Books: Courage & Assegais

THE WASHING OF THE SPEARS by Donald R. Morris. 655 pages. Simon & Schuster. $12.

At the very tip of the ravine, the trooper reined his mount in horrified astonishment. Spread out below him were the Zulu impi, or horde: 20,000 warriors crouched silent as death, carpeting the floor of the valley for more than a mile. The South African sun danced on long hide shields, glinted off a few musket barrels and a forest of assegais, the double-edged spears that sliced a man's belly to let his evil spirit out.

Five miles to the west, at Isandhlwana, a mixed command of...

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