Sommelsdijk, fort

Fort Sommelsdijk was the second most important fortification in the colony of Surinam from the late 17th century until the construction of fort Nieuw Amsterdam in the mid-18th century. The decision to construct Sommelsdijk, a large earthen fortification with five bastions was taken in May 1684, in order to cover the plantation areas on the Upper Commewijne and the Cottica where many planters from the Suriname River had settled because of the Indian War (1678-1686). Actual work, to a design by Robert Paen, at that time an army captain leading a company in the Suriname garrison, only commenced two years later and was finished in 1688. That year the fort was also officially named Sommelsdijck, after Cornelis van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, the man on whose initiative it was built and first Governor for the Society of Surinam; before that it had been referred to as Fort Commewijne or Fort Cottica. In 1748 Sommelsdijck was abandoned as a first line of defence fortification, even though a small infantry detachment continued to be stationed there.