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The Dutch former Colonies

South America

The Story

In 1600, according to Ioannes De Laet, the Dutch possessed two wooden forts (Fort Nassau and Fort Oranije) on the eastern shore of the Xingu River. These had been built by colonists from Zeeland. In 1616, a Zeeland expedition under the command of Pieter Adriaenszoon Ita sailed with 150 men. They arrived on the shore of the Ginipape River where they built a fort on a peninsula. This colony survived for six years. Historical information about these settlements is incomplete, but for the first twenty years of the XVII century the Dutch held some forts in this region. Here they traded with the natives. THE EARLY ATTEMPT

After the foundation of the WIC (West Indische Compagnie) in 1621 the Dutch set their eyes on the most important town of Portuguese Brazil: Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos. The expedition for the conquest of Salvador da Bahia started in December 1623. It totaled 26 sailing ships, 450 guns and 3300 men. The Admiral was Jacob Willekens, the commander of the troops was Jan Van Dorth. The Admiral arrived off Salvador on 8 May 1624. On the morning of 9 May 1624 the Dutch troops landed a few miles from Salvador, advanced and entered the town in the morning of 10 May 1624. The Portuguese governor, Diogo de Mendonça surrendered. This conquest turned out to be short lived. Indeed, on Easter Eve 1625, a Portuguese fleet of 52 ships, 1185 guns and 12566 men appeared off Salvador. The Dutch were demoralized and capitulated on 30 April 1625, the day after the Portuguese entered the town. This was the end of the first, but not the last, Dutch attempt to capture Portuguese Brazil. "NIEUW HOLLAND"

The second and more durable attempt started in the Summer of 1629. This time the objective was Pernambuco, the best sugar colony in Brazil. The commander of the Dutch fleet was Hendrick Corneliszoon Loncq. He arrived at Pernambuco on February 1630 with a fleet of 67 ships, 1170 guns and 7000 men. They launched their attack on 15 February 1630 and the action was successful. By the evening of 16 February 1630 the Dutch were in possession of Olinda; by the 3rd of March all Portuguese resistance was over and the Dutch were masters of Recife, Olinda and the island of Antonio Vaz. From 14 March 1630 the Dutch governed their conquests through a political council. Meanwhile, the Portuguese governor Mathias de Albuquerque organized the resistance. Some fortified camps were built all around Recife, the most important (called Arraial do Bom Jesus) only about three miles from Recife. In May 1631, the Dutch occupied a small island near that of Itamaracá where they built a fort called Oranje that was garrisoned by 366 men under the command of Crestofle d Artischau Arciszewski, a Polish captain. The Portuguese raids stopped the Dutch in developing theirs forts. In November 1631 the Dutch abandoned Olinda and tried to conquer the Fort of Cabedello on Paraíba, the Rio Grande, the Rio Formoso and Cabo de Santo Agostinho but all these attempts failed. On 20 April 1632 a Portuguese Mulatto, Domingo Fernandes Calabar deserted to the Dutch. He was born at Porto Calvo (Alagoas) and he knew the country very well; his desertion was very useful for the Dutch. On 1 May 1632 the Dutch occupied the little town of Igaraçu near the island of Itamaracá. In February 1633, the fort on the Rio Formoso was conquered by the Dutch and in March 1633 the "arraial" of Afogados was also conquered and a fort was built there. In June 1633 the island of Itamaracá was occupied and a settlement was found there; in December 1633 Van Ceulen captured the Fort of Reis Magos (Dutch Fort Ceulen) at the mouth of the Rio Grande. In March 1634 the Dutch occupied a foothold at the "Pontal" of Cabo Santo Agostinho. After a short siege, the Fort Cabedello at Paraìba surrendered on 19 December 1634 and the town of Paraíba surrendered a few days later. Now the Dutch controlled the entire coastline from Cabo de Santo Agostinho to Rio Grande. In March 1635 the Dutch attacked and conquered Porto Calvo. On 8 June 1635, after a siege of three months, the "arraial do Bom Jesus" was also conquered and, a month later, the Fort of Nazaré at Cabo de Santo Agostinho. The Portuguese Governor with over 7000 persons escaped to the south, but encountered about 500 Dutchmen in the fort at Porto Calvo that barred his way. He had to attack this place and after a brief siege the Dutch capitulated. In this attack the Portuguese captured Domingo Fernandes Calabar that was put to death as a traitor. Calabar’s death was a heavy blow to the Dutch. On 24 July 1635 the Dutch reoccupied Porto Calvo that had been abandoned by the Portuguese on 22 July. At the beginning of 1636, reinforced by 2500 men from Portugal, the Portuguese took the initiative. They advanced on Porto Calvo but its Dutch commander, Von Schoppe, evacuated the town. The conquest of Porto Calvo gave the Portuguese the possibility to carry out many raids against Pernambuco that became rather unsafe for the Dutch. At this time the WIC directorate decided to put a Colonial Governor at the head of the Brazilian colony or Nieuw Holland. Johan Maurits, count of Nassau – Siegen was the man selected for this office; this was a good choice.

THE GOVERNMENT OF JOHAN MAURITS VAN NASSAU-SIEGEN (1637–1644)

Johan Maurits left Holland on 25 October 1636 and arrived at Recife on 23 January 1637. He was resolved to waste no time in capturing Porto Calvo, that he attacked with a force of 3000 Dutch soldiers, 1000 sailors and 1000 Amerindians on 18 February 1637; the Neapolitan commander Bagnuoli was defeated and the Dutch captured the fort after two weeks of siege. Johan Maurits, sacked the small town of Penedo and built a fort (Fort Maurits) 18 miles from the mouth of the São Francisco River. With the conquest of their first plantation colony, the Hollanders were in need of slaves. Since 1612 they possessed the small fort at Mouri on the Gold Coast (presently Ghana), but the Portuguese were the masters of this coast. Indeed, since 1482 they possessed the great fortress of São Jorge da Mina, the most important center of the slave trade. For this aim Johan Maurice sent an expedition to attack Elmina (São Jorge de la Mina) the key to the Gold Coast. The fortress capitulated on 28 August 1637. In November 1637 Colonel Von Schoppe invaded the province of Sergipe del Rey, and the Neapolitan commander Bagnuoli escaped. In December 1637 also the province of Ceará and the city of Fortaleza were conquered. Now the Dutch controlled half of the then Brazilian provinces. The Portuguese maintained a tenuous control over Salvador and the southern half of Brazil. However, even Salvador was besieged for a short time in 1638. On 8 April 1638 a Dutch force of 4600 men (3600 Dutch and 1000 Amerindians) attempted capturing Salvador. The Dutch landed, but the garrison of the city was superior in number to the assailants. Johan Maurits decided to risk an assault on 17 and 18 May 1638 that came very near to succeeding. However, this attack turned out as a major defeat for the Dutch and they retreated on 25 – 26 May. For as long as the Portuguese held Salvador in their hands, the Hollanders in Brazil would never be secure. In 1640 Portugal revolted against Spain, restored its independence and the Duke of Bragânça was proclaimed King. When Johan Maurits received the news he celebrated it with festivities. But in spite of this the war continued. In 1641, the Dutch reoccupied São Cristovão (that had been abandoned in 1637), and in November 1641 also the city of São Luis do Maranhão was taken. An expedition for the conquest of key areas of Portuguese Africa: São Tomé, Angola and Benguela was started. On 23 August 1641, a fleet of 21 ships and 3000 men under the command of Jol and Henderson anchored off Luanda (Angola) and, three days later, the city was occupied. Also Benguela (in today’s Angola) was taken, and in October the islands of São Tomé (16 October 1641) and Annobon were captured. Finally, in February 1642, the Fort of Axim on the Gold Coast, the last in Portuguese hands was also taken. With these conquests the WIC became the ruler of all the African West coast. The best slave markets at that time were thus under WIC control. From the beginning, Johan Maurits described Brazil as a beautiful country and he fell in love with it. He was favourably inclined towards the Portuguese planters (moradores), and tolerated the Roman Catholic priests. He gave the colony a form of representative local government, through the creation of municipal and rural councils. He developed the country; built streets, bridges and roads in the city of Recife. On the neighbouring island of Antonio Vaz he founded a new town called Mauritsstad or Mauricia, where the first astronomic observatory and meteorological station in the Americas were built in two large sites (called Boa Vista and Vrijburg) that included zoological and botanical gardens. He was a "Maecenas". In Nieuw Holland arrived from Holland famous artists (like Frans Post and Albert Eckhout), scientists (like Piso, Marcgraf) etc.

The Dutch were, at this time, the masters of the Atlantic Ocean and Recife was, like Batavia in the East, the capital of the WIC (West Indische Compagnie) empire. In 1642, they were masters of Nieuw Amsterdam (today’s New York) and the Nieuw Netherland colony in North American. In the Caribbean they possessed the islands of Curação (today’s Curaçao), Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saba, Tobago, St. Croix. In the Wild Coast (today’s Guiana and Suriname) they possessed colonies on Essequibo River, Berbice River; the islands of St. Helena (a VOC possession) and Fernando de Noronha in the Atlantic; the colony of Nieuw Holland or Dutch Brazil. On the West African coast they held the castles of Arguin (Mauritania), Goerée (Senegal), Axim, Butri, Shama, Elmina, Mouree (all on the Gold Coast), the islands of São Tomé and Annobon on the Gulf of Guinea; the ports of Luanda and Benguela in Angola.

The Dutch subjects in Brazil were divided into two categories: Those employed by the WIC (soldiers, bureaucrats, Calvinist ministers) called "dienaaren" and the others (settlers, merchants, artisans, and tavern keepers) called "vrijburghers" or "vrijluiden". Many of these were ex–soldiers who had married and settled down but there were people who had emigrated from the Netherlands to seek a new life in Nieuw Holland. The free–burghers and traders were the economic pillar of the colony, and most of the trade was under their control. But notwithstanding this, the Burgher community in Brazil was too scant for the WIC purposes. In the colony there was also a flourishing Jewish community of 1450 souls in 1644. The total white civilian population of "vrijburgher" was about 3000. The Dutch control on Brazil was always tenuous, and the WIC failed in its aim of colonization. The majority of the colonists were Portuguese moradores with a different religion and language that were always ready to revolt against the "heretics". In October 1642 the province of Maranhão revolted and after one year of fighting the Dutch troops retreated. In April 1642 the directors of the WIC wrote to Johan Maurits informing him to return to Holland in the spring of 1643. He was not happy for that, and postponed his departure until May 1644.

THE END OF A "NIEUW HOLLAND"

Deprived of the leadership of Johan Maurits, the WIC lost the control over the colony. After his departure, the Portuguese planters revolted against Dutch rule, and after the battle of Tabocas (3 August 1645) ended with a Dutch defeat, the Dutch were forced on the defensive. The Portuguese gained control of the "várzea". The Portuguese forces attacked Serinhaem and the Dutch garrison surrendered on 6 August 1645. On 13 August 1645 the Dutch fortress of the Pontal de Nazaré at Cabo de Santo Agostinho also surrendered. On 2 September 1645 the "moradores" of Paraibá rose against the Dutch and the Fort of Porto Calvo surrendered on 17 September, followed on 18 September also by Fort Maurits on the São Francisco River. On 22 September Sergipe del Rey in turn rose against the Dutch and at the end of the year 1645 the Dutch possessed only Recife and, in its vicinity the Forts of Cabedello (Paraibá) and Ceulen (Rio Grande do Norte), and the islands of Itamaracá and Fernando de Noronha. Due to Recife’s siege by the Portuguese since August 1645, the Johan Maurits palaces and parks and many other buildings at Mauritsstad were razed to the ground for a better defense of Recife. In the besieged capital there were about 8000 men but in June, July and August of 1646 relief Dutch fleets reached Recife. In November 1646 Fort Maurits was reoccupied by the Dutch but the following April the place was abandoned. In February 1647 a Dutch expedition of 26 ships and 2400 men, occupied the island of Itaparica in the Bay of Todos os Santos. This was to be the last "coup de main". A new Portuguese fleet of 15 ships and 3800 men left Portugal on 18 October 1647, under the command of Antonio Telles de Menezes, Count of Villa–Pouca de Aguiar and governor of Brazil. On 7 November 1647 another Portuguese fleet of 7 ships and 600 men left Lisbon under the command of Salvador Correia de Sá e Benavides (although his final objective was Luanda). On 13 December 1647 the Dutch evacuated Itaparica. A new Dutch fleet under Witte de With left Holland on the day after Christmas 1647 and arrived at Recife in March 1648. On the night of 17–18 April 1648 a Dutch squadron of 5000 men under Commander Von Schoppe attacked the Portuguese forces in the "várzea" and scored a first success. However, in the morning of 19 April 1648 the Portuguese (only 2200 men) launched an attack at the Guararapes that was an overwhelming victory. The Dutch left 500 dead and 556 wounded. Short thereafter the Portuguese reoccupied Olinda. The Dutch at Recife were again besieged. On 12 May 1648 Salvador Correia de Sá with 15 ships and 2000 men left Rio for Luanda in an attempt to retake it. He did succeed in retaken Luanda on 24 August 1648. At the end of the year 1648 the Dutch forces in Brazil totaled about 6000 white men and 600 Amerindians. On 18 February 1649 a Dutch force of 3500 men occupied the Guararapes. The Portuguese commander Francisco Barreto marched against them with a force of 2600 men and the subsequent battle of 19 February was a overwhelming victory for the Portuguese, and the Dutch left 957 dead. A Dutch expedition under Mathias Beck landed in April 1649 at Ceará (that had been abandoned at the end of 1643) and founded a new fort called Schonenburgh. In February 1650, the situation of the Dutch at Recife, closely besieged by land, was very precarious, and the 3000 men garrison demoralized. There were about 8000 civilians, of which roughly 3400 were vrijburgher, 600 were Jewish and 3000 to 4000 were Amerindians or Negroes. The shortage of food and provisions was the worst enemy. The strength of the garrisons of Nieuw Holland was about 4000 men including the garrisons at Paraìba and in Rio Grande do Norte. On 20 December 1653 a Portuguese fleet of 77 ships appeared off Recife. Meanwhile, and unlike the situation during 1650 the depots of the town were full of provisions, but, at this time, the garrison was quite unprepared to offer resistance. On 22 January 1654 the Dutch asked for terms of surrender, and on 26 January 1654 the capitulation was signed. Not only Recife but all the places still in Dutch hands were included (Paraìba, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Itamaracá, Fernando de Noronha). The Portuguese made their triumphal entry into Recife on 28 January 1654. And the WIC never recovered from the loss of Nieuw Holland.

 
 
 

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Colombia
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Gyana Brittisch
Suriname
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