Schoonenburg, fort (Fortaleza)

The Dutch, who had been expelled from Ceará by the uprising of the indigenous population in 1644, received signals from this same population that their return would not be unwelcome. The situation had changed considerably in the meanwhile, as the uprising of the Portuguese ‘moradores’ in 1645 had reduced Dutch rule to the beleaguered city of Recife, Itamaracá, Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte. The WIC was desperate to realise returns from its Brazilian holdings, now that most of the sugar producing areas had been lost to the Portuguese. The prospect of exploiting silver mines in Ceará seemed an interesting suggestion. Gisbert de With, a member of the Dutch political elite in Recife, was approached to head an expedition to Ceará, but he declined after the disastrous Dutch defeat in the second battle at Guararapes in 1649. The post was then offered to Mathias Beck, a member of the Dutch business community in Recife, who accepted (Hulsman 2005a: 42).

Beck left Recife in March 1649 and the expedition reached Mucuripe Bay on April 3rd.. They chose a location on the left bank of the Pajeú River to erect a new fortification, which they baptized Fort Schoonenborch in honour of the political councillor Wouter Schoonenborch, president of the WIC government in Recife at that time. They cleared the terrain and took part of their building materials from the ruins of Fort Sebastião. The fort was designed by the English architect Richard Carr. The fort was probably gradually enlarged in the period 1649-1653 (Werneck 2006; Krommen 2001). The garrison of the fort consisted of 108 people in February 1653 (1.01.02_5764)

The rendition of Dutch Brazil in January 1654 angered the Amerindian allies of the Dutch to the point that they beleaguered Fort Schoonenborch. The Dutch were saved by the Portuguese. On May 20, 1654 a ship arrived carrying Portuguese troops and the Dutch handed over the fort. A Portuguese ship carrying the Dutch left on June 1, 1654 and brought them to the island of Barbados. Capitão-mor Álvaro de Azevedo Barreto took command of the fort which was baptized Forte de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (NL-HaNA1.05.01.0167_96). The artillery rendered to the Portuguese is shown in table 1 below.