Christiaan de Wet

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Christiaan Rudolf de Wet
General CR de Wet
State President of the Orange Free State
In office
29 May 1902 – 31 May 1902
Preceded byMartinus Theunis Steyn
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Born7 October 1854 (1854-10-07)[1]
Smithfield, Orange Free State
Died3 February 1922 (1922-02-04) (aged 67)[1]
Dewetsdorp, Orange Free State Province, Union of South Africa
SpouseCornelia Margaretha Krüger
RelativesCarel de Wet (Grandson)
Piet de Wet (Brother)
ProfessionFarmer, Boer general, politician
NicknameThe Fighting General
Military service
Allegiance South African Republic (1880–1881, 1914)
 Orange Free State (1899–1902)
Years of service1880–1881, 1899–1902, 1914
RankFirst Boer War

Second Boer War

CommandsNatal and Transvaal Kommandos
Battles/warsSecond Boer War

Maritz Rebellion

Christiaan Rudolf de Wet (7 October 1854 – 3 February 1922) was a Boer general, rebel leader and politician.


Born on the Leeuwkop farm, in the district of Smithfield in the Boer Republic of the Orange Free State,[2] he later resided at Dewetsdorp, named after his father, Jacobus Ignatius de Wet. He married a woman named, Cornelia Margaretha Krüger, and together they had 16 children.[3] He also had a grandson that was born 2 years after his death, named, Carel de Wet.

Military career[edit]

De Wet served in the first Anglo-Boer War of 1880–81 as a field cornet,[2] 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.

In the years between the First and Second Boer Wars, from 1881 to 1896, he lived on his farm, becoming a member of the Volksraad in 1897.[2]

Second Boer War[edit]

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.[4] On 11 October 1899, while he was reconnoitring the Natal frontier, De Wet was elected vice-commandant of Heilbron.[5] He participated in the fight at Nicholson's Nek on 30 October, when 954 British officers and men surrendered.[6] Thereafter, he took part in the Siege of Ladysmith.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] The British advance commenced on 11 February 1900, with General French outflanking Cronje at Magersfontein and riding towards Kimberley.[10] De Wet's raid on the ox wagon convoy at Watervals Drift, capturing 1600 oxen, did not stem the tide.[11] The Siege of Kimberley was relieved on 15 February, and Cronjé surrendered with 4000 men at Paardeberg on 27 February.[12] Shortly thereafter, de Wet was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Free State forces.[13] They could not contain the British advance towards the Free State capital, Bloemfontein, which was taken unopposed on 13 March 1900.[14]

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.[15] 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.[2] 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.[16]

During the last phase of the war, the Afrikaner people of Winburg taunted the local British Army garrison with an English-language parody of Sir Walter Scott's Bonnie Dundee:

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![17]

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.[18]

Political career[edit]

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 1908–09 he was a delegate to the Closer Union Convention.[2]

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 (£204,200 in 2023). 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.[citation needed]

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 Boers who died in British concentration camps. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, a bronze equestrian statue, by Coert Steynberg, was unveiled at the Raadzaal in Bloemfontein.


Christiaan de Wet monument, Hoge Veluwe, the Netherlands

De Wet had distinguished himself in the Second Boer War and earned a reputation for bravery in the many battles that he fought in that conflict,[19] and for that, it has also memorialised him in many other forms.

In popular culture[edit]

"You've seen the Dublin Fusiliers,
The dirty old bamboozeleers,
De Wet'll kill them chiselers, one, two, three.
Marching from the Linen Hall
There's one for every cannonball,
And Vicky's going to send them all, o'er the sea.
But first go up to Monto, Monto, Monto
March them up to Monto, lan-ge-roo,
To you!"[23]



  • 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.


  • P. J. Sampson, Capture of De Wet and the South African Rebellion of 1914. (London, 1915)


  1. ^ a b Rosenthal, Eric. General de Wet.
  2. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "De Wet, Christian". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 138.
  3. ^ "Christiaan Rudolf De Wet",
  4. ^ De Wet, Christiaan Rudolf, Three Years War (October 1899 – June 1902), Archibald Constable and Co Ltd, Westminster, 1902, p. 10.
  5. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 13.
  6. ^ Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1979, p. 155; De Wet (Archibald), supra, pp. 21–26.
  7. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, pp. 29–31.
  8. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 35.
  9. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 37.
  10. ^ Pakenham, supra, pp. 311–2
  11. ^ Pakenham, supra, p. 319; De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 47.
  12. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 63.
  13. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 67.
  14. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, p. 73.
  15. ^ Pakenham, supra, p. 580
  16. ^ Thomas Pakenham, p. 542 The Boer War, ISBN 0-7474-0976-5
  17. ^ Marq De Villiers (1988), White Tribe Dreaming: Apartheid's Bitter Roots as Witnessed by Eight Generations of an Afrikaner Family, p. 232.
  18. ^ De Wet (Archibald), supra, pp. 373–392
  19. ^ [1]Christiaan Rudolf de Wet The Uncatchable Boer Guerilla
  20. ^ "Art, architecture, and nature — Park Hoge Veluwe". Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  21. ^ Rudyard Kipling – The Bard of British Imperialism Archived 20 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine at[dead link]
  22. ^ "Ubique" – "Ubique means 'They've caught De Wet, an' now we sha'n't be long.'
    Ubique means 'I much regret, the beggar's goin' strong!'"
  23. ^ "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times.

External links[edit]