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Pieter Jong

"The Giant Zouave"

Pieter Jong

Pieter Jong was born on On February 24, 1842, in the Netherlands in the small village of Lutjebroek. Jong was one of over 3000 Dutchmen to join the Papal Zouaves between 1860-1870. Jong joined the Papal Zouaves on February 4, 1866. On his registration form is written: 'A guy built like a tree!'. In Rome a special large uniform had to be made for him due to his large stature.


Shortly after he arrived in the Papal States, Jong sent a letter to his family describing an encounter he had with Bl. Pope Pius IX On February 21, 1866 from his post in Velletri he wrote: “Beloved Mother, Brothers and Sisters. We went to Rome on leave. When we got to the Vatican there were eight more of us, and when we saw His Holiness our hearts were trembling with such a soft and affable countenance. He looks like a man of fifty years old. He asked where we came from and then we said "From Holland, Holy Father," he began to smile affably.“Ha, Dutchmen!” he said, and we each got a silver medal and he gave us his blessing, and told us to write directly to our families that he had blessed them all" 


In October 1867 Garibaldi invaded the Papal States with ten thousand Red Shirts hell bent on seizing Rome and deposing the Pope, who according to them was the "shame and plague of Italy”.


On October 13th, a Company of 90 Papal Zouaves commanded by Lt's Guillemin and Quelen were tasked with liberating the town of Monte Libretti, a fortified village that had been seized by 1200 Red Shirts a few nights before that lay only 28 miles from Rome.


The battle started at 1730, the fighting quickly became very intense and evolved into hand to hand combat by the village gate. Lt. Guillemin was one of the first killed at the gate. Jong was slain after killing 14 Garibaldians. A fellow Zouave gave the following depiction of his last actions. 


"Bareheaded and with his uniform torn to ribbons, he was seen dealing fearful blows with the butt-endof his musket until, breathless with fatigue, though unwounded, he fell upon his knees and was pierced by a dozen bayonets" Lt. Quelen also fought to the end. Fortunately. their heroic sacrifices were not in vain By 2000 the Zouaves had had control of the area just outside the gate.


Fearing for their lives the Garibaldians inside the village closed and reinforced the gate, leaving a number of their comrades outside who were slain by the Zouaves. At 0400 the next day the Papal Zouaves were about to retreat when the villagers opened the gate and announced that the Garibaldians had retreated during the night. The battle was over, the company of 90 Papal Zouaves successfully defeated the much larger force of 1200 Red Shirts, Monte Libretti was back in the hands of the Pope. The 1867 campaign ended in a Papal victory when Garibaldi was forced to retreat back to Italian soil after the battle of Mentana on November 3, 1867. 


The story of Pieter Jong helped with recruitment efforts in the Netherlands. Jong became a local hero, songs and books were written about him and in 1917 a monument of him was placed outside the Church in Lutjebroek. The monument reads 


"Pieter Jong died a heroic death in Monte Libretti He died for the Pope. The cause of the Pope Is the cause of God" To this day the villagers of Lutjebroek keep the memory of Pieter Jong alive.

1866. On his registration form is written: 'A guy built like a tree!'.

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