Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville: The Defence of Rorke's Drift (1880)


(Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

A painting by the French artist Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville (1835 – 1885). This historical piece shows the defence of Rorke's Drift (22–23 January 1879), a battle during the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879. By the 1870s, the British empire had expanded its colonies in South Africa. Expanding northward, it came soon into conflict with the Zulu kingdom. The Zulu kingdom was founded by Shaka kaSenzangakhona (better known as 'Shaka Zulu) and soon had a large part of what is now the Eastern half on South Africa under its control. In 1879 war broke out between the British empire and the Zulu kingdom and a British force of 7800 men invaded Zulu territory. At the battle of Isandlwana (22 January 1879), a force of 1800 British troops was decisively defeated by the Zulu army (the British force was almost completely wiped out). After its victory at Isandlwana, a force of about 4000 Zulu's then attacked a mission station and former trading post of James Rorke, called Rorke's Drift. Rorke's Drift itself was defended by about 150 British and colonial troops. The British managed to defend the outpost during series of attacks by the Zulu's who finally gave up their attack.At British side 17 men were killed versus at least 351 on Zulu side. The outpost was abandoned by the British after the battle. Painting from 1880.

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