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
[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
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
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