|The Prince of Orange, later King Willem II, with Durch soldiers in Belgium.|
At the age of 15 Arie de Sterke had joined Napoleon's army to fight in Russia. He went as far as Smolensk on the Dnieper River. As the Russian army retreated, they burned the remaining stores of food, depriving the French of provisions and, finally, in October, forced its retreat. A lack of grass weakened the army's remaining horses, almost all of which died or were killed for food by starving soldiers. Napoleon abandoned his army on 5 December, returning home on a sleigh. The surviving soldiers of his army had to walk back to Western Europe. One of them was Arie de Sterke.
|The army's retreat from Russia was full of hardships.|
Arie's surname means "The Strong One" and he certainly seems to have been a strong man, both physically and mentally. Back in The Netherlands he fought for the Prince of Orange, later Dutch King William II, at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo against Napoleon.
Arie was baptized on November 16, 1796, in Dordrecht as a younger son of Pieter de Sterke (1765-1842) and his first wife, Adriana Knikman (1766-1804). Arie was married, on April 6, 1825, in Dordrecht, to Hendrika Pieters Faassen, and acknowledged to be the father of Hendrika's 10-month-old son Pieter. Within their marriage Hendrika gave birth to 8 additional children. Five sons and a daughter survived infancy and married. Hendrika died in 1871.
|Dordrechtsche Courant, 15-6-1890: Arie de Sterke is mentioned with his son-in-law.|
In 1890, at the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, 93-year-old Arie de Sterke was still alive, living with his daughter Adriana and her husband, Frans Langeweg (1836-1915), in Hof Toulonschelaan in Dordrecht. The street was decorated, he received some money, and a lot of people came to visit. Although elderly, Arie was still in good health, able to walk around and sound of mind. He died on August 8, 1892, aged 95.
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