VRYHEID COMMANDO Personalities John Arthur Hassell An American with the Vryheid Commando,
An American mining engineer, descendant of Dutch Huguenots was living in Vryheid and working in Zululand when the Anglo Boer War started, Oct 1899. He immediately joined Ward 4 of the Vryheid Commando under Fieldcornet van der Berg. While he was with the Vryheid Commando, Hassell faught at the battles of Talana, saw action at Ladysmith and fighting along the Tugela River and Spioenkop. He was present at Colenso when Winston Churchill was captured. Twice he was wounded, once in the attack on Caesar’s Hill and again at Estcourt, where he received a bayonet thrust in the head which disabled him for several weeks and deprived him of the honour of being General Botha’s adjutant. On March 1900,h He was Appointed Captain in the “Verkennerskorps”
After the exciting days of the Natal campaign, believing there were other Americans in the country who would be willing to fight under an American leader, he placed a advertisement in the Standard and Diggers News (an English-language newspaper published in Johannesburg) That produced about sixty recruits, and succeeded with permission in gathering what probably was the strangest body of men in the war to form a unit called American Scouts. With these Hassell went strait south to fight against Lord Roberts.
Captain Hassell was born in New Jersey, and was well educated in American public schools and the schools of experience. He spent the five years before the war in prospecting and with shooting expeditions in various parts of South Africa, and had a better idea of the geological features of the country than any of the Commandants of the foreign legions that joined the Republican Forces
Following the battle of Dalmunutha on 21 Aug 1900, General Botha granted him exemption from further military service on account of the wound sustained by him, after which he returned to the USA.