Descendant of a Wuerttemberg “Cape Regiment hireling soldier.”

Great-great-great grandfather Johan Daniel Gottfried Schmidgall was born in 1750 in Plattenhardt, Wuerttemberg, Germany. He was a volunteer in the Army of the Duke. The middle of the 18th century, the Dutch India Company (VOC) still owned large possessions in “the East.”  Since it was a not a governmental enterprise but a private business, the largest “multinational” in the world at that time, it was obliged to take care of its own security forces in order to protect their property against “intruders” of whom, as a rule, they confiscated it in the first place. Consequently, the VOC was regularly scouting for hireling soldiers, especially abroad, who would be willing to perform this task.

Earl Karl Eugen vorn Wuerttemburg (1737-1793) executed a contract with the VOC. It is stipulated that he would place at their disposal, a complete regiment for Dfl. 65,000.00. The same year, this regiment, consisting of two battalions, marched from Stuttgart to Vlissingen (Holland), where they arrived in the spring of 1787. Approximately 2000 men were then shipped to Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Grandpa Schmidgall was Captain of Artillery. After seven months in a sailing ship on the open sea, experiencing terrible ordeals, they finally arrived in the  Cap Colony. From the standpoint of military activities, the regiment had an easy life. However, during the three years while they were stationed there, one soldier died every other day as a result of tropical diseases, for a total of 53. Grandpa survived these trying circumstances.

In 1790, the Gentlemen 17” in Amsterdam decided to send the entire regiment to the East Indies. Due to regularly erupting insurgencies and the threat of a possible British attack, the presence of extra soldiers was urgently needed. From March to July 1791, the first eight ships departed for the Indies with on board 1150 “Cape soldiers.” The middle of July, however, news was received that on Ceylon, then still a Dutch possession, the Singhalese King Candij started a “holy war” against the white intruders. Troops were desperately needed, so the remaining 500 men were dispatched to Ceylon. Grandpa was spared this ordeal since he already departed to the Indies on the fifth ship, the “Ijstroom” on April 18. Otherwise, this story would have not seen day light.

Grandpa J.D. led a turbulent life in the former Indies. The regiment played an active role, among others, in the suppression of an uprising on Ambon. Due to poor medical provisions, soldiers died like rats, at the rate of about 400 annually. In particular, fort Meester Cornelis, then situated in the middle of swaps, seriously depleted the ranks.

As a consequence of the reorganization of the VOC, there was no room any longer for a separate Wuerttemberg regiment. Its commander received an order to report to the Governor of Java which he ultimately did after dragging his feet. Of the total of 3000 men, including their replacements, only 229 men remained after 20 years. The regiment was therefore forced to join the Dutch-Javanese troops.

Grandpa J.D. was promoted to Major in 1792 and in 1799 to Lt. Colonel. He had four children from Amalia Knecht, a sister of the Wuerttemberg agent for military affairs in the The Hague. He died in Semarang in 1807. Engeline Adele Schmidgall, his great great grand daughter (My grandmother) was born in Batavia in 1869. She married Michael Carl  Anton Krancher, also of German descent, and at one time employee at Thiemens newspaper in Soerabaja.

Where did I obtain this family history? I have been engaged in genealogical research for years – it is my hobby. During my vacation in Holland in 1991, I visited Mr. Dick Visker at his Indische Familie Archief in The Hague. In passing, I asked him if he knew somebody who was working on the “Cape regiment.” I had discovered a book, written in German at the State Library, in which this regiment was described and in which grandpa J.D.’s story also appeared. It so happened that Dick just recently made contact with a researcher in Amsterdam who also was a descendant of a “Cape soldier.”  After arriving home in California, I immediately wrote this gentleman a letter. Not long thereafter I received a lot of information .What a surprise! Some of it has been incorporated in this story. Now I have acquired another contact in the Hague. the Indische Genealogische Vereniging. It was through them that I received even more information about the Schmidgall family.

© 2012 Jan Krancher

Photo: Collection ‘Tropenmuseum’ – Replica of a VOC galleon and the town hall of Batavia on the occasion of the Pasar Gambir – 1939.

9 Comments on “Descendant of a Wuerttemberg “Cape Regiment hireling soldier.”

  1. I wish I could find the list of soldiers recruited for the Wurttemberg Regiment, I believe my forefather was also part of them. He arrived as a German soldier (in the artillery) in 1787 in the Cape of Good hope exactly the same time the Regiment arrived there. He served in the Cape army in Cape Town till the British took over in 1795. He then received citizenship and became a farmer in South Africa. His name was Simon August Friedrich Streicher.
    Can you perhaps help? There was only a few soldiers of the Regiment who stayed in the Cape. They mention 13 names of the 15 who stayed. His name is not one of them. Then there were more of the artillery who flee and went to stay amongst the farmers in the inland when the British took over. Their names was not mentioned.

    Your family is lucky. JD Schmidsgall was one of few to survive this ordeal!

    • Hallo Matthys;
      Sorry for the late response but I found the letter I referred to, dated A’dam 1991 – eons ago! And I’ll be glad to share the info with if you email me at indojank1@gmail.com. I’ll connect you with the writer. Hope this will help to keep you interested in family genealogy.
      Jan Krancher, Board member of TIP

  2. L.S., Can you tell me about a Günther, went over around the end eighteenth century to Netherlands East Indies. Married Mietje Petronella van Lier there. Their son Carl/Karel Frederik Günther married Adriana Magdalena Binneman in Padang (Sumatra Westcoast- Indonesia). Carl/Karel F. is the grandfather of my grandmother Rosina Francina Günther married Victor Hugo Heijden. Regards from Ben Heijden.

    • Hi Ben,
      Thank you so much for your question. A member of the Indo Project team will get back to you shortly.

      Best

  3. Hi Jan,
    My grandfather’s ancestors served in the military in South-Africa. I think there were at least three brothers coming from Wurtemberg. They were Friedrich Wilhelm Albrecht, I think Frederich August Albrecht and perphaps Christian Albrecht. I’m also from South-Africa, my grandfather’s name was Karl Ernst Albrecht. I’m finding it so difficult to trace their father and grandfathers from Germany. I think they originated from Stuttgart.
    As a South-African citizen, it’s sad that we did not learn about all this history, especially the German contribution to our nation.
    I’d appreciate it if you could help,
    Karina Mulder ( My mother’s maiden name was Albrecht)

  4. L.S.,
    My new e-mail adress is now: benheijden@upcmail.nl.

    I was wondering about Mietje Petronela van Lier who married N.N. Gunther (from e-mail Nov. 18, 2014, see above please).
    Can you tell me what his forename was and maybe where he was born?
    Was he a real German or born in the Dutch East Indies? Was he a soldier?
    Regards, Ben Heijden

  5. Hello,

    I also want to know more about N. N. Günther and Mietje Petronella van Lier– his birthplace, birth date, etcetera.

    Ben Heijden is family but not answering his mail anymore, so maybe someone else can help me?

  6. My mothers maiden name is Brandenbourg , spelling may have changed from Brandenburgh. My Grandfather was thus Brandenbourg and my Grandmother’s name was Gunther. I have traced them back in Kerala back to early 1700’s there I struggle. I will be back sunday and will go through my records again.
    I am Belgian so Dutch is no problem. Both Grandparents were originally with VOC and I found their records. The Gunther stayed on and jined the British administration and in fact were a prominent family in Cochin (Kocchi) They were doctors, lawyers, manager of public works and even ran the government printing press.

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