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Döhne Post
Stutterheim, Eastern Cape




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32°34'04.98" S 27°25'54.12" E

A description of the military establishment at Döhne Post (circa 1861) is contained in a short article by 'Little John', titled "The Neighbouring Out-Posts", published in the North Lincoln Sphinx. Footnotes in the original article have been incorporated into the text within square brackets.


The Döhne Post is situated on the high road between King William's Town and Queenstown, about seventy-five miles (120.7km) from the latter and twenty-six (41.84km) from the former place. It was the head-quarters of the late German Legion, and a good-sized village - inhabited principally by settlers from the corps - has sprung up in its immediate neighbourhood since 1857: it is called Stutterheim after the colonel of the Legion - Baron Von Stutterheim.

The fort - which is a square redoubt like most of the frontier posts - was originally built as a check upon Sandilli's tribe of Gaikas, when they were expelled from their old haunts in the Amatolas: their principal kraal being within twelve miles. It is garrisoned at present by a company of the 2nd Battalion 13th Light Infantry, and some Cape Mounted Riflemen. The Döhne lies about S.E. by E. of Keiskama Hoek at the distance of about twenty-two miles (35.41km).

The Kaklakzi Forest or Bush - near the Post - is very picturesque, and contains abundance of excellent timber. Forty species of forest-wood (all more or less valuable to the carpenter or cabinet-maker) have been discovered in these vallies (sic) by a German artizan (sic); specimens of which have been forwarded to the Exhibition, as "raw material" from this Colony. Game-birds and Buck of various sorts, as also Wild-Pig [South African Wild Hog - Sus scrofa], are to be found easily by the persevering sportsman; and Lories and Parrots, etc., etc., swarm in brilliant plumage in this wilderness of foliage. [There are no true Lories in the country; the birds so called in the colony are Musophaginae or Plantain-Eaters]

Transcribed from page 279 of:
The North Lincoln Sphinx - A Regimental Periodical 1860 - 1862; Reprinted by the State Library, Pretoria, 1968. (Originally printed for private circulation only, it was compiled by the Officers and Men of the Second Battalion of the Tenth Regiment of the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot and was printed on the Regimental Press, in Grahamstown and Keiskammahoek)

Submitted by William MARTINSON.

There are no historical records of a pre-colonial settlement on the site under review, but it is likely that the wider area had probably been used for grazing livestock. In 1837 the Rev. Jacob Ludwig Döhne of the Berlin Missionary Society, established the Bethel Mission Station in the area to work among the Ngqika people who lived in the area at that time.

In 1846 the War of the Axe broke out with Chief Sandile as one of the main protagonists. Hostilities were resumed in 1850 in a war which has become known as the War of Mlanjeni, which lasted until 1853. Döhne Post was erected during the latter war, as one of a series of twelve temporary fortifications erected in and around the Amathole Mountains. Döhne Post was named after the Rev. Döhne as the site was close to the mission station.

Döhne Post was built to the same basic pattern as the other temporary posts constructed during the War of Mlanjeni. This was a square redoubt, enclosed by an eight foot high earthen parapet and bounded by a ditch four to five feet deep. There were two square bastions at opposite corners, each containing a stone guard house with a flat roof and a parapet. In one bastion there was a brick powder magazine and in the other a brick cookhouse. The bastions were surrounded by wooden palisades. Within the quadrangle, there were officers’ quarters, soldiers barracks, stables, a commissariat store and a hospital. These buildings were constructed of wattle-and-daub with thatched roofs. (See plan above)

At the end of the war, the Government of the Cape, Sir George Cathcart, expelled the Ngqika from their Amathole Mountain strongholds. He banished them to the relatively open country to the east and established a Crown or Royal Reserve which incorporated the Amathole Mountains and selectively opened up parts for settlement by White and Mfengu settlers.

Döhne Post became one of the links in the chain of fortifications around the Reserve and Civil Commissions were placed at certain posts to establish control over the different African Chiefdoms. The Ngqika Commissioner, Charles Brownlee, was located at Döhne Post, as it was closest to where Chief Sandile and his followers lived. The Cattle Killing of 1856-57 took place while Brownlee was stationed at Döhne Post.

The Germany Military Settlers arrived in British Kaffraria in 1857 and Döhne Post was selected as the headquarters of the British-German Legion. The land encompassing the fort, as well as part of the military rayon, was granted to Major-General Baron von Stutterheim, commander of the Legion. He built himself what became known as a 'castle'. The legionaries were granted building lots and an acre of ground behind and around Döhne Post. The village was named Stutterheim in his honour.

In 1858-59, groups of the later German agricultural settlers arrived in British Kaffraria and one group was located at Stutterheim. Ten-acre agricultural plots were laid the east of the Cumakala River for them to start farming activities. These were where the present township of Mlungisi is situated.

According to the records, Döhne Post was abandoned as a fortification for one year in 1859 and then reoccupied in 1866.

In 1980 the land was handed over to the Municipal Council for use as a park and garden (Betty Chamberlain Gardens - see photograph above). In 1977 it became a caravan park and today is a public open space. The layout of Döhne Post remains as a visible 'memory' in the landscape of the park, with low earth banks and portions of stone paving visible. The powder magazine, a small square brick building, clearly marks the position of one of the bastions.

Transcribed and extended from:

Vernon, G. Report on Heritage Features - Old Caravan Park - Stutterheim. (For Tereco Consulting), East London, 2010.

[Submitted by William MARTINSON]

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

Coetzee, Colin. 1995. Forts of the Eastern Cape : Securing a frontier 1799 - 1878. Grahamstown: Colin G Coetzee. pg 521, 522-523 ill, 524