Imvubu Newsletter

Illustrations Of Sandile In Death

© Hirst, M. 2005 Imvubu 17: 1, 4-5.

On 7 June 1878 a detachment of the Kaffrarian Rangers, consisting of forty men under the command of Captain John Landrey of the Frankfort special police, recovered Sandile’s dead body in the Dontsa Forest (cf. Milton 1983: 278-9, Hummel 1989: 165-6). They wrapped the body in a blanket unceremoniously taken from one of Sandile’s councillors, who had assisted the military in locating it. The following day it was strapped on to the back of a horse and taken to Commandant Schermbrucker’s camp at Isidenge, where it was placed on an old wagon canvas lying on some straw in a shed.

On 9 June 1878 the body was wrapped in the canvas, secured with rope and carried by eight Mfengu pallbearers to the burial site on Schuch’s farm, where it was lowered into a grave dug between the graves of two white troopers under an apple tree in a deserted corner of the garden.

There are at least five illustrations, depicting Sandile in death, which were apparently made prior to his burial. The first illustration to be published appeared in The Graphic on 31 August 1878 and is reproduced by Milton (1983: 279). It depicts Mfengu levies filing past Sandile’s body triumphantly chanting and shaking their spears, an event that reputedly took place prior to the burial on Sunday 9 June. The identity of the artist and the circumstantial details of the sketch’s production are unknown.

Then there is the illustration showing Sandile’s right arm, which had been mutilated by wild animals. The following note appears at the bottom of the sketch. “Sandili (sic) lying in state, Isidenge June 9th 1878. Sketched by special correspondent of ‘Cape Mercury’.” The sketch is signed by GH, whom Hummel (1989: 164) identifies as George A. H. Hay, joint owner with his brother, William Hay, of a bookbinding firm in King William’s Town and similarly co-founder of The Cape Mercury in 1875. Hummel describes Hay’s illustration as “the only contemporary sketch of the burial”, which is clearly incorrect. Hay’s sketch was never published in The Cape Mercury, but Dersley and Morley, professional photographers in King William’s Town, photographed it, mounted it on printed card and probably sold it locally as a memento of the event. Below Hay’s sketch, the photographers printed the following information. “Sandili, Chief of the Gaika Tribe, wounded in action 29th May; died 4th June, age 57years; buried at Isidenge 9th June 1878. Note – When the body was discovered it had been partly eaten by wild animals; the bullet entered the right side passing out at the back. Sandili’s left leg was very much smaller than the right.” The foregoing description of Sandile’s wound is contradicted by the official report of the military medical officer, Herbert Everitt, who carried out an examination of the body. He noted that a Snider bullet had entered Sandile’s right back just above the groin and had exited on the left front between the seventh and eighth ribs (cf. Hummel 1989: 165-6).

There are two sketches made “on the spot” by Henry Clarence Marcus, a trooper in the Riversdale Mounted Burghers (cf. Forsyth, p. 102), on the 8 and 9 June 1878 respectively. Born on 13 December 1857, Marcus was about twenty years of age at the time. I am grateful to Mrs Rosemary Wilson of Port Elizabeth, H. C. Marcus’ granddaughter, for supplying copies of her grandfather’s two sketches and information about him. The first sketch appeared in an article by Dr John Muir of Riversdale, a well-known environmentalist at the time, published in the popular Afrikaans periodical, Die Huisgenoot, on 9 February 1930. Like George Hay’s sketch above, Marcus’ sketch shows Sandile’s mutilated right arm. Marcus’ second sketch is of Sandile’s profile.

Finally, there is Major John North Crealock’s sketch, which is dated 9 June 1878 and entitled “Sandili – dead and alive” (cf. Hummel 1989: 69). At the bottom of the sketch the artist appended the note – “N. B. Taken from the best authorities”- suggesting that he was not present when the body was found nor at the burial. According to Captain Landrey’s report, Sandile’s body was quite naked when found except for a necklace, which was apparently removed on the spot and later handed to Commandant Schermbrucker for transmission to Queen Victoria. Interestingly enough, Crealock’s sketch shows Sandile wearing the necklace in question. It probably consisted of Nerina shells, rather than beads, which were white with distinctive dark discolourations at both ends.


Forsyth, D. R. (N.D.) South Africa War Medal 1877/8/9: The Medal Roll. (A book privately printed by the author a copy of which is in the Amathole Museum Library, King William’s Town.).

Hummel, C. 1989. (ed.) The Frontier War Journal Of Major John Crealock 1878. Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society.

Milton, J. 1983. The Edges of War: A History of Frontier Wars (1702-1878). Cape Town: Juta.