Orange River War (1846–1850)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Boers vs. Great Britain
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): South Africa, between the Vaal
and Orange rivers
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Frontier conflict between
OUTCOME: Inconclusive, although the British beat back a
Boer incursion across the Vaal River
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Boers, 1,000; British, 1,000
CASUALTIES: 100 killed or wounded on both sides
Throughout much of the 19th century, the Boers (Dutch
colonial farmers of South Africa) came into increasing
conflict with the British who had control of the region.
During 1835–37, some 12,000 Boers migrated northward
and established their own independent states. Along the
frontier between these new Boer states and the British
colonial holdings warfare developed during 1846–50.
There was only a single set battle, and no war was formally
declared. However, the chronic conflict near the
Great Kei River and in the area between the Orange River
and the Vaal River was dubbed the Orange River War.
The single major battle of the war, at Boomplaats, on
August 29, 1848, resulted in the defeat of the Orange
Colony Boers under General Andreas Pretorius (1798–
1853) by a British force commanded by Sir Harry Smith
(1787–1860). As a result, the Boers retreated across the
Vaal, but violence continued sporadically.
See also BOER UPRISING; BOER WAR, FIRST; BOER WAR,
SECOND; BOER-ZULU WAR; JAMESON RAID.
Further reading: Leonard Thompson, A History of
South Africa (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press,