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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


VILLIERS, Johan de. The Pandour Corps, 1793-1795 : Soldiers in defence of the Cape Colony towards the end of Dutch rule. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.1, pp.205-217. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article highlights the establishment and role of a particular military unit in the Cape Colony during the last years of rule by the Dutch East India Company (DEIC). The name "pandour" relates to Serbian, Croation and Hungarian languages, derived from the Latin name "banderius" for bearer of a banner. In 1741 a pandour corps was established in the Austrian empire to serve the interests of the Empress Maria Theresa. In the War of Succession against Prussia these pandours became notorious as brutally effective fighters in the Netherlands and present day Belgium. Wars in Europe threatened DEIC rule of the Cape Colony in 1793, with future French or British occupation of this strategic outpost a real possibility. As an emergency measure visiting commissioners Nederburgh and Frijkenius decided to strengthen the Cape garrison with a regiment to be named the Pandour Corps. The rank and file, as well as the subalterns, were to be able-bodied Khoekhoen and persons of mixed racial origin, accustomed to the use of muskets, generally called "snaphaanen". Recruits were drawn from the various districts, including the Moravian mission at Baviaans Kloof. The officers of the Pandour Corps were selected from experienced leaders in the Cape Garrison and local citizen forces, such as Jan Fürstenberg, Joël Herold and the brothers Jacobus and Johannes Linde. Eventually Jan Cloete, owner of the farm Nooitgedacht, close to the village of Stellenbosch, son of the wealthy Hendrik Cloete of Groot Constantia, was appointed as Commandant of the Pandour Corps. When a British fleet with an invasion force on board arrived in Simons Bay on 11 June 1795 the pandours were stationed at the defensive lines of the strategic post Muysenburg (today Muizenberg) with other infantry and cavalry under direct command of Lieutenant Colonel Carel MW de Lille. The Cape government was hesitant to confront the British and allowed them to establish a strategic bridgehead at the Company's post at Simons Bay. The pandours were subsequently involved in various confrontations with elements of the British force. Eventually a combined British naval and overland onslaught against the Colonial forces took place at Muysenburg on 7 August. The pandours were strategically withdrawn to Steenberg, but the next day, on 8 August, they confronted the vanguard ofthe British forces at Sandvlei with the assistance ofthe burgher cavalry. The enemy was compelled to retreat, leaving their baggage and provisions behind. Although five or six pandours lost their lives, it was clear that members of this corps excelled in unconventional or guerilla warfare. In the early morning of 1 September a combined group of pandours and burgher cavalry launched a surprise attack on two advanced posts of the British in the vicinity of Muysenburg. Five British soldiers lost their lives and 14 were wounded, including two officers. There were no casualties on the part of the attacking force that achieved a moral victory. That same afternoon an unexpected mutiny of pandours took place at Steenberg. They marched with theirfire-arms to the Castle in Cape Town to present their complaints personally to Commissioner Abraham Josias Sluysken, the highest official authority. They were unhappy about ill-treatment and lack of compensation. Sluysken appeased them by making certain concessions and rewarding them with two farthings each. The next day they marched back to Steenberg post, but were not prominent in subsequent developments. A capitulation treaty was concluded with the British invading forces on 14 September. Thus ended the Dutch East India Company's rule of the Cape Colony. It also put an end to the existence of the Pandour Corps as a functional element in the military organisation of the Cape Colony. The Pandour Corps, with certain reservations, was generally held in high esteem by contemporaries such as Philippus Marnitz, Hubert Campagne, Christian Neethling and Abraham Sluysken.

Palavras-chave : Pandour; Khoekhoen; Snaphaanen; Jan Cloete; Muysenburg; Steenberg; Skirmishes; Sluysken; Mutiny; Contemporaries.

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