Christiaan De Wet
Three Years War
Christiaan de Wet. Three Years War, 1st American Edition, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1902

From: Encyclopędia Britannica Online

Christiaan Rudolf de Wet
b. Oct. 7, 1854, Smithfield District, Orange Free State [now in South Africa]
d. Feb. 3, 1922, Dewetsdorp district, South Africa
Boer soldier and statesman, regarded by Afrikaner nationalists as one of their greatest heroes. He won renown as commander in chief of the Orange Free State forces in the South African War (1899-1902) and was a leader in the Afrikaner rebellion of 1914.

As a young man de Wet saw action in the Sotho wars of the 1860s and again with the Transvaal Boers in their struggle for independence (1880-81). In peacetime, de Wet, though a reluctant politician, served in the Volksraad (parliament) of the Transvaal and later in that of the Orange Free State.
At the beginning of the South African War, he headed a militia unit, and his military ingenuity and daring soon led to his appointment as commander in chief of the Orange Free State forces. With British troops in possession of much of his country, de Wet switched to hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. His military feats and miraculous escapes became legendary. It was with considerable reluctance that he surrendered, and, as acting president of the Orange Free State for one day, he signed the Peace of Vereeniging (May 1902).

From 1907 to 1910 de Wet served as minister of agriculture in the Orange Free State and participated in the convention (1908-09) that framed the constitution of the Union of South Africa. After the split between Prime Minister Louis Botha and J.B.M. Hertzog, de Wet joined Hertzog in founding the National Party (1914). The breach was widened with the outbreak of World War I, when de Wet opposed Botha's decision to conquer German South West Africa (now Namibia). De Wet's efforts to organize a rebellion led to his capture (December 1914) and a sentence of six years in prison for treason. 

After serving a year, however, he was released and allowed to live quietly on his farm. 

From "Wet, Christiaan Rudolf de" Encyclopędia Britannica Online
[Accessed 07 October 1999].

Publishers Notes on the 1st Edition. Reprinted 1986, Galago Publishers, Alberton, South Africa

On 2nd October 1899 a horseman arrived at his Orange Free State farm and served summonses for commando service on Christiaan Rudolf De Wet and his three eldest sons. They were to prepare for active service, providing themselves with horses, saddles and bridles, and rifles each with thirty rounds of ammunition (alternatively thirty lead balls, thirty percussion caps and half a pound of black powder). Nine days later on 11th October 1899, Britain and the Boer Republics went to war.

De Wet took his place in the ranks of the Heilbron Commando as a common burgher, but a few weeks later he was nominated and elected to Commandant. Two months afterwards on the 9th December 1899, President Steyn of the Orange Free State, appointed him to the rank of Vecht-Generaal - Fighting General. By the end of the war he would become Commandant General and Commander In Chief of all Boer forces of the Orange Free State.

After the British army had regrouped and reorganised after suffering several humiliating defeats, they advanced under the command of Lord Roberts and occupied Pretoria. Once Pretoria was occupied the British considered the war was over. The Boer commandos, however, took to the veld and carried on the fight as a guerrilla war.

De Wet soon began to show that his title of Fighting General was no sinecure. In the nearly three years until the 31st May 1902 when the war ended with the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging, De Wet established a worldwide reputation as a most remarkable guerrilla fighter. He was the man whom the British couldn't catch. The damage this virtually unschooled farmer who'd never had a formal lesson in military tactics, did to the British was little less than astonishing.

At the war's end his book in High Dutch De Stryd Tusschen Boer en Brit and its translation, Three Years War, became instant bestsellers and have been much in demand ever since.

Table of Contents

Biography of Christiaan de Wet
Publishers Notes on Three Years War
Table of Contents
Preface: C. R. de Wit
Chapter I: I Go on Commando as a Private Burgher
Chapter II: Nicholson's Nek
Chapter III: Ladysmith Besieged
Chapter IV: I am Appointed Vechtsgeneraal
Chapter V: The Overwhelming Forces of Lord Roberts
Chapter VI: Paardeberg.
Chapter VII: The Wild Flight from Poplar Grove.
Chapter VIII: The Burghers Return Home
Chapter IX: Sanna's Post
Chapter X: Four Hundred and Seventy Eight English Taken Prisoner at Reddersburg
Chapter XI: An Unsuccessful Siege
Chapter XII: The English Swarm Over Our Country
Chapter XIII: Our Position at the End of May, 1900
Chapter XIV: Roodewal
Chapter XV: I Make Lord Kitchener's Acquaintance
Chapter XVI: Bethlehem is Captured by the English
Chapter XVII: The Surrender of Prinsloo
Chapter XVIII: I am Driven int the Transvaal
Chapter XIX: I Return to the Free State
Chapter XX: The Oath of Neutrality


By way of introduction to my work, I wish, dear reader, to say only this short word: "I am no book-writer." But I felt that the story of this struggle, in which a small people fought for liberty and right, is justly said, throughout the civilized world, to be unknown, and that it was my duty to record my personal experiences in this war, for the present and for the future generations, not only for the Afrikander people, but for the whole world.

Not only did I consider this my duty, but I was encouraged to write by the urgings of prominent men among my people, of men of various nationalities, and even of several British officers.

Well, dear reader, I hope that you will not feel disappointed in reading these experiences, as it is not in me, as is perhaps sometimes the case with historical authors, to conjure up thrilling pictures, imaginary things, and put them together merely to make up a book or to make a name for themselves. Be that far from me ! In publishing my book (although it is written in simple style) I had one object only, viz. to give to the world a story which, although it does not contain the whole of the truth as regards this wondrous war, yet contains nothing but the truth.

The original has been written by me in Dutch, and I can therefore not be answerable for its translation into other languages.

C. R. De Wet

Christiaan De Wet, Three Years War, 1902
Chapter I: I Go on Commando as a Private Burgher
  Biography of General Christiaan Rudolph de Wet. Anglo-Boer War Museum.
Perspectives on the South African War. A collection of links to original and contemporary sources on the South African War.

The Pine Tree Web Home Page: A Collection of the Author's Links

Your feedback, comments and suggestions are appreciated.
Please write to: Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 2009
Last Modified: 5:45 PM on September 6, 2009