A Tribute to Haitian Soldiers for Heroism in the American Revolution

Posted by: Audiegrl

Dedicated to the people of Haiti both in the US and abroad, please except our profound thanks, and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you…

Haitian Monument Statue in Franklin Square, Savannah, GA

Haitian Monument Statue in Franklin Square, Savannah, GA

After 228 years as largely unsung contributors to American independence, Haitian soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War’s bloody siege of Savannah had a monument dedicated in their honor. On October 9, 1779, a force of more than 500 Haitian gens de couleur libre (free men of color) joined American colonists and French troops in an unsuccessful push to drive the British from Savannah in coastal Georgia.

Chairman Daniel Fils-Aime

“We were here in 1779 to help America win independence. “ said Daniel Fils-Aime, chairman of the Miami-based Haitian American Historical Society. “That recognition is overdue.” “To see a monument in downtown Savannah and the commemoration of the involvement of the Haitian Americans, it’s a dream come true.” said Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams Jr. “This will help educate Americans but also Haitian youth about the significant contribution their ancestors made.” “The role of Haitian soldiers in the battle had long been ignored“, said North Miami Mayor Josaphat Celestin. “It means recognition for our efforts, that we were here all along, that Haiti was a part of the effort to liberate America and that they came here as free men, not as slaves,” Celestin said. “We hope this country will recognize this.”

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“It’s a huge deal,” said Philippe Armand, vice president of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America, who flew to Savannah from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. “All the Haitians who have gone to school know about it from the history books.”

Though not well known in the U.S., Haiti’s role in the American Revolution is a point of national pride for Haitians.

After returning home from the war, Haitian veterans soon led their own rebellion that won Haiti’s independence from France in 1804.


The Siege of Savannah

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The Siege of Savannah on October 9th, 1779 presents the Revolutionary War as a world conflict more than does any other engagement of the Revolution. The memory of this battle also reminds us of the fact that significant foreign resources of men, money, and material contributed to the eventual success of the cause of American independence. French, Polish, Native Americans, African slaves, free men of African descent, Germans, Hessians, Austrians, Scots, Welsh, Irish, English, Swedish, and American and West Indian colonials also participated as individuals or whole units in this most culturally diverse battle of the war. For six weeks this diverse force was assembled in three armies to contend for the possession of Savannah. This battle resulted in the largest number of casualties the allies suffered in a single engagement.

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The presence of the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue as the largest unit of soldiers of African descent to fight in this war is worthy of commemoration. The fact that their number was made up of free men who volunteered for this expedition is startling to most people and surprising to many historians. Their presence reminds us that men of African heritage were to be found on most battlefields of the Revolution in large numbers. As a new and relatively inexperienced unit, the Chasseurs participated in the siege warfare including the battle of September 24th and the siege of October 9th.

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The Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue served as a reserve unit to American and French forces fighting a British contingent. As battered American and French soldiers fell back, the Haitian troops moved in to provide a retreat.

Twenty-five of their number has their names recorded as wounded or killed during the campaign. Over 60 were captured in the fall of Charleston eight months later. The British Navy captured three transports carrying Chasseurs; these soldiers were made prizes of war and sold into slavery. Other members of this unit were kept on duty away from their homes for many months as part of French garrison forces. A subsequent unit of Haitians was a part of the French and Spanish campaign against Pensacola where they faced some of the same regiments of British troops that their comrades faced in Savannah.

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The efforts of Haiti to secure its independence from colonial rule beginning in 1791 are remarkable for the fact that what began as a slave revolt was to ultimately succeed in prevailing over the resources of the French Empire and to form a government of Western Hemisphere Africans. Haiti, much smaller in population than the United States, was attacked by armies as large as those sent against America by Britain. The Haitian victory over the legions of Napoleon was achieved with much less foreign assistance than the United States enjoyed.

Henri Christophe

Henri Christophe, Click to enlarge

Many key figures in the Haitian War of Independence gained military experience and political insights through their participation in Savannah — most notably Henri Christophe, a youth at the time but in his adult years a general of Haitian armies and king of his nation for fourteen years. Many of the Haitian soldiers later fought to win their country’s own war of independence, crediting their military experience in Savannah. Influenced by both the events of the American Revolution and the rhetoric of the French Revolution, the people of Haiti began a struggle for self-government and liberty. The first nation in the Western Hemisphere to form a government led by people of African descent, it was also the first nation to renounce slavery.

Sources: Haitian American Historical Society, We Haitians United We Stand For Democracy, Wikipedia, and the Associated Press.


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31 Comments

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31 responses to “A Tribute to Haitian Soldiers for Heroism in the American Revolution

  1. audiegrl

    Yesterday, I was angry. Really angry about comments made by Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson related to the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. I was still ranting about this before going to bed last night. My husband (after listening to me rant all night) told me…“don’t be mad, do something about it”. This is my attempt to do just that. Set the record straight on the ‘actual’ history of this country, and not just stand by while some on the Right want to re-write history to fit their political or religious agendas. If you like this…please pass it along, we all need to know our history. :-)

    • very enlightening, I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of most of this although I was pretty sue there was no deal with the devil… other than the one Pat Robertson made to trade his soul for millions of dollars of Senior citizen’s life savings.

      as for Rush, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know any history before he was wearing polyester suits in the 70’s.

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  6. I wonder what would these Haitian heroes would said if they were to look at the condition of the country today?

  7. Rodley

    This great piece of history should pass to the new generation.

    • Michel Christophien

      How dare you to be Independent ? The US was the last country to recognize the Haitian Independence in 1864 (civil war era in the US) thanks to ABE LINCOLN.

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  9. dean bisson

    well i think they would realised they made a mistake by giving their lives for the very one that betread us after we got our o wn independence. you know they rest of the history. we want reparations

  10. it is very bad for the haitian peplo when we ear that fight for the independens of American. today nobody help us wy is like that? we are a strog Nation but i feel we will go down and down. Haiti is 500 Km from America away wy we are so poor wy they make us so poor like that.
    they go to play God in afganistan as long as they help us wy is the world like?

  11. prenord Henry

    I believe all haitians people have root of revolutionary being. We are so strong and smart enough to move pur country out from abusement. We need help maybe for development but not for intelligent. Any countries without help could not go forward. We helped many countries but none of them helping, us. Some of them investing to take over than to help for better

    • Anonymous

      Haiti is a great country even tough we are a small country. Don’t forget we are the first Black Country who were free and we US, Venezuela and others countries like Argentina, Mexico etc but they fail in the battle so we are sorry. I’m proud to be Haitian because I know my history in the pass. Haiti for ever I love u.

      Alland from Jacmel-Haiti

      Allandoyong@yahoo.fr

  12. Mathamise Pierre Francois

    America’s News media needs to broadcast this event as much as Here.

  13. Jeffrey noel

    Lets build haiti why let that beautiful land beautiful people live on dollar a day they fight for USA why USA deport them when they come to America on boats they welcome Cuba coming on boat but deport their old time friends who fight and die for their freedom

  14. Anonymous

    Elsie Daphnis
    17-03-2014
    Thank you! Thank you! OH, my good! Felicitations for haitiens peaples!

  15. Anonymous

    This amazing beautiful history piece needs
    to be told on CNN!!! So many others don’t know that!

  16. Anonymous

    I have been in the USA since 1994, and I have never heard not even once, any American or any news from TV, CNN or others, appreciating Haiti for their support in the past since they had their revolution from the British between 1763 to 1783…..Wow Wow

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  19. There was no concept of “Haiti” in 1779. No slave fought to continue the concept of slavery in any land. In 1779, there were 500,000 slaves in Saint Domingue (with 16,000 frenchmen to govern them) not just work the sugar fields but many of them received military training since France was planning to use them to invade Santo Domingo and expand the sugar cane production (which explains the Saint Domingue Militia in Savannah) but those plans foiled when the militarily trained slaves turn their fighting skill against the French (Toussaint Loverture). Please stop the nonsense!

    • poloroam

      Although you are correct that the nation of ‘Haiti’ did not exist in 1779, the suggestion that France would entertain invading Santo Domingo is not.

      In 1779 both the kingdoms of France and Spain had signed an allied Compact against Britain- this was mainly due to the fact that both sovereigns were related cousins. And besides that fact that the act itself would have violated the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697 (which already recognized French sovereignty in the island) It would have been senseless to attack your blood relative and destroy each others’ kingdoms over a small amount of overproduction for the sugar commodity- whereas Saint Domingue was the world’s main producer and exporter.
      There was no need for expansion, and even less towards the (then) British Colonies as it would have become 1. more expensive to export the sugar to the main markets in Europe and 2. too dangerous to expose a national resource to foreign appropriation (which Britain attempted later against the French and Spanish Caribbean possessions sometime later after the actions of the Battle of the Saintes in 1782).

      As for the military training of slaves- the group shown above was totally voluntary and untrained until Comte d’Estaing got this force together. Even Henri Christophe’s experience was obtained from within the Savannah siege, receiving a shot leg in return. The Haitian’s training to turn the weapons against French slave owners and their families would occur by the hand of the slaves themselves during Vincent Ogé’s rebellions in 1790, and then later on being joined by the very veterans of French campaigns such as the above one.

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  21. Anonymous

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  22. how do you feel now FELEIX ARROYO

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