Crête-à-Pierrot

From TLP
Jump to: navigation, search
Remains of La Crête-à-Pierrot.
Near Crête-à-Pierrot
Plan of the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot
Marie-Jeanne and Lamartinière at Crête-à-Pierrot.
The Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot (also: Siege of Crête-à-Pierrot; Kreyòl: Lakrèt-a-Pyewo) took place around the Fort of Crête-à-Pierrot - today on the outskirts of Petite Rivière Artibonite, 23 km (14 miles) east of Saint-Marc (19°08'N 72°29'W) in the Artibonite valley, The Artibonite River is nearby.

The siege of the fort, occupied by Haitian troops and besieged by the French army commanded by General Leclerc, took place from from March 4 to March 24, 1802 and was one of the fiercest military confrontations during the Haitian Revolution. The fort of Crête-à-Pierrot was fought over to control access to the Cahos mountains and Toussaint had given command that the fort should be held even in case of heavy losses.

[Before the Siege of the Fort] Toussaint was suddenly attacked with a burning fever. His mind, however, so far mastered his body that he scarcely abated his activity, and formed designs of the greatest daring, in making arrangements for attacking the enemy in the rear. Ill as he was, he set out to survey the district, and arrived in time to prevent the demolition of Crête-à-Pierrot, which had been abandoned, and which Dessalines had ordered to be razed. He then proceeded to add to its strength. He supplied it with water and food as precautions against a siege. He placed in it a garrison, and gave the command to Dessalines. Having called the officers together, he harangued them thus: "Children,--yes, you are all my children, from Lamartinière [a mulatto], who is white as a white, but who knows that he has negro blood in his veins, to Monpoint, whose skin is the same as mine,--I intrust to you this post. Take measures for its defence." The officers declared that he might rely on them, living or dead. (Beard p. 190f)

The first [French] division which came up to the attack of Crête-à-Pierrot was that of Debelle. As soon as the French troops were seen in the redoubt, Dessalines opened the gates. "The gates have been opened," he said, "for those who do not feel themselves courageous enough to die; while there is yet time, let the friends of the French depart; they have nothing but death to look for here." After having sent away all whom sickness or fear made desirous of going, he spread a train of gunpowder as far as the first gate, and, seizing a torch, exclaimed, "Now for the first fire; I will blow up the fort; if you do not defend it."
During these things, the French were advancing, preceded by a herald (4th March, 1802). The herald held a letter in his hand. Dessalines ordered his men to fire. The herald fell dead. Firing began on both sides in real earnest. For several hours it continued without an interval. The French rushed forward with their usual bravery and enthusiasm, but it was only to meet death. The moment they were within reach, the batteries were opened and the ground was strewed with dead. The General-in-chief, Debelle, was grievously wounded, as well as Brigadier-General Devaux. The division was compelled to fall back with the loss of four hundred men. (Beard p. 196)

The siege continued for several more weeks. Dessalines left to gather reinforcements and supplies, but could not make it back through the French lines to the fort. He and Toussaint harassed the French rear and tried to coordinate a relief of the fort. More and more French soldiers came from various areas, and ultimately about 12,000 French troops surrounded the fort. The defenders were without water for at least a week. At last, Lamartinière decided to evacuate the position. With about 600 able-bodied troops he broke through the lines of General Rochambeau and rejoined Dessalines' troops in the mountains. The French occupied the fort the next morning and massacred the Haitian wounded who had been left behind. The only survivors were a few white prisoners that Lamartinière had left behind.

"Both sides claimed victory. It sort of depends on what measure one uses. The French ended up with the fort, but they lost twice as many men as the Haitians, and were shocked to discover how well the blacks could fight in a pitched battle. ... After abandoning the fort, the Haitians retreated into the Cahos mountains and fought a guerrilla war from then on." (Corbett, Part III, The Leclerc Campaign, Phase 1: Crête-à-Pierrot)

The fighting abilities of the Haitian revolutionaries gave them great courage for the reminder of the war and dealt a blow to the French armies, sent to take Saint-Domingue from Toussaint Louverture and to re-establish slavery in the colony.

After causing the revolutionary troops to abandon the fort, the French army, which had incurred heavy losses, razed part of the structure,

See also

Reference

  • Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Chapel Hill, NC: Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH. Online Publication
  • Corbett, Bob (not dated) The Haitian Revolution of 1791-1803 An Historical Essay in Four Parts by Bob Corbett. Retrieved 06:52, December 7, 2005 [1].
  • Petite Rivière Artibonite. The Columbia Gazetteer of North America, edited by Saul B. Cohen. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. [2]. [Accessed on 1/30/2006].

External links