After the Brirish occupation of Pretoria in June 1900 General Koos de la Rey set about reviving Boer morale in the western Transvaal and re-recruiting Burghers who had returned dejected to their farms. The British retaliated with a scorched earth policy intended to deny the mobile commandos access to sustenance from sympathetic farmers. By December the British appeared to have dominated the Magaliesberg area. Garrisons were stationed in Rustenburg and along the roads and farms were in ashes. Boer survival depended on finding supplies.
At dawn on 2 December a large wagon train left the Rietfontein military camp (near the present Hartbeespoort Dam) carrying Christmas provisions for the Rustenburg garrison. The following day the 138 wagons and military escort reached a point near Buffelspoort where the road winds through the foothills north of the main Magaliesberg range. Here de la Rey and 600 Boers lay in ambush. With him was a young combat general, Jan Smuts, about to face his first action after relinquishing his post as Attorney General to take part in the guerrilla phase of the war.
The attack was directed at the centre of the British convoy to split the military escort into two less effective halves. The rearguard was quickly destroyed and wagon by wagon the Boers moved along the length of the convoy until almost all had been captured. However the West Yorkshire Regiment under Major Wolrige-Gordon at the front of the convoy managed to take up a position on two high hills overlooking the road. There they made a courageous stand but by dusk many of the Yorkshire men had been killed or wounded and the remainder awaited the final attack with fixed bayonets. But de la Rey and Smuts had achieved their objective. They set fore to the remaining wagons and retired into the mountains with 1800 captured oxen, all the food, clothing and equipment they could carry and 75 prisoners who were soon stripped and released.