Charles Rochussen: The Peat boat at Breda (1829 - 1894)


(Amsterdam Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

An historical painting by the Dutch artist Charles Rochussen (1814-1894). This painting shows a famous episode during the Dutch war of independence, the eighty years war (1568-1648): the capture of Breda on 4 March 1590. The town of Breda was captured by Spanish forces in 1581 and the well fortified city controlled much of the province of Brabant. In 1590, the Dutch skipper Adriaen van Bergen contacted prince Maurice of Orange, commander of the Dutch forces, with a plan. Adriaen van Bergen transported peat to the castle of Breda and Adriaen noticed that the local Spanish soldiers in Breda didn't bother to check his ship and that it should be possible to smuggle in Dutch soldiers. Charles de Heraugiere was made commander of the operation and went with Adriaen van Bergen to Breda to check if the plan was possible. Just as Adriaen van Bergen had told, the Spanish forces didn't check the boat of Adriaen and Charles de Heraugiere noticed that overall Spanish security in Breda was lacking. On February 25, 1590 about 75 Dutch soldiers were hidden under the peat in the boat and sailed to Breda. The peat boat was allowed to dock next to the castle of Breda and local workmen were given some money that they didn't have to unload the boat so late at night. At midnight, the 75 Dutch soldiers left the boat and stormed the Castle with its garrison of about 600 men. The plan went perfectly: 40 Spanish soldiers were killed with no casualties on Dutch side and the rest panicked and fled the city. Charles de Heraugiere quickly took control of Breda and signaled the waiting Dutch forces outside of Breda. Breda surrendered to prince Maurice of Orange who used to city as an operational base for his successful military campaigns. The capture of Breda was widely celebrated in the Netherlands and the bargemen and soldiers who took part of the plan were richly rewarded. The Spanish captains however were executed for cowardice by the Spanish command. Breda was retaken by Spanish forces after a long siege in 1625 but Dutch forces recaptured Breda in 1637 once and for all. Painting from 1829-1894.

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