The fortress that was never conquered

Due to its strategic location, the Bourtange fortress in east Groningen was repeatedly under fire, yet there was no captain who would consider giving it up. Not even for 200,000 guilders.

None other than Pater Patriae William of Orange was at the cradle of the impressive Bourtange fortress. In 1580, he commissioned the construction of a fortress on a sand ridge in the Bourtange marsh on the current German border.

William of Orange intended to block an important supply road to the city of Groningen with the construction of the fortress. Earlier that year, the city had come under Spanish rule and after the construction of the fortress would be entirely isolated from its supply routes. The fortress was built in 1593 by order of William of Orange’s successor, Willem-Lodewijk van Nassau.

Despite the important location of the fortress, no enemy army succeeded in
conquering it. In the year 1672, the bishop of Münster, Bommen Berend, thought he could, but he had not reckoned with one man: the heroic captain Prott.

On 11 July 1672, the Münster troops were at the gate of the Bourtange fortress. Before one shot was fired, the bishop offered captain Prott a large sum of money: there would be 200,000 guilders waiting for him if he would surrender the fortress. Apparently, the brave Prott indignantly responded: ‘There will be 200,000 bullets waiting for you if you do not end this siege!’ After a few days of bombardments, Bommen Berend was forced to acknowledge the captain’s superiority and retreat.

With the advent of modern warfare, the fortress lost its function, as a result of which it was officially closed down in 1851. In the 1960s, the municipality of Vlagtwedde decided to entirely reconstruct the fortress as it was in the year 1742, when the fortress was at its peak. Today, the many places of interest and various museums provide a special inside view of both the military history and how people inside the fortress lived.

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