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Born c. 1730
Cottica, Suriname
Died 19 February 1793(1793-02-19) (aged Error: Need valid year, month, day)
Occupation Freedom fighter, guerrilla leader

Boni (c. 1730 – February 19, 1793) was a freedom fighter and guerrilla leader in Suriname.

Biography[edit | edit source]

According to legend, Boni was the son of a Dutchman and his mistress, an African slave, which he repudiated. While pregnant, she fled into the forest, to the Cottica-Maroons. There, at Cottica, Boni was born. In 1765, Boni succeeded Asikan Sylvester as the leader of the group that would become known under his name: "Boni's" (later: Aluku). He trained his people into formidable enemies of the colonists. Well-known fellow warriors of Boni were Baron and Joli-coeur.[citation needed]

Boni and his warriors operated from a large fortress with a four-meter-high wall in a marshy environment in the coastal region of Commewijne, which they called Fort Boekoe. With this name, they wanted to indicate that they would rather go to dust than to surrender. The fort was surrounded by a swamp and provided with rifles and a cannon. Because of the location of the fort, amid treacherous swamps, it was virtually untraceable and unreachable for Dutch militia. From this strong position, the Boni's performed numerous attacks on plantations in the east of Suriname, especially in the area of the Cottica River. During these raids, they took provisions, tools, weapons and women. Because of the many successes of Boni and his troops, some slaves tried to escape and join him.[citation needed]

For the planters, the loss of slaves meant a considerable loss of capital. Because of the raids and raids that were undertaken from Boekoe, and the money-consuming punitive expeditions that followed, the fortress became a major concern for the colonists. The colony's militia was unable to counter the guerilla tactics of Boni. The militia was reinforced in 1772 by a corps of Zwarte Jagers (black hunters), recruited from 300 freed slaves and led by European officers. To distinguish them from Boni's troops, they wore red caps, which earned them the nickname Redi Musus. This corps proved successful: after a campaign of seven months, the secret path, which was just under water and gave access to the fort, was betrayed in 1772. While Captain Mangold made a feint attack, the Jagers attacked the fort through the secret path. The fort was destroyed, but Boni escaped to the east and crossed the Marowijne River, the border river with French Guiana. He moved his headquarters to Fort Aloekoe among other places. In February 1773, further reinforcements arrived from the Dutch Republic, consisting of a regiment of Marines, commanded by Colonel Louis Henri Fourgeoud. One officer in Fourgeod's Marine Regiment was John Gabriel Stedman who recorded his experiences in a book.[citation needed] He describes, among other things, how small groups of four or five men, by moving and shooting rapidly, gave the enemy the impression of standing in front of a larger group. Such guerrilla tactics allowed Boni to confuse and defeat the enemy over and over again.

Fourgeoud, who had previously served in Berbice, was highly experienced and managed to drive Boni's forces back, although they were never defeated. Eventually, they even retreated into French Guiana, which led to the French intendant Pierre Victor Malouet to come to Paramaribo in 1777 to discuss the issue of the 200 Maroons on French territory. According to him, there were 3,000 Maroons; 150 were on their way and stayed in the jungle. Eventually, Boni continued to fight the colony for more than 20 years, until he was betrayed on February 19, 1793: he was killed by Bambi, an Aukan chief, under great pressure from Lieutenant Stoelman, commander of the Redi Musus. Today, Boni is a legendary figure among the Suriname community.[citation needed]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • Beet, Chris de, 1984, De eerste Boni-oorlog 1765-1778. Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, Centrum voor Caraïbische studies, ISBN 90-70955-11-3
  • Buddingh, Hans, 1995, Geschiedenis van Suriname, Het Spectrum, ISBN 9027430446
  • Hoogbergen, Wim S.M., 1985, The Boni Maroon Wars in Suriname, 1757-1860, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, Centrum voor Caraïbische studies, ISBN 90-70955-13-X
  • Hoogbergen Wim, 1992, De Bosnegers zijn gekomen! Slavernij en rebellie in Suriname, Prometheus, ISBN 90-5333-101-8
  • Rijn, Elly van: Lang gedacht, nooit verwacht, toch gevonden. Fort Boekoe, verzetshaard van de Marrons, in: Parbode, February 2008, vol. 02, no. 22, pp. 36-38
  • Stedman, John Gabriel, 1796, Narrative of a five years' expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam, with engravings by William Blake after drawings by Stedman, London.
  • Stedman, John Gabriel, 1799-1800, Reize naar Surinamen en de binnenste gedeelten van Guiana; door den capitain John Gabriël Stedman met plaaten en kaarten. Naar het Engelsch, translated by Johannes Allart, Amsterdam
  • Stedman, John Gabriel, 1992, Stedman's Surinam: Life in an Eighteenth-Century Slave Society. An abridged, modernized edition of narrative of a five years expedition against the revolted negroes of Surinam by Richard Price, Sally Price, The Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition, March 1, 1992 ISBN 0801842603

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