Letter from the Boer War

Progress Enterprise, April, 1900.

In a letter received from Private Chas. E. Miller, of Lunenburg, by his parents last evening, and dated at Paar Drift, February 23, he says:- We arrived here on Sunday morning and just had our kits off our backs when we were ordered to be ready as the enemy was in sight. Our regiment was in the firing line, the fight was at the Modder River bank, but I can’t describe it. On Tuesday we had another scrap. One of our men, Johnson, who was alongside of me is likely to die from his wound. (Since dead) I am all right but got a bullet through my helmet, which grazed my hair and made it stand on end for some minutes. It was the Orange Free State army we were fighting aginat. Oue casualties in both engagements were about 95 killed and wounded.

Contributor: Rosemary Rafuse

Snyder, W.H.

From: Snyder, W.H.

To: L. D. Robinson

April 1st, 1900 Green Point Camp, Cape Town, S.A.

My Dear Mr. Robinson:

It is rumored about camp that we are to leave for front on Thursday, so I am going to try and get off a letter to you, as it will be next to impossible the write from there.

You doubtless know long ago that we arrived in Cape Town on March 21st, just exactly four weeks from the time we left Halifax. We met hardly any sailing craft while coming over, but once we entered Table Bay we found a perfect hive of steamers of all sizes – men of war transports. We heard of the capture of Cronje and of the relief of Ladysmith, shortly after our arrival, and cheer after cheer rent the air from six hundred of Canada’s sons. We did not know for a few hours about the gallant part our first Canadian Contingent had played in it, but when we did hear, cheer after cheer was given for our gallant comrades from the Land of the Maple Leaf. I am wondering if you will be able to read this, for I am writing on the ground by the flickering candle. The camp where we are located along with the Regulars is about twenty minutes walk from the main part of the city. There are about 5000 men in camp. Last week we had our first experience of an African sand storm. The sand came down like hail stones, cutting one’s face and hands till it brought the blood. Our tent blew down and our horses got frightened and stampeded. Altogether it was quite an experience. It seemed a great change to find when we arrived here that the trees were all leaved out and the weather like our summer. The winter or rainy season is about commencing. The houses are very pretty, with beautiful lawns and gardens attached. You will meet nearly all kinds of people in Cape Town. I was detailed, with about 150 more, to act escort to Boer prisoners yesterday. They were taken to St. Helena by the same boat that we came out in. There were about 400 of them. They took matters very philosophically and laughed and chatted. I was talking to one. He said the Boers didn’t blame Englishmen for fighting but thought that Canada had no business to get mixed up in it and that the Boers were laying for the Canadians particularly. To-morrow we strike camp, just as if we were moving from place to place, and we have to hustle.

The cars in Cape Town, both steam and electric, are different from ours. The electrics are double deckers; the upper passengers go by a winding staircase. The steam cars are lower than ours, with three compartments and the door opens on the side. Every day pedlars bring apples, grapes, tomatoes, eggs, pomegranate and other fruits to sell. Grapes are sixpence a pound, apples one penny apiece, tomatoes sixpence a dozen. The apples are small and insignificant. Most of the vehicles are two wheeled and the mule is chiefly used. The natives get themselves up in very fantastic dresses. Tell the scholars if they take their geographies and look at that picture of Cape Town and Table Bay and Mountain they will see exactly where we are. We are nearly at the water’s edge, directly opposite Table Mountain. We are kept busy from 5 a.m., until night, continually on the go. We will be glad to get to the front. Two of our fellows have died since landing.

April 3rd. We go to the front to-morrow at 2 p.m. – to take part, if things turn out as anticipated, in what may be the deciding battle of the campaign.

I am well and in the best of spirits, and will give a good account of my self.

In haste, Your old School. Boy,

W. H. Snyder

Berwick Register, Thursday, May 24, 1900

Contributor: This letter is transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil’s kind permission.