The Museum Building
The battle of Blood River is depicted in the broader context of the Great Trek in the museum.The Granite Jawbone Wagon
The monument was completed in 1939 but could only be unveiled in 1947 because of the Second World War (1939-1945). The wagon was initially placed over the stone cairn that was erected in the middle of the laager with a window inside it through which the lighted rock cairn could be seen. It was moved to its current position in 1971 when the wagon laager was erected. The wagon is symbolically seen as the home, fortress and church of the Voortrekkers.
The Pyramid-shaped Beacon
The pyramid shaped beacon was erected during the Voortrekker Centenary in 1938 and is a “Covenant Renewal Beacon”.
The Stone Cairn
The stone cairn is the earliest memorial on the site. It was erected on 16 December 1866 when 40-50 wagons gathered to commemorate the battle of 1838.
The Bronze Wagon Laager
The wagon laager was erected as a replica of the original laager and was not meant to be a monument. This wagon laager was erected and unveiled on 16 December in 1971 on the site of the original laager of 1838. This reconstruction of a wagon laager is unique in the world. The wagons were constructed from wrought iron, covered with bronze and stand on concrete foundations. Each wagon is identical and has been modelled on the “Johanna van der Merwe” centenary commemoration wagon. The wagons in the laager without tents were used as ammunition wagons. To reconstruct the battle palisades that were used to keep the Zulu warriors out, wattle wood was used. Replica lanterns, fastened to long whip handles were placed at each wagon. The lights can be switched on request so that overnight visitors may have a preview of what the Voortrekkers experienced on the evening before the battle.
The Ships Cannon
Andries Pretorius brought this ship’s cannon with him from the Cape. It is mounted on a light undercarriage with two wheels. The cannon was placed facing east across the river. When loaded with shrapnel, pieces of pot iron and stones, it could fire a distance of at least 3 000 metres.
According to certain historians there were only two cannons at the battle of Blood River and according to others at least three. The northern opening of the laager served as a portal through which the Voortrekker force could go out and follow the Zulu forces. The ship’s cannon “Grietjie”, on a home-made carriage was placed here. The cannon has a range of 300 – 400 metres. The original cannon currently stands in the museum of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria. A second replica of the cannon “Grietjie” stands on the spot where the big cannon stood during the battle. It is not known what this cannon looked like.
How To Get There
The site is located 43 km from Dundee, 24 km from Nqutu and 73 km from Vryheid. This site is approached via a gravel road (De Jager’s Drift) off the R33 between Vryheid and Dundee. The site is sign posted with Blood River, Ncome or Blood River eNcome signs.
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