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Watch Tower, Peddie

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Post date: 07/08/2012
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History: The national road to East London by-passes the village of Peddie on the right; just beyond the village it veers sharply to the left past a plantation of blue-gum trees. The old Watch Tower of Fort Peddie stands hidden amongst these trees.
This fort is one of the oldest on the eastern frontier. At the end of the Fifth Xhosa War, Lord Charles Somerset proclaimed the land between the Fish and the Keiskamma Rivers as neutral territory. In this territory Fort Willshire and the fort that was later to be named after Lieut.- Col. John Peddie of the 72nd Regiment, were built.
In 1835, after the Sixth Xhosa War, Sir Benjamin D’Urban annexed the land between the Keiskamma and the Kei Rivers and called it the Province of Queen Adelaide. He transferred 17 000 loyal Fingo with their 22 000 head of cattle from Gcalekaland across the Kei River to the district of Peddie and the Tyumie Valley, in order to create a buffer against future Xhosa attacks. He also had a series of forts built west of the Keiskamma. These forts extended from Fort Willshire in the north, via Forts Montgomery, Williams and Line’s Drift to Fort Peddie in the south. All these forts consisted of earth- works with trenches on the outside and substantial stone buildings to house the cavalry and the infantry.
In December, 1836, the British authority over the Province of Queen Adelaide was abandoned on the order of the Secretary for the Colonies, Lord Glenelg, and the British troops were withdrawn. Certain Xhosa Chiefs with their tribes were allowed to continue to live in the former neutral territory. Fort Peddie was maintained in order to keep order and to protect the loyal Fingo against attacks by the Xhosa, and it played a most important part in the defence of the eastern frontier during the next few decades.
In order to strengthen the fort, the earthworks were gradually replaced by stone walls with loopholes, and the fort also had its own commissariat. The square, stone watch tower was built about 1841; it was double-storeyed and a cannon could be fired from the roof. The door was 3 metres above the ground and the ladder used by the garrison could be drawn up into the tower. The tower commanded a wide view over the surrounding countryside and was used to guard against unexpected attacks. In 1844 Lieut.-Col. Lewis wanted to incorporate it in his network of signal towers, but it never served this purpose very satisfactorily.
Fort Peddie first saw action in 1837 when it was attacked by the Xhosa, who hated and despised the Fingo dogs. On 28th May, 1846, during the War of the Axe, it suffered violent assaults by the Headmen Pato, Umhala, Seyolo and Stockwe, but these attacks were beaten off without loss. After that the Watch Tower was regarded as impregnable.
Proclaimed 1936"
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