"March slowly, attack at dawn, and eat up the red soldiers," Zulu leader Cetshwayo allegedly told his troops before the Battle of Isandlwana. They did, and the result was a resounding defeat for imperial British troops in the Anglo-Zulu War.
Painting by Charles Edwin Fripp, from "South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. 1 (of 6)" by Louis Creswicke (1899)

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  • On January 22, 1879, a Zulu army defeated invading troops from the British Empire at the Battle of Isandlwana, in what is today the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This was an early battle in the Anglo-Zulu War, itself part of Britain’s long campaign to control what would become South Africa. 
     
    The Zulu troops at Isandlwana were led by the military strategist Ntshingwayo kaMahole. kaMahole led his army in an effective flanking maneuver that surprised the much smaller British force, which also included native African troops from the neighboring British colony of Natal. The Zulus were mostly armed with long spears and their trademark cowhide shields. Zulu leader Cetshwayo, learning of the possible invasion, had also bought muskets and rifles. However, these weapons were older, of an inferior quality, and most Zulu soldiers had not been trained in their use.
     
    The overwhelming setback shocked the British public and military leaders—this was perhaps the first time that an African army equipped with knives defeated a Western power armed with advanced weaponry. British leaders increased the number of troops and weaponry dedicated to the Anglo-Zulu War. The Zulu kingdom (sometimes called Zululand) was crushed just six months later.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    armed Adjective

    having weapons.

    army Noun

    military land forces.

    battle Noun

    violent encounter during a conflict.

    campaign Verb

    to conduct or coordinate activities designed to achieve a social, political, or military goal.

    colony Noun

    people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

    defeat Verb

    to overcome an enemy or obstacle.

    effective Adjective

    useful or able to perform a task.

    empire Noun

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    equip Verb

    to prepare or provide the right equipment.

    flank Verb

    to be or place at the side of something.

    inferior Adjective

    of lower quality.

    invasion Noun

    an attack or move to take possession.

    Isandlwana Noun

    hill in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

    kingdom Noun

    type of government with a king or queen as its leader, or the land ruled by that king or queen.

    Encyclopedic Entry: kingdom
    maneuver Noun

    a skillful movement.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    musket Noun

    firearm used from the 16th through the 19th centuries, similar to the modern rifle.

    overwhelm Verb

    to completely overpower.

    province Noun

    division of a country larger than a town or county.

    Encyclopedic Entry: province
    public Noun

    people of a community.

    rifle Noun

    firearm, shot from the shoulder, with spiral grooves in the gun barrel that allow the bullet to twist on exit.

    shield Noun

    large, flat piece of armor usually carried on the non-dominant arm, intended to protect against piercing weapons.

    strategist Noun

    expert in careful planning toward a goal (strategy).

    troop Noun

    a soldier.

    weapon Noun

    tool to hurt or combat an opponent.