BY JINGO - Colonial History & Wargames Page

THE HERERO-HOTTENTOT REBELLIONS 1903-1907?

THE HOTTENTOT GOTTERDAMERUNG

By Dennis Bishop

"God the Father would determine the time to free us " Hendrik Witbooi 1904.

If the Herero fought for the right to their traditional lands and ownership of cattle, the Hottentot rose in rebellion for far more complicated reasons. Kaptien Hendrik was a noted warrior and leader of one of the largest tribes of Hottentots. He was a literate man like Samuel Maharero, but he was a much more serious Christian. This became a tragic character flaw when he came under the influence of a prophet ironically called Sturmann ("Storm Man"). Sturmann proclaimed that he had been sent by God to drive the "white man" from Africa. Unlike the parochial Herero battle cry, "We own Hereroland!", Sturmann's battle cry was, "Africa for Africans!"

Additionally, Hendrik was worried by von Trotha's replacement of Leutwin and the changes in German policies concerning the Hottentot. He was extremely anxious about the rumors of the disarming of all Blacks. He distrusted the attitude of the colonists and the purpose for the 300 German troops who arrived in Namaland in April, 1904. He could not know that the German troops had been deployed against the bandit Morenga, not the Hottentot.

It appeared to Witbooi that the Germans intended to first eliminate the Herero, and then to destroy each other free tribe systematically. If the rumors of disarmament were true, it threatened the independence of the Hottentot and undermined the very fabric of a culture that depended upon the status of a warrior to be possession a rifle. Should the Germans attempt to disarm and disrupt this integral part of Hottentot society, Witbooi reasoned that it would be a sign that Sturmann was correct. God would defend His "chosen people" and it would be time to drive the "white man" out of Africa.

Hendrik was ignorant of the events following the Peace of Kalkfontein that put an end to hostilities between the Germans and Bondelswarts and that the Germans had outlawed Morenga offering 1000 Marks for his head on June 3, 1904. Morenga figured prominently in the events that occurred in Namaland.

JAKOB MORENGA: THE WILD CARD

Jakob Morenga was a very interesting warrior. Passing between Bechuanaland and Namaland, he eluded the Germans and raided independently from any tribal affiliations or causes. From June through July, 1904, he was constantly on the move. He was known to have been in the inaccessible Karas Berg, he was seen in the Orange Free State and returned with eleven warriors to build a fortified camp on the Sjambok Mountain in the German colony by July.

The Germans became aware of Morenga's return and sent a 32 man patrol under Lieutenant von Stempel to capture him. Morenga ambushed the patrol killing von Stempel and two soldiers near Kouchanas on August 29. The rest of the patrol fled the field giving Morenga his first victory and new recruits.

The Morenga debacle created an intolerable situation for von Trotha who was still dealing with the end of the Herero. In a fit of rage, von Trotha ordered the execution of the mixed relatives of a Boer farmer named Freyer for treason to excuse the von Stempel incident. He then ordered the deployment of 300 soldiers that caused Witbooi his concern. As the Germans arrived, Morenga retreated back into his prepared camp at Karas Berg. It was near that camp that he again successfully ambushed the German patrols sent after him throughout August to October. On October 3, Morenga actually raided the VIII FeldtKompanie at Wasserfal and captured all of the company's horses.

THE BEGINNING

" I have put on the white feather " Hendrik Witbooi 1904.

The events happening around Namaland seemed to force Hendrik Witbooi to rebel. The German soldiers appeared to be pouring into the south, Sturmann was stirring up the religious zeal of the Hottentot and Morenga appeared to be proof of Sturmann's prophesy. Still, Witbooi hesitated. The spark which spread the flames of rebellion throughout Namaland was the murder of Captain von Burgsdorff in Hendrik's camp on October 3rd.. Within a few days Namaland was blazing in rebellion. Only a timely warning saved the lives of all but forty German colonists.

General von Trotha had indeed planned to disarm all of the Black population, including his former allies of the Witboois and Basters. Word of this and Witbooi's prestige caused Simon Kopper's Franzmannshen Hottentots to join the rebellion first. By the end of October, the Red Nation and Feldschuhtrager Hottentot lead by Hans Hendrik had also joined the rebellion. The scattered Topnaars, Zwartboois and Bondelzwarts were disarmed before they could join. Only the Basters and Bersheba tribes remained loyal to the Germans.

At the beginning of the rebellion there were only 500 German soldiers in Namaland. Three hundred were deployed against Morenga and the remaining 200 soldiers were mostly garrison troops. There was no railroad and supplies had to transported by animals form Luderitz Bay along a 25 day path across the Namib Desert to Keetmanshoop 150 miles away. There were not even enough German soldiers to cut off the borders of the Orange Free State and mountains that could offer protection to the Hottentot bands.

THE GERMAN RESPONSE

The initial German response was ironically not to begin building a railroad or to increase the amount of supplies. Instead, General von Trotha ordered Colonel Deimling south with six companies and one and a half batteries of artillery in late October. By the end of January 1905, there were approximately 4300 German soldiers and 2800 horses in Namaland diverted from the northern part of the colony and from Germany. All of this effort was deployed against 1500 armed Hottentot warriors..

Initially things went well for the Germans. Deimling's column successfully attacked Hendrik Witbooi's camp near Naris in December, killing fifty Hottentot and capturing nearly all of the tribe's possessions and cattle. A German column attacked the Veldschoendrager camp near Koes and met with similar success.

THE BATTLE OF AUOB VALLEY

On January 2, 1905, Deimling again caught Witbooi in the Auob Valley. The resulting battle lasted three days. It was during this battle that a group of 250 Herero under Friedrich Maharero (Samuel's son) intervened in behalf of their traditional enemies against the Germans who were now an enemy that both tribes held in common. The battle ended with the Hottentot retreating unmolested into the sanctuary of the Kalahari Desert and the Herero escaping into Bechuanaland.

This German victory cost the Germans 22 killed and fifty wounded German soldiers. It had accomplished little of military consequence for the Germans. On the other hand, the battle convinced the Hottentot kaptiens that the best way to defeat the Germans was to break up into small self-contained bands to negate the effectiveness of the German machineguns and artillery.

Colonel Deimling was a dynamo during the immediate period following the battle. He succeeded in creating total chaos by scattering the small bands of Hottentots in all directions without forcing a decisive action. Following the Battle of Auob, he regrouped his command and attacked Morenga's stronghold in the Karras Hills. He claimed that his successful two week campaign against Morenga had resulted in 130 warriors killed with "few losses." Ironically, he didn't know that Morenga had been severely wounded in the fighting and that had his pursuit been more aggressive that he might have captured Morenga, destroyed the "outlaw problem" and pocketed the 1000 Mark reward.

OUT-BOERING THE BOERS

"This policy will go on until all Hottentots have been killed." von Trotha 1904.

Nothing of military consequence occurred between January and April, 1905 against the Witboois. The German politicians in Berlin argued over the best course to take to avoid international censure while accomplishing the same genocidal objective against the Hottentots that had been accomplished against the Herero. By the time that von Trotha arrived in Namaland to take personal command on April 21, several things had occurred. Deimling had been relieved of command in March and sent back to Germany. Sturmann had returned from Hereroland and the Germans had discovered another Herero band under Andreas had escaped into Namaland.

General von Trotha must have known that his time was running out with his superiors in Berlin. The problems in the colony were becoming a national liability. Besides the costs incurred by the deployment of troops and expenses, there was a growing international media campaign vilifying the German nation in its handling of the situation. He badly needed the single climactic battle like Waterberg.

He began by gathering his available forces to deliver a single decisive blow to the Witbooi Hottentots. Suddenly, lightening in the form of a band under Kaptien Cornelius struck in his rear area. Cornelius overran several German outposts and caused a near panic among the local German colonists. It is possible that Kaptien Cornelius might have been Kaptien Cornelius Sturman of the Basters' Bethanie tribe. Although this makes sense as the Basters were supposed to be German allies and the Germans would not have anticipated an attack from them, there is no conclusive evidence that the two men were the same.

The painstaking task of building up supplies and concentrating military assets had to be redirected toward this new threat. Throughout April the German army chased Cornelius and caught his raiders on May 9th.. The Hottentots escaped and although the Germans made contact again at the end of the month, the Hottentots again escaped. To complicate the German situation, in June Cornelius joined forces with the Bondelzwarts under Johannes Christian and the "outlaw" Morris.

Unable to catch Cornelius, von Trotha attempted negotiations for the first time by sending his own son to talk Cornelius and Christian into surrendering in a strange departure from his policies to that point. The negotiations were terminated by a misdirected attack by a German patrol on the rebels which resulted in the death of Lieutenant von Trotha and the escape once again of the guerrillas.

Again enraged, von Trotha threw every available military asset against Cornelius and in a series of skirmishes between June 27th and July 6th drove the guerrillas south. Just as the Germans were prepared to destroy the mixed guerrilla band the Germans ran out of supplies and Cornelius escaped again. The Germans established contact again at the end of the month, but failed to force Cornelius into a decisive battle.

In August Cornelius turned toward the Karras Hills and joined forces with Morenga. For three months approximately 400 Hottentot and Baster warriors armed with muzzle loading rifles had successfully defeated more than 4000 German soldiers armed with modern rifles, cannons and machineguns. The guerrilla losses are unknown, but they cost the Germans fifty dead and 75 wounded, as well three months of stock piled supplies.

While the Germans ineffectually attempted to eliminate Cornelius, von Trotha opened negotiations with Morenga. Morenga refused to surrender as long as the other Hottentot kaptiens continued fighting. In typical fashion, von Trotha sent four companies, two batteries of artillery and a section of machineguns to destroy the "outlaws" in the Karras Hills. Morenga played "cat and mouse" with the awkward German column and danced across the border into Bechuanaland just ahead of the German advance detachment. As soon as the Germans departed, Morenga and his guerrillas returned to the Karras Hills. It was there that Cornelius found him in July.

When the Germans withdrew they left two companies behind to watch for Morenga's return. On June 15th a patrol ambushed some of Morenga's men herding cattle. Morenga viewed this as an opportunity and set up a similar scenario on June 17th. However, this time, he also set up an ambush. The Germans fell into the trap by seeking another easy victory. The Germans involved in the surprise attack were only saved by the arrival of a relief column. Out of 170 German soldiers involved, 19 were killed and 31 wounded.

While the Germans were preoccupied with Morenga and Cornelius, Hendrik Witbooi and his allies had escaped into the Kalahari Desert. Unlike the Herero, the Hottentot knew how to survive in this harsh environment. However, the Hottentot yearned to return to their homes near Gibeon and in June arrived unnoticed in the area having eluded the German patrols.

By July the Witbooi Hottentots were discovered near Gibeon. General von Trotha knew that his military reputation had come down to gambling on one card. Morenga and Cornelius were too difficult to corner with the Bechuanaland border open to them. The only other sizable targets were the Witbooi camps. He organized his units into the same configuration that had been so effective against the Herero.

The Germans deployed in four columns consisting of 13 mounted infantry companies totalling 1500 German soldiers, 22 cannons and two machineguns. Like at Waterberg, the Germans attacked in the pre-dawn hours of August 25th against 750 Hottentot warriors armed with old rifles. Exploiting the element of surprise and firepower, von Trotha intended to provide Germany with a final, crushing victory.

As the German columns moved toward the Hottentot camps in the same concentric formations that had worked against the Herero, they encountered few Hottentots and no opposition. The German plan for the destruction of the Witboois was almost flawless. The only problem was that Hendrik Witbooi and his people had anticipated the German movements and had slipped out of the trap unnoticed. Like a blinded boxer, von Trotha threw his columns to the west in hope of catching the fleeing Hottentots. He might have thought that the Hottentots would try to join Morenga and Cornelius, but it was a poor guess. General von Trotha was learning that not "all natives are alike."

Hendrik Witbooi appeared again suddenly on September 19th when he captured a German supply column and 1000 head of cattle 200 miles south of Gibeon. Almost simultaneously, Morenga opened hostilities again by attacking the German garrison at Jerusalem, capturing it and killing seven German soldiers.. Morenga allowed eight surviving soldiers to return to von Trotha with a message that Morenga had entered the conflict in earnest. However, the worst disaster for von Trotha was yet to come.

On October 24, 1905, Lieutenant Koppy, commanding a column of four mounted infantry companies, was patrolling the Orange River searching for Morenga. At a place called Hartebeestmund the wily Morenga staged his largest ambush. As the Germans passed through an area of sand dunes, the warriors rose and fired into the mounted files. The Germans remained pinned down by snipers until dark when they were allowed to escape. Without losing a man, Morenga had caused 43 German casualties and held the field.

Just days before he was to depart, von Trotha received a message that Hendrik Witbooi had been killed. The actual date of Witbooi's death was October 29th as he led a raid on a German supply column near Fahlgras. General von Trotha is credited with greeting the news by exclaiming, "You couldn't have brought me a more beautiful message!"

THE END, BUT NOT THE END

"Peace would be the equivalent of my death and the extinction of my nation." Hendrik Witbooi 1905.

Peace came to the Wiboois in a most ironic way. Theodor Leutwin was replaced by Friedrich von Lindequist as governor of the colony and Lieutentant General von Trotha was replaced by Colonel Dame. The German government vacillated between sending 5000 more troops or attempting to negotiate terms of peace with the Hottentots. The German national sentiment had turned against a continuation of hostilities and the German colonists needed to resolve the peace almost as badly as the Witboois.

When Hendrik Witbooi lay dying he related his last wish, "It is enough. The children should now have rest." Neither Witbooi nor the Hottentots could know how close they were to winning the war. When Isaak Witbooi, Hendrik's son, was elected principle chief, the Hottentot coalition began to fall apart. A significant part of the tribe broke away under Samuel Isaak and surrendered to the Germans. This included 74 warriors, 44 women and 21 children. The rest of the tribe surrendered on December 24th. Even Cornelius led his 86 warriors, 36 women and children into captivity on March 2nd, 1906.

So ended the free Witbooi nation. For two years, 1200 poorly armed warriors had fought 20,000 well armed German soldiers. There had been nearly 200 military engagements and the Germans had lost 1000 men. Like the Herero, military defeat was only the beginning of the suffering and death that awaited in the "death camps."

However, the war was not yet over. Morenga was as active as ever and his band had grown to 400 warriors. He would not surrender and the people would not betray him. When fifty women and 38 children were captured near Hartebeestmund in 1906, they refused to disclose to the Germans where Morenga was camped. The Germans murdered all 88 women and children in reprisal.

Morenga forced the German government to begin construction of a railroad between Luderitz Bay and Keetmanshoop in 1906. He also forced the Germans to deploy camels into the campaign and tied down 13 companies of German mounted infantry. In essence, the Germans put almost as much effort into fighting the motley group of 400 Morenga guerrillas as they had against the entire Herero nation.

The months of January and February, 1906 were good months for the "outlaws" who raided at will. Major Estorff led an attack on Morenga's camp at Kumkum on the Orange River on March 8th.. Undaunted by numbers, Morenga ambushed the Siebert Section on that date and delayed its advance. By March 13th, only two of four of the original columns had reached Kumkum and the battle devolved into only the artillery shelling the empty camp.

March and April were also good months for Morenga and his band as they strung together ten victories when they raided through the interior of the colony. The Germans lost at least forty soldiers in these engagements to a band of warriors that they outnumbered 20-1.

The victories came to an end on May 4th. At van Keois Vley, Morenga was surprised and defeated losing all but twelve of his warriors. Although wounded again, Morenga led the survivors safely across the border into Bechuanaland. The Germans thought that they had finally accomplished the decisive battle that would end hostilities, but they were wrong.

Johannes Christian and Morris reappeared and combined their bands near the Lower Fish River on March 16th.. Three German columns were ordered to pursue the new threat. The German columns only provided the Christian-Morris band with the opportunity to punish the "white men" some more.

The Hottentots ambushed a German patrol on May 19th. Two days later the Hottentots unsuccessfully attacked the German garrison at De Villierputz, but three more German soldiers were killed. When the Germans attacked the "outlaws" on May 23rd, the engagement ended with darkness and no decision. May 24th witnessed the over-running of the German station at Tsamab and a brief skirmish at Nukas.

The Germans were exhausted and frustrated. The Hottentot appeared to be utterly incapable of fatigue. The Hottentot captured all of the 118 horses belonging to the 8th Battery on June 21st completely immobilizing it. After four months of campaigning, the Hottentot had literally immobilized the entire German army.

Colonel Deimling was sent back to the colony personally by the Kaiser to salvage something from the situation. Replacing the happless Dame, Deimling removed all of the livestock from the areas known to be the hunting grounds of the "outlaws." Then he created a series of "flying squads" which were assigned specific areas to patrol. When the "outlaws" were contacted the patrol would chase the band until it reached the area assigned to another squad. The fresh squad would then take up the chase and the pursuit would continue until the "outlaws" were forced to either fight or surrender.

The first chance to try out this new system came on August, 1906. Johannes Christian and fifty warriors attacked the German station at Alurisfontein and were repulsed. The "oulaws" then retreated pursued by a "flying squad." The chase continued as Deimling had ordered until August 18th when the exhausted Hottentot were forced to rest. After a short skirmish, the Hottentot again fled. As they passed through each new German area a fresh German squad took up the chase. Finally, on August 30th, the Hottentot had worn out their mounts and were too exhausted to flee. In a sharp engagement, all fifty Hottentot were killed. Deimling's plan had worked at a cost of 25 German lives traded for fifty Hottentot lives. Johannes Christian evidently escaped.

After two other "outlaw" raiding parties were destroyed by the same tactic, Johannes Christian sent word to Deimling that he was ready to surrender. This did not end the hostilities though. There was a skirmish on the Lower Fish River on November 16th and on December 23rd, the last of the Bondelswart tribe laid down their weapons. On March 31st, 1907 the German South West Colony was declared pacified.

However, the colony was not pacified. Fielding, one of Cornelius' liuetenants held out until April 5th, 1907. Jakob Morenga continued raiding until he was killed by the British on September 20th, 1907. Simon Kopper with 100-150 Franzmann Hottentots were still fighting in March of 1908. As late as September, 1912 Simon Kopper's guerrillas were engaged by the Germans. The Hottentot lost twelve warriors captured and one killed in the engagement. The German colony would know peace for only two years and would cease to exist itself within four years of the last shots fired by the Hottentot in defiance of the Germans.

Close window to return to the Table Of Contents.

1