Haitians in the Fight for U.S. Independence
- Wednesday, July 04, 2012 8:15 PM
SAVANNAH, USA (defend.ht) - When the French allied with the United States in 1778 to help defeat the British in the Revolutionary War, French Commander Comte d'Estaing was accompanied by 500 free men of color from Saint Domingue, present-day Haiti, who fought for U.S. independence.
Although the U.S. had declared its independence in 1776, it would not be easily earned as the British fought for years after to try to regain control of the young nation.
In 1779 the British had a series of failed attempts at taking control of the United States as their territory. These attempts were mainly in the northern colonies between Virginia and Massachusetts. The English would try a different strategy, a southern strategy.
It would be employed by the Brits that they would take over the southern port cities of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.
The U.S. was able to station about 6,000 soldiers to protect Charleston but lost Savannah in the fall of 1778 to the Brits while doing so.
The U.S. needed help. It would need naval forces to take back Savannah and the French had just entered the war as an ally to the U.S. before the end of 1778.
French Admiral Comte d'Estaing was in the Caribbean where he recruited 500 men, today known as Haitians. They were called the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint Domingue or the Volunteer Hunters of Saint Domingue who were free men descended from Africa.
These men fought alongside the French and U.S. forces delivering another defeat to British conquests in North America.
Many say that the experience of these 500 African soldiers in the "Siege of Savannah" help prepared them for positions as officers in the revolutionary armies of the Haitian Revolution.
Henri Christophe was said to have been among the 500. It is he who rose from commander to become President, then Emperor of an Independent Haiti in 1806 to 1820.
Monument in Savannah, GA
In downtown Savannah, Georgia in Franklin Square a statue was erected in honor of the Haitians who fought for U.S. independence.
The monument was unveiled in October of 2009. It took 9 years for sculptor James Mastin to capture the image of the revolution in bronze.
It was made possible by a substantial donation by South Florida doctor Rudolph Moise.
At the base of the monument, it reads these words:
To the west:
In its fourth year, the American Revolution had become an international conflict. Rebelling American Colonies and their French allies attempted to capture Savannah from the British in 1779. Haitian soldiers of African descent were part of the allied forces. Following the battle, many of these Haitians were diverted to other military duties, returning to their homes years later, if at all. Several veterans of the campaign became leaders of the movement that made Haiti the second nation in the Western Hemispere to throw off the yoke of European colonialism.
To the southwest:
Although hundreds of other "Chasseurs Volontaires" remain anonymous today, a number of them are documented and listed below.
Pierre Astrel; Louis Jacques Beavais; Jean-Baptiste Mars Belley; Martial Besse; Guillaume Bleck; Pierre Cange; Jean- Baptiste Chavannes; Henri Christophe; Pierre Faubert; Laurent FÃ©rou; Jean-Louis Froumentaine; BarthÃ©lemy-MÃ©dor Icard; GÃ©dÃ©on Jourdan; Jean-Pierre Lambert; Jean-Baptiste LÃ©veillÃ© Christophe Mornet; Pierre Obas; Luc-Vincent Oliver; Pierre Pinchinat; Jean Piverger; Andre Riguad; CÃ©saire Savary; Pierre Tessier; JÃ©rome Thoby; Jean-Louis Villate
We Honor All Of Their Collective Sacrifices, Known And Unknown.
To the south:
Acknowledging the deeds of "Les Chasseurs Volontaires De Saint Domingue" at Savannah, American Secretary Of State Cordell Hull dedicated a commemorative plaque on April 25, 1944, at the Cathedral in Saint Marc, Haiti, with these words:
" Nous Payons Aujourd 'Hui Tribut Au Courage Et Ã L'Espirit Des Volontaires Haitiens De 1779 Qui RisquÃ¨rent Leurs Vies Pour La Cause De La LibertÃ© Dans Les AmÃ©riques."
" Today we pay tribute to the courage and spirit of those Haitian Volunteers who in 1779, risked their lives in the cause of American Liberty."
To the southeast:
In the Battle of Savannah on October 9, 1779, "Les Chasseurs Volontaires De Saint Domingue," our forfathers, fought alongside the American Army of General Benjamin Lincoln. Distinguishing themselves by their bravery, as part of the reserve, they provided cover during the retreat of American and French Allies, saving many lives by deterring a fierce counter attack of defending British troops.
And to the east:
In the fall of 1779, over 500 "Chasseurs Volontaires" sailed from Saint Domingue, the modern island of Haiti. soldiers of African descent, "Les Chasseurs Volontaires De Saint Domingue," left their families to participate in the Georgia Campaign, under French commander Charles Henri d'Estaing.
To the northeast:
The drummer represents young Henri Christophe, who participated in the October 9, 1779 Battle of Savannah. Christophe later became a leader in the struggle for Haitian Independence from French colonial rule, ending in 1804. A commander of the Haitian army, he became King of Haiti, being amoung the first heads of state of African descent in the Western Hemisphere.
To the north:
The largest unit of soldiers of African descent who fought in the American Revolution was the brave "Les Chasseurs Volontaires De Saint Domingue" from Haiti. This regiment consisted of free men who volunteered for a campaign to capture Savannah from the British in 1779. Their sacrifice reminds us that men of African Descent were also present on many other battlefields during the Revolution.
To the northwest:
A Project of the Haitian American Historical Society, 2001- 2007:
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