Johor War
Battle of Assaye2
The Luxembourgois force breaks out of Muar

6th May, 1863


29th October, 1863


Johor, Singapore


Treaty of Muar


Flag of Luxembourg (The Kalmar Union).svgLuxembourg

Flag of Johor Johor


Michael Kaas



2,600 Luxembourgois, 1,000 Sumatran auxilliaries

c. 18,000 Johorians

Casualties and Losses

360 Luxembourgois

7,400 Johorians

The Johor War was a short conflict which resulted in the Sultanate of Johor being annexed by Luxembourg. Noted for being over and done with before the Army's High Command in Antwerp even got wind of the action, the war was also horrifically bloody thanks to the Luxembourgers' army facing a large and technologically inferior force.


Since Luxembourgois agents leased the island of Singapore from the Sultan of Johor in 1783 their influence had grown steadily at his court, providing advice and loans to the splendid but decadent regime. During the same period its once wealthy ports had declined compared to Singapore and Austrian-run Malacca and Luxembourgois Singapore had especially eaten into its profits. The governors of Singapore therefore represented both the major competitor to Johor and its major supporter.

The War

On 6th May Sultan Abdullah was overthrown by his brother Mansur following civil war. Escaping to Singapore he promised riches and the permanent gift of Singapore Island to the Trier-born governor Michael Kaas if he would assist him in regaining his throne. Kaas had resented his posting to Singapore which was 'small and backward' and beginning to be eclipsed by the new colonies of New Brabant and New Zeeland in Antwerp's grand plans. He was personally eager to make his mark and therefore the action seemed like a win-win situation. Without waiting for a response from Antwerp, which would have taken months, he took three-quarters of Singapore's garrison and with some hastily requisitioned ships went north. Armed with cannon and rifles against the confused musket-armed army of Johor the utterly outnumbered force nevertheless quickly recaptured Muar and its fortress for the exiled Sultan. Restored, Abdullah made good on his promises, although he had little real option to renege on them; he signed over Singapore in perpetuity and made a small payment to Kaas, promising a much larger sum would follow once he had regained full control of the sultanate.

Henry Nelson O'Neil - Eastward Ho! - 1857

Eastward by David Kaber (1894).
Dutch wives saying their goodbyes to soldiers leaving for Singapore, 1864.

Satisfied, and able to pay the captains of the requisitioned ships a good bonus for their cooperation, Kaas returned to Singapore only to be told a week later that the sultan had been captured and lynched in his palace by fanatics loyal to his brother. Feeling personally slighted Kaas ordered his men back to Muar. This time the Johor army was waiting for them and whilst capturing Muar's fortress smoothly, Kaas and his men soon found themselves besieged. A bloody stand-off ensued with the Johorians repeated trying to storm the fort only to be repelled with appalling losses. With supplies running low Kaas eventually led a breakout in late October which inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Johorians.

The Sultana, Mariam, still safely in exile in Singapore and virtually the only royal left following the punishing civil war, was declared regent and forced to sign away her sons' land which would henceforth by run by the Luxembourgois governors in Singapore. It was only at this point that Kaas contacted Antwerp relaying the news he had conquered Johor for King Henry XII and asking for more men to garrison the new possession. For several months Kaas and his men held out in Maur and a couple of towns facing Singapore and it would only be in mid-1864 that a full army division was delivered, reducing the rest of Johor.


The seizure of Johor of course also greatly concerned the remaining independent states of the Malay peninsula. Malacca renewed its treaty with Austria, effectively becoming a Austrian-client state. Perak to the north swiftly concluded a treaty with Kalmar who would provide technical assistance in return for a healthy slice of the tin and rubber trade, defending itself from attacks from the north and eventually conquering Thai-held Kedah. Kelantan on the north-east coast followed Perak into the Kalmar fold. Pahang on the east coast meanwhile looked locally for support, becoming a Bruneian-client state and, embracing western techniques as quickly as Brunei, would expand at the expense of Terengganu.

The scramble to secure a foothold on the region's trade spurred an intensification of all the states' economies. Several hundred thousand Chinese farmers would be settled across the region to help expand its agricultural output or work away in mines.

Singapore meanwhile flourished, becoming a permanent fixture to the region. Luxembourgois merchants would become increasingly dominant in the area while its governors continued to look for options to increase the scope of their lands.

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