The Aceh war (1873-1904) is one of the longest in the history of the Dutch Indies . This conflict between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Aceh Sultanate in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra ended with the conquest of Aceh and Dutch rule over the entire Indonesian archipelago. This war caused 4,000 dead on the Dutch side, including a general, and 25,000 on the Acehnese side.

The London Treaty of 1824 between England and the Netherlands defined the respective spheres of influence of the two European nations in the Malay world : the Malay Peninsula for the English and the Sumatran Island for the Dutch. However, the treaty contained no restrictions on British trade in the latter. Nevertheless, the British complained of Dutch attempts to restrict their commercial activities to Sumatra.

One of the clauses of the treaty was the independence of Aceh. Aceh controlled much of the pepper trade . The 1871 Treaty of Sumatra, however, granted the Dutch freedom of action over Aceh. In exchange, the British were confirmed the right to trade on an equal footing in the Netherlands Indies .

In 1873, discussions took place in Singapore between the American consul and representatives of Aceh. This event gave Batavia the pretext of opening hostilities. The Royal Netherlands Indies launched two expeditions to Aceh in 1873. Gunboats bombed the capital, Kuta Radja , and troops disembarked. The sultan’s palace was invested. The sultan died shortly after. The Dutch then suspended their military operations and signed a treaty with the new Sultan, in which the latter recognized Dutch sovereignty .

However, his subjects refused to surrender. Dutch troops were confronted with guerrilla warfare . The war absorbed a large part of the colonial budget. In the Netherlands itself, opinion increasingly criticized the Government of the Netherlands Indies.

In 1890 , the colonial army created a body of the maréchaussée on foot of a large thousand men who could effectively fight against the guerrillas.