We left off with Kgosi Montshiwa’s Barolong booRatshidi, along with a number of Bahurutshe refugees under Kgosi Lentswe, having relocated to Setlagole. From their new stronghold they joined the Bakwena and Bangwaketse in launching raids on Boer farms in the Transvaal.
In an attempt to regain the initiative, the supreme Transvaal Boer leader, Andries Pretorius, decided to personally lead a commando against Setlagole. He hoped that after he had crushed the Barolong, he would link up with what was left of Scholtz’s forces to finally impose a settlement on Dikgosi Sechele of Bakwena and Senthufe of Bangwaketse.
To accomplish his initial task, the Boer President called for a force of 1,000 Boers to come together at Mooiriver. But there he, joined by Commandant Schutte, was only able to raise about 400 men. Dissension in the Boer ranks prevented another 300 or so men under Commandant Schoeman from joining him. Still others elected to remain concentrated in various defensive laagers scattered across the western Transvaal.
On the 26th of December 1852 Pretorius decided that he could wait no longer. His men rode out of Mooiriver accompanied by an unknown number of auxiliaries and some 100 ox wagons.
Before departing, he dispatched a final order to Schoeman to rendezvous with his men at Groenfontein. But, Pretorius failed to wait there himself. Of this “misunderstanding at Groenfontein” he later reported to his Volksraad or “People’s Assembly”:
“No excuse is necessary for I was obliged to do what I did, since my [scouting] patrol had been captured [by Batswana] and I had to move out against the enemy with all force.”
When in late December 1852 news reached the southern Batswana freedom fighters assembled at Setlagole that Andries Pretorius was gathering together a large commando at Mooiriver there was some panic in their ranks. Letsapa, the newly installed Kgosi of the Barolong booRatlou overruled his young lions by deciding to seek asylum with the heretofore neutral Mahura, Kgosi of the Batlhaping at Taung.
But the Barolong booRatshidi Kgosi, Montshiwa, accompanied by Lentswe’s Bahurutshe decided to wait for the arrival of the commando at Mosite, a strategic location some 30 kilometres further to the west. Altogether the Batswana at Mosite consisted of about 2,000 men. But of these, perhaps only about 100 were armed with guns.
Pretorius caught up with Montshiwa and Lentswe’s forces on the 7th of January 1853. The battle commenced immediately with the Boers charging on horseback across a flat open plain. Behind their stone walled entrenchments on an elevation the outnumbered Batswana gunmen waited.
As the Boers approached within firing range, a slightly stout figure with a tall hat on a grayish white horse crossed the gun sight of Mococe aMarumo. Unlike most of his comrades
Mococe pulled his trigger squarely hitting Pretorius, who was taken from the battlefield. Falsely believing that the Boer President had been killed by the opening shot, Mococe’s name has since been celebrated by the Barolong with the following verses (taken from original Serolong text as transcribed by the pioneer Motswana historian and Southern African patriot Dr. S.M. Molema):
“Mogale wa pitse e tshweu ga bonwe, Moetapele wa masaropo o jele mmu, O phamotswe ke phamole ya ga Marumo, A mo isa bogwera bo iwang ke Masweu le Bantsho.
“Nnoi o a lele, ere a lela mathlo a gagwe a kwano, Ebile o futsa nkwe ya losika loo Makgetla, O futsa phamole e testsweng ke Marumo, A re setlhodi sele se re jetsa banna, sa tlhoga sa re baya ka boswagadi.”
“The hero of the white horse is nowhere to be seen, The leader of the white troops has licked the dust; He has been snatched by the eagle of Marumo, He is initiated into colour-blind mysteries.
“His lady is in tears, but her eyes look away, As she curses the tiger of the Makgetla breed, She curses the eagle that is born of Marumo, Says that monster has eaten up our husbands, And thus condemned us to dismal widowhood.” The legend of the son of Marumo aMakgetla’s shot was subsequently reinforced by the fact that the ailing Pretorius did in fact die six months later. In this respect, one cannot discount the possibility that the Morolong’s bullet contributed to his passing.
At least three Boers and a larger, but unknown, number of Batswana died in the engagement at Mosite, which lasted until sunset when the Commando finally retired. Among the slain was the courageous Lentswe. The next morning, the Boers found the battlefield deserted.
Low on water for his men, horses and oxen alike, the wounded Pretorius decided to give up the chase and head back to Mooiriver. For his part, Montshiwa had once more withdrawn further to the west, stopping when he reached Morokweng. The Barolong remained there until August 1853, that is, for the remainder of the war.
While the Boers had certainly not been defeated at Mosite, they had also once more failed to achieve a decisive victory. Unable to overcome concentrations of armed Batswana in open battle, their farms remained at the mercy of stealthy roving mephato (age-regiments). All the while, the Boers were left to rot in their heavily defended laagers.