Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius (27 November 1798 – 23 July 1853) was a leader of the Boers who was instrumental in the creation of the Transvaal Republic, as well as the earlier but short-lived Natalia Republic, in present-day South Africa.
Early life and Education
Born in 1798, Pretorius received his education at home and grew up to become a farmer, like his parents, in Graaff-Reinet in the Cape Colony. He was a descendant of one of the earliest Dutch settlers in South Africa and a "descendant of two East Indian slave women, Catharina van Bengale on his mother’s side, and Helena van Malabar on his father’s side."123
Discontented under British rule, he left his home and joined the Great Trek to the north. By way of the Orange Free State, he crossed the Drakensberg into Natal, arriving in November 1838, when the emigrants lacked a recognized leader following the death of Piet Retief in February. They chose Pretorius as commandant-general, and he quickly collected a force to avenge the deaths of Piet Retief and his party, who had been killed by the Zulu king Dingane's forces in February under treacherous circumstances.
Statue of Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius (27 November 1798 – 23 July 1853) in Pretoria
On 16 December 1838, Pretorius' force of some 500 men was attacked by over 10,000 Zulus. With superior weaponry and tactics, the Afrikaners beat them off, killing an estimated 3,000 warriors in what became known as the Battle of Blood River.
Afrikaners memorialized the day as "Dingane's Day" until 1910. It was renamed "Day of the Vow", later "Day of the Covenant", and made a public holiday by the first South African government. After the fall of apartheid in 1994, the new government kept the day as a public holiday as an act of conciliation to Afrikaners, but renamed it "Day of Reconciliation".
In January 1840, Pretorius with a commando of 400 burghers, helped Mpande in his revolt against his half-brother Dingane. He was also the leader of the Natal Boers in their opposition to the British. In 1842, Pretorius besieged the small British garrison at Durban, but retreated to Pietermaritzburg on the arrival of reinforcements under Colonel Josias Cloete. Afterward, he exerted his influence with the Boers to reach a peaceful solution with the British, who annexed Natalia.
Remaining in Natal as a British subject, in 1847 Pretorius was chosen by the Boer farmers to present their grievances to the governor of Cape Colony. They were concerned about the continuous migration of natives who were assigned locations to the detriment of Boer land claims. Pretorius went to Grahamstown to seek an audience with the governor, Sir Henry Pottinger, but he refused to see Pretorius or receive any communication from him. Pretorius returned to Natal determined to abandon his farm and move beyond the British dominions.
With a considerable following, he was preparing to cross the Drakensberg when Sir Harry Smith, newly appointed governor of the Cape, reached the emigrants' camp on the Tugela River in January 1848. Smith promised the farmers protection from the natives and persuaded many of the party to remain. Pretorius departed, and, on the proclamation of British sovereignty up to the Vaal River, fixed his residence in the Magaliesberg, north of that river. He was chosen by the burghers living on both banks of the Vaal as their commandant-general. At the request of the Boers at Winburg, Pretorius crossed the Vaal in July and led the anti-British party in their "war of freedom", occupying Bloemfontein on 20 July. In August, he was defeated at Boomplaats by Smith and retreated to the north of the Vaal. He became leader of one of the largest of the parties into which the Transvaal Boers were divided, and commandant-general of Potchefstroom and Rustenburg, his principal rival being Commandant-General A. H. Potgieter.
In 1851, Boer malcontents in the Orange River Sovereignty and the Basotho chief Moshoeshoe I asked Pretorius to come to their aid. He announced his intention of crossing the Vaal to "restore order" in the Sovereignty. His goal was to obtain an acknowledgment of the independence of the Transvaal Boers from the British. Having decided on a policy of abandonment, the British cabinet entertained his proposal. The government withdrew its reward of 2000 pounds, which had been offered for his capture after the Boomplaats battle. Pretorius met the British commissioners near the Sand River. On 17 January 1852 they concluded the convention by which the independence of the Transvaal Boers was recognized by Britain.
Pretorius recrossed the Vaal River, and on 16 March he reconciled with Potgieter at Rustenburg. The followers of both leaders approved the convention, although the Potgieter party was not represented. In the same year, Pretorius paid a visit to Durban with the object of opening up trade between Natal and the new republic. In 1852, he also attempted to close the road to the interior through Bechuanaland and sent a commando to the western border against Sechele.
Pretorius died at his home at Magaliesberg in July 1853. He is described by Theal as "the ablest leader and most perfect representative of the Emigrant Farmers." In 1855, a new district and a new town were formed out of the Potchefstroom and Rustenburg districts by his son, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, who named them Pretoria in honour of the late commandant-general. Marthinus Wessel Pretorius was the first president of the Transvaal Republic.
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Place of Burial||Heroes Acre burial, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Date of Death||7/23/1853|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Place of Death||Grootplaats, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Cause of Death|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Gender||Male|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Occupation||Kommandant-Generaal, Voortrekkerleier, Farmer, Voortrekker Leader, Commander General|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Ethnicity|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||First Name||Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Middle Name|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Last Name||Pretorius|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Suffix||b3c1d5e11|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Birth Surname||Pretorius|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Display Name|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Also Known As||Kommandant|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Date of Birth||11/27/1798|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Place of Birth||Graaff-Reinet, Western District, Eastern Cape, South Africa|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Date of Baptism|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Place of Baptism|
|Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, b3c1d5e11||Date of Burial||July 1853|