Remarkable People

ID #5220

Christiaan de Wet, Boer General, Rebel Leader and Politician, South Africa.

Christiaan Rudolf de Wet (1854-1922) was a Boer general, rebel leader and politician.

He was born on the farm Leeuwkop in the Smithfield district and later resided at Dewetsdorp which was named after his father. He served in the First Anglo-Boer War as a Field Cornet and took part in the Battle of Majuba where the Boers defeated the British under Major-General Sir George Colley. This led to the end of the war and the independence of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal).

From 1881 through 1896 he lived on his farm and became member of the Volksraad in 1897.

In 1899 he took part in early Second Anglo-Boer War battles in Natal as a commandant. Later, as a general, he served under Piet Cronjé in the west. His first successful action was the surprise of Sanna's Post near Bloemfontein, later followed by the victory of Reddersburg. Thereafter he was regarded as the most capable Boer leader. Sometimes severely handled by the British, he often escaped by the narrowest of margins. To the end of the war De Wet skillfully continued to evade attempts to bring him to bay.

He took part in the peace negotiations of 1902. When President Steyn became ill and had to leave the negotiations, he briefly (30 to 31 May) acted as State President of the Orange Free State and was one of the signatories to the Treaty of Vereeniging. At the conclusion of the war he visited Europe with other Boer generals. While in England they sought, unsuccessfully, to modify the terms agreed Pretoria.

He wrote an account of his campaigns -- The Three Years War – an English version of which appeared in November 1902. In November 1907 he was elected a Member of Parliament of the Orange River Colony (Free State) 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 in November, taken prisoner by Colonel Brits in December and sentenced to six years imprisonment and a fine of £2000. He was released after giving a commitment to take no further part in politics. De Wet is mentioned in Kipling's poem Ubique. RSACDW

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Last update: 2014-03-30 20:21
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.5

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