Cetywayo returned no answer, and in January 1879 a British force under General Thesiger (Lord Chelmsford) invaded Zululand.
Lord Chelmsford had under him a force of 650o Europeans and 8200 natives; 3000 of the latter were employed in guarding the frontier of Natal; another force of 1400 Europeans and 400 natives were stationed in the Utrecht district.
On the 22nd of January the centre column (1600 Europeans, 2500 natives), which had advanced from Rorke's Drift, was encamped near Isandhlwana; on the morning of Isandhl- that day Lord Chelmsford moved out with a small wane force to support a reconnoitring party.
Lord Chelmsford and the reconnoitring party returned to find the camp deserted; next day they retreated to Rorke's Drift, which had been the scene of an heroic and successful defence.
The Zulu, however, made no attempt to enter Natal, while Lord Chelmsford awaited reinforcements before resuming his advance.