Puputan Bayu (VOC vs Blambangan) War: VOC’s Fiercest, Cruelest, Most All-Out War Ever , Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia

(Using language: puput means finish, over ; Puputan Bayu = all-out war).
Puputan Bayu was a war between East Indies VOC and Blambangan people in 1771-1772 in Bayu area (currently Songgon). For Dutch this war had been the most intense, and most cruel and took many victims from VOC and from Indonesian side (according to Lekkerker 1993). For Blambangan, this was was very heroic and patriotic and a proud, which was worth recorded, memorized andcan be used as an example for next generations to defense and develop the region, Blambangan region.

In Puputan Bayu, Blambangan was led by Rempeg that later was more famous as Pangeran Jagapati, the great grand son of Pangeran Tawang Alun, son of Mas Bagus Dalem Wiraguna (Mas Bagus Puri) and his mother was from Pakis village in Banyuwangi (Pigeaud). Rempeg or Pangeran Jagapati was believed to be the reincarnation of the legendary Wong Agung I. By Dutch Rempeg was called as Pseudo- Wilis. Rempeg and his followers such as  Patih Jagalara, Mas Ayu (Sayu) Wiwit, Bekel-bekel Utun , Udhuh, Runteb and many more died bravely in this war.

After VOC could occupy Banyuwalit in 1767 and leter Ulu Pangpang and Lateng (Rogojampi) and after the failure of Pangeran Puger (son of Wong Wilis) attack toward VOC in Banyualit, he was caught and then Wong Agung Wilis was exiled to Pulau Banda and horrible colonial system was applied by DUtch towards Blambangan people in that period. According to C Lekkerkerker, a Dutch writer and historian in Blambangan in Indische Gids 1923 : “Colmond (the highest commander of VOC troop in Blambangan from 1769-1770) had high temperament. His actions had been influenced in the basic of the emergence of terrible events, that threatened the safety of this country in 1771 and 1772, Van Wikkerman said that- and actually official documents had confirmed it- that Colmond sent patrols to the entire country (Blambangan) led by Hounold and Heilbronner to seize rice and other related foodstock and if the stuff could not be transported then he ordered to burn it. On the nest rain season, he ordered sawahs to be cultivated again and after harvest, the crops seized again. He ordered people to work to build and strengthen VOc fortress in Ulupangpang and Kuta Lateng. Ordering them to build road. Cleaning trees between fortress in Ulupangpang, building water shelter in Gunung Ikan to watch out Balinese people movement. But he did not provide food for them that people suffered, hungry and endemic was everywhere and mortality was high.”

VOC officers were rude to indigenous women, whether girls, widows and even wives as done by Adipati Jeksa Negara, Blambangan adipati promoted by VOC, to Ki Samila’s wife. For those things happened, Rampeg, who previously worked for Ki Samila, moved to Bayu and build power to attack and get rid of VOC from Blambangan. This was because his heart not because of Balinese influence (Ibid). Pangpang people and other regions joined Rampeg in Bayu and Bayu became a big power deemed to be dangerous for VOC in Blambangan. VOC asked for help from VOC in Batavia, Central Java and from adipati conquered by VOC on the north of East Java and Madura.

Here is the chronology of the Puputan Bayu war according to C Lekkerkerker and other sources J.K.J. de jonge, De Opkomst van het Nederlandsch Gezeg in Oos-Indie:

On May 1771 VOC found out that adipati (region leader/mayors) promoted by VOC, Suta Negara and Wangsengsari, Patih Sura Teruna (except Patih Jeksa Negara) were on Rampeg side and had relationship with Bali. On June 1771, they who were descendant of Tawang Alun and their family were exiled to Sri Langka. Patih Jeksa Negara then promoted as adipati of Blambangan (Ibid). On 3 August 1771, after preparation centered in Lateng was sufficient,VOC sent 70 armed troops to attacked Bayu, but the troop which consisted of indigenous people turned around and chose Rampeg side. (Ibid). On 15 August 1771, Bicsheuvel (Blambangan Resielen from 1767-1771 with his troop moved to attack Bayu. But they return with failure, as Bayu defense was outstanding. At that very time, Schophoff (vice-of Resident Biesheuvel) entered villages to persuaded locals not to take Rempeg’s side. But when they arrived in Gambiran village they were attacked by around 200 Blambangan fighters. (Ibid). On August 1771, regent of Java north coast sent troop led by Lieutenant Imhoff and Ketnari Montro to Blambangan, same time when band of Blambangan people moved to Bayu to join Rempeg ( Ibid). On 22 September 1771, Lieutenant Imhoff could break Bayu defense but indigenous locals troop turned-coat and escaped to forest with their weapons, while European troop, as they ran out of ammunition and were wounded, including Imhoff, they drew back and left their heavy arms.  To cover the loss and to prepare next attack to Bayu, Biesheuvel asked help from 1000 locals and 150 European soldiers (Ibid). But on that time, Pangeran Jagapati asked for 300 Balinese (Jembrana) with arms and logistics needed, and could besiege VOC fortress in Kuta Lateng. VOC mobilized all sources by bringing in soldiers from Batavia, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Pasuruan Garrison  and Dragnonelers from Semarang as core troop. (Ibid). In the early November 1771, Biesheuvel died in Ulu Pangpang and replaced by his deputy, Hendrik Schophoff, who served as Residen Blambangan until 1777. In November, VOC troop arrived in Ulu Pangpang led by Captain Reygesr and Captain Heinrich. They dispelled and besieged Blambangan fighters fot Kuta Lateng. While Captain Reygers could destroy food store in Banjar (currently Glagah), and took control of Grajagan on the southern coast (the harbor of logistics from Bali) and burnt 300 koyan (1 koyan = 1.75 tons) of rice. VOC then issued letter of forgiveness for locals who would leave Bayu and returned to their villages (Ibid). On 13 December 1771, Reygers and his troop moved to Bayu. On 14 December 1771, Reygers attacked Bayu fortification but they failed as the fortification was strong and Bayu fighters could break them. From 14 to 20 December 1771 was a disaster for VOC troop, and they called it as De Dramatische Vernietiging van het Compagnieslegcr (Week of dramatic destruction of VOC).VOC attacked from two directions, from Susukan and Songgon and trapped and besieged by Bayu fighters and destroyed badly. Reygers was badly wounded on his head and died in Ulu Pangpang.  Captain Heinrich was wounded as well, and the troop was led by Van Schaar (Ibid). On 18 December 1771, the climax of  “De Dramatische Vernictiging Van Het Compagniesleger” was very historical for Blambangan people, when Blambangan fighters attacked VOC fortification all-out (puputan) and massively. Blambangan soldiers moved forward in once and sudden, with any weapons they could carry such as golok, keris, sword, spear and riffles seized from VOC or they bought from Britishmen opened their office at Tirtaganda (Banyuwangi). Rempeg who was always at the front line on every battle died for bad wound in this Puputan war, but VOC troop could be destroyed badly.  Partly the troop could be taken to ditch trap set and then finished from above. Van Schaar, the VOC commander, Lieutenant Koret Tinne, and other Dutch soldiers died in this war. The rest of the troop could escape but the number is not many and mostly were already wounded and sick, on 20 December 1771, they drew back to Lateng and evacuated in Ulupangpang (Ibid). Van Schaar was cut and then stick it to a spear and carried out from village to village like parade. After that VOC was very defensive in action, tried to close route in and out Blambangan, from land line or Bali Strait. Schophoff was ordered by his head, Van den Burgh, to treat Blambangan people ‘gently’ (Ibid).

According to van Wikkerman story (later was promoted as resident in Blambangan from 1800 to 1818), van Schaar head was cut and cooked and eaten by the rebels (Ibid). This is a typical of  colonial provocative propaganda. Bayu people were very religious, they were Hindu and Moslem who would not do such cannibalism behavior. (Ibid)

In the early 1772, VOC called all regents from regions conquered on the north coast of East Java to send troops. All Dutch troop was concentrated in Blambangan. After sending 2000 soldiers, on August 1772, the troop arrived in Blambangan with 5000 soldiers of JR Van den Burg, East Java governor. Pengeran Jagapati death made VOC called troops with complete war arms and VOC gained its power, and Bayu fighters were recessive and more defensive. On October 1st 1772, Heinrich moved from Pangpang to Bayu. On 5 October 1771 he camped and erected fortification in Sodong (nearby Songgon). Vaandrig Mierop and Vaandrig Dijkman with their 900 crew and cannon were placed on right wing on hill, as high as Bayu. Gutten Bergen vaandrig and Koegel were placed in Sodong with 500 soldiers while Heinrich was ready on left wing. In Sentong, 1500 soldiers were ready and Bayu was besieged strictly. (Ibid). On 11 October 1772,  Bayu was assaulted badly  with cannon attack. After fake alarm was turned on on right wing (from Mierop and Dijkman, that assault was made as it would be executed from left wing). After fierce battle, Bayu could be seized by VOC. But from Bayu side, only minimum victims as most of Bayu fighters have escaped to forest. Bayu fortification was built neatly, elaborately, strongly and strategically that made VOC officials amaze. Piter Luzak, VOC commander in East Java, ordered to demolish Bayu fortification. (Ibid). Bayu fighters caught were killed as ordered by Heinrick and their head were cut and hung on trees or stick on spears along village  street. Men and Women arrested then transported to pangpang as ordered by Schophoff and many were punished dead by drowning them with stone ballast to the ocean, tortured and many were exiled to Surabaya or Batavia as slaves. (Ibid)

That was the end of the terrible all-out war, which took thousands of casualties, from enemy’s side and especially from Blambangan side. This is the political and tragical Dutch politic of devide et impera to Indonesian, and the victims of the war were mostly indigenous Indonesian itself.

Characteristics of Puputan Bayu war:
-The war climax was in 18 December 1771, and Dutch admitted that this was the most tense, most cruel, and most victims from all wars involving VOC in Indonesia (Ibid).

-The war was cruel and revengeful that if VOC soldiers were caught by Blambangan fighters, as Lieutenant van Schaar, their heads cut and stick on spear and paraded along village street. Conversely if Blambangan fighters caught by VOC, their heads cut and then hung on trees or stick on fence along village street (Ibid). This kind of action was rarely found in other places in Indonesia. \

-From 2505 Blambangan warriors arrested and transported to Pangpang, many were hung by drowned to the ocean, tortured to dead (Ibid). The punishments were like vengeance, more than merely punishment for enemy.

-To face the war VOC mobilized more than 10000 personnel with complete arms and cannons transported from whole Java and garrisons from Batavia, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Surabaya, Madura and other parts on northers coast of East Java. (Ibid). This was an amazing number for that period of time.

-Puputan Bayu wat took more than 60000 casualties from Blambangan people, who were lost, died or left to forest (Epp). This was not as many as nowadays inhabitants of Banyuwangi. Blambangan inhabitants in that period was about 65000 people. JC Bosch, Dutch govt officer wrote from Bondowoso in 1848 ‘…. this region was probably the only region in Java which was highly polulated and then annihilated totally…’ (Anderson)

-To conquer Blambangan, especially for Puputan Bayu war, VOC spent 8 tons of gold which was a big loss for VOC in that period. VOC headship in Batavia then counted this as not worthy for whatever VOC would receive from Blambangan for the return of loss. (Op cit, 1823)

-The war was over in 11 October 1772, yet people resistance in local rebellions were happened in Blambangan until 10 years later in 1818, led by rest of Bayu warriors who never gave up who were called as ‘wild’ by Dutch (Lekkerkerker, 1926)

This was shows how Indonesian should behave against colonialism, and how they, Blambangan people, worked hard to fight against colonialism and injustice from foreigners who came to their land and wanted to take over the land, no matter how hard it was, how much it cost. They fought to the end for their dignity for their land. Young generations should see leaders like Rempeg, Tawang Alun as role model.

Original text by Hasan Ali (Head of Dewan Kesenian Blambangan)