Christmas 1850, and Colonel Henry Somerset is pinned down in Fort Cox by a small Xhosa force under Maqoma. A patrol of 23 English soldiers are wiped out. Maqoma praises them; he says they died fighting and cursing to the last. But for Somerset he has nothing but contempt.
That was just one small skirmish in a war that lasted for most of the 19th century. The whites in the Western Cape intended to conquer the Xhosa nation, by fair means or foul. And Maqoma was the greatest warrior, leader and strategist on the Xhosa side.
The son of King Ngqika, he won renown as a fierce fighter at the battle of Amalinde in 1818. Ngqika died in 1829. And Maqoma was regent until his half-brother Sandile was old enough to rule. The English seized his land, so Maqoma fought in the War of Hintsa in 1835.
In 1846 he made peace, but Sir Harry Smith humiliated him. The proud warrior never forgot, and his flame burnt brightly until he was sent to Robben Island in 1857. He died there in 1873, when his nation had been defeated. More than a century later, his body was reburied at the Mngqesha Great Place of the Xhosa kings.
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