Retreat from Moscow
|From 1811 on, every young man
had to serve in the army.
Registration of these conscripts took place when they were 18 years of
age in the municipality where they living at that time. They were
by the local authorities in the so-called "militia records" being
of young men who qualified for the draft in a particular year. The
were judged by a military counsel for requests of exemption due to e.g.
a handicap. As soon as it was known how many soldiers were needed, the
conscripts were called up by the mayor for a lottery. This lottery
the purpose to determine who actually had to serve in the army and who
would be dismissed. For those who were drafted, their lottery number
very important. The lower the number, the bigger the change that they
The conscripts joined the army at the age of 20 and they were known as the National Militia. Till 1898 a conscript had the possibility to have himself replaced by someone else, called a "remplacant". Usually the sons of the upper class took the advantage of this opportunity. The agreement between the conscript and his replacement had to be confirmed by a notary public by means of a contract, including the amount they had agreed on as a "reward". The possiblity to have oneself replaced was skipped in 1898 in favor of the personal conscription.
The conscription was introduced in the Netherlands in the
At that time the Netherlands were part of the French empire. Napoleon
had taken away the kingdom of Holland (1806 - 1810) from his brother
Napoleon who opposed the conscription. And that was the end of his
When Napoleon and his army (with ca. 15,000 Dutch soldiers)
Russia in the summer of 1812, the conscription was also felt in
Hundreds of young men had to show up for the lotteries. In general
lotteries were held at the Mairie (townhall) but sometimes at the local
inn. In the latter case it may be assumed that the lucky ones who were
dismissed downed a few to celebrate. Also the first contacts were often
made with a candidate remplacant. The amount of money that was involved
to pay the replacement varied quite a lot: anywhere between a couple of
hundred to thousands of guilders.
It also happened that lottery numbers were exchanged
a conscript with a low lottery number -with a considerable chance to
in the army- could trade his number with someone with a high number
that both were drafted in the same year and were living in the same
(region). They were known as "nummerwisselaars". For these exchanges
a contract was made up by a notary public. Nevertheless, both
and trading numbers did not release the initial conscript of his
If the hired hand did not pass the medical examination or deserted, the
conscript had to show up or look for another remplacant or
Obviously it were especially the poor people who volunteered to be a
or exchange a number.
The call for cannon-fodder was loud. There even were 125 Frisian orphans, between 11 - 14 years of age, who were brought to Versailles to serve the regiment "Pupils of the Imperial Guard". This also happened to Douwe Dirks Sytsma, born in Ferwerd in 1790. He had already served as an orphan in an unknown regiment before the draft of 1810, maybe the afore mentioned regiment. By the way: all orphans of 16 years and older had to report for service in the army. Ironically it worked both ways: more soldiers and less expenses on orphans.
In the following overview you will find 121 names of conscripts -or the ones who replaced them- from Ferwerderadeel who served in the Napoleon’s army. It is almost certain that 44 did not return. They were killed in battle or died in a hospital due to wounds or a contagious disease. Others were reported missing which assumedly means the same. Several managed to survive and returned home but the fate of many others is unknown. Most likely they passed away abroad too.
Last but most certainly not least: the overview was sent in
Paasman from Tietjerksteradeel to whom we are most grateful for
us with it. We are sorry to remark that Mr. Paasman passed away some
years ago. He did a lot of research
Frisians in the army of Napoleon. If you’d like to copy some data from
the list don’t forget to give all the credit to Mr. Paasman and mention
him as source. Thank you.
- " Fan Fryslâns ferline" by H. Twerda (1981)