This Day in History: 1799-05-05

3rd Kaffir War, Cape of Good Hope Colony. An isolated patrol of 23 men of the 81st Foot (later 2nd Loyals), on a mission in the bush to recover stolen cattle, is attacked by a mixed force of some 500 Xhosa tribesmen and Boers. Fighting amongst the thickets around the cattle kraal, they defend themselves ably until their ammunition runs out, when the enemy closes in and overpowers them. 18 of the 81st die fighting hand-to-hand. The survivors – three privates, a drummer and a Dutchman – retreat to a waggon. The patrol commander, Lieutenant John Chamney, on horseback but mortally wounded with three assegais in his body, signals to the waggon to drive off, then turns in the opposite direction and deliberately leads the attackers away. The men escape. It is later learned that Chamney is captured alive, but is killed when he resists a warrior who is attempting to strip him.