|Second Matabele War|
|Part of the Matabele Wars|
Depiction of Burnham and Armstrong after the assassination of Mlimo. Matabele warriors in hot pursuit, drawn by Frank Dadd.
|Commanders and leaders|
| Robert Baden-Powell |
| Mlimo † |
|Casualties and losses|
|~400[ citation needed ]||~50,000[ citation needed ]|
The Second Matabele War, also known as the Matabeleland Rebellion or part of what is now known in Zimbabwe as the First Chimurenga , was fought between 1896 and 1897 in the area then known as Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. It pitted the British South Africa Company against the Matabele people, which led to conflict with the Shona people in the rest of Rhodesia.
In March 1896, the Matabele revolted against the authority of the British South Africa Company. The Mlimo (or M'limo, or Umlimo) the Matabele spiritual leader, is credited with fomenting much of the anger that led to this confrontation. He convinced the Matabele and the Shona that the settlers (almost 4,000 strong by then) were responsible for the drought, locust plagues and the cattle disease rinderpest ravaging the country at the time.
The Mlimo's call to battle was well-timed. Only a few months earlier, the British South Africa Company's Administrator General for Matabeleland, Leander Starr Jameson, had sent most of his troops and armaments to fight the Transvaal Republic in the ill-fated Jameson Raid. This left the country nearly defenceless. The British immediately sent troops to suppress the Matabele and the Shona, but it cost the lives of many on both sides. Months passed before the British forces were strong enough to break the sieges and defend the major settlements, and war raged on until October of the following year.
The Mlimo planned to wait until the night of 29 March, the first full moon, to take Bulawayo by surprise immediately after a ceremony called the Big Dance. He promised, through his priests, that if the Matabele went to war, the bullets of the settlers would change to water and their cannon shells would become eggs. His plan was to kill all of the settlers in Bulawayo first, but not to destroy the town itself as it would serve again as the royal kraal for the newly reincarnated King Lobengula. The Mlimo decreed that the settlers should be attacked and driven from the country through the Mangwe Pass on the Western edge of the Matobo Hills, which was to be left open and unguarded for this reason. Once the settlers were purged from Bulawayo, the Matabele and Shona warriors would head out into the countryside and continue the slaughter until all the settlers were either killed or had fled.
However, several young Matabele were overly anxious to go to war, and the rebellion started prematurely. On 20 March, Matabele rebels shot and stabbed a native policeman. Over the next few days, other outlying settlers and prospectors were killed. Frederick Selous, the famous big-game hunter, had heard rumours of settlers in the countryside being killed, but he thought it was a localised problem. When news of the policeman's murder reached Selous on 23 March, he knew the Matabele had started a massive uprising.
Nearly 2,000 Matabele warriors began the rebellion in earnest on 24 March. Many, although not all, of the young native police quickly deserted and joined the rebels. The Matabele headed into the countryside armed with a variety of weapons, including: Martini-Henry rifles, Winchester repeaters, Lee-Metfords, assegais, knobkerries and battle-axes. As news of the massive rebellion spread, the Shona joined in the fighting, and the settlers headed towards Bulawayo. Within a week, 141 settlers were slain in Matabeleland, another 103 killed in Mashonaland, and hundreds of homes, ranches and mines were burned. A particularly tragic case occurred at the Insiza River where Mrs. Fourie and her 6 small children were found mutilated beyond recognition on their farmstead. Two young women of the Ross family living nearby were similarly killed in their newly built home.
With few troops to support them, the settlers quickly built a laager of sandbagged wagons in the centre of Bulawayo on their own. Barbed wire was added to Bulawayo's defences. Oil-soaked fagots were arranged in strategic locations in case of attack at night. Blasting gelatin was secreted in outlying buildings that were beyond the defence perimeter, to be exploded in the event the enemy occupied them. Smashed glass bottles were spread around the front of the wagons. Except for hunting rifles, there were few weapons to be found in Bulawayo. Fortunately for settlers, there were a few working artillery pieces and a small assortment of machine guns.
Rather than wait passively, the settlers immediately mounted patrols, called the Bulawayo Field Force, under such figures as Selous and Frederick Russell Burnham; these rode out to rescue any surviving settlers in the countryside and went on attack against the Matabele. Selous raised a mounted troop of forty men to scout southward into the Matobo Hills. Maurice Gifford, along with 40 men, rode east along the Iniza River. Whenever settlers were found, they were quickly loaded into their wagons and closely guarded on their way to Bulawayo. Within the first week of fighting, 20 men of the Bulawayo Field Force were killed and another 50 were wounded.
In the First Matabele War, the Matabele had experienced the effectiveness of the settlers' Maxim guns, so they never mounted a significant attack against Bulawayo even though over 10,000 Matabele warriors could be seen near the town. Conditions inside Bulawayo, however, quickly became unbearable. During the day, settlers could go to homes and buildings within the town, but at night they were forced to seek shelter in the much smaller laager. Nearly 1,000 women and children were crowded into the city, and false alarms of attacks were common. Although they kept up their siege, the Matabele made one critical error: they neglected to cut the telegraph lines connecting Bulawayo to Mafeking. This gave both the relief forces and the besieged Bulawayo Field Force far more information than they would otherwise have had.
Several relief columns were organised to break the siege, but the long trek through hostile countryside took several months. Late in May, the first two relief columns appeared near Bulawayo on almost the same day but from opposite directions – Cecil Rhodes and Col. Beal arriving from Salisbury and Fort Victoria in Mashonaland 300 miles to the north; and Lord Grey and Col. Plumer (of the York and Lancaster Regiment) from Kimberley and Mafeking, 600 miles to the south. The southern relief forces were nearly ambushed on their approach to Bulawayo, but Selous discovered the whereabouts of the Matabele and the Maxim guns of the relief forces drove back the attackers. Not long after relief forces began arriving in Bulawayo, General Frederick Carrington arrived to take overall command along with his Chief of Staff, Colonel Baden-Powell.
With the siege broken, an estimated 50,000 Matabele retreated into their stronghold of the Matobo Hills near Bulawayo. This region became the scene of the fiercest fighting between the settler patrols and the Matabele. By June, the Shona kept their promise and joined the fighting on the side of the Matabele. But lacking a clear leader similar to Mlimo, the Shonas mostly stayed behind their fortifications and conducted few raids.[ citation needed ]
Military intelligence at the time thought that capturing the Mlimo would be the speediest way to end the war.The location of the Mlimo's cave had been disclosed to the native commissioner at Mangwe, Bonar Armstrong, by an unnamed Zulu informant. Armstrong immediately brought this information to the Chief of Scouts, Burnham, and the two men presented it to the Administrator of Southern Rhodesia, Earl Grey. The Administrator instructed them to present this information to the military commander, General Carrington, who called in his Chief of Staff, Baden-Powell. Carrington instructed Burnham, Armstrong, and Baden-Powell to leave that very night to "Capture the Mlimo if you can. Kill him if you must. Do not let him escape.". Intervening news of enemy movements near Bembezi forced Baden-Powell to go there instead, so Burnham and Armstrong proceeded on their own to the Matopos.
Burnham and Armstrong travelled by night through the Matobo Hills and approached the sacred cave. Not far from the cave was a village of about 100 huts filled with many warriors. The two scouts tethered their horses to a thicket and crawled on their bellies, screening their slow and cautious movements with branches held before them. Once inside the cave, they waited until Mlimo entered.
Once Mlimo started his dance of immunity, Burnham shot him just below the heart, killing him.The two men then leapt over the dead Mlimo and ran down a trail towards their horses. Hundreds of warriors, encamped nearby, picked up their arms and started in pursuit. Burnham set fire to the village as a distraction. The two men hurried back to Bulawayo, with warriors in pursuit
After the assassination, overseas press hailed Burnham and Armstrong as "heroes of the British Empire."But in Rhodesia, sections of the press were sceptical about the assassination of the Mlimo. It had been a mistake on the part of British military intelligence to think of the Mlimo and the high priest, or prophet, in the Matopos as one and the same. Based on British Army reports, Carrington believed that the Mlimo was a central authority and that "his orders fly about from one end of the country to another with great rapidity". Historian Terence Ranger writes that "Carrington was almost certainly over-estimating the centralization (of the Mlimo)", and that "Baden-Powell and other reporters tended to run the various shrines in the Matopos into one". Frederick Selous believed that the head priest of the Mlimo lived in the Matopos, but that "there are other priests, or so-called Umlimos, in other parts of the country through whom they believe that the commands of the Almighty can be conveyed to them." Burnham had carried out his instructions from Carrington and, like Carrington, he relied heavily on Armstrong and military intelligence for his information. Armstrong, the instigator and active participant in the operation, "was an authority on the Native, his language, customs and mentality", according to fellow native commissioner E.C. Harley. Armstrong was also a Major in the Mangwe Field Force, and Selous describes him as young, but "shrewd and capable". Selous and Harley say that Armstrong was in command at the Mangwe laager, although Baden-Powell and other sources name van Rooyen and Lee as the commanders. Some writers also describe Armstrong as young and moody and claim that he too expressed doubts about the identity of the man killed, but only after the assassination.
Initially the Company declined to review the matter and Burnham left Rhodesia on 11 July 1896, a week after the Bulawayo Field Force disbanded, to return to the United States and later joined the Klondike Gold Rush.However, at Armstrong's insistence a court of inquiry was later appointed to investigate the assassination. Although several writers have commented on the outcome, the official report itself has been lost. Referring to the court's report, Harley writes, "The finding of the Judge (Watermeyer) was that the native killed was the Chief Priest of the M'limo. Whether there was another occult personage associated with the M'limo deception is problematical, for with the death of the Chief Priest, the M'limo deception also died." But historian Hugh Marshall Hole writes, "On their return they were greatly applauded for having achieved their dangerous errand, but some time later, when it was found that Mlimo was still at work, an official inquiry was held, with the result that the whole affair was exposed as an elaborate hoax." In contrast to Hole, historians Mary and Richard Bradford, Mary Clarke, Peter Emmerson, and Jack Lott all agree with Harley that the court of inquiry favoured Armstrong. Emmerson cites an 1899 report from chief native commissioner H.J. Taylor as evidence that Watermeyer ruled in favour of Armstrong. Mary and Richard Bradford studied Taylor's 1899 report, and Hole's correspondence, and they suggest specific errors made by Hole in his interpretation of Taylor's report. Clarke and Lott both point out that Armstrong was given a gold watch and a letter of appreciation from the Board of the British South Africa Company after the verdict was rendered.
As to the identity of the man assassinated and his role, there is much confusion. In June 1896, Father Prestage, captain van Rooyen, Hans Lee, and Armstrong met at Mangwe with "Several hundred natives assembled to hear the statement made by witnesses that Gotani the man shot by Burnham was the M'limo of the Matabele."Harley states that "At (the Watermeyer) enquiry, Father Prestage from his knowledge of the Umlimo and the power he exercised was able to supply authoritative information which greatly assisted the enquiry." But chief native commissioner Taylor's 1899 report, written three years after the event and after Armstrong resigned from the Company over unrelated grievances, says that "Armstrong by threats and bribes caused certain natives to perjure themselves and to swear to what was not true". Taylor includes in his report an affidavit by "one Jonas, head messenger at the A.N.C's office at Mangwe," who says, "I swore on oath that Jobane was the M'limo, I knew I was lying at the time, I have never received any cattle from Mr. Armstrong but he paid me the five shillings." Taylor also states in his report that "Dshobane, (was) the supposed Mlimo" assassinated, however, he does not make it clear if "Jobane" and "Dshobane" are different spellings for the same person.
Over the years, historians have postulated several more names for the man assassinated and his role. In 1966, Ranger hypothesized that the man assassinated was not from the Matopos at all, but rather a "loyal" priest of the Kalanga tribe from the Southwest of Matabeleland, and Ranger quotes an 1879 report from a missionary, Joseph Cockin, that states that the priest from the Southwest was named Umkombo.But in 1967, Ranger states that Jobani (or Tshobani) had been the high priest in the Southwest and that "They obtained from the indunas of the Mangwe area affidavits that the dead man, Jobani or Habangana, had been the High Priest of the Mwari and the chief instigator of the rebellion." In 1976, Lott said that Ranger relied on "the American scholar Richard Werbner" for his assessments, and that "recent research has confirmed that Burnham killed the rainmaker (Iwosana) of the tribe (Makalanga) who was Hobani or Tshobani (Sindebele), fourth son of Banko's family." In 1994, Mary and Richard Bradford state that "Burnham may have shot an innocent man, but if so, there was no premeditated plan. He was acting under orders." The Bradfords further remark, "If Jobani was innocent, he was a victim not of Burnham but of white misconception of the M'limo cult and of the difficulty in distinguishing friend from foe that marks irregular warfare."
While there appears to be no clear consensus about either the identity of man assassinated in the Matopos or his role, historian Howard Hensman states "With the downfall of Wedza and shooting of the M'Limo in a cave in the Matoppos by the American scout, Burnham, the Matabele rebellion may be said to have come to an end."Upon learning of the death of Mlimo, Cecil Rhodes walked unarmed into the Matabele stronghold and persuaded the Matabele warriors to lay down their arms. With the war in Matabeland effectively over, the Bulawayo Field Force disbanded on 4 July 1896. With regard to the regular forces under Carrington, Hensman writes "As the rainy season approached and peace was arranged in Matabeleland, the forces, or a considerable portion of them, were moved up into Mashonaland".
War broke out on 17 June 1896 at Mazowe with an attack by the Hwata dynasty on Alice Mine. This was followed by the medium Nehanda Nyakasikana capturing and executing Mazowe Native Commissioner Pollard.
Other religious figures who led the rebellion included Kaguvi Gumboreshumba, who was active in the Goromonzi area and Mukwati, a priest of the Mwari shrinewho was active throughout Mashonaland.
In addition to the mediums, traditional leaders played a major role in the rebellion, notably Chief Mashayamombe, who led resistance in his chieftaincy in Mhondoro, south of the colonial settlement of Salisbury (now Harare). He was amongst the first chiefs to rebel and the last to be defeated.He was supplied by many of the surrounding districts, such as Chikomba (then Charter). Other chiefs who played an important role included Gwabayana, Makoni, Mapondera, Mangwende and Seke.
With the war in Matabeleland ending, Gen. Carrington was able to concentrate his forces on Mashonaland and the rebels retreated into granite kopjes. With no central command to oppose him, Carrington was able to bring Maxim guns against each stronghold in turn, until resistance ended. Nehanda Nyakasikana and Kaguvi Gumboreshumba were captured and executed in 1898, but Mukwati was never captured and died in Mutoko.
The rebellion failed completely and did not result in any major changes in BSAC policy. For example, the hut tax which remained in place. The territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland had become Rhodesia, and both the Matabele and Shona became subjects of the Rhodes administration. However, the legacy of leaders such as Kaguvi, Mapondera and Nehanda was to inspire future generations.
Soon after the outbreak of the war, Baden-Powell was assigned to Matabeleland as Chief of Staff to Gen. Carrington and it was here that he first met and began a lifelong friendship with Frederick Russell Burnham, the American-born Chief of Scouts for the British.This would become a formative experience for Baden-Powell not only because he had the time of his life commanding reconnaissance missions into enemy territory, but because many of his later Boy Scout ideas took hold here. Burnham had been a scout practically his entire life in the United States when he went to Africa in 1893 to scout for Cecil Rhodes on the Cape-to-Cairo Railway. As Chief of Scouts under Major Allan Wilson, Burnham became known in Africa as he-who-sees-in-the-dark and he gained fame in the First Matabele War when he survived the British equivalent of Custer's Last Stand, the Shangani Patrol.
During their joint scouting patrols into the Matobo Hills, Burnham began teaching Baden-Powell woodcraft, inspiring him and giving him the plan for both the programme and the code of honour of Scouting for Boys.Practised by frontiersmen of the American Old West and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, woodcraft was generally unknown to the British, but well known to the American scout Burnham. These skills eventually formed the basis of what is now called scoutcraft , the fundamentals of Scouting. Both men recognised that wars in Africa were changing markedly and the British Army needed to adapt; so during their joint scouting missions, Baden-Powell and Burnham discussed the concept of a broad training programme in woodcraft for young men, rich in exploration, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance. It was also during this time in the Matobo Hills that Baden-Powell first started to wear his signature campaign hat like the one worn by Burnham, and it was here that Baden-Powell acquired his Kudu horn, the Matabele war instrument he later used every morning at Brownsea Island to wake the first boy scouts and to call them together in training courses.
In 1901, Chief Kadungure Mapondera, who had in 1894 proclaimed his independence of company rule,led a rebellion in the Guruve and Mount Darwin areas of Mashonaland Central. He led a force of initially under 100 men, but had over 600 under his command by mid-1901. He was captured in 1903 and died in jail in 1904 after a hunger strike.
In his will, Rhodes directed that he be buried in the Matobo Hills; when he died in the Cape in 1902 his body was brought to Bulawayo by train. His burial was attended by Ndebele chiefs, who asked that the firing party not discharge their rifles, as this would disturb the spirits. Then, for the first and probably the only time, they gave a white man the Matabele royal salute "Bayete".Rhodes is buried alongside Jameson and the 34 settler soldiers killed in the Shangani Patrol.
Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe, and the largest city in the country's Matabeleland. The city's population is disputed; the 2012 census listed it at 653,337, while the Bulawayo City Council claimed it to be about 1.2 million. Bulawayo covers an area of about 1,707 square kilometres (659 sq mi) in the western part of the country, along the Matsheumhlope River. Along with the capital Harare, Bulawayo is one of two cities in Zimbabwe that is also a province.
Chimurenga is a word in the Shona language. The Ndebele equivalent, though not as widely used since the majority of Zimbabweans are Shona speaking, is Umvukela, roughly meaning "revolutionary struggle" or uprising. In specific historical terms, it also refers to the Ndebele and Shona insurrections against administration by the British South Africa Company during the late 1890s—the Second Matabele War, or First Chimurenga—and the war fought between African nationalist guerrillas and the predominantly white Rhodesian government during the 1960s and 1970s—the Rhodesian Bush War, or Second Chimurenga/Imvukela.
Modern-day Matabeleland is a region in Zimbabwe divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South. These provinces are in the west and south-west of Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The region is named after its inhabitants, the Ndebele people. Other ethnic groups who inhabit parts of Matabeleland include the Tonga, Kalanga, Venda, Namibia, Sotho, Tswana and Khoisan. As of August 2012, according to the Zimbabwean national statistics agency ZIMSAT, the southern part of the region had 683,893 people, comprising 326,697 males and 356,926 females, with an average size household of 4.4 in an area of 54,172 square kilometres (20,916 sq mi). As for the Matabeleland Northern Province, it had a total population of 749,017 people out of the population of Zimbabwe of 13,061,239. The proportion of males and females was 48 and 52 percent respectively within an area of just over 75,017 square kilometres (28,964 sq mi). The remaining Bulawayo province had a population of 653,337 in an area of 1,706.8 square kilometres (659.0 sq mi). Thus the region has a combined population of 2,086,247 in an area of just over 130,000 square kilometres (50,000 sq mi) and that is just over the size of England. The major city is Bulawayo, other notable towns are Plumtree and Hwange. The land is particularly fertile but dry. This area has important gold deposits. Industries include gold and other mineral mines, and engineering. There has been a decline in the industries in this region as water is in short supply. Promises by the government to draw water for the region through the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project have not been carried out. The region is allegedly marginalised by the government.
The Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. The hills were formed over 2 billion years ago with granite being forced to the surface, this has eroded to produce smooth "whaleback dwalas" and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Matopo/Matobo is a corruption of a Venda word, "matombo" which means stones in Tshivenda. It was named by the ancestors of Kalanga and Venda people who are the original natives of the land.
The Pioneer Column was a force raised by Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company in 1890 and used in his efforts to annex the territory of Mashonaland, later part of Southern Rhodesia.
Frederick Courteney Selous, DSO, was a British explorer, officer, professional hunter, and conservationist, famous for his exploits in Southeast Africa. His real-life adventures inspired Sir Henry Rider Haggard to create the fictional Allan Quatermain character. Selous was also a friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Cecil Rhodes and Frederick Russell Burnham. He was pre-eminent within a select group of big game hunters that included Abel Chapman and Arthur Henry Neumann. He was the older brother of ornithologist and writer Edmund Selous.
The Northern Ndebele people are a Bantu-speaking nation and ethnic group in Southern Africa, who share a common Ndebele culture and Ndebele language (isiNdebele). The Northern Ndebele were historically referred to as the Matebele which derives from the Sesotho expression thebele, indicating people who sheltered behind tall cowhide shields. The term Bathebele was applied to at least two Nguni-speaking groups who settled in the region later called the Transvaal, long before the Mfecane. Although the amaNdebele of Mzilikazi used the much smaller cowhide shields and short stabbing assegai of King Shaka’s army, they also were called Bathebele, which in isiNguni was rendered as amaNdebele.
The Scout Association of Zimbabwe is a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. Scouting in Zimbabwe shares history with Malaŵi and Zambia, with which it was linked for decades.
Scoutcraft is a term used to cover a variety of woodcraft knowledge and skills required by people seeking to venture into wild country and sustain themselves independently. The term has been adopted by Scouting organizations to reflect skills and knowledge which are felt to be a core part of the various programs, alongside community and spirituality. Skills commonly included are camping, cooking, first aid, wilderness survival, orienteering and pioneering.
Frederick Russell Burnham DSO was an American scout and world-traveling adventurer. He is known for his service to the British South Africa Company and to the British Army in colonial Africa, and for teaching woodcraft to Robert Baden-Powell in Rhodesia. He helped inspire the founding of the international Scouting Movement.
See also: 1880s in Zimbabwe, 1900 in Zimbabwe and Years in Zimbabwe.
The First Matabele War was fought between 1893 and 1894 in modern day Zimbabwe. It pitted the British South Africa Company against the Ndebele (Matabele) Kingdom. Lobengula, king of the Ndebele, had tried to avoid outright war with the company's pioneers because he and his advisors were mindful of the destructive power of European-produced weapons on traditional Matabele impis attacking in massed ranks. Lobengula reportedly could muster 80,000 spearmen and 20,000 riflemen, armed with Martini-Henry rifles, which were modern arms at that time. However, poor training meant that these were not used effectively.
The military history of Zimbabwe chronicles a vast time period and complex events from the dawn of history until the present time. It covers invasions of native peoples of Africa, encroachment by Europeans, and civil conflict.
Patrick William Forbes (1861–1918) was a leader of the paramilitary British South Africa Police, who commanded a force that invaded Matabeland in the First Matabele War.
The birth of the first white child is a widely used concept to mark the establishment of a European colony in the New World, especially in the historiography of the United States.
The British South Africa Company Medal (1890–97). In 1896, Queen Victoria sanctioned the issue by the British South Africa Company of a medal to troops who had been engaged in the First Matabele War. In 1897, the award was extended to those engaged in the two campaigns of the Second Matabele War, namely Rhodesia (1896) and Mashonaland (1897). The three medals are the same except for name of the campaign for which the medal was issued, inscribed on the reverse.
White people first came to the region in southern Africa today called Zimbabwe in the sixteenth century, when Portuguese colonials ventured inland from Mozambique and attacked the Kingdom of Mutapa, which then controlled an area roughly equivalent to eastern Zimbabwe and western Mozambique. Portuguese influence over Mutapa endured for about two centuries before fading away during the 1690s and early-1700s (decade). During the year of 1685, French Huguenots emigrated to present-day South Africa and whilst some settled there, others moved further north into the continent. Those who did, settled within modern-day Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana, and co-existed with the indigenous people; most of whom, in Zimbabwe, were the Naletale people.
Shangani Patrol is a war film based upon the non-fiction book A Time to Die by Robert Cary (1968), and the historical accounts of the Shangani Patrol, with Brian O'Shaughnessy as Major Allan Wilson and Will Hutchins as the lead Scout Frederick Russell Burnham. Also includes the song "Shangani Patrol" by Nick Taylor.
The Shangani Patrol was a 34-soldier unit of the British South Africa Company that in 1893 was ambushed and annihilated by more than 3,000 Matabele warriors in Rhodesia, during the First Matabele War. Headed by Major Allan Wilson, the patrol was attacked just north of the Shangani River in Matabeleland, Rhodesia. Its dramatic last stand, sometimes called "Wilson's Last Stand", achieved a prominent place in the British public imagination and, subsequently, in Rhodesian history, similarly to events such as the Battle of the Little Bighorn in the United States, the Battle of Shiroyama in Japan, the Battle of the Alamo in Texas, and the Greeks' last stand at Thermopylae.
The British South Africa Company's administration of what became Rhodesia was chartered in 1889 by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, and began with the Pioneer Column's march north-east to Mashonaland in 1890. Empowered by its charter to acquire, govern and develop the area north of the Transvaal in southern Africa, the Company, headed by Cecil Rhodes, raised its own armed forces and carved out a huge bloc of territory through treaties, concessions and occasional military action, most prominently overcoming the Matabele army in the First and Second Matabele Wars of the 1890s. By the turn of the century, Rhodes's Company held a vast, land-locked country, bisected by the Zambezi river. It officially named this land Rhodesia in 1895, and ran it until the early 1920s.