Jan Willem De Winter - Encyclopedia

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JAN WILLEM DE WINTER (1750-1812), Dutch admiral, was born at Kampen, and in 1761 entered the naval service at the age of twelve years. He distinguished himself by his zeal and courage, and at the revolution of 1787 he had reached the rank of lieutenant. The overthrow of the "patriot" party forced him to fly for his safety to France. Here he threw himself heart and soul into the cause of the Revolution, and took part under Dumouriez and Pichegru in the campaigns of 1792 and 1793, and was soon promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. When Pichegru in 1795 overran Holland, De Winter returned with the French army to his native country. The states-general now utilized the experience he had gained as a naval officer by giving him the post of adjunct-general for the reorganization of the Dutch navy. In 1796 he was appointed vice-admiral and commanderin-chief of the fleet. He spared no efforts to strengthen it and improve its condition, and on the IIth of October 1797 he ventured upon an encounter off Camperdown with the British fleet under Admiral Duncan. After an obstinate struggle the Dutch were defeated, and De Winter himself was taken prisoner. He remained in England until December, when he was liberated by exchange. His conduct in the battle of Camperdown was declared by a court-martial to have nobly maintained the honour of the Dutch flag.

From 1798 to 1802 De Winter filled the post of ambassador to the French republic, and was then once more appointed commander of the fleet. He was sent with a strong squadron to the Mediterranean to repress the Tripoli piracies, and negotiated a treaty of peace with the Tripolitan government. He enjoyed the confidence of Louis Bonaparte, when king of Holland, and, after the incorporation of the Netherlands in the French empire, in an equal degree of the emperor Napoleon. By the former he was created marshal and count of Huessen, and given the command of the armed forces both by sea and land. Napoleon gave him the grand cross of the Legion of Honour and appointed him inspectorgeneral of the northern coasts, and in 1811 he placed him at the head of the fleet he had collected at the Texel. Soon afterwards De Winter was seized with illness and compelled to betake himself to Paris, where he died on the 2nd of June 1812. He had a splendid public funeral and was buried in the Pantheon. His heart was enclosed in an urn and placed in the Nicolaas Kerk at Kampen.

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