Friday, August 29, 2014

Order of Battle at Uitkomst (The Battle of Uitkomst VIII)

Richard D. Volkmann
Contemporary German sources differ as to the number of armed men available to Oberleutnant Richard Volkmann and Herero leader Mbatona (Batona) when they clashed at Uitkomst.  The Generalstab history (1906) and the memoir of Governor Theodor v. Leutwein (1908) underplay or even fail to mention the role of the Boers and other war volunteers, or that only a portion of Mbatona's force had rifles, making it seem like a Schutztruppe affair only against far superior superior numbers.  On the other hand, the Generalstab account is quite clear that the Herero had a mounted force out in front of those on foot, and that these riders evaded Volkmann's initial charge.  Others mention several captured horses among the spoils.

Diarists like settler J Conrad Rust (1905), and the several published accounts of an actual participant, Dr. Paul Rohrbach, are more specific about the Herero armament and the number and composition of Volkmann's force, but do not mention the mounted Herero at all.  Volkmann's own report is not available, though he did correspond with Rohrbach and the official Generalstab version likely draws from what Volkmann relayed to his superiors.

A previous post in this series discussed these sources and considered the quality of the evidence they provide.  In this post I will give my own assessment, based on close reading of these accounts, of the Order of Battle at Uitkomst.

The Herero Forces at Uitkomst:  The various accounts give a range for Mbatona's warband of between 135 and 180 men.  There is one outlying number (250), given by Rohrbach as part of a two page submission to Deutsche Reiter in Südwest (1908).  Rohrbach was a war volunteer at Uitkomst - his first time ever under fire - and he was a good friend of Volkmann's, so the details he provides have added weight.  However, the disparity between this figure and Rohrbach's other published reporting of Herero numbers (given as 150 in his 1904 account and about 130 in his war diary published in 1909) strongly suggests that the number 250 is an editing or a typographical error.  Other sources estimate between 170 and 180 Herero with Mbatona, and the actual number is likely somewhere close to Rohrbach's 150.

Several accounts mention an advanced guard or "Spitze" of Herero horsemen that preceded the rest of the warband that was on foot.  Several horses were captured after the battle, but most of the horsemen escaped.  Rohrback was riding farther back in the German column when it charged and he may not have seen the mounted Herero at all when they turned back under the cover of the surrounding thornbush.  The Generalstab history merely says Batona's force was partially mounted.  There might have been a dozen or so riders, including some of the Herero leaders, but they were not a factor in the Herero response to Volkmann's attack.

At this stage in the war, not every Herero fighter had a firearm, and it was common for between 
Herero warriors with traditional weapons (latter part of 19th century)
half and two thirds of a war band to be carrying close combat weapons only - knobkerries, pangas, or spears.  Both Rust and Rohrbach say that Mbatona's men had about 60 rifles, which is in line for a force of this size.  Rust says they had plenty of Mauser Model 71 ammunition, while Rohrbach's diary (1909) actually describes the sounds made by the varies Herero firearms that were shooting at him.  A few were either repeaters that made a popping sound or"Knall" or Mauser Model 88s that droned or hummed "brummende Sausen", but the majority were older Martini Henry rifles that made cracks and whistles "Krachen und Pfeifen" when fired.  Rohrbach was not a soldier but he was there at the fight and could ask Volkmann or other veterans about the sounds he had heard, so his testimony seems the most reliable. 

There were other Herero leaders with Mbatona, anywhere between 2 and six of whom were killed at Uitkomst. Rust and Rohrbach both mention an unnamed Schlacten-General or war leader sent from Okahandja from paramount chief Samuel kaMaharero, who was recognizable because of the large whuite ostrich feather he wore in his hat.  Rohrbach also mentions Kamaihamagoani of Waterberg, and that both of these men were found killed along with Mbatona after the fight.  The loss of command leadership may well have been a factor in the Herero defeat.

The German Forces at Uitkomst
:  Oberleutnant Volkmann's men were all on horseback when they rode toward Uitkomst.  he started out from Grootfontein with a group of riders that various sources estimate between 10 and 15 men.   Leutwein says Volkmann began with 12 and Rohrbach says had 15 to start with, mostly war volunteers and Boers.  After meeting up with the escort that was bringing in the wagons, livestock and boer families from Uitkomst, some additional men joined Volkmann and rode back to confront the Herero.  Rust says he started with 10 men and added 12.   Kurd Schwabe says Volkmann had 22 men (soldiers and boers) against about 200 Herero.  Volkman says there were 20 or 21 in all.  Leutwein says he had 20 men from the escort join him (14 of which were war volunteers or Boers), but that would have given him a larger force (32) than any other source suggests.  It is more likely that Rohrbach's number of 20 total was confused in Leutwein's memoir for the number of the reenforcements only.  Rohrbach is very clear in his diary (1909) that there were just 20 men with Volkmann, with only four Schutztruppe and the rest war volunteers or boers.  The most likely figure, then, is about 20.

Not all the war volunteers were men like Rohrbach with no military affiliation.  Three of the men who were identified as casualties were either in the Reserves or Landwehr.  If we assume a force of 20, there may have been seven or eight Germans with some military training, including the four Schutztruppen referenced by Rohrbach.  We only know the name of one of these men for certain (Unteroffizier Stadler).  Gefrieter d. Reserve Hart Schmiedel, who had been driven away from his farm Gunuchas when Mbatona's raiders approached from the Omuramba-Omatako, was also with Volkmann.  So, too, were Landwehrmann Halberstadt, a mason and builder who came to the District from Windhoek,  and Landwehrmann Hermann Nietsche, a carpenter.  Neither were farmers at this time, but a Wilhelm Halberstadt had a farm in Grootfontein in 1905 and there are Halberstadts still farming there today.  Perhaps it was he.

Rohrbach mentions in his diary that some of the riders with Volkmann were from the Farm Urupupa, located not far to the West of Uitkomst. 

"We stopped and thought for a moment it could be wagons coming from Urupupa, but there the people felt – we had four horsemen with us from that place – that they were strong enough to stand and defend themselves in place. (Rohrbach 1909 - translation mine)"

Willem Joubert and his wife Anna
It is unlikely, then, that the principle farmers at Urupupa - Franz Sobolewski and Witwe Siemens - were riding with Volkmann.  Maybe Halberstadt or Nietsche had been working there. 

If we consider Volkmann had four people from Urupupa, four Schutztruppe and Rohrbach as the German part of his force, what of the rest?  He probably had seven or eight boers and two are referenced directly.  One was an Osthuizen mentioned by Rohrbach (there were several farmers by that name in the District) and one was a Duplessis, possibly Lorenz Du Plessis who farmed at Okamuhundju south of Grootfontein.  Very likely the rest were from Uitkomst - Willem Joubert and perhaps one or more of his elder sons, and several of the Groblers.  Maybe Heinrich Poolman, who was with the Uitkomst party but was not a Boer, also joined in.

They were all mounted, but would have been variously armed and had different fighting styles.  Volkmann could have issued Mauser 88s and possibly even bayonets to the Reservists and Landwehren, but the Boers had their own rifles and bandoliers.  Probably few of the war volunteers had uniforms, especially if, like Schmiedel, they had been driven from their farms by the advancing Herero.

What happened when these two forces met - unraveling the Battle of Uitkomst itself - will be the topic of a subsequent post in this series.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prelude to the Fight: Mbatona's Movements and Volkmann's Responses (The Battle of Uitkomst Part VII)

Probable Movements of Mbatona (in yellow) on detail of 1904 German War Map: Blatt Otavi
The actual battle of Uitkomst may have lasted just ten minutes or so (Rohrbach 1908)*, but the sequence of events leading up to it requires further explanation. This step is necessary in order to make sense of what the leaders of the antagonists were trying to achieve, the fight itself, and its repercussions. 

This post deals with the confusion and uncertainty at the outbreak of the Herero uprising in the Grootfontein District, the evidence for the movements and actions taken by Mbatona (Batona) and his war band in particular, and the moves taken by Oberlt. Richard Volkmann to counter them.  It begins with the first reports of unrest on January 12th and ends on January 18th when Volkmann headed from Grootfontein toward Uitkomst with a mixed force, largely volunteers and Boers, to confront Mbatona.

On January 12th, 1904, Waldemar Grünwald fled in terror from his farm "Omambonde" (underlined in yellow as "Omaombonde", above) bringing the first word that the "Omurambahereros"  had risen up in the Grootfontein District (Rohrbach 1909, Rust 1905). Grünwald's farm was isolated far in the south on a tributary of the Omuramba-Omatako, and subsequent war damage claims indicate that it was one of the most heavily plundered in the area.

The word "Omuramba" refers to a seasonally dry riverbed, and the greatest of these - the Omuramba-Omatako - was a major demarkation line between the Omaheke and Kalahari "sandfeld" to the East and White settlements to the West.  In the dry season the Omuramba-Omatako was a significant transportation corridor running SW to NE deep into the interior of the continent, and a place where water could often be found  near the surface as well as at a number of excavated waterholes. There were Herero settlements along the Omuramba-Omatako as well, below the demarkation line that separated the Grootfontein District from Hereroland, and Rohrbach says that Mbatona himself lived at a place called Osondema (circled in yellow at the bottom of the above map). 

This was the rainy season, however, and according to Rohrbach the preceding two weeks had seen a significant rainfall that turned the riverbanks to quicksand and wagon tracks to mire.  The Herero, on foot and on horseback, could still travel with ease through the dense thornveld of the District and use the Omuramba network, but wagons could not.  When Oberlt. Volkmann rode South with just six riders to investigate what had happened at Omambonde, he was unable to reach the farm and his wagon became buried to the axles in mud.  By then the Herero band had moved on, either using the braided network of oxwagon tracks or making their way North through the thornveld.  Volkmann and his patrol did not encounter them, though they may have passed each other on parallel tracks through the bush. One can only speculate what would have happened to this small German force if it had run into Mbatona's much larger, well armed war band at this time.

 Mbatona also seems to have deliberately avoided the farms to the East on  his route northward, most of which belonged to Boer settlers whom he wished to keep nonbelligerent.  Interestingly, the one eastern farm that was attacked and plundered at this time was the German farm Okajongeama that belonged to the Steinfurth brothers.  The elder Steinfurth was killed in his house.  Possibly it was another group of Hereros who raided Okajongeama, or perhaps Mbatona and at least part of his war band used an ox wagon track that was East of the one used by Volkmann's initial patrol toward Omambonde. In any event, the nearby Boer farms were not raided at this time.

Batona's Movements Underscored in Yellow on a mid to later 20th century Grootfontein Farm Map
Grünwald initially fled to Gunuchas, the farm of another German settler named Hart Schmiedel. We know a bit more about Schmiedel because he was subsequently wounded in the fight at Uitkomst.  Analysis of German telegraphs from the war period, later compilations of casualty lists and the names of farm owners reveal that he was originally from Mittweida in Saxony.  He had come to German Southwest Africa as a one year volunteer (einjährig-freiwilliger) in the Schutztruppe.  He left the Troop in 1903 but was still a reservist with the rank of Gefreiter (the lowest grade of non-commissioned officer).  Altogether he and another German settler named Hendrick Niewenhuizen who farmed at nearby Kududamm just to the North of Gunuchas,  lost 20 Cattle (Large Stock) and 106 sheep/goats (small stock) to the advancing Herero (Rust 1905).  Along with Grünwald  these men escaped with their lives before Mbatona arrived.

 Mbatona's force seems to have been making for the Otavi Mountains, raiding cattle and livestock from the German farms they encountered on the way.  By the time of the Battle of Uitkomst on January 18th, though, the Hereros were no longer encumbered with captured livestock, for no mention of any is made in the German accounts of the fight (though several horses were taken).  Possibly the raided livestock was herded back to the Omuramba-Omatako to avoid recapture.

Period postcard of the German farm Urupupa, now part of the larger Rietfontein Dairy
Keeping the Boers nonbelligerent was clearly part of Mbatona's strategy.  According to Rust, one of the adult members of the Grobler family (among the Boers who farmed at Uitkomst) sent word to Volkmann that he had been told by the Herero leader to take his children out of school so they would not be caught up in the fighting around Grootfontein.  Grobler was also told to let all the Boers in the District know that they would not be harmed by Mbatona's force  if they stayed out of the fight and relocated with their families to the Boer leader Jean M. Lombard's Farm "Strydfontein". 

This was a curious request, because the first school in the District was located at Strydfontein, quite close to Grootfontein itself and just a few kilometers to the North and West of the settlement, and is probably where Grobler's children were staying already.  Most of the  Boer farms in the District were clustered within 20-30km of Grootfontein, while the Germans tended to farm in more isolated parts of the District.  If Mbatona wanted the Boers to congregate near Grootfontein and stay out of the fight, it makes sense that he would have avoided traveling through their farmsteads and would have given such instructions to Grobler while he was in the mountains near Uitkomst and looking for fresh German targets. 

It does not make sense thatMbatona had plans to attack Grootfontein itself, however. 
Herero tactics were consistent throughout this early stage of the conflict.  Large German strongholds were avoided and not directly assaulted.  The emphasis was on cattle raiding, attacks on remote German farmsteads, and on traders to whom the Herero were deeply indebted.  Contrary to what the 1906 Prussian Generalstab history of the German-Herero War asserts, the evidence does not suggest that Mbatona intended to attack the fort and well fortified settlement of Grootfontein "from two directions" in coordination with another Herero force of similar size that was operating further down the Omuramba-Omatako near the isolated military post at Otjituo.  That other Herero warband overran Otjituo and killed three of its four defenders at the same time that Volkmann and Mbatona fought at Uitkomst, but little else is recorded about who lead them or what they may have done afterward. They reportedly seized a great deal of rifle ammunition but they did not proceed to attack Grootfontein with it. 

Family of Willem F and Anna M Joubert of the farm Uitkomst, with the fort at Grootfontein behind them
Oberlt. Volkmann took steps to bring in the German settlers from the outlying farms and to win the support of the Boer population. On January 16th there was a great council in Grootfontein at which Volkmann asked for the Boers to augment his protection force as war volunteers (Rohrbach 1909). Their families and livestock would be given protection in Grootfontein so that the men would be able to join with Volkmann in defeating the Herero. Rohrbach does not describe the outcome of the meeting, but subsequent events indicate that either Volkmann made his case, or the Boers were never inclined to watch from the sidelines.  In any case, their loyalty proved to be firmly with the Germans.

Volkmann continued to receive reports of the Herero movements from both white and black informants (the later either loyal farm workers or from the Bushman and Bergdamara population of the District).  On January 17th he learned that Mbatona was in the mountains near Uitkomst with between 170 and 180 men, partially mounted and well armed with at least 60 rifles (Rust 1905, Rohrbach 1908, 1909).

Sources differ as to the precise number of men who rode out on the 17th to help escort the Joubert, Grobler and Poolman families (the latter an English settler), together with their livestock, back from Uitkomst to the protection Grootfontein.  It likely included very few members of the Schutztruppe, and was instead made up of from anywhere between a dozen and twenty men from the German Reserves or landwehr and war volunteers from the German and Boer population.  Rust gives the most complete account of this patrol and its activities once it reached Uitkomst that evening and the following dawn:

"Auf Umwegen gelangten obige Freiwillige nachts zu dem Joubert'schen hause, luden in fieberhafter Tätigkeit alles Bewegliche auf 3 Wagon, trieben vor Tagesgrauen ungefähr 500 Stück Großvieh zusammen und zogen dann mit undendlichen Mühen durch den Busch nach Grootfontein zu.  Als sie die drei Fahrstunden vor den Orte liegende Fläche erreicht hatten, ritten sie voran, da die Feinde ihnen nicht gefolgt waren und für die Wagon keine Gefahr mehr vorhanden var.   Bald begegnete ihnen Oberleutnant Volkmann der mit 10 Mann hilfe bringen wollte.  Sie ließen nun die Wagon nach Grootfontein weiter fahren, kehrten aber selbst um, die Herero anzugreisen. (Rust 1905: pg 18)

which I have roughly translated as follows:

"The volunteers came at night by a roundabout way to Joubert’s home,  loaded with feverish activity everything movable into 3 wagons, driving before the gray light of dawn approximately 500 head of large stock together and then covered with infinite pains through the bush to Grootfontein.  When they had driven for three hours they reached the flat and rode ahead, because the enemy did not follow them and no danger existed for the wagons.  Soon they met Oberleutnant Volkmann, who wanted to bring 10 men to help.  Now they let the wagons continue to Grootfontein, but turned themselves around to attack the Herero."

Even with such a wealth of cattle within his grasp, Mbatona did not pursue the Boers from Uitkomst and their escorts.  They were not his objective when he moved out on the morning of January 18th with his men, a mounted escort preceding the rest of his dismounted force.  Just where he was planning to go next may never be known, for before he had proceeded  very far East on the road from Uitkomst he was surprised and attacked by Oberleutnant Volkmann.  We will consider contemporary evidence that provides an order of battle of this fight in the next post in this series.

* for a bibliography of the sources referenced here and others relevant to the battle of Uitkomst, please read the preceding post in this series.

Monday, August 18, 2014

German Source Material for the Battle of Uitkomst: An Annotated Bibliography (Battle of Uitkomst Part VI)

The list of German sources that relate to the battle of Uitkomst is a short one.  In some instances, this engagement from the first week of the German-Herero War rates barely a mention, while others offer brief clues as to the identities of some of the participants.  All the contemporary accounts are in German, but through persistent sleuthing I have been able to locate complete electronic versions of a number of these sources online.  There are no known accounts, oral histories or written testimonies, that tell the story from the Herero perspective.

I am aware of just one writer - Paul Rohrbach - who was an actual participant.  Between 1904 and 1909 he wrote three extremely interesting and detailed accounts for different publications that differ from each other in minor but important ways.  I have not been able to locate an official report by the German commander, Oberlt. Richard Volkmann, which in not surprising given the confusion and uncertainty of the time (the Governor was away in the south dealing with an unrelated uprising) and the subsequent destruction of the Schutztruppe records in the British invasion of DSWA in 1915 and during the bombing of Berlin in WWII. 

Still, there is a good deal of information in German that is of value - if one takes the time to reconcile discrepancies among the main accounts and considers the relative value of each source - and that can help us form a better understanding of what likely took place on January 18th when a small mixed force of German troops and war volunteers from the Grootfontein area confronted a larger Herero force marching in column. 

The following is an annotated biography of this source material, with links to where each may be read online and comments about what each contains and its value as evidence.  It probably should have been provided earlier in this series, though some of the most important accounts only became available to me after I started writing it.  If it ever makes its way into publication I'll make it part of the documentation and literature review section.

  • Deutsches Kolonialblatt;Amtsblatt für die Schutzgebiete des Deutschen Reich,  Herausgegeben in der Kolonial-Abteilung des Auswärtigen Amts. [German Colonial Journal: Official Journal for the Reserve Areas of the German Reich, Edited by the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office], Vol. 15; Berlin: E. S. Mittler und Sohn, 1904.      

    :  These colonial records include summary reports of official telegrams received from German Southwest Africa from the start of the Herero uprising.  Pages 164 and 165 deal with German casualty reports relating to Uitkomst and mention the occupations of two of the wounded war volunteers.  Also of biographical interest is also a very long report from Oberleutnant Richard D. Volkmann's expedition to the Okavango and Caprivi region in late 1903.
  • Fitzner, Rudolf; Deutsches kolonial-Handbuch: Ergänzungsband; [German Colonial Handbook: Supplement]; Berlin: Hermann Paetel, 1904  

    :  Fitzner complied these annual accounts "according to official sources".  Essentially an Almanac summarizing census details for the German Colonies, the 1904 handbook includes a general breakdown of the population of the Grootfontein District for the preceding year by primary place of residence and national origin for the year.  Prior editions of the Handbook from 1902 and 1903 differ as to the names and number of farms listed, and indicate that after 1901 the Waterberg station was no longer part of the Grootfontein District.  Boer farms are clearly underrepresented, although the breakdown of Boers to Germans remains at least 2 to 1 and is likely much larger when their extensive families are taken into account.  Fitzner says that there were 215 men women and children of white origin in the District in 1903, only 47 of whom were Germans.  Even if he does not include the Schutzetruppe detatchment in his figures (and he does appear to list them as residents of the military outposts he names), they are a distinct minority of the white population.
  • Großer Generalstab, Armee (Prussia)Die Kämpfe der deutschen Truppen in Südwestafrika.  Af Grund amlichen Materials bearbeitet von der Kriegsgeschichen Abteiling I des Großen Generalstabes.  Erster Band (von 2): Der Feldzug gegen die Herero [The Struggles of German Troops in South-West Africa.  Based on official materials arranged by Military History Division 1 of the Great General Staff.  Volume 1 (of 2): The Campaign against the Hereros]; Berlin, Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, 1906. 

    :  Together with the the records of the Marine-Expeditionary Force and the Landing Party from S.M.S "Habicht" (neither of which bears directly on the Battle of Uitkomst), the
    Generalstab History is a remarkable achievement and serves as the principle source of information on the German-Herero conflict. The Generalstab History is one of just four sources that describe the events leading up to Uitkomst and the fight itself with any detail (pgs 80, 81), and it informs what other writers had to say about the war when they wrote their own memoirs.  Some of the information used to compile the Generalstab History may not have been, strictly speaking, official materials - images of Owikokorero and Owiumbo, for example, come from the 1905 memoir of Oberlt. Erich v. Salzmann.  As official documentarians the Generalstab were capable of extraordinary precision operating at remote distance from the events it chronicled - in just five weeks they produced complete war maps for the entire colony that are exquisitely detailed cartographic marvels - but they also had blind spots and tended to narrowly focus on the forces within the Army's purview.  This sometimes leads to downplaying or even omitting entirely the roles of its sister Naval branch of service.  In the case of Uitkomst the account glosses over the nature and composition of Volkmann's mixed force, most especially the Boers who made up at least a third of the overall number of men under his command.  It is the only account that specifically a partially mounted Herero force, with the horsemen leading a Herero column with about 170 "well-armed", partialy mounted Herero that Volkmann attacked.   It does not note than only some of the Hereros had firearms.
Theodor G. v. Leutwein

  • Leutwein, Theodor G. v.: Elf Jahre Gouverneur in deutsch-südwestafrika [Eleven Years Governor in German South-West Africa]; Berlin: Ernst Siegfied Mittler und Sohn, 1908.

    Comments:  Leutwein's memoir covers his entire tenure in South-West Africa. 
    Although not entirely do to circumstances he could control or have forseen, the most significant German military defeats and setbacks of the war happened on his watch.  He was supplanted as the senior military commander in June, 1904 with the arrival of Generalleutnant Lothar von Trotha, though he remained Governor of the colony.  Leutwein's war policy differed significantly from von Trotha's and he was brushed aside by the General. He was supported by a faction of long serving Schutztruppe officers (among them Richard D. Volkmann) and his memoir must be seen in these lights.  Leutwein offers a detailed account of the battle of Uitkomst (pgs 482, 483) that differs in some small details from the Generalstab History and goes into more detail about the number of Boers and volunteers who rode with Volkmann.  There is also an excellent profile portrait of Oberlt. Volkmann included in Leutwein's memoir. Leutwein agrees with the Generalstab that there were about 170 Herero with the riders at the head of the column and that Volkmann lost 7 mounts from his own force.  Leutwein also fails to mention that only some of the Hereros had firearms.
  • Rohrbach, Paul: "Zum Hererokrieg im Südwestafrika: Skizze aus dem Norddistrikt Grootfontein" ["For The Herero War in South-West Africa: Sketch of the Northern District of Grootfontein"], In Die Woche [The Week], Vol 6, Issue 23, Pgs 1025-1028, Berlin: June 4, 1904.

    Comments: Dr. Paul Rohrbach was a colonial official (
    Ansiedlungskommissar, or Settlement Commissioner) who was in Grootfontein when the war broke out and who fought as a volunteer in his first engagement at Uitkomst.  His are the only eyewitness accounts that I have been able to locate from Volkmann's small force.  As such they are invaluable, and include a trove of detail not found in other sources, most especially about the Herero leaders and the Boer contingent in Volkmann's force.  Rohrbach was a prolific writer, and over the course of five years he published at least three distinct accounts of the battle, each with different emphasis and audiences in mind. 

    His article in Die Woche was published less than six months after he fought at Uitkomst.  It includes a number of unique photographs of the Grootfontein District taken late in 1903 while touring the District with Oberlt. Volkmann.  Uitkomst itself rates a paragraph in Rohrbach's article, in which he says that Volkmann rode out from Grootfontein to confront the Herero column with half the garrison (very small indeed, given the distribution of his 20-25 man Schutztruppe detachment across the District), and a force mostly comprised of war volunteers and boers.  He estimates the Herero force at about 150 men with 60 rifles.  He does not describe the sequence of events during the battle as fully or as personally as in his later writing about Uitkomst.
  • Rohrbach, Paul: "Bei Uitkomst"["At Uitkomst"], In Deutsche Reiter in Südwest :Selbsterlebnisse aus
    den Kämpfen in Deutsch-Südwestafrika
    [German Rider in South-West: Personal Experiences from the Fighting in German South-West Africa], pgs 242, 243,
    Dincklage-Campe, Friedrich, Freiherr von, Editor; Berlin: Deutsches Verlagshaus Bong & Co, 1908

    Comments: This two page account appeared in Deutsche Reiter in
    Südwest, a remarkable compilation of 1st person accounts by participants in military engagements in German Southwest Africa, These are principally from the Herero and Nama Wars of 1904-1908 but also include early colonial skirmishes.  This was the most widely distributed popular history of the war.  In some ways, in both content and function, it reminds me of the four volume Battles and Leaders of the Civil War published in America by the Century Magazine in the 1880s, though mercifully it has fewer pieces by senior officers with axes to grind.  Some of the participant accounts in Deutsche Reiter, like Rohrbach's, measurably add to our understanding of the course of certain events, while others are anecdotes of less certain veracity. The color Carl Becker painting "Gefecht bei Uitkomst" used in the start of this blog series appears between pages 40 and 41 of Deutsche Reiter.  There is another picture of Volkmann elsewhere in the book, but Rohrbach's is the only description of Uitkomst.  The picture of him at the beginning of this post comes from his contribution. 

    Both this piece and Rohrbach's diary of this period published in 1909 are in close agreement with each other in many respects but differ
    in significant ways from the sequence of events described in Generalstab version of the fight at Uitkomst.   "Bei Uitkomst" omits some of the information contained in Rohrbach's diary - the fighting qualities of the boers are not subject to his analysis - and he rather overestimates the Herero force at 250 men, though again with about 60 rifles.  Rohrbach gives the number of Volkmann's force after they met up with the Boer wagons coming in from Uitkomst at 21 rifles (15 men under Volkmann from Grootfontein and the rest from the wagon escort).  He also provides the only mention made of the last name of one of the Boers who rode alongside Volkmann just before contact was made with the Herero - one of the Osthuizens who farmed near Grootfontein. He also references personal communication with now Hauptmann Volkmann, who had become a good friend, so this may be as close as we will come to Volkmann's perspective in the absence of any official report or letters from him that may yet come to light.  He says there were three Herero leaders killed, including "Batona of Osondema", Kamaihamagoani of Waterberg, and the unnamed War General from Okahandja with the white ostrich feather in his hat.
  • Rohrbach, Paul: Aus Südwest-Afrikas schweren Tagen: Blätter von Arbeit und Abschied [From South-West Afrika's Difficult Days: Leaves of Work and Farewell], Berlin: Wilhelm Weicher, 1909

    Comments: This is the most personal, and the most comprehensive, of Rohrbach's published accounts of
    Dr. Paul Rohrbach, 1931
    his experience at Uitkomst and what took place in that fight.  He may have reworked his diary entries with an eye toward publication, yet seems to have made a conscious effort to set down his impressions as a participant as well as a recorder of history.  There are some sections that are nearly the same as what he contributed to
    Deutsche Reiter - details about the Herero leaders and how the battle played out after Volkmann's charge.  The charge itself is described as it was experienced by Rohrbach: a halt to observe and discuss something "bright" observed moving on the road ahead of them, then the sound of gunshots from where Volkmann and a boer (Osthuizen) were riding on the right, every rifle coming out of its sling or scabbard and Volkmann charging off thorough the bush toward the enemy with the rest of the force following behind.  It is possible, though further analysis of his account is needed before I am confident making this assertion, that Rohrbach's description of the charge indicates that it was made in column rather than in line.  The Herero had just come out into the open and immediately withdrew into the cover of the surrounding thornveld when Volkmann's men approached and plunged after them.  This is a very different version of events than that reported in the Generalstab history or which contends that the Herero column was struck and scattered, with those without horses taking casualties. 

    Rohrbach does not mention mounted Herero as per the Generalstab history (perhaps he was too far back in the column to see them), and he estimates the total number of Herero at around 130.  He does not mention captured horses as Leutwein does. Nor does he describe Volkmann's now dismounted force as in danger of being enveloped after the Herero rallied.  Instead, he describes long distance sniping at unseen targets with negligible effect, leading Volkmann to remount and lead his command forward to engage and pierce the enemy center and then fight its divided flanks.  If the battle indeed happened this way, the German casualties were likely incurred at this stage.  Rohrbach also describes how the Herero left the field, initially in good order but later in full flight, and what prevented Volkmann from attempting to pursue them.  He credits Volkmann's leadership, despite the excellent marksmanship of his men and especially the boers, with the tenacity and discipline that enabled his mixed force to prevail.  He says the boer way of fighting (which the Schutztruppe had emulated), would have been indecisive without the will to engage the enemy in close combat as Volkmann had the will to do. He describes the sound of gunshots from three types of Herero rifles (a few repeaters, Martini Henrys, and German Model 88 rifles).  He also says there were 20 men with Volkmann (4 men of the Troop and the rest about equally divided among Germans and Boers).  He lists the three dead Herero leaders the same way as in
    Deutsche Reiter : Batona, Kamaihamagoani and the War leader with the white ostrich feather.
  • Rust, Conrad: Krieg und Frieden im Hereroland : aufzeichnungen aus dem Kriegsjahre 1904
    [War and Peace in Hereroland: Records from the War Year 1904],
    Leipzig : L. A. Kittler, 1905.

    Comments: Johann Conrad Rust (1855-1921) wrote as a self-identified farmer who settled at Monte Christo near Otjizeva in the Windhoek District of  South-West Africa.  Rust had previously emigrated from Germany to South Africa in 1879, arriving in Southwest Africa from the Western Cape in 1900.  He was also a noted botanist, but his extensive collection was lost when he had to abandon his farm in 1904 during the Herero War and remove to the safety of Windhoek. He also started a newspaper that year, the
    Windhuker Nachrichten [Windhoeker News] - and dedicated himself to writing a "settler's history" of the war as a tribute to the fallen.  Some researchers believe that Rust had official sanction to write his history and therefore access to official sources, some of which may long since have been destroyed, and certainly he provides specific details about civilian casualties in the war that are considered as close to definitive as it is now possible to get.  Rust describes Uitkomst on pgs 18 and 19 of his account, and includes specific descriptions of the wounds suffered by the fallen in Volkmann's force.  He estimates the Hereros under Mbatona (Batonna) at 180 (with about 60 rifles) and also references a war leader with a great white ostrich feather in his hat who Rohrbach identifies as Kamaihamagoani.  He says they had plenty of ammunition for the older Model 71 rifle and that several horses were captured.  He also describes communication between Batona and the Boer Grobler in the days before the battle about removing his children from school and going with the other Boers to a neutral place where they would not be considered combatants.  He provides details of specifric interest to fellow farmers - the number of cattle and wagons with the Boer Joubert's group that fled Uitkomst toward Grootfontein - but offers fewer specifics than either Rohrbach or the Generalstab about the sequence of the fight itself. 
  • Schwabe, Kurd:  Der Krieg in deutsch-südwestafrika, 1904-1906 [The War in German South-West Africa, 1904-1906], pg 112, Berlin: C.A. Weller, 1907

    Comments: Kurd Schabe was a long serving Schutztruppe officer and had a staff position during the Herero War.  His history has many photographs of interest to researchers of this period (including another view of Volkmann) but makes only brief mention of Uitkomst and the distribution of German troops in the district.
  • Stenographische Berichte über die Verhandlungen des Reichstags [Stenographic Reports of the Proceedings of the Reichstag], Volume 209; Berlin, 1905

    Comments:  These official proceedings of the German Empire's legislative branch include a comprehensive list of war damage claims from the German-Herero War broken down for each District in the colony.  They describe not only the farms that were affected but also those that were not, and as such are the most comprehensive census available of the number and location of each settlement in the Grootfontein District. 
    Paul Rohrbach would eventually be appointed by the German government to settle these damage claims. In addition to enumerating losses claimed, the names and nationalities of those at each settlement are provided, along with the size of each property.  From these records, as well as the chronologies provided in Rohrbach and Rust's accounts, it is possible to determine something of the movements and motivations of the Herero force under Batona prior to Uitkomst, and that most of the Boer settlements - even those in the line of march -were not targeted, while their German neighbors were.