Dutch-Mexican War

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Dutch-Mexican War

Clockwise from top: Mexican cruiser Tijuana under fire by Dutch marines, Mexican cavalry at Amerillo, Dutch cruiser Nachtwacht and gunboat TB-19 in the gulf of Mexico, Dutch dead after a battle, Dutch infantry crossing the a River
Date3rd of February 1901 - 4 June 1903
Mexican Empire
Result Dutch Victory
Mexican Empire
Commanders and leaders
  • Emperor Jorge González de Güemes y Horcasitas
  • Juan- Guillermo Quesada
Casualties and losses
21,038 Killed
54,000 wounded
63,890 killed
189,000 wounded
20,000 missing

The Dutch-Mexican War (Amerikaens: De Mexicaens Örlog; Spanish: Guerra Mexicana Holandesa) was a conflict fought between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Mexican Empire lasting from 1901-1903. The war was fought over conflicting territorial ambitions between both empires. The major theatres of the war were the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Midwest region of North America.

Historical Background

The Boer provinces, whose population majority was of Dutch descent, was formally annexed by New Spain in 1840 under the Treaty of Santa Maria. Under the treaty, the Boers were guaranteed self-autonomy in New Spain granted that they were loyal to the Spanish crown. Additionally, the defeat of the Dutch during the 2nd Dutch-Spanish War affirmed the Boer provinces' loyalty to Spain. After Mexico's independence, the Boer provinces became part of the Mexican Empire. However, by the late 1880s, the Mexican crown had violated the self-autonomy granted to the Boer provinces multiple times, by interfering in their government, active proselytization of the Protestant population, etc.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, who were generally sympathetic to the Boers, condemned Mexico's actions in the Boer provinces. Moreover, tensions were worsened when gold was discovered on the Black Hills (part of the Mexican Misuri del Norte province in Mexico) by Amerikaner freebooters from Tussenland, who shortly formed an unrecognized independent republic historians call the "Black Hills Republic". Mexico warned the trespassing Amerikaners that they will face "grave consequences" if they do not deport themselves back to Tussenland. In response to this, the Netherlands marched its troops into the Black Hills Republic (nominally Mexican territory) to protect the Amerikaner settlers there. Mexico was outraged by this violation of its sovereignty. In an attempt to diffuse the tension, the Netherlands offered to purchase all former and claimed territories to avoid conflict (including Boer territory), but Mexico rejected it. Mexico issued an ultimatum to the Dutch to end their presence inside Mexican territory but was once again ignored. Mexico took no further action until the following year. On February 3, 1901, Mexico declared war on the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Historians generally agree that supporting the Boers and protecting the Amerikaners in the Black Hills territory was just a pretext used by the Dutch, when in reality, they intentionally tried to provoke Mexico into declaring war, the Dutch military having completed their restructuring and modernization program.

Course of the war

The 3rd fleet in harbor in Rotterdam prior to its departure to Mexico on the 5 February 1901. It was one of the newest and most powerful fleets ever assembled by the Dutch at the time.

While Mexico declared war, the Netherlands was the first to strike. Having anticipated this move by Mexico, they had moved its assets into the Atlantic, ready to strike. The war did not go well for the Mexicans, for their young and inexperienced navy was no match for the Dutch navy, one that just came out of decades of modernization. Some even reported that with the admirals in command having fought in the Wars of Dutch Humiliation. Despite the overwhelming success on the seas, the war was slow and drudging for the Dutch on land, as it had proven difficult for them to penetrate the Mexican defenses. Eventually, the tides turned in favor of the Dutch on land when they won the siege of Santa Maria in 1901. This, combined with a series of naval victories in significant battles in the gulf and the capture of Matamoros and Tampico in late 1901 and early 1902, promoted a change in the tides of war. With the capture of Matamoros & Tampico, the Dutch had a foothold on the two coasts. Combined with their naval dominance, this allowed them to create a hindrance. Both military and civilian Mexican ships could no longer go in this area, thus limiting their warfighting capabilities. Victories on land and the economic impact of the war on Mexican trade due to commerce raiding forced them to the negotiating table. On June 4th, 1903, a peace was signed between Williamsburg in neutral Virginia in favor of the Dutch.

Role of New Netherland in the War

New Netherland had been in friendly terms with the Kingdom of the Netherlands since the mid-1800s, and had been providing military and naval access to the Dutch colony of Tussenland, which had been landlocked from the Atlantic after the 2nd Dutch-Spanish War (1850-1855). New Netherland had also provided active military support to the Netherlands during the Tussenland Upheavals (1859-1861). In this new conflict, the Kingdom of the Netherlands requested the aid of the Dutch once again. The Patroon Council of New Netherland (the ruling body) saw this as an opportunity to divert public attention away from the ongoing corruption scandals in the nation. Stadtholder Theodorus de Gelüs-Clérisseau, who controlled the New Netherland military, approved of the use of the military to aid the Dutch. On November 26, 1901, New Netherland declared war on the Mexican Empire. 35000 men and women were sent to Dutch Tussenland to participate in the war.


Before and After the Dutch-Mexican War

Effects in America

After the war, territory that was lost during the 2nd Dutch-Spanish War was returned to the Dutch. In the Boer provinces of Mexico, the Northern Boers identified more with the Dutch than the Mexicans, and they were invited to be absorbed into the Federation of Tussenland, but they rejected the offer, citing cultural differences as a result of 75 years of Hispanic influence. There was also opposition within Tussenland against their entry into the Federation. The provinces of Irokesenland and Westerzee feared that two new Amerikaner dominated provinces would upset the political balance within the Federation and threaten Tussenland's cosmopolitan nature. As a compromise, borders were redrawn, and the independent Amerikaens Free State was created.

On the other hand, the Southern Boers identified more with Mexico and elected to stay within the Mexican Empire, granted that their autonomy would be restored and be allowed to continue self-rule.

Aside from its direct effects on Tussenland, the war also had lasting domino effects on New Netherland and the Kingdom of the Netherlands itself, eventually leading to the 1903 revolution of New Netherland, the anti-colonial uprisings in the Netherlands, and the independence of Tussenland.

Effects on the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The defeat in the war led to a series of revolutions in Mexico, while for Tussenland, it was almost reinvigorating. They had regained their prestige and lands and had made economic concessions which proved fruitful.

Not all was well for the Dutch, though. A few years after the war, Tussenland declared independence (1905). Despite the eventual loss of Tussenland, many Dutch historians still argue that the war was a turning point for the Dutch. It showed them that they were a power to be taken seriously and were also treated as such. It proved a crucial moment in Dutch political and cultural history, and to many, it laid the foundations of the future behavior of the Netherlands on the international stage.

See also