about half a mile from the western end of the ridge (where the river runs) in a neck, and from it three kopjes on the ridge. In the first of these—about 150 feet above the river, there were 245 compartments, some round, some square, and others of all shapes, all being connected with each other. In the second kopje there were 88 compartments, and in the third, 175, making in all 508. The enemy obstinately defended these places, and fought to the last. Even after they were driven out of the place, they continued the fight and fired upon the colonial forces from every available spot.”
The loot gained by the colonial force was auctioned in Kimberley on 13 August 1878 and included 3600 cattle, 6000 sheep and goats, 63 wagons and spans of oxen plus ostrich feathers, ivory, karosses and rifles.
24 July 1878, The battle of Dithakong (Takoon).
DID YOU KNOW
On July 7th, 1878, Col. Lanyon reports that Mr. Ford, with a column of about 90 strong, met the enemy about 10 miles over the border ensconced in a small kopje, which was at once stormed and carried, but with considerable loss. Lieut. Paterson, Sergt. Rawstorne, Corporal H. Davis, Troopers Campbell and Williams were killed, and five wounded out of the 30 men of the column who were engaged in action.
On the 4th of July, 1878, Commandant Ford reports to the Acting Colonial Secretary the engagement above alluded to by Col. Warren and which took place on the 2nd inst. Mr. Ford says the kopje was a strong little one, and the fight was very hot. Early in the afternoon he received a bullet in his leg, and therefore directed Capt. D’Arcy, assisted by Lieut. Bradshaw and Sub-Lieut. Paterson, to lead the storming party.
Sub-Lieut. Paterson was killed whilst storming and cheering on his men. After he fell, he was carried out by Capt. D’Arcy under a heavy fire, Lieut. Paterson (Barkly Rangers) Sergeant Slade, and Trooper Dunne, Clifton, Cray, and Fraser of the Diamond Fields Horse, and Mr. S. Edwards, covering them, as well as other wounded who were being taken out. Other men who deserve special mention are Sergeant R. H. Brooks, Trooper A. C. Williams, and Corporal G.R. Ford, the former two of the Diamond Fields Horse, and the latter, Barkly Rangers.
On the 30th of July, 1878, Colonel Lanyon, from Kuruman, reports the most “important engagement of this war.” The place had been considered for generations the stronghold of the Batlapin nation — it is named Litako or Takoon. Up to the time of this fight it had never been interfered with on account of its great strength. Over fifty years ago, says Lanyon, the fortifications had been raised by Mativo, the then paramount Chief, who then held undisturbed jurisdiction over the Batlapin nation.. The Griqua and Bechuana nation were then allied to resist the fierce inroads of the Mantatees, who were then in immense numbers migrating southwards to secure land. Takoon was fortified to resist this inroad.
Some idea may be formed of the great strength of the above place from the following statement. The range of hills is about two miles long, and it is covered throughout with a network of walls. The town is situated about half a mile from the western end of the ridge (where the river runs) in a neck, and from it three kopjes on the ridge. In the first of these — about 150 feet above the river, there were 245 compartments, some round, some square, and others of all shapes, all being connected with each other. In the second kopje there were 88 compartments, and in the third, 175, making in all 508. The enemy obstinately defended these places, and fought to the last. Even after they were driven out of the place, they continued the fight and fired upon the colonial forces from every available spot. The force left Takoou on the 27th of July, 1878.
(All above From: The history of the battles and adventures of the British, the Boers, and the Zulus, etc. in Southern Africa, from the time of Pharaoh Necho, to 1888 by Moodie, D. C. F.; Moodie, D. C. F. (Duncan Campbell Francis), 1838-1891. Published 1888).