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Fourth Frontier War

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1811-1812

The Fourth Frontier War was neither the direct or indirect consequence of the anger emanated from the three previous frontier wars and the violation of the agreements that declared the Zuurveld region a ‘neutral ground’. Ignoring the agreement, the Xhosas occupied the 'neutral ground', an act that prompted the Cape government in 1809 to send Lt-Col Richard Collins to tour the frontier areas. After touring the areas he recommended that the Xhosa be expelled from the Zuurveld, which should be secured by dense white settlement, and that the area between the Fish and the Keiskamma Rivers be unoccupied by black or white.

Many historians believe that the Fourth Frontier War came as a surprise to the Xhosa as the opposition troops were well prepared, unlike in three previous encounters. The British Army charging the enermy at Zuurveld. In 1811, Colonel John Graham took the area with a mixed-race army. Subsequently, in January and February 1812, 20 000 Gqunukwebes and Ndlambes were driven across the Fish River by British troops in conjunction with commandos from Swellendam, George, Uitenhage and Graaff-Reinet under the overall command of Lt-Col John Graham. On the site of Colonel Graham's headquarters arose a town bearing his name Grahamstown. It is one of the first towns to be established by British in South Africa. Post the war, a line of frontier forts was built to hold the frontier, but an attempt to establish a dense Boer settlement behind them botched.

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Consequently the Governor, Sir Charles Somerset, made a verbal treaty with Gaika, the supposed paramount chief of the Western Xhosas. Unfortunately this agreement between Sir Charles Somerset and Gaika helped provoke a quasi-nationalist movement among the Western Xhosas, led by the 'prophet' Makana, which led to a renewal of the civil war between Gaika and Ndlambe. During the Fifth Frontier War (1818-1819), Lt-Col John Graham never had a direct role as he was at Simonstown where he was a commando. During the dying phase of the Fourth Frontier War, Piet Retief and three commandants of the new Stellenbosch commando went to relieve serving burghers on the eastern frontier. At the end of 1813 Retief moved to the eastern districts, where he married the widow Magdalena Johanna Greyling.