Louis Botha

Louis Botha

Infobox Military Person
name= Louis Botha
lived= 27 September 1862 – 27 August 1919
placeofbirth= Greytown, Natal

serviceyears= 1899 - 1902 (Transvaal commandos)
rank= General
commands= Boer, South African Republic
battles=Second Boer War:
-- Colenso
-- Spioen kop
-- Retreat from Pretoria
First World War:
-- South-West Africa Campaign
laterwork= Prime Minister of Transvaal, First Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, First Leader of the South African Party, member of the parliament of Transvaal representing the Vryheid District

Louis Botha (27 September 1862 – 27 August 1919) was an Afrikaner and first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa—the forerunner of the modern South African state. He was one of 13 children born to Louis Botha (26.3.1827 - 5.7.1883) and Salomina Adriana van Rooyen (31.3.1829 - 9.1.1886).

He became a member of the parliament of Transvaal in 1897, representing the district of Vryheid. Two years later Botha fought in the Second Boer War, initially under Lucas Meyer in Northern Natal, and later as a general commanding and fighting with impressive capability at Colenso and Spioen kop. On the death of P. J. Joubert, he was made commander-in-chief of the Transvaal Boers, where he demonstrated his abilities again at Belfast-Dalmanutha. Claims exist that Botha captured Winston Churchill at the armoured train ambush in Natal on 15 November 1899; but this may be a fabrication depending on one's perspective. Certainly Churchill did not mention it in his book on The Boer War London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900), though later he made such a claim. [ Owen Coetzer, "The Anglo-Boer War", p. 30. "Cf." Winston Churchill, "The Boer War: London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March", Longman's, 1900 and subsequent editions ] It is, however, mentioned in Arthur Conan Doyle's book, The Great Boer War, published in 1902. After the fall of Pretoria, he led a concentrated guerrilla campaign against the British together with Koos de la Rey and Christiaan de Wet. The success of his measures was seen in the steady resistance offered by the Boers to the very close of the three years' war.

He was the chief representative of his countrymen in the peace negotiations of 1902, and was signatory to the Treaty of Vereeniging. After the grant of self-government to the Transvaal in 1907, General Botha was called upon by Lord Selborne to form a government, and in the spring of the same year he took part in the conference of colonial premiers held in London. During his visit to England on this occasion General Botha declared the whole-hearted adhesion of the Transvaal to the British empire, and his intention to work for the welfare of the country regardless of racial differences (in this era referring to Boers/Afrikaners as a separate race to British South Africans).

He later worked towards peace with the British, representing the Boers at the peace negotiations in 1902. In the period of reconstruction under British rule, Botha went to Europe with de Wet and de la Rey to raise funds to enable the Boers to resume their former avocations.Citation | title = Boer Leaders Coming Here: Botha and De la Rey to Visit America | newspaper = The New York Times | pages = p. 3 | year = 1902 | date = Wednesday, 30 July 1902 | url = http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9804E4DB113DEE32A25753C3A9619C946397D6CF ] Botha, who was still looked upon as the leader of the Boer people, took a prominent part in politics, advocating always measures which he considered as tending to the maintenance of peace and good order and the re-establishment of prosperity in the Transvaal. His war record made him prominent in the politics of Transvaal and he was a major player in the postwar reconstruction of that country, becoming Prime Minister of Transvaal on 4 March 1907. In 1911, together with another Boer war hero, Jan Smuts, he formed the South African Party, or SAP. Widely viewed as too conciliatory with Britain, Botha faced revolts from within his own party and opposition from James Barry Munnik Hertzog's National Party. When South Africa obtained dominion status in 1910, Botha became the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.

After the First World War started, he sent troops to take German South West Africa, a move unpopular among Boers, which provoked the Boer Revolt.

At the end of the War he briefly led a British Empire military mission to the Second Polish Republic during the Polish-Soviet War. He argued that the terms of the Versailles Treaty were too harsh on the Central Powers, but signed the treaty.

Botha was a casualty of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919, succumbing in August of the latter year.

Of Botha, Winston Churchill wrote in "Great Contemporaries", "The three most famous generals I have known in my life won no great battles over a foreign foe. Yet their names, which all begin with a 'B", are household words. They are General Booth, General Botha and General Baden-Powell..." [ Winston Churchill, (1937), "Great Contemporaries", Odhams, London, 1948, p.287. ]

Books on Botha


* Coetzer, Owen, "The Anglo-Boer War: The road to Infamy, 1899-1900", Arms and Armour, 1996 (Claimed (p. 30) that Botha captured Churchill at train ambush 15 Nov 1899)
*Farwell, Bryon. "The Great Boer War", Allen Lane, London, 1976. (insights of Botha)
*Williams, Basil. "Botha Smuts and South Africa", Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1946. (comprehensive commentaries on Smuts and Botha, or as William's titled them in the last chapter of this book "par nobile fratrum"(p. 203)


*O'Brien, Antony. "Bye-Bye Dolly Gray", Artillery Publishing, Hartwell, 2006. (an heroic Boer character in this Australian/Boer War novel)


External links

s-ttl|title=Member of South African Republic Parliament,
Vryheid District
years=1897 – 1899

-s-ttl|title=Prime Minister, Transvaal
years=1907 – 1910

-s-ttl|title=Prime Minister, Union of South Africa
years=1910 – 1919

-s-ttl|title=Leader of the Het Volk Party
years=1907 – 1910

-s-ttl|title=Leader of the South African Party
years=1910 – 1919


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