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The Battle of Vertières: November 18, 1803

Unknown History Of A Significant Event For Human Dignity And Freedom

The magnificent bronze monument of Vertières symbolizing the end of slavery and the birth of the first black independent nation in the world

Haiti's Hidden Treasures

DVD Documentary

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Haiti's Hidden Treasures

DVD Documentary

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The Haitian Revolution (1791 - 1804) leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti was the first most successful slave rebellion in the world. A number of complex events may have set the stage for the bloodiest revolt in the history of human race which emerged in the Northen part of Haiti at Vertières on the outskirts of Cap-Haitien.

 

In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte announced that he would re-establish slavery in the Caribbean, so he could use Le Cap as a jumping-off place to invade the United States of America.

 

So, he prepared the largest expedition to ever cross the Atlantic which consisted of the best officers and generals of the French Army, backed up by 20,000 veteran troops and a fleet of 86 ships. And to insure his strategy's success, Napoleon sent his brother-in-law's General Leclerc, one of the toughest generals of the French army to lead the expedition.

 

Leclerc had a very specific mission to fulfill in a three-month deadline: capture Toussaint Louverture alive, defeat the slave army whose resistance was concentrated in the mountains, and restore slavery. Furthermore, General Leclerc would take Toussaint's two sons, Isaac and Placide Louverture, then students in Paris, in order to trap and bag the Black General.

Excerpts from Haiti's Hidden Treasures documentary Part II

Haitian General François Capois later called "Capois-La-Mort" had also proved himself as a fierce and unshakable fighter among the rebels as heavy cannon bullet killed his horse. The Black fighters attacked ferociously the remaining French soldiers, and the latters demoralized, defeated, and numbering no more than 3,000 were driven back to Mole Saint-Nicolas, where they gave up to a fleeing British fleet rather than facing the wrath of Dessalines' forces.

 

This event marked the end of slavery as well as Napoleon's plan to conquer North America. Haiti was born and the first black independent nation in the new world was established on January 1st, 1804.

 

The Haitian Revolution served as a model of courage. It sent tremors throughout the Caribbean and the United States slave plantations. Therefore, many slave revolts were sparked in the Caribbean including the Lesser Antilles such as Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, Guadeloupe,

St. Lucia and Jamaica. In the U.S. the leaders of the three largest slave revolts, Gabriel Prosser (1800), Nat Turner (1822) and Denmark Vesey (1831), were inspired by the success of the Haitian Revolution. In addition, the most profitable aspects of that revolution was the purchase

of the Louisiana territory by the United States for $15,000.000 (15 cents an acre for more than 2 million sq km (800,000 sq mi) of land extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.).

 

Napoleon Bonaparte had to cede Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson then President of the United States as he realized without Haiti he had little use for Louisiana where he wanted to extend a great French Empire. He also needed funds to support his military ventures in Europe as he was facing renewed war with Great Britain. This greatest real estate bargain of all time more than doubled the size of the United States, making it one of the largest nations in the world. There is no way that Napoleon would have surrendered New Orléans and all of Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson but for that Haitian Revolution. If Haiti had lost the war in 1803, many could indeed acknowledge that the United States might be different today!

 

Nevertheless, not that many people know about such this extraordinary event that took place  211 years ago and changed as well as redefined the world. The Haitian Revolution connects to all those whose people were enslaved or whose lands were colonized. The November 18, 1803 battle is still reverberating today and reminds us of real freedom although Haiti has been paying for it ever since.

 

Last update 11/17/14

In the meantime, Toussaint Louverture who was busy preparing his troops, heard that the French had already restored slavery in Guadeloupe, so he quickly alerted Henri Christophe in the North, Jean-Jacques Dessalines in the West, and Alexandre Pétion in the South, and

ordered them to be ready for war because the invading forces were on their way. Leclerc, however, was confident enough that his overpowering force would easily pressure the insurgents to capitulate and lay down their weapons, as he sailed for shore and at the same time promised freedom to whoever would surrender.

 

When Leclerc and his troops set foot to the Cap Français (today Cap-Haitien), on February 3, 1802, he was welcomed with heavy cannon fire. Henri Christophe who was charged to protect the city ordered it razed to the ground and even on the ashes he will continue to fight them. But early promise of amnisty by Leclerc compelled many black troops to desert leaving Toussaint with only half of his army.

 

Despite Leclerc's well crafted strategy, he and his forces faced another challenge, a deadly yellow fever, which sent approximately 9,000 soldiers to the hospital in the middle of the war. Black Troops for unknown reasons remained immuned to the disease. According to Napoleon's initial plan, the entire expedition should have wrapped up its mission in a matter of three months. Instead, fatalities were multiplying among the French troops along with many wounded soldiers, thus demoralizing Leclerc and forcing him to request to Napoleon Bonaparte an additional 35,000 troops to offset his losses and assume control over the rebel army. But the firm determination of the black fighters to never be slaves again would have a great impact on Napoleon's troops and ultimately decide the war's outcome.

 

On the other hand, the capture of Toussaint, one of Leclerc's primary agendas, would help shatter the revolutionary spirit of the rebels in Napoleon's mind. But, what Napoleon didn't know is that by capturing Toussaint, he would simply pave the way for a ferocious Jean-Jacques Dessalines who was fighting not against the restauration of slavery, but for the total independence of Haiti.

 

On June 7, 1802 Toussaint Louverture was captured during a conference set up by General Brunet. There have been different theories surrounding Toussaint's kidnapping. However, whatever the view, a captured Toussaint was believed to be Napoleon's biggest mistake due to the fact Toussaint was considered the most moderate among the rebels' generals.

 

The toughest and meanest of the black generals, Dessalines, was chosen commander in chief

of the indigenous army at a meeting of the army high command. According to historians, Dessalines' unshakable position was pursuing a war of extermination until the enemy is driven to the sea. "Koupe Tet, Boule Kay" (Cut their heads, and burn their houses!) was Dessalines strongest order. He had no room for prisoners of war.

 

Meanwhile, General Leclerc would later succombed to the deadly yellow fever and was replaced by his second-in-command General Rochambeau in a desperate attempt to put down the revolt. By early October 1803, Dessalines's bloody offensives against the French forces had generated results. Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, Le Cap fell under the control of the slave army who fought their last battle at Vertières on November 18, 1803.

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