Louis Trichardt

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Louis Tregardt, b2c4

Also Known As: "Louis Tregardt; Louis Trichard; Louis Johannes TREGARD"
Birthdate: (55)
Birthplace: Oudtshoorn, Cape Colony, South Africa
Death: October 25, 1838 (55)
Delagoa Bay (Lourenco Marques), Mozambique (Malaria)
Immediate Family:

Son of Carl Johannes Trichardt, b2 and Anna Elisabeth Triegard, b2c3d6
Husband of Martha Elizabeth Susanna Bouwer, b12c8
Father of Carolus Johannes Trichardt; Petrus Frederik Trichardt, b2c4d3; Louis Gustavus Trichardt, b2c4d4; Jeremias Jesias Tregardt; Anna Elizabeth de Klerk, b4f1r1e6f3g4 and 1 other
Brother of Maria Susanna van Aardt, B2c1; Maria Susanna Wilhelmina Van Aardt, b2c2 and Carolus Gustavus Trichardt, b2c3

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Louis Trichardt

Estate Papers : https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS7P-KW17-D?i=59&cat=229462


Louis Tregardt

Louis Tregardt was the grandson of a Swedish employee of the Dutch East India Company born on the 10th August 1783 in Oudtshoorn. When old enough he became a farmer and settled in the country of the Xhosa. He was said to have received stolen cattle and to have even incited the frontier war of 1834/35. At one stage had a price of five hundred cattle on his head. However he found that he had become the de facto leader of a group of emigrant Boers and had both Potgieter and van Rensburg as neighbours.

So, early in 1836 at the age of 53, he and his little party set off northwards into unknown country. Tregardt's brief was to find out all he could about the country he crossed and report back. He was also to rendezvous with the Buys family in the Zoutpansberg and await Potgieter's main party whilst sending parties to blaze a trail to one of the Portuguese ports. Tregardt's party consisted of seven poor farmers, their wives and thirty four children.

Van Rensburg was a 56-year-old hunter who intended to pioneer the trail to Delagoa Bay and sell ivory and was accompanied by nine hunter friends and their respective families. Both treks set off independently but met up possibly between the Orange and Vaal rivers.

Other Members of the Trek

Another member of the team was one Jan Pretorius who provided Tregardt with a perpetual headache. Pretorius wished to buy gunpowder from Delagoa Bay. Finally there was the most unlikely pioneer - Daniel Pfeffer - an old man of 87 who was to act as teacher to the children. He was the only member who had a map of the Portuguese coast - with an impressive blank space that marked the interior. Despite the constant squabbling in the group, Tregardt was never to fail them during the next three years.

In addition to the above were almost a thousand cattle, fifty horses and six thousand sheep and goats, all of which took several hours to round up each day. The whole group cut such a swathe through the countryside that its tracks could be followed several years later. Surprisingly, only nine men were able to bear arms and even these were poor shots, repeatedly failing to bring down game. Van Rensburg had approximately half the number of beasts of Tregardt and consequently was able to move ahead more quickly.

The trek moved out due north from the Orange River, sometimes with van Rensburg's party or separately when grazing did not prove sufficient. The distance travelled each day was approximately five to ten miles depending on the terrain and on whether any animals were giving birth.

The journey proved to be surprisingly without event. The small group was lucky to pass between the armies of Dingane and Mzilikazi which had just fought a major battle. However, in April 1836 before reaching the Zoutpansberg a quarrel arose between Tregardt and van Rensburg.

The latter had been using a lot of gunpowder and wished to replenish his stock quickly in Delagoa Bay, therefore within seventy miles of their destination, van Rensburg took off eastwards, camped for a few weeks and then in June set off again eastwards. He was however to find that the lowland diseases were to decimate his stock.

Tregardt camped for a few weeks and set off north to complete the trek, camping under the Zoutpansberg. Like van Rensburg, he also found that the scourge of the tsetse fly was cutting a swathe through his stock.

Worse, if he was to find a way to Inhambane, he was to traverse fly country for three-quarters of the way. If, however he struck out for Delagoa Bay, he would encounter the fly for only a third of the distance - provided he could find a way over the Drakensberg.

Potgieter Arrives

At this point, Potgieter with eleven companions rode in. He had started his trek with two hundred people who he left camped at the Sand River near Winburg. Potgieter and Tregardt were becoming worried as to fate of the van Rensburg party and Potgieter set off north to see whether he would cross his path. He did not and determined the dreaded fly would preclude all traffic through this area (Southern Zimbabwe).

By this time, rumours were being received that the van Rensburg party had been massacred so Tregardt set off and found that the whole party of 49 had perished. Apparently having crossed what is now the Kruger National Park and the Lubombo mountains his party camped on the Limpopo River and was set upon by a local chief called Sakana. The attack lasted all night but by morning all ammunition was spent and the warriors ended the fight by driving a herd of cattle through the laager.

Tregardt did not find the massacre site but found Sakana. Not trusting Sakana and believing him to be implicated in the disaster Tregardt cannily told him that he couldn't stay but would return with all his wagons which he would leave in his care while he continued the search.

Tregardt returned to Potgieter at the Zoutpansberg and informed him of his suspicions. Potgieter then rode South to bring up the main body of the trekkers. Tregardt was to wait for more than a year.

Pretorius Strikes Out Alone

As soon as Potgieter departed, the prickly Jan Pretorius left with several families, believing now to be within striking distance of Delagoa Bay. He encountered trouble immediately as his trek oxen were struck down by the tsetse fly and he had to call on Tregardt for help. After six months, the party (minus one who had died of malaria) returned resentfully to Tregardt at a new camp called de Doorns (the thorns) near the current town of Louis Trichardt.

August 1836 changed to April 1837. Tregardt's party was succumbing one by one to malaria and his cattle were dying of nagana. To compound matters, he had heard disturbing rumours of an encounter between Potgieter and the Matabele. He couldn't thus move back South, nor could he move north to follow the van Rensburg route but instead wrote several letters to the Portuguese at Delagoa Bay who responded by sending two soldiers to escort the party there.

Tregardt Treks to Delagoa Bay (Maputo)

Consequently on 23rd August 1837, the party headed South for a hundred miles and then east, leaving their little settlement and its graves. Illness continued to dog the party with the third of Tregardt's children being left buried in the veld. Ahead rose the massif of the mighty Drakensberg.

On 30th November 1837, after three months of arduous backbreaking effort, fording and refording rivers, hacking rough paths and double yoking spans of oxen together - and coping with arguments in his party as to the best route - Tregardt stood finally on the summit of the Drakensberg. The descent was as difficult as the ascent with the rear wheels removed from the wagons and replaced by trees acting as brakes. 

Eventually the men despaired of finding a way down and the women undertook a reconnaissance of their own and found a comparatively easy descent so that two days before Christmas 1837, the worst was over. Coincidentally, Maritz was leading his trek over the Drakensberg into Natal some two hundred miles away at almost exactly the same time.

Their path now took them across what is now the Kruger National Park. Finally, they plodded into the fort at Delagoa Bay.

Tregardt Arrives in Delagoa Bay

After two years away from any sort of civilization their joy was short lived. One by one the party came down with malaria and died. Mrs. Tregardt died on May 1st 1838. By October, Louis Tregardt was also dead of malaria. Almost a year later the remaining 25 of the party were taken to Port Natal (Durban). All except Tregardt's son Carolus who was charged with finding a less pestilential home for his people and dispatched in June 1838.

The Travels of Carolus Tregardt

Thus began a second epic adventure. Carolus first travelled up the Mozambique coast to Sofala, then 350 miles inland to what is now Zimbabwe. He ascended the Zambezi possible as far as Victoria Falls then sailed further north to Abyssinia. After exploring this area, he visited Madagascar before returning to Delagoa Bay - only to find that his companions had been evacuated to Port Natal.

He then travelled more than 500 miles on foot to meet them there, passing the site of the van Rensburg massacre where he buried their bones.

In February 1836, Potgieter's trek party of two hundred souls in sixty wagons crossed the Orange River in Tregardt's tracks. Potgieter was 42 at the time, a tall, thin man who married four times (all widows), bearing 17 children. He was sparse with words, a hard driver, pugnacious and a fearful fighting man. He was bold but also knew when not to take a risk - a quality that was to cause trouble in the future. Potgieter became widely regarded as the foremost of all the trekkers. He was held in very high regard by many African chiefs who came to pay their respects before his death in 1852.

Potgieter was a Dopper - a strict sect of the Dutch Reformed Church - and wore the characteristic Dopper clothes of short jackets and short trousers. Another Dopper member of the Potgieter trek was Sarel Cilliers - eloquent and much given to preaching and psalm singing and of whom it has been said that was just as likely to fall on his foes as fall on his knees. 

It had been agreed some time before that a convenient Trek rendezvous would be the unmistakable mountain of Blesberg (Thaba Nchu) so named because its summit was white from the droppings of vultures. After some weeks here with the friendly chief Moroka, the party set off again and crossed the Sand River and spread out to settle. On May 25th 1836, Potgieter meanwhile rode ahead to make contact with his voorste mense Tregardt and his cousin van Rensburg. Tregardt's camp was reached at the end of June but he tarried but a short while and set off north to ascertain the nearest Portuguese port and to ascertain the fate of the van Rensburg party. Because of the fly country he travelled through, he was back under the Zoutpansberg by the end of July.

In the middle of August 1836, he bid farewell to Tregardt and set off South to bring his people up to the Zoutpansberg. However disastrous news awaited him.

Returning, they came upon the camp of a trek party that had crossed the Vaal (dark) River against instructions. All had been massacred. There was further bad news - a hunting party had been attacked by the Matabele and had fared badly.

The Matabele territory extended over 30,000 sq. kms and while Mzilikazi did not dislike white men, all who entered his kingdom were expected to enter through Kuruman where missionary Robert Moffat could screen them. Further, he was exceedingly sensitive about his Southern border, the traditional route of invading Zulu armies. 

Survivors from the attack on the hunting party had warned the settler camp but were not believed. Riding on, they warned the next camp which took appropriate action by forming a laager at the bend on the Vaal River. 35 men succeeded in driving off 500 Matabele warriors who eventually retired to Mzilikazi's military kraal at Kapain with assorted wagons, stock and two white girls.

As Potgieter returned to his base on the Sand River, the Voortrekkers were retreating from their land as fast as their stock would allow and some were retiring still further, back to Blesberg where the second wave of the Great Trek had arrived.

Potgieter realized that he would have to break the power of Mzilikazi if the trek was to proceed and he took a party to a defensible site and formed the wagons into a laager. Here, forty men were to face the might of the Matabele nation under a small promontory that was to be called Vegkop - Fight Hill.

Fighting from a laager had yet to be proven and yet the forty wagons were pushed with the disselboom (draught pole) of one pushed under the other. They were then chained together and the spaces between the wagons filled with thorn branches tied to the wheels. Seven wagons in the centre of the laager were used as a hospital and the grass around the laager was crushed by driving cattle over it.

Two openings, each just the width of a wagon were left, but these could easily be closed if necessary. By forming the wagons into a square with makeshift blockhouses at each corner to enfilade each side of the laager, it became an effective defensive position.

There was finally a total of 33 men and seven boys (one of whom was just eleven and named Paul Kruger) and sixty women and children. Despite using the heavy smooth bored flintlocks, each man, with the help of the women, could fire his musket six times each minute. Another problem also faced the Voortrekkers - their stock. Thousands of animals were scattered over the veld and would be taken by the Matabele regardless of whether they would prevail or die.

It was on 16th October 1836 that the party received news of a Matabele army approaching. Potgieter rode out with his men hoping to negotiate with them but were attacked in the traditional Zulu-type chest and horns fashion. The trekkers then employed a known successful tactic - charging up to just outside assegai range, loosing off a volley, retreating whilst reloading in the saddle and then repeating the maneuver.

The 5,000 Matabele warriors surrounded the laager and then sat and waited for several hours. Potgieter eventually tied a red rag to a whip that had the effect of goading the warriors into action and they rushed the laager. The trekker's guns eventually became too hot to hold and were recharged by spitting the slugs down the barrels from the trekker's mouth where they were stored and tamping down the charge by banging the butt of the gun on the ground. There was no time for anything else.

As the range shortened, there was hand to hand fighting until eventually the Matabele withdrew - the very first time they had failed in battle. Guns were then cleaned in the respite and powder replenished. Then came a second attack that was barely beaten off.

After the Battle

Thirty-three men and seven boys had defeated five thousand determined, trained Matabele warriors killing more than five hundred. The Matabele retired with all the trekker stock. Two trekkers had been killed, including Potgieter's brother. After the fight 1,137 assegais were collected from inside the laager.

The Voortrekkers then felt truly that they really were on a mission from God. They were however not yet out of danger - they were alone in the veld, tired, hungry and with no stock. Because of the hundreds of rotting corpses surrounding the laager, the wagons were pulled by horses to a site some short distance away. Potgieter's brother was then sent to Blesberg for help and returned with oxen and food some two weeks later.

Potgieter's thoughts turned to revenge and the recovery of his cattle.

At Blesberg, the trek wagons continued to pour in, including one hundred wagons under Gert Maritz, not a farmer but an accomplished administrator and artisan. On 7th December 1836, a meeting was held that elected Potgieter as military commander of the trek and Maritz - now a rival to Potgieter - as administrative head.

On January 2nd 1837, a small commando of 107 men set out from Blesberg, travelling past the site of the present Pretoria and then west to within range of Mosega, the complex of kraals that formed the Matabele capital, a total distance of some 320 miles.


Gebore Kango Distrik Swellendam 10 Augustus 1783.

Oorlede Delagoabaai 25/10/1838.


The Great Trek by Oliver RANSFORD issued 1972, Great Britain.

Page 33

Chapter 3

The Voorste Mense

...at the small village of Oudtshorn in the Karoo a Mrs Johannes TREGARD was safely delivered of a son. The date was 10 August 1783 and the little boy was soon afterwards christened Louis Johannes TREGARD. The father was the grandson of a Swedish employee of the Dutch East India Company. His famous son Louis was later to write his name as TREGARDT, but we should note here in passing that there has always been a great deal of confusion about the spelling of the family name : for Louis' descendants have used all sorts of variants like TRIGARDT, TRIEGAARDT, and most commonly of all, TRICHART; this latter form has been employed for the several towns and villages named in honour of the Great Trek's pathfinder.

We know very little about the upbringing of young Louis TREGADT, but the diary he was to keep during his years of greatest endeavour, show him to have been a reasonably well educated man with wide and cultivated interests. When he was old enough Louis TREGARDT set up as a farmer, first at Boschberg and then later at Somerset East. In 1834 he moved across the Fish river and rented land near the Kei from the Xhosa chief HINTSA. Here in Xhosa country he found himself the acknowledged leader of an exiled Boer community which numbered thirty families.

Afrikaner mythology has typed TREGARDT as one of the farmers who like so many of his countrymen were driven out of the Cape Colony by despair at the hesitant British frontier policy. But there exists a good deal of evidence to suggest instead that TREGARDT

Page 34

was a ne'er-do-well who quit the colony because he ran into trouble with the British authorities: he is said to have been a receiver of stolen cattle and to have shown overt hostility to the regime. The British even accused TREGARDT of having incited the Xhosa to begin the frontier war of 1834-5; certainly during its course Colonel Harry SMITH offered a reward of 500 cattle for the apprehension of this 'villain of a Boer'.

Whatever may have been the truth of these allegations, there is no doubt that when he heard that the authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest TREGARDT slipped away from his farm in HINTSA's country ahead of the British troops and crossed the Orange river. Feeling more secure now, the exile passed 1835 grazing his cattle in the triangle of land formed by the confluence of the Orange and Caledon rivers. He received support and assistance during this time from his friend Hendrik POTGIETER of Tarka, and there too he found himself the neighbour of another party of dissident Boers under the leadership of Johannes VAN RENSBURG. For some time now VAN RENSBURG had been living at Zevenfontein where the Paris Evangelical Society was later to set up its mission station of Beersheba.

Early in 1836, at the instance of his patron POTGIETER, TREGARDT uprooted his family once more and stepped into history. He trekked into the far north.

There are a number of unusual aspects about the expidition upon which TREGARDT now embarked. To begin with his party formed a task force undertaking a sort of dress rehearsel for the massive emigration known as the Great Trek. It was though these people formed the tentacles of the greater movement. Then again we must realise that TREGARDT was setting out on a journey into a void, into a no-man's-land filled with unpredictable dangers: at first sight this might not seem particularly remarkable - after all the annals of discovery are filled with expeditions into totally unknown country; but in TREGARDT's case his party was not composed of professional explorers seeking riches or prestige, it was made up of men woman and children who had no intention whatsoever of returning to their homes. For when they discovered suitable ground these people wanted to settle down for good.

Page 35

We must understand too that TREGARDT's trek had also something of the nature of a reconnaissance for he carried instructions from POTGIETER to report back all the information he could accumulate about the country he traversed. Finally, once arrived at the Zoutpansberg, TREGARDT was to wait for the main body of the Tarka emigrant farmers to join him, but at the same time attempt by sending out patrols to survey wagon trails to one of the Portuguese ports - Lourenco Marques on Delagoa Bay or Inhambane or even Sofala - which it was hoped might eventually serve the emigrants as a free harbour.

And TREGARDT knew nothing at all of Lourenco Marques or the other coastal settlements save that they lay somewhere to the east or north-east of the Zoutpansberg, and that they were all used as ports of call by Portuguese slave traders.

TREGARDT's expedition was composed of seven Boer farmers, together with their wives and thirty-four children; in addition it included an aged schoolmaster named Daniel PEFFER who was to teach the children during the journey. The Boers also brought along several Bushman slaves, some of whose names we know - KEYSER, WINTERVOGEL and the woman RACHEL - as well as a handful of Bantu servants ...

For mutual security Johannes VAN RENSBURG with a second party of farmers travelled in company with Louis TREGARDT's

Page 36

expedition. VAN RENSBURG's ultimate destination like TREGARDT's was Delagoa Bay, but his reasons for trying to get there were different. VAN RENSBURG was a foot-loose elephant hunter: he wanted to break into new territory and then sell his ivory in Lourenco Marques where it would fetch a good price.

It is unfortunate that very few of the Voortrekkers kept journals, but an exception was Louis TREGARDT the leader of the Voorste Mense or the Great Trek's 'people in front', and his day-book enables us to obtain a very clear idea of his European companions. Of them the most interesting by far is Karel, TREGARDT's eldest son, partly because he too in later life was to gain great fame as an explorer.

Carolus even then possessed some skill as a blacksmith and handyman, but the picture we carry away of him and his wife is that of a sulky couple who were a burden to the older man. Carolus was later to describe the relationship between his father and himself as that of counsellor and executive, but in fact Louis TREGARDT's day-book shows that they were very often at cross purposes and on the brink of an irrevocable quarrel.

Petrus Frederick TREGARDT, the younger son (Usually referred to by his father as Pieta) is a much more likeable person, and it is easy to understand why he was so obviously his father's favourite. Pieta was only seventeen when he began his trek, but he remains always bright, relaible and observant during its course.

Page 42

as they approached the Vaal (which was crossed at Robert's Drift in January 1836) the two caravans drew close together for mutual protection and veered away towards the east.

Here [at Strydpoort/Sekwati's Poort] during the April of 1836 [and seventy miles from the Zoutpansberg mountains] differences arose between the two trek leaders. VAN RENSBURG took exception to his [TREGARDT's] advice, told TREGARDT he was perfectly capable of looking after himself and resumed his march alone. The two parties never saw each other again.


Voortrekke Stamouers 1838 -1845 deur Jan Visagie;

"TREGARDT, LOUIS b2c4 * Kango, distrik Swellendam 10/8/1783 = Drakenstein 10/4/1785 t Dalagoabaai 25/10/1838 X Graaff-Reinet 4/11/1810 Martha Elizabeth Susanna Rouwer * Swellendam 20 of 21 /10/1795 t Delagoabaai 1 /5/1838. Woonplek: Die plase Plathuis en Elizabeth, wyk Oos-Rietrivier, Somerset. Vertrekdatum: September 1835 (kyk ook hierbo onder seun). Trekgeselskap: Leier van sy klein geselskap. J J Janse van Rensburg (Lang Hans) en sy geselskap het vlr 'n deel van die reis saam beweeg (Lys 40; De V, p 995; MSCE 7,l en 2/3, NAB; QRR 186, pp 300,303, KAR; J C Visagie: Die trek uif 0o.r- Rietrivier, hoofstuk 3 en 4)."


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Louis Trichardt's Timeline

August 10, 1783
Oudtshoorn, Cape Colony, South Africa
April 10, 1785
Age 1
Oudsthoorn, Suid Afrika, Kaap
September 3, 1811
Age 28
Graaff-Reinet, Western District, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Age 32
October 30, 1819
Age 36
Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa

30 oct 1819

November 11, 1826
Age 43
May 26, 1830
Age 46
Eastern Cape, South Africa
November 26, 1832
Age 49
Bedford, Amatole, Eastern Cape, South Africa
October 25, 1838
Age 55