The word Zulu means ‘heaven’, but for the suddenly besieged and minute British garrison at Rorke’s Drift, among them a key faction of Irish soldiers, it represented a hellish horde of warriors from the Zulu nation.
A Bloody Night documents the terrifying struggle of these Irishmen as thousands of poorly armed but well-trained Zulus unexpectedly hurled themselves in a head-long, deadly onslaught against their hastily barricaded trading station and mission hospital. The battle, a defining clash in the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war, was a bare struggle for survival; the deeds and heroics of the Irish soldiers, subdued within the grand narrative, were no less exceptional than that of their English counterparts. Dan Harvey brings examples of their sheer resilience to the fore.
The defence of Rorke’s Drift was an epic encounter and an exceptional piece of soldiering. Its tale of courage in adversity against impossible odds endures; the little-known but significant role of those Irishmen present is no less absorbing a story, and all the more intriguing for its unheralded heroism.
Table of Contents
- Prologue: Fight or Flight
- Advance to Contact
- The People of Heaven
- The Army of Empire
- ‘Day of the Dead Moon’: The Battle of Isandlwana
- Estimate of the Situation
- ‘No power could stand against …’
- ‘Now We Must Make a Defence’
- ‘The First Rush’
- ‘Fix Bayonets’
- Rifle-butts, Bullets, and Bayonets
- Fighting Fear
- ‘Do or Die’
- ‘Dawn Chorus’
- Life after Rorke’s Drift
Lieutenant Colonel Dan Harvey has served on operations at home and abroad for over thirty-five years to date. He is the author of A Bloody Day: The Irish at Waterloo, Into Action: Irish Peacekeepers Under Fire, 1960–2014 and Soldiers of the Short Grass: A History of the Curragh Camp.