The Württemberg Regiment


In 1784 the Dutch East-India Company (or the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie - VOC in Dutch) urgently needed reinforcements for the military at the Cape of Good Hope, to protect the colony from possible attacks by the British navy. Negotiations were started with Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg, who already had previous experience in hiring out his soldiers as mercenaries and who, once again, urgently needed money. After lengthy negotiations it was agreed that the Württembergers would provide the Dutch with two battalions of 5 companies each with 175 soldiers per company, plus 20 officers per battalion. In total the Regiment was to consist of 1790 men. soldier of the Wuerttemberg Regiment

The soldiers were enlisted in Württemberg, and in surrounding principalities and city states. The minimum age was 17. The Duke was to receive a sum of 300 000 gulden on delivery of the Regiment to the Netherlands, plus 72 000 gulden for the transport of the troops to Vlissingen. In addition, he was to receive an annual 'subsidy' of 65 000 gulden. He would in turn be responsible for providing replacements for any soldiers that died or deserted from the Regiment. While the Regiment was still in Europe, desertions were a big problem - especially while the two battalions marched from Ludwigsburg in Württemberg to Vlissingen in the Netherlands via Baden and France, as many soldiers were encouraged to abscond by the local population. 950 men had left Ludwigsburg with the first battalion but only 891 arrived in Vlissingen (including 30 soldiers hired en route, who arrived without any uniforms). On board the transport ships to the Cape, a large number of soldiers died, and quite a few more died once they had reached the Cape. The Duke had to keep on sending replacements to make up for these losses.

The VOC had promised the soldiers a salary of 9 gulden per month. Through a number of tricks slipped into the contract between the VOC and the Württemberg, and through a number of unexpected additional costs to be borne by the soldiers (e.g. the cost of new uniforms, food, accommodation, medical care, etc.), most soldiers were forced into debt, from which most of them never managed to escape. Return journeys to Europe were made so difficult and costly as to be impossible, and nearly all soldiers therefore renewed their contracts with the VOC every 5 years. They were effectively forced to serve the VOC to the end of their lives.

The first battalion left Europe in the summer of 1787 on 5 ships (see table below) and the second battalion left at the end of 1787 on another 4 ships. The passenger lists are available via the Nationaal-Archief in the Netherlands and are made available here via the links below. Most of the ships managed to complete the journey to the Cape in 4 to 5 months. The longest journey was the one by the Rijnoord, which lasted 7 months. Nearly everyone on this ship developed scurvy and a large number of soldiers died en route or at the Cape.

Summary of the transport of the Württemberg Regiment to the Cape:
ShipOfficersNo. on board*Date embarkedDeparture dateDeaths en routeDate of ArrivalNo. of illDied
Josephus IICapt. Beuelen, Capt. Auditor Steeb, Pet. v. Steten sen., Sec. Lieut. Gaup, jun., La Lance
136 (115)
Juffrouw JohannaCap. v. Uttenhoven, Pr.Lt. v. Ostheim, v. Horn, Gaup sen., Sec. Lieut. Dollfus, Fähndr. Schaible, Feldprediger Spoenlin
223 (204)
De Drie GebroedersObrist v. Hügel, Capt. v. Ostheim, v. Hügel, v. Mylius, Reg. Quartiermeister Binder, Lieut. v. Hiller, Doctor Liesching
247 (240)
FortuinMajor Stackmann, Capt. v. Diez, v. Winckelmann, v. Stockhorn jun., Lieut Simanoidiz, v. Reizenstein, v. Oberniz
231 (211)
SusannaCapt. v. Bochnen, Lieut. v. Stetten jun., Essich
103 (99)
GatenisseMajor v. Jett, Capt. v. Landsee, Hoffmann, Lt. v. Wollzogen, v. Gett, v. Bobenhausen, Heinzmann
111 (104)
Geertruida en PetronellaCapt. Graf v. Czabelizky, Vellnagel, v. Massenbach, v. Netzen, Lieut. v. Heldrit, Hallwachs, v. Frast, v. Kappold
299 (302)
Vrouwe AgathaObristlieut. v. Franquemont, Capt. v. Dhen, v. Stockhorn, Lieut. v. Franquemont, 1r, 2r, 3r Osiander, Reg. Quartiermeister Stecherwald, Reg. Doctor Pessalt
255 (257)
RijnoordCapt. Schmidgall, Kapff, v. Donopp, Lieut. Hellwag, Koch, v. Maillet, Audit. Koch, Feldprediger Gastbar
227 (227)
1832 (1757)
From arrival to 11 May 1788
Ankunft bis 11. Mai 1788
* The first number corresponds to the passenger lists as recorded by the VOC, the second number is as recorded by Lt. Wollzogen.

The Württembergers adjusted quickly to life at the Cape, even though they never saw much action. In 1791 they were all transferred to Indonesia and India by the VOC, to put down various rebellions that had broken out. The entire Regiment was relocated and the soldiers were not given the option of staying at the Cape. Some soldiers had already established families and had to leave these behind at the Cape. A very small number of members of the Regiment managed to stay behind at the Cape (see list below) and another small group, mostly officers, managed to return to Germany. The majority of Regiment soldiers was transferred to Java, Borneo, Ceylon etc. where most of them died within a few years - mostly as a result of illnesses such as malaria. In 1807 the Regiment only had 229 remaining members and in 1808 it was finally disbanded.

The following remained in Cape Town:
Fischer, Friedrich, soldier
Gussardt, Anton, soldier
Heß, Heinrich, soldier
Koehler, Johann Wilhelm, soldier
Konzelmann, Johannes, gunsmith
Liesching, Dr. Friedrich Ludwig, *12.8.1757 in Weinberg, doctor
Mayer, Johann Christian, sergeant
Neher, Johann, soldier
Petri, Johannes, soldier
Seck, Peter Joseph, sergeant
Singer, Thomas, soldier
Wad, Christoph, corporal
Weingardt, Christoph, soldier
Weiß, Friedrich, soldier

The information on this page is partially taken from the book "Das Württembergische Kapregiment 1786-1808" by Johannes Prinz, published by Strecker und Schröder, Stuttgart, 1932. The first table is based on a table from "Briefe des Herrn von Wurm und des Herrn Baron von Wollzogen auf ihren Reisen nach Afrika und Ostindien in den Jahren 1774 bis 1792, Gotha 1794" which is available on the German Wikipedia page of the Württemberg Regiments. I have modified the table and added data that is available in the book by Johannes Prinz and in passenger lists.

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