The Final Years of the Revolution 1802–1803


13-14 Oct 1802

The storming of Cap-Francais, in Haiti, by the general Charles ...
The storming of Cap-Francais, in Haiti

The Final Years Revolutionary leaders, including Dessalines and Christophe, at last defect from the French, taking with them black and mulatto generals and issuing a general call to arms.

A new revolutionary army forms with mostly black officers and rank-and-file soldiers. Blacks and mulattoes begin to form a national identity around their common goal of expelling the French.

2 November 1802

Leclerc dies of yellow fever. Before his death, Leclerc recommends to Bonaparte that Rochambeau succeed him: “He is a person of integrity, a good military man, and he hates the blacks.”

Rochambeau takes command as captain general of the colony, writing to Bonaparte for an additional 35,000 troops to defeat, disarm and drive back the blacks. He becomes known for his ruthless violence and massacres, even bringing man-eating dogs from Cuba to hunt the blacks.

“Command of the French forces thus fell to Rochambeau, in whose name and by whose orders so many atrocities and mass-murders, ghastly acts unparalleled since the days of slavery, had already been committed in the South and the West.”

1 January 1803

Rochambeau requests special permission to immediately proclaim the restoration of slavery as the French lose control of more and more of the colony. Rebellion erupts in Port-Salut in the South.

A Frenchman “renowned for his cruelties,” writes to Rigaud from Les Cayes: “These men who have risen today in insurrection have always conducted themselves in a manner deserving of praise for their leaders and the confidence of the government . . . I am without forces and I fear that this little insurrection at Port-Salut might spread.”

Now allied, insurgent blacks and mulattoes strike “at all points throughout the interior . . . the entire plain was in a state of insurrection as the black laborers began to raze the cane fields and set the plantations ablaze.”

The insurrection, powered by the populous, becomes generalized. The leaders “had organized and sustained the resistance against Leclerc independently” despite the defections of their leaders. They espouse their values, focusing on independence, voodoo, their goals and culture. Their world view has developed apart from that of their generals “because they had no real place in the Louverturian society that Toussaint had forged…”

Dessalines is threatened by the laborers’ independence and resistance to his leadership, and in response kills independent leaders who refuse to submit, saying they had “become obstacles to freedom and therefore had to be liquidated.”

7 April 1803

The French troops launch a final effort to subdue the rebel forces. The Europeans are without any money or supplies and are forced to trade their munitions for food sold by local women. The troops are heavily afflicted by yellow fever and weakened by famine.

In Grand-Anse, the French’s last stronghold, a new insurrection breaks out. Masses of black plantation laborers and local officers burn and devastate the region and spread their insurrection. Brigaud writes that the worst part “is that Grande-Anse affords these rebels twenty-five to thirty thousand black laborers, one quarter of who have already waged war against Rigaud during the occupation.”

30 April 1803

The Louisiana Purchase Treaty is signed and France cedes its North American territory to the United States. The sale marks Bonaparte’s withdrawal from the western hemisphere as he turns his attentions away from the failed campaign in Saint-Domingue.

18 May 1803

Happy Haitian Flag Day! : haiti
Catherine Flon

Dessalines creates the Haitian flag at Arcahaie: He rips the white fabric from the French tricolor, with the red and blue representing the unity of blacks and mulattoes against the whites. With this, the Haitian flag is born. Black and mulatto generals swear allegiance to Dessalines, creating a cross-class alliance to fight their common enemy.

August 1803

The French evacuate their troops from Jérémie in the South.

17 October 1803

The revolutionary army takes control of Les Cayes in the South.

17 November 1803

General Rochambeau surrenders to Dessalines after losing the Battle of Vertières, agreeing to a cease-fire as long as French forces evacuate within 10 days.

Over the course of the campaign begun by Leclerc, France lost 50,000 men, and“In the name of slavery, she lost what had been the wealthiest and most flourishing colony in the Caribbean.”

28 November 1803

The remaining French troops evacuate Môle-Saint-Nicolas in the North.

30 November 1803

Dessalines, leading 8,000 men, takes possession of Le Cap, officially named Cap Français, and renames it Cap Haïtien. Rochambeau capitulates and flees.