The Washing of the Spears; The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation, Donald R. Morris, 1965
[Redvers] Buller was archetypical of the British field grade officer of the second half of the nineteenth century. It was a time when a career officer still needed few qualifications to follow the military trade beyond outstanding personal courage and the ability to conform with the contemporary concept of a gentleman. Buller was pre-eminent on both counts, and his courage verged on sheer rashness. He may have known the meaning of the word fear, but there is no evidence that he ever let it influence his conduct and he had no tolerance for it in others. His horsemanship was superb and his magnificent endurance let him ride most men into the ground.
He also possessed a very high order of personal leadership. He based his command on the pure force of his personality; he was stern without unjust harshness, and his demands were high but never more than he was giving himself. His enthusiasm was infectious, and he was one of the few Imperial officers who could squeeze out of irregular volunteers the performance and reliability expected of professional troops. He was, in fact, one of that small and fabled band of leaders men cheerfully follow to hell.
There were, unfortunately, serious flaws in his talents, and although the authorities were vouchsafed a glimpse of them at a critical moment in 1879, they passed unnoticed and their full import did not become apparent for another twenty years. His drinking was not yet a problem, but he had a terrible temper and his treatment of civilians was even brusquer than Wolseley's. He had threatened to horsewhip correspondents on the Gold Coast who filed copy that displeased him, and he once rose and kicked out of a mess tent a reporter who said he would read personal mail in search of a story. His leadership, moreover, so bright and sure when he rode at the head of a troop, simply did not extend beyond the range of his own voice. His powers of administration and organization were low, his grasp of strategy even lower. He was vociferous rather than articulate, and his positive manner masked the fact that what he said and wrote was not always what he actually had in mind. He was also indecisive. He made a superb major, a mediocre colonel, and an abysmally poor general.