Carlo Pozzi's army years

It was still unclear how, why and when our Italian ancestor Carlo Pozzi precisely came to the Netherlands. We knew from oral history and from documents kept in the family that he was in both Swiss and Dutch army service. His wife was from Brussels in Belgium and his children were born both there and in the Dutch town of Doesburg. But how he exactly got there was still a mystery.

Good advice from Switzerland

One of the documents kept in the family was a certificate in French from the Swiss Regiment stationed in 'Dort' in 1823. But in all of Switzerland no town could be found that was called something like 'Dort'. I therefore asked an internet friend from Switzerland for advice. Unfortunately he had never heard of a place called 'Dort' either, but he was willing to take a better look at the certificate. After examination he had just two small remarks, but they turned out to be the key to the solution of the mystery. "Isn't 'Dort' simply a Dutch town? The Swiss were after all always in foreign service." and "By the way, it was the Göldlin Regiment, not Soldlin as you have read." Simply typing the words "Swiss Regiment Göldlin 32" in Google then produced a wealth of information.

'Certificat' in French of the Swiss Göldlin Regiment number 32

Pretty soon it turned out that the Swiss Regiment Göldlin no. 32 had as a whole been in Dutch service of King William I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815-1830). Since 1821, commander in chief had been a Johann Göldlin von Tiefenau and in 1823 the regiment was stationed in the Dutch town of 'Dordrecht', locally also known as 'Dordt'. Incidentally the official English name is 'Dort'! It all fit like a glove with the certificate!

Excited by these findings further investigation on the internet quickly produced more information about the Swiss in Dutch service of which Carlo Pozzi obviously had been one.

The Swiss army register of the 3rd quarter of 1817 of the
"Catholic Swiss Regiment of Auf der Maur no. 32"

Four Swiss Regiments have existed with a total of about 10,000 men, who were recruited by king William I from 1814 onwards in the various Cantons in Switzerland. In 1814 Napoleon had just been banned to the island of Elba and Europe was reforming again. The new emerging Dutch state needed an experienced army quickly. Prior to the French occupation Swiss regiments had been in Dutch service as well. This old tradition was re-instated. In 1815 Napoleon returned and was defeated in the famous battle at Waterloo after which the United Kingdom of the Netherlands got its final shape. It included present day Belgium. Three of the Swiss Regiments consisted of reformed soldiers. The fourth and smallest regiment would consist of Roman-Catholic men who were recruited in the Roman-Catholic Swiss Cantons. One of which was Italian speaking Ticino bordering on the area where Carlo came from in Italy.

Carlo Pozzi Swiss?

As it was now very plausible that Carlo Pozzi had been directly in Dutch service from the start, it meant that all the registers of his service should be in the National Archive in The Hague. In the Swiss register there it soon turned out that the at that moment just 21 year old Carlo Pozzi had indeed enlisted in September 1817 in the city of Schwyz in an army depot. The Dutch government had distributed posters in the Swiss cantons and Carlo will have responded to one of them. Schwyz was almost 150 kms (over 90 miles) from his birth town so Carlo had already made quite a journey. But there was a far bigger problem than that... Carlo was not at all Swiss!

The entry in German for Carlo Pozzi, born in "Ponte Tresa" a village that consists of an Italian and a Swiss part.

A lot has been written about the Catholic Swiss Regiment number 32. That regiment had a lot of trouble to find enough recruits and it therefore hired -totally against all Dutch regulations- non-Swiss recruits as well. They tampered with the birth places and identities to cover it up and that seems to be the case for Carlo as well. The record states he was born and living in the village of 'Ponte Tresa'. An interesting village as it is close to Cressogno where Carlo really came from but also because it consists of a Swiss and an Italian part. So you could say you came from there even as an Italian without telling a lie.

The area at the borders of Italy and Switzerland. Carlo was really born in Cressogno, Italy, about 15 kms from the border-village Ponte Tresa.

The Swiss register states that Carlo and 24 other recruits left for the Netherlands on 15 October 1817. The word used was 'abmarschiert' so they went on foot! The recruits had to march from Schwyz all the way to Basel (over 130 kms or 80 miles!). There they embarked on a ship that sailed the river Rhine downstream all the way to the Netherlands. In the Dutch register we find an entry stating they arrived in Antwerp on 9 November 1817.

Taking the oath

Although Carlo only arrived at the end of 1817 and the Swiss regiments were shaping up from 1814 onwards, he was still in time to witness the grand consecration of the regimental flag on 25 December 1817 in the Antwerp cathedral. Records state that the regiments were present on this Christmas day at the celebrations so Carlo will have been there indeed. A detachment of 'flankers' (the position Carlo had) even transported the regimental flag. So Carlo may have been very close to it all.

A military parade on "Meir" in Antwerp
(example of a later parade in the mid 19th century)

Another highlight in the early days of his service was at the feast of Epiphany just a short time later. On 6 January 1818 the regimental flag was handed over to the commander Auf der Maur on the important street called Meir in Antwerp. Following their commander the recruits had to take the oath. That was done both in German and Italian. Carlo will undoubtedly have taken the oath in Italian. The commander translated the oath on the spot from Dutch for his men. It said: "Under this regimental flag I swear loyalty to his Majesty the King of the Netherlands, obedience to the laws and submission to the military discipline" to which everybody had to state in their respective languages: "so help me God".

Evidence from Switzerland

From 1817 onwards the Dutch government slowly became aware of the abusive practises in the Catholic regiment. Information of people and expenses had been rigged. But still it took until 1819 before there was a specific inquiry into the origin of every single recruit. In 1821 this finally led to the disgraceful dismissal of commander Auf der Maur and a purging of the entire regiment number 32. In the end a total of 1,500 of the 2,500 soldiers were dismissed or transferred! A staggering percentage.

Certificate from Magliaso stating that Carlo Pozzi was 'patrizio'. In Switzerland this means that his ancestors would originally come from it.

Carlo Pozzi, who most certainly did not meet the Dutch regulations either, managed to stay in service as the only one of his group of 25 men with whom he arrived in October 1817. A document from 1818 from the commune of Magliaso will have helped him there. Although this certificate does not state he was born there, nor that he lived there, it did state that Carlo was 'patrizio' of the village. My internet friend explained that this is common in Switzerland even to this day. Your passport does not state your birth place but the place where your family originates from. People who may have lived in Basel their entire life (as did their parents) may still have some obscure village in their passport as place of origin. Simply because long ago their ancestors came from there. For Carlo this was stated to be 'Magliaso'. Apparantly it was not possible to get this for the earlier stated 'Ponte Tresa' but the council of Magliaso in stead cooperated to fabricate such a document. In all the later Dutch records we see Magliaso as place of birth for Carlo.

The Dutch registers promptly change the birth place to Magliaso, Switzerland.

'Fabricate' because it seems highly unlikely that Carlo Pozzi's family really originated from Magliaso. His father was born in Puria very close to Cressogno. And it is known that centuries earlier famous craftsmen came from Puria called Pozzi with first names that both Carlo's father and grandfather have as (middle) names. It seems that the obscure contacts of commander Auf der Maur here worked in favour of Carlo to get him the proof that he was in fact Swiss.

Baptismal certificate from Cressogno stating that Carlo Pozzi was born and baptised there and moreover that he lived there until 1817.

In the genuine baptismal certificate from Cressogno we can clearly read that Carlo was indeed born there. And moreover that he had lived there as well until 1817. Which is exactly right with the known facts. It is this document that Carlo provides for his marriage later. Not the document from Magliaso.

Swiss Regiment

Carlo stayed in the Swiss Regiment from 1817 to 1825. The regiment was initially in garrison in Antwerp and later in a number of cities in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. We find him in Louvain (Leuven), Mechlin (Mechelen), Bergen op Zoom, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Gorinchem, Dordrecht, Gouda, Brill (Brielle) and Hellevoetsluis. On 29 October 1825 Carlo's service ended. He had done a double service as he had re-enlisted in 1821. He is then out of military service for just three weeks. Most likely to obtain his bonus which the ex-soldiers could only get in Switzerland.

The Summer uniform of the Dutch Army Swiss Regiment no. 32 "flankers".

It is unclear if Carlo also visits his parents in Milan in those three weeks. But that seems to be too short a time because on 23 November 1825 he already enlists for another military service. This time directly in a Dutch part of the army. He is signed into the first infantry division (later regiment) that was in garrison in Brussels. In the following year he will have met his future wife there, because in September 1827 his first child was born in Brussels. Even though Carlo was not married at the time.

Record of Carlo's Dutch army service years (until 1829)

Turbulent times

In 1829 a second child was born to Carlo and his (future) wife the embroiderer Maria Liesenborg. Because they are still not married the child gets her mother's last name. By that time the Swiss regiments no longer existed. They were taken out of service because especially in the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) they were considered too expensive and people were not too keen on those foreigners protecting the king. Early 1830 Carlo was transferred to the Grenadiers who were in garrison in Vilvoorde.

Carlo is grenadier when in August 1830 the Belgian revolt breaks out. Carlo fought with the 'mobile army' and in Brussels he in fact had to take up arms against his in-laws. The Dutch army retreats from the Southern Netherlands at the end of September 1830 to the North. In 1831 Carlo marches South again in the so-called Ten Days Campaign in which the Netherlands tried to suppress the Belgian revolution for a last time. He is rewarded the 'Metal Cross' for that, which means he was really part of the fights.

Front and back of the so called "Metal Cross" a reward for participation in the fights over the separation of Belgium from the United Netherlands (1830/1831)

Carlo's future wife who was from Brussels had to take an undoubtedly difficult decision but in the end chooses to follow the father of her two children to the north. They eventually end up in the town of Doesburg where in 1833 their second child dies and where only in 1835 they are finally able to officially wed. It has taken them a lot of time to get all the required documents for this marriage. Years earlier their respective parents had already granted permission in writing. But the fact that the Netherlands at that time did not recognize the Belgian independence will have been the cause that the documents from Brussels were not legally valid. In stead the marriage certificate is accompanied by a royal order by king William I himself stating that Maria could marry without presenting a single legal document.

The barracks in Doesburg

In 1839 Carlo is in a part of the army that is transferred to Utrecht. He will remain there until the end of his military service. In 1846 his service finally ends. Carlo is then 50 years old. He and his family remain in Utrecht and also his descendants remain in that city for generations to come.

It is now perfectly clear how Carlo came to the Netherlands and when and why. His enlisting to the Swiss Regiment of the Dutch army as early as 1817 was the reason. Much earlier than one would expect seeing all the documents in both French and German that the family had kept. Carlo was at first more in the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) and after the independence of Belgium he and his Belgian (!) wife remained in Doesburg and later Utrecht in the Netherlands. It was in Utrecht where Carlo died in 1875.



This page was printed from the website of the Wagenbuur Family
's-Hertogenbosch - Utrecht
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