The Battle of Blaauwberg
In 1803, Britain handed the Cape back to the Dutch (who at that time had already formed the Batavian Republic), after taking it from the Dutch after the Battle of Muizenberg in 1795. However in 1806, forced by the Napoleonic Wars, Britain took the Cape from the Dutch for the second time after the Battle of Blaauwberg.
The Battle of Blaauwberg, which took place on 8 January 1806, was the first battle on the continent of Africa that was fought in European style.
Governor Lieutenant General Jan Willem Janssens, who was in charge of the Cape during the Battle of Blaauwberg, was well aware that his defense force was overpowered. However, he decided to engage the British, who fought under the command of Lieutenant General Sir David Baird, for the sake of the honour of his fatherland.
Jansens' army consisted of the following regiments:
- The 5th Battalion of the Regiment Waldeck
- A mercenary unit in Batavian service
- The 9th Battalion of the Batavian Rifles
- The 22 Regiment of Foot
- A Batavian infantry unit
- A small group of Batavian dragoons (mounted riflemen)
- A detachment of Batavian artillery under a Lieutenant Pellegrini
- About 200 French marines and sailors
- A contingent of locally born men of the Hottentot Light Infantry
- The light dragoons from Swellendam, and
- The Javanese Artillery Corps, recruited from freed slaves
During the battle, one of Governor Janses' regiments, the Waldeckers, fled the battlefield, abandoning the other regiments. This turn of events forced Governor Janssens to withdraw to the Hottentots-Holland area, where he stayed in the hope that French reinforcements would arrive at the Cape. The British invasion force then turned toward Cape Town and took over the city when the acting commander of the Castle, Colonel Van Prophalow, decided to hand the Castle over in order to avoid an attack on the city and the civilians.
On 10 January 1806, the Articles of Capitulation was signed by Lieutenant Colonel Baron von Prophalov on behalf of the Dutch and Lieutenant General Sir David Baird and Commodore Sir Home Popham, on behalf of the British.
The casualties of the Battle of Blaauwberg were 353 on the side of the Batavian army and 212 on the side of the British.
Since the Battle of Blaauwberg, the Cape was permanently under British control until 31 May 1910, when The Cape Colony and the Boer Republics became the Union of South Africa, which later became the Republic of South Africa in 1961.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you now that the area of Blaauwberg (Dutch for "Blue Mountain") got its name from the colour of the hill as seen from Cape Town?
Did you know that the British invasion force landed at Melkbosch Strand, and that it was called Losperd's Bay at the time?
Did you know that the British invasion force consisted of 60 ships and about 5000 soldiers, sailors and marines, while the defense force at the Cape was only about 2000 men?
Did you know that the local soldiers in Janssens' army spoke a universal language, which later became known as Afrikaans?
Did you know that Afrikaans is the third most popular spoken language in the Republic of South Africa, with 13.5% of speakers - outranked only by Zulu (22,7%) and Xhosa (16%), and with English (9.6%) in the fourth place?
Did you know that Jan Willem Janssens and Jacob Abraham De Mist forbade the further importation of slaves to the Cape and planned to set all the slaves at the Cape free?
Did you know that Jansens gave official recognition and protection to all faiths at the Cape, including Islam?
Did you know that a milkwood tree, which stood nearby the now gone cottage where the Articles of Capitulation was signed after the Battle of Blaauwberg, still exists and can be visited at the corner of Treaty and Spring Streets off Albert Road in Woodstock?
Did you know that the Treaty Tree at Woodstock used to be called the "Slave Tree" in the 1500's?
Did you know that the Portuguese explorer, Francisco de Almeida, and 64 of his Portuguese sailors were massacred by the Hottentots near the Treaty Tree In 1510, after which the Portuguese lost interest in the Cape?
Did you know that Woodstock was called "Papendorp" at the time when the Treaty of Capitulation was signed?
Governor Lieutenant General
Jan Willem Janssens
Lieutenant General David Baird
Battle of Blaauwberg battle field
SOUTH AFRICAN CANNON ASSOCIATION
GOOGLE MAP to the Treaty Tree in Woodstock.
GOOGLE MAP to the Battle of Blaauwberg battle site