The Battle of Blaauwberg 1806 (artist unknown), original in the Parliamentary Art Collection (44995). The battle, fought near Cape Town on 8 January 1806, was a small but significant incident in the context of the European war against Napoleon. The Cape Colony belonged, at that time, to the Republic of Batavia, which was a vassal state of the French Republic. The British decided to seize the Colony from French control because the sea route around the Cape was considered vital to British interests. In July 1805, a British fleet was despatched, the objective being to forestall the arrival of French troopships sent as reinforcements for the Colony. This fleet anchored off Blaauwberg Strand and on 8th January 1806, the garrison commanded by General Janssens was decisively defeated at the Battle of Blaauwberg. Peace was made under the “Treaty Tree” (the location may be apocryphal) in Woodstock and this established British rule in South Africa.
Cape Town was defended from attack from the sea by coastal batteries and the British forces, lacking artillery, were understandably reluctant to engage, especially because the lengthy sea voyage had rendered the 1 600 troops generally unfit. Instead various stratagems were employed, all based on the supposed ignorance of those on land about the progress of diplomatic exchanges in Europe. However, the attempt at deceit was unsuccessful and an alternative employed. This consisted of driving the Dutch East India Company (VoC) troops from their encampments in Simonstown towards Kalk Bay and then to Muizenberg. Following heavy bombardment by British ships, the sites were captured. The campaign unfolded slowly and only the arrival of an additional 30 000 troops, commanded by Major General Clarke, brought it to a conclusion; on 15 September 1795, Commissioner Slysken surrendered to Clarke and Admiral Elphinstone at Rustenberg.