Research Subjects: Biographies

Engineer Officers of the Netherlands: Krayenhoff, Cornelis Rudolphus Theodorus Baron 

By Geert van Uythoven

Cornelis Krayenhof
Cornelis Krayenhof

Born in Nijmegen (Netherlands) on 2 June 1758, son of Cornelis Johannes Krayenhoff, major-engineer, and Clara Jacoba de Man.

Followed 1770 the Latin school, in 1777 transferring to the university of Harderwijk, studying law, philosophy, and medicine. Finishing in 1784, he started in Amsterdam as a Doctor of Medicine. He left the country as a patriot during the French attack on the Dutch Republic in October 1794. Entered on 29 October French service as a voluntary officer with the staff of Herman Willem Daendels. Served with the Armée du Nord 1794-’95. On 18 January 1795, Daendels send him to Amsterdam to initiate the revolution here. Succeeding in doing this, he became acting commander of Amsterdam, instead of Count Golowkin, until 22 January. On 7 March he was appointed lieutenant-colonel and commander of the National Guard of Amsterdam. On the 17th he was ordered to raise an artillery corps here.

Batavian Republic 1795 - 1806

Krayenhoff specialised in hydraulic engineering and military engineering. He entered military service as an engineer (and he would remain in military service for the rest of his life), on 18 May 1795 appointed Adjunct-Inspector-General of the Rivers, and Adjunct-Controller of Fortifications. On 1 July he became also a member of the commission for the organisation of the National Guard of Amsterdam. On 15 July he resigned from his functions in Amsterdam, after some arguments with the other members of the commission. On the same day however he was appointed acting Controller-General of Fortifications, still retaining his function as Adjunct-Inspector-General of the Rivers. On 23 July 1795 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel-engineer. More functions followed: 10 August 1795 Controller of Fortifications in Holland; 14 January 1796 Director of Fortifications in Holland and of the military inundations. On 15 June 1797, he became a member of the Batavian Society of Sciences in Rotterdam.

On 29 June 1797, Krayenhoff was appointed commander of the brigade of engineers of the expeditionary force under Daendels, destined to participate in the French expedition to Ireland. He was embarked on the ship of the line ‘Delft’ at the roads of Texel in July-September 1797. The expedition however never left, and the troops disembarked again. On 11 April 1798, Krayenhoff was appointed Chief of the Bureau of the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways. He resigned from this function already a few weeks later. Instead, he was on 30 May 1798 appointed Lieutenant-Colonel-Director of Fortifications, charged with the supervision of all fortified places and works from the Biesbosch up to and including the island of Texel. Yet more functions followed: 13 July member of the Direction of the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways, and member of the Commission for the Drainage of Mijdrecht; 18 July member of the Commission for the sluices and docks of the fortress-city Hellevoetsluis; 2 August member of the Commission for the Drainage of Nieuwkoop, and after that also for the drainage of the Krimpenerwaard Polder.

On 10 October 1798, Krayenhoff was charged with the drawing of a new map of the Batavian Republic. On 11 August 1799, he was appointed commander of engineers of the Batavian army. On the 24th, he joined Daendels in Northern Holland, and during the British landings on the 27th near Callandsoog, Krayenhoff was slightly wounded by a musket ball in his left thigh. On the 30th, he was send to Amsterdam, to organise the defences of the capital. Within a few days, the cities’ defences had become so strong that a coup de main by the Anglo-Russian forces had small chance to succeed. After the treaty had been closed and the Anglo-Russian began the evacuation of their forces, Krayenhoff was assigned to supervise the execution of all stipulations of the treaty (20 October).

During the year 1800, Krayenhoff was busy strengthening the coast of northern Holland, to prevent a repetition of the invasion that took place in 1799. On 14 October 1803, he was appointed Inspector with the Administration of the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways. On 20 September 1805, due to the events taking place in Europe at that time, he again received the task to strengthen the defences of Amsterdam. On 17 December, he was appointed Commissary-General of the Batavian Government with the headquarters of Louis Bonaparte, commander in chief of the French Armée du Nord in the Batavian Republic. He resumed his functions in Amsterdam on 16 January 1806. On 28 March 1806 he was appointed Colonel-Director of the Fortifications between the Biesbosch and Texel, while retaining his function of Inspector of the 2nd District of the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways.

Kingdom of Holland 1806 - 1810

When the Kingdom of Holland was created out of the Batavian Republic, with as its king Louis Bonaparte, Krayenhoff was appointed his adjutant on 6 July 1806. On 18 July he became Director-General of the Military Depot. On 5 September, he became a member of the Commission for the reorganisation of the artillery and engineers. On the 13th of the same month, he was appointed commander of the engineers of the expeditionary force under Dumonceau, in Camp Zeist. On 7 October he became commander of the engineers of the Noorderleger under King Louis Bonaparte, destined for northern Germany. He served in Germany during October, but returned to Holland together with King Louis Bonaparte on 13 November 1806. He was made a knight in the Koninklijke Order van Verdienste on 1 January 1807 (this order became the Koninklijke Orde van Holland on 14 February). Only just over one month later, on 16 February, he even became a Commander of the Koninklijke Orde van Holland (which became the Koninklijke Orde der Unie on 23 November 1807).

Again, a lot of functions and honours came his way: 29 May 1807, promoted major-general, appointed Inspector-General of the artillery and engineers; 8 February 1808, member of the Central Committee of Artillery and Engineers; 4 May, member of the 1st Class of the Royal Institute for Science, Literature and Art (‘Koninklijk Instituut van Wetenschappen, Letterkunde en Schone Kunsten’); 23 May, president of the Central Committee of Artillery and Engineers, replacing Demarçay; 22 January 1809, member of the Central Commission for the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways (resiging from this function again on 27 March); 25 May, member of the 2nd Section of the Central Committee of artillery and engineers.

On 26 May 1809, Krayenhoff became Minister of War, replacing Jan Willem Janssens. On 7 August he was with the headquarters of the army in Northern Brabant, after the British invasion of Zeeland. From 26 November 1809 until 8 March 1810, he was acting commander of the Royal Guards and the troops north of the Meuse river, during the absence of King Louis Bonaparte who was in Paris. He was charged with the overall command of the defence of Amsterdam on 23 February 1810, when the French threatened to occupy the capital. On 3 March 1810, Napoleon forced King Louis Bonaparte to dismiss Krayenhoff from his function as Minister of War. On 8 March, he became Inspector-General of the engineers again. On 22 April 1810, again a member of the Central Commission for the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways. On 1 September 1810, he was relieved from his post as adjutant of King Louis Bonaparte after his abdication.

French Empire 1810 - 1814

The Emperor Napoleon appointed Krayenhoff Inspector-General of Engineers on 21 September 1810. On 11 November, after the Kingdom of Holland had become a part of the French Empire, he transferred to French service as général de brigade and Inspector-General of engineers. He was allowed to continue is topographic work. Relieved of his function as member of the Central Commission for the Department for the Maintenance of Waterways on 4 February 1811. On 1 August 1811, he became an extraordinary member of the Society of Science in Amsterdam. On 27 August he asked his dismissal from French service, planning to go over into Russian service. His dismissal was however refused.

October 1811, the Emperor Napoleon travelled through the Netherlands on an inspection tour. Taking a parade in Utrecht, he promoted 1st Lieutenant Cornelis Johannes Krayenhoff to cavalry-captain, after having learned that this was the oldest son of General Krayenhoff.

More functions and honours came Krayenhoff’s way again: 9 December 1811, corresponding member of the Class of Physics and Mathematics of the Institut de France; 21 December, member of the Committee of Fortifications in Paris; on 29 March 1812 he was made commander of the Ordre de la Réunion; on 1 May, he was send to Holland, to enhance the streambeds of the rivers there; on 7 May, he was made a knight of the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur.

He resigned from French service on 19 November 1813, when the Netherlands had become a seperate nation again.

The Netherlands: 1813 - 1825

Krayenhoff was the one who proclaimed the Prince of Orange as Sovereign, in Amsterdam on 23 November 1813. Next day, he was appointed governor of Amsterdam by the Provisional Government, on the 25th, he became commander of the troops in Utrecht. He led the blockade of French General Quétard de la Porte in the fortress-city Naarden from November 1813 until 12 May 1814. On 26 December 1813, he had been appointed member of the provisional committee, charged with the organisation of the Netherlands army. He was commander of the 1st Military Arrondissement in Amsterdam from 17 January until 28 July 1814. On 12 March 1814 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and appointed Inspector-General of Fortifications and from the Engineer Corps. He was also appointed Inspector-General of the pontoneers, miners and sappers, on 1 April 1814. On 11 April 1814, he was engaged in the fighting near Muiderberg when the French troops from Naarden made a sortie.

On 24 July 1814, Krayenhoff became a member for the commission for the organisation of the Netherlands army. On 31 July, he received the honorary title of Governor of Amsterdam for life; on 20 August, he was appointed commander of this city and its military detachment. On 28 September, he was charged with a mission to Belgium. He was made commander of the Militaire Willemsorde by Royal Decree No. 16 of 8 July 1815, for former services. On 16 September 1815, he was made a baron by King Willem I. On 21 November he was appointed commander of the Engineer Corps. On 28 May 1816 he became a member of the 1st Class of the Royal Netherlands Institute (‘Koninklijk Nederlandsch Instituut’). On 11 December, he was charged with a mission to Paris. He supervised the reinforcement of the southern border of the Netherlands, as well as the fortresses in the Netherlands from 1816 until 1826; on 2 September 1816 he placed the first stone for the new defence works of Charleroi.

More honours: On 14 September 1816 allowed to wear his knight’s cross of the Légion d’Honneur; on 6 October 1817, he was confirmed as night of the Légion d’Honneur  by the king of France; on 16 October 1822 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Art (‘Koninklijke Academie der Kunsten’) in Amsterdam; on 12 May 1823, he was appointed knight-grand cross of the Militaire Willemsorde by Royal Decree No. 118, for building the defences of the Southern Frontier; honorary member of the Society of Art and Science (‘Sociëteit der Kunsten en Wetenschappen’) in Batavia on 2 February 1825.

On 5 May 1825, Krayenhoff was send on a mission to Curaçao, to study the means to reinforce this island. Arriving on the island on 23 June, he left for the Netherlands again on 20 August of that same year, arriving in Flushing on 18 September 1825.  

Later years 1826 - 1840

In 1826 he was charged with irregularities in his financial management, and carelessness in the exercise of his duties. As a result, on 14 May 1826 he lost his command of the Engineer Corps. On 9 September he was placed at the disposal of the Minister of War. On 14 September relieved from his function of Inspector-General of Fortifications. On 8 June 1829 he was acquitted by the High Military Court, but nevertheless punished with two months of heavy detention (sic!). On 28 April 1830, he was completely acquitted by the High Military Court.

On 10 May 1830 he was pensioned out of the Netherlands army, with a yearly pension of fl. 3,000,--, retaining his honorary title of governor of Amsterdam. By Royal Decree of  18 July 1830, he retained his pay as Inspector-General of Fortifications. During the ‘Belgian Rising’, on 10 September 1830 he offered his services again in vain. Since then, he devoted himself to science, and became on 6 July 1838 honorary member of the Society of Art and Sciences (‘Sociëteit van Kunsten en Wetenschappen’) in ‘s Hertogenbosch.

Krayenhoff died in Nijmegen on 24 November 1840. On the 28th, he was buried inside the fortress near Nijmegen which was named after him. On 18 July 1914, his remains were transferred to the ‘Rustoord’ burial place in Nijmegen.

Krayenhoff wrote the following works related to military history:

- Krayenhoff, C.R.T., “Bijdragen tot de Vaderlandsche Geschiedenis van de belangrijke jaren 1809 en 1810” (Nijmegen 1831)

- Krayenhoff, C.R.T., “Eene Geschiedkundige beschouwing van den oorlog op het grondgebied der Bataafsche Republiek in 1799” (Nijmegen 1832)

- Krayenhoff, C.R.T., “Extract uit het Verbaal van den Inspecteur-Generaal der Fortificatiën, betreffende de dienst van het korps Ingenieurs, gedurende het tijdvak van 1814 tot 1827” (c. 1841)

Krayenhoff’s memoirs appeared as: Tydeman, Mr. H.W., “Levensbijzonderheden van den Luitenant-Generaal Baron C.R.T. Krayenhoff” [written by Krayenhoff himself] (Nijmegen 1844)

Information about the accusations made against him, and his trial before the Military High Court, has appeared in print as: “De Luitenant-Generaal Baron Krayenhoff voor het Hoog Militair Geregtshof beschreven en vrijgesproken” (Nijmegen 1830)


Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2013

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