the apparent immediate trigger for their invasion was discussions
between representatives of Aceh and the U.S. in Singapore during early
1873. An expedition under Major General Köhler was sent out in 1874,
which was able to occupy most of the coastal areas. It was the
intention of the Dutch to attack and take the Sultan's palace, which
would also lead to the occupation of the entire country. The Sultan
requested and possibly received military aid from Italy and the United
Kingdom in Singapore: in any case the Aceh army was rapidly
modernized, and Aceh soldiers managed to kill Köhler (a monument of
this achievement has been built inside Grand Mosque of Banda Aceh).
Köhler made some grave tactical errors and the reputation of the Dutch
was severely harmed.
A second expedition led by General Van Swieten managed to capture the
kraton (sultan's palace): the Sultan had however been warned, and had
escaped capture. Intermittent guerrilla warfare continued in the
region for ten years, with many victims on both sides. Around 1880 the
Dutch strategy changed, and rather than continuing the war, they now
concentrated on defending areas they already controlled, which were
mostly limited to the capital city (modern Banda Aceh), and the
harbour town of Ulee Lheue. On 13 October 1880 the colonial government
declared the war as over, but continued spending heavily to maintain
control over the areas it occupied.
War began again in 1883, when the British ship Nisero was stranded in
Aceh, in an area where the Dutch had little influence. A local leader
asked for ransom from both the Dutch and the British, and under
British pressure the Dutch were forced to attempt to liberate the
sailors. After a failed Dutch attempt to rescue the hostages, where
the local leader Teuku Umar was asked for help but he refused, the
Dutch together with the British invaded the territory. The Sultan gave
up the hostages, and received a large amount in cash in exchange.
The Dutch Minister of Warfare Weitzel now again declared open war on
Aceh, and warfare continued, with little success, as before. The Dutch
now also tried to enlist local leaders: the aforementioned Umar was
bought with cash, opium, and weapons. Umar received the title panglima
prang besar (upper warlord of the government).
Umar called himself rather Teuku Djohan Pahlawan (Johan the heroic).
On 1 January 1894 Umar even received Dutch aid to build an army.
However, two years later Umar attacked the Dutch with his new army,
rather than aiding the Dutch in subjugating inner Aceh. This is
recorded in Dutch history as "Het verraad van Teukoe Oemar" (the
treason of Teuku Umar).
In 1892 and 1893 Aceh remained independent, despite the Dutch efforts.
Major J.B. van Heutsz, a colonial military leader, then wrote a series
of articles on Aceh. He was supported by Dr Snouck Hurgronje of the
University of Leiden, then the leading Dutch expert on Islam.
Hurgronje managed to get the confidence of many Aceh leaders and
gathered valuable intelligence for the Dutch government. His works
remained an official secret for many years. In Hurgronje's analysis of
Acehnese society, he minimised the role of the Sultan and argued that
attention should be paid to the hereditary chiefs, the Ulee Balang,
who he felt could be trusted as local administrators. However, he
argued, Aceh's religious leaders, the ulema, could not be trusted or
persuaded to cooperate, and must be destroyed.
This advice was followed: in 1898 Van Heutsz was proclaimed governor
of Aceh, and with his lieutenant, later Dutch Prime Minister Hendrikus
Colijn, would finally conquer most of Aceh. They followed Hurgronje's
suggestions, finding cooperative uleebelang that would support them in
the countryside. Van Heutsz charged Colonel Van Daalen with breaking
remaining resistance. Van Daalen destroyed several villages, killing
at least 2,900 Acehnese, among which were 1,150 women and children.
Dutch losses numbered just 26, and Van Daalen was promoted.
By 1904 most of Aceh was under Dutch control, and had an indigenous
government that cooperated with the colonial state. Estimated total
casualties on the Aceh side range from 50,000 to 100,000 dead, and
over a million wounded.
In the Netherlands at the time, van Heutsz was considered a hero,
named the 'Pacificator of Aceh' and was promoted to become
governor-general of the entire Dutch Indies in 1904. A still-existent
statue of him was erected in central Amsterdam.
Colonial influence in the remote highland areas of Aceh was never
substantial, however, and limited guerrilla resistance remained. Led
mostly by the religious ulema, intermittent fighting continued until
about 1910, and parts of the province were still not pacified when the
Dutch Indies became independent Indonesia following the end of the
Japanese occupation of Indonesia.
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