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Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2015
Weenen Massacre by Charles Davidson Bell

Weenen Massacre by Charles Davidson Bell

February 17, 1838: The Weenen Massacre takes place. The Dutch settled in what is today South Africa and built Cape Colony at the southern tip of the continent. The British took over rule of the land in 1795 after they won the Battle of Muizenberg. Control went back and forth between the two European nations until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 when the British successfully took all control. Many of the poor Dutch farmers left to head east and find a new home in which to settle and farm. These pioneers were called Voortrekkers, literally translated as “fore-movers”. The Great Trek was a number of mass movements in the 1830s and 1840s. The land they were moving to was part of the Zulu Kingdom along the Indian Ocean on the east coast of Africa.

Piet Retief led a delegation of about 100 people to meet with Zulu King Dingane in the hopes of reaching agreement between the Afikaans Voortrekkers and the Zulu nation for permanent boundaries for the new settlement. The treaty was signed on February 6, 1838 with both sides recording three witnesses. Dingane then invited Retief’s party to join him for a special performance by his soldiers. The Zulu king captured the entire party and clubbed them death, killing Retief last so he could witness the horrific deaths of his comrades. The bodies were then left in the open for vultures.

Next, Dingane sent his soldiers to kill the rest of the Voortrekkers camped at Doringkop, Bloukrans, Moordspruit, Rensburgspruit, and other sites along the Bushman River. On this day, 41 men, 56 women, and 185 children of the Voortrekkers were killed. Also killed were another 250 people, those Khoikhoi and Basuto who accompanied the trekkers. Most of those in other camps were also murdered. At Groot-Moordspruit, Johanna van der Merwe suffered 21 assegai (Zulu spear) wounds, but survived. She was twelve at the time of the attack. She was permanently crippled by the attack but did eventually marry. She and her husband had seven sons. She died in 1888 at the age of 62.

The survivors of the surprise attacks retreated into protective hills and used their limited ammunition to defend themselves. They were almost out of ammo when Marthinus Oosthuizien arrived on horseback. He was directed where to find more ammunition in the abandoned camps and was able to resupply his friends. He charged the Zulu line from horseback and they retreated. Two months after the attacks, the town of Weenen was established. The name comes from the Dutch “to weep” and it is the second oldest European settlement in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The town covered about 28 square miles and slightly more than 3,000 call it home today. Most are Black African and speak Zulu with 7% of the population white and English as the second most common language, spoken by 11.6% as a first language.

It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world. – Elizabeth Blackwell

There has to be this pioneer, the individual who has the courage, the ambition to overcome the obstacles that always develop when one tries to do something worthwhile, especially when it is new and different. – Alfred P. Sloan

The way of the pioneer is always rough. – Harvey S. Firestone

In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail. – Major Taylor

Also on this day: H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Newsweek – In 1933, Newsweek was first published.
Miles Standish – In 1621, Miles Standish was appointed first commander of Plymouth colony.
Butterfly – In 1904, Madame Butterfly opened in Milan.
Giordano Bruno – In 1600, he died.


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