Early life and career
Julien-Désiré Schmaltz was born in 1771 in Lorient; the son of Jean-Boniface Schmaltz and Louise Declos. He enlisted in the Dutch colonial army in 1799, serving as an officer of military engineers in Batavia. By 1814 he had reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the French army, based in Guadeloupe.
Governor of Senegal
On 17 June 1816, Schmaltz departed for Saint-Louis, Senegal aboard the frigate Méduse to take up his position as Governor of Senegal, which was by treaty to be returned to French rule by an occupying British force. The ship ran aground on sand banks 50 kilometres from the Senegalese shore, partly because of Schmaltz's impatience to reach Saint-Louis and partly because of the incompetence of the captain and navigator. The tragedy that ensued, after it was decided to set 146 of the 400 crew and passengers onto a hastily built raft, was immortalized in Géricault's painting The Raft of the Medusa. Schmaltz, his family and staff made it to shore in a longboat, subsequently reaching the capital of Senegal by land. He then formally resumed possession of the former French colony from the British garrison commanded by Colonel Thomas Brereton.
Apparently escaping any direct blame for the loss of the Méduse, Schmaltz remained in office as governor for four years. On 8 May 1819 he signed the Treaty of Ndiaw with the Brak of Waalo, which resulted in the creation of a series of commercial posts along the Sénégal River(Bakel, 1820 ; Dagana, 1821 ; Merinaghen, 1822 ; Lampsar, 1843 ; Sénoudébou, 1845). This resulted in some conflict with local chieftains.
Schmaltz initiated a far-reaching project of agricultural colonization in the region of Waalo, which gradually failed after he left office and was abandoned in 1831.
Schmaltz was married to Reine Marais, also born in Lorient; daughter of Julien-Michel and Michelle-Reine Fauvel, with whom he had a daughter, Eliza Schmaltz. Eliza was born in Port Louis in Mauritius on April 3, 1798 and died 13 September 1868 in Paris. (death certificate No. 1333). She was single.
- (in French) G. G. Beslier, Le lieutenant-gouverneur Schmaltz, in Le Sénégal, Paris, Payot, 1935, p. 96-97
- (in French) Mamadou Diouf, Le gouverneur Schmaltz et les débuts de la colonisation agricole in Le Kajoor au XIXe siècle. Pouvoir Ceddo et conquête coloniale, Karthala, 1990, p. 123-128
- (in French) Pierre Gentil, Les troupes du Sénégal de 1816 à 1890. Tome 1. Soldats au Sénégal : Du colonel Schmaltz au général Faidherbe (1816–1865), Dakar-Abidjan, Les Nouvelles éditions africaines, 1978, p. 187
- (in French) Michel Hanniet, Le Naufrage de "La Méduse", paroles de rescapés, éditions L'Ancre de Marine, 2006, 495 p. ISBN 2-84141-210-5
- (in French) Léonce Jore, La vie diverse et volontaire du colonel Julien Désiré Schmaltz, in Revue d’histoire des colonies, t. XL, n° 139, 1953, p. 265-312
- (in French) Mahamadou Maïga, Le plan de Julien Schmaltz (1802–1820), in Le bassin du fleuve Sénégal. De la traite négrière au développement, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1995, p. 33 ISBN 2-7384-3093-7
- (in French) Walter Reichold, Les origines du colonel Schmaltz 1771-1827 , Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer, t. LXII, n° 228, 1975, p. 505.