Christiaan de Wet
Christiaan Rudolf de Wet (7 October 1854 – 3 February 1922) was a Boer general, rebel leader and politician.
Christiaan Rudolf de Wet
|State President of the Orange Free State|
30 May 1902 – 31 May 1903
|Preceded by||Martinus Theunis Steyn|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Born||7 October 1854|
Smithfield, Orange Free State
|Died||3 February 1922 (aged 67)|
Dewetsdorp, Orange Free State Province, Union of South Africa
|Spouse(s)||Cornelia Margaretha Krüger|
|Profession||Farmer, Boer general, politician|
|Nickname(s)||The Fighting General|
|Allegiance|| South African Republic (1880–1881, 1914)|
Orange Free State (1899–1902)
|Years of service||1880–1881, 1899–1902, 1914|
|Rank||First Boer War|
|Commands||Natal and Transvaal Kommandos|
|Battles/wars||Second Boer War|
De Wet is mentioned in Rudyard Kipling's poem Ubique. He was a close personal friend of Helene Kröller-Müller, who commissioned a statue of him in the Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands.
De Wet served in the first Anglo-Boer War of 1880–81 as a field cornet, taking part in the Battle of Majuba Hill, in which the Boers achieved a victory over the British forces under Major General Sir George Pomeroy Colley. This eventually led to the end of the war and the reinstatement of the independence of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, more commonly known as the Transvaal Republic.
Second Boer WarEdit
In September 1899, de Wet and his three sons were called up as ordinary private burghers without any rank. He was a member of the Heilbron kommando and they were ordered to proceed to the Natal frontier. On 11 October 1899, while he was reconnoitring the Natal frontier, De Wet was elected vice-commandant of Heilbron. He participated in the fight at Nicholson's Nek on 30 October, when 954 British officers and men surrendered. Thereafter, he took part in the Siege of Ladysmith.
On 9 December 1899, De Wet received a telegram from the State President, M.T. Steyn, informing him that he had been appointed a fighting general and was to proceed to the Western frontier. He found General Piet Cronjé in command of the Boer forces ensconced at Magersfontein, south of Kimberley, while the English were at the Modder River. De Wet was to be Cronje's second-in-command. The British advance commenced on 11 February 1900, with General French outflanking Cronje at Magersfontein and riding towards Kimberley. De Wet's raid on the ox wagon convoy at Watervals Drift, capturing 1600 oxen, did not stem the tide. The Siege of Kimberley was relieved on 15 February, and Cronje surrendered with 4000 men at Paardeberg on 27 February. Shortly thereafter, de Wet was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Free State forces. They could not contain the British advance towards the Free State capital, Bloemfontein, which was taken unopposed on 13 March 1900.
His next successful action was the surprise attack on Sanna's Post near Bloemfontein on 31 March 1900. That was followed on 4 April by the victory of Reddersburg. De Wet came to be regarded as the most formidable leader of the Boers in their guerrilla warfare. Sometimes severely handled by the British, sometimes escaping only by the narrowest of margins from the columns which attempted to surround him, and falling upon and annihilating isolated British posts, De Wet continued his successful career to the end of the war, striking heavily where he could, and evading every attempt to bring him to bay. His brother, Piet Daniel De Wet, another successful Boer general, was captured by the British in July 1901 and subsequently served against Christiaan as a member of the National Scouts, who were Boers serving with the British forces.
De Wet he is mounted, he rides up the street
The English skedaddle an A1 retreat!
And the commander swore: They've got through the net
That's been spread with such care for Christiaan De Wet.
There are hills beyond Winburg and Boers on each hill
Sufficient to thwart ten generals' skill
There are stout-hearted burghers 10,000 men set
On following the Mausers of Christian De Wet.
Then away to the hills, to the veld, to the rocks
Ere we own a usurper we'll crouch with the fox
And tremble false Jingoes amidst all your glee
Ye have not seen the last of my Mausers and me!
De Wet took an active part in the peace negotiations of 1902. On 30 May 1902, he briefly took on the role of acting State President of the Orange Free State, when President Steyn had to leave the negotiations due to illness. De Wet was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Vereeniging.
At the conclusion of the war he visited Europe with other Boer generals. While in England the generals unsuccessfully sought a modification of the peace terms concluded in Pretoria. De Wet wrote an account of his campaigns, an English version of which appeared in November 1902 under the title De Stryd tusschen Boer en Brit (Three Years War). In November 1907, he was elected a member of the first parliament of the Orange River Colony and was appointed minister of agriculture. In 1908-9 he was a delegate to the Closer Union Convention.
De Wet was one of the leaders of the Maritz Rebellion which broke out in 1914. He was defeated at Mushroom Valley by General Botha on 12 November 1914, taken prisoner by cmdt Jorrie Jordaan (the commanding officer was Colonel Brits) on 1 December on a farm called Waterbury in the Northwest province near Tosca. The general remarked: "Thank God it is not an Englishman who captured me after all". He was sentenced to a term of six years imprisonment, with a fine of £2000. He was released after one year's imprisonment, after giving a written promise to take no further part in politics.
A monument/needle was erected at Waterbury and consecrated by his grandson Dr Carel de Wet on 14 February 1970, who was then minister of Health
De Wet progressively weakened and at length, on 3 February 1922, he died on his farm. General Smuts, who had become prime minister, cabled his widow: "A prince and a great man has fallen today." De Wet was given a state funeral in Bloemfontein and buried next to President Steyn and Emily Hobhouse at the foot of the memorial to the women and children who died in the concentration camps. On the hundredth anniversary of his birth, a bronze equestrian statue, by Coert Steynberg, was unveiled at the Raadzaal in Bloemfontein.
Under the leadership of General Christiaan Rudolf de Wet a seemingly impossible war against an overwhelming and ruthless foreign aggressor came to an unprecedented end as a combined British force of over 50,000 soldiers could not capture De Wet and his remaining 700 Boer fighters on horse back. His relentless attacks and De Wet's strategic guerilla warfare tactics combined with mounting political pressure from the drawn-out war caused Britain to initiate a truce that ended the war.
Generaal Christiaan Rudolf de Wet is described as an unyielding strict leader that united the Boer forces and inspired exceptional loyalty. A man of great faith, conviction and tenacity, De Wet evidently never doubted that they would ultimately prevail against the British aggressors.
"If God is for us, who can stand against us?" The Fighting General.
- Kestell, J.D. Christiaan de Wet – 'n lewensbeskrywing. De Nationale Pers Beperkt. Cape Town 1920.
- Olivier, B. Krygsman Christiaan Rudolf de Wet – 'n lewensskets van Genl. C.R. de Wet. Tafelberg. Johannesburg 1971.
- Pienaar, A.J. Christiaan Rudolf de Wet in die Anglo-Boere oorlog. Unpublished M.A.-thesis, PU for CHE. 1974.
- Rosenthal, E. General De Wet – A Biography. Simondium. Cape Town 1968. (General De Wet at the Internet Archive)
- Scholtz, Leopold. Generaal Christiaan de Wet as Veldheer. Protea. Pretoria 2003.
- Van Schoor, M.C.E. Christiaan Rudolf de Wet – Krygsman en Volksman. Protea. Pretoria 2007.
- De Wet, Der Kampf zwischen Bur und Brite – Der dreijährige Krieg, (Leipzig, 1902)
- De Wet, Three Years' War. (Charles Scribner's Sons N.Y., 1902) [Translated from German] (digital copy at Project Gutenberg)
- De Wet, Christiaan Rudolf, Three Years War (October 1899 – June 1902), Archibald Constable and Co Ltd, Westminster, 1902.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- P. J. Sampson, Capture of De Wet and the South African Rebellion of 1914. (London, 1915)
- Rosenthal, Eric. General de Wet.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "De Wet, Christian". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 138.
- Rudyard Kipling – The Bard of British Imperialism Archived 20 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine at www.zeitcom.com
- "Art, architecture, and nature — Park Hoge Veluwe". www.hogeveluwe.nl. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- De Wet, Christiaan Rudolf, Three Years War (October 1899 – June 1902), Archibald Constable and Co Ltd, Westminster, 1902, p. 10.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 13.
- Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1979, p. 155; De Wet (Archibald), supra, pp. 21–26.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, pp. 29–31.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 35.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 37.
- Pakenham, supra, pp. 311–2
- Pakenham, supra, p. 319; De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 47.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 63.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 67.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 73.
- Pakenham, supra, p. 580
- Thomas Pakenham, page 542 The Boer War, ISBN 0-7474-0976-5
- Marq De Villiers (1988), White Tribe Dreaming: Apartheid's Bitter Roots as Witnessed by Eight Generations of an Afrikaner Family, page 232.
- De Wet (Archibald), supra, pp. 373–392
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