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1 7 9 2 -1 7 9 4

CHAPTERS 1 - 1 0


A Dissertation submitted to the
Department o f History
in partial fulfillment o f the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor o f Philosophy

Degree Awarded:
Summer Semester, 2003

Copyright © 2003
James Lafayette Haynsworth IV
All Rights Reserved

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UMI Number: 3098376

Copyright 2003 by
Haynsworth, James Lafayette, IV

All rights reserved.


UMI Microform 3098376
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The members o f the Committee approve the dissertation o f James L. Haynsworth IV
defended on 28 April 2003.

)onald D. Horward
Professor Directing Dissertation

dSx+li I V lO N
Patrick O ’Sullivan
Outside Committee Member

Paul G. Halpem
Committee Member
■**y S _

| __________________________

JoeVM. Richardson
Committee Member


William O. Oldson
Committee Member


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Obviously a great number o f people are involved in the research, writing, and
eventual publication o f a dissertation. I am fortunate to have been aided by a host o f
individuals that have included university professors, family members, close friends,
archivists, librarians, history buffs, collectors, and hotel staff. On occasion, and
especially during my travels in Martinique, it even seemed that the ghosts o f those
individuals about whom I was writing intervened to ensure that I told their story as
accurately as possible. My list o f those to whom I remain indebted is long, and while I
remain grateful to many, I wish to thank publicly certain individuals whose guidance and
input have been absolutely indispensable in transforming what was a multi-voluminous
collection o f notes and photocopies into what is now the first volume o f the biography o f
Lieutenant General Donatien Rochambeau.
Special thanks to Faith Coslett at the U.S.M.A. Library, and to the staff o f Strozier
Library’s Interlibrary Loan Department: Dr. Maria Chavez-Hemandez, Ann Spangler,
Jane Feehan, Georgia Henry, Anna Campbell, and Bryan Johnson. Their work in locating
and obtaining rare materials has been both remarkable and indispensable. Thank you also
to the staff o f the library’s Special Collections Department: Gay Dixon, Catherine
Sheffield, Garnett Avant, and Burt Altman, and to the staff o f the Documents


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Department: Marcia Gorin, Sandra Genetin, and Richard Smith. The archival staff at
both the Service Historique de l’Armee de Terre (especially Mme. Son) and the Archives
Nationales were extremely helpful, and I offer my deepest gratitude to them for their
To my colleagues, I offer my most sincere gratitude to Jennifer Pierce, who never
allowed me to mistake an important date in colonial slave emancipation, to Karen
Greene, whose attention to detail in Special Collections made possible an entire chapter
o f this dissertation, to Lieutenant Colonel Matt Dawson, without whose help my
transition from warrior to student to teacher would have been extraordinarily difficult,
and to Dr. Everett Dague, my roommate in Paris and my inspiration in the French
archives during working hours and in the city cafes afterward.
I also wish to express my deepest gratitude to the late Proctor Jones, whose
generous contribution to the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution made
possible the bulk o f the research for this work and its sequel. Thank you to Colonels
Robert Doughty, Casey Brower, and Lee Wyatt at the History Department o f the United
States Military Academy, who accepted me into the apprenticeship o f Professor o f the
History o f the Military Art. Had they not had acted upon their confidence in my potential,
this work would never exist.
Colonels Jim Johnson and Cole Kingseed, who, during my tour at W est Point
served as Chief o f the Military Art Division o f the Department o f History at USMA,
deserve special recognition. Their constant admonition to me “do not write the book write the dissertation” was always on my mind, though in the long run, I think that I


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succeeded in disobeying them. O f course, I was constantly encouraged by my West Point
contemporaries, nearly all o f whom were, at the time, in a self-imposed dissertation race,
and who now are fighting Americas’ battles from Afghanistan, Iraq, Asia, Europe, or the
Pentagon. From among my friends at West Point, I offer my most sincere and long-term
thanks to our good friends Drs. Fred and Kim Kagan. I am remarkably fortunate that the
Kagans remain willing not only to review and discuss my current material, but also that
our respective future research will find us working together for years to come.
To my committee, I cannot thank you enough. With minimum notice, Doctors
Paul Halpem, Joe Richardson, William Oldson, and Richard O ’Sullivan joined with Don
Horward and stepped up to the plate to support a G.I. who sought to complete his degree
while the country was at war. God bless you for your patience and your understanding.
I would also like to thank Mary and Dick Frillici, the two most wonderful parentsin-law a son could hope for. While Mary kindly spent our first Christmas together editing
drafts o f my early chapters before I sent them to Dr. Horward, Dick ensured that we all
remained well-fed and entertained. A scholar could not ask for more loving support.
Thank you also to my immediate family, Liz, Jim and Kay, whose love and
encouragement constantly sustained my efforts.
The Captain o f this ship has always been Doctor Donald David Horward,
Chevalier de la Legion d ’Honneur, and Commandeur de VOrdre des Palmes
Academiques. At the behest o f the Department o f History at the United States Military
Academy, Dr. Horward kindly accepted me into his program o f study, and within the first
week o f my arrival at Florida State University, developed with me the idea o f a biography


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o f the younger Rochambeau. As so little published material existed on this particular
neither o f us was clear on what this line o f research would involve, or exactly where the
research would take us. Nevertheless, while he educated me in the histories o f the French
Revolution and the First Empire, he constantly drove me to produce useful narratives
relating the largely unknown histories o f these periods o f French history in the Caribbean.
Fie has read and edited drafts o f my dissertation for six years, drafts sent to him from such
varied Army postings as W est Point, Heidelberg, Kosovo and Bosnia. When time to
complete this work became a major factor, Dr. Horward went above and beyond the call
of duty by constantly faxing and then re-faxing me edited drafts o f the last chapters. His
effort in co-producing this work has been monumental. This dissertation and subsequent
publications o f this material are the direct result o f Dr. Horward’s vision - 1, and future
historians, remain eternally grateful for his foresight.
I am equally grateful to Gina Frillici. Soon after we met in 1999, Gina assumed
the task o f reading and critiquing every page o f my initial manuscript drafts before I sent
them to Dr. Horward for editing. Fortunately for me, Gina Haynsworth continued to
preview every page o f this dissertation, graciously devoting precious time to me while she
raised our two infant boys, James Lafayette V, and Hudson Rochambeau Haynsworth.
My words on paper can never reflect the brightness that their stars shine upon my life.
Indeed, it is to them that this work is dedicated.


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List o f Figures .............................................................................................................................ix
Abstract ...................................................................................................................................... xii
1. EDUCATING AN OFFICER: 1 7 5 5 -1 7 8 0 ...................................................................... 4
2. L ’EXPEDITION PARTICULIERE: 1779 - 1780 ............................................................12
3. NEWPORT TO NEW YORK: JULY 1780 - AUGUST 1781 .....................................35
5. FROM REVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION: 1783 - 1792 ......................................... 100
6. THE COLONIES IGNITED: 1 7 8 9 -1 7 9 2 .................................................................... 126
7. THE GOVERNOR GENERAL: SEPTEMBER 1792 - JANUARY 1793 ............... 163
8. SUBJUGATING MARTINIQUE: JANUARY -A P R IL 1793 .................................. 207
9. THE ROYALS ATTACK: APRIL - JUNE 1793 ........................................................ 245
10. LA DICTATURE REPUBLICAINE: JULY 1793 - FEBRUARY 1794 ..................282
11. THE NEW ORDER: SEPTEMBER 1793 - JANUARY 1794 ................................ 309
12. LES ISLES D U VENT: AUGUST 1789 - JANUARY 1794 .................................... 347
13. INVASION! 6 - 7 FEBRUARY 1794 ......................................................................... 384

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15. STRANGLING MARTINIQUE: 1 3 - 2 0 FEBRUARY 1794 .................................. 463
- J U L Y 1794 ............................................................................................................................525
18. POWER, PATRIOTISM AND ELUSIVE GLORY ...................................................554
APPENDIX A -A P P E N D IC E S TO CHAPTERS ............................................................ 574
B - COPYRIGHT PERMISSION ................................................................582
REFERENCES ....................................................................................................................... 584
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................................................................................ 596


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1. Captain Donatien Rochambeau - Four Versions o f the Same Portrait .........................10
2. The comte de Vergennes .....................................................................................................23
3. Lieutenant General Rochambeau .......................................................................................23
4. Chateau Rochambeau, Thore-la-Rochette, Vendome .....................................................23
5. Rochambeau’s Apartements in Paris ................................................................................. 23
6. The due de Lauzun ...............................................................................................................23
7. Axel von Fersen .............................................................


8. The Rochambeaus Arrive in America ............................................................................... 39
9. Rochambeau Meets Washington at Hartford, Connecticut ............................................49
10. The Sailors o f the Expedition Particuliere


11. The Campaign against Cornwallis .................................................................................. 69
12. The Battle at Stony Point, New York ..............................................................................74
13. The Plan ............................................................................................................................... 83
14. Donatien Rochambeau’s Opening Move ....................................................................... 85
15. The Battle o f Yorktown as Seen by the Participating Nations .................................... 87
16. Various Interpretations o f the Surrender at Yorktown ................................................ 90
17. Rochambeau the Conqueror ............................................................................................. 98
18. The Eastern Caribbean 1792 (MAP) ............................................................................. 125

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19. Leger Felicite Sonthonax 1763-1813 ......................................................................... 180
20. Vue de le Cap Fran?ais ca. 1790 .................................................................................. 180
21. The Dictator’s Right Hand ..................................................


22. Old Saint-Pierre .............................................................................................................. 216
23. Fort-de-la-Republique, and Fort-de-la-Convention .................................................. 218
24. The Early Enemy ............................................................................................................ 230
25. Camp Decide ...................................................................................................................235
26. De Percin’s Attack - Rochambeau’s Riposte (MAP) ...............................................237
27. Mome Vert-Pre .............................................................................................................. 266
28. The Eastern Caribbean 1793 (MAP) ........................................................................... 346
29. “The Capture o f Tobago by Major General Cuyler, and Vice Admiral Sir John
Laforey” .....................................................................................................................................353
30. The King’s Men ............................................................................................................. 385
31. The British Master Plan (MAP) ................................................................................... 389
32. Admiral Jervis’ Gun Boats ............................................................................................391
33. The British Invasion in the South 5-7 February 1794 (MAP) .................................. 394
34. Attack at le Marin and Landing at Trois Rivieres ......................................................396
35. General Dundas’ Landing .............................................................................................. 400
36. Dundas’ Landing and Attack at Mome Vert-Pre (MAP) ..........................................402
37. LaTrinite ......................................................................................................................... 404
38. Dundas’ Attack at la Trinite (MAP) ................................


39. Generals Whyte and Prescott Attack Across the Grande Anse (MAP) ...................409
40. Gordon’s Landing ........................................................................................................... 425

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41. Gordon Attacks at Case-Navire (MAP) ......................................................................426
42. British Maneuvers Against Ilet a Ramiers (MAP) .................................................... 432
43. Ilet a Ramiers ...................................................................................................................433
44. Bellegarde’s March on Republique-ville (MAP) .......................................................435
45. Rochambeau and Doucassou Ambush Colonel Gordon (MAP) ............................. 440
46. The Land/Sea Skirmish at Case-Navire (MAP) .........................................................443
47. Bellegarde’s Failed Attack at Mome le Brun (MAP) ...............................................446
48. Royal Marines Attack Ilet a Ramiers (MAP) ............................................................. 449
49. Jervis Infiltrates the Baie du Republique-ville (MAP) ..............................................451
50. Closing In On Republique-ville by Land and Sea (MAP) .........................................456
51. The British Gain Control o f the Baie du Republique-ville ...................................... 457
52. British Land and Sea Movements Against Saint-Pierre (MAP) ...............................475
53. The Battle for Saint-Pierre (MAP) ...............................................................................480
54. Destmction o f the 1st Chasseur Battalion at M ome le Brun (MAP) .......................487
55. The Naval Blockade o f Republique-ville (MAP) .......................................................510
56. View o f Fort-de-la-Republique from Positions at Pointe des Carrieres ..................519
57. Captain Robert Faulknor’s Attack on Fort-de-la-Republique .................................. 532
58. Images o f Republique-ville ........................................................................................... 536
59. Lieutenant General Donatien Rochambeau in Saint-Domingue ca. 1803 .............. 564


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Bom on 7 April 1755, Jean Marie Joseph Donatien de Vimeur, vicomte de
Rochambeau pursued a military career that lasted until his death at the Battle o f Leipzig
in October 1813. Though he made important contributions to France’s war efforts during
the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the First Empire, the
overshadowing reputation o f his famous father, Marshal o f France Jean-Baptiste
Rochambeau ensured that Donatien Rochambeau’s own history remained on the
periphery o f French history.
Few references are made to Donatien Rochambeau during his earlier career. In
fact, those references that exist are generally confined to regional histories. This work
represents the first biography o f the general, and offers a concise history o f the French
and English campaigns in the Caribbean between 1792 and 1794. Current textbooks on
Caribbean history continue to confuse the son with his forebear and scarce, if any,
reference is made to him in the more prominent chronicles o f the French Revolutionary
and Napoleonic periods. However, the life and early career o f Donatien Rochambeau
offers important insight into some o f the more dramatic events o f his times. A


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loyal officer of the old regime; combatant in the War o f American Independence; a leader
in the Estates General who became a staunch Jacobin; defender and Governor General in
the French Caribbean colonies; and finally a divisional commander under the Emperor
Napoleon, the younger Rochambeau’s story serves as an open window into one o f the
world’s greatest sagas. This volume explores his emergence from lieutenant to senior
general officer, and pays special attention to his signal defense o f the French Windward
Islands between 1792 and 1794.


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Overshadowed his entire life by his famous father, Donatien Rochambeau’s own
story has remained on the periphery o f French history. Current textbooks and
encyclopedic references on the Caribbean continue to confuse the son with his forebear
and scarce, if any, reference is made to him in the more prominent chronicles o f the
French Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. Nevertheless, a study o f Rochambeau’s
early career, especially his defense o f France’s Windward Island colonies offers important
insight into some of the more dramatic, yet less-known, events o f his times. A loyal
officer o f the old regime; combatant in the War o f American Independence; leader in the
Estates General; dedicated Jacobin; defender and Governor General o f the French
Caribbean colonies; and finally a divisional commander under the Emperor Napoleon, the
younger Rochambeau’s contributions to the civil and military history o f France between
1780 and 1813 deserve exploration and recognition.
To this point, historians have generally chosen to remember Rochambeau for the
two years between 1802 and 1803 that he spent in Saint-Domingue suppressing Toussaint
l’Ouverture and his army o f former slaves in their bid for independence and a national
identity. Through his sharp criticism o f the French general, Haitian-born historian C.L.R.
James, in his famous work The Black Jacobins, helped immortalize for Rochambeau a

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legend o f infamy.1 Other historians, including Thomas Ott and Caroline Fick have taken
a more objective approach, describing the general’s activities in Saint-Domingue more in
the context o f contemporary sentiments and practices.2 Though this work traces his
career until 1794,1 intend to explore for future publication the 1802-1803 SaintDomingue Campaign, a campaign during which Rochambeau’s problems proved so
insoluble as to destroy his reputation and his army.
In sum, few references are made to Donatien Rochambeau’s early career and are
generally confined to regional histories. The senior Rochambeau provides useful, but
limited, details o f his son’s activities in his autobiography, while J.E. Weelen’s reprint o f
Donatien Rochambeau’s diary from America is the only lengthy reference to his service
in our country that we have in English.3 In addition to Kieran Kleczewski’s 1988
dissertation on the British occupation o f Martinique, Sidney Daney de Marcillac, a
Martiniquais historian who wrote his Histoire de la Martinique while many o f the actual
participants were still living, provides the best historical account o f Rochambeau’s
activities on the island from 1792 to 1794.4 Excluding these two authors, the well o f

1 See C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins; Toussaint L ’Ouverture and the San
Domingo Revolution (London, 1980).
2 See Thomas Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789-1804 (Knoxville, TN, 1973) and
Carolyn Fick, The Making of Haiti; the Saint-Domingue Revolution from Below
(Knoxville, TN, 1990).
3 J.E. Wheelen, Rochambeau Father and Son; A Life o f the Marechal de
Rochambeau and the Journal o f the Vicomte de Rochambeau [hitherto unpublished]
(New York, 1926).
4 Kieran R. Kleczewski, Martinique A nd The British Occupation, 1794-1802
(Washington, D.C., 1988); Sidney Daney de Marcillac, Histoire De La Martinique
(Fort-de-France, Martinique, 1978).

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available analysis nearly runs dry. Fortunately, volumes o f previously unexplored letters,
diaries and reports available at various archives in Paris supply the preponderance o f
missing details. Based upon this information, a picture o f Rochambeau emerges that is
radically different than the one described by modem chroniclers o f Haitian history. At
least until 1794, Rochambeau displayed no tendencies toward the barbarism attributed to
him in Saint-Domingue. Instead, he proved him self an exceptionally competent officer
who employed, to the best o f his abilities, the classic and time-honored military
techniques o f his time. The government o f France, however, regularly failed to capitalize
on Donatien Rochambeau’s military talents. In Martinique, and later in Saint-Domingue,
he was left with a minimum o f resources to fend for himself against overwhelmingly
superior enemies. Nevertheless, regardless o f the usually unfavorable conditions in
which he found himself, Rochambeau continued to demonstrate an unswerving loyalty to
his country and his profession, and especially to his vision o f the triumph o f the
fundamental tenets o f the French Revolution, Liberte, Egalite, et Fraternite.


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Chapter I
Educating an Officer:



Throughout much o f the ancien regime the Rochambeau family represented an
archetype o f the French nobility o f the sword. One ancestor, Jean, was killed at the Battle
of Mansourah during the Seventh Crusade and another commanded a company o f archers
under Henry III at Coutras. This officer’s grandson served in the company o f musketeers
commanded by Francois Colbert, the brother o f the well-known minister. An invalid at
birth, Donatien Rochambeau’s grandfather, Joseph Charles de Vimeur, marquis de
Rochambeau, always regretted not having been able to follow his family’s military
tradition. Louis XV, nevertheless, held the marquis in high esteem, naming him
Chevalier de Saint-Sepulchre and conferring upon him the governorship o f the city o f
Vendome in 1728. Living until 1779, Joseph Charles was instrumental in instilling in
both his son and grandson an unshakable sense o f honor and loyalty to the king and to the
church. Joseph Charles’ son, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, better known in
America as the Comte de Rochambeau, served the crown well, gaining military honors in
the War o f Austrian Succession; the Seven Years War; serving as commander o f French
forces in the American W ar for Independence; and finally, in the first battles o f the

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French Revolution. On 28 December 1791, Jean-Baptiste finally received the baton o f a
Marshal o f France from Louis XVI, making him and General Nicolas von Luckner the
last two officers to join the marshalship under the ancien regime}
Jean Marie Joseph Donatien de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau, was bom in
Paris on 7 April 1755.2 The young vicomte remained in the capital city only long enough
to “prepare m yself to enter the service” receiving his early formal military education at
Brienne, where he won every prize for textbook proficiency in military studies.3 Leaving

1 La Commission d ’Histoire de la Societe des Cincinnati de France, Rochambeau
(1725-1807) [hereafter Societe des Cincinnati, Branche Fran 9aise, Rochambeau (17251807)], (Annonay, France, 1992), 1-28. Von Luckner, a battle-tried hussar o f the Saxon
aristocracy, fought against France during the Seven Year’s War, but eventually offered
his regiment o f mercenaries to the service o f the French king. A century later, his
thirteen-year-old descendant, Felix, would run away from the family estate near Dresden
to escape his predestined career as a cavalry officer. After signing on in Hamburg as a
ship’s hand under the assumed name “Phelax,” this youngest von Luckner later gained
international fame during the First World W ar as the “Sea Devil,” captain o f the German
Imperial Navy’s sailing ship (turned raider) the S.M.S. Seeadler.
2 Some discrepancy exists concerning Donatien Rochambeau’s actual date o f
birth. In Jean-Edmond W eelen’s translation o f the younger Rochambeau’s memoir o f the
American Revolution, Weelen mistakenly describes the birth dates as both 7 August and
7 April 1755. Still others (to include the Paris Mint, which struck a rather curious
medallion in the late 1970s to commemorate the vicomte’s landing at le Cap, SaintDomingue in 1802 - he actually landed elsewhere) set the date in 1750. According to the
actual birth certificate from Paris’ Jean en Greve parish, and official French military
records, the correct date is 7 April 1755. It is likely that like his father in 1725, Donatien
Rochambeau received his baptism at the family’s traditional place o f worship, the SainteMadeleine church in Venddme, where his great-uncle Louis Begon presided as cure.
3 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal (The War in America) [hereafter Rochambeau,
Journal], First Published in J.E. Weelen, Rochambeau Father and Son; A Life o f the
Marechal de Rochambeau and the Journal o f the Vicomte de Rochambeau [hitherto
unpublished] (New York, 1926), 193; Randolph Keim, Rochambeau, A Commemoration
by the Congress o f the United States o f America o f the Services o f the French Auxiliary
Forces in the War o f Independence (Washington, D.C. 1907), 375.

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his studies in Paris, he traveled through Verberie to join the French army camp at
Compiegne, where his father, then a Marechal de Camp (equivalent to a Major General),
commanded the Auvergne regiment. Hence, apparently sometime in his thirteenth year,
Donatien Rochambeau began the career for which his family had intended him since
birth, commencing his pre-commissioning training as a common soldier in his father’s
The vicomte de Rochambeau was a member o f a cadre o f officers whose families
had received court honors and whose rapid advancement through the ranks followed a de
facto promotion scheme that normally began at the age o f fifteen years, six months. On
or close to this birthday, the French war minister could commission a young nobleman
into the officer ranks, with a latitude ranging between twelve and eighteen years o f age.
Following the established progression, the lieutenant could expect promotion to capitaine
at or near the age o f eighteen, and colonel around age twenty. Further, the officer could,
as vacancies and personal finances permitted, skip the intermediate ranks o f major and
lieutenant colonel, instead purchasing command o f units as large as a regiment.4
Army officers at Versailles generally respected the family’s positions in the
existing military hierarchy. Officers whose fathers held high rank in the services could

4 Gilbert Bodinier, Les Officiers de I Arm ee Royale; Combattants de la Guerre
d ’Independance des Etats-Unis de Yorktown a I A n II [hereafter Bodinier, Officiers de
VArmee Royale], France, Archives de la guerre, Service historique de 1’Armee de Terre
[hereafter Service historique]: Chateau de Vincennes, (Paris, 1983), 54, 115. This
particular arrangement lasted until 1776, when the minister o f war, Saint-Germain,
ordered that colonels have fourteen years o f service, o f which six would be spent in the
newly-created grade o f colonel-en-second and five in the grade o f captaia This was quite
a departure from the previous requirement for the grade o f colonel which mandated that
an officer have only seven years o f service, o f which five were served as a captain.

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look forward to even more accelerated promotion due to the policy o f patronage which
existed in the military services o f pre-Revolutionary France. Accordingly, the sons o f
marshals, lieutenant generals, or marechaux de camp generally rose in rank much faster
than those officers who had no intimate connection with the court. In the Rochambeau’s
case, the son profited directly and immediately from his father’s success until the latter’s
death in 1807.5
Donatien Rochambeau remained with his father at Compiegne until, three months
after his fourteenth birthday, he obtained his commission as lieutenant-en-second in the
artillery on 5 August 1769.6 Concurrently, the new lieutenant received orders assigning
him to the Besan?on Artillery regiment, then in garrison at Strasbourg, where his father
expected him to “profit from the corp’s lessons and instruction.”7 In addition to his
military pursuits, the younger Rochambeau continued his civil education, taking courses
in common law at the university at Strasbourg, and studying German under a Doctor

5 Bodinier, Officiers de I Armee Royale, 54, 61, 115; Service historique, Carton
Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299. While the patronage o f higher ranking
officers to their sons was certainly the expectation, such arrangements still had to be dealt
with delicately. Apparently sensitive to impressions and military etiquette, the elder
Rochambeau, when praising his son’s performance at the Battle o f Yorktown in his report
to the Minister o f War, took care to write that he always spoke o f his son throughout the
latter’s career as a stranger.
6 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 193; Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier
lieutenant-general no. 1299, items 12, 14, 15.
7 Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 19.
Contrary to most noble officers who considered artillery service an unglamourous,
technical field, General Rochambeau experimented with artillery throughout his career
and remained a strong advocate o f massed artillery fires to support infantry maneuvers.

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Schopftin and his secretary M. Koch.8
By early spring 1772, the younger Rochambeau had finished his political studies
at Strasbourg and was approaching his seventeenth birthday. Accordingly, Marechal de
Camp Rochambeau began to seek for his son a promotion to captain and a company
command. Naturally the vicomte’s best chances to secure a company lay in the unit that
his father commanded. As the result, the general requested to the Minister o f War that
while his son waited for a company o f dragoons to come available, he be breveted to the
rank o f Aide-Major Surnumeraire (an aide in the grade o f major, but supernumerary and
without appointment) and returned to the Auvergne regiment to replace any other aides
who had become absent due to illness, dismissal or furlough. Obviously the transfer
would position the vicomte favorably for the next vacancy but his intent, the comte
asserted, was to further his son’s professional military education in a variety o f
assignments in the regiment. General Rochambeau further promised that his son would
complete his course o f basic military instruction by March 1772, and would, by that time,
be seventeen years old. The minister approved the brevet on 24 March, and with his
political studies finished, Donatien Rochambeau soon left Strasbourg to return to serve
with his father at Verberie.9
By 8 March 1773, nearly a year after his father’s initial request, Donatien

8 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 193.
9 Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 19;
Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 193; Georges Six, Dictionnaire Biographique des
Generaux et Amiraux Franqais de la Revolution et de I ’Empire [hereafter Six,
Dictionnaire Biographique] (Paris, 1934), II, 378. At the time, General Rochambeau, as
well as commanding the Auvergne regiment, was Inspector-General o f the Infantry.

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Rochambeau remained an aide. General Rochambeau was obviously disturbed by his
son’s delayed promotion and in a memorandum to the Minister o f War, the marquis de
Monteynard, he asked once again that the latter support his son’s commission as captain
and his assignment to command a company o f dragoons. A month later the general was
even more adamant, noting to Monteynard that his son had turned eighteen on his last
birthday and had served the preceding year with great “courage and honesty.”10 Further,
he reminded the minister that several other artillery cadets of his son’s former class had
already received companies and that he did not consider it in any way just that his son,
who had served as an artillery officer for four years, should have his promotion delayed
any longer. The vicomte de Rochambeau received the rank o f captain on 28 July 1773,
yet he never commanded a company in his father’s regiment.11
By the spring o f the following year, General Rochambeau requested o f Mestre de
Camp Joseph Francois Louis Charles, comte de Damas-d’Antigny that he accept
Donatien into his regiment o f the Artois Dragoons. Captain Rochambeau, the general
asked, would serve once again as a supernumerary aide in the grade o f major, performing
the same duties that he had in the Auvergne Infantry. Whether or not the general was
once again seeking a potential command for his son is uncertain. More important,

10 General Rochambeau to M. Chariot, marquis de Monteynard, 8 March 1773,
Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 21;
Rochambeau to Chariot, 3 May 1773, Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier
lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 20.
11 It is after this promotion that a youthful Donatien Rochambeau sat for the artist
M. Vestier for his earliest known portrait, proudly wearing the uniform o f a captain in his
father’s Auvergne Infantry.

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Captain Donatien Rochambeau Four Versions of the Same Portrait

Figure 1. Captain Donatien Rochambeau - Four Versions o f the Same Portrait

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however, service in the dragoons would complete what would appear to be the general’s
design o f thoroughly educating his son in the business o f all three primary branches o f the
army. W ith Damas-d’Antigny’s assent, the Minister o f War approved the transfer on 24
March 1774.12 The young captain remained in this assignment until, after serving just
under seven years, he received his discharge from active service on 13 June 1776.
Events, however, would not allow the vicomte de Rochambeau to escape the king’s
service for long; early in 1779 the young officer joined his father once again, this time to
go to war.

12 Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 25.
Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 193; Six, Dictionnaire Biographique, II, 378.


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Chapter II
L ’Expedition Particuliere:



Following the American victory over their British enemy at Saratoga in October
1777, France officially recognized the independence o f the American colonies, and on 6
February 1778, signed a treaty o f alliance and commerce with the new thirteen United
States o f North America. In response, Great Britain declared war on the French. Not
being entirely sure how to execute either an indirect commercial war or a war o f direct
naval combat, King Louis XVI’s foreign minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes,
secretly dispatched a naval squadron under Vice Admiral Charles Henri, comte d ’Estaing,
to North America in April 1778. Though d’Estaing’s reputation offered promise for
success, his fleet’s failure to locate and defeat any British naval forces had, by 1779,
weakened Vergennes’ resolve to support fully the American cause. Instead, Vergennes
became more interested in France’s European war with Great Britain. After much
deliberation, he devised a plan to attack England itself, engineering the creation o f a joint
Spanish/French invasion force that would seize the Isle o f Wight and then capture the
dockyards and arsenals o f Britain’s most important naval facility at Portsmouth.
Vergennes designated Marechal de France Noel de Jourda, comte de Vaux, to


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oversee the perilous operation, and by the minister’s plan, two fleets would protect and
assist in the transport o f Vaux’ force. The French fleet was under Admiral Louis
Guillouet, comte d’Orvilliers, while the second was Spanish and would arrive by June
1779 from Cordova, Spain. With the naval piece o f the operation apparently in place,
Vergennes gave command o f the advanced guard o f the French army contingent to the
recently-promoted Major General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau. Unusually qualified,
conscientious, and the consummate professional military officer, Rochambeau had hoped
to command the entire expedition himself. He had seen considerably more combat than
Vaux, but General Rochambeau had shrunk from what he considered the distasteful role
o f a courtier at Versailles preferring instead to remain with his army in the field or
retreating to the more healthful climes o f Vendome.1 As the result o f his remaining
distant politically from the king and his ministers, the general had not gained sufficient
rank to warrant overall command o f such an ambitious undertaking. Though
disappointed, the general remained content with the knowledge that his five infantry
battalions at least would spearhead Marshal de Vaux’ attack.
As participation in the upcoming operation would certainly further what he must
have considered his son’s “interrupted” military career, the general brought Donatien
Rochambeau back from his inactive status to active service. The vicomte, now twentythree years old, returned to duty to serve as his father’s aide-de-camp at the headquarters
in Vaussieux and in the other cantonments in Normandy and Brittany, and on 22 January

1 A variety of ailments had haunted Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau since his birth and
the area around his father’s estate provided what he considered a restful, curative

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1779, received (with his father’s money and influence) the rank o f colonel. Further, the
newly-promoted colonel received as his father’s gift the prestigious position o f second in
command o f the Bourbonnois regiment under Colonel Anne Alexandre, marquis de
Montmorency-Laval.2 While preparations for the assault against England progressed, the
younger Rochambeau could not have gotten a better practical military re-schooling after
his two and one-half year absence. He regularly observed his father, the master tactician,
as the latter relentlessly drilled his soldiers, preparing them for any potentiality that they
might encounter once they reached enemy shores. In speaking o f General Rochambeau at
this time, Colonel Armand-Louis de Gontaut, due de Lauzun, observed that contrary to
the other commanders o f the proposed expedition “M. de Rochambeau, BrigadierGeneral commanding the vanguard, spoke o f nothing but deeds o f martial prowess,
maneuvered and took up military positions in the open, indoors, on the table, on your

2 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 193-194; Service historique, Carton Yb 381;
dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, items 12, 14, 15; Arnold Whitridge, Rochambeau
(New York, 1965), 57-58. Both his own and his father’s journals refer to Donatien
Rochambeau as his father’s aide. This official status was short-lived but requires
clarification. While the general’s command was preparing to sail against England in
1779, Donatien Rochambeau served as one o f his father’s personal aides-de-camp, and
simultaneously, on 22 January 1779, received his command in the Bourbonnois. The
vicomte continued in this status until the spring o f 1780 when his father gave him the
additional duty o f assistant to the army’s quartermaster-general. Colonel Rochambeau
continued, however, as an “unofficial” aide to his father in America, accompanying the
general to important meetings with dignitaries (such as the Hartford, Connecticut
conference with General George Washington), representing his father’s army at
Versailles, and certainly receiving preferential consideration from his father in the
assignment o f most combat missions in America. At first glance, these points may seem
rather arbitrary. However, given Colonel Rochambeau’s position as second-in-command
o f the senior regiment in the French expedition (the Bourbonnois) and the contemporary
modus operandi o f the French army’s officer corps, such treatment was not extraordinary.

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snuffbox, if you took it out o f your pocket; entirely absorbed in his profession, he has a
marvelous knowledge of it.”3
The French invasion force, however, never set foot on British soil. A crucial
aspect o f the operation had been for the combined Spanish/French fleet to secure, by June
1779, the English Channel before landing French troops on the Isle o f Wight and
Portsmouth. The Spanish flotilla arrived six weeks late to meet the French fleet which
waited off the coast o f Corunna, Spain, yet the combined armada nevertheless sailed
northward for the Channel. Running critically short o f water and almost wholly
overcome by smallpox, members o f the d’Orvilliers’ fleet struggled to fulfill their
mission, but by mid-August the French foreign ministry aborted the operation, making the
decision official at a council o f war held in September at Brest. General Rochambeau
was thoroughly disgusted. Completely consumed with training his soldiers, he had driven
them mercilessly and both he and his troops were exhausted. After determining to end

3 Armand Louis de Gontaut, due de Lauzun, Memoirs o f the Due de Lauzun
(London, 1928), 187. In a letter to his father, Axel Fersen would later describe the
commanding general in less glowing terms. “My stay in this country with M. de
Rochambeau has not been very pleasant, and I share this sentiment with all those who
serve under his orders. He is an excellent officer, but he is one o f the most disagreeable
people I know, brusque, of bad temper, excessively detail-oriented, distrustful, little o f the
grace o f which he speaks, but does not show, discouraging to everyone. Finally, everyone
is unhappy, a fact which the general officers hide from him.” Comte Axel de Fersen,
Lettres D ’A xel De Fersen A Son Pere Pendant La Guerre De L ’Independance
D ’A merique (Paris, 1929), 122. Twenty years later in Saint-Domingue, General Charles
Emmanuel Leclerc would make many o f the same observations about Donatien
Rochambeau. Much o f the criticism against the general, however, is undoubtedly
characteristic o f the jealousy that the higher-placed courtiers felt toward their
commanding general (and by extension, his son) especially during the expedition’s early
months. In Newport, Rhode Island during the tedious, inactive winter months o f 17801781, travel restrictions upon and harsh disciplinary measures taken by the general
against a number o f his officers only served to increase their ire.

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his thirty-seven-year career in the army, the elder Rochambeau handed over his command
at the port o f Brest and left for his Paris apartments in late September to settle his military
Within three months, a second, more devastating blow struck the Rochambeau
family, for on 19 December 1779, Joseph Charles, the general’s father, died at the
family’s ancestral estate. W ith longevity surely in mind, the comte left his son to the task
o f settling both the family’s personal and political affairs at the chateau while he returned
to conclude his own business in Paris. The vicomte’s new responsibilities were
extensive. Joseph Charles’ death left not only a sizeable estate, but also created a
vacancy in the governorship o f the family’s representative district, or bailliage.
Consequently, the young colonel took the title o f Governor o f Vendome and its
concurrent position o f Grand Bailli d ’Epee du Venddmois.4 While his son continued to
manage the family interests, in January 1780 the general (now tormented by inflammatory
rheumatism and still grieving the recent death o f his father), was granted permission to
take leave to plan for his retirement. Within minutes Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau would
have stepped into his carriage bound for a comfortable dotage in the quiet solace o f the
Chateau Rochambeau, but there arrived at his Paris apartments on the Rue du ChercheMidi a messenger from Louis XVI summoning him to an immediate audience with the
king. Though he may have privately bemoaned the intrusion, it was hardly in keeping

4 R. de Saint-Venant, Dictionnaire Topographie, Historique, Biographique,
Genealogique et Heraldique de Vendome (Blois, France, 1969), 190. While in 1779 such
a position was primarily titular, it would put Colonel Rochambeau in charge o f the area’s
representative body at the convocation o f the Estates General ten years later.

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with his professional nature for General Rochambeau to refuse His Majesty’s command.
Ordering his driver at once toward the royal residence at Versailles, the general received,
some hours later, precise orders placing him in command of an expeditionary force o f
four thousand men that would sail for America by April 1780.5
The Americans had made no formal request to their French allies for troops, only
for supplies and money. Marie-Joseph Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, however,
had recently come back to France from the war in America. Upon his return, Lafayette
wrote a lengthy, detailed memorandum to Vergennes in which he strongly advocated
France’s sending an army corps o f 4,000 to America with Newport, Rhode Island, as its
first objective. Not surprisingly, Lafayette sought to command the expeditionary force
himself. Though only a captain in the French army, George Washington had
commissioned the spirited young officer a major general in the American forces. The
marquis’ unprecedented rise to fame and position, however, incensed many other less
opportunistic military men and Louis XVI’s new minister of war, Alexandre-EleonoreMarie de Saint-Mauris, prince de Montbarey, urged the king to name Rochambeau
instead. Though the older general, unlike Lafayette, spoke no English, he had served the
crown loyally and possessed considerable battlefield experience. Montbarey admired
Rochambeau’s solid reputation as a stem disciplinarian who scorned intrigue, but more
important, the minister knew that he could count on the general to perform successfully in

5 Societe des Cincinnati, Branche Franfaise, Rochambeau (1725-1807), 14-15;
Whitridge, Rochambeau, 60-64; Weelen, Rochambeau, 75.

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the absence o f orders.6 After a brief incarceration for having left his post in the French
Army to fight for the independence o f Great Britain’s colonies, the king released
Lafayette to aid Rochambeau as the latter planned for his army’s voyage to America.7
General Rochambeau did not distance him self from Lafayette. On the contrary,
aware that the young marquis had a firm grasp o f the situation in the American colonies,
Rochambeau encouraged Lafayette to counsel him on every pertinent detail. Especially
noteworthy was Lafayette’s strong recommendation to the senior commander that his
force attempt to remain as self-sufficient as possible. The war had outrageously inflated
prices for even the most basic necessities and American merchants tended to accept
neither Continental paper currency nor French livres without the greatest apprehension.8
To make matters worse, both enemy and friendly military operations had crippled much
of New England’s food production capability.
Armed with Lafayette’s reports, his instructions from Montbarey, and his own
judgement, Rochambeau and his hand-picked staff began intensive preparations for what

6 Joachim Merlant, Soldiers and Sailors o f France in the American War fo r
Independence (1776-1783). Translated from the French by Mary Bushnell Coleman
(New York, 1920), 111; Whitridge, Rochambeau, 68-75.
7 Louis XVI promoted General Rochambeau to the rank o f Lieutenant General on
1 March 1780. This rank did not exist at the time in the American Army and placed
Rochambeau higher than Lafayette and Rochambeau’s own French generals, but one step
lower than General Washington who, possessing the status (without the title) o f a Marshal
o f France, would command the entire allied army.
8 Though the livre (France’s primary currency denomination until the early years
o f the French Revolution) regularly fluctuated in value on the international exchange, its
contemporary worth may be best approximated against the English Pound Sterling (avoir­
dupois or du-poids) at 1 livre = £1. By 1789, the value o f the livre on international
markets would drop by nearly eighty per-cent.

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the war ministry code-named the Expedition Particuliere. Colonel Rochambeau now
received an even more responsible role. Apparently at his father’s behest, the ministry
assigned Donatien Rochambeau to the position o f the expedition’s Aide-Major General
de Logis, the principle staff officer to the Quartermaster General o f the French invasion
force. The vicomte initially balked at the appointment, understandably preferring to serve
solely in his more prestigious position in the Bourbonnois regiment, but was persuaded
by his father to take the logistics assignment “so that he might be with him always.”9
In the midst o f the preparations for the American campaign, yet another major
event occupied the Rochambeaus’ attention. On 18 March 1780, the vicomte de
Rochambeau married the youthful Franfoise d ’Harville, in a wedding which marked a
change in the family’s traditional marriage criteria. Donatien Rochambeau’s grandfather
had wed Marie-Claire Therese Begon, who came from a family o f sailors, but whose
father had served as the tattle collector for Vendome.10 Donatien’s mother was Jeanne

9 Armand-Charles Augustin de la Croix de Castries, A Middle Passage, The
Journal o f Armand-Charles Augustin de la Croix de Castries, Due de Castries, Comte de
Charlus and Baron Castries; 6 April 1780 to 29 September 1780 (Boston, 1970), 18;
Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoirs o f the Marshal Count De Rochambeau, Relative To
The War O f Independence O f The United States [hereafter Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau,
Memoirs o f the Count de Rochambeau] (New York, 1971), 22. Until the army’s march to
New York in 1781, Colonel Donatien Rochambeau acted predominantly in his role o f
Aide to the Quartermaster General (1 March 1780 until 21 July 1781). Brigadier Charles
de Beville served as the corps’ Quartermaster General and Chief o f Staff, while Captain
Georges-Henri-Victor de Collot, the only o f General Rochambeau’s former aides, served
under Donatien Rochambeau as Second Assistant Quartermaster. In 1792 the Convention
would name General Collot Governor General o f Guadeloupe, where he took orders from
then Lieutenant-General Donatien Rochambeau, Governor General o f the Windward
10 Under the ancien regime, the tattle (or “cut”) was a much-despised royal
capitation tax, the payment o f which was borne almost entirely by France’s rural peasant

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Therese Telles da Costa, whose father, a lifelong entrepreneur, afforded a dowry o f
336,000 livres to the Rochambeau estate. While these two earlier marriages brought a
greater measure of wealth into the family, they did little to further the Rochambeaus’
influence at court. Whether Donatien’s marriage was a political machination or done out
o f true affection remains difficult to ascertain.11 For the time being though, the vicomte’s
wedding had gone a long way toward correcting the family’s social shortcoming.
Mademoiselle Fransoise Eleonore de Jouvenal des Ursines d’Harville was the
daughter o f Lieutenant General Claude Constant Jouvenal d’Harville des Ursines,
Governor o f Huningue, and a courtier with close contacts to the king.12 As the bride-tobe was still a minor, her father first emancipated her to the care o f her prospective
husband prior to official procedure o f the wedding.13 At the end o f many pages o f
genealogical and legal script, all o f the parties, to include parents and surviving
grandparents, signed the official documents on 18 March 1780 at the d ’Harville home in
Paris’ Saint-Sulpice parish. The couple held their church ceremony six days later.14 The

population. Because tattle collectors could legally collect amounts far in excess o f that
demanded by the crown, the collector’s occupation was a lucrative one that remained
highly coveted.
11 Bodinier, Officiers de I ’A rmee Royale, 218.
12 D ’Harville would later serve with Marshal Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau in the
Army o f the North during the French Revolution.
13 Wedding Documents o f Donatien Rochambeau and Fran^oise d ’Harville.
France, Archives Nationales [hereafter AN], Minutier Central, Depot du Mariage, Carton
ET/XCII/821. 18 March 1780.
14 Ibid. By 25 March, the day immediately following the wedding in Paris,
General Rochambeau had returned to Brest. His son may well have been with him.
Curiously, Donatien Rochambeau makes no mention in his journal o f his marriage.

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vicomte had precious little time for post-nuptials, for within two weeks the newlywed
colonel would be aboard the Due de Bourgogne (74) en route to America.
When the two Rochambeau men reached the port of Brest in late March, near
chaos reigned. Believing that four thousand soldiers were insufficient for so distant an
operation, the comte had earlier appealed to officials in Versailles to double the number.
He had lobbied for more horses, more artillery, larger stores o f water and rations, and
enough currency to reimburse the Americans for any possible inconvenience.15 Included
in the general’s demands for this increasingly self-sufficient army were eight druggists,
twenty doctors, butchers, bakers, smiths, etc.16 With Donatien Rochambeau often acting
as his father’s intermediary to Versailles, Montbarey and the king eventually acquiesced
to most o f the commander’s requests. Cataloguing his father’s army, the vicomte de
Rochambeau noted that:
The land army was to be composed o f the Bourbonnois, Royal
Deux-Ponts, Soissonnois, Saintonge, Neustrie, and Anholt infantry
regiments, o f nine hundred men o f the Lauzun legion - as much
infantry as cavalry - a battalion o f artillery, a company o f bombers
and a detachment o f sappers, some miners and workers with siege
equipment, campaign equipment, and in fact all the implements
and supplies needed by an army corps.17
The requisitioned complement, numbering some 8,000 men, was still arriving at
the port by early April, but the French navy could not accommodate the ever-increasing

15 General Rochambeau to Louis XVI, 26 February 1780. Service historique,
Records de VExpedition Particuliere, Carton A4 48, items 45, 47.
16 Records de l’Armee, entry for 10 March 1780. Service historique, Ibid., item
17 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 195.

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logistical burden. After much inter-service accusation and deliberation, General
Rochambeau and Admiral Charles-Louis d’Arsac, chevalier de Temay, commander o f
naval forces for the expedition, resolved to split the party into two divisions which would
travel to America in two separate convoys.
To Lieutenant General Rochambeau, putting foot soldiers ashore in America was
the paramount consideration. Despite the ships’ crews jettisoning all unnecessary stores,
in the first convoy the commanding general was able to include only five thousand men four o f his six intended regiments. As the result, absolutely no horses would accompany
the first division. Even General Rochambeau’s own mounts, which would have taken up
the space o f twenty soldiers, had to remain in France.18 To the noble, inexperienced
colonels, majors and captains that were included as members o f the Expedition
Particuliere, the dearth o f space aboard the ships was especially galling. No one, not
even the general’s own son, could carry with him what he thought would be essential
equipment. “After many difficulties and words (and some crowns distributed here and
there), each o f us succeeded in providing for his narrow quarters in these old tubs, so
heartily detested by all who are not professional sailors.” 19 Volunteer officers who hoped

18 To the prince de Montbarey, General Rochambeau wrote on 27 March 1780
that “It is with the greatest regret that separate myself from two war-horses that I can
never replace, but I do not wish to reproach m yself that they are occupying the space o f
twenty men, who otherwise might
have embarked.”
Henri Doniol, Histoire det la
Participation de la France a VEtablissement des Etats Unis d ’A merique (Pans, 18861892), V, 331.
19 Baron Ludwig von Closen, The Revolutionary Journal o f Baron Ludwig von
Closen, 1780-1783 [hereafter Closen, Journal], Translated and Edited with an
Introduction by Evelyn M. Acomb (Williamsburg, Virginia, 1958), 6.


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Figure 2.
The comte de Vergennes

Figure 3.
Lieutenant General Rochambeau

selected Rochambeau to lead the Expedition

would serve under Marshal of France
George Washington

Figure 4.
Rochambeau had hoped to retire to Chateau
Rochambeau, Thore-La-Rochette, Vendome

Figure 6.
The due de Lauzun (later General
Biron) led Lauzun’s Legion


Figure 5.
Rochambeau’s Apartemente in Paris

Figure 7.
Axel von Fersen was an original
member o f the General Staff

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to gain combat experience and receive favors at court vociferously appealed to
Rochambeau to take them along, but the general summarily denied them passage.20
One officer, however, who was not originally chosen by General Rochambeau,
managed to obtain a position on the commanding general’s staff. As a result o f his
father’s influence at the court o f Versailles, Colonel Axel de Fersen received orders from
Vergennes to report to Rochambeau as aide-de-camp in the general’s personal entourage.
Quickly summing up his situation at the docks o f Brest, Fersen tried to sell his personal
mounts, but with no luck.21 Even for the commanding general’s son, the load o f personal

20 Alexandre Berthier, the future Prince o f Wagram and Napoleon I’s chief o f
staff, and his brother, were among the last to arrive at Brest after the departure o f the
fleet. Dressed in naval linen jackets and breeches the two young men hired boats to chase
down the expedition’s flagship, the Due de Bourgogne, and begged Temay to take them
on as common sailors. Owing to an absolute lack o f space aboard the ship, the admiral
had to refuse. Some weeks later the indefatigable Berthier brothers found passage to
America by way o f traders to the French colonies. Once arrived in America, both
rendered distinguished service in Rochambeau’s army, especially Alexandre, whose
hand-rendered maps o f the French areas o f operation remain the best o f the period.
Alexandre Berthier, Journal (Princeton, 1972), 223.
21 Fersen, Lettres, 53-55. Though Hans Axel von Fersen would eventually
become a Marshal o f Sweden under Gustavus IV, in 1780 the young courtier had to rely
upon the influence o f his diplomat father, Lieutenant General count Fredrik Axel von
Fersen, who arranged through Vergennes a place for his son on General Rochambeau’s
personal staff. General Rochambeau knew General von Fersen well. The elder von
Fersen served in the French Army until he retired in 1748 as a brigadier general, and later
(as a lieutenant general) commanded Swedish troops throughout the entirety o f the Seven
Years War. After his first interview with General Rochambeau, Axel Fersen wrote to his
father saying “ [wjhen I spoke to M. de Rochambeau, he said all sorts o f civil things to
me, and talked to me a long time o f you, father; he ended by saying he was charmed to
have me with him, and be able to show how much he esteemed you and how sincerely he
was attached to you.” Hans Axel von Fersen to Fredrik Axel von Fersen, 2 March 1780.
Axel Fersen, Diary and Correspondence o f Count Axel Fersen Grand-Marshal o f Sweden
Relating to the Court o f France [hereafter Fersen, Diary and Correspondence].
Translated by Katherine Prescott Wormeley (London, 1903). Fersen’s detailed journal of
the voyage was lost in a shipwreck when the ship carrying his mail to his father sank after

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comforts allowed him must have been scarce. Another o f the general’s personal aides,
Baron Ludwig von Closen, remarked that “Three months’ war pay was advanced to the
officers, and a subsidy of fifty livres was given them for the purchase o f tents, hammocks,
and other campaign effects!!! Don’t [even] ask me if we had anything left after these
essential purchases [for] cooking equipment, etc.!”22
O f the four regiments which were to travel to North America, Donatien
Rochambeau’s command, the Bourbonnois, were the first to board their ships on 6 April.
W ithin minutes, these men, like those who would soon follow, had already begun to fight
their first battle - the battle for space. Due to the general’s insistence upon carrying the
maximum possible number o f troops, conditions aboard the expedition’s ships were
already cramped, but the fleet also packed provisions for four months at sea and another
three months on shore.23 Carefully picking their way through the vast amounts o f stores,
the last soldiers boarded their vessels three days later, only to wait until the next month
for favorable winds to carry the fleet out o f Brest Roads and into the Atlantic.
With General Rochambeau’s first contingent filling their transports to beyond
capacity, General Louis Adolphe Pierre, comte de Wittgenstein took command o f the
remaining two regiments (the Neustrie and the Anholts), 300 men o f the Lauzun legion,
and the remaining artillery detachments with the understanding that he and the remainder

hitting a rock while leaving Newport. Axel Fersen to Fredrik Axel von Fersen, 5 Aug
1780. Fersen, Diary and Correspondence, 24.
22 Closen, Journal, 5.
23 Axel Fersen to Fredrik Axel von Fersen, 4 April 1780. Fersen, Diary and
Correspondence, 23.

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of the force would travel to America in a second lift as soon as was possible.24 The
convoy and escorts bound for the west totaled forty-six vessels, guarded by eight ships o f
the line, two frigates and a cutter. Temay’s flagship, the Due de Bourgogne carried the
most celebrated members o f the expedition. Aboard with the admiral and General
Rochambeau were the senior regimental commanders: the brothers comte CharlesJoseph-Hyacinthe and baron Antoine-Charles du Houx de Viomenil; Fran^ois-Jean de
Beauvoir, chevalier de Chastellux; Pierre Francois, chevalier de Beville (Rochambeau’s
Chief o f the General Staff and Quartermaster General) and Colonel Donatien
Rochambeau.25 After numerous false starts, which included a transport accidentally
crashing into one o f Temay’s ships o f the line, the Conquer ant (74), the fleet finally set
sail on 2 May 1780.
To all but a precious few o f the most senior officers, the corps’ destination
remained a closely guarded secret. Almost miraculously, the details o f General
Rochambeau’s mission had not found their way out o f the confines o f the palace at
Versailles, but throughout the many months o f preparation enemy operatives at Brest
provided detailed intelligence to their contacts in England concerning the expedition’s
preparations. Though lacking the most critical piece o f intelligence (where was
Rochambeau going?), by early May the British Admiralty ordered Admiral Thomas
Graves to lead a squadron to locate and destroy the Expedition Particuliere. Accordingly,
Graves set out in pursuit from Portsmouth on 17 May after having been driven back for

24 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 195.
25 Wheelen, Rochambeau, 81.

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some days by fierce winds from the south. Fortunately for the French, their intelligence
services remained equally well-informed o f British preparations in Portsmouth. Knowing
that Graves would quickly intercept them if they took the most direct sea lane to America,
General Rochambeau and Temay chose an unusually circuitous route south along the
Spanish coast. Among the sailors, hugging the coast o f Spain only served to reinforce the
common opinion among them that the fleet was headed for the French colony o f SaintDomingue to join with forces already there for an attack on British Jamaica.26 Even after
the fleet’s course change to the west-south-west, the prevailing opinion among the
soldiers and sailors was that they would soon be fighting in the Antilles.
By 2 June, the convoy’s escort frigates captured a British cutter that was en route
from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the Caribbean island o f Saint Christopher and whose
commander gave the French their first tentative news o f Lieutenant General Henry
Clinton’s capture o f Charleston, South Carolina.27 On the nineteenth, Temay’s warships
captured yet another British vessel, the merchantman Botetourt. Among those on board
were several o f Clinton’s officers who not only confirmed the fall o f the Charleston, but
who carried with them the articles o f surrender. These officers further informed General
Rochambeau o f General Clinton’s [actually General Lord Charles Cornwallis’]
subsequent march northward. Fearing a possible British invasion o f Virginia,

26 Mathieu Dumas, Souvenirs du Lieutenant-General Comte Mathieu Dumas de
1770 a 1836 [hereafter Dumas, Souvenirs] (Paris, 1839), I, 30.
27 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 197.

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Rochambeau ordered the fleet to set a course for Chesapeake Bay.28
The French had been fortunate to encounter only single ships to this point,
especially since Graves’ sole purpose was to find them. As deep as they were into
British-controlled waters however, chances favored that at any time they would run into a
much more formidable enemy. Rochambeau and Temay did not have to wait long. The
very next day, 20 June, the Frenchmen encountered a British naval squadron returning to
Europe from Bermuda. The action that followed constituted Donatien Rochambeau’s
first exposure to combat and caused a great debate among the members o f the expedition
and accounts o f the fight appear in nearly all o f the journals o f those present.29
At 1:30 p.m., the French convoy signaled the sighting o f several sail. Temay
immediately sent his two best-sailing warships, the Neptune (74) and the Eveille (64), to
reconnoiter. The unidentified ships continued to bear down upon the French, and
ordering the transport ships safely to leeward, Temay brought the French warships into
line of battle. At 1600 hours the Neptune signaled that the unidentified vessels were
indeed an English squadron composed o f five warships: the Sultan (74), the Hector (74),
the Lion (64), the Bristol (50), and a frigate.30

28 Claude Blanchard, The Journal o f Claude Blanchard, Commissary o f the
French Auxiliary Army Sent to the United States During the American Revolution. 17801783. Translated from a French Manuscript by William Duane (Albany, New York,
1876), 16-20. Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 198.
29 Donatien Rochambeau, whose presence aboard the flagship afforded him a
better understanding o f the sequence o f events, left in his own journal what remains by far
the best account o f the action.
30 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 198-202; Blanchard, Journal, 27; Closen,
Journal, 36. Ironically, the British squadron was commanded by Commodore William

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Immediately the ships’ drummers beat the call “to quarters,” ships’ chaplains
issued their benedictions, and all hands (soldiers and sailors) assumed their posts in
preparation for the imminent fight.31 The line took some time to form. The Provence
(64) was a slow sailing ship and was unable to assume its proper place in the French line
leaving a large break in the formation. As the result, Temay ordered the Neptune and the
Jason (64), who were in front o f the convoy, to shorten sail so that they might fill in the
gap. One o f the smaller English ships, the Ruby (64), which had become separated from
the rest o f the English squadron, was thought by all aboard the French vessels to be cut
completely off from her comrades by the Neptune. As the French ships came about,
Temay signaled the Neptune “to haul close to the wind in order to separate the enemy
vessel from the rest o f her line which was impossible to do.”32 Combining audacity with
skillful maneuver, the English vessel escaped by tacking between her own squadron and

Cornwallis (Lord Charles Cornwallis’ brother). Some discrepancy exists as to which
British vessels actually took part in the cannonading. Blanchard copied his list (above)
from the report that Commodore Cornwallis had reprinted in the 27 October 1780 issue
o f the Gazette o f Utrecht and the 13 October 1780 issue o f the Courier ofEurope. Based
on information that he received from an English officer at Newport, Closen lists the ships
as being the Ruby (74), the Sultan (74), the Lion (64), the Bristol (64), the Reasonable
(50), and the frigate Triton (28).
31 Similar in concept to the modem shipboard signal for “general quarters,”
Rochambeau’s aide, baron Cromot du Bourg, describes the drum roll order “to quarters”
in his diary as “to put aside every thing that can be in the way o f action, to prepare the
guns, each man going to his post. “To quarters” is always given the moment a vessel is
met, and often even at other times to accustom the crew to be prompt in case o f surprise.”
Cromot du Bourg, “Diary o f a French Officer, 1781 (Presumed to Be That o f Baron
Cromot du Bourg, Aide to Rochambeau).” The Magazine o f American History 4(18801881): 208.
32 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 199.

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running the length o f the entire French line. Though firing wildly, this lone British ship
suffered the bulk o f the French fire. Following this first exchange o f cannon, Temay
“gave the signal to take by countermarching, desiring by that means to get near the
enemy.”33 The English, seeing themselves outnumbered and outgunned, made no move
to counter Tem ay’s maneuver and after some more long-distance cannonading, the
English squadron withdrew at sunset.34
Everyone aboard the vessels o f the French expedition seems to have had an
opinion as to the outcome o f Ternay’s encounter with the English squadron. Donatien
Rochambeau was no exception, but admitting that he was no seaman, he attempted to
leave as honest an account as he could, complete with detailed sketches o f the event. In
brief, the two most common arguments among the army officers were that the admiral
was wrong to have ordered the Neptune, who was in contact with the smaller English
ship, to shorten sail when it surely held the advantage. The second was that Temay had
not capitalized on the decided superiority o f his force. Temay, however, was determined
to follow his orders not to risk the safety o f the fleet in any way and to land the army as
soon as possible. Though he was much maligned by his own officers and many in
Rochambeau’s army for not having taken the opportunity to claim an easy victory over
English warships, for his part, General Rochambeau staunchly defended Temay’s

33 Blanchard, Journal, 21.
34 Ibid, 22; Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 199; Fersen, Diary and
Correspondence, 24.

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On 4 July 1780 the Expedition Particuliere sailed for the first time into the
Chesapeake Bay and at 4:00 p.m. hours the flagship displayed the signal to rally the ships
in preparation for an anchorage to land the sick and to take on water before continuing
north. Everyone aboard the vessels was stunned to see only a few minutes later the signal
for the fleet to tack to the wind and to execute feinting maneuvers throughout the night
without lights.36 To the Frenchmen’s surprise, an undetermined number o f ships o f yet
another enemy squadron occupied Chesapeake Bay. Believing that this might be their
pursuer Admiral Graves, Temay turned his ships back out to sea executing a number of
feints in the darkness and headed north for the predetermined rallying point at Newport,
Rhode Island.
Rochambeau and Temay, though, had not evaded the British. At dawn the next
morning, the Frenchmen discovered that during the night, two English frigates, the Iris

35 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 199; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoirs o f
the Count de Rochambeau, 8; Blanchard, Journal, 26; Closen, Journal, 22-23; Mathieu
Dumas, Souvenirs, 33-38. It is noteworthy that according to nearly all o f the subordinate
officers’ accounts, it was General Rochambeau who regularly gave the orders for
Temay’s ships to fight or not. As ignorant as they were o f the concept o f joint operations,
the supposition that the army commander held precedence over those o f the navy is not
surprising. In his own memoirs, General Rochambeau clearly admits that he was only an
observer o f and sometimes advisor to Temay. Remarking on the action, baron Closen
admits that “ [o]n board the transport we had nothing better to do than to judge the
maneuvers and to make some deductions, in truth, like blind men who like to talk about
36 Blanchard, Journal, 32. “If our general had not been so cautious, they could
not have escaped us, because he was determined to execute the court’s orders to prevent
any harm to the convoy, which was so near to the vessels that it could have been sunk.”
Closen, Journal, 25.

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(32) and the Guadeloupe (28), had maneuvered into the midst o f the French fleet. The
Due de Bourgogne (74) drew fire at close range from the English vessels. Temay ordered
two frigates into pursuit but both failed to catch the interlopers. Again, the admiral met
with the dissatisfaction o f his subordinates for having failed to estimate the actual number
o f enemy vessels and for not having pressed an attack if the situation proved
advantageous. The state o f affairs in the French convoy, however, was becoming more
perilous by the day. While scurvy, dysentery and other maladies raged among the sailors
and soldiers in the vessels, physicians and their attendants were busy disposing o f corpses
through the various ships’ lowest portholes. “ [The troops]....had suffered a great deal
during such a long voyage, and....a third were stricken with scurvy. It was even feared
that this miserable disease might make greater ravages because o f the hot weather,
crowding o f the men on board, and poor quality o f the water, salted meats, and dried
Though some members o f the expedition advised the admiral to make for the
known security o f the port o f Boston, Temay refused. Rhode Island, he maintained, was
closer and the growing number o f sick required that he put in to port as soon as was
practicable. The admiral was certainly justified in his decision, for as Commissary
Claude Blanchard mentioned, “a battle would not be more murderous than a longer stay
at sea.”38 While the majority troops suffered their miserable conditions, the officers o f

37 Closen, Journal, 26.
38 Blanchard, Journal, 35; Closen, Journal, 24-25; Donatien Rochambeau,
Journal, 202-203; Fersen, Diary and Correspondence, 24. Blanchard also describes the
water on board the ships as being “black and unpleasant to the sight, [although] it had not

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the generals’ staffs and certainly those aboard the Due de Bourgogne appear to have fared
better throughout the course o f the journey. “As for the general staff’ Closen (who was
aboard the flagship) reported, “it was very well nourished and had plenty to drink. Our
cows and chickens were continuously productive and in good condition, and our captain
was well supplied with rice and sugar, etc., etc.”39 Though having remained reasonably
comfortable during the seventy-day voyage, Colonels Rochambeau and Laval must have
been especially heartened by the prospect o f leaving Temay’s flagship as soon as they
possibly could. Probably due to some unpleasantry during the embarkation process, a sort
o f quiet feud had erupted between the admiral and the two commanders o f the
Bourbonnois regiment. As another passenger, the future due de Castries, who was also
aboard the Due de Bourgogne observed, “Monsieur de Rochambeau, the younger, and the
Marquis de Laval cannot hold out anymore, after all, Monsieur de Temay has not spoken
to either o f them since we left France.”40
Through a thick fog, the French fleet sighted land and anchored in Rhode Island
waters on the afternoon o f 9 July 1780. Still unsure o f the presence o f the enemy, Temay
had his vessels move cautiously toward land. After meeting with his second in command,
the comte de Viomenil, General Rochambeau decided that he, Viomenil, Donatien
Rochambeau and selected members o f the staff would go ashore once they sighted the

a bad taste.” Captains took regular precautions such as cleaning their ships everyday
(often swabbing the decks with perfume) and opening all hatches to let air circulate below
decks. Nevertheless, sickness ravaged the crews. Castries, Journal, 8.
39 Closen, Journal, 26.
40 Castries, Journal, 65-66.

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prearranged signal that the marquis de Lafayette had arranged earlier. The next morning,
two Bourbon flags flying from both sides o f the opening into Point Judith signaled that
Newport was secure and open for landing. As the army prepared for debarkation, sailors
rowed the two Rochambeau men and their advance party from the Due de Bourgogne to
the frigate Amazone which then proceeded into Newport.41

41 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 195-199; Blanchard, Journal, 35.

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Chapter III
Newport to New York:
July 1780 - August 1781

Stepping onto land for the first time in three months, young Colonel Rochambeau’s
initial impression of America was o f the lack o f enthusiasm and gratitude that the people o f
Rhode Island showed for the Frenchmen’s arrival. For some time the streets remained
empty, the citizens o f Newport having been taken somewhat by surprise by the arrival o f
their French guests. As one officer described the scene “M. le Comte de Rochambeau went
ashore immediately, accompanied by several others, and when he reached the town was
astonished to find hardly a soul. The shops were closed, and the local people, little disposed
in our favor, would have preferred at that moment, I think, to see their enemies arrive rather
than their allies.” 1 The attitude o f many o f the townsmen appears to have ranged anywhere
from terror to uninformed prejudice. In an often-cited quote from his New Travels Through
North America, the French army chaplain Abbe Claude Robin observed that the Americans
perceived the French to be deformed, idolatrous slaves o f tyrannical oppressors, “incapable
o f anything solid or consistent; entirely taken up with the dressing o f their hair, and painting

1 Jean-Fran?ois-Louis, comte de Clermont-Crevecoeur, Journal o f the War in
America During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 (Princeton, 1972), 17.

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their faces; without delicacy or fidelity, and paying no respect to even the most sacred
Many o f Newport’s citizens found it at least difficult to contain their bitterness and
suspicion o f late enemies now come as occupiers. British operatives in the Northeast took
full advantage o f these sentiments and made every effort to inflame American popular
opinion against the French, even going so far as to claim that once the French became
established in the area, their ambition was to reestablish themselves as colonial overlords.
The combination o f these and a variety o f other presentiments certainly served as sufficient
reason for Colonel Rochambeau to remark in his memoirs that it seemed to him:
....that the greater part o f the people has little energy, that it is even
filled with quite a marked indifference about all eventualities that
might take place, and that their Liberty which they have made so
much o f is pursued more in conversation than in reality. Only the
smallest part o f the population takes a leadership in affairs or wishes
to do so, or pretends to distinguish itself from the common run of
human beings, or is gifted with that force o f character and diligence
o f spirit which should be the distinguishing attribute o f those who
have brought about the most amazing revolution in the annals o f the
modem world....3
The knowledge that the French army and navy’s conduct in the succeeding months
would be a great determinant in the success or failure o f the expedition’s mission was not at
all lost on General Rochambeau. In his first address to the leading citizens o f Newport, the
general announced that the French army had come to America to assist the people in winning
their freedom and did not wish to be a burden to them. “The troops,” he asserted, “would

2 Abbe Claude Robin, New Travels Through North America [hereafter Robin,
New Travels] (New York, 1969), 19.
3 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 204.

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maintain themselves in good discipline and that they would pay for what they used in cash.”4
M ost French officers found the effect o f the general’s statements on the people o f Newport
to be what they considered typically American. “At this mention o f hard money or cash their
countenances brightened and, if they had been serious and reserved up to that time, they
began to smile, seeing that the presence o f the French far from being harmful to them would
bring them positive advantages.”5
General Rochambeau’s promises produced the desired effect, though the situation in
those first days at Newport remained slightly unsettled. Fortunately, Lafayette had visited
Rhode Island some weeks before the Rochambeau contingent and had set about organizing
the local support required by the arriving army. The result of the marquis’ and state militia
commander General William Fleath’s efforts was that despite their apparent initial apathy,
the town leaders found suitable accommodations and facilities for the foreigners. After
having sat apprehensively for two days aboard their ships, on the evening o f 11 July French
troops finally felt the first positive effects o f being in America.
The troops aboard the vessels had for dinner many vegetables, fruits,
and other fresh provisions, which we devoured with a wonderful
appetite. There was continuous joyful cheering!!! both [sic] by those

4 Ibid., 205.
5 Ibid. The continued use o f French gold and silver currency (most often Spanish
piasters) later came to be a serious problem for both General George Washington and the
Continental Congress as it steadily devalued not only the receipts from W ashington’s
army but also the paper currency being issued from Philadelphia and other northeastern
capitals. Local inhabitants throughout New England soon came to refuse to deal with the
Americans, preferring instead French bullion. When silver eventually began to become
scarce among the French, Rochambeau’s commissaries began to take out loans against
French credit with interest rates running as high as thirty-three per-cent, while American
money sold at 700 per-cent discount. Closen, Journal, 78; Blanchard, Journal, 106-107.

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who were arriving and by the inhabitants, who had been expecting us
for a long time. It will be easily understood that after such a long
voyage, during which one has been so uncomfortable, bored and
sometimes dirty in an unhealthy old tub, there is no joy to compare
with that o f setting foot on terra flrm a and changing one’s diet; for
the water and some o f our provisions, with exception o f the wine, had
spoiled. As the latter beverage overheats one, and as the water had
been rationed half way across, I often saw the crew exchange a glass
o f wine for a glass o f water.”6
After the maj ority o f Newport’s citizens ceremoniously welcomed the newcomers by
illuminating the tow n’s houses and setting off fireworks, the bulk o f the French expedition
debarked their ships between 12 and 15 July.7 Both the comte and the vicomte de
Rochambeau made their quarters in the home o f William Vernon, which stands today at the
corner of Clarke and Mary Streets, while the army’s senior officers and principle staff found
billets in the numerous other houses in Newport.8 The remainder o f the army, minus the
Lauzun Legion who made a separate camp in Connecticut, would camp in the open fields and
orchards just outside the city to the southeast, deliberately isolated from the city’s

6 Closen, Journal, 27.
7 According to the then-president o f Yale University, Ezra Stiles, the citizens o f
Newport demonstrated their welcome o f the new guests as follows: “ [tjhe Whigs put
thirteen lanterns in their windows, the Tories, or those who were undecided, four or six.
As to the Quakers, they preferred not to show the light o f their candles, and had their
windows smashed.” Merlant, Soldiers and Sailors o f France, 118.
8 In the garden to the north o f the Vernon house, the general later ordered the
construction o f a large assembly building which closely resembled the main house.
Though this action was apparently undertaken without Vernon’s consent, “French Hall”
as it became known, stood until 1894. The building not only served as an official
meeting place for the officers o f Rochambeau’s corps, but also as their club. When the
French army left Newport in the summer o f 1781, Vernon presented General
Rochambeau with a bill o f $450. This payment was not for rent, but for damages to the
property during the general’s stay. Document reprinted in The Magazine o f American
History 3, No. 7 (July 1879): 426.

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The Rochambeaus Arrive in America

LancImgoT Rochambeau, 1780



' m

' 5 SUE

French Army standard ca. 1780
I 'l l I s. V E R N O N H O U S E H E A D Q U A R T E R S O F O f l N


General Lafayette
ca. 1780.

Figure 8. The Rochambeaus Arrive in America

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inhabitants. By virtue o f their seniority, the grenadiers and chasseurs o f the Bourbonnois
regiment (that body o f troops who would later constitute Donatien Rochambeau’s primary
combat command) were the first to disembark.9
Debarkation from the crowded ships proved anything but easy. Knowing that the
British could profit immeasurably from an immediate attack at Newport, General
Rochambeau considered the timely placement o f his cannons to guard the harbor a matter o f
principal importance and demanded that they be brought to shore as quickly as possible. To
his frustration however, the heaviest (and most critical) artillery pieces had been loaded at
the bottom o f the ships to serve as ballast. A severe shortage o f small transport boats only
exacerbated the problem. While both soldiers and sailors fought to hoist the guns from the
lowest holds, junior officers forced a hodgepodge o f troops and supplies into the town aboard
what few rowboats the Americans and the French could make available. Further, one
transport, the Isle de France, had become separated from the rest o f the fleet in the midst of
the dense fog which for four days had preceded the fleet’s arrival. Temay sent the Hermione
(36) to find the lost ship, but to no avail. The possible loss o f the Isle de France caused a
great deal o f concern especially among the French officers as it carried not only 350 men o f
the Bourbonnois Infantry, but also much o f the general officers’ personal baggage. The
missing ship finally put into Boston on 20 July.10

9 It is probable that at least some o f the grenadiers accompanied the advanced
party into Newport to act as a bodyguard. The possibility o f Tories harassing or even
kidnaping the dignitaries seemed to be a major concern to Temay. Lee Kennett, The
French Forces in America, 1780-1783 (Westport, Connecticut, 1977), 48.
10 Blanchard, Journal, 42; Closen, Journal, 29.

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Naturally, the first concern o f the senior officers o f the expedition was to establish
local security. W ith the aid o f General Heath’s Rhode Island militiamen the Frenchmen
quickly established their camp and set about improving the city’s defenses which had been
half-heartedly constructed by previously occupying British troops between December 1776
and October 1779. Surveying the remnants o f the British effort, Colonel Rochambeau
remarked that even though the enemy constructed interconnected redoubts on all o f the
surrounding hills, the work had been carried out very badly. In his opinion, the breastworks
were too thin and the wings o f the fortifications too short to be o f substantial defensive value.
British successes at Newport, he asserted, could only have been the result o f the lack o f
seasoning o f the American troops sent to capture the town.11
In their own opinion, the French could only do better. After some weeks o f heavy
construction carried out in the midst o f the oppressive summer heat, both the vicomte de
Rochambeau and his father were well pleased with Newport’s renovated defensive works.
Their efforts came not a moment too soon. Though Admiral Graves had completely missed
contact with the French fleet on the Atlantic, by 19 June he had arrived in New York, joined
with another British fleet under Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot, and then sailed for Newport as
part o f a combined land/sea effort that would decisively destroy the Expedition Particuliere.
In retrospect, it remains clear that a swift, successful British attack on Newport in that
summer o f 1780 may have dramatically altered the course o f the war in Britain’s favor.
Certainly this notion was not lost on the British Commander o f His Majesty’s Forces in the
American Colonies. Accordingly, throughout late July and early August 1780, nineteen

11 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 207-208.

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British warships blockaded the entry into Rhode Island while General Henry Clinton
gathered a force in New York o f 6,000 men aboard transports to advance a land attack on
Rhode Island’s capital city. Fortunately for the French, Clinton vacillated. When word later
reached Newport that an overanxious Clinton had called off the planned attack because o f
a possible attack against New York by General George Washington, young Colonel
Rochambeau proudly (and somewhat naively) declared that the real reason that the British
attack had been aborted was that Clinton was obviously “disgusted” by how well the French
were established.12 Throughout August 1780, the French continued to improve their
positions at Newport while Admiral Graves’ squadron (with 2,000 soldiers aboard)
alternately appeared and disappeared o ff o f the coast at Martha’s Vineyard in hopes o f
capturing not only any French vessel that may attempt to leave Rhode Island, but more
especially to intercept the arrival o f the expected second division o f Rochambeau’s army.
Finally confident that they were well buttressed against any attack by the British,
Rochambeau’s men received on 28 August a most unusual mission o f Oneida, Tuscarora and
Caughnawaga Indians who came to call on the French forces. The English had hoped to gain
the friendship o f these and other Indian tribes in the area by repeatedly telling them that the
rebels in America had absolutely no alliance with the French, a fact, they said, that was
proven by the absence o f any French land or sea force. The Native Americans were not so
easily duped. Upon their arrival at Newport, General Rochambeau personally led the party

12 Ibid., 207-210; Blanchard, Journal, 45; Closen, Journal, 32-35; James Breck
Perkins, France in the American Revolution (Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1970), 318.
In his memoirs, General Clinton blames the moves by Washington toward New York for
his abandoning the project.

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on a tour o f the camp and the ships o f the squadron, proving conclusively to his apprehensive
guests that their former French friends were once again in America to act in their best
T o most o f the powdered, perfumed French officers, the Indian delegation’s visit was
a curious and amusing, but physically revolting, intrusion.13 During their consultations in
France however, the marquis de Lafayette had wisely apprized General Rochambeau o f the
benefits o f bringing gifts for and entering into fraternal dialogue with his potential Indian
allies. Upon Lafayette’s advice, the general had loaded his personal baggage appropriately,
and was later able to offer to the tribes’ representatives steel axe blades, Charleville muskets,
blankets, j ewelry, and the most coveted gift o f all, necklaces bearing portraits o f the Indians’
“holy father” King Louis XVI. While most o f his contemporaries characterized their guests
in derisive terms, Colonel Rochambeau (who certainly understood the political ramifications
o f a French/Indian camaraderie) described the “savages” as:
....agile, robust, tall, [and] well built. They usually go without
clothing and this is the most advantageous condition for them to be
seen in; for, dressed, they look weighted down and cramped. They
seemed satisfied with what was shown to them, though they gave no
expression o f it, for they pride themselves on not seeming surprised
at anything. They danced for us and their dances, done to the sound
o f the drum or some barbaric and noisy instrument mingled with
horrible cries seemed to me to have a certain analogy to their kind o f

13 The Native Americans who visited the French camp habitually slathered
themselves with fish oil which they used as an insect repellent. Most of the French
officers could barely stand the smell. Gaspard de Gallatin, “The Narrative o f Baron
Gaspard de Gallatin,” reprinted in Warrington Dawson, “With Rochambeau at Newport,”
The Franco-American Review, I, No. 4 (Spring, 1937): 333.

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life - that is to say, it seemed to be an image o f war.14
After asking for news o f the marquis de Levis, France’s former governor o f Canada, the
tribesmen “went away loaded with presents and very pleased with the French.” 15
Throughout the ensuing months in Newport, General Rochambeau remained more
than true to his word concerning the good behavior o f his army, and a series o f draconian
orders, reinforced by remarkably stiff penalties, ensured that the behavior o f his forces
remained well beyond reproach. Besides, every Frenchman present knew well that it was
incumbent upon him to dispel the disadvantageous prejudices o f the American people.
Officers whose noble positions in France accustomed their habits not only toward pomp and
luxurious living, but also offered them the latitude to engage in nearly any sort o f
debauchery, were on their best behavior. Even the French army chaplain Abbe Robin’s
unusually critical eye noted that everyone “sacrificed something to his own feelings, in order
to accomplish this desired end” and that the officers especially displayed the best behavior
traditionally characteristic o f the nobility and gentry o f refined France.16 At the numerous
balls, dinners and other diversions hosted by both French and American officers during the
fall and winter o f 1780-1781, Rochambeau’s officers displayed a remarkable degree o f

14 Ibid., 211. Baron Closen offers an especially useful description o f the day’s
events: “This delegation was treated with much distinction. M. de Rochambeau showed
them the army. Fie gave them some gold and silver medals with the head o f Louis XVI.
They were also presented with some blankets, knives, and other objects o f hardware,
which gave them much pleasure. They left us in return their sandals, belts and many
other trinkets, also some scalps.” Closen, Journal, 37-39.
15 Ibid.
16 Robin, New Travels, 21.

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reserve in their behavior and took extraordinary measures to ensure the comfort and good
will of their American associates.17
In the meantime however, more portentous events continued to develop. Since just
after the French fleet’s arrival at Newport, Lafayette, who initially enjoyed W ashington’s
complete confidence in matters dealing with Rochambeau’s contingent, had acted as the
American commander’s mouthpiece to the French army in America. Initially, General
Rochambeau patiently abided the marquis’ youthful ebullience as he enumerated the myriad
reasons for an immediate attack on New York, but after some weeks he became more than
a little disturbed that Washington had not communicated with him personally. After all,
Rochambeau was the American commander’s highest-ranking subordinate and the French
corps his primary auxiliary force. Further, suspicion grew in the French camp that the
youthful, inexperienced marquis might be misrepresenting W ashington’s intent in favor o f
his own enthusiastic enterprises o f capturing the city.18 Though various junior French

17 Ibid. To while away the idle months, many French officers hired local tutors in
an effort to better acquaint themselves with the English language. As Hans Axel von
Fersen added early in August 1780, “We have not left our island; we occupy it peacefully,
and with the best order, in a very healthy camp, well placed and perfectly well trenched;
the works are not yet finished, but they are going on. The strictest discipline is
maintained; nothing is taken from the inhabitants except by their free will and for ready
money; we have not yet had a single complaint against the troops. Such discipline is
admirable and astonishes the inhabitants, who are accustomed to the pillage o f the
English and even o f their own troops. The greatest confidence and the best harmony are
established between the two nations; if that could suffice for the success o f our expedition
we might feel sure o f it.” Hans Axel von Fersen to Fredrik Axel von Fersen, 8 September
1780. Fersen, Diary and Correspondence, 25.
18 In their diaries, nearly every contemporary French author in America
denounces the marquis de Lafayette, the second wealthiest and most influential man in
France next to the king, for having abandoned the traditions o f his noble background in
favor o f the plebeian manners o f his new American friends. Though tainted by an

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officers’ accounts would seem to offer grounds for debate on the point, to this day, no
documents exist to indicate that Washington acted with anything but the best intentions
toward his new ally. Certainly Lafayette, W ashington’s filial confidant and heir to the
second greatest estate in France next to the king, would appear as the American general’s
natural choice as an intermediary to the French king’s representatives.

Unknown to

Rochambeau, Washington had long considered that laying siege to the British garrisons in
the city o f New York offered the best chance o f a politically important victory that would
inspire fresh volunteers to sustain the dwindling ranks o f the Continental Army. Further, his
belief that General Clinton’s army was not yet fully reestablished in New York after their
sojourn in Charleston, South Carolina, only fueled W ashington’s anxiousness.19
Lafayette echoed and amplified W ashington’s desire loudly, ultimately causing a
great deal o f ill feeling on the parts o f Rochambeau and Temay. The French corps could not
possibly execute the immediate move against New York that Lafayette so vehemently
promoted. The transportation and supplies needed for such an undertaking were hopelessly
slow arriving at the corps’ depot at Providence, while the relatively small number o f French
warships erased the chance for naval superiority against Clinton’s sea forces. Lafayette,
however, persisted, and a flurry o f accusatory letters followed between the marquis and the

incalculable potpourris o f jealous sensitivities, these officers’ protests were not without
reason - on countless occasions when dining with his French countrymen, Lafayette,
following American table customs, made it his habit to grandiosely wipe his mouth in the
American manner, using the host’s tablecloth as a napkin.
19 The French arrived in Newport three weeks after Clinton reestablished him self
at New York. Further, the considerable number o f those sick with scurvy (800 o f the
5,000 o f the land forces alone) caused Rochambeau to estimate that it would be at least a
month before he could begin any type o f campaign. Blanchard, Journal, 46.

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French commander.

The infuriated Rochambeau, who had not heard anything from

Washington personally on the topic, soon became convinced that the poor idea o f the
proposed siege o f New Y ork was solely Lafayette’s. Following repeated requests by General
Rochambeau, a somewhat embarrassed Washington finally mediated, writing to the French
commander on 7 September 1780 a letter urging that the two meet halfway between their
respective camps at Hartford, Connecticut on the 20th.
Owing to a recent illness sustained by Temay, the party traveled by carriage. Thus
the French contingent which set on out 18 September to meet with the Americans numbered
only six, the comte and the vicomte de Rochambeau; Admiral Temay; the general’s chief of
engineers, Brigadier General Jean-Nicolas Desandroiiins and two o f the general’s aides,
Fersen and Mathieu Dumas. The party’s route took them through “Siturate, Coventry,
Voluntown and in the state o f Connecticut, Canterbury, Scotland, Windham, Bolton, East
Hartford and [finally to the meeting place at the home o f Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth in]
West Hartford on the right shore o f the Connecticut River.”20 They were greeted by General
W ashington’s entourage, all o f whom traveled by carriage, which included Lafayette;
General Henry Knox, W ashington’s chief o f artillery; another Frenchman, M. de Gouvin,
W ashington’s chief o f engineers; Colonel Alexander Hamilton and five other aides de camp
and an escort o f twenty dragoons.21
Lafayette, who after having received a gentle admonition from Rochambeau had

20 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 212.
21 Ibid.; Hans Axel von Fersen to Fredrik Axel von Fersen, 23 September 1780.
Fersen, Diary and Correspondence, 30.

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reconciled with the general, joined his countrymen at Washington’s headquarters to act as
translator between the two allied commanders, neither o f whom spoke the other’s language.
Both Colonels Rochambeau and Fersen were markedly impressed by the American
commander. In their respective memoirs, both men commented on W ashington’s air o f
nobility, his martial, yet sad visage and his thoughtful reticence.22 The Americans received
the French delegation graciously, and over many bowls o f punch and cider, the commanding
officers discussed their strategy.
A t what later became known as the Flartford Conference, Washington insisted that
a campaign to lay siege to the city o f New York offered the best possibility for the defeat of
General Clinton’s northern army. The French general disagreed, but remembering the king’s
instructions to support the colonists in every way, he deferred to Washington who held firm
to his desire to attack New York, especially if the timely arrival o f another French fleet
would tip the balance o f the naval forces in the allies’ favor.23
The American commander did however agree in principle to an assault into the
Southern states (or even into Canada) if events proved favorable. He further proposed the
possibility o f combining the allied armies in front o f New York while holding the French
navy in reserve in Boston. Though such positioning could obviously accommodate a variety
o f contingencies, both Rochambeau and Temay demurred. Insisting that their orders from
Vergennes forbade the separation o f the French army from its supporting fleet, the French

22 Fersen, Lettres, 82; Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 210. Washington
discovered Benedict Arnold’s treason just days before the Hartford meeting.
23 Alexander Hamilton, The Papers o f Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1961),

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Rochambeau Meets Washington at
Hartford, Connecticut

Figure 9. Rochambeau Meets Washington at Hartford, Connecticut

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commanders maintained that it was best to keep their army and navy on Rhode Island during
the winter, as far as possible from the American populace whose customs and manners were
so alien to the French. “General Washington remarked, that the instructions o f the Court
must o f course decide the point; but that he hoped the inconveniences apprehended from an
intercourse with the inhabitants would not be found on experience, and thought they could
not happen more from a commerce with the people on the Continent than with those on the
Island, whose genius tempers and habits were the same.”24
No firm plan o f action was decided at Hartford, but the two commanders parted
company at least armed with a sense o f mutual trust and respect. For Donatien Rochambeau,
who was the only aide of the French general to attend the actual closed meeting with
Washington, the exchange between his father and George Washington bore a particularly
weighty responsibility.25 Returning with his father to Newport, Colonel Rochambeau
familiarized him self with his new mission: to sail immediately to France to ask the king for
more troops, naval forces, and most importantly, money.26 Until his son returned with word
from Versailles, there was little for General Rochambeau to do but settle his troops into
winter quarters and await the arrival o f his second division.27

24 Ibid., 437-438.
25 Fersen and Dumas waited outside. Castries, A Middle Passage, 104.
26 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoirs o f the Count de Rochambeau, 17-26.
27 Beginning with the Bourbonnois regiment on 1 November, Rochambeau’s
army began to take up winter quarters in the town o f Newport. Empty houses that were
formerly occupied by Loyalists now became barracks. Lauzun’s Legion was the
exception. The duke sought to operate as much as possible as an independent command.
As the result, Rochambeau sent the legion to quarters in Connecticut. Blanchard,

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An excess o f idle time since their arrival at Newport had strained discipline in the
French ranks. Courtier officers had come to America seeking combat action, but in the dull
absence o f an opportunity to be mentioned in the commanding general’s dispatches, all were
becoming restless. The almost regular arrival o f bad news at the French camp only served
to increase the melancholy.

General Benedict Arnold’s treason at West Point and

Washington’s infamous execution o f Major John Andre; the defeat o f General Horatio Gates
by Lord Charles Cornwallis at Camden, South Carolina, and unfounded rumors o f American
militiamen under General Nathaniel Greene defecting to the British all served to heighten a
sense o f futility among Rochambeau’s corps. Further, the social whirl o f Newport had severe
limitations and the effects o f a scarcity o f young women, theater, and other diversions began
to take its toll most notably on the morale o f the officers. In Europe, the custom among
Bourbon military officers during the army’s usual winter lull was to take leave either to
return home or to call upon the royal court. Rochambeau, concerned that Washington might
summon his forces into action at any time, granted precious few passes and usually only
within close proximity o f his headquarters.28
Especially in light o f the depressing state o f affairs, many senior officers expected
that the general would choose them to return to France when the frigate Amazone (36) sailed
in October.

When General Rochambeau favored his own son over his more senior

Journal, 75.
28 General Rochambeau remained uncompromising in his restrictions and the
application o f discipline to all ranks. In one instance, he had the second-in-command o f
the Saintonge regiment, Armand-Charles-Augustin de la Croix de Castries, comte de
Charlus (son of the marshal and future Due de Castries) arrested for failing to return on
time from a visit to W ashington’s headquarters. Kennett, French Forces, 88.

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commanders to carry his and W ashington’s requests to the king, the French commander
rankled them.29 The general’s overt display o f nepotism was certainly unpopular, but for a
variety of reasons was probably the best choice that he could have made. Thus, on 28
October 1780, Colonel Rochambeau left Newport aboard the Amazone, commanded by the
masterful Captain Jean-Fran 9ois de Galaup, comte de la Perouse and escorted by the
Surveillante (16) and Hermione (36). Aware that if he were overtaken by British forces he
would have to throw the crucial correspondence overboard, the younger Rochambeau
committed to memory the entirety o f the five packets o f dispatches in his charge.30
As if by design, a severe windstorm temporarily scattered the English squadron laying
in wait off o f Newport and before they could regroup, allowing La Perouse and his escorts

29 Kennett, French Forces, 88. To his father, Hans Axel von Fersen wrote o f the
planned voyage that “This is the first safe opportunity I have had for a long time to write
to you my dear father. I am certain this letter will reach you, and without being read; it
goes by a frigate that M. de Rochambeau is sending to Europe.... An officer is to be sent
to France in this frigate to give an account o f the state and situation o f the army and o f
our dear allies, both o f which are bad enough. We do not know who will be charged with
this commission; everyone names me; several o f the o f the general officers, M. De
Chastellux and the Baron de Viomesnil [sic] have spoken to me as one who could carry
out the intentions o f the general in this respect. I do not know what will be the result; I
shall take no steps to obtain the appointment, neither should I refuse it if the general were
to offer it to me. Nevertheless, I would much rather not be selected for this service.
Something interesting might happen during my absence, and I should be in despair at
having missed it.” Hans Axel von Fersen to Fredrik Axel von Fersen, 16 October 1780.
Fersen, Diary and Correspondence, 28.
30 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 214; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoirs o f
the Count de Rochambeau, 25; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires,
Historiques et Politiques de Rochambeau, Ancien Marechal de France, et Grand-Officier
de la Legion-d’Honneur [hereafter Jean-Baptiste Rochambau, Memoires Militaires]
(Paris, 1824), I, 256; Jean-Jacques Jusserand, With Americans o f Past and Present Days
(New York, 1917), 47; See appendix for copy o f the actual memoir submitted by
Donatien Rochambeau to the king’s new war minister, Philippe-Henri, marquis de Segur.
Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 214.

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to sail through their midst. The enemy, however, did not fail to notice the small convoy and
set out in pursuit. Temporarily hidden by a dense fog, the three French ships skirted the
Northeastern coastline evading for twenty-four hours two frigates and another unidentifiable
vessel o f the British patrol. The natural concealment did not last however, and when the fog
lifted, the Amazone was barely out o f reach o f the English and rapidly was losing ground.
In a desperate effort to gain speed, La Perouse ordered that the ship’s deck cannons be
dumped overboard. The Amazone was able to move somewhat faster, but still could not
manage to throw off her pursuers. Once again, fate intervened. Just when a fight seemed
inevitable, a storm so severe that it ripped the topmast off o f the Amazone struck, sending the
English ships scurrying for safer waters. Colonel Rochambeau and his fellow travelers were
saved. After La Perouse repaired the damage with a spare mast, the Surveillante and
Hermione changed their course for Boston. After a remarkably fast crossing o f twenty-four
days, the Amazone arrived at l’Orient and four days later the vicomte de Rochambeau and
Captain La Perouse presented themselves at Versailles.31
Meetings with the war ministry produced disappointments at every turn for the two
envoys.32 From Louis XVI’s new Minister o f Marine, Marechal Charles Eugene Gabriel de

31 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoirs o f the Count de Rochambeau, 26;
Merlant, Soldiers and Sailors o f France, 131; Closen, Journal, 43-44. La Perouse went
on to destroy the British settlement at Hudson’s Bay in 1782 and in 1785 headed a muchheralded expedition to circumnavigate the globe. It was during this expedition that he
was shipwrecked and drowned in the New Hebrides islands.
32 Lauzun, Memoirs, 198. Lauzun [later “Citoyen General Biron”] who at the
time had intimate connections at Versailles, wrote that the young Colonel Rochambeau
“had not been able even to have him self taken seriously.” This might seem unusual under
the circumstances, but given the exclusive atmosphere at the French court and his
family’s well-established distance (both physical and social) from it, Donatien

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la Croix, marquis de Castries, the vicomte and Captain La Perouse learned that the ministry
had tried to send the second division o f the expedition to America, but had been frustrated
either by British blockaders off the port o f Brest or by obligations elsewhere. Further, the
king had reorganized nearly his entire council. Not only had he replaced his M inister o f
Marine, but Pierre Maurice Henri, comte de Segur, had taken over the Ministry o f W ar from
Montbarey.33 The new officials had just begun to review their plans for the conduct o f the
American campaign when Rochambeau and La Perouse arrived. To complicate matters
more, 6 December 1780 brought news o f the death o f the queen’s mother Maria Theresa o f
Austria. Uncertain o f the intentions o f her successor Joseph II, policy makers at Versailles
were reluctant to deplete their military manpower at home. Faced with this new misgiving
concerning Austria and their conviction that the main British war effort in the Americas
would take place in the Antilles, the king’s counselors relegated W ashington’s conflict to

Rochambeau’s appearance at Versailles must certainly have been somewhat o f an
unwelcome surprise. Noialles, Lauzun, Viomenil, Chastellux, or even Fersen or Vauban
would certainly have been more acceptable choices at court, and each vied for the honor
o f leaving America. Considering the expected bitterness that arose from his selection,
General Rochambeau’s motives must certainly have been well-calculated. Even Donatien
Rochambeau him self reports that he left France “very tired and quite dissatisfied with the
small success o f my poor mission.... we reached Boston very displeased with the small
quantity o f flattering hopes which we were permitted to entertain.” Donatien
Rochambeau, Journal, 215-216.
33 Montbarey to General Rochambeau, 9 December 1780. Service historique,
Guerre d’Amerique, Lettres divers des Officiers Generates, Carton XLVIII, item 454/235.
Immediately following his replacement as Minister o f War, Montbarey took the time to
write to General Rochambeau assuring him that his son had arrived safely and that on 26
November the younger Rochambeau had met with him to discuss his army’s needs.
Montbarey had then arranged for Donatien Rochambeau to meet with the king personally
to discuss his dispatches. His letter unofficially details in advance most o f the
uninspiring news that General Rochambeau would later receive from the new Minister o f

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secondary importance. A more prudent plan, they believed, was to increase only monetary
aid to America’s army. As the respective ministries drew up their revised policies for North
America, Segur ordered the general’s son to remain at Versailles until the new details were
Colonel Rochambeau, carrying new instructions from Louis XVI’s war council,
finally left France on 24 March 1781 aboard the Concorde (36). In the meantime, Admiral
Temay had died on 15 December apparently o f a severe attack o f asthma; accompanying the
vicomte was his replacement Jacques-Melchior Saint-Laurent, comte de Barras.35 After a
forty-two day passage, the frigate landed at Boston on 8 May and the vicomte rushed to join
his father in Newport. In his dispatches, the general’s son bore grim news from Segur. The
ministers at Versailles had indeed shifted the w ar’s major efforts in the Western Hemisphere
to the Antilles and no troop reinforcements, not even General Rochambeau’s second
division, would arrive in America in the foreseeable future. The king’s council ’s instructions
even went so far as to advocate to General Rochambeau an expedition against
Newfoundland. On the whole, the general’s son recalled, the Council’s new instructions
were “so vague and poorly conceived, badly thought out, in truth so erroneous that General
Rochambeau dismissed them completely from his mind.”36
A few bits o f good news did arrive in the dispatches; the government was sending the

34 Kennett, French Forces, 89-91.
35 Closen, Journal, 47, 78; Blanchard, Journal, 83. In the interim, Temay was
replaced by Charles-Rene-Dominique Gochet, chevalier de Destouches, who had hoped
to be given permanent command o f the squadron.
36 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 216.

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Americans six million livres to apply to the campaign o f 1781, and a small convoy was en
route to New England with limited amounts o f badly needed supplies and some 600 infantry
replacements. Donatien Rochambeau brought one million livres in specie, 153,000 livres
in paper and a promissory note from Benjamin Franklin (America’s de facto representative
at Versailles) o f two million livres to be paid by the king to the colonial congress; the convoy
would bring more.37 What most interested the general, however, was Segur’s confidential
message regarding a French fleet o f twenty-six ships o f the line commanded by Admiral
F ra n c is Joseph Paul de Tilly, comte de Grasse. Then sailing for the West Indies, de
Grasse’s warships would be available to Rochambeau beginning in July or August carrying
with them goods for the French army, two companies o f artillery and five hundred
replacements drawn from the different regiments who remained in France.38 According to
Segur’s memorandum, de Grasse would free the naval squadron at Newport and then “aid
in all operations judged advantageous to the common cause.”39
Despite what he perceived as the French king’s denial o f further military aid to the
American colonies, Washington remained steadfast in his desire to attack New York.
General Rochambeau, a veteran o f at least fourteen sieges, knew well that the smaller
combined army o f French and American forces would lose the fight against General

37 Prince de Montbarey to General Rochambeau, 9 December 1780. Service
historique, Guerre d ’Amerique, Lettres divers des Officiers Generates, Carton XLVIII,
item 454/235, 2.
38 Blanchard, Journal, 103.
39 Philippe-Henri, marquis de Segur to de Grasse, 12 December 1780, quoted in
Kennett, French Forces, 104-105.

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Clinton’s well-entrenched British in and around New York. Instead, he urged W ashington
to consider attacking the English army then operating in Virginia. In General Rochambeau’s
view, the Franco-American army would have a decided numerical advantage over these
southern forces commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Cornwallis. Washington
refused. Donatien Rochambeau, suspicious o f W ashington’s intentions, denounced what he
considered a jealous nature in the American commander. “It was therefore necessary” the
vicomte said, “to fool him and to seem to adopt his plans but to form others.”40 “General
Washington” the young colonel asserted, “had his reason for attacking New York - he was
to be in command o f this attack himself, while he disliked the march on the South because
he feared that General Rochambeau would want to attribute to him self alone the glory o f a
victory which the French general could win without Washington. It was then seen that there
was his personal interest and his pride to overcome, but the French general did not hesitate
to sacrifice to him that little glory....”41
Thus began an extraordinary charade between the two allied commanders. From 22
to 23 May 1781, Washington and Rochambeau held a council o f war at Wethersfield,
Connecticut, to discuss the news from Versailles. Under orders from Segur, who feared that
the Americans would compromise his scheme, Rochambeau could only refer to assistance
by de Grasse’s fleet as a possibility. Again the French general suggested an attack upon the
British in Virginia, but Washington, who had discovered from his own agents in France the
plan for de Grasse’s arrival, remained unswayed. At length, Rochambeau resolved to

40 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 218.
41 Ibid., 218-219; Whitridge, Rochambeau, 153.

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outwardly agree to Washington’s plan to act against New York while he continued to pursue
a strategy o f his own.42 In this vein, Rochambeau wrote to de Grasse pointedly asking him
to sail his fleet to Chesapeake Bay bringing with him all o f the ready cash that he could
possibly borrow in Havana.43 Despite the French General’s alternate arrangements for de
Grasse, however, Rochambeau issued the necessary orders to his army for a move to attack
New York.
Spring remained unseasonably cold, but with the advent in early June o f good
weather, the time for action was at hand. The commissaries had spent weeks in Providence
stockpiling the army’s supplies in advance and everyone in the French camp, it seems, knew
that the troops were soon to move. Rochambeau’s officers were more than a little displeased
at how much o f their personal baggage they had to leave behind them in Newport, baggage
that supposedly would be brought later by Barras when his fleet would join de Grasse.
We were very much annoyed to have to leave our heavy baggage
behind and seemed to foresee the misfortune o f losing it, which
eventually occurred. Officers were taxed by weight for the
belongings they took with them. Captains were allowed 300 pounds
and lieutenants 150. The camp equipment alone weighed this
amount. Each o f us bought horses, which were sold to us at a very

42 Prince de Montbarey to General Rochambeau, 9 December 1780. Service
historique, Guerre d ’Amerique, Lettres divers des Officiers Generates, Carton XLVIII,
item 454/235, 3; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires, I, 271. According to
Montbarey’s letter o f 9 December 1780, the king made known that he wanted
Washington treated “delicately.” Further, Montbarey noted that the king had so far been
exceptionally pleased with Rochambeau’s work.
43 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 218; Kennett, French Forces, 107-109; JeanBaptiste Rochambeau, Memoirs O f The Marshal Count De Rochambeau, Relative To The
War O f Independence O f The United States [heretofore The War o f Independence] (Paris,
1838), 50-61.

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high price.44
Beginning on the morning o f 10 June 1781, the corps boarded small ferry boats and
began their move from their island at Newport to their mainland departure point at
Providence. The distance was short, but many o f the boats ran aground in the receding tide,
forcing the soldiers to spend a night cramped aboard the vessels without food until the next
morning’s tide freed them.

General Rochambeau held Barras’ squadron in reserve at

Newport and left the marquis de Choisy with 500 French and 1,000 American militia to
guard both the squadron and the siege guns which remained at Providence.

To ease

congestion on the roads and overcrowding at the prearranged campsites, the general divided
his army into three divisions o f regiments with the order that regiments would move in one
day succession o f each other.
Once the bulk of his army was ashore on the mainland, the commanding general left
Newport with his staff on 14 June to lead the first division in the march to New York.
Maintaining his semi-independent command, the due de Lauzun set out with his legion along
a different route to screen the corp’s left flank. Four days later, the Bourbonnois regiment,
with Colonel Donatien Rochambeau at its head, led the French army from Providence.45

44 Clermont-Crevecoeur, Journal, 27. Naturally the senior officers were allotted
more space. While General Rochambeau allowed fourteen wagons per regiment, each
general officer was allowed two. The general’s six aides de camp shared two wagons,
while Rochambeau kept only four for himself. Closen, Journal, 84.
45 Berthier, Journal, 246-247; Ordre de Marche de VArmee partant de NorthCastle, pour se rendre aux White-Plains, 4 July 1781. Service historique, Guerre
d’Amerique, inclus la siege de York, Carton XLIX, item 14. In his capacity as assistant
quartermaster general, the vicomte de Rochambeau commanded a battalion o f the
Bourbonnois grenadiers and chasseurs as an advanced scouting, quartering and foraging
party. This was standard procedure throughout the corps. The vanguard elements o f each

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The march proved unusually arduous. Torrential New England rains turned the
country roads into quagmires severely impeding the progress o f the supply wagons and
artillery carriages. The British had destroyed numerous bridges along the route and more
often than not, artillery crews themselves were forced to tug their pieces through waist-high
river fords. In the more sparsely populated areas, decent lodging was impossible to find.
Alexandre Berthier describes one example o f the paucity o f adequate quarters atN orth Castle
[Mount Kisco], New York: “The headquarters was very poorly housed - just how poorly you
will understand when I tell you that the assistant quartermasters-general were obliged to sleep
in the open on piles o f straw, which was, to boot, rather too green.”46
In addition to the physical privations suffered by the Frenchmen on the march, a
French officers’ financial burden o f campaigning in America was unusually high. Fersen
recorded the best description o f a colonel’s routine expenses, having had to make account
to his father for his expenditure o f 4,500 o f his credit line o f 12,000 livres. Remarking to his
father that the sum provided was not sufficient to meet his needs in America, he noted that

division employed a similar system with each led by an assistant quartermaster general.
Captain Charles de Lameth (AQMG) led the baron de Viomenil’s second division, while
Captain Collot (AQMG) led the comte de Viomenil’s third division. See appendix for
march time line and distances. According to historian John Austin Stevens, the
Bourbonnois grenadiers and chasseurs arrived at Bedford where they linked with the
Lauzun regiment who was screening the left flank to join W ashington’s Americans for
the proposed attack on Clinton’s forces at New York. John Austin Stevens, “The Allied
Annies Before New York, 1781,” The Magazine o f American History 4 (1880): 3.
46 Ibid., 248. For the officers, the march was not always so impossible. At many
points along the way, Rochambeau’s more senior commanders entertained and enjoyed
the hospitality of American ladies. An undeterminable number o f spouses, children and
other camp followers helped ease the burden o f at least some o f the men. Closen,
Journal, 84-87.

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“he had needed horses, which were very expensive, and that a good one could not be had for
less than seventy to eighty lo u is”47
The life o f an officer and o f an aide-de-camp often depends on the
quality of his horse; I m yself needed two o f this (higher) quality and
three for my people o f a lesser price o f twenty to thirty louis. Thus
they are not very good. I have a valet de chambre and two grooms;
I pay them forty sols per day and a ration o f bread and meat.
Everybody pays the same thing and many give fifty sols, bread and
meat. There is my state o f affairs; it is the same as that o f my
comrades, no more, no less. My three domestics are mounted and I
have two horses for me. My equipment is carried with that o f the
Fersen went on to enumerate several other expenses including that the shoeing o f a
horse normally cost seven livres, but if there were ice, it cost ten livres and ten sols. In a
subsequent monthly recapitulation, Fersen’s expenses totaled 420 livres, 120 for the two
domestics, 100 for the valet, four horses’ rations at five livres per day, fifty for laundering,
and various other expenditures at sixty livres. Everything, he noted, had to be paid for in
gold. As his best estimate, the young colonel figured that 500 livres per month and 6,000 per
year would be sufficient to meet his needs.49 Certainly both the general and the vicomte de
Rochambeau paid at least as much for their routine expenses.
After covering 183 miles, the Frenchmen joined forces with the Americans just short
o f New York at Phillipsburg on 9 July.50 Here, Rochambeau’s corps established their camp

47 Fersen, Lettres, 102.
48 Ibid.
49 Ibid., 102, 125.
50 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 220.

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on high ground to the left (the traditional position o f a subordinate force) o f the Americans.
In the French view, the camp could not have been better chosen, for according to Colonel
Rochambeau, “Between us and the enemy lay a difficult country which they would not have
dared cross without greatly endangering themselves, for it could be easily defended and the
commanding positions were all on our side.”51 Having settled their two armies, the two
commanders undertook to reconnoiter the British defenses at New York. Though the French
commander was under no illusions concerning the lack o f promise o f attacking the city, he
ostensibly agreed with Washington, knowing that such movements would further disguise
his real plans for an attack in the South to finish o ff the severely weakened Cornwallis. By
19 July, Washington and General Rochambeau had made out six British camps on Manhattan
The increased activity around New York further cemented British suspicions that an
attack was imminent. Colonel Rochambeau and the other assistant quartermasters-general
were kept especially busy, deliberately foraging as close to the enemy as possible.
Being definitely on the edge o f enemy territory, the army was ordered
to forage in advance o f the position, as close to the enemy as possible.
The assistant quartermasters-general were continually employed in
reconnoitering forage so as to lead the army to it. These foraging
expeditions covered an area between the camp and Long Island
Sound extending from Rye, Mamaroneck, East Chester, and Chester
to a point as close as possible to King’s Bridge. When we ran out of
grass, we foraged in the bams, which are all full. We also discovered
along the shores o f the Sound large caches o f hay and oats destined
for shipment to the enemy in New York. These foraging expeditions
were always supported by a detachment o f 1,500 men and a troop o f
hussars. Although we succeeded in carrying off all the forage in their


Ibid., 221.

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neighborhood, the English never interfered.52
All around them, the French witnessed the desolation o f the prolonged revolution,
“....the houses [were] plundered, ruined, abandoned or burnt. These Americans so soft,
pacific and benevolent by nature, are here transformed into monsters implacable, bloody and
ravenous....”53 Wishing to get a closer look, the generals dispatched a detachment o f 5,000
men, half French, half American, to probe the British positions around King’s Bridge. With
the possibility o f combat now at hand, Donatien Rochambeau officially received his first
large command.
For this “reconnaissance-in-force” the elder Rochambeau allowed his son to resign
from the army’s general staff and to take permanent control o f the Bourbonnois regiment’s
battalion o f grenadiers and chasseurs.54 The allied generals divided the force into four
columns, two American and two French, and set the groups in motion at eight o’clock on the
night o f 21 July. Under the commands o f Major Generals Samuel Parsons and Benjamin
Lincoln, the two American columns marched along the banks o f the Hudson River. The
chevalier de Chastellux commanded the two French columns, the Bourbonnois and the Royal
Deux-Ponts regiments forming the right brigade, and Lauzun’s Legion and the grenadiers and
chasseurs of the Soissonnois regiment forming the left. Once again, Colonel Rochambeau’s
battalion (guided by Alexandre Berthier) led the brigade o f Colonel Laval’s Bourbonnois and
the Royal Deux-Ponts regiment on the eight-mile march to a predetermined position at

52 Berthier, Journal, 249.
53 Robin, New Travels, 31.
54 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 222-223.

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Valentine Hill from which they could over watch the Americans’ movement.55 Alexandre
Berthier best described the scene: “This march over execrable roads, on which the column
was halted every few minutes by guns that had bogged down or overturned in the pitch
darkness, took all night.”56 Indeed, road conditions were so severe that the marquis de Laval
ultimately abandoned his column’s artillery to have it catch up later.57
The center column finally arrived at Valentine Hill at one o’clock the next morning.
Following his father’s instructions, the younger Rochambeau ordered his grenadiers and
chasseurs to deploy in absolute silence, sending outposts forward. Behind him, the brigade’s
two regiments settled into a T-formation on the high ground.58

55 Captain Berthier had reconnoitered the route earlier, apparently under more
favorable weather conditions. Captain Charles de Lameth guided the left column along
the Tuckahoe Road. Both columns, each o f whose artillery support consisted o f two
twelve-pound cannons and two howitzers, would rendezvous at Valentine Hill. Berthier,
Journal, 251; Frantjois Soules, Histoire des Troubles de VAmerique Anglaise (Paris,
1787), III, 378; Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 222; George Washington diary entry, 21
July 1781. The Diaries o f George Washington (Charlottesville, 1978), III, 398.
56 Berthier, Journal, 251.
57 Though Berthier stridently warned the marquis not to leave the brigade’s
artillery troops without guides, the artillerymen did indeed get lost. Consequently,
Berthier spent the remainder o f the night trying to find them himself. Berthier, Journal,
58 Berthier, Journal, 251; Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 222. Fortunately for
Colonel Rochambeau, his battalion remained in stationary positions in the vicinity o f
King’s Bridge/Valentine Hill for forty-eight hours. They were not part o f a subsequent
action, in which the due de Lauzun led his German legion augmented by a party o f
American and French grenadiers along the Hudson River to Morrisania and then to Frog’s
Neck, N ew York. After brisk fighting, members o f this reconnaissance element allegedly
took to pillaging the homes o f the local inhabitants, many o f whom appeared to be British
sympathizers. The actions o f the soldiers under Lauzun’s command caused nothing short
o f a scandal among the members o f Rochambeau’s army.

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For the next several days, the French remained virtually unmolested by the British
and continued to probe the British positions, even stealing large amounts o f fodder that the
enemy had stockpiled at Rye, Mamaroneck, Chester and New Rochelle.

Only minor

skirmishes against British outposts ensued, during which the French captured or sent into
flight a small numbers o f British forward observers, allowing the generals to carry out their
own reconnaissance more easily.59
British resistance stiffened as the allied detachments inched closer toward New York,
prompting General Rochambeau to remark that “....shots were poured upon us from the
fortifications o f New York, as well as from all the small men-of-war stationed around it.
This active cannonading had no other effect than that which I desired, namely: o f diverting
the whole attention o f the enemy to this principle bulk o f its forces.”60 Increasingly,
Washington came to recognize the futility o f attacking New York, and news o f the pending
arrival o f British reinforcements at the city only further dampened his ardor.61 By the
beginning o f August, Washington for the first time began to consider seriously a move

59 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 222-223. Certainly the most famous o f these
small but fierce actions was the fight that took place at Morrisania on 22 June between a
band o f Tories and Generals Washington and Rochambeau and their staffs. In this, as in
the other engagements, the French lost no soldiers, but had two horses killed. The comte
Charles Damas lost the first while the second was shot out from under Berthier. It was
here also that von Closen lost his hat and had to return to pick it up under fire as
immortalized in the painting by Albrecht Adam in 1825.
60 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, The War o f Independence, 58.
61 Ibid., 56.

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against one o f the British garrisons in the South.62 The question only remained as to which
one....Charleston? Savannah? Perhaps am ove against Lord Charles Cornwallis in Virginia?
It was a vexing question for the American general, but Admiral de Grasse provided the
answer on 14 August. Somewhat surprisingly, the American headquarters received the news
a whole day before Rochambeau: the comte de Grasse was leaving Saint-Domingue with
3,200 land troops and was headed for Chesapeake Bay. Rochambeau decided that the time
had finally come to inform Washington o f his plans, and a bit o f skillful diplomacy averted
a potential crisis:
The moment had now come to enlighten General Washington and to
persuade him to operate in the South, in spite o f the advice o f his
aide-de-camp, Hamilton, in whom he had great confidence and who
obstinately wished to attack New York. My father sent for the
Brigadier General [Louis le Begue de Presle] Duportail, [and] told
him o f his ideas, which he completely approved, and asked him to use
all o f his influence with the American commander to make him adopt
them. He gave him self to this with zeal and enthusiasm; but, seeing
the latter’s indecision and the obstacles which he created, he guessed
that pride had much to do with his refusal. General Rochambeau,
sacrificing his to the good which should result from this maneuver,
proposed to the American General [sic] that he detach the Southern
[sic] corps from the Army o f the North [sic], to add to it a detachment
o f light infantry from any part o f the French army and to come and
command the expedition himself. From then on the obstacles were
removed, the march south was resolved upon and definitely planned.
We wrote to Admiral Barras to give him a date for meeting us at

62 Washington had pinned most o f his hopes for success upon promises from the
various states for troops and supplies. By August 1781, the states had sent little if any
aid, causing Washington to lament that “....I could scarce see a ground upon which to
continue my preparations against New York - especially as there was much reason to
believe that part (at least) o f the Troops [sic] in Virginia were recalled to reinforce New
York and therefore I turned my views more seriously (than I had done before) to an
operation to the Southward [sic]....” George Washington diary entry, 1 August 1781,
Diaries, 405.

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Chesapeake Bay with our siege guns.”63
After finalizing a strategy to trap Cornwallis in his fortifications in Yorktown, the two
generals set in motion what would become the decisive operation o f the American

63 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 224. The next day, on 16 August, Washington
learned that Cornwallis, under pressure from Lafayette, had moved from Hampton Road
and was putting up defensive works along the York River at Yorktown and Gloucester.
George Washington diary entry, 16 August 1781, Diaries, 411. Barras left Newport on
23 August remaining virtually incommunicado until his rendezvous with de Grasse in
Virginia the next month.

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The Sailors of the Expedition Particuliere

The comte de Grasse

Admiral de Barras



< #■ *




De Grasse’s Plan to Block British
Naval Forces at Yorktown
De Grasse’s Statue in Grasse, France
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2' 2' 1 4. 4 , 4v >;

The Ensign of the
French Naval Forces

Captain La Perouse

Figure 10. The Sailors o f the Expedition Particuliere

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Courtesy National Portrait G allery

The Campaign against Cornwallis

L ord C ornw allis in
lirar. *
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c iiA u i.K s

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Principal Flags of
British Forces in 1781

Allied army of
W ashington &
R ocham beau
De Barras, with French
siege g u n s







British fleet
arrived 5 S ept
Battle of the C ap es
(5-8 Sept)
De G rasse s French
Fleet arrived 30 Aug


Figure 11. The Campaign against Cornwallis

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Chapter IV
To the “Miracle”: New York to Yorktown
July - October, 1781

For the allied plan to realize any chance o f success, it was imperative that Sir
Henry Clinton not reinforce Cornwallis in Virginia. Consequently, Generals Washington
and Rochambeau employed every means at their disposal to deceive Clinton as to their
change o f strategy. Displaying for the British commander’s benefit detailed preparations
for an assault onto Staten Island from New Jersey, the allied army marched back up the
Hudson River to the crossing at King’s Ferry where the Hudson Highlands would mask
their subsequent movement south.1

1 After detaching a sizeable force to observe New York, Washington ordered
thirty flat boats be placed on carriages and sent to the town o f Chatham on the New
Jersey side o f the Raritan River facing Staten Island. Further, Rochambeau ordered the
French army’s commissary officer to establish elaborate bakeries at Chatham. The
commissary played the role so well that even the British batteries at the mouth o f the
Raritan river fired on his workers while they were trying to collect the necessary bricks in
the area. Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 224-225; Closen, Journal, 104, 109.
Washington’s aide Jonathon Trumbull described the preparations: “French ovens are
building at Chatham in Jersey. Others were ordered to be prepared at a place near the
Hook [Paulus Hook - now Jersey City]. Contracts are made for forrage [sic] to be
delivered immediately to the French Army on their arrival at the last mentioned place.
Here it is supposed that Batteries [sic] are to be erected for the security and aid o f the
Fleet [sic; de Grasse], which is hourly expected. By these maneuvres [sic] and the
correspondent march o f the Troops [sic], our own army no less than the enemy are
completely deceived.” Jonathan Trumbull, The Trumbull Papers. Collections o f the

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Only luck and Clinton’s obsessive belief that the combined enemy armies would
attack him in Manhattan preserved allies’ elaborate deception plan. By mid-August, at
least one female spy (only known as “Miss Jenny”) had infiltrated the French camp, while
Hessian reconnaissance troops were able to report unmistakable preparations for a
massive American move south through New Jersey.2 Had Clinton believed the
remarkably accurate intelligence that he received from his German Jagers, he might
easily have altered the course o f the war. Indeed, one particular Frenchman’s indiscretion
should have conclusively alerted the British general that his attentions were focused in the
wrong direction. Hessian Sergeant Berthold Koch, o f the Trumbach regiment noted the
following in his diary:
18 August - the enemy army is moving and crossing the North
River. Everyone believes that Washington plans to attack Staten
Island. At least General Clinton is o f this opinion, although
Lieutenant Colonel von Wurmb, who has permission to engage
spies, gave the General a report that New York will not be
attacked, but that Washington is marching to Virginia. This is
based on two reasons: first because the commissary has ordered
forage and bread to be collected and ready as far as Trenton and

Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston, Mass., 1902), I, 332. This, coupled with two
letters intercepted by Clinton from Washington and Chastellux which still talked o f
imminent operations against New York, only served to further Clinton’s suspicion.
2 “Miss Jenny” entered the French camp on 11 August ostensibly to find her
father. She was interrogated by none other than General Rochambeau who ordered her
detained for several days and her head shaved. Fortunately for the French and Americans
“Miss Jenny” wrongly reported to Clinton’s intelligence officers that even by 15 August
1781, Washington still planned to attack New York. Major Nicholas Dietrich, Baron von
Ottendorf to Henry Clinton, “Deposition o f Miss Jenny after returning from the French
camp,” 15 August 1781, Collected Papers o f Sir Henry Clinton (Intelligence Reports),
facsimile on-line at ; Diary o f Baron Cromot du Bourg
[hereafter Cromot du Bourg, Diary], reprinted in The Magazine o f American History 4
(1880): 304.

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along the Delaware River; second because an American woman,
mistress o f a distinguished French officer, was sent to Trenton,
where she is to await the arrival o f the army....3
Again, Clinton’s erroneous preconceptions led him to ignore a potentially
devastating source o f intelligence, for the “distinguished French officer” was none other
than Donatien Rochambeau. Considering all the precautionary efforts made by the
French commander to deceive the enemy and conceal his own operations, it seems
inconceivable that his own son would be so self-indulgent that he put the entire operation
in jeopardy. In an 18 August letter, a British spy operating under the name Maquard
reported to Clinton that Rochambeau's son, “the Viscount [sic] de Rochambeau, has
dispatched his mistress to Trenton, New Jersey, to make a rendezvous with the Viscount,
since the General, his father, permits no kept mistresses."4 Despite all evidence to the
contrary however, the allies’ enemy on Manhattan Island determined to wait for the
impending attack against him. Meanwhile, the French and American troops progressed
steadily southward, the clement weather o f the late summer and early fall often gracing
the arduous march with favorable road conditions.5

3 Sergeant Berthold Koch quoted in Bruce E. Burgoyne, Enemy Views. The
American Revolutionary War as Recorded by the Hessian Participants (Bowie, MD,
1996), 459.
4 Maquard to Clinton, 18 August 1781, Collected Papers o f Sir Henry Clinton
(Intelligence Reports, 18 August 1781), University o f Michigan Special Collections.
5 Owing partially to the extreme heat, Rochambeau’s officers paid close attention
to the welfare o f the soldiers during their marches. The troops were regularly encouraged
to drink water, often mixed with a bit o f rum to purify it. “M. le Comte Saint-Maime,
Colonel commandant o f the Soissonois, always at each halt, and each place o f
encamping, sent out, and purchased barrels o f cider, which he caused to be distributed
among his troops, at a very low rate. His example was afterwards followed by the other

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Whenever possible, Colonel Rochambeau and his father, accompanied by a few
select officers, took time along the way to study various sites o f military interest. These
French students could not have asked for a better teacher, for General Washington
him self normally accompanied the foreign delegation on their battlefield visits. On 22
August, while Rochambeau’s corps was crossing the North (Hudson) River at King’s
Ferry, New York, the generals and their entourage walked the battlements o f Stony Point,
where two years earlier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and his troops waded across the
shallows o f the adjacent bay to launch a nighttime bayonet assault which took the British
defenders completely by surprise. Stony Point was particularly interesting to the French.
In the July 1779 battle one o f Rochambeau’s own majors in the Saintonge regiment,
Fran 9ois-Louis Teissedre, vicomte de Fleury, distinguished him self by being the first into
the British positions, where he personally struck the British colors.6

corps, and produced the happiest effects.” Robin, New Travels, 33. This same officer
had purchased much lighter linen breeches for his regiment prior to their departure from
Newport. As the result, the Soissonois regiment suffered the fewest heat casualties o f any
on the march.
6 “ ....[Fleury] happened to be commander o f one of the three columns which were
to storm it, and he had the good luck to lead his [men] so well that he reached the foot o f
the parapet and jumped on top o f it all alone [sic], without the besieged seeing him, and
sword in hand, planted the American flag there. Some moments later, his troops also
climbed up. In this way, he took possession o f the fort, whose commander surrendered
and gave him his sword.” Closen, Journal, 108. For being the first to plant the American
flag on Stony Point, the Continental Congress struck a silver commemorative medal
especially for Fleury (designed and executed by Benjamin Duvivier in France). The
vicomte wore the medal (depicting a general in Roman costume standing on ruins and
holding a drawn sword and a flag, over the inscription “primus super morus” - the
attached ribbon was alleged to have been made from the British flag taken at Stony Point.
This remains known to be the only medal awarded by Congress to a foreign officer and
Fleury wore the decoration permanently with the special approval o f Louis XVI. J. F.
Loubat, The Medallic History o f the United States o f America (New York, 1878), I, 2273

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The Battle at Stony Point,
New York

Figure 12. The Battle at Stony Point, New York

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The next day, the American commander escorted his guests to the river fortress at
West Point, the site o f General Benedict Arnold’s late treachery.7 As the combined
armies moved through New Jersey over the next six days, Rochambeau’s entourage
visited other sites including W ashington’s former camps in Pompton Plains, New Jersey,
the battleground at Trenton, and W ashington’s Crossing. After fording the Delaware
River shallows the group arrived on 29 August at Princeton. Once again, Washington
personally conducted a tour o f the battlefield.8
By the last days o f August, the combined armies were nearing Philadelphia where
the American general hoped to arrange for supplies and transport to move the bulk o f the
forces to Virginia by water. Unfortunately, even Washington him self could not arrange
for the necessary boats and instead suggested that the armies march to Maryland where
vessels might be gathered from around the Chesapeake Bay and then sent up the Elk
River as far as the small town o f Head o f Elk (now Elkton). Leaving General
Rochambeau and his aides in the able care o f France’s minister plenipotentiary to the
American Colonies, Anne Cesar, chevalier de la Luzerne, Washington and his staff
proceeded to Elkton to make the necessary arrangements.

27; Closen, Journal, 108; Louis F ra n c is Bertrand Dupont d ’Aubervoye, comte de
Lauberdiere, Journal de I ‘armee aux ordres de monsieur le comte de Rochambeau
pendant les campagnes de 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, dans V’Amerique septrionale
(unpublished, no date), 2er Cahier, 94.
7 Closen, Journal, 108; George Clinton, “W ashington’s Itinerary During the
War,” Public Papers o f George Clinton, First Governor o f New York. 1777-1795 - 18011804 (Albany, New York, 1904), 410.
8 Ibid., 115.

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On 3 and 4 September the French troops entered Philadelphia and paraded in
review for the President o f the Continental Congress and its assembled members. The
reception was splendid. Stopping in America’s capital afforded a welcome respite for the
road-weary soldiers. Even the highly-critical Donatien Rochambeau was markedly
impressed with Philadelphia, remarking on the beauty o f the city and its suburbs and
noting how astonished the inhabitants seemed to be by the neatness and the discipline of
the French troops after so long a march.9
On 5 September, La Luzerne held a sumptuous state dinner for Rochambeau’s
officers. Amid the pomp and gaiety, however, a pall fell suddenly over the group.
“Hardly were we seated at the table, when an express arrived: a disquieting silence
immediately seized every guest - our eyes were fixed upon the Chevalier de la Luzeme,
everyone endeavoring to guess what the message would turn out to be. ‘Thirty-six ships
o f the line’ said he, ‘commanded by Monsieur le Comte de Grasse, are arrived in
Chesapeak-Bay [sic], and three thousand men have landed and opened a communication
with the Marquis de la Fayette .’” 10 Stunned officers roared their eager approval and
toasts were made in profusion. All present knew that the trap was rapidly closing on
Surprisingly, General Rochambeau and his son were the last to know o f the
French fleet’s arrival. The first division o f the French corps had left Philadelphia on the
morning o f 5 September. While the soldiers marched, the Rochambeau men and two o f

9 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 226.
10 Robin, New Travels, 45; Closen, Journal, 117.

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the general’s aides opted to travel to the next bivouac site by boat to study the Delaware
River battle sites at Mud Island, Redbank and Billings-fort. The tour went quickly, and
as the party reached their rendezvous point at Chester, Pennsylvania, they were surprised
to see George Washington standing on the shore excitedly waving his hat. The American
simply could not wait to tell his ally about de Grasse’s arrival and according to those
present, the two generals embraced warmly when Washington gave Rochambeau the
news.11 As the armies continued their march toward Wilmington, Delaware, the next
morning, Colonel Rochambeau organized a side trip with his twenty-one-year-old cousin
Louis Francois Bertrand Dupont d ’Aubervoye, comte de Lauberdiere and his father’s
aides, baron Ludwig von Closen and baron Cromot du Bourg, to explore the battlefield at
Brandywine, where in September 1777, British generals Howe and Cornwallis handily
defeated Washington and his army. Such side trips would continue over the next few
days as the group visited the Germantown battlefield and later inspected what the younger
Rochambeau termed the “good winter quarters” o f Washington’s camp at Valley Forge.12
Meanwhile, and unknown to both the French and the Americans, Admiral de
Grasse's armada had driven off Admiral Graves’ New York-based flotilla, and then
established a rigid blockade o f Cornwallis' small fleet at Yorktown. After landing his
infantry regiments outside of Jamestown, Virginia, the French admiral sought to use his
empty transport ships to expedite the movement o f Rochambeau’s first division who, by 7

11 Cromot du Bourg, Diary, 384; Closen, Journal, 123.
12 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 226; Closen, Journal, 124; Cromot du Bourg,
Diary, 385.

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September, had descended upon Elkton.13 De Grasse intended to ferry all o f
Rochambeau’s army down the Chesapeake Bay, but his fleet included only deep-water
transports that could not possibly navigate the shallow Elk River. As a result, de Grasse’s
captains were forced to remain further down the bay at Annapolis.
Meanwhile, Washington and his commissaries, who did not know o f the French
naval plan, had spent days contracting throughout the Chesapeake Bay area for any
transport boats that the British had not destroyed earlier. Neither money nor time could
be wasted, and Washington made the decision to send as many o f the troops as possible
to Annapolis aboard the few transports that he had on hand to meet de Grasse’s larger
ships.14 As the French and American troops marched into Elkton, they were pleased to
find transport vessels awaiting them, but were understandably dismayed when they
discovered that there was only room for a portion o f the force. After some discussion,
Washington and Rochambeau agreed that the allies would share the boats with each army
providing half (about 1,000 men each) o f the ships’ cargo.15
Given the limited space, the French general determined to send his vanguard (the

13 The admiral’s messenger who brought word o f the impending arrival o f the
French transports intercepted the French ground forces at Elkton, arriving only one hour
before Rochambeau’s advanced guard. Donatien Rochambeau observed that “ is
perhaps the most unusual o f coincidences that an expedition, made up from the
Windward Islands and from the northern parts o f America, should meet from such distant
points within one hour o f each other.” Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 227.
14 Soules, Histoire des Troubles de VAmerique Anglaise, 388; Donatien
Rochambeau, Journal, 221.
15 The American troops refused to embark until they were given at least some o f
the back pay that was owed to them. Accordingly, General Rochambeau gave
Washington fifty-thousand livres to pay these troops. Closen, Journal, 124.

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full complement o f his army’s grenadiers and chasseurs) and the infantry o f Lauzun’s
Legion aboard the available ships, and to put the two Viomenil generals in charge o f the
remainder o f his forces for a foot march to Baltimore. Washington and Rochambeau,
with only a light guard, would travel ahead by land to Williamsburg. On the morning o f
9 September, Donatien Rochambeau, again placed by his father in temporary command o f
a battalion o f the Bourbonnois regiment’s grenadiers, marched about three miles outside
o f Elkton to a deeper water embarkation area at Plum Point and boarded the ships with
his men.
The transports finally sailed on 11 September. Though Colonel Rochambeau
somewhat stoically made no mention o f the misery o f the trip in his journal, what should
have been a short trip down the Chesapeake proved to be anything but easy. Minus their
provisions (which they left with the remainder o f the land troops), delayed by adverse
winds and then harassed by frightful weather, those on the transport vessels endured
continual torment until they landed in Virginia a full eighteen days later. Unfortunately,
only enough rations had been loaded for a short journey and no cooking was allowed on
the boats so the enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers had to content
themselves with eating biscuits and cheese, while the officers were reduced to dining on
cold m eat.16
By the morning o f 12 September, the winds became favorable enough to allow the
squadron to sail into the Chesapeake Bay, but that evening a ferocious storm hit leaving

16 Blanchard, Journal, 139; Robin, New Travels, 51.

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the men “cruelly tossed about all night....almost everyone was sick.”17 The next day the
weather improved and while the lead vessels came within sight o f Annapolis, another
twenty boats had disappeared. The situation was made even more grave by the threat o f
pirates that roamed the bay.18 This menace (exacerbated by de Grasse’s decision to leave
his anchorage at the mouth of the York River with his principle warships to fight the
combined English squadrons o f Admirals Graves and Hood), prompted General
Washington to order that the Elkton transports put in at Annapolis rather than continuing
on to Virginia.19 The infantry o f the Lauzun Legion left the transports at Annapolis in
order to move on to Virginia to link up with its cavalry which had already arrived at
Gloucester. Others soon took their place, filling to capacity not only the Elkton boats, but

17 Ibid.
18 Ibid. Indeed some o f the French vessels were menaced by pirates, but the latter
abandoned their project when they realized the number o f men on board the apparently
defenseless vessels.
19 Admiral Samuel Hood, with twelve ships reconnoitered the Chesapeake on 25
August on his way to New York from the Caribbean. Finding the bay empty he continued
north to link up with General Clinton and Admiral Thomas Graves who, at the time,
commanded seven ships o f the line. Forty-eight hours after Hood left Virginia, de Grasse
arrived in the Chesapeake Bay. Clinton was thrilled to see Hood at New York and
planned to use him and the infantry reinforcements that he carried against Barras and the
members o f Rochambeau’s corps that remained at Newport. Barras, however, sailed first
leaving Newport abandoned. Quickly overcoming his initial shock, Clinton sent the
combined squadron back to Virginia to relieve Cornwallis o f de Grasse’s blockade.
Leaving four ships to continue to bottle up Cornwallis’ ships in the York River, de Grasse
quickly sailed into the bay with twenty-four ships to confront the nineteen ships o f Graves
and Hood. In the brief Battle o f the Virginia Capes on 5 September 1781, de Grasse’s
fleet overwhelmed the British who soon sailed once again for New York. When de
Grasse returned to the York River on 11 September, Barras, who carried the remainder o f
the Newport garrison, Rochambeau’s siege pieces and a sizeable complement o f muchneeded supplies, was there to greet him.

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also de Grasse’s transports. Only after de Grasse again ensconced him self opposite
Cornwallis did Washington order the reinforced convoy to continue south. Colonel
Rochambeau’s troubles and those o f his men, however, were far from over:
The hardships [that those aboard the transports] had endured were
incredible. Several vessels, battered by winds and storms and on
the point o f shipwreck, had lowered their boats and sent their men
to take refuge in the warships anchored at the entrance o f the York
River to blockade Cornwallis. They were expecting to rest there
and spend a pleasant night after the bad experiences and dangers o f
the preceding days when Cornwallis sent fire-ships to attack them.
These rained firebrands down on the crews all night and spread
terror among them. By the greatest good fortune they escaped
injury, though they were attacked by no less than seven fire ships.20
Between 23 and 25 September the transports finally disembarked their charge
along the sandy beach at Archer’s Hope on the James River.21 The route from Archer’s
Hope to their rendezvous point at Williamsburg, Virginia, took Rochambeau and his men
through old Jamestown, where the more informed o f the group looked forward to
spending a few moments at an important American landmark. Once at the settlement,
however, they were met by a gruesome spectacle: “ [t]he enemy, shortly before quitting
his post, had left ineradicable traces o f his presence. This little town, one o f the oldest in
America, was in great part destroyed. Ruins were found there, vestiges o f fire, tombs
broken open, fine monuments wrecked, a church partly tom down, and houses still
standing but containing corpses whose stench fills the air. Every means o f devastation

20 Clermont-Crevecceur, Journal, 52.
21 Closen, Journal, 135.

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had been applied in the town and in the country.”22
On 25 September, Colonel Rochambeau and his command arrived at
Williamsburg and joined with the remainder o f the allied troops. Now totaling nearly
16,000, and having traveled nearly 600 miles, W ashington’s Franco-American army was
poised to besiege Cornwallis.23 While de Grasse sealed Cornwallis’ navy in the York
River, Lauzun’s Legion and other French infantry under Brigadier General Claude
Gabriel de Choisy moved to contain Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s cavalry on
the other side o f the York River in the town o f Gloucester.
The bulk o f the allied armies left Williamsburg on 28 September. The next day,
after a twelve-mile march through stifling heat and burning sand, the French and
Americans broke into three columns. Using the cover and concealment o f woods,
fortifications and creeks, they closed to within pistol range o f the British in their forward
defensive works.24 W ashington’s Americans were temporarily held up in their advance
on the right by a bridge-less morass in front o f the British defensive works, but the French
regiments on the British right were able to advance rapidly. Cornwallis (who had

22 Louis-Floxel de Cantel, chevalier d ’Ancteville, “The Chesapeake Campaign,”
reprinted in Warrington Dawson “The Chevalier d ’Ancteville and His Journal o f ‘The
Chesapeake Campaign,” ’ Legion d ’Honneur (New York, 1931), 87-88.
23 The combined strength o f the allied forces besieging Yorktown totaled 24,600
men. W ashington’s army comprised 326 officers and 15,600 other ranks (including
Lafayette’s division); Rochambeau’s Frenchmen added 8,670 combatants. Cornwallis’
army numbered only 430 officers, 7,039 other ranks, and 800 Royal Marines. Brendan
Morrissey, Yorktown 1781, The World Turned Upside Down (London, 1997), 32-35.
24 Closen, Journal, 138; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, The War o f Independence,
65; Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 230.

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Comte De Rochambeau
P la n n e d V ictor)- at t b r k t o w n
O c t o b e r 19. 1781

merica’s Patriotic Heroes

The Plan

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Figure 13. The Plan

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Vlo menll's

received word from General Clinton that reinforcements were en route to Yorktown)
ordered his men to evacuate their outermost redoubts near Pigeon Hill during the night of
29 September and to retreat into the fortified tow n’s more secure first parallel.25
Surprised the next morning to find the British positions empty, General Rochambeau
wasted no time and ordered his son, and the remainder o f the grenadiers and chasseurs o f
the Bourbonnois regiment, to occupy the abandoned outer works.26
By midnight on 6 October no relief from Clinton had appeared. Thus, while
Donatien Rochambeau’s grenadiers and 2,800 other troops provided security, infantrymen
o f the Bourbonnois and Soissonnois regiments began digging the allies’ first parallel no
more than 250 yards from Cornwallis’ first parallel. The next morning, the British “were
very astonished to see when day came the trench opened all around them.”27 French and
American artillery answered sporadic British cannon fire with terrible vengeance. Those
rounds, especially those o f the guns supporting the French effort in the center, which did
not land in the midst o f Cornwallis’ densely packed army, sailed over the fortifications to

25 Cornwallis’ men constructed two main defensive rings o f walled
entrenchments, or “parallels” around Yorktown. Directly attacking an enemy entrenched
in this way usually was done at a high cost in lives as fortune usually favored the
defender. For the allied armies to reduce Cornwallis’ works, it was necessary for French
and American soldiers move forward in the night and then to dig their own trench line
parallel to the enemy works. Once completed, artillerymen could then move their own
mortars and heavy siege guns into the newly-dug forward positions. This process was
repeated as often as necessary until the defender surrendered.
26 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 230. For detailed account o f the process o f
the siege o f Yorktown, see French engineer officer Gaspard de Gallatin, “The Narrative
o f Baron Gaspard de Gallatin,” reprinted in Warrington Dawson, “W ith Rochambeau at
Newport,” The Franco-American Review, I, No. 4 (Spring, 1937)
27 Ibid., 231.

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Donatien Rochambeau’s Opening Move
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Reprinted from John Marshall’s Life o f Washington, 1806

Figure 14. Donatien Rochambeau’s Opening Move

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set fire to the British ships trapped just beyond in the York River. By the night o f 11
October, the French had taken the British outer line and were digging their second
Four days later, Cornwallis’ lines were effectively broken. Nevertheless, isolated
British batteries, especially two redoubts (Numbers 9 and 10) in front o f the Americans,
continued to hold. Success appeared imminent, but General Rochambeau, who in his
long military career had participated in fourteen such sieges, continued to demand that the
work proceed methodically and with great caution. The commander o f the first French
division however, Major General de Viomenil, was showing marked impatience with the
army’s progress. In his opinion, the allied cannon fire had effectively suppressed the
enemy in the two redoubts and General Rochambeau was needlessly delaying the final
attack. “You are mistaken” Rochambeau told Viomenil, “but in reconnoitering the works
more closely we can be sure.”28
He gave the order to cease fire, forbade us to follow him, and
allowed only his son, the Vicomte de Rochambeau, to accompany
him. He left the trench, descended slowly into the gully making a
detour, and, coming up again on the opposite escarpment, he
approached the redoubt as far as the abatis which surrounded it.
After having gotten a good look, he [with his son] returned to the
battery without the enemy having bothered him with a single shot.
“Well,” he said, the abatis and the palisades are still intact. It
requires redoubling our fire to break them down and to knock off
the top o f the parapet; we shall see if the pear is ripe tomorrow.29
The Rochambeaus’ “good and noble lesson” stymied Viomenil’s impatience for a

28 Dumas, Souvenirs, I, 84.
29 Ibid., 84-85.

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The Battle of Yorktown as Seen by the
Participating Nations

LShSafc-*«*s* a

A Contemporary French View of the Siege

lf r

The French at Redoubt

The Franco-American View of the Siege

A Contemporary British
Lampoon of the Martinet
Rochambeau Training his
Troops Prior to the Battle
The Americans Storm Redoubt Number Nine
Figure 15. The Battle o f Yorktown as Seen by the Participating Nations

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day, but on the night o f 14-15 October, Viomenil and Lafayette personally led their troops
against the two remaining strongholds on Cornwallis’ right in what would later be
remembered in American Revolutionary history as the Battles o f Redoubts Nine and
Ten.30 Tragically, French sappers and infantrymen discovered during the attack that the
redoubts and their abatis had not been sufficiently reduced by the artillery even after
several days’ bombardment. As the result, eighty Frenchmen died while the English lost
only eighteen - the highest single instance o f French casualties during the siege.31
Throughout the siege, Cornwallis, who remained critically short o f ammunition
and personnel, made vain attempts to break through or to circumvent the allied lines; a
body o f 600 men even managed to spike the guns o f a French battery o f the Agenois
regiment with the points o f their bayonets on the night o f 15-16 October. The British
general’s pitiable attempts were, however, more a matter of salvaging some ounce o f
national or personal pride than an attempt at meaningful combat. By 17 October, the
allied artillery had taken such a dreadful toll o f the British land and naval forces in and
around Yorktown that at nine o ’clock that morning Cornwallis sent an officer under a flag
o f truce to discuss a twenty-four hour cease-fire. Washington flatly refused, referring to

30 After manually tearing out or simply climbing over the abatis and chevaux des
frises in front o f Cornwallis’ positions, Lafayette’s American soldiers took redoubt
Number ten within in a few minutes. Viomenil’s plan, which had been to infiltrate his
grenadiers and chasseurs [including Colonel Rochambeau] into redoubt Number nine,
was discovered and soon met by stout resistance. As the result, Viomenil stalled his
attack before the works at redoubt Number nine, opting to wait for his sappers to clear the
obstacles. During the interval, the marquis de Lafayette rode over from his own position
to ask Viomenil if he needed help. The infuriated baron refused and the next morning,
scathingly rebuked Lafayette for what he perceived as the marquis’ impertinent insolence.
31 Gallatin, Journal, 12, 16.

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the reprehensible British conduct the previous year against the American garrison at
Charleston, South Carolina, as a model o f how he would conduct any remaining action.
Hours after the allies recommenced their barrage, Cornwallis sent a second and final
messenger across the lines, this time to discuss terms o f surrender.32
On 19 October 1781, the beaten and exhausted British at Yorktown signed the
formal instrument o f surrender and began their march out o f the wrecked town. Lord
Cornwallis, who claimed illness, sent his sword by his second-in-command, Brigadier
General Charles O ’Hara, to the official surrender ceremony. Whether by ceremonious
accident or by arrogant design, O ’Hara first approached the comte de Rochambeau with
Cornwallis’ sword. The French general politely rebuffed the British commander,
ushering him instead with a simple, elegant hand gesture to his own superior officer,
General Washington. O ’Hara made a visible grimace, but complied.33
In his journal, the vicomte de Rochambeau totaled that between the garrisons at
Yorktown and Gloucester, the British surrendered 7,050 English and German troops,

32 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 233.
33 Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee, Memoirs o f the War in the Southern
Department o f the United States (Philadelphia, 1812), 360-362. Thomas-Jacques de
Goislard, chevalier de Villebresme, Souvenirs du Chevalier de Villebresme,
Mousquetaire de la Garde duRoi, 1772-1816, Guerre d ’A merique, Emigration (Paris,
1897), 91. By coincidence, fifteen years later, just days short o f the anniversary o f his
surrender at Yorktown, the British government exchanged Lieutenant General Donatien
Rochambeau, prisoner on parole in America, for Lieutenant General Charles O ’Hara.
Order o f the Commissioners for taking care o f Sick and Wounded Seamen and
Exchanging Prisoners o f War, 7 September, 1795. Service historique, Carton Yb 381;
dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 66.

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Various Interpretations of the
Surrender at Yorktown
Su rre n d e r a t Yorktown

l>- 198!
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Figure 16. Various Interpretations o f the Surrender at Yorktown

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twenty-two flags, 160 assorted pieces o f cannon, 1,050 sailors and forty ships.34
Surprisingly, the final numbers o f soldiers and guns captured after the battle tend to vary
not only between major participants, but also between the comte and vicomte de
Rochambeau. However, as the allies occupied Yorktown, the situation there appears to
have loaned itself to some confusion. As General Rochambeau’s aide the baron von
Closen observed, “ [o]ne could not make three steps without running into some great
holes made by the bombs, some splinters, some balls, some half covered trenches, with
scattered white or Negro arms or legs, [and] some bits o f uniforms.”35
The English had requisitioned large numbers o f slaves as laborers
who had spread the plague in Yorktown - [T]hese miserable
creatures could be found in every comer, either dead or dying. No
one took the trouble to bury them, so you can imagine the infection
this must have engendered. Still, a large number o f them survived.
Most were reclaimed by the inhabitants. Negroes without masters
found new ones among the French, and we garnered a veritable
harvest o f domestics.36
In the days following the surrender, the senior members o f the French and the
British armies dined together on more than one occasion, the more senior British officers
making a favorable impression on their Continental hosts. Closen noted in his diary that:
All the general and superior officers, English and German, dined

34 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 239. D ’Ancteville reported the capture o f
5,500 infantry, 500 cavalrymen, 1,200 sailors, 1,700 various soldiers sick or wounded,
and 2,000 slaves.
35 Closen, Journal, 155.
36 Clermont-Crevecceur, Journal, 64. As the few remaining French soldiers
evacuated Saint-Domingue in 1803, Lieutenant General Donatien Rochambeau carried
with him at least one long-service slave. Whether or not he first acquired this slave after
Yorktown remains unknown.

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on November 2 at M. De Rochambeau’s residence; Lord
Cornwallis is distinguished particularly by his reflective, mild, and
noble bearing. He spoke a great deal o f his campaigns in the
Carolinas, and although he was victorious on several occasions, he
admitted himself, nevertheless, that they were the source o f his
present misfortunes. All, with the exception o f Tarleton, spoke
French. O ’Hara, especially, spoke it perfectly.37
After fifteen months in America the Expedition Particuliere had finally triumphed
in a major engagement, and in the days immediately following the victory, General
Rochambeau personally drafted lists o f graces or “favors” for the king to bestow upon the
general’s more distinguished subalterns. The graces contained not only an account o f an
officer’s services, but also recommended decorations, pensions or promotions. In the first
list, which the due de Lauzun personally delivered to Segur in late November, General
Rochambeau pursued for his son nothing less than a full and permanent colonelcy, the
coveted Order o f Saint Louis, and a pension o f 6,000 livres.3&
The war, however, was not over. After the allied soldiers filled in or leveled the
entrenchments around Yorktown, Washington and his Americans marched north toward

37 Closen, Journal, 160. “Lord Cornwallis needed 100,000 ecus [about £150,000]
to pay his troops - the French generals and colonels lent him this sum. When he arrived
in New York, the General [sic] returned the money together with 100 bottles o f porter and
a large quantity of Chester cheese to express his appreciation to those who had rendered
him this service.” Clermont-Crevecceur, Journal, 64; Closen, Journal, 167. Certainly the
dinners with their captives proved to be good instruction for young Colonel Rochambeau,
who cannily summarized Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown as the result o f three major
mistakes. First, he said, the British general failed to attack Lafayette’s and Saint-Simon’s
troops before General Rochambeau’s army arrived. By not resolutely defending his outer
works, Cornwallis committed his second mistake, and thus lost any advantage that he
may have had by his potentially strong defense. Finally, the British general failed to
attempt any significant counterattacks. Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 239.
38 Comte de Rochambeau to the comte de Segur, 5 December 1781, Service
historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 30.

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New York while Lafayette and his army marched south.39 In order to be in a position to
offer his army’s assistance in either direction, General Rochambeau remained in the area
and settled his troops into winter quarters at various points in Yorktown, Williamsburg,
Hampton and Gloucester.
The recent horrors o f the war had left a deep scar on the civilian inhabitants in and
around Virginia’s former capital. As the result, the French army at first was greeted with
the same sort o f timid reception that they initially had received in Newport.40
Nevertheless, the winter camp in Virginia proved fairly comfortable (despite food and
fodder shortages due to the long occupation o f the area by the various armies) and by 15
December, the general’s headquarters and other homes in Williamsburg had become the
scene for a host o f gala balls and other festivities.41 On that particular evening following
the singing o f a Te Deum for the capture o f Yorktown, General Rochambeau gave a large
dinner and ball to the leading citizens o f Williamsburg, to which all the ladies were
invited. “The fair sex in this city are very fond o f minuets” baron von Closen remarked,
“....[i]t is true that some o f them dance rather well, and infinitely better than the women
up North....”42
Throughout the winter lull in Virginia, General Rochambeau and his son

39 Donatien Rochambeau, Journal, 241-242; Closen, Journal, 160-161.
40 Lauberdiere, Journal, 153.
41 Closen noted some “difficulty foraging in Virginia as Cornwallis’ and
Tarleton’s troops had despoiled the countryside - horses are left to run in the swamps to
feed or are fed com husks and wet maize.” Closen, Journal, 174.
42 Ibid., 169.

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participated in numerous fox hunting and sightseeing expeditions into the interior and the
mountains o f the state. When he was not in the company of his father, Donatien
Rochambeau passed the hours with at least one young lady in Williamsburg. As his
companion Lauberdiere wrote in his journal, “....lodging with the Vicomte [sic] de
Rochambeau, my cousin, we took great advantage o f the resources o f the country and o f
the society o f a widow named Madame Ridte [Susanna Riddel] who had two friendly
nieces, Miss Rachel, and Camilla Warrington. As the song says ‘let us make love, let us
make w ar’ these two things were full o f attractions. We had effectively found the one
allied with the other and our desires had been fulfilled.”43 Unfortunately for the two girls,
the Warrington sisters’ liaison with Rochambeau and Lauberdiere scandalized
Williamsburg, prompting one o f the town’s ladies to remark that “ [T]heir late conduct
has been So extraordinary that all eyes are fixed upon them.”44
Orphaned in 1770 upon the death o f their father, the Reverend Thomas
Warrington, the two girls lived in Williamsburg with their wealthy aunt Susannah Riddel.
As one contemporary Williamsburg native wrote, Camilla Warrington was “‘pretty
enough to have been a belle,’ sharp o f wit, and thoroughly indulged by her aunt and
uncle.”45 Rachel, the older o f the two, “had more bewitching talents for seducing a

43 Lauberdiere, Journal, 168-169; Robert A. Selig, “Lauberdiere’s Journal,”
Colonial Williamsburg, Autumn (1995), 36.
44 Mildred Smith to Betsey Ambler, 1780, Letter No. 1, Ambler Family Papers,
cited in Catherine Kerrison, “By the Book, Eliza Ambler Brent Carrington and Conduct
Literature in Late Eighteenth-Century Virginia,” The Virginia Magazine o f History and
Biography 105, No. 1 (winter 1997): 36.
45 Betsey Ambler to Mildred Smith, 10 January 1786, Ibid.

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guileless heart than any human I have ever known.”46 Donatien Rochambeau and
Lauberdiere apparently visited the Riddel home often and by spring 1782, Rachel was
pregnant with Lauberdiere’s son, the future Commodore Lewis L. Warrington.47 As the
French army marched from their winter quarters on 1 July 1782, the comte de
Lauberdiere left behind forever the mother o f his only child, while the vicomte de
Rochambeau left the beautiful Camilla “mortifi[ed] beyond description,” apparently
afraid that her sister’s subsequent disgrace might undermine her own social standing.48
Upon returning to the Windward Islands in 1782, Admiral de Grasse’s fleet
suffered a sound defeat in the Battle o f the Saintes on 12 April by British naval forces off
o f Saint-Domingue and the admiral him self was taken prisoner. News o f this tragedy
coupled with the sicknesses incurred in the inhospitable coastal Virginia climate
prompted General Rochambeau by July 1782 to move his army to rejoin Washington in
New York, in hopes o f possibly preventing Clinton from dispatching further
reinforcements south against the French colonies.

46 Mildred Smith to Betsey Ambler, 1780, Ibid.
47 Though Lauberdiere actually was the father o f the future naval hero, for many
years after 1782, Virginians incorrectly attributed the paternity o f Commodore
Warrington to Donatien Rochambeau. This assumption was reinforced in 1850 in
Reverend John B. Dabney’s Sketches and Reminiscences o f the Dabney and Morris
fam ilies. In 1996 however, Doctor Robert Selig and Joanne Young o f Norfolk, Virginia,
finally corrected the historical record. A contemporary letter from Rachel Warrington’s
confidante Lucy Randolph to her lover Colonel Christian Forbach, comte de Deux-Ponts,
states explicitly that on 3 November 1782, Rachel Warrington gave birth to “a son, whom
she named Louis after his father Monsieur Lobidier [sic].” Robert A. Selig,
“Lauberdiere’s Journal,” Ibid., 36.
48 Mildred Smith to Betsey Ambler, 1782, Ibid., 39.

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By spring o f 1782, General Rochambeau had also begun to question his
government’s resolve on continuing their war with England in the American colonies.
Confirming the general’s suppositions, minister o f war Segur notified Rochambeau in
April that he intended to close the North American theater of operations, but gave few
other instructions. In the event o f a British evacuation o f Charleston or New York, Segur
directed, Rochambeau’s forces would proceed to the Antilles. Without money, transport
or specific orders, the soldiers could only wait. With Clinton still in New York, however,
the allied armies could not afford to wait in Virginia. Thus, by late September,
Rochambeau and Washington had returned to their earlier positions along the Hudson
River and were considering another attempt to take New York. This campaign never
materialized, but Segur’s plan did.
By September, the remaining ships o f de Grasse’s battered fleet, now under the
command o f Louis Philippe de Rigaud, marquis de Vaudreuil, lay at anchor in Boston to
take the French troops to the West Indies.49 Following a leisurely march to
Massachusetts, the majority o f the officers and men o f the Expedition Particuliere sailed
southward on 2 December 1782. Honorably relieved o f his command, the comte de
Rochambeau and his son rode to the headquarters o f the American army at Newburgh,
New York, to bid farewell to Washington and his officers.50 Their goodbyes said, the

49 Kennett, French Forces, 160-162.
50 A button, found recently while digging a post hole at W ashington’s Newburgh
headquarters, is that o f an officer o f the Bourbonnois regiment. Scholars can only guess
as to its former owner, but the possibilities are reasonably limited to two, Major General
Viomenil or Colonel Rochambeau.

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Rochambeaus took leave o f this company and headed to Annapolis, Maryland to meet the
ship that would return them to France.
The Rochambeau’s departure on 5 January 1783 did not escape the attention of
the British. No sooner had the Emeraude slipped past three British warships that lay in
wait in Chesapeake Bay than she encountered another just o ff o f the Chesapeake Capes.
Narrowly escaping a full broadside, the Emeraude raced eastward for thirty hours with
the British ship in close pursuit. The crew evaded capture, but on 16 February, nature
became the Rochambeau’s enemy, for in the midst o f a violent hurricane, lightning
blasted one the ship’s topmasts to pieces. On 20 February 1783, the crippled Emeraude
finally slipped into the harbor at Nantes. For the comte and vicomte de Rochambeau, the
expedition to America was over.51
For his first taste of combat, Donatien Rochambeau was fortunate to learn the art
of war from a succession o f masters, especially his own father and George Washington.
O f course, the siege o f Yorktown was a model o f the classic style o f warfare in
contemporary Europe, and a perfect opportunity for the younger Rochambeau to actually
participate in that which he had only studied at Verberie and Strasbourg. However, the
war in America certainly offered the colonel insight into some more unconventional
tactical methods. American patriots were notorious for their departures from the
European battlefield traditions. As such, acquiring a practical knowledge o f ambushes,
snipers, defenses in depth and cavalry raids only added to Donatien Rochambeau’s
already extensive military repertoire. Such information was indeed useful. Ten years

51 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, The War o f Independence, 100.

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Rochambeau the Conqueror


Washington, D.C.
and the General's


Louis L. Warrington
Hero of the War of 1812

T he P aris Journals
Figure 17. Rochambeau the Conqueror

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later, Lieutenant General Donatien Rochambeau, as Governor General o f the Windward
Isles, would adapt many o f these same unconventional tactical principles to the
unorthodox warfare that he waged against those islands’ warring factions.


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Chapter V
From Revolution to Revolution:
1783 - 1792

Following his return to France, Donatien Rochambeau’s star began to rise at
Versailles. On 11 November 1782, Louis XVI approved the vicomte’s promotion to
Mestre de Camp (equivalent to a Brigadier General), giving the twenty-seven-year-old
command o f the Saintonge regiment.1 Indeed, when the king approved the list o f graces,
Donatien Rochambeau received nearly everything for which his father had asked. In an
official notice written 13 June 1783, Marshal de Segur notified the younger Rochambeau
that the king had awarded him a pension o f 4,000 livres and would present him the Order
o f Saint-Louis the following August.2
Donatien Rochambeau remained in command o f the Saintonge regiment for less
than eight months. As both he and his father expected, the promotion o f Jean Antoine

1 The rank o f Mestre de Camp has no modem army equivalent, but similar to the
naval rank o f Commodore, it rested between the field and flag grades; in this case
between colonel and brigadier general.
2 Marshal de Segur to Colonel Donatien Rochambeau, 13 June 1783. Service
historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, items 31, 32; Graces list,
13 June 1783. Service historique, Travail du Roi, annee 1783, Juni-Juli, Carton YA
514/380. Donatien Rochambeau immediately allocated the pension to his wife Frantjoise.

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Germaine, marquis de Rostaing, to Marechal de Camp, left the command o f the Royal
Auvergne Infantry (Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau’s former command) available, prompting
the younger Rochambeau to seek the vacancy. He unofficially took command o f the
regiment in early June and on 1 July 1783, the move became permanent.3 Rochambeau
took back the 15,000 livres that he had paid for the Saintonge and paid the requisite
10,000 livres for command o f the Royal Auvergne, while Claude Victor, vicomte de
Broglie, assumed command o f the Saintonge regiment which had established its new
garrison at Sarrelouis.4 Rochambeau would remain in command o f the Royal Auvergne
until his promotion to Marechal de Camp on 30 June 1791. In the interim, however, he
became involved in national politics along with his father beginning in 1787. In that year,
the elder Rochambeau became a deputy o f the nobility o f the Provincial Assembly o f
Orleans and joined the M onsieur’s Bureau o f the Assembly o f Notables.
Unfortunately, records from the period between 1784 and 1792, one o f the most
critical in French history, have left few clues as to Donatien Rochambeau’s activities.
Because he remained close at his father’s side for most o f these years, integrating the few
available details concerning the vicomte into accounts o f his father’s activities have
proven useful. By early 1784, Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, with his
new headquarters in Calais, had risen to the position o f Commander in Chief in France’s

3 Donatien Rochambeau was still technically in command o f the Saintonge
regiment, but on 13 June, sent a declaration to the war department confirming his receipt
o f the 4,000 livres pension and referring to him self as commander o f the Royal Auvergne
4 Regimental sale and transfer list, 13 June 1783. Service historique, Travail du
Roi, annee 1783, Juni-Juli, Carton YA 514/380.

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Northern District, an area which encompassed not only Picardy, but also Flanders and
Artois. Since he was not to assume his command at Calais until the following year,
immediately after his return to France, the general occupied his time at his city apartments
on Paris’ Rue du Cherche-Midi. During this interlude, the former commander o f French
troops in America, working closely with his former ally George Washington, founded the
French Society o f the Cincinnati.
Originally conceived in America as a charitable fraternity o f W ashington’s
officers, the fundamental charge o f the society was the support o f the widows and
children o f their fallen brother officers. As later happened in America, the French society
soon adopted a more political bent. For Rochambeau’s former officers in the American
colonies, their participation in the colonies’ fight for independence was more than simply
a mark o f honor or a means toward promotion. In the increasingly turbulent years leading
to revolution in France, wearing the coveted Order o f the Cincinnati became a symbol o f
distinction as one who had fought for the ideals o f liberty and republicanism.5 Though
the wearing o f foreign orders had long been illegal in France, Louis XVI granted an
enthusiastic exception for the officers o f the Cincinnati. Somehow Donatien
Rochambeau’s name had not made W ashington’s original list, and after receiving the

5 See Samuel F. Scott, “The Army o f the Comte de Rochambeau Between the
American and French Revolutions,” Proceedings o f the Annual Meeting o f the Western
Society fo r French History, XV (1988), 150-153; Gilbert Bodinier, “Les Officiers du
corps expeditionnaire de Rochambeau et la Revolution fran 9aise,” Revue historique des
Armees, III, no. 4 (1976): 143. Despite their service in the American Revolution, the
majority of Rochambeau’s former officers in America either were not able, or chose not
to advertise their experience to further the cause o f liberty in the early days o f the French
Revolution. Eight o f Rochambeau’s former officers did, however, serve in the National

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decorations from Philadelphia, his father quickly set about to correct the oversight. By
1792, however, French members no longer wore the golden eagles o f the Cincinnati.
Robespierre and hosts of other radicals saw the organization as a threatening body o f
aristocrats and anyone known to possess the order was in danger. Many o f the French
society’s charter members, including its president, Admiral d ’Estaing, met their end on
the guillotine.6
At Calais, General Rochambeau spent the next four years dutifully training his
troops.7 The command, however, was not without some minor problems. Upon the
general’s arrival at Calais, the city’s mayor informed him that because o f a shortage o f
funds, he was unable to properly furnish the general’s quarters. The two men discussed
the matter for a year, after which General Rochambeau, obviously tired o f quibbling with
the bureaucrat, took up residence with his son and daughter-in-law.8 The year 1784 also
witnessed the birth o f the first o f Donatien Rochambeau’s children, Augustine Eleonore ,
who was bom on 27 November. A second daughter, Constance-Therese, was bom the

6 Whitridge, Rochambeau, 258-260. The French Order o f the Cincinnati was
officially reconstituted only in 1923.
7 Ibid. Since Calais was a continental terminus for diplomats and foreign
dignitaries, General Rochambeau, no longer impaired by his government’s lack o f
financial support, paid special attention to organizing grand military reviews and fetes
impressing all who visited with the excellent equipment, precision and professional
discipline o f his troops. Certainly, his son’s Auvergne Infantry were featured
8 Ibid. At the time, Donatien Rochambeau’s Auvergne infantry regiment made up
a part o f the Calais garrison.

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following year, and Frant^oise gave birth to the couple’s only son, Philippe, in 1788.9
Despite the rigors o f regimental command and his considerable family responsibilities,
national crisis soon called Donatien Rochambeau and his father to an additional duty o f
political service.
The note o f Royal Council o f 5 July 1788 invited all instructed persons to furnish
documents and to draft reports on the conditions o f the last convocation o f the Estates
General in 1614. Holding the principle seat on the Vendome bench as Grand Bailli
d ’Epee (Grand Bailiff for the local nobility), Donatien Rochambeau returned to his
ancestral home to comply with the council’s directive. Based on what he considered
common sense and his experiences in America, his father, as a full member o f the second
Assembly o f Notables, warned against France making the same mistake as the English
had in America. The king, the elder Rochambeau admonished, had to recognize the right
o f the people to decide how they should be taxed. Donatien Rochambeau may have
shared the same opinion, but no concrete evidence exists.
Rochambeau’s fellow officers, those who would oversee the writing o f the cahiers
(lists o f grievances and policy recommendations to be sent to the king) and who would

9 Like his predecessors, Auguste-Philippe-Donatien de Vimeur would later
become a soldier, ultimately rising to the grade o f colonel o f the cavalry under Marshal
Joachim Murat. Both Augustine Eleonore and Constance-Therese have almost drifted
completely into obscurity. Obviously inheriting the Rochambeau line’s notable
longevity, Constance-Therese, bom 27 November 1785, lived to be eighty-two years old,
dying in Paris on 1 December 1866. She survived her husband, Lieutenant General
Alexandre-Louis Valon du Boucheron, comte d’Ambrugeac. Augustine Eleonore de
Rochambeau married Victor Emmanuel de Morde to become the marquise de la Gorce.
Her name finally surfaces in 1837, when she wrote to King Louis Philippe seeking to help
her sister and brother-in-law claim their father’s military pay which he had not received
while a prisoner in England from 1804 until 1811.

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ultimately select the representatives to the Estates General, totaled five. The Grand
B ailli’s lieutenant for general civil and police law was Jacques-Franqois de Tremault, an
attorney and member o f the Parlement de Paris. Four other officers, a lieutenant for
general criminal law, a special lieutenant for civil and criminal law, a King’s Prosecutor,
and a chief secretary comprised the remainder o f the bench.10 The preliminary meeting of
the assembly o f the bailliage took place on 9 March 1789 in the Sainte-Trinite church in
Vendome. The assembly noted the presence o f 196 deputies, representing ninety-one
towns, parishes or communities. Only two parishes failed to send a representative
resulting in their default from the congregation (they sent representatives instead to
Tours). As per regulation, the members swore an oath to the assembly and the first
meeting proceeded.
The first issue before the assembly concerned which bailliage would constitute
the secondaries. The group handled this first issue fairly easily; the officers working in
conjunction with the Keeper o f the Seals decided that the bailliage o f Mondoubleau and
Saint-Calais would serve as secondary representatives.11 The next problem was not so
easy. Difficulties arose between the three lieutenants over who was morally eligible to
preside over the Third Estate. As members o f the bourgeoisie, the lieutenant for general

10 Armand Brette, Recueil de Documents Relatifs a la Convovation des Etats
Generaux de 1789 (Paris, 1895-1915), III, 458. These are respectively: Jean-Franqois
Leger de Chauvigny; Jacques Lemoine de la Godeliniere (another lawyer en parlement)-,
Jacques-Joseph-Andre Godineau de l’Epau (King’s Prosecutor in Vendome); and
Leonard Breton.
11 Ibid.

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criminal law and the special lieutenant for civil and criminal law rivaled to replace
Tremault, saying that because the latter belonged to the nobility, he should be ineligible.
None o f the men present could come to a conclusion and the matter was again referred to
the Keeper o f the Seals. Another group, Les Peres de VOratoire, representing the royal
military school at Vendome felt that certain articles o f a 12 February Estates General
regulation from Versailles slighted them as an organization useful to all three state orders.
Throughout these deliberations, the threat o f violence grew in the Vendome area. Fearing
a plot by disenfranchised citizens o f the bailliage, the King’s Prosecutor wrote to the
Keeper o f the Seals on 10 March that “popular emotion threatens to put fire to four
sections o f the city” and that he had made the city’s police ask the commander o f the
army regiment at Blois to send 150 soldiers to keep order in Vendome.12
On 16 March, Grand Bailli Rochambeau convened another meeting o f the three
orders, who again met at the Sainte-Trinite church. At two o’clock the clergy were
admitted, followed by the nobles and finally the representatives o f the Third Estate.13

12 Ibid., 460.
13 Ibid., 461. The representatives o f the clergy consisted o f 106 cures, one abbe,
twenty-eight beneficiaries, fourteen monastic representatives and four sisters o f the local
convent. Sixteen cures, one Commander o f the Knights o f Malta, twenty-two sermoners,
one nun and twenty-two beneficiaries defaulted by failing to appear. Members o f the
nobility consisted o f the following: twenty-one nobles without fiefs, seventy-six with fiefs
(of this last group, the due d’Orleans, by prerogative o f his high station, allowed Donatien
Rochambeau to represent him), eleven noble ladies possessing fiefs (five daughters, three
widows and three wives), and two groups o f heirs. As women were not allowed as
representatives at the Estates General, these nuns and ladies o f Vendome could only
participate in the election of a male representative. Eleven nobles and three groups of
heirs defaulted. Not surprisingly, none o f the representatives o f the Third Estate
defaulted and consisted o f ten deputies o f the cities o f Vendome and Montoire, fifty more
deputies from Vendome’s outlying areas, and twelve deputies each from the secondary

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After a two-day meeting, Rochambeau and his fellow officers decided upon the
separation o f the estates and adjourned until the next week. In the final meeting o f the
full assembly on 24 March 1789, the representatives o f the three estates submitted their
finished cahiers and proces-verbaux. O f the cahiers presented that day, certainly that o f
the Third Estate was the most remarkable. Members o f this order read aloud a report
addressed by the Societe des Amis des Noirs (Society o f the Friends o f the Blacks) o f
Vendome, which called for the revision o f race laws in the French colonies. Receiving
the report favorably, the members placed an article in favor o f the blacks in the main
cahier that would come before the assembled Estates General. Donatien Rochambeau
could not have known it at the time, but three years later he would find him self a deeplyinvolved participant in the war for slave liberation in the French colonies .14
The assembly then agreed upon their representatives to the Estates General. JeanPierre Bodineau, a cure from Vendome’s Sainte-Bienheure church stood for the clergy
while Gilbert, comte de Sarrazin, a former captain o f dragoons, would speak for the
nobility. For the Third Estate went Louis-Fran?ois Pothee, an alderman o f the city o f
Montoire, and Jean-Baptiste Creniere, an iron merchant in Vendome. Closing the
meeting, the representatives, with hands folded in prayer, swore an oath “on their honor
and vigorously demand a free constitution and to courageously suppress

baillages o f Montdoubleau and Saint-Calais.
14 By July 1790, the Vendome contingent o f Les Amis des Noirs, would count
among their ranks the new Constitutional bishop o f Loire-et-Cher (diocese o f Blois), none
other than the former Abbe Elenri Gregoire. Ultimately, Gregoire would be best
remembered as one of, if not the, principle leaders o f the French Revolutionary
abolitionist movement.

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abuses .” 15
While his son managed political events in Vendome, General Rochambeau did the
same in Calais, reporting that all o f their meetings had gone “marvelously .” 16 The
general’s pleasant tenure in Calais came to a close, however, when the war ministry
assigned him as commander in the Alsace region. By the summer o f 1789, Alsace, like
Paris, had become a hotbed o f rebellion. The elder Rochambeau reported to Versailles on
12 July 1789 for further instructions from the new minister o f war, Victor Frangois, due
de Broglie, who simply ordered the general to assume his post as quickly as possible and
to use his best judgement. Rochambeau returned to a riotous Paris only to have to flee on
horseback from his apartments two days later .17
With his work in Vendome completed, the younger Rochambeau presumably
returned to his regiment where, like his father (now in Strasbourg), he involved him self
with trying to restore order to his unit. Quelling food riots involved many regular troops.
This, combined with the efforts o f “Federations” o f National Guard who sought to
undermine the traditional authority o f the noble officer corps, caused the maintenance o f
discipline in army units to become an almost insurmountable problem. Regular troops
fell under the direct influence o f revolutionary clubs, and soldiers’ deputations often took
internal military affairs into their own hands. By January 1790, with the royal family

15 Brette, Recueil de Documents Relatifs a la Convocation des Etats Generaux de
16 General Rochambeau to Biron, 19 March 1789. Service historique,
Correspondance: Armee du Nord, Carton DXXV/50/477.
17 Whitridge, Rochambeau, 266.


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safely ensconced in the Tuileries, some semblance o f stability appeared to reign in Paris,
yet the situation in the kingdom’s army units still remained tense. By August 1790
soldiers’ revolts in the garrisons o f Nancy and Metz had brought vividly the military
discipline issue to the attention o f the National Assembly. At the same time that France
was coming to face external enemies from all sides, her professional army was falling
apart. In Paris, members o f the Jacobin Club made matters even worse by denouncing
what it considered the ruthless suppression o f the army mutineers and by justifying the
soldiers’ revolts in Nancy and Metz.
For the undyingly loyal General Rochambeau, disappointment with the king and
his officials began to grow. The crown had been unable to support the general as he
attempted to subdue several riots in Alsace, and both the king and a succession o f war
ministers had failed to protect officers in the field from the abuses o f the government’s
more radical factions. Sick both physically and in spirit, the elderly commander left
Strasbourg in early spring 1790 for a six month medical leave o f absence to Vendome.
By 4 September, however, a desperate Louis XVI summoned Rochambeau to SaintCloud. After initially receiving the general cooly, the king tried to persuade Rochambeau
to come back to active service as commander o f a proposed Army o f the North to be
constituted that December.18 The general, despite his deep discontent, accepted.
Donatien Rochambeau may have shared his father’s increasing disaffection with
the government, but rather than remain unswerving in his allegiance to the crown, he

18 Ibid., 274-275. Ramsay Weston Phipps, The Armies o f the First French
Republic (Oxford, 1926), I, 62.

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began to take an active role in radical revolutionary politics. By 3 February 1791, the
vicomte had made his first significant appearance in Paris’ political daily Le Moniteur
Universelle. According to the paper’s account, on 31 January a Monsieur Sainte-Luce
challenged the younger Rochambeau to a duel to be held the following day in Paris’ Bois
de Boulogne. Upon the complaint o f one o f its members (perhaps the vicomte himself),
the general assembly o f Paris’ Croix-Rouge (later Bonnet-Rouge) section, moved quickly
to place the vicomte under special personal protection. Rochambeau’s bodyguard
consisted o f no less than the commander o f the Paris National Guard’s Battalion des
Enfans [sic] and several volunteers, who, obviously seeking to safeguard the life o f a man
who they considered a powerful fellow radical, vowed to station themselves at his side
until the matter came to resolution. The proposed encounter never took place. The
incident would certainly have passed unnoticed except that on 4 February the CroixRouge assembly published an appeal against the disgrace of public dueling. The letter
was distributed not only to the National Assembly, but also to forty-seven o f the city’s
other sections, the mayor, the city’s municipal corps, the General Council o f the
Commune o f Paris, the editors o f the public papers, and to “M. Rochambeau fils o f the
Club des Amis de la Constitution .” 19 Donatien Rochambeau had joined the Left.
While his son involved him self with the activity o f the Jacobins, General

19 “Deliberations de 1’Assemblee generale de la Section de la Croix-Rouge, 4
February 1791.” France, Archives de la Ville de Paris, Prefecture Du Departement de la
Seine, Ville de Paris (Inventaire Sommaire des Archives de la Seine), Partie Municipale
Periode Revolutionnaire 1789-AN VII, Fonds de l’administration generale de la
Commune et de ses subdivisions territoriales (Serie D), Carton VD* 799; Le Moniteur
Universelle, no. 34 (3 February 1791): 1.

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Rochambeau, turning more to his military duties, continued to try to distance himself
from Paris politics. Sagely refusing the king’s offer o f Minister o f War, the general
instead buried him self in the business o f preparing his new army to defend France’s
northern frontier .20 Donatien Rochambeau received a promotion to Marechal de Camp
on 30 June 1791 and immediately moved to fill the position as second-in-command o f his
father’s army’s 1st Division at Maubeuge under General Armand-Louis Biron, the former
due de Lauzun. While the older Rochambeau sought desperately to maintain military
discipline (even if it meant running afoul o f the Jacobins), the younger struggled to prove
his loyalty to his new political brethren .21
By fall 1791, even the British government knew o f the vicomte de Rochambeau’s
Jacobin activities, and in the view o f James Gower, the British ambassador to France,
Donatien Rochambeau posed even more o f a threat to British interests than his father. As
early as November, the ambassador, “judging from the character and the sentiments o f
Mr. de Rochambeau the younger, who is o f the society o f the Jacobins,” suggested the
possibility that Donatien Rochambeau might actually lead a diversionary invasion against

20 Whitridge, Rochambeau, 276-277.
21 Ibid., 278. General Rochambeau even went so far as to confine to barracks one
o f the battalions o f the Beauce regiment in Arras for wearing cocardes tricolores (tricolor
cockades) on their uniforms - against the protests o f Maximilien Robespierre who was
the deputy o f that city. Robespierre appears to have never forgiven the slight. After
attaining ultimate power several years later, he ordered the elderly general arrested under
the Law o f Suspects, and arranged that he was sentenced to death. Rochambeau missed
the guillotine by one day, Robespierre’s own execution the previous morning effectively
ending the Terror.

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British-held Holland in an effort to “compose matters at home .”22 In early December,
Gower detailed to the Foreign Office a speech at the Jacobin Club in Maubeuge by the
younger Rochambeau to a group o f disaffected Austrian Netherlanders known as the
Patriots Brabangons. In the most inflammatory part o f his address, Rochambeau
provocatively proclaimed “Patriots, you knew how to value liberty, you desired it; but
unfortunate events have prevented you from obtaining it. The Friends o f the French
Constitution comprehend the whole world in their system o f philanthropy, and on that
account they hope that when you return to your own country you will sow the seeds o f our
benevolent intentions so they may produce an abundant harvest.”23 Rochambeau’s
exhortations could be understood by no one as anything short o f an invitation to Frenchsupported rebellion. The peeved Austrians, whose control over the Brabant area was
already tenuous, complained directly to the French court, who promptly assigned the
Ministry o f the Interior to conduct an official investigation. It was Earl Gower’s sincere
belief that the French court, with Donatien Rochambeau’s help, was at work on some sort
o f menacing international scheme. He could not have been more correct.
The new French minister o f war, Louis-Marie-Jacques-Amalric, comte de
Narbonne-Lara, was a devoted Royalist who believed that the monarchy would fall if
something was not done to vindicate the royal family’s aborted flight to Varennes. As
such, he devised a plan that he thought would unite the French people and bring the

22 James Gower to William Grenville, British Foreign Secretary, 18 November
1791. The Despatches o f Earl Gower, English Ambassador at Paris from June 1790 to
August 1792 (Cambridge, 1885), 135.
23 Ibid., 5 December 1791. 140.


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Revolution to a quick end - declare war. Narbonne’s plan was relatively simple. The
hotbed o f French emigres at Trier offered a ready pretext for an invasion into the
electorate and a quick, victorious military action would allow the army to impose its will
on the National Assembly. In case the war expanded to include Austria and Prussia,
Narbonne envisioned a truce which would result in a congress o f rulers to restore Louis
XVI to his position o f authority. The British may not have been privy to the political
details, but they certainly could not miss the obvious preparations for war. On 16
December 1791, the British ambassador reported that Narbonne had undertaken to move
150,000 men to the frontiers in less than a month, explaining to his superiors that the
French had formed three major armies under the commands o f General Jean-Baptiste
Rochambeau (Nord), General Lafayette {Centre), and General Nicolas von Luckner
(Rhin ).24
When news reached him o f the impending operation, Donatien Rochambeau set
about organizing a new club at Maubeuge, La Societe des Amis de la Liberte
Brabangonne. He further endeared him self to the Jacobins in Paris by arresting on New
Year’s Day 1792, Lieutenant-Colonel Quigny, a would-be emigre who was attempting to
leave France with a convoy containing 25,000 livres.25 The senior Rochambeau had also

24 Ibid., 16 December 1791. 142.
25 Ibid. 143; Donatien Rochambeau to Biron, undated. Service historique,
Correspondance: Armee duN ord, Carton B 1 1, folio 1 “pieces sans date”; “Seance du
Dimanche l er Janvier 1792,” Francois Aulard, La Societe des Jacobins; Recueil de
Documents Pour I ’Histoire du Club des Jacobins de Paris (Paris, 1892), III, 305. In the
same report to the Paris Jacobin Club, the younger Rochambeau swore a renewed oath o f
attachment to the club and promised to remain true to the constitution, defending it in
“peril o f his life and fortune.”

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tried to placate the Jacobins, but spuming politics, his involvement with the club seems to
have been little more than sending reassuring letters to Paris and the occasional address to
the National Assembly .26 The general, who with General von Luckner received his
marshal’s baton on 28 December 1791, had greater problems.
Opposed by both von Luckner and Lafayette, the newly-promoted Marshal
Rochambeau tried to persuade the king o f the weaknesses o f the operation, pleading that
such a war would only escalate causing even greater problems at home. Louis XVI’s only
alternative was to dismiss Narbonne, whom the king suspected o f conspiring against him.
Narbonne’s successor, Pierre-Marie, marquis de Grave, was little more than titular head
o f the ministry. The real organizational power lay with the quintessential conspirator
General Charles-Fran^ois Dumouriez, who for political reasons favored the invasion o f
Austrian territory. Generally despised as a factionalist by the three army commanders,
Dumouriez had no success trying to convince Marshal Rochambeau o f the merits of
Despite the misgivings o f its commander, Dumouriez had a willing accomplice in
the Army o f the North - 1st Division Commander Biron. The former due de Lauzun had
convinced him self (as had his second-in-command Donatien Rochambeau) that at the
outset o f a French attack, the Flemish would revolt against their Austrian masters and that
thousands o f Austrian troops would defect to the French side. Biron had little trouble
convincing Dumouriez o f this, connivingly offering his assistance even as far as taking

26 “Seance du Mardi 6 Septembre 1791 and du Dimanche l er Janvier 1792,”
Aulard, La Societe des Jacobins, 116, 305.

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over command o f the Army o f the North him self for the mission .27
Whether unwittingly or not, Donatien Rochambeau was certainly an accomplice
in the plans o f Dumouriez and Biron. When the expected deserters came through the
French lines, it would be the younger Rochambeau who would round them up and send
them “dressed, armed and mounted” to Paris, and have them address each o f the political
clubs .28 In Dumouriez’ view Donatien Rochambeau was perfectly suited for the task as
he was “one who knows the way o f Paris” and someone o f whom the public papers o f the
capital city were “ringing festively .”29 Moreover, Biron, who described young
Rochambeau as “full of zeal and activity,” had secretly loaned his second in command
money to accomplish certain activities toward this end .30
While Dumouriez and Biron plotted during the first months o f 1792, France and
her enemies maintained a tense status quo, but with the death o f Austria’s Leopold II in
March 1792, de Grave (at Dumouriez’ urging) revived Narbonne’s plan for a preemptive
strike against the Austrians and on 20 April pushed it through an eager National

27 Ibid. 284-285; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires, I, 430; Biron
to Rochambeau (fils), 20 April 1792. Service historique, Correspondance: Armee du
Nord et du Rhin, Correspondance Intime et Politique du Gen’l Biron - 9 Decembre 1791
au 10 Decembre 1792, Carton B 'l0 4 , items 156-58; Phipps, The Armies o f the First
French Republic, 76-77.
28 Dumouriez to Biron, 13 April 1792, Correspondance Diplomatique de
Talleyrand (Paris, 1889), 203.
29 Ibid.
30 Ibid., 207.


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Assembly .31 The strategy called for two simultaneous main attacks, the first under
Lafayette who was to move his Army o f the Center from Namur and then to Brussels or
Liege. After augmenting his own division with units taken from throughout Marshal
Rochambeau’s command, Biron was to lead the second major movement to occupy
Mons. Marechal de Camp Donatien Rochambeau would command Biron’s rear-guard.
On 20 April, with forty pieces o f heavy cannon, ten battalions o f infantry and an equal
number o f cavalry squadrons all ready to cross the frontier, Biron wrote to the younger
Rochambeau that he felt confident that they would seize Mons within ten days .32
Unknown to the willing participants, however, the minister’s propaganda had not
demoralized either the Flemish or the Austrians into dropping their weapons and coming
over to the side o f the French “liberators.” As Marshal Rochambeau had foreseen,
Dumouriez’ bold plan, while basic enough in its concept, turned into a disaster.
At the outset o f the operation, all seemed well. A small band o f uhlans abandoned
their positions at the frontier town o f Quievrechain, giving Biron the opportunity to plant
a liberty tree inside enemy territory while his troops got drunk, danced, and sang “(7a Ira”
into the night. The next morning, however, the general was less fortunate. As his army
neared Mons, Biron noticed that General Jean-Pierre Beaulieu, whose garrison Biron had

31 Whitridge, Rochambeau, 283. In an address to the National Assembly just
days before, Marshal Rochambeau pleaded for the maintenance o f peace. He returned to
his headquarters at Valenciennes to find that his request had been overruled.
32 Biron to Rochambeau (fils), 20 April 1792. Service historique,
Correspondance: Armee du Nord et du Rhin, Correspondance Intime et Politique du
Gen’l Biron - 9 Decembre 1791 au 10 Decembre 1792, Carton B 1104, item 156; Gower to
Grenville, 3 May 1792. Despatches, 178.

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expected to mutiny, occupied the high ground in front o f him in preparation for the attack.
Further, news soon reached Biron o f the fate o f General Theobald Dillon. Dillon had
commanded a supporting effort that had moved toward Tournai with orders only to test
the enemy’s resistance. Nevertheless, the general ventured so close to the enemy that the
Austrian troops attacked his force as the horses o f his cavalry and staff were grazing.
Believing that their commander had betrayed them, Dillon’s troops fled in panic, hacking
their commander to pieces in their frenzied retreat .33 Donatien Rochambeau volunteered
to assist in rallying Dillon’s troops at Tournai but, upon his arrival, was unable to restore
Realizing that his force was not strong enough to dislodge Beaulieu’s army and
fearing a fate similar to his fellow general officer, Biron decided to rest his troops for
several hours prior to ordering a withdrawal. By five o ’clock in the afternoon, the
general’s troops only had engaged the enemy in a minor skirmish, but by ten o ’clock in
the evening the regiment o f the Queen’s Dragoons began to flee the battlefield, apparently
thinking that they too had been betrayed. The general was able to round up the majority
of this regiment, but when he returned to his own army he found their confusion had
devolved into pandemonium. Biron immediately ordered a full retreat and his army fell
back toward their encampment o f the previous evening. Once again at Quievrechain, the
Uhlans, that Biron’s force had displaced the day before, attacked. The effect was a

33 Gower to Grenville, 3 May 1792. Despatches, 180.
34 Donatien Rochambeau to the Paris Jacobin Club, “Seance du Mercredi 30 May
1792,” Aulard, La Societe des Jacobins, III, 630.

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complete rout. The commanding officers, including Donatien Rochambeau tried their
best to maintain order, but any discipline was irretrievable. Biron narrowly escaped with
his life while Marechal de Camp F ra n c is Louis Teissedre de Fleury, the hero o f Stony
Point and now Donatien Rochambeau’s second-in-command, was severely wounded by
shots fired at him by his own troops. Biron’s army fell back to Valenciennes abandoning
artillery, baggage, tents and provisions .35
The effect o f the army’s setbacks led to shock and disbelief in Paris. While a
stunned National Assembly contemplated a possible Austrian counterattack, the Jacobins
wildly denounced as traitors the bulk o f the involved senior officers and officials.
Dumouriez quickly attempted to fix blame for the defeat upon anyone else but himself,
even accusing Marshal Rochambeau o f inactivity due to ill-health, and o f colluding with
the enemy through an organization known only as “the Austrian Committee.” Marshal
Rochambeau maintained that he had repeatedly warned the Assembly, the king and the
war minister against the invasion. “It is impudent to assert....despite evidence to the
contrary, that the generals gave can only attribute the disasters to the
extravagances o f the plans which have been the prelude to this campaign. I was then
well-informed, but like Cassandra, one deprived me o f all trust .”36 Demoralized, his
health broken, and unable to work any longer with a government that cavalierly would

35 Gower to Grenville, 3 May 1792. Despatches, 181; Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau,
Memoires Militaires, I, 434.
36 Marshal Rochambeau to Claude-Emmanuel Pastoret, 11 July 1792, “Memoire
sur la guerre en reponse a M. Pastoret, President de la Commission Extraordinaire de
l’Assemblee Nationale.” Service historique, MR 1160, 1; “Seance du Lundi 1 May
1792,” Aulard, La Societe des Jacobins, III, 550.

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send troops into battle who “for thirty years have not heard a ball whistle,” Marshal
Rochambeau, against the protests o f the National Assembly, tendered his resignation and
handed over his command to Marshal von Luckner .37 On 20 May 1792, the same day that
his father left the Army o f the North, Donatien Rochambeau submitted his resignation as
The army’s loss o f the two Rochambeaus was a shock to the nation. Von
Luckner, who lacked the experience o f his predecessor, begged the senior Rochambeau to
remain at the head o f the Army o f the North; he emphasized his concern by offering to
serve as the latter’s aide-de-camp .38 Though aware that desertions o f officers in the field
were further crippling the army’s ability to function, Marshal Rochambeau, because o f his
failed health, held to his decision to leave. By 25 May, he had returned to Paris and
began to defend his decision and publicly condemn the behavior o f those officers who
had needlessly resigned. The marshal included his own son in this rebuke, and made it
well-known that he wished for Donatien to return to his post .39
Eager to take revenge on those whom they felt had betrayed them, the Jacobins
made plans to establish military tribunals to try all o f those involved in the fiasco,
especially Dumouriez and Marshal Rochambeau. Even the radical Donatien Rochambeau
did not escape the fallout from the Jacobins’ suspicion o f his father. On 29 May 1792, he
approached the club’s secretary to renew his own membership in the club and was

37 Marshal Rochambeau to Pastoret, Ibid., 2.
38 Gower to Grenville, 18 May 1792. Despatches, 184.
39 Ibid., 185.


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immediately detained. The club’s members were hastily assembled for a special meeting
to argue over the younger Rochambeau’s culpability and motives. One member
suggested that he be brought before those assembled to explain his desire to resign.
Another, a Monsieur Desfieux, replied that he had spoken with the younger Rochambeau
and had asked him that very question. “I don’t believe that a general officer can serve in
the army after having been shot at by his soldiers” was the vicomte’s reply .40 Desfieux
then informed the membership that Rochambeau had offered to defend the patrie as a
volunteer. The response from other members was decidedly against this proposition.
Monsieur Hion observed that Rochambeau could not possibly serve among troops in a
manner that would not be politically injurious to them. Hion continued that the Minister
o f War had decided to punish officers who had resigned and that Rochambeau should be
excluded from the organization. Several voices at once then cried out that Donatien
Rochambeau was coming to the club as a spy.
The meeting quickly took on an even more hostile tone. “At what moment,”
noted a Monsieur Baumier, “had the generals chosen to give their resignation ?” “At the
moment that hostilities had commenced. What are their intentions ? They complain o f
indiscipline; I have never seen men o f ability complain. Why? Because they know how
to inspire confidence .”41 Baumier closed his diatribe by demanding that all officers who
were members o f the society be excluded from membership. Other members called for

40 Hion to the Paris Jacobin Club, “Seance Extraordinaire du Mardi 29 May
1792,” Aulard, La Societe des Jacobins, III, 626.
41 Baumier to the Paris Jacobin Club, 29 May 1792, Aulard, Ibid., Ill, 626.


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the recall o f Rochambeau’s membership certificate and his expulsion from other Jacobin
Clubs throughout France. Adrien Legendre, noting that the discussion had gone on too
long stopped the debate saying that such discussion would not punish those culpable. If
Rochambeau had time to come to club to renew his membership, then he had time to
address the members. Baumier then recommended that Rochambeau stand before a
tribune o f the assembled members the following day to explain himself .42
The next morning, the members o f Paris’ Jacobin Club apparently had forgotten
the demands o f the previous day. Immediately starting into business concerning the
reorganization o f the king’s military schools, one member interrupted, saying that
“Monsieur” Rochambeau was waiting to address the meeting. With permission granted,
Rochambeau began by noting that he had heard o f the meeting the previous day and had
hurried to tell them his motives for his conduct. “I do not believe,” he began, “that
having lost the soldiers’ confidence, I can remain at their head.”
[H]ow was it possible for me to remain in the middle o f cowards
who had fled before the enemies o f the state and o f brigands who
had fired upon their officers? Yes, Gentlemen, in the Tournai
affair, having volunteered to rally the runaways, they called me to
arms, the same as the other officers. I believed that it was serving
the patrie to leave a post where I could no longer be o f use .43
Blaming the ministers for the disasters at Mons and Tournai, Rochambeau then
reminded the assembly that the arms which the war ministry had designated for use o f the

42 Adrien Marie Legendre to the Paris Jacobin Club, 29 May 1792, Aulard, Ibid.,
Ill, 627.
43 Donatien Rochambeau to the Paris Jacobin Club, 29 May 1792, Aulard, Ibid.,
Ill, 630.

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soldiers at the front had remained in the depots at Saint-Denis and Versailles on 20 April.
The general claimed that plans for the campaign had even been disclosed to the enemy in
the public papers. “I believe that it is urgent, in the circum stances.. . . to send to the
soldiers an address inviting their subordination to and a confidence in their officers .”44
The assembled members o f the club were not mollified by Rochambeau’s
explanation for his resignation, and were even less impressed by his appeal to the
members to address the soldiers. Edmond Crance-Dubois responded to the general’s plea
saying that no officer’s resignation merited public confidence and that the French were
always disciplined for those who knew what they were doing. “I don’t know the minister
o f war” he said, “but I know a p atrio t.. . .”45 Amid rounds o f applause, the inquiry by the
club members seemed to grow increasingly ominous. However, one o f the members,
Jean-Louis Carra, reminded the group that Rochambeau’s patriotism had been previously
well attested to by his soldiers. Remarking that he was simply angered by Rochambeau’s
resignation, he suggested that the best way to repair the damage was for the general to
return immediately to his post. Maximilien Robespierre, who had been listening quietly
to the deliberations, now entered the discussion. Rochambeau’s personal beliefs, he
began, were not relevant to the discussion. Despite the confusion which reigned at the
moment, Robespierre continued, no soldier was insubordinate who was willing to spill
his blood for the patrie. The worst thing that the nation had to fear was the despotism o f

44 Ibid., Ill, 631.
45 Edmond Dubois-Crance to the Paris Jacobin Club, 29 May 1792, Aulard, Ibid.,
Ill, 631.

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its generals .46
As the discussion continued, its focus changed suddenly. Soon the question
became not whether Rochambeau should remain in the army, but whether he should be
allowed to remain in the Society. According to F ra n c is Doppet, the general obviously
had lost the confidence o f his soldiers by addressing them as his “soldiers,” not, as
Lafayette had done, as his “friends” or “companions” or “brothers-in-arms .”47 The
members then called upon Rochambeau to remind them once more o f his complaints.
The general recounted that he had lost public confidence and that he had been fired upon
by his troops, but this time, realizing the unpopularity o f his indictment o f his soldiers’
determination, he flatly denied that he had spoken o f their lack o f discipline. A storm o f
protest ensued, with many members shouting in unison that he indeed had used the very
words “indiscipline” and “insubordination.” Soon the members were shouting to put
Rochambeau’s dismissal from the club to a voice vote. Seeing that further defense was
useless, Rochambeau indignantly stormed out o f the hall while the members continued to
hurl abuses at him. After Monsieur Chambertois had wryly noted that by his leaving, the
general had condemned himself, the members called the question o f Rochambeau’s
membership in the Jacobin Club to a vote. The response was tumultuous and within
minutes the Society pronounced that Donatien Rochambeau, former long-time member o f

46 Maximilien Robespierre to the Paris Jacobin Club, 29 May 1792, Aulard, Ibid.,
Ill, 632.
47 F ra n c is Doppet to the Paris Jacobin Club, 29 May 1792, Aulard, Ibid., Ill,


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the Jacobins, was struck from their rolls .48
For over a year Rochambeau had sought to prove him self worthy o f the Jacobins.
By the end o f May 1792, however, both his patriotism and his military ability had been
called into question by those whom he had tried to serve. Rochambeau’s political
ostracism was not a result o f any dereliction o f duty or a lack o f devotion to the nation,
but rather his inability to adapt to societal changes as they affected members o f the
military. As an officer o f the ancien regime, Rochambeau had been schooled in an
environment o f unquestioning and rigid discipline. Strict order had been his father’s
watchword and the younger Rochambeau had known nothing else. While the general
may have suffered a blow to his political career, a new phase o f his military profession
was just beginning. Donatien Rochambeau resigned from the army on 5 May 1792, but
in late June he received an offer from the Legislative Assembly to become Governor
General o f France’s wealthiest Caribbean colony, Saint-Domingue. Rochambeau’s
refusal o f this appointment certainly should not have surprised the members o f the
Assembly. Indeed, Saint-Domingue as the legislators in Paris knew it had ceased to exist,
consumed by a civil, race war that had raged for nearly a year. Instead, Rochambeau
accepted the Assembly’s subsequent offer to become Governor General o f Martinique
and the Windward Isles, and to bring those breakaway colonies back under metropolitan

48 Ibid., Ill, 634-635.
49 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires, I, 435.

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Chapter VI
The Colonies Ignited:
1789 - 1792

Between 1789 and 1792, events in Paris exported a particular chaos to the nation’s
Caribbean colonies, an area that like Continental France, long had balanced precariously
between order and upheaval. Frenchmen in the islands expressed social, political and
economic grievances similar to their fellows on the Continent, but comparable issues that
colonials represented to their home government in 1789 were complicated by both a
unique economic history and myriad questions regarding the colonies’ varied racial
composition. To an uninstructed observer in metropolitan France, the reasons for revolt
in the colonies o f Saint-Domingue, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Sainte-Lucie and Tobago
might have appeared (with the exception o f slavery) to be basically the same as those at
home. The truth, however, was far removed from any common popular perception.
Dissimilar economic and racial concerns, coupled with the Caribbean’s great
distance from metropolitan France, had bred a tradition o f semi-autonomy in the colonies
that successive governments in Paris never managed to dominate completely.
Furthermore, distinctive circumstances on the various islands had, over time, resulted in
local colonial governments championing issues unique to their island’s particular

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situation. The potential for the colonists’ diverse complaints turning explosive, however,
was mitigated by the colonies’ vulnerability to foreign invasion, their moral attachment to
France, and a characteristic inertia common to the tropics .1 As the result, during the
French Revolution the number and severity o f violent acts in the colonies varied from
island to island, but the causes underlying them in the most general terms originated from
common economic and societal roots.
For more than a century the French Caribbean colonies had borne the onus o f the
mercantile system established by Louis XIV’s finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert. In
fact, Colbert’s overseas trade policies, known collectively as the Exclusif, had been
conscientiously designed to ensure that the wealth o f the colonies should benefit only the
mother country. For French possessions in the Caribbean, the consequence was that
subsequent ministerial statutes traditionally had favored those associated with the
enormously lucrative sugar trade. This arrangement allowed the colonies’ largest
plantation owners, or grands blancs, to gain the most economic benefit from France’s
exclusionary policies, while colonial merchants involved in legal, non-sugar-related trade
faced dizzying tariff penalties that increased proportionally with the colonies’ everexpanding wealth.
Unfair practices concerning tariffs (or impots), however, comprised only a portion
o f the French Caribbean businessman’s complaints. Indeed, questions o f actual markets
offered an even more vexing set o f issues for both the colonial merchant and the home

1 David P. Geggus, Slavery War and Revolution, the British Occupation o f Saint
Domingue 1793-1798 (Oxford, 1982), 31.

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government. For instance, to protect the nation’s wine industry, France’s government
barred completely the importation o f rum and molasses, two items which the Caribbean
colonies produced in abundance. British possessions in the Americas, especially the
future United States, were more than willing to accept the cheap importation o f both
items from their French neighbors, who had no market for such products at home.
Further, while both the white and slave populations in the French islands quadrupled
during the early and mid-eighteenth century, the metropole proved itself increasingly
incapable o f providing her colonies with adequate quantities o f high demand goods and
material. Illegal trade and profiteering were the natural outgrowths o f this state o f affairs,
with nearby British territories and the United States absorbing the colonies’ rum and
molasses, and in return supplying much-needed commodities that included iron, cattle,
flour, house frames and refuse fish necessary for feeding the French colonies’ hundreds o f
thousands o f slaves .2
On the whole, imports from outside the French trade triangle meant better, lessexpensive goods, and colonial businessmen relentlessly petitioned the home government
to relax its stance on high taxation o f extra-national commerce. Such rumblings grew
even more vociferous after 1784, when the Ministry o f Marine allowed the opening o f
free-trade ports in the colonies. While this policy ostensibly purported to grant to
colonial businessmen some o f the leeway that they had long demanded, the French, like
their British counterparts, had actually done very little to relieve problematic local
commercial issues. The bulk o f colonial goods destined for France continued to flow

2 Thomas Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789-1804 (Knoxville, TN, 1973), 7.

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from the colonies’ main ports, while the free ports became the emporia for both legal and
extra-legal goods. Following the conclusion o f the American Revolution, it was through
these free ports that the bulk o f plantation supplies arrived from the young, and
increasingly insatiable United States. Not surprisingly, the French home government
demanded their share o f the spiraling trade and increased the already heavy import duties
in 1787 and 1788, while strengthening an extant embargo on American flour and foreign
slave ships .3
Certainly the economic stakes in the colonies were high, but those who stood to
lose the most were the colonies’ grands blancs, who, prior to and even during the early
years o f the French Revolution, enjoyed the most elevated station within the islands’
“plantocracy .”4 It was this landed gentry, often aristocratic and in many cases absentees
living in France, who sought to determine much o f the political and economic direction o f
the French Caribbean colonies, especially since many o f them owed tremendous sums o f
borrowed capital to the maritime bourgeoisie o f French port cities such as Bordeaux and
Nantes. As the result, the ministries were not solely guilty for causing colonial economic
discontent; for in the French Caribbean, protectionist trade inequities received
reinforcement at the local level by “royal advisory councils” composed primarily o f the
colonies’ propertied elite. Successions o f Governor Generals, those senior officers who
represented the King in the Crown Territories, relied upon these colonial councils to act
when needed as their chief consultative body. Thus, the opinions o f a privileged minority

3 Geggus, Slavery War and Revolution, 11.
4 Ibid., 8 .


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often had perhaps the greatest local influence on the implementation o f the home
government’s various colonial policies .5
Despite his vaunted position in the islands however, the resident grand blanc had
limited political prerogative in France except for what he might achieve through his
influence over the colony’s Governor and Intendant. In reality, it was these two officials
and the itinerant royal bureaucracy who supported them, that formed the true aristocracy
in the colonies. While the king ultimately ruled his possessions, it was the Minister o f
Marine in Paris who acted as de-facto colonial lawgiver and who appointed those
executives that the king would entrust with the colonies’ local administration. The topranking o f these officials, the Governor General, served as the Crown’s principal
representative and commander o f the colonial military forces .6
The Governor General’s word was law, against which there was no recourse. His
tenure, however, was usually short-lived; by the time he had acquired the requisite
experience necessary to govern his sovereign’s domain judiciously, he was replaced. His
civilian assistant, the Intendant, performed primarily civil functions such as supervising
public finance, works and trade. Often possessing an imperiousness derivative o f their
royal authority, these two men essentially monopolized political and economic
jurisdiction in the colonies, but the potential for an effortless tyranny was mitigated by the
two officials’ often working at cross purposes. In the majority o f cases, the resident

5 J. Saintoyant, La Colonisation Franqaise Pendant la Revolution (1789-1799)
(Paris, 1930), II, 13.
6 Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 5.


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colonial landed gentry felt only loathing toward the “arrogant, despotic pretensions” of
the European bureaucrat who arrived in the colonies bent upon making a quick fortune
and returning to France to spend his new-found wealth .7
Such remained the case until 1787, when the Crown officially allowed colonists to
organize “superior councils” which, in theory, would allow the islands’ permanent
residents a greater degree of control over their own affairs. This new relaxation o f policy
naturally was well-received, but by late 1789, the grands blancs faced a distressing
conundrum. Members o f the planter class had long sought governmental
decentralization, but they were nonetheless beholden to the Crown for their authority. As
events caused by the Revolution unfolded in Paris, the planters were quick to realize that
the winds o f liberty could blow in different directions. On the one hand, an end to royal
rule could possibly lead to more local freedom in colonies; on the other, the subsequent
loss o f French protection could spell the doom o f colonies’ seigneurial class. Sensing the
threat to their status if events in Paris took a wrong turn politically, the majority o f the
planters (who were becoming increasingly leery o f the personalities and agendas that
were taking center stage in the new home government) would have preferred to keep their
interests separate from the tumult in Paris .8
While the Revolution posed a threat to the colonies’ privileged class, the
remainder o f whites on the islands saw opportunity. In the fevered revolutionary

7 Carolyn Fick, The Making o f Haiti; the Saint-Domingue Revolution from Below
(Knoxville, TN, 1990), 17; Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 5, 9.
8 Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 5, 28.

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environment, open fighting over economic issues and political representation broke out
between the grands blancs and their supporters, and the islands’ remaining white
population. These colonists, known as petits blancs, comprised the full spectrum o f the
white colonial middle class, and included everyone from merchants and artisans to
fishermen and soldiers.
For these citizens, the Revolution held only immense promise. Now afforded the
opportunity to raise their social and economic standing at the expense o f the colonies’
other classes, the petits blancs were initially the most volatile element in the white
colonial hierarchy, and those who later would prove the most prone to support the cause
o f the Jacobins. Styling themselves “patriots,” the petits blancs sought to acquire for
themselves in the colonies what they perceived as the gains o f similarly disenfranchised
citizens in metropolitan France. While the grands blancs sought to protect their various
prerogatives, the petits blancs’ antagonism toward and opposition to both the islands’
elite and the institutions o f the ancien regime increased steadily. The islands’ poorer
whites jealously despised both the wealthy and members o f the aristocratic ranks, but they
also fostered a particular hatred o f the colonies’ bi-racial element, the gens de couleur.
Indeed, for decades, tensions had run high between whites o f all classes on the one side,
and free blacks and mulattoes on the other .9
While the causes for revolution in metropolitan France revolved in large part
around class distinction and economics, similar questions in the colonies were further

9 Theodore Lothrop Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo (Boston
and New York, 1914), 75-83.

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complicated by even more problematic racial questions. The preponderance o f immediate
issues facing legislators on the Continent in 1789 had little to do with a Frenchman’s
color. Indeed, the farther one traveled from the racially diverse colonies, the less
important any type o f nonwhite distinction seemed to become. Racial differentiation in
the Caribbean colonies, however, carried tremendous significance. Any issue dealing
with economic, political or social rights necessarily included considerations o f a m an’s
racial background, as the majority o f potential “active Citizens” on those islands were
neither white nor slave.
From the earliest years o f French presence in the Caribbean, societal partitions
that characterized metropolitan French society under the old regime were blurred in the
island colonies by a complex interrelationship between black and white that policy
makers in Versailles and Paris never could seem to reconcile. As early as 1685, Louis
XIV’s Code Noir had established in theory the inalienable political rights o f all free men
o f color. Known also as affranchis, these persons o f mixed-blood were often the product
o f liaisons between master and slave, who once bom, were bom free. The ambiguous
metropolitan legal term “gens de couleur” included up to fourteen gradations o f mixed
Negro and white blood, but in their official correspondence the government in Paris
recognized no particular differentiation between terms o f classification like quadroons or
octoroons. While such a distinction had little meaning in Paris, in the islands, social
stratification based upon ancestral quartering had very real ramifications in a person’s
daily treatment.
Though denied in practice the political rights and social status guaranteed under

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the tenets of the Code Noir, free gens de couleur had the ability to accrue great amounts
o f land and capital, often matching and sometimes exceeding that o f the wealthiest
grands blancs. At first, the affranchis had been competition only for the petits blancs,
but as they became wealthy plantation and slave owners, they posed a disturbing rivalry
for the islands’ white planter class. Further, colonial mulattoes, especially the more
wealthy, unremittingly sought to erase their black heritage and to elevate themselves to
equal status with their white counterparts, even going so far as to educate their children in
France, purchasing large numbers o f slaves, and adopting cultural habits usually reserved
for whites. While grands blancs and gens de couleur shared between them many o f the
same concerns, the potential for their alliance against the petits blancs was made
practically impossible by an almost instinctive prejudice. Whites o f all classes sought to
deny social parity to those o f mixed blood, regardless o f either how wealthy the mulatto
might have been or how much land he may have owned. Before the Revolution,
mulattoes and free blacks who were engaged in colonial commerce abided the same
governmental discrimination as other members o f the Third Estate, but because o f their
ethnic heritage, their particular suffering was far worse .10
The whites’ fear o f the mulattoes was by no means limited to the latter’s growing
pecuniary influence. More disturbing was that free blacks and mulattoes, owing to their
color, their free status, and especially their rival numbers, represented a threat to white
racial hegemony in the colonies, and by extension, a threat to the maintenance o f slavery.
Whites could only combat this development through repressive social legislation such as

10 Fick, The Making o f Haiti, 19; Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 13.

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curfews, denial o f the right to congregate, stiffer criminal penalties for the same crimes as
those committed by whites, and by denying gens de couleur the opportunity to hold
public office or to practice in most o f the professional trades. In 1789, the promulgation
o f the Declaration o f the Rights o f Man and the Citizen brought to the forefront o f
colonial political affairs a new and tremendously divisive question: would the new
government truly recognize nonwhites as citizens?
Gens de couleur did possess a certain degree o f influence in their respective
colonies, especially as regarded the colony’s defense. Once he had reached military age,
a male mulatto was required to serve in the marechaussee, a para-military police
organization whose prime function was general law enforcement, especially the tracking
down o f fugitive slaves. After three years they joined the rank and file o f the local
militias, where after providing their own uniforms and equipment, they were to serve in
separate units under white officers. This remained an obviously dangerous situation as
revolutionary agitation grew. Coupled with their majority in the colonial militias, the
mulattoes’ ever-increasing numbers and economic strength proved a constant source o f
worry to colonial whites .11
W ith Louis XVI’s 1788 announcement o f the convocation o f the Estates-General,
both white and nonwhite members o f the colonial business class finally saw an
opportunity to redress what they considered the economic injustices heaped upon them by
deaf, aristocratic governing bodies. It was no secret to anyone that trade in sugar, cocoa,
coffee and other items, that could only be had from the Caribbean, accounted for fully

11 Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 13; Fick, The Making o f Haiti, 20.

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one-third o f the import/export economy o f pre-Revolutionary France, but as important as
the island colonies were, colonial leaders were stunned to discover that the king had
excepted them from the rolls o f those called to form this most important advisory body.
Their exclusion had not been intended maliciously. Louis XVI had determined not to
invite colonial delegates to the 1st Estates General, but to subsequent meetings once he
had resolved France’s more pressing internal issues. To colonial leaders, however, any
rationale on the king’s part was beside the point, and ad hoc committees in the islands
simply chose their own officials to represent their particular interests in Paris. Not
surprisingly, the majority o f colonial legislators in 1788 and 1789 who organized
themselves as the Colonial Committee, usually spoke for white, monied plantation
owners .12
Though they would have a direct voice in France’s new National Assembly, the
ranks o f the grands blancs remained divided throughout the early years o f the Revolution.
In 1789, the majority o f planters (believing that the recently unstable political conditions
in France should be dealt with cautiously) did not organize in enough time to properly
represent their interests in Paris. Instead, more indiscriminately elected delegates seated
in the National Assembly loudly proceeded to demand more home rule and economic
latitude .13 The aristocrats’ renunciation o f privileges on 4 August 1789 coupled with the

12 Sidney Daney de Marcillac [hereafter Daney], Histoire de la Martinique (Fortde-France, Martinique, 1978), 13. In the cases o f Saint-Domingue and Martinique, the
representatives elected by the islanders arrived in Paris to find that grands blancs and
mulattoes residing in France had already elected representatives from among their own.
From these “representatives” were established the Colonial Committee.
13 Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 28.


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Assembly’s subsequent adoption o f the Declaration o f the Rights o f Man and the Citizen
on 26 August, froze even those delegates into a stunned silence. Now, the aristocracy o f
the colonies stood to lose everything. The National Assembly, who they had formerly
seen as a potentially malleable ally, now showed its true colors as a terrifying enemy.
Indeed, a die had been cast in Paris that potentially could destroy the colonies’ entire
social structure.
The colonies’ privileged class could find some comfort in the Declaration o f
Rights’ guaranteed protection o f private property which, by extension, included their
slaves. The tenuousness o f this particular condition, however, was virtually ignored.
Instead, grands blancs both in Paris and in the colonies fixated on the ramifications of
propertied gens de couleur potentially qualifying as “active Citizens.” Initially, the
Assembly had made no mention o f this peculiarity, and for weeks, colonial whites in
Paris prayed that the matter would die a natural death. Mulattoes in the capital, however,
were not about to let this happen. On 20 September a delegation o f gens de couleur
addressed the National Assembly and called for the guarantee o f their active citizenship
under Article Fifty-nine o f the Code Noir. The Assembly sought to evade the issue for as
long as possible. After having been tirelessly lobbied by the Colonial Committee, the
Assembly assented to the demands o f the grands blancs and referred adjudication o f the
issue back to the colonial assemblies. Rather than easing the situation, the Assembly only
aggravated the issue and intensified the debates. The National Assembly could not ignore
the “Mulatto Question” for long. Already facing the tremendous implications o f the
Declaration o f Rights, every colonial white soon confronted yet another enemy, the

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French abolitionist society Les Amis des Noirs, among whose mantras was the battle cry
“[Resistance is always justifiable where force is the substitute o f right: nor is the
commission o f a civil crime possible in a state o f slavery!” 14
While not a particularly new organization, Les Amis des Noirs had recently gained
prominence in the Assembly through the positions o f some o f its more renowned
members including the marquis de Lafayette, Honore Gabriel Mirabeau, Jacques-Pierre
Brissot de Warville, Abbe Henri Gregoire and Maximilien Robespierre. Indeed, it was
the de facto National Assembly leader Mirabeau who, at the formation o f the assembly,
had given the Colonial Committee a taste o f the attitudes then prevalent in the metropole.
When the Colonial Committee audaciously demanded that they be allowed twenty seats
in the Assembly (representative o f the entire island population and what they perceived to
be the colonies’ supreme importance to France), Mirabeau quickly shut them down.
“You want representation in proportion to the to the number o f
inhabitants? But have the blacks and free persons of color
competed in the elections? The free blacks are property owners
and taxpayers. Yet they could not vote. And, as to the slaves,
either they are men or they are not; if the colonists consider them to
be men, let them free and make them eligible for seats; if not, have
we, in proportioning the number o f deputies to the population o f
France, taken into account the number o f our horses and mules?” 15

14 Societe des Amis des Noirs, Decree o f 15 May 1792, quoted in Bryan Edwards,
“An Historical Survey o f the French Colony in the Island o f St. Domingo:
Comprehending an Account o f the Revolt o f the Negroes In the Year 1791 and a Detail of
the Military Transactions o f the British Army in that Island, In the Years 1793 & 1794,”
from Edwards, A History, Civil and Commercial o f the British Colonies in the West
Indies (Philadelphia, 1806), IV, 90.
15 Mirabeau to the Comite Coloniale, September 1790, translated by Fick, The
Making o f Haiti, 77.

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Ultimately, the National Assembly allowed only six colonial delegates to take their seats,
but throughout the summer and into the fall o f 1789, the activism o f the Amis des Noirs
and the pronouncement o f the Declaration o f Rights steadily undermined the agenda of
the white colonial planter class. Nevertheless, while many grands blancs would have
preferred to opt out o f the Revolution entirely, others continued to press their interests in
the Assembly.
The Revolution’s startling turns o f events in Paris set off different alarms among
the various colonial groups. For free blacks and mulattoes who took the Declaration of
Rights’ guarantee o f political and social equality at face value, the Revolution meant
achieving all o f those advantages inherent in true citizenship. Less limited economic
opportunity and the chance to acquire a greater share in the rewards o f the seemingly
incalculable wealth generated by the colonial trade, they thought, would assuredly follow.
The petits blancs wanted no such rivalry. In their minds, the Revolution was both for and
about them alone. To the average, middle-class, colonial white, political equality meant
having enough votes to dismantle a socioeconomic hierarchy dominated by the grands
blancs while simultaneously imposing legislation that would keep free blacks and
mulattoes from competing with them economically. Once in control, the petits blancs
vowed, they would not share power with any gen de couleur.
Unlike the threatened aristocracy in France, grands blancs in the colonies proved
considerably less altruistic than their Continental counterparts in relinquishing their
privileges and property. Seemingly protected by physical distance from national forces
that would enforce the Assembly’s radical legislation, colonial gentry continued to fight

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for self-determination, maintaining that metropolitan statutes could not possibly be
applied in the colonies due to their unique situation. On the islands themselves however,
class battles had begun to take a violent turn, and the drastically outnumbered grands
blancs faced two choices; they could either relinquish power or they could fight back with
any weapons at their disposal to maintain the status quo. Not surprisingly, the former
choice seemed an impossibility. In the minds o f the planter class, the most compelling
argument for societal preservation was obvious - a general slave insurrection. W ith the
ratio on some islands o f slaves to white colonists reaching ten to one, the grands blancs
argued vehemently both at home and in Paris that the plantation system, with its brutally
effective control mechanisms, offered the only guarantee against the islands’ slaves
vindictively massacring all other o f the islands’ inhabitants. Throughout 1789 and 1790,
the planter class’ appeals fell largely upon deaf ears. Both the petits blancs and the gens
de couleur dismissed the planters’ slave revolt argument as self-serving fear mongering
and continued to fight for their own agendas.
Slave emancipation was certainly not part o f any colonial’s agenda. To all classes
o f whites, the idea was absolutely incomprehensible. Similarly, the majority o f colonial
mulattoes remained bent upon maintaining slavery while demanding their own social
emancipation. By late 1790 into early 1791, however, radicals in Paris were championing
in earnest the cause o f equality for both groups. As early as March 1790, the National
Assembly had formed a twelve-member Comite des Colonies charged with finding
solutions to the brewing colonial crisis. Initially headed by Antoine Pierre Joseph
Bamave, the committee had originally included no one with Amis des Noirs

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connections.16 Bam ave’s tenure was short, however, and Brissot de Warville soon came
to head the body. Brissot, who also led the upwardly mobile Jacobins, had been an actual
founder o f the Amis des Noirs. Thus, as he and his fellow “Brissotins” gained influence
in both the National Assembly and the soon-to-be-formed Legislative Assembly, so too
did the immediacy o f resolving the colonial race question.
By spring 1791, the Amis des Noirs managed to push through a portion o f their
racial agenda. Under intense pressure from Brissot’s friends in the National Assembly,
Louis XVI hesitantly enacted the Decree o f 15 May 1791, a statute granting full civil
rights to a portion o f free gens de couleur. This measure merely intensified the colonies’
factional tensions. As the official packets containing the details o f the king’s decree
arrived in the various French Caribbean islands, extant Governor Generals desperately
sought to tailor the edict to what they considered their own colonies’ particular
conditions. In Saint-Domingue, France’s wealthiest and most heavily slave-populated
colony, the pronouncement added fuel to an already particularly volatile situation.17 On
that island, the Decree o f 15 May became public in mid-June, but whites continued to
deny both political and social equality to their free black and mulatto peers. As the result,
by July, gens de couleur throughout the colony had organized into armed bands to do

16 Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 31.
17 According to the contemporary French historian and colonial representative to
the National Assembly Mederic-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Mery, the population o f
Saint-Domingue at the time o f the Revolution numbered around 520,000. O f these,
approximately 40,000 were white; 28,000 freemen (including those o f mixed blood); and
452,000 black slaves. Mederic-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Mery, A Civilization that
Perished: The Last Years o f White Colonial Rule in Haiti (Boston, 1985), 15.

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battle with white “patriots” who jealously guarded their own recently-gained political
The resulting “revolution” was short-lived however; while the two antagonists
focused their attention on crippling each other, the violence in Saint-Domingue took on
an entirely new dimension. On the night o f 22 August 1791, tens o f thousands o f the
island’s slaves revolted throughout Saint-Domingue’s Great Northern Plain. Inflamed by
revolutionary zeal, and fortified in their determination by their Vodun religion, runaway
slaves burned fields and plantations, and massacred nearly every white inhabitant
“regardless o f age or sex” that they could get their hands on. By early autumn, the
island’s commercial capital, le Cap Fran?ais (le Cap), had turned into a fortified camp
under siege.18
A British witness summed up the events appropriately by saying that “ [s]uch a
picture o f human misery - such a scene o f woe, presents itself, as no other country, no
former age has exhibited. The rage o f fire consumes what the sword is unable to destroy,
and, in a few dismal hours, the most fertile and beautiful plains in the world are converted
into one vast field o f carnage - a wilderness o f desolation.”19

18 Donatien Rochambeau, “Aper 9u sur les troubles des Antilles Franyaises de
1’Amerique (et Specialement de Saint-Domingue) Precis de la Guerre dans cette Partie du
Monde,” 18 Novembre 1802, [hereafter Rochambeau, “Troubles des Antilles Fran 9aises
de 1’Amerique”], Service historique, MR 589, 10. As French Revolutionary historian H.
Morse Stevens noted in 1908, “[no] war is ever marked by such horrors as a slave war,
for the atrocious cruelties o f savages, who have the wrongs o f years o f servitude to
avenge, are always met by the most terrible reprisals. The slave war in San Domingo
formed no exception.” H. Morse Stevens, A History o f the French Revolution (New
York, 1908), II, 471.
19 Edwards, A History o f the British Colonies in the West Indies, IV, 68-69.

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On some few estates indeed the lives o f the women were spared,
but they were reserved only to gratify the brutal appetites o f the
ruffians; and it is shocking to relate that many o f them suffered
violation on the dead bodies o f their husbands and fathers! The
buildings and cane fields were everywhere set on fire; and the
conflagration, which was visible from [le Cap], in a thousand
different quarters, furnished a prospect more shocking, and
reflections more dismal, than fancy can paint, or the powers o f man
describe. They seized Mr. Blen, an officer o f the police, and
having nailed him alive to one o f the gates o f his plantation,
chopped off his limbs, one by one, with an axe. A poor man
named Robert, a carpenter by trade, endeavoring to conceal himself
from the notice o f the rebels, was discovered in his hiding place;
and the savages declared that he should die in the way o f his
occupation; accordingly they bound him between two boards, and
deliberately sawed him asunder. All the white, and even the
mulatto children whose fathers had not joined the revolt, were
murdered without exception, frequently before the eyes, or clinging
to the bosom o f their mothers. Young women o f all ranks were
first violated by a whole troop o f barbarians, and then generally put
to death. Some o f them were indeed reserved for the further
gratification o f the lust o f the savages, and others had their eyes
scooped out with a knife.20
The white citizens o f le Cap, who now cursed the name o f Les Amis des Noirs,
tore down the Tricolor and debated raising the banner o f Great Britain in its stead. The
black rebels had adopted a new standard as well - a white infant, it is reported, impaled
upon a stake. While women and children fled to the ships in the harbors o f le Cap and
Fort Dauphin, the rebels fired upon them with captured cannons, stolen ammunition and
powder having been delivered to them by black compatriots who worked in the city
arsenals. Shamefully, unscrupulous American merchants would soon replenish these
stocks in exchange for rum and molasses plundered from the burning plantations.21

20 Ibid., 74-80.
21 Ibid., 75, 82.

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The devastation in the colony was appalling. According to Donatien
Rochambeau’s own estimate, in the island’s Northern Province alone, at least 2,000
whites and 10,000 slaves had perished. Further, the revolt had destroyed 180 sugar
plantations and over 900 coffee, indigo and cotton settlements, and had reduced more
than 1,200 formerly wealthy families to abject poverty. Whites and mulattoes in the
colony temporarily put aside their differences to deal with the emergency and temporarily
managed to check the insurrection. By late September however, thousands o f slaves
(including a then-unknown Toussaint Louverture) escaped to the safety o f the rugged
mountains along the colony’s border with Spanish Santo Domingo where they organized
themselves into armed camps led by such powerful black chiefs as Boukman and Jeannot,
and their successors, Jean-Frantjois Papillon and Georges Biassou.22
The whites o f Saint-Domingue would certainly not have survived the insurrection
without the aid o f the colony’s mulattoes. Accordingly, on 20 September 1791, the white
citizens o f Port-au-Prince officially withdrew their opposition to the Decree o f 15 May

22 Donatien Rochambeau, “Apercpu General sur les troubles des Colonies
Fran 9 aises de 1’Amerique. Suivi d’un precis de la Guerre dans cette partie du Monde,” 13
Juin 1811, [hereafter Rochambeau, “Troubles des Colonies”], Service historique, MR
593,11. Both Boukman and Jeannot remain famous for their cruelty, but their terrible
reigns ended in November 1791. While Boukman met a dramatic death in battle,
Jeannot, whose inhuman torture o f white prisoners threatened possible negotiations
between the whites and the revolting slaves, would be deposed and executed by JeanFran 9 ois and Biassou. During this first revolt, Toussaint, who had not yet adopted the
moniker “Louverture” (initially spelled “l’Ouverture”), had remained on the Breda
plantation, and had personally assisted the escape o f his masters. Once they were safe,
however, Toussaint, still wearing his coachman’s livery, joined the rebels. Not only was
“Toussaint Breda” well-respected among the slaves as one o f the island’s premier
herbalists, but he was one of, if not the only black among the rebel slaves who was
literate. At first becoming a trusted advisor to Jean-Fran 9ois, he would later rise to lead
the entire movement.

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and determined that it was now safe to reintegrate gens de couleur into new companies o f
armed militia. For the moment, the fighting in the colony had subsided, but news o f the
island’s reconciliation had not reached Paris.23
Just as the National Assembly in Paris was dissolving itself to form the new
Legislative Assembly, news o f Saint-Domingue’s slave rebellion caused the retiring
judicial body to repeal immediately the Decree o f 15 May and to promulgate instead the
Decree o f 28 September 1791, which gave to the colonies the power to determine the
status o f the mulattoes. This about-face by the lame duck National Assembly confirmed
in all colonists’ eyes their suspicion that the home government in its current upheaval was
incapable o f judiciously managing colonial affairs. By this time however, the question o f
which decree had the worse effect on the colonies was moot. When word o f the decree’s
revocation reached Saint-Domingue, mulattoes and free blacks in the Western Province,
who believed that they had been betrayed by the king’s opponents in Paris, now embarked
upon a war o f extermination against the whites.24
The ferocity with which the opposing sides in the West executed their particular
brand o f genocide equaled or exceeded the monstrosities that had become legendary in
the North. In one example, whites placed a mulatto prisoner “....on an elevated seat in a
c a rt, and secured him in it by driving large spiked nails through his feet into the boards.

23 Stevens, A History o f the French Revolution, II, 471. Mediated by a powerful
planter in the area, M. de Jumecourt, the agreement between the whites and mulattoes o f
Port-au-Prince came to be known as the “Concordat o f Port-au-Prince.”
24 Rochambeau, “Troubles des Colonies,” Service historique, M R 593, 12;
Stevens, A History o f the French Revolution, II, 469.

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In this condition he was led a miserable spectacle through the city. His bones were
afterwards broken, and he was then thrown alive into the flames.” For their part,
mulattoes made white cockades from the ears o f their dead enemies and attached them to
their caps “in hideous token o f their Royalist sentiments.” The atrocities perpetrated
upon the white women and children, however, were almost beyond belief.25
In the neighbourhood o f Jeremie a body o f them attacked the house
o f M. Sejoume, and secured the persons o f both him and his wife.
This unfortunate woman (my hand trembles as I write) was far
advanced in her pregnancy. The monsters, whose prisoner she
was, having first murdered her husband in her presence, ripped her
up alive, and threw the infant to the hogs. They then (how shall I
relate it) sewed up the head o f the murdered husband in — !!! [sic]
Such are thy triumphs, Philanthropy!26
Almost simultaneously, the slaves who had taken refuge in the mountains came out o f
hiding and once again set about ravaging the colony’s plantations. Sadly, the colony’s
Governor General, Philibert-Frangois Blanchelande, was powerless to intercede and could
do little more than watch as the terror continued.
Such was the situation when three Civil Commissioners arrived at le Cap in
November 1791. These men, two o f them Paris lawyers, had been chosen by the
moderate National Assembly to help restore order in the colony, but their promises o f a
general amnesty and the full implementation o f the National Assembly’s Constitution o f
1791 fell upon deaf ears. Indeed, this First Civil Commission had little to offer any o f the
warring parties. Their patriotic pronouncements only incensed the mulattoes, who

25 Edwards, A History o f the British Colonies in the West Indies, IV, 98;
Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo, 151.
26 Ibid.

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executed thirty-four white prisoners to demonstrate their contempt for the metropole's
legislation. As far as the whites were concerned, without troops to reinforce their powers,
the Commissioners’ efforts counted for little. The revolting slaves, o f course, had no
reason to suspend their rampage short o f complete emancipation, or the annihilation o f
both the whites and the mulattoes. Unable to effect any type o f positive resolution on the
island, the First Civil Commission’s members returned separately to France between
March and April, 1792. In the mean time, Saint-Domingue continued to bum.27
France’s remaining Caribbean colonies (Martinique and her subsidiary colonies o f
Guadeloupe, Tobago and Sainte-Lucie), had not escaped the turmoil caused by events in
Paris, but smaller populations and those colonies’ diminished importance to France had
mitigated the types o f tensions that prevailed in Saint-Domingue. Furthermore, between
1789 and 1791, Martinique’s two Governor Generals were men who were wellacquainted with colonial revolution. Charles-Joseph-Hyacinthe du Houx, comte de
Viomenil, and Joseph Louis Cesar, comte de Damas-d’Antigny, had both served with
distinction as members o f Rochambeau’s corps during the American Revolution, and
both sought to display equal measures o f wisdom and moderation while dealing with the
brewing crises in Martinique and her subsidiary islands. Ultimately, these two officers
managed to contain the outbreak o f violence in their colonies to the greatest extent
possible, but their respective tenures were not without incident.
The first clashes on Martinique occurred while Viomenil was acting as Governor
General during a prolonged absence by Damas. After receiving word o f the fall o f the

27 Stevens, A History o f the French Revolution, II, 472.

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Bastille, inhabitants o f the island’s commercial capital, Saint-Pierre, followed the
example o f revolutionists in Paris by affixing cocardes tricolores to their hats and then
parading the Revolution’s new red, white and blue flag in the streets. Rioting broke out
within minutes. Saint-Pierre’s Royal Army commandant, Colonel Laumoy, attempted to
quell the disorder, but his small garrison at Saint-Pierre was no match for the mobs that
besieged him.
News o f the Saint-Pierre uprising was not long in reaching the Governor General
in Fort-Royal. Believing it wise to yield to the impetuosity o f the moment, Viomenil
ordered that new tricolor banners be made and then blessed at a church ceremony in
Saint-Pierre where he and his principles would preside. For the petits blancs in the city,
the ceremony was an unqualified success, and was soon followed by a grand festival in
the colony’s administrative capital at Fort-Royal to celebrate the new alliance between the
royalty and the nation. The rioting in Saint-Pierre was extinguished temporarily, but
following the festival, new troubles awaited the Governor General in the more
conservative Fort-Royal. There, the Tricolor issue became the source o f intense
controversy between the city’s whites (who claimed the sole authority to wear the
cockade), and mulattoes who demanded to wear it as well. When Viomenil supported the
gens de couleur (even going so far as to publically embrace a mulatto as a gesture o f
solidarity), both the island’s grands and petits blancs resorted to publicly denouncing
Throughout the remainder o f his occupancy, Viomenil tried in vain to appease

28 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 10.

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both sides o f the conflict; the result, predictably, was a failure. In less than one month,
Viomenil found him self under attack from both the planters o f Fort-Royal and white
radicals in Saint-Pierre. Viomenil’s own Intendant, Foullon d ’Ecotier (him self a native o f
Saint-Pierre with direct links to the business class) spoke the most vociferously against
his counterpart. Naturally, it suited both sides to discredit the governor’s royal authority,
and on 10 October 1789, a tribunal composed o f members o f both groups declared
Viomenil incompetent to preside over the colony’s affairs, but allowed him to remain a
figurehead under the control o f a new island government.29 Having thus usurped the
Governor General’s powers, on 17 October 1789, Martinique’s official colonial body
formed a separate “General Colonial Assembly” with the purpose o f electing
representatives to the National Assembly. O f course, Martinique’s electors were furious
to discover later that Paris’ Colonial Committee had already chosen the island’s deputies.
With “true” voice o f the colony thus neutralized, islanders clamored for the formation o f
a new, more locally powerful general assembly and soon received it. On 16 November,
Martinique’s outlaw General Assembly convened under the presidency o f the wellpedigreed planter Louis-Fran 9ois, chevalier Dubuc. Martinique’s royal council continued
to exist, but it now ceased to function.
An original intent o f Martinique’s new Colonial Assembly had been to allow
proportional representation o f all o f the island’s eighty-one parishes, and, for the first

29 Alfred Martineau and L.-Ph. May, Trois Siecles d ’Histoire Antillaise
Martinique et Guadeloupe de 1635 a Nos Jours (Paris, 1935), 153. By 22 October, the
body had further determined that Viomenil must be recalled to France and sent letters to
the king asking that he be replaced. Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 11.

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time, mulattoes were permitted to serve as representatives. While this arrangement would
seem to have been the panacea for Martinique’s particular issues, factions on the island
would doom any new-found accord to failure. Simply put, Saint-Pierre and Fort-Royal
(who both enjoyed the largest populations o f the island), retained the representative
majority, while those parishes outside either o f the two cities remained a potential
“swing” vote. Nevertheless, early controlling members o f this “government” drafted a
revised list o f grievances and elected a new group o f representatives to travel to France to
present the colony’s key issues to the National Assembly.30
Hatred continued to boil between delegates from liberal Saint-Pierre and
conservative Fort-Royal. N ot surprisingly, any unanimity between the Colonial
Assembly’s members was short-lived, and between 23 November and 2 December 1789,
more conservative members sought to establish “municipalities” for each parish,
complete with a mayor for each who only would answer to the assembly. Delegates from
Saint-Pierre quickly recognized the associated threat - mayors in the country parishes
would be (or would be controlled by) planters who had the colony’s royal militia to back
them up. As the result, Saint-Pierre’s delegates refused to recognize articles thirty-one
and thirty-two of the assembly’s decree, which mandated that municipal officers were
responsible to quell any acts o f disorder that they could prevent, but to call on the
executive power, namely the Governor General, for ones that they could not. In the eyes
o f Saint-Pierre’s delegates, the decree gave back to the conservative military authorities

30 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 17.

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the prerogatives that the creation o f the municipalities had sought to mitigate.31
The “municipalities” issue found no resolution among the collected members o f
M artinique’s General Assembly, and by 8 December 1789, conservatives announced that
the assembly would reform itself with Saint-Pierre’s representatives being reduced in
number by three-quarters. Liberal members stormed out o f the meeting house in FortRoyal and rioting again broke out in Saint-Pierre. Three days later, the remaining
assembly members in Fort-Royal declared a state o f martial law to repress the protest
movements, but by this time, either unequivocal guidance or military aid from home was
needed to save Martinique. The colony received neither. Apparently unaware o f the
situation, Minister of Marine Anne Cesar, chevalier de la Luzerne sent a ship laden with
breadfruit plants and specific instructions on how they should be cultivated. Convinced
that Viomenil could neither solve their problems nor shield them from the puppet-masters
in Fort-Royal, many Martiniquais clamored for the return of Governor General Damas.
Almost simultaneous with the arrival o f Paris’ breadfruit, the comte de Damas returned to
the island in January 1790 and immediately joined forces with Fort-Royal’s conservative
Damas’ arrival heralded an uncomfortable truce on Martinique until late February
1790. For three weeks after his arrival the Governor General supported the existing
martial law, with the result that loyal soldiers in the colony’s regiments displayed a

31 Ibid., 15-16; Martineau, Histoire Antillaise, 153-155.
32 Martineau, Histoire Antillaise, 153-155; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 2026.

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smugness that could do nothing but antagonize members o f Saint-Pierre’s revolutionary
set. Damas’ “peace” was shattered, however, when two officers o f the Saint-Pierre
garrison went into a theater wearing on their hats the white cockade o f the Royal Army.
As the two left the building, they were mobbed outside by Saint-Pierre bourgeoisie who
demanded that they replace their white cockades with cocardes tricolores. The officers
refused, and stomped into the dust the tricolor cockades that were offered to them. The
assembled mob responded by arresting the two officers and throwing them into the city’s
dungeon. The inevitable outcry among the conservatives was tremendous. Completely
surrounded in a hostile environment, Saint-Pierre’s loyal troops shouldered arms and
marched to Fort-Royal to join forces with their brethren stationed there.33
Now with the reduction o f the city’s military forces, liberals o f Saint-Pierre called
for aid from anyone in the surrounding countryside while sending cries for help to the
colony’s neighbors. Their pleas did not go completely unanswered, and by 5 March, 110
volunteers from Guadeloupe under the command o f General Jean-Fran§ois Coquille
Dugommier arrived at Saint-Pierre, and with the support o f the city’s National Guard,
demanded that Martinique and the other islands form a pro-revolutionary federation.
Guadeloupe’s intervention was hardly enough to turn the tide in favor o f M artinique’s
radicals, but in spite o f the surrounding colonies’ limited support, revolutionary fervor
grew increasingly heated in Saint-Pierre, culminating in the city’s assembly voting itself

33 Martineau, Histoire Antillaise, 155.

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control o f all military forces which remained quartered there.34
On 1 March, a reformed, conservative, general assembly in Fort-Royal had voted
to grant speaking authority in the home government to Caribbean historian Mederic
Moreau de Saint-Mery and the comte de Dillon in Paris, both o f whom had been original
delegates to the National Assembly from Paris’ resident, conservative “Colonial
Committee.” The response from both Saint-Pierre and the colony’s other cities to this
move by the conservatives was a clear, absolute “no.” Within two weeks, the assembly
had separated again, and conservative members began canvassing the countryside for
support in a military action against Saint-Pierre. Fortunately for all concerned, the attack
never materialized.35
By summer, the factionalism had not resolved itself and street battles again raged
in Saint-Pierre between planters and mulattoes on the one side, and revolutionist
members o f the middle class on the other. The time had now come for the Governor
General and his conservative supporters to act decisively. On 4 June, Damas and his
loyal troops occupied Saint-Pierre and imprisoned the principle agitators, but
revolutionist troops o f the Saint-Pierre garrison took to the streets, freed Damas’

34 Jean-Franfois Coquille Dugommier was bom in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe in
1736. An ardent Revolutionist, he had arrived in Martinique and had gained the support
o f much of the colony’s National Guard, but was soon deputed by the Republicans o f the
colony to return to France to seek aid. Instead o f returning to the colonies, he gave his
services to France first at the siege o f Toulon in 1793, and then became commander o f the
Army of the Pyrenees-Orientales. Under his command, this army captured from the
Spanish Saint-Elme and Collioure. Dugommier was killed on 17 November 1794 at
Sierra Negra. Henry Lemery, La Revolution Franqaise a la Martinique (Paris, 1936),
35 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 42-43.

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prisoners and forced the Governor General, with the assistance o f the city’s mulattoes, to
abandon Saint-Pierre to the rebels. Damas was able to resist the rebels’ subsequent
advances upon Fort-Royal, but on 6 September, Dugommier appeared once again in
Saint-Pierre with 300 volunteers. Pitched battle raged for over one month on the island,
but Dugommier’s tiny army was finally defeated at Camp du Grand-Mome by a group o f
mulattoes under the command o f the planter Henri de Percin. The war, however, had
only reached a stalemate. President Dubuc called upon neighboring English colonies for
military aid, but the British refused to intervene.
Word o f the fighting eventually reached Paris, and on 29 November the National
Assembly sent to Martinique four Civil Commissioners and 6,000 troops who suspended
the colonial assembly and reopened trade in la Trinite and Fort-Royal. The following
year, the king replaced Damas with Lieutenant General Jean-Antoine Behague, who
arrived on 12 March with four new Civil Commissioners. The colony submitted to
Behague’s heavy-handed rule and once again, Dugommier and his remaining troops left
Martinique. In one o f his first official acts, Behague reestablished the sovereign council
in the place o f the colonial assembly. While the Civil Commissioners formed a “council
o f conciliation” o f twelve elected delegates from Saint-Pierre, Royalist troops occupied
the island’s principle forts and boycotted Saint-Pierre by diverting all island trade to the
loyal ports of la Trinite and Fort-Royal.
In early May 1791, Behague further consolidated his hold over the colony by
trimming what he considered the most potentially subversive elements from his own
army. N ot surprisingly, the revolutionist soldiers at Saint-Pierre were the first to be

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deported, but Behague did not stop there. To weaken possible internal resistance from
soldiers stationed in the island’s principle garrison in Fort Bourbon, Behague ordered
twelve o f the most “patriotic” battalions on the island either to France or to SaintDomingue under the pretext o f a possible insurrection by those troops in favor o f the
radical factions in France. Thus, with most o f the armed pro-Jacobins out o f his way, the
Governor General could more assuredly turn away any representatives o f the new
government who might try to impose the ever-changing national will on the island.36
When official dispatches arrived from France containing the infamous Decree o f
15 May 1791, Behague ignored them. Though this deception appears criminal on the
surface, Behague certainly had what he must have thought were justifiable reasons. It
would not have escaped his notice that when the Decree o f 15 May had been published,
the colony’s only official representatives in Paris, Moreau de Saint-Mery and the comte
de Dillon had resigned from the National Assembly the next day. Further, the Governor
General already enjoyed the support o f the mulattoes. What reason would he have had to
initiate a new wave o f violence in the recently calmed colony?
Events in July and August 1791 could only have served to solidify Behague’s
resolve. On 3 July, the colony learned o f the king’s flight and subsequent arrest,
prompting renewed factional violence in Saint-Pierre. Behague and his Royalist

36 Bailleul et autres membres composant le ci-devant Comite de Salut Public de
Republique-ville a la Martinique, “Compte rendu a la Convention Nationale par le
Comite de Salut Public de Republique-ville, des evenements qui ont eu lieu a la
Martinique depuis l’arrivee de Rochambeau en cette lie le 3 Fevrier 1793, jusqu’a la
reddition du Fort-de-la-Convention le 5 Germinal de l’an second de la republique [sic]
une et indivisible,” 19 Pluviose, l’an 4 (7 February 1794), [hereafter Bailleul, Report].
AN, Archives Fonds AF m /207, 1, 2.

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adherents now firmly believed that those in Paris who purportedly spoke for the king
could not be trusted to make proper decisions for the colonies. W ith Louis XVI and his
family now under constant surveillance in the Tuileries and Leopold II o f Austria and
Friedrich Wilhelm II o f Prussia anxious for their liberty, it thus was not difficult for
island conservatives to come to the honest conclusion that the government in Paris had
usurped all proper authority. Worse, if it happened that war was declared and Britain
allied with Austria and Prussia, it would only be a matter of time before the island was in
imminent danger o f foreign invasion.
The situation in Paris was certainly bad enough, but the entire Caribbean soon
froze in stark terror when news o f Saint-Domingue’s slave revolt circulated in late
August. Trade became paralyzed throughout the French colonies, heaping yet another
potential disaster upon the already troubled island. Soon, the already conservative
Behague became a staunch counterrevolutionary, joined by leagues o f formerly
equivocating white and mulatto merchants.
Once again, peace on the island was short-lived. Behague could not keep secret
the Decree o f 28 September 1791, which revoked the Decree o f 15 May and relegated the
question o f the mulattoes to the colonial level. While no slave insurrection occurred in
Martinique as had happened in Saint-Domingue, mulattoes in Martinique nonetheless
broke from supporting the grands blancs. Even Behague’s Civil Commissioners were
split in their loyalties between the government in France and the warring parties in
Martinique. By December 1791, liberal representatives from Saint-Pierre, who had
stepped in to fill the vacancy left by Moreau de Saint-Mery and the comte de Dillon, were

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demanding in front o f the Legislative Assembly in Paris the recall o f Behague and all of
the French civil functionaries, who, in the minds o f the representatives had been the real
cause o f Martinique’s most recent troubles.37
While island liberals in Paris were calling for the governor’s recall, December
found Behague organizing a general congress o f the four islands under his governorship,
including Martinique, Guadeloupe, Sainte-Lucie and Tobago. During meetings at FortRoyal between January and April 1792, the congress repudiated the decrees o f both the
National and Legislative Assemblies but to keep the peace, agreed to enact certain basic
tenets o f both the Decree o f 15 May and 28 September by granting certain civil rights to
their colonies’ lighter-skinned mulattoes. Further, the four colonies declared themselves
part o f the “French Empire” but the islands’ new, unelected deputies in the Legislative
Assembly would have no consultative voice on island affairs.38
Naturally, tensions between the colony and the homeland escalated. Radicals who
soon came to dominate Paris politics would certainly not tolerate any recalcitrance from
the colonies against what the Legislative Assembly considered the best interests o f the
nation. In an effort to reconcile what they perceived were injustices against the nation’s
mulatto and free black citizens, the Assembly decreed the soon-infamous Law o f 4 April
1792. News o f the recent war may well have arrived on Martinique at the same time as
the Law o f 4 April, but regardless, at the end o f the month, Martinique and her three
confederates actually seceded from metropolitan France. Hence, any new Governor

37 Martineau, Histoire Antillaise, 158-159.
38 Ibid.

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General would have the responsibility to bring not only Martinique, but also Sainte-Lucie,
Tobago and Guadeloupe back into the national fold.39 Under the circumstances, Behague
may well have felt secure from at least the French government’s intervention in his
colonies’ affairs. The reverse was true. On 3 July 1792, a new decree by the Legislative
Assembly recalled Behague and the colony’s lead Commissioner, M. Montdenoix, to
France to appear before the assembly and to account for their actions.40 As Donatien
Rochambeau, the soon-to-be Governor General o f the islands, remarked:
At that time, more important events occupied France. The royalty
was on the point o f being abolished, and the democratic parties had
adopted a system o f general subversion. It was therefore necessary
to make the colonies participate in the introduction o f this new
doctrine. Anyone could debate voting on the decrees that accorded
the rights o f the citizen to all free men o f color or free blacks, but
this was nothing but a prelude to any projected operations.41
In the early summer of 1792, planning for “projected operations” against
Martinique was already well underway. With the advent o f the Legislative Assembly in
Paris, Jacques-Pierre Brissot and his entourage, many o f whom were members o f the
Amis des Noirs, found themselves in a position to direct affairs absolutely not only in the
colonies, but also in France. By the beginning o f the year Brissot and his closest
supporters had advanced themselves to the highest offices of the French government.

39 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 157-165. Ironically, Behague had served in
1790 as a Marechal de Camp under General Rochambeau Sr. at Brest. Roster o f
Officers, Armee duN ord; Janvier 1790. Service historique, Guerre d’Amerique, Carton
XLIXa, item 36.
40 Ibid., 169.
41 Rochambeau, “Troubles des Colonies,” Service historique, MR 593, 13.

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These men, who by spring 1792 filled major positions in the ministries and also the chief
advisory positions to the king, now sought to discredit the monarch who had effectively
abrogated his royal authority by attempting to flee the country the previous summer.
Under intense pressure from his new Brissotin ministers, Louis XVI signed the
Legislative Assembly’s “Law o f 4 April, 1792.” While essentially a re-institution o f the
previous year’s Decree o f 15 May, the Law o f 4 April not only gave people o f color and
free blacks equal political rights, but also ordered the immediate re-election o f any and all
colonial assemblies, who alone would make any determination on slave issues.
Brissot was not about to make the same mistakes that both he, and a tepid
National Assembly had made the previous year. Once enacted as law, responsibility for
implementing the Law o f 4 April passed, according to custom, to the Minister o f Marine
and the Colonies. The previous minister, the chevalier de la Luzerne, had sent to the
various colonies not only the previous year’s Decree o f 15 May, but also the first group o f
Civil Commissioners. As both the Decree o f 15 May and the First Civil Commission had
proved perfect failures, Brissot ensured that the Law o f 4 April would not meet such an
ignominious fate. Not only would this new measure attack the very heart o f colonial
resistance by demanding the dissolution and subsequent re-election o f the islands’
representative bodies, but also a new group o f reliable, Jacobin, Civil Commissioners,
reinforced by new Governor Generals and Republican national troops, would travel to the
colonies to enforce the new decree properly.
The burden o f organizing a suitable force to alleviate the intolerable situation in
the colonies fell to a new Minister o f Marine, baron Jean-Baptiste LaCoste. LaCoste was

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neither a Brissotin nor a member o f the Amis des Noirs, but rather a scion o f the
consummate schemer Dumouriez. Thus under particular suspicion by the current
government, LaCoste was careful to appoint new governors and Civil Commissioners
who had demonstrated the correct political leanings. After some two weeks of
deliberation, LaCoste chose as Governor General o f Saint-Domingue the seventy-two
year-old General Jean-Jacques-Pierre, comte d ’Esparbes de Lussan and three Civil
Commissioners, Jean-Antoine Ailhaud, Etienne Polverel (a lawyer from Navarre), and
Leger Felicite Sonthonax (radical Jacobin lawyer, intimate o f Brissot, and member o f the
Amis des Noirs). To solve the problems in Martinique, he chose Donatien Rochambeau.42
By early May 1792, LaCoste had calculated the details for such an expedition at
nearly ten million liv r e s f While the national treasury could hardly withstand such an
expenditure, the Legislative Assembly and the ministers saw that because o f their
potential as a source o f future revenues, the importance o f bringing the lucrative colonies
back under the national government’s control was paramount. LaCoste organized the
expedition into two forces, with the strongest contingent going to Saint-Domingue. This
body included not only the island’s new Governor General and the three new Civil
Commissioners, but also two battalions o f regular infantry, eight battalions o f National
Guard and three companies o f dragoons; in all just over 6,300 officers and men. A

42 Robert Louis Stein, Leger Felicite Sonthonax: the Lost Sentinel o f the Republic
(London, 1985), 24; Rochambeau, “Troubles des Colonies,” Service historique, MR 593,
43 LaCoste to the National Assembly, 5 May 1792. Service historique, “Troubles
de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55, items 539-542.

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smaller force would sail to the Windward Islands with a troop complement o f one
battalion o f regular infantry and two battalions o f National Guard; slightly under 2,000
officers and men.44 LaCoste designated Donatien Rochambeau to command the smaller
expedition, accompanied by four Civil Commissioners and two generals, Georges-HenriVictor Collot and Nicolas-Xavier de Ricard, who he would install on Guadeloupe and
Sainte-Lucie respectively. Rochambeau would sail in early August with one fleet to
assume his new position as Governor General o f Martinique and the Windward Isles,
while Sonthonax, Polverel and Ailhaud would travel with their own convoy to SaintDomingue.45
Behague certainly must have known by June o f the promulgation o f the Law o f 4
April, and that an unfriendly force was preparing to sail against him from France. As the
result, the Governor General did not remain passive. Anticipating the arrival o f both the
new law and its enforcers, and undoubtedly seeking to protect himself, Behague finally

44 Ibid. With the installation o f the National Convention, the noted
mathematician, Gaspard Monge assumed LaCoste’s duties as Minister o f Marine.
Apparently calculating only absolute numbers, M onge’s first official report to the new
government enumerated that the government’s ships stationed in Martinique included one
man-of-war, three frigates, two corvettes, two packet-ships, and two ships armed en flute
(all but two forward guns removed to make room for transported troops). Further, Monge
optimistically assured the Convention that the 4,000 troops assigned to Martinique (those
on-station and those en route) “should assure the execution o f the decrees.” Then
unknown to the Paris government, many o f these ships and men had turned against them.
Gaspard Monge, Compte Rendu a la Convention Nationale, par le Ministre de la Marine,
de I ’Etat de Situation de la Marine de la Republique, le 23 Septembre de I ’an premier;
Imprime, et envoye aux 83 departemens et a I ’A rmee, par ordre de la Convention
45 During the American Revolution, Captain de Collot had been an original aidede-camp to General Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau, and had served as Assistant
Quartermaster General in Colonel Donatien Rochambeau’s Bourbonnois regiment.

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extended full political rights to all o f the colony’s mulattoes and free blacks. Thus, by
mid-July, a sizeable portion o f Martiniquais contented themselves that the current
governor had done more to mend the scission between whites and mulattoes than any
earlier decrees o f both o f the previous national assemblies in Paris. Though Martinique’s
government essentially had repudiated those decrees by her secession, many free blacks
and mulattoes continued to feel that they had already been emancipated in accordance
with the Decree o f 4 April and feared an armed incursion from the metropole which
might once again turn against them. Behague cleverly cultivated this belief, assuring the
islanders that they were already being obedient to the decrees o f the Assembly and that
they must help repulse any new government that the Assembly might send to run the
colony. Rochambeau would be the first to test Behague’s resolve.46

46 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 169-170.

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Chapter VII
The Governor General:
September 1792 - January 1793

Having chosen Rochambeau to succeed the recalcitrant Behague, the Assembly
issued instructions for him to restore order in the French Windward Isles and to bring the
former Governor General to justice. Giving the new general full legislative authority and
supreme command in the King’s name over all land and sea forces in Martinique and its
subsidiaries, Rochambeau’s instructions charged him comprehensively with the defense
o f the nation’s interests. Specifically, he was responsible for re-establishing interior
peace, but “with the assistance o f the oversight and the resolutions” o f four other Civil
Commissioners who would accompany him .1 Despite this vague restriction, the breadth
o f Rochambeau’s civil authority was impressive, specifying that he and his Orderer gain
immediate control over such establishments as the island’s hospitals, police, magazines
and water distribution system. Finally, the general would recover the taxes and financial
obligations due to the state.2 On 9 July 1792, in one o f his last official acts, Louis XVI,

1 Legislative Assembly to Rochambeau, 8 July 1792. Service historique, Carton
Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 34.
2 Ibid.

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gave the necessary orders promoting Rochambeau from Marechal de Camp to Lieutenant
General, thus investing him with the rank commensurate with his task.3 After completing
final preparations, which included the general’s personal requisition for the fastest courier
boat available, a lesson he had certainly learned during the American Revolution,
Rochambeau and his force sailed from l’Orient on 6 August 1792.4
Rochambeau and the new Civil Commissioners arrived off o f M artinique’s Cap
Salomon on 16 September with a flotilla that included only one capital ship, the
Semillante (74), another ship armed en flute, and seven transports. The ships’ apparently
unheralded arrival caused near-pandemonium on the island, and an immediate gathering
o f the island’s colonial assembly. Once the members had determined that the naval
forces on-station at Martinique were sufficient to crush the approaching squadron, a
surprisingly short debate then ensued over what actions to take next. Much to his
surprise, Behague soon learned that he was no longer in control on Martinique.5
At the insistence o f the island’s de facto leader, Louis-Franqois Dubuc, the

3 Promotion order, 9 July 1792. Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier
lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 42.
4 Rochambeau to LaCoste, 26 July 1792; Mission certification letter, Signed
Monge, 4 October 1792. Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general
no. 1299, items 43, 44; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 169.
5 In his work La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, political historian Henry
Lemery, cited deliberations o f the island’s colonial assembly which make clear that
Behague was in control o f Martinique, but only as an official foil for the island’s true
leader, the planter Louis-Franqois, chevalier Dubuc. According to the registers, it was
Dubuc who actually guided the assembly’s debate on 16 September toward attacking
Rochambeau’s party, knowing full well that new Civil Commissioners were aboard.
Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, 157-159.

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island’s colonial assembly concluded that the small fleet transported illegal
representatives charged with the overthrow o f the colony and should therefore be
repulsed. “Messieurs,” Behague cried, “have you thought this through properly?
Certainly I am as fervent a Royalist as you, but we are rebelling against France....!” “We
are not rebelling against France at all, Sir,” Dubuc retorted, “we are refusing to obey
villains who have usurped power and have raised a criminal hand against our legitimate
sovereignty.” Dubuc continued, “ [t]he presence among us of officers o f the [French]
royal navy should be a guarantee to you o f the justice o f our cause. Therefore, we respect
your scruples, and as they could be a cause o f embarrassment for us, we respectfully ask
you to kindly await the end o f this affair in an apartment that we have reserved for you at
Fort Saint-Louis. As soon as we have repulsed these brigands we will render to you the
high functions that His Majesty has confided in you and that you so kindly exercise for
the colony’s greater good.”6
Faced with temporary imprisonment, Behague had little choice but to accede to
the demands o f the assembly, and soon afterward, an alarm went up throughout the
colony’s capital. As Rochambeau’s flagship, the Semillante, maneuvered into FortRoyal, heavy guns from the harbor’s guardian fortress (Fort Bourbon) greeted
Rochambeau’s convoy with well-placed cannon shots across the Semillante'’s bow.
Simultaneously, the city’s mulatto population drew arms. Realizing the futility o f a
general engagement, the crew aboard Rochambeau’s flagship failed to return fire. As the
result, Behague and the members o f the island’s colonial assembly sent a pilot boat to

6 Cited in Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, 159.

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determine the status o f the newly-arrived force. Once satisfied that the vessels were
indeed French, the Intermediary Committee o f the Colonial Assembly o f Martinique
appointed three agents (Mssrs. Lecamus, Sinson-Preclair and Grenonville) to report to the
new French commander and the Civil Commissioners. Behague’s orders to the
delegation were to represent the colony’s interests by informing the new Governor
General o f the current state o f affairs on the island, to advise them o f the island’s plan to
raise the white flag o f the Bourbons, and to inquire as to the status o f the ships’ arrival
and the fate o f the colony.7
The reception that the colony’s agents received aboard the frigate Semillante was
initially cordial, but far from sympathetic. After they had demanded to speak with the
new Civil Commissioners, the squadron’s commander, Admiral Eustache de Bruix,
informed Behague’s delegation that they had missed the Commissioners by several
minutes (they had disembarked on a smaller ship, ironically named the Bienvenue (28), to
confer with the island’s authorities on land). Events were not going as Behague had
planned. While the deputies nervously deliberated among themselves, Rochambeau’s
vessels continued to move toward the anchorage point, causing one o f the island’s
emissaries to boldly forbid de Bruix from dropping anchor, and to insist that he continue
under sail “for his proper safety.”8 The three deputies soon left the Semillante in search

7 Bailleul, Report, 2; Colonel Henri de Poyen, Les Guerres Des Antilles; de 1793
a 1815 (Paris, 1896), 5; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 171; Saintoyant, La
Colonisation Frangaise, 213.
8 Rochambeau to Monge, 3 October 1792. Service historique, Indes
Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Carton B91, folio 3, 1; De Poyen, Les
Guerres Des Antilles, 5.

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o f the new Civil Commissioners. Finding and then boarding the Bienvenue, the delegates
handed the Commissioners a local policy letter concerning the island’s free men o f color
and a message from the colonial assembly, allowing only the expedition’s enlisted men to
come ashore. Behague’s delegation then demanded that the Commissioners arrange for
their ships to anchor at the farthest point from the capital city, under the “protection” o f
the cannons at Ilet a Ramiers (Pigeons’ Isle ).9
Permitting Rochambeau’s enlisted men to disembark without the supervision o f
their officers was simply inconceivable and the Commissioners wisely demurred.
Insisting that they, the soldiers, and the new Governor General were inseparable, the
Commissioners asserted that they were simply passengers until they had been properly
installed by the new Governor General who was waiting aboard the Semillante. Shocked,
the colonial delegation replied that they had just been on the frigate and had not been
aware o f Rochambeau’s presence. Now both parties immediately made their way back to
the Semillante, where after apologizing profusely to Rochambeau, the colonials verified
his instructions and presented their demands .10
The requests o f Behague’s representatives were fairly simple, that no harm would
be done to them or the islanders, and that they would not be deported to France.
Rochambeau refused this demand, but agreed to their request that no soldiers be allowed
to communicate with the island’s inhabitants; beyond that he would make no promises.
The new Governor General next asserted that he would make no determinations

9 Ibid.
10 Ibid., 2.


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whatsoever until he had been properly recognized in his position and had toured and
appraised the entire island. At this point, Admiral de Bruix spoke, insisting that his
specific orders from the king gave him full responsibility for the safety o f the vessels.
Contrary to what the colonial delegation had offered, he would only anchor his ships at a
normal anchoring point. Now fully aware o f Rochambeau’s position, the deputies asked
the Governor General for time to deliberate with the colonial assembly. Rochambeau
agreed, but stated that at nine o ’clock the next morning he would install him self “in his
government” 11
Until he had read the delegate’s letters, Rochambeau remained unaware that the
island’s rebel assembly, despite their recent secession, had already determined to abide by
the king’s earlier decrees concerning colonial autonomy and political empowerment o f its
non-white citizens. Citing their adherence to these previous laws and maintaining that
they were simply exercising caution in the face o f the recent war against France by
arming the batteries around Martinique, the assembly clambered to mitigate the severity
o f their most recent actions. The colony, they maintained, had remained in a state o f
peace and was enjoying a prosperous, uninterrupted trade with France. Moreover, they
alone had fully implemented the Law o f 4 April, and had guaranteed equal political rights
to all of the island’s citizens regardless o f color. In the eyes o f the colonial assembly,
clearly no problem existed that warranted such armed “assistance” from home. Saint-

11 Bailleul, Report, 2; Rochambeau to Monge, 3 October 1792, Ibid., 3.

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Domingue, they asserted, needed help; not Martinique .12
Throughout the remainder o f the day Rochambeau waited impatiently for a
response that never seemed to come. By early evening, the frustrated general volunteered
to go ashore to meet personally with Behague and the colonial assembly. Taking counsel
o f his better judgement and the advice o f his entourage, however, Rochambeau quickly
abandoned the project and continued to wait. By midnight, he still had received no word
from Fort-Royal and thus dispatched his First Aide-de-Camp, Philippe-Paul Daucourt to
the capital. W ith specific instructions to find Behague himself, Daucourt carried with
him a letter from Rochambeau which asked simply if the former Governor General and
the assembly would at least give official recognition to the Law o f 4 April. Daucourt
arrived in Fort-Royal at half-past-one in the morning on 17 September, and went
immediately to the government building where he was informed that Governor General
Behague was in council at the city’s Hotel de Ville. Undaunted, Daucourt reached the
building and asked again for Behague, only to have local colonial bureaucrats offer the
emissary a variety o f possible locations for the Governor.
Doggedly, Daucourt retraced his steps to the government building, and upon
entering was immediately placed under arrest by order o f the colonial assembly and held
until eight-thirty in the morning .13 To this point, Rochambeau and his aide had done

12 Colonial Assembly o f Martinique to the ship owners and merchants o f the ports
o f France, 19 September 1792. Service historique, Indes Occidentales: Expedition des
isles du Vent, Guadeloupe, Carton B 92, item 11.
13 Rochambeau to Monge, 3 October 1792. Service historique, Indes
Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Carton B 91, folio 3, 2. Daucourt received
very cordial treatment during his captivity and that morning was reassured that the

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nothing threatening. The delays on the part o f the colonials, however, were nothing more
than an attempt to buy time. Unknown to either Daucourt or to anyone aboard the
Semillante, a certain ancien Officier de la Martinique (a Martiniquais officer o f the
French ancien regime army) Noroy and his artillery company (who styled themselves
“Tyroliers”) had been working throughout the night to prepare the port’s cannons for
firing upon Rochambeau’s ships .14
W hen he finally was allowed to return that morning to the Semillante, Daucourt
informed his general that the government o f Martinique had terminated all
communication with the convoy, had declared the colony in a state o f imminent danger,
and would allow no one else to come ashore. Further, Behague had warned that if
Rochambeau’s ships continued to move toward anchorage in Fort-Royal, he would
repulse them by force .15 Rochambeau and his fellows must surely have been even more
shocked to see the Tricolor struck over the capital and the pavilion blanc o f the Bourbons
raised defiantly in its place.
French naval personnel on the island, believing the acting Governor General’s
alarmist propaganda, earlier had sworn their allegiance to Behague and quickly had two
vaisseaux, the Ferme (74) and the Calypso (74), and two corvettes ready for action, all
four still flying their own tricolor flags. The Calypso and the corvette Marechal de
Castries now weighed anchor and fixed their sails in preparation for an attack. As the

Governor General and the assembly had read Rochambeau’s dispatch.
14 Bailleul, Report, 2.
15 Ibid.


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ships began to maneuver against the Semillante, cannon batteries on shore fired first at
one of the general’s transport ships, the Saint-Nicolas, and then at the Bienvenue.
Outgunned in every direction, both Rochambeau and de Bruix determined that their only
reasonable course o f action was to put to sea, thus avoiding a potentially disastrous
engagement. While Rochambeau’s convoy sailed south toward Sainte-Lucie, three o f the
warships from Martinique followed them closely until all were far from the island.
Behague and Martinique’s Royalists had won the first round.
“What a vast field it is for somber reflection,” wrote Rochambeau to the Minister
o f Marine, Monge, “that the four vessels which were at the brink o f combat were French,
each flying the national flag ....” 16 As they departed the island, Rochambeau penned a
narrative o f the preceding days’ events to the Colonial Assembly o f Martinique; it was a
vain attempt to inform the islanders o f his true intentions and actions. “I hope,”
Rochambeau wrote Monge, “that the badly-instructed French o f Martinique will one day
repent their disobedience and that they will think kindly o f our moderation. This is the
only suitable manner o f response to the unjust prejudices that they have shown to the
troops that were under my orders .” 17
Sobered in the aftermath o f the event to the realization that they had just effected
an act o f war against France, nearly all involved parties on Martinique attempted to justify
their behavior in various letters to the Minister o f Marine, to the Assembly, and even to

16 Rochambeau to Monge, 3 October 1792. Service historique, Indes
Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Carton B 91, folio 3, 5; De Poyen, Les
Guerres Des Antilles, 6 ; Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, 160.
17 Ibid.


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merchants in the metropolitan ports. Behague was no exception. Still apparently
believing that the king had been reinstalled to his throne, Behague audaciously wrote to
the Minister o f Marine on 20 September: “I have saved Martinique, that is my crime .” 18
Further, Behague offered that “ [i]f France wants to save the Windward Isles, she has not
an instant to lose in sending some ships to Saint-Domingue that might stop the
destructive devices o f M. de Rochambeau .” 19 For their part, the colonial assembly wrote
to the Assembly on 8 October that they had only acted to prevent the destruction o f the
colony. In their opinion, they could never recognize an authority that had usurped power
in France; moreover, they had only sought to maintain stability and order in the midst o f
civil war.
A growing number o f islanders on Martinique, however, did not share either
Behague’s or the colonial assembly’s self-serving views. In an effort to quell any
potential the unrest over the incident, Behague issued a general proclamation throughout
the island which began: “[w]ho would believe it? The orders that we have given to arm
the batteries defending the bay o f Fort-Royal, in consequence o f the declaration o f war
which we have been officially sent....serve today as a pretext to [our] mal-intent to incite
to rebellion the troops o f the line, the crews o f the state’s ships and both the free and the
slaves o f the towns and the countryside .”20

18 Behague to Monge, 20 September 1792. Service historique, Indes
Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Guadeloupe, Carton B 92, item 1, 2; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 175.
19 Behague to Monge, 20 September 1792. Ibid., 3.
20 Behague, Proclamation, 14 September 1792. Ibid., item 11, 1.

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Behague’s diatribe further announced that Rochambeau’s force’s appearance
before Fort-Royal was proof enough o f the bad intentions o f the state, which had come to
take over the island’s troops and navy, as well as the island’s free blacks and slaves.
Reprinting a testimony o f loyalty from the sailors o f the frigate the Ferme, Behague went
on to bluster that “under such circumstances proper to legitimize the new fears o f a
colony constantly loyal to the nation, the law and the King, o f a colony which has never
given any idea o f wanting to reject the decrees o f the National Assembly, then it is right
not to allow into [the colony] anyone whom [the colony] has not received with respect
and self-sacrifice ....”21 The Governor General should have known by this time that the
Colonial Assembly would not support him in a time o f crisis. In a letter read in Paris
before the Legislative Assembly on 19 October, former members o f Martinique’s
Intermediary Committee o f the Colonial Assembly stated unequivocally that Behague had
posted the proclamation on the day before Rochambeau and the Civil Commissioners had
even arrived at Martinique .22
Within days, Behague’s actions against Rochambeau rose from being simply an

21 Ibid., 2.
22 M. Paige negotiant a l’Assemblee Nationale, 19 October 1792. Service
historique, Indes Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Guadeloupe, Carton B 92,
item 1. While obviously self-serving, the former committee members’ accusation is not
unfounded. Though claiming to have issued the proclamation after Rochambeau’s
departure from the island, Behague carelessly neglected to modify the proclamation’s
actual printing date - 14 October 1792. The committee members’ letter goes on to say
that the Governor General had put all o f island’s gun batteries and warships on standby a
full day prior to Rochambeau’s arrival. If this is true, it clearly calls into question the
documents cited by Lemery which describe Behague as nothing more than a victim of
President Dubuc’s treachery.

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internal affair, to being an embarrassing matter o f international interest, with the English
applauding Behague’s and the colonial assembly’s accomplishment against the new
representatives o f the radical French government.
The Governor [Behague] who presides over the affairs o f the
colony, with the general approbation o f its inhabitants, under­
standing there were 1800 troops, and three Commissioners,
deputed by the National Assembly, on their way from Old France,
dispatched a frigate from the road o f St. Pierre, to meet the fleet,
and acquaint the commanding officer, that the inhabitants o f the
island being at length, after a struggle o f two years, in a state o f
perfect security, and having forgotten all political animosities, were
determined that no intrusion from France, in her present situation,
should subject them to a renewal o f former disorders; that, when
France should be capable o f governing herself, it would be time to
acknowledge her supremacy; and that at present not one would be
suffered to land .”23
Meanwhile, Rochambeau and his convoy, still shadowed by Behague’s two
frigates, abandoned as impracticable the idea o f landing at Sainte-Lucie, and instead
turned north toward Guadeloupe. After two days’ sailing, the enemy vessels had returned
to Martinique, but when Rochambeau’s convoy arrived at Guadeloupe, they found this
island also under the drapeau blanc. Rochambeau’s hopes o f installing General Collot
on the island were dashed. Again rebuffed by the Royalists and unable to take effective
action in the Windward Islands, Rochambeau saw little choice but to sail west for SaintDomingue to await further orders. There, he believed, he could not only assist his
counterpart, General Desparbes, and Commissioners Sonthonax, Polverel and Ailhaud in
quelling the continuing slave revolt; at the same time, he could also gather army and

23 “Authentic Intelligence from various Parts o f the Continent; Martinique.” The
Gentleman’s Magazine 63 (January 1793): 80.

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naval forces sufficient to recapture the Windward Islands from Behague .24
Proving yet a further embarrassment to the French, newspapers in England now
jeered the unfortunate Rochambeau, saying that “ [djeputies from the islands o f Martinico
[sic] and Guadeloupe have lately arrived in London, who solicit the protection o f our
government to these two islands from the plunderers whom the French Republic is
disposed to send there, in order to place the inhabitants on the same footing with Santo
Domingo. It is well known that Martinico and Guadeloupe have driven away the Jacobin
Rochambeau and his 3000 [sic] men, who were destined to reduce them to the same state
of anarchy with the rest o f the French settlements .”25 In the case o f Saint-Domingue, the
British press’ choice o f the word anarchy was entirely appropriate.
After learning in November 1791 o f Paris’ revocation o f the Decree o f 15 May,
Saint-Domingue’s mulattoes initiated an horrific rampage against whites throughout the
colony’s various provinces. Despite the conciliatory efforts o f the First Civil
Commission, including the promulgation o f a general amnesty which only lost for them
the respect o f the whites, the situation in Saint-Domingue continued to deteriorate. In

24 Rochambeau to Monge, 3 October 1792. Service historique, Indes
Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Carton B 91, folio 3, 6-7; Jean-Baptiste
Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires, I, 436; Docteur Magnac, La Perte de SaintDomingue, 1789-1809; La Revolution a Saint-Domingue et VExpedition du General
Leclerc (Paris, 1910), 46. Sainte-Lucie lay too close to Martinique for Rochambeau to
effect any decisive action - the convoy was still under “escort” by Behague’s frigates.
For reasons that are not clear, Rochambeau and de Bruix had to abandon the Bienvenue in
the British island o f Saint Christopher (now Saint Kitts). The British allowed the vessel
to sail to directly to France. Bailleul, Report, 3.
25 “Authentic Intelligence from various Parts o f the Continent; West India
Intelligence.” The G entleman’s Magazine 63 (January 1793): 79.

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December 1791, however, the slave leaders Jean-Fran 9ois and Biassou had actually
offered the members o f the First Civil Commission the last best chance to end the revolt.
In return for their own permanent freedom and that o f a few hundred slave leaders,
especially “acculturated” slaves who had been bom on the island, Jean-Fran^ois and
Biassou were willing to betray the majority o f their followers, and to actually assist the
whites in re-enslaving the bulk o f those slaves who had most recently been imported from
Africa. The Civil Commissioners agreed, but whites o f Saint-Domingue’s assembly
sabotaged the negotiations. Hearing o f the attempted betrayal by their leaders, hundreds
o f blacks under the command o f the mulatto leader Candi, now turned against their slave
brethren and sided with the mulattoes .26 According to British reports:
....murders and massacres are without number; the canes on one
plantation or another, are set on fire every night by the Blacks, with
whom are joined great numbers o f the Mulattoes, between whom
and the Whites, joined also by the Mulattoes and the Blacks, are
continued skirmishes and battles. The prisoners taken are put to the
most unheard-of cruel tortures: one favorite revenge they practice
is, the pressing or screwing the unfortunate person taken between
two boards, and then sawing them into small pieces, beginning
either at the head or the feet, as cruelty or chance dictates....there
was a fight, in the town o f Cap F ra n c is [sic], between the
Aristocratic and the Democratic parties, wherein six o f the
principle merchants were sacrificed; one o f whom, supposed to be
the richest there, and a warm friend o f the old government, was
mangled and cut into small pieces, which they stuck on the point o f
their swords, or fixed in their hats, and, so decorated, paraded the
town in triumph. Want o f order and subordination reigned also on­
board the men o f war in the harbor, the crew having command, and

26 Robert Heinl and Nancy Heinl, Written in Blood; the Story o f the Haitian
People, 1492-1971 (Boston, 1978), 53-54.

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the officers being subject to their caprice .27
At the same time that Rochambeau was engaged at Martinique and Guadeloupe,
Saint-Domingue’s new Civil Commissioners, Sonthonax, Polverel, and Ailhaud had
arrived with their own convoy at le Cap on 18 September 1792. Despite the factional
violence, they would, Sonthonax swore, enforce the Law o f 4 April. Given broad latitude
to ensure their success, the new Commissioners’ powers included “the right to suspend or
dissolve existing colonial assemblies and to organize new ones; the right to investigate all
the causes o f the troubles in Saint-Domingue and arrest all guilty parties; and the right to
requisition public force whenever they felt it necessary for their own security or for the
execution o f their orders .”28

27 “Authentic Intelligence from various Parts o f the Continent; West India
Intelligence.” The Gentleman’s Magazine 63 (January 1793): 79. France’s re-conquest
o f Saint-Domingue was a grave issue not only o f national unity but also o f economics.
As one British observer wrote: “The Island o f St. Domingo (I mean the French part o f it
which has been desolated by the black insurgents) produces more sugar than all o f the
British Colonies together; a plentiful crop o f our colonies is estimated at 160,000
hogsheads, a middling at 140,000 hogsheads, and a very short one at 120,000. The
medium o f these crops is 140,000 hogsheads, and, as the whole importation o f sugar into
Europe, from all the West India settlements belonging to the British and foreigners, does
not exceed 400,000 hogsheads, take the produce o f St. Domingo out o f the market, and
only 260,000, instead o f 400,000 hogsheads, will remain the consumption for all o f
Europe.” Anonymous letter to the editor describing the reasons for the increased price o f
sugar in England, The Gentleman’s Magazine 62 (February 1792): 112. Yet another
Englishman observed that “ [t]he loss o f the produce o f this extensive and once valuable
island will be most severely felt throughout all o f Europe, particularly in the articles o f
coffee and sugar; o f cotton too, the annual export was 10 millions o f pounds, 50,000 bags
o f 200 lbs each. “West India Intelligence; Kingston, Jan 19.” The Gentleman’s Magazine
62 (April 1792): 375.
28 Stein, Sonthonax, 24; J. Ph. Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les Troubles de
Saint-Domingue (Paris, 1799), III, 127. In Rochambeau’s estimation, the new Civil
Commissioners were simply the tool o f the mulattoes and the Amis des Noirs in Paris,
and had no real interest whatsoever in the colonies. Rochambeau, “Troubles des

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The slave revolt, then entering its second year, was by far the Commissioners’
greatest concern .29 After an enthusiastic reception by the recently installed governor,
Philibert-Fran 9ois Blanchelande, and the island’s colonial assembly, Sonthonax and his
confederates immediately set about their task o f reorganizing Saint-Dominguan society.
Having been apprized o f the deteriorated state o f the beleaguered forces in the colony,
France’s Minister o f Marine and Colonies, Gaspard Monge had sent with the delegation
two-thousand regular soldiers and another four-thousand carefully selected National
Guard under the command o f General Desparbes. Prior to leaving France, however,
tension had begun to develop between the Commissioners and the experienced and
respected general, who, once conducting operations on the ground, obstinately refused to
allow the civilian politicians to direct what he considered the conduct o f simple military
procedures .30
Leger Sonthonax was the complete antithesis o f his military counterpart. Only
twenty-nine years old when he arrived in the colony, this country 1awyer-turned-enrage
had found his opportunity in the Revolution, and been elevated as the result o f his fierce
Jacobin radicalism. In a place where conciliation had consistently failed, the corruptible,
paranoid Sonthonax would effectively combine duplicity and terror as means to
accomplish his objectives. Having cowed his associates before they had even arrived in

Colonies”, Service historique, MR 593,13.
29 By late September-early October 1792, Desparbes’ forces had recaptured most
o f the island’s southern and western provinces, leaving most rebel activity relegated to
Saint-Domingue’s mountains and Northern Plain.
30 Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo, 180-186.

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the colony, Sonthonax quickly emerged as the de facto leader o f the triumvirate, and
mercilessly implemented the powers granted him by the Legislative Assembly. He
ordered Governor Blanchelande, who had lent official support to the Royalists, arrested
and returned to France to face trial and subsequent execution. Roume, the only remaining
member o f the First Civil Commission, traveled from the West province to le Cap to offer
his support to the new Commissioners; quickly realizing that his services were neither
needed nor wanted, he wisely fled the island.
Throughout fall 1792, Sonthonax continued to strengthen his position in the
colony. Only days after promising no change to established procedures regarding the
status o f the slaves, on 12 October 1792, Sonthonax dissolved Saint-Domingue’s colonial
assembly, but instead o f holding the new elections mandated by the Law o f 4 April, he
replaced the body altogether with an “Intermediary Commission” o f six whites, five
mulattoes and one free black .31 This single act won him the support o f the island’s
mulattoes and free blacks, but Sonthonax was far from finished. Exercising his unusual
gift for mob appeal, and believing that he also could enlist the support o f the island’s
poorer whites, Sonthonax next mobilized the petits blancs in the North against the
The Commissioner’s approach, while exceedingly dangerous, was quite effective.
Organizing Jacobin-style clubs throughout the island, Sonthonax split the white minority,

31 Edwards, History o f the British Colonies in the West Indies, IV, 114. In reality,
the Intermediary Commission neither legislated nor advised (as Sonthonax claimed), but
was simply a rubber stamp body o f toadies convened by Sonthonax to lend some air o f
legitimacy to his arbitrary policymaking.

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Figure 20.
Vue de le Cap Fran^ais ca. 1790

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channeling the hostility o f the disenfranchised petits blancs into an executive arm of
government that he could control himself .32 The grands blancs, who had assumed that
Sonthonax could be tamed, now began to fear the Civil Commissioners, but their fear
turned to terror and rage when they learned that Jacobin-led mobs in Paris had stormed
the Tuileries, deposed the king, and had called for the formation o f the National
Convention. If this was how the Jacobins planned to handle the royalty in France, the
white planters felt, surely they themselves would receive even worse treatment on SaintDomingue.
Now fearing certain disaster and hoping to copy the example o f Martinique, the
island’s Royalists orchestrated a plan to depose the implacable new Commissioner and
his associates. With the support o f the disenchanted General Desparbes and loyal soldiers
o f the King’s Irish Legion (the Dillon and Walsh regiments) who had been sent earlier to
le Cap, the conspirators prematurely launched their planned coup on 17 October, when a
fight broke out between club members and men o f the Walsh regiment over anti-Royalist
placards that had posted throughout the city. A mob seized the arsenal, but when
Desparbes called out all o f the city’s troops to retake the compound, the National Guard
declared their loyalty to the Commissioners. When the inevitable showdown came,
Desparbes refused to give the orders necessary for the Royalist troops to cut down the
National Guard; the event collapsed into failure. Immediately, Sonthonax had Desparbes

32 Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo, 190-193; Stein, Sonthonax,
40-52. Originally named “Les Amis de la Constitution,” the club at le Cap was later
renamed “Les Amis de la Convention.”

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and the more highly placed Royalist officers arrested and sent to France for trial .33 Now
leaderless, loyal junior officers soon fled the island, severely weakening the possibilities
o f an organized, military-supported Royalist threat in the North. Such was the situation
upon the arrival one week later o f Lieutenant General Rochambeau.
Rochambeau had written to the Minister o f War on 15 October 1792 that because
o f the events that had taken place at Martinique, he would take his troops to SaintDomingue to put them immediately under the control o f General Desparbes to assist in
the defeat o f the colony’s rebellious slaves. To Rochambeau, this plan must have seemed
perfectly reasonable based on his communications the preceding month with SaintDomingue’s new Civil Commissioners. Unaware, however, o f the events that had
transpired after his leaving Martinique, the general maintained a naive optimism. “One
must always hope,” he said, “that the old habits and the old customs that we know o f the
colonists will easily recognize the constitutional character o f the Civil Commissioners
and the governor who [now present] themselves....relieving [the colonists] o f their vain
fears ....”34
Certainly Rochambeau was surprised to learn upon his arrival at le Cap that
Desparbes was incarcerated. Nevertheless, he did not resist when Sonthonax, with the
approval o f the other two members o f the Commission, appointed Rochambeau Governor

33 Stein, Sonthonax, 40-52; Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo,
191-192. Though accused o f treachery by the Convention, the Revolutionary Tribunal
acquitted Desparbes.
34 Rochambeau to Joseph Servan, 15 October 1792. Service historique, Indes
Occidentales: Expedition des isles du Vent, Carton B 91, folio 3, 1- 2.

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General o f Saint-Domingue three days later on 27 October 1792.35 Previously unaware
that the general was even coming to the colony, Sonthonax unofficially had designated
Louis-Maximilien-Fran 9ois-Herman d ’Hinnisdal de Fumal, military commander in the
North and the most senior o f the three provincial commanders in Saint-Domingue, to the
position first. The Legislative Assembly in Paris, however, had selected Rochambeau as
military commander over all o f the French Windward Island colonies, affording him
superiority over any o f Saint-Domingue’s remaining officers. More important, as
Rochambeau was a well-known Jacobin, it appeared clear to Sonthonax not only that
supporting him as the Commission’s choice for Governor General was in accordance with
the newly-established National Convention’s wishes, but also that this Governor General
might prove invaluable to his plans .36 Thus, in an ironic twist o f fate, Donatien
Rochambeau came to accept the very position that he earlier so repugnantly had declined
before the Legislative Assembly .37

35 Second Civil Commission o f Saint-Domingue, Proclamation, 27 October 1792.
AN, Correspondances des Commissaires Civils Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et
son successeur, Septembre 1792 a Janvier 1793, Carton Colonies CC9A8; Letter o f the
Civil Commissioners to the Minister o f Marine, 28 October 1792. Service historique,
Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, item 45.
36 Stein, Sonthonax, 53.
37 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires, I, 437, II, 31. By November
1792, Marshal Rochambeau, ever the concerned father, made constant demands to the
Minister o f Marine for news o f his son. By now considered persona non grata, the senior
Rochambeau was repeatedly ignored by the ministry and its Jacobin officials. Only the
pleas o f Donatien Rochambeau’s wife, Madame d’Harville de Rochambeau brought news
to the family o f the lieutenant general. See letters Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau to Monge,
31 October and 6 December 1792; Secretary o f the Minister o f Marine in re. numerous
requests by Franfoise Eleonore d ’Harville de Rochambeau concerning her husband, 4
November 1792. Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299,

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D ’Hinnisdal was furious. Feeling slighted by the Commissioners, the general
fought with them and with Rochambeau over prerogative, but received no satisfaction.
He therefore resigned as commander in the North and returned to France in early
November. Similarly, General Adrien-Nicolas Lasalle, commander in the West,
complained to the Convention that he too had been overlooked, despite his seniority.
Lasalle need not have worried, he would become Governor General before the year’s
end .38
The “Desparbes affair” had much more far-reaching consequences than simply the
dissent caused within the colony’s military command structure. Besides establishing the
supreme authority o f the Civil Commission in the colony, the attempted coup allowed the
Commissioners to divide their efforts into three distinct jurisdictions which, they thought,
would afford them greater mastery over the entire colony. Under the new arrangement,
Sonthonax would control the North, Polverel the West, and Ailhaud the South .39 Since
the headquarters o f the Governor General was in le Cap, Rochambeau, in his secondary
role as commander o f troops in all the colony would thus fall under Sonthonax’

items 47, 50, 53, 54. By the first days o f December 1792, Monge and Marshal
Rochambeau had finally established a dialogue whereupon the minister provided copies
o f Donatien Rochambeau’s dispatches to the ministry to the marshal. The elder
Rochambeau later discovered that his son’s personal letters to him had been intercepted
by the English.
38 Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les Troubles de Saint-Domingue, III, 196.
39 Soon afterward, Ailhaud, who had no stomach whatsoever for the task at hand,
slipped away on the next ship to France, possibly at the urging o f Sonthonax and
Polverel. At his trial, he too was acquitted by the National Convention.

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immediate control .40 Both Rochambeau’s troops and his authority were all that
Sonthonax needed, and with the largest part o f the internal Royalist military threat
mitigated, the two men set out to address the problem o f the rebellious slaves.
Organizing an expedition to subdue the slaves in the North had been a topic o f
discussion in Saint-Domingue for weeks prior to Rochambeau’s arrival. Where his
predecessors only had debated, however, the new Governor General prepared to act.
Sonthonax had made the job slightly easier by decreeing on 11 October 1792 that all
businessmen, workers and inhabitants o f le Cap make available to the Administrator o f
Finances all equipment, slaves or animals that could be o f military use. Further, all those
artisans employed in the island’s various service industries would become employees o f
the administration. By 27 October, the decrees became more imperative, demanding not
only hard currency, foodstuffs and merchandise for the war effort, but also that each
citizen register his personal contribution with the finance administrator.41
Sonthonax’ efforts to meet Rochambeau’s needs were indeed impressive, but one
critical problem remained. Since their arrival on the island, hundreds o f Continental
French soldiers in both the Martinique and the Saint-Domingue convoys had fallen victim
to the usually fatal yellow fever, with the number o f infected increasing daily. The Civil
Commissioners, therefore, could not rely only upon the regulars and National Guard to be

40 Stein, Sonthonax, 53.
41 Extract from the register o f the Colonial Assembly o f the French Portion o f
Saint-Domingue, 11 October 1792. AN, Correspondances des Commissaires Civils
Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et son successeur, Septembre 1792 a Janvier 1793,
Carton Colonies CC9A8, item 2.

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available for duty. It thus became necessary for Sonthonax to augment his troops with the
colony’s militia, and as the result, Sonthonax and the other Civil Commissioners wasted
no time establishing their influence with mulatto leaders throughout the colony .42
Gens de couleur, who Sonthonax referred to as the true “Citizens o f 4 April,”
were natural allies o f the Commissioners, and to cement their support, Sonthonax’
Intermediary Committee took the politically important step on 30 October o f allowing
pensions and a medal for all gens de couleur who were wounded or killed in the defense
o f the island .43 Soon, nearly 7,000 mulattoes had reported for duty, and with 14,000 to
15,000 Republicans now under arms throughout the colony, Rochambeau and the Second
Civil Commission next set out to destroy Jean-Frantpois and Biassou.
The first days o f November 1792 found Rochambeau making the final
preparations to equip his expeditionary force, but the general had other worries as well.

42 The total (on paper) o f troops available to Sonthonax upon his arrival in SaintDomingue was approximately: 6,000 brought with him from France; 700 troops o f the Du
Cap regiment; 1,000 o f the Artois and Picardy regiments; 7,000 militia (gens de couleur)
and 1,200 irregular troops raised and paid for by the colony. Edwards, History o f the
British Colonies in the West Indies, IV, 145.
43 Extract from the register o f the Colonial Assembly o f the French Portion of
Saint-Domingue, 30 October 1792, 1 November 1792. AN, Correspondances des
Commissaires Civils Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et son successeur, Septembre
1792 a Janvier 1793, Carton Colonies CC9A8. Sonthonax further antagonized th e petits
blancs by employing only mulattoes to fill vacant administrative posts. If taken alone,
this action would have caused only a minor stir, but Sonthonax waited until Rochambeau
was near death with the fever to order on 7 November that his Intermediary Committee
appoint (with no possibility o f appeal) six mulattoes to supervise the collection o f forced
loans among the le Cap’s general citizenry. Naturally, petits and grand blancs were
equally outraged. For all practical purposes, Sonthonax had pronounced General
Rochambeau, their only hope for equity, dead. Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les
Troubles de Saint-Domingue, III, 201-203.

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Despite reassurances from Sonthonax, Rochambeau had heard nothing from the home
government concerning either his previous actions at Martinique or any further
instructions. So far removed from the politics o f the metropole, he could not have known
o f the chaos in Paris surrounding the king’s trial for treason. Sonthonax, on the other
hand, was encouraged. His disagreements with Desparbes and the necessity o f employing
military force to contain the violence o f the white population in le Cap had prevented his
taking action earlier against the insurgent slaves. The new Governor General, he
believed, would now put an end to that particular problem.
Though the ships carrying his horses had not arrived by the time his force
departed from their marshaling point outside the city, with the help o f the citizens o f le
Cap, he managed to requisition enough o f the animals locally to continue his mission, and
began his campaign on 3 November 1792. Rochambeau’s first task was to reconnoiter
the military posts in the northern province as far east as the important coastal installation
o f Fort-Dauphin, some fifteen miles away. While en route to the garrison, Rochambeau
visited the armed camp o f his new ally, the recreant mulatto leader Candi. Candi’s camp,
which protected the route to Fort-Dauphin, overlooked some works o f the besieging
enemy, and offered the Governor General the first opportunity to get a glimpse o f his
enemy face to face. Naturally, Rochambeau wanted a closer look. As the white aristocrat
and the slave leader moved toward the enemy positions, cannon fire thundered in their
direction, while a general alarm went up among the rebel camps in the Northern Plain.
Rochambeau immediately ordered a combined attack with his own troops and Candi’s
irregulars, and battled the rebel blacks inconclusively until late in the day. Nothing came

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o f the skirmish, however, and in his typically terse style, all that the general had to say
was simply that “this day was long and tiring .”44
Having thus received his first taste o f battle in Saint-Domingue, Rochambeau
finally arrived at Fort-Dauphin at eight o ’clock on the evening o f 4 November 1792, and
remained there for the next three days. Certainly, the enemy knew o f the expedition’s
presence. However, the lull in the action was necessary for the general to correct a
critical lack o f provisions among the nearly 1,200 o f the colony’s troops that
accompanied him. While his Orderer zealously collected any available supplies in FortDauphin, Rochambeau inspected the military posts in the vicinity and finalized his plans
for a dramatic sweep through the N orth .45
The general’s concept, which involved four simultaneous attacks through several
districts, would clear an area o f nearly 700 square kilometers. Successful opening moves
were critical, and Rochambeau honored Candi and his irregulars by permitting them to
make the first assault. The mulatto leader’s orders were simple, but his task was not: rout

44 Rochambeau, “Expedition sur les quartiers de Maribaroux et Ouanaminthe,
enlevees aux Brigands par le General Rochambeau, le sept Novembre 1792" (Cap
Fran 9ais, Saint-Domingue, 1792), Service historique, Indes Occidentales (1792-1829),
Guadeloupe-Correspondance, Carton B 92, folio 2, item 16,1. Candi is described in
numerous contemporary sources as being particularly vicious. By fall 1792, it was
common knowledge that he and his followers had committed countless atrocities against
white women during the uprisings in the Northern Plain. Once he had attained real
power, however, Candi’s personal infamy reached mythic proportions as the result o f
favorite form o f interrogation - forcing his victims to talk by plucking their eyes out with
a corkscrew.
45 Ibid., 2; Rochambeau to the “President o f the National Assembly,” 12
November 1792. Service historique, “Troubles de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55,
item 4, 1.

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the enemy camps to his front, and then continue to drive the rebels south and west as far
as the parish o f le Trou, while preserving the security o f Fort-Dauphin. This first strike
was a success .46
The second attack involved Colonel d’Assas and his Du Cap regiment driving the
enemy to the west o f le Cap as far as le Mome Rouge, turning south, and then making a
second attack in the Dondon parish. In executing this maneuver, Colonel d ’Assas would
effectively cordon off the western side o f the Northern Plain, thus protecting
Rochambeau’s main columns from an enemy attack in their rear. Once he had placed
troops in defensive positions between M ome Rouge and Dondon, d ’Assas and the
remainder o f his troops then would move east to assist Rochambeau’s main body in
attacking the principal objective, the rebel stronghold at Ouanaminthe .47
The Governor General divided his remaining forces into two columns that would
move due east against the rebel slaves who had sought refuge in the mountains near the
Spanish border. The right column, led by the general’s adjutant, Colonel EtienneMaynaud-Bizefranc de Laveaux, included 304 infantrymen o f the 84th Line (recently
arrived from France), forty o f Candi’s irregulars and 110 mulatto cavalrymen from
various groups. After first sweeping through Maribaroux and destroying any rebel groups

46 Ibid.
47 Ibid. Rebel slaves had held this frontier garrison (which immediately
overlooked Saint-Domingue’s border with the Spanish half o f the island) since the
insurrection o f 1791, and had used the fort as a conduit for supplies and arms donated to
them by sympathetic Spanish colonists wishing to undermine their French counterparts.
Rochambeau to the “President o f the National Assembly,” 12 November 1792. Service
historique, “Troubles de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55, item 4, 2.

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that he found, Laveaux’ orders then were to attack Ouanaminthe on the south side.
Rochambeau’s larger detachment would move directly toward the rebel stronghold and
attack the stronghold from the center and north .48
Laveaux’ troops began their movement early on the morning o f 6 November, but
were slowed down throughout the day by torrential rains that made moving critical
artillery pieces along the unpaved roads nearly impossible. Even Rochambeau’s own
column, which had begun its movement during the evening o f the 6 th, had to wait until the
following morning to leave Fort-Dauphin. Following the main road to Ouanaminthe, the
Governor General’s route would take him past the plantations o f Beaujeau and Thilorier,
both o f which Rochambeau knew to be enemy strongholds 49
The advance progressed well, but at eleven o’clock his column reached the

48 Ibid. Rochambeau does not mention the number o f troops under his immediate
command, but their strength could not have been more than 700. Rochambeau to the
“President o f the National Assembly,” 12 November 1792. Service historique, “Troubles
de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55, item 4, 2. Though Georges Six spells this
officer’s name Lavaux, all contemporary manuscripts (and subsequent histories) speak of
Colonel Etienne Laveaux. A competent and reliable soldier, he rose quickly to the rank
o f General de division, and in October 1793 accepted the Convention’s appointment as
Governor General o f Saint-Domingue. W ith nearly no support from France, Laveaux was
able to do little more than try to preside responsibly over a civil race war, while the threat
o f foreign invasion served as a constant backdrop. By March 1796, he had been captured
and imprisoned by the colony’s rebellious mulattoes, only to be freed from prison by
Toussaint Louverture and members o f his army o f former slaves. As the result, on 25
March 1795 Laveaux breveted Toussaint to the rank o f colonel in the French Army
(Toussaint was already a general o f the Spanish army o f Santo Domingo), and four days
later, named him “Lieutenant to the Governor General.” By fall 1796, Laveaux finally
left Saint-Domingue after being elected to the Council o f Ancients in Paris.
49 Ibid., 3; Rochambeau to the “President o f the National Assembly,” 12
November 1792. Service historique, “Troubles de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55,
item 4, 3 .

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Beaujeau plantation where he was confronted by the first entrenched enemy position.
Established on the far side o f a small river that ran through the plantation, the rebel slaves
fired several cannons as Rochambeau’s force approached. Once his advance guard was in
place, however, the general forced the enemy’s heads down with two shots each from his
obusier and his 4-pounder, drew his sword, and personally led his cavalry in a charge
across the river and into the enemy position. The rebel slaves, who for reasons unknown
were unable to fire their cannons again, desperately attempted to hold off the onslaught
with a line o f musket fire, but to little effect. Within minutes, Rochambeau and his
cavalry had overrun the position and had put the rebels to flight.50
Three hours later, the general’s column reached the Thilorier plantation. This
time Rochambeau’s men faced well-placed fire from an 8 -pounder and carefully
positioned sharpshooters. Using the cannon o f both his advanced and his rear guard to
reduce the enemy position, Rochambeau led the charge against this second enemy
stronghold. W ith eight o f his staff officers and a handful of men from his advance guard,
the general soon took possession o f the enemy’s main battery. Once more, the surviving
slaves fell back toward Ouanaminthe. This time, Rochambeau and his cavalry pursued
the retreating enemy to their remaining stronghold, cutting down the undisciplined rebel
slaves who ran before them. Once in sight o f Ouanaminthe, however, devastating
artillery and musket fire from the works stopped Rochambeau’s pursuit dead in its
tracks .51

50 Ibid.
51 Ibid., 4.


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The Governor General did not hold back for long, however. When his full
complement o f artillery had arrived and began hurling shot into the stronghold, he
attacked. Sending his cavalry to flank the position to the left and two infantry battalions
to attack the center, the general led his dragoons to assist Colonel Laveaux’ column to
encircle Ouanaminthe on the right. The rebel slaves fought valiantly, serving their
cannons well, and rained ordered volleys o f musket fire on their French enemy. The
weight o f Rochambeau’s numbers, soon turned the tide, however, as the more disciplined
French troops mounted the walls o f Ouanaminthe, and the fighting became hand to hand.
Within minutes the drapeau blanc lay crumpled in an officer’s hands and the Tricolor
flew above Ouanaminthe. Rebels who managed to escape the carnage attempted to flee
into the mountains, only to be hunted down throughout the night by Colonel Laveaux and
his cavalry .52
The capture o f the outpost yielded not only five cannons (three o f large caliber),
many blacks, and some white Frenchmen and Spaniards, but also the correspondence and
the white hat plume o f none other than Jean-Fran 9ois, who had led the defense himself .53
Thousands o f slaves, however, including Jean-Franijois, remained at large. Now the

52 Ibid., 5.
53 Ibid.; Rochambeau to the “President o f the National Assembly,” 12 November
1792. Service historique, “Troubles de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55, item 4, 3, 7.
In May 1792, war had been declared between Saint-Domingue and Spanish Santo
Domingo. The revolting slaves in Saint-Domingue had not only found refuge, but also a
source o f military supplies across the border, and by February 1793, both Jean-Framjois
and Biassou, as well as Toussaint Louverture had formally joined forces with the Spanish,
all three receiving the rank o f general in the Spanish army o f Santo Domingo. The white
Spaniards that Rochambeau captured were artillerymen that the Governor o f Santo
Domingo had furnished the rebels for their combat against the French.

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authorities tried a new approach. Sonthonax and Polverel’s policy o f mandatory war
contributions, a burden which fell particularly hard on the island’s mulattoes, had filled
the colony’s coffers to the point that the Governor General was able to issue a
proclamation to all o f the island’s troops, offering any man four gourdes for every rebel
slave that was returned to his master .54 By 9 November, Rochambeau had even secured
the cooperation o f the Spanish governor (just across the border at Laxavon) for the
extradition o f all French slaves hiding in his city .55 The general’s military successes
against the rebel slaves, however, would prove to be short-lived. Almost immediately
after the fall of Ouanaminthe, Rochambeau him self fell victim to the deadly fievre
Both before and throughout Rochambeau’s foray into the eastern provinces, social
stability in le Cap had degenerated steadily. In October, Sonthonax had pushed for the
implementation o f a new twenty-five-per-cent territorial tax, an issue over which he and
Commissioner Polverel were sharply divided. While the two men argued over this and
over what Polverel saw as Sonthonax’ unwarranted and wholesale deportations, more
radical “Jacobin” factions in the city stepped up their activity against their traditional

54 Gourdes - Saint-Domingue silver coin, approximately the equivalent o f a
Spanish Piastre. Robert Lacombe, Histoire Monetaire de Saint-Domingue et de la
Republique d ’H a itiju sq u ’en 1874 (Paris, 1958), 39-40.
55 Rochambeau, “Expedition,” 5-7. This was quite an accomplishment as
Governor Donatien Gaspard Cassasota may have sheltered up to 1,500 o f SaintDomingue’s rebel slaves. Rochambeau to the “President o f the National Assembly,” 12
November 1792. Service historique, “Troubles de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55,
item 4, 6-7.
56 Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, Memoires Militaires, I, 437.

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enemies, the mulattoes and the remaining grands blancs. As the result, fanatical petits
blancs pressured Sonthonax to deport “enemies” that they had identified, and outbreaks
o f violence had erupted throughout the city. Sonthonax and Rochambeau had attempted
conciliation, but their efforts had met with little success, and when the general left le Cap
in early November, the clubs saw an opportunity to strike at Sonthonax. The Civil
Commissioner, who had retained a large portion o f Rochambeau’s troops in the city, was
not particularly weakened by the absence o f the Governor. “I am the delegate o f all
legislative, executive and administrative authority” he had proclaimed, “and by them I am
clothed with unlimited power .”57 Indeed, Leger Sonthonax was not a man to be trifled
Conveniently unable to defer to the Governor General while the latter was on
campaign, Sonthonax published a decree on 12 November 1792 giving the Civil
Commissioners authority to pass immediate judgement on any matter if the governor was
not available. Though couched as an emergency powers act, the move was nothing short
o f a silent coup, the ramifications o f which Sonthonax would discuss with the general
upon his return. He may have believed that his 12 November decree would suffice to
contain the violence in le Cap, but two days later, a single event took place which forever
ended any hope for reconciliation between the warring factions. Not twenty feet from the
Commissioner’s door, white militants murdered two fellow whites (deserters), a mulatto,

57 Michel-Pascal Creuze-Dufresne, “Lettre de Michel-Pascal Creuze, Membre du
Conseil des Anciens a Jean-Philippe Garan (de Coulon), Depute du Loiret, sur son
Rapport des Troubles de Saint-Domingue, distribue au Corps Legislatif en Ventose, An
V, dix-huit apres la cloture des debats” (Paris, 1797), 9; Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur
les Troubles de Saint-Domingue, III, 201-203.

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and nine blacks that Rochambeau had sent from the front as prisoners to Sonthonax. No
white in le Cap, not the city’s archbishop, the municipality, or any members o f Les Amis
de la Convention protested the brutal slaying, or sought to bring the perpetrators to
justice. Their inaction proved conclusively to the Commissioner that the so-called
“aristocrats of the skin” were indeed not his supporters, and thus were no longer useful to
him. Describing the northern “Jacobins” as a “horde o f dissenters,” Sonthonax deported
scores o f the club’s most serious agitators and, ostensibly with Rochambeau’s approval,
he directed the brutal suppression and closing o f Les Amis de la Convention on 30
November. Now left only the mulattoes and free blacks as his allies, the Commissioner
prepared to do battle against the colony’s radicalpetits blancs.58
It remains difficult to determine the extent o f Rochambeau’s role in the events
that transpired in le Cap during the last two weeks o f November and the first week o f
December 1792. When he eventually did return from Ouanaminthe near the end o f the
month, he was so gravely stricken with fever that Sonthonax faced the very real

58 Second Civil Commission o f Saint-Domingue, Proclamations, 12 and 15
November 1792, and Sonthonax to Monge, 19 November 1792. AN, Correspondances
des Commissaires Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et son successeur, Septembre
1792 a Janvier 1793, Carton Colonies CC9A8; M. Antoine Dalmas, Histoire de la
Revolution de Saint-Domingue, depuis le Commencement des Troubles, Jusqu ’a la Prise
de Jeremie et du Mole Saint-Nicolas p a r les Anglais (Paris, 1814), II, 87; Stein,
Sonthonax, 58. The 15 November proclamation not only announced the murders, but also
put severe restrictions on the clubs. Les Amis de la Convention tried in vain to make
appeals to Rochambeau, but the general sided with Sonthonax, especially since he was
away. The club then turned their attentions to his secretary, Claude-Pierre-Joseph
Leborgne de Boigne, believing (probably correctly) that it was he who was acting against
them in the governor’s name. The petits blancs soon turned to England for help, begging
the King o f England to reassert his powers over the colony with the help o f a party led by
the Baron o f Santo-Domingo. Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les Troubles de SaintDomingue, III, 217-221.

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probability that his erstwhile ally would, at any moment, be dead. As commandant of
troops in le Cap, Colonel Laveaux was breveted to brigadier general and temporarily took
control o f military operations in and around the city, while Rochambeau’s secretary,
Pierre-Joseph Leborgne, who held the additional title o f Commissary-Auditor o f War,
appears to have made decisions and signed documents in the general’s name. Against all
expectations, Rochambeau slowly began to recover, but with the assistance o f the
general’s seconds, the Civil Commissioner had already begun a new civil war in le Cap .59
Sonthonax already enjoyed the support o f the gens de couleur, but he permanently
endeared him self to his co-conspirators in the mulatto caste when he ordered the
promotion o f the first non-whites to officer rank in the regular French forces; they were to
fill those lieutenants’ positions that had been left vacant either by emigre flight or recent
deportation. Rochambeau and Sonthonax had earlier filled three vacant lieutenancies in
two o f the colony’s regiments with newly-promoted mulatto officers, all o f whom had
served with distinction in the National Guard since the troubles o f 1791. The newest
regulation, promulgated on 1 December, provided that fully one quarter o f the vacant
lieutenants’ positions in the conservative Du Cap regiment be filled by mulattoes as well.
The reaction among the colony’s various white factions was predictable. After their
complaints fell on deaf ears, some officers circulated a forged decree o f the Paris
government that proscribed the promotion o f men o f color to the officer corps; despite
their efforts, Sonthonax forced the issue. While both the petits and grands blancs viewed
the integration as yet another effort on Sonthonax’ part to promote mulatto ascendancy

59 Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les Troubles de Saint-Domingue, III, 223-234.

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over them, the officers o f the Du Cap regiment further saw the order as a gross, deliberate
insult, especially since the mulatto candidates had been elevated to the officer ranks
without their having worked their way through the subordinate grades. Many o f the
regiment’s officers cast off their uniforms and began to leave the colony, either to find
refuge in America or in the ranks o f the Spanish army on the other side o f the island.
Those who remained, however, accepted the new regulation with what grace they could
muster, only to have the regiments’ non-commissioned officers and enlisted men continue
to refuse to serve under any person o f color. Nevertheless, Sonthonax was determined to
unite the colony’s army. In a parallel decree, he combined all o f the city’s loyal troops
under Rochambeau’s single command and ordered Laveaux to bring the Du Cap regiment
back under control. By the following morning, the Commissioner had decided that he
would address his combined force, and directed Laveaux to assemble the Du Cap
regiment, 300 National Guard and 150 men o f the mulatto battalions on le Cap’s Champs
de Mars. The mulattoes, however, showed up in full force.60
According to their instructions, the Du Cap regiment and the National Guard
mustered, armed but without ammunition, and marched to the field only to find a superior
number o f mulatto companies standing at attention waiting for them. Sonthonax also
arrived with the entire general staff and the Intermediary Commission, and soon began to
exhort to the assembly the need for unity, warning that he would arrest the Du Cap
regiment’s well-liked major, Robquin, if that unit persisted in their rebellion and did not
respect the rights o f their mulatto brothers. The murmuring among the soldiers had

60 Ibid., 225,227-230.

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already made the situation tense, but soon the mulattoes began to shout threats and
abuses at the white soldiers. The Du Cap regiment, however, remained relatively calm,
and it was only when the assembled gens de couleur began to throw rocks and load their
pistols in plain view that the regulars steeled themselves for a fight. Several minutes
later, a black man with a large bag hoisted over his shoulder began to move furtively
among the mulattoes’ ranks. Loud voices from the assembled crowd cried out
“Massacre/” and “Tuez-leF Laveaux, doing what he could to maintain calm, shouted to
his men that the black was only handing out bread. When Laveaux ripped the bag open
however, he found that it indeed contained bread on the top, but underneath were fully
loaded cartridge boxes. The plot discovered, the mulattoes in the front ranks dropped
while those in the rear fired a volley into the midst o f the le Cap companies. With no
other option, the regulars and the National Guard fixed bayonets and charged, causing a
bloody hand-to-hand melee. The mulattoes held for some time, but when ammunition
arrived from the Du Cap regiment’s armory, they finally broke ranks and fled the field,
with the white companies close behind them.61
After collecting two cannons from the la Fossette battery, the mulattoes moved
into fortified positions in the heights that commanded le Cap, but darkness ended the
fighting o f 2 December. The following morning, drummers beat the Generate and the Du
Cap regiment and the National Guard companies once again went on the offensive, this
time aided by the majority o f the sailors stationed in the city. No one, it seemed, could

61 Ibid., 229-230; Dalmas, Histoire de la Revolution de Saint-Domingue, II, 8990; Stoddard, The French Revolution in San Domingo, 200-201.

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prevent the bloodshed that was soon to follow. While Laveaux and the National Guard
commander, Colonel Lachaise, rode ahead o f the attackers to try to persuade the
mulattoes to disarm, Sonthonax appealed to the city’s municipal officers and the general
staff to stop the attack. To his shock, however, both groups sided with the Du Cap
regiment. Several white officers demanded that the Commissioner support them against
the mulattoes, but the distraught Commissioner’s only response was to have the men
immediately arrested. The attack continued, and by the evening o f the 2nd, six men lay
dead and another twelve were seriously wounded.62
By the morning o f 3 December, both Sonthonax and Laveaux had gone to
Rochambeau’s sick bed, perhaps to seek his advice on restoring order, but more probably
to persuade the general to make a public appearance to appeal for calm. What is known
is that at the very least, the Governor General issued orders, this time in his own hand,
that the mulattoes return their cannons to la Fossette, and that the white soldiers return
their weapons to their own armories. Furthermore, he ordered all o f the city’s soldiers to
return to their barracks. Initially, not everyone responded to his directives. Colonel
Vemieul, who now led the white troops, answered that until the mulattoes put down their
weapons, the white troops would continue to march and would exterminate their colored
enemy once and for all. Fortunately, an unusually intense rainfall prevented a renewal of

62 Ibid., 231-234. Garran de Coulon, who by order o f the National Convention
compiled sworn statements and nearly every relevant document from the period for his
official report on Saint-Domingue, cautioned that there are conflicting accounts regarding
the whereabouts o f Laveaux and Sonthonax during the attack. Naturally, the two men
insisted that they were in the middle o f the fray attempting to reconcile the two sides. A
number of other sources, however, affirmed that both were hiding in Government House.

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the fighting, but for two days negotiations continued, both sides disregarding any orders
that came from the government in le Cap. It was only on 6 December that a settlement
was finally reached.63
Rochambeau, now fully returned to duty, was able to persuade the mulattoes to
come out o f the hills only after he had ordered the arrest and deportation the chief white
leaders, including the archbishop o f le Cap, and the most resistant soldiers o f the Du Cap
regiment. The following morning, the mulatto companies marched into le Cap where
they were met by a formal delegation composed o f the Governor General, Sonthonax, the
Intermediary Commission and a gathering o f unarmed white soldiers. Whether
engineered by Sonthonax or the result o f a demand by the mulattoes, the reception was
important symbolically. Sonthonax claimed that the solemn gathering recognized an
“injustice” and represented the reign o f law and equal rights. Indeed, the scene presented
an image o f a mulatto triumph over the whites, who would keep their distance and
maintain their humility. For now, the troubles seemed to be over.64
For Sonthonax, Rochambeau had proved a powerful ally, but after the Civil
Commissioner’s poor handling o f the “Affaire du Cap,” the general seems to have lost
any desire to continue to support his regime. Blaming his being still weakened by the
fever, and not having been able to attend to his troops for over three weeks, the Governor

63 Ibid., 234.
64 Ibid., 236-237. Rochambeau sent the remainder o f the Du Cap regiment to a
new posting fifty miles to the west at Fort Dauphin, and apparently not oblivious to his
new unpopularity, now traveled with an armed body guard o f eight mounted dragoons their swords constantly drawn. Dalmas, Histoire de la Revolution de Saint-Domingue, II,

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General offered Sonthonax his resignation on 8 December. The Commissioner, however,
desperately needed the general, and with much flattery, attempted to persuade him to stay.
Without his help, Sonthonax implored, the blacks would easily overrun le Cap, thus
destroying the colony. Skillfully avoiding being trapped in Saint-Domingue by
Sonthonax’ prerogative, Rochambeau remonstrated that his mission was in Martinique,
and not having received any new directive to the contrary from the Minister o f Marine, he
was obliged by law to follow his last orders. As the result, he would leave the colony at
the new year.65
Rochambeau would not leave Sonthonax empty-handed however. Discussions
had once again turned to a new campaign against the blacks, but though reinforcements
had come from France, fever had continued to claim thousands o f French troops. Even
by the time o f the capture o f Ouanaminthe, for example, the Second Battalion, 16th Line,
had lost 317 o f its 595 men to sickness, and Rochambeau had been forced to return the
remainder of the decimated unit to France soon thereafter. By 16 December, personnel
shortages had become so acute that Sonthonax, at Rochambeau’s request, issued a

65 Sonthonax to Monge, 8 December 1792. Service historique, Carton Yb 381;
dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299, unnumbered item. In his letter, Sonthonax praised
Rochambeau highly and expressed deep regret at his leaving. It had been asserted that
Sonthonax had bought Rochambeau’s support with a gift o f 66,000 livres, an indictment
that, for a time, raised a great deal o f suspicion in Paris concerning the new Governor
General. In his contemporary chronicles o f the events in Saint-Domingue, however, the
Secretary to the National Convention, Garran de Coulon, staunchly defended
Rochambeau and made clear in his report to the Convention that the author o f that
particular accusation had been the former Governor General Desparbes. The secretary
then went on to point out that even if the accusation was true, Desparbes could not
possibly have known about it. Desparbes had made the careless mistake o f reporting
events that he had supposedly witnessed more than three weeks after his deportation.
Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les Troubles de Saint-Domingue, III, 203.

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proclamation authorizing the Governor General to form not only a company o f black
guides, but also six compagnies/ranches.66 Each composed o f fifty free blacks and/or
citizens o f color, these regular army companies not only knew the area and the nature o f
the island’s guerrilla warfare, but were also men who were fully acclimatized, ensuring
continuous service without loss due to fever. Rochambeau had full control over the units’
organization, equipment and selection o f officers and noncommissioned officers. For the
first time, black and mulatto citizens o f France would serve in the nation’s regular armed
forces. Later proving their loyalty to Sonthonax and to the Revolution, these troops
would prevent a second capture o f le Cap Fransais by rebel slaves, but they would be led
by Laveaux.67
Though the point was now moot, by the New Year 1793, General Rochambeau
finally had received a reply to his appeals to Monge for updated orders. The first words
o f his new instructions, composed on 9 November 1792, helped the general little,
haranguing that “the news attending Louis XVI has caused the French to abolish the
monarchy forever! The French Republic is avenged forever o f the tyrants who had

66 Rochambeau to the “President o f the National Assembly,” 12 November 1792.
AN, Correspondence o f Polverel and Sonthonax, DXXV 50/477, item 4, 5; Second Civil
Commission of Saint-Domingue, Proclamation, 16 December 1792. AN,
Correspondances des Commissaires Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et son
successeur, Septembre 1792 a Janvier 1793, Carton Colonies CC9A8. These companies
had been unofficially in existence (though the National Assembly had known o f them and
had applauded the mulattoes’ efforts) since the first slave uprising in August 1791.
Garran de Coulon, Rapport sur les Troubles de Saint-Domingue, III, 225.
67 Second Civil Commission o f Saint-Domingue, Proclamation, 16 December
1792 and Sonthonax to Monge, 6 January 1793. AN, Correspondances des Commissaires
Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et son successeur, Septembre 1792 a Janvier 1793,
Carton Colonies CC9A8, unnumbered items.

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thought to invade this territory with iron and flame, and carries to all the torch o f reason,
love o f liberty, and the glory o f French arms.” Following a few more lines o f pompous
propaganda, the letter ordered Rochambeau to leave Saint-Domingue and to assume his
original posting in Martinique. Further, and decidedly more helpful, the instructions gave
the Governor General broad powers o f retribution against any enemy, personal or
In one o f his final acts, Rochambeau penned an appeal to the islanders, warning
them o f the dangers that lay ahead if they failed to band together for the defeat o f their
common enemy, the rebel slaves.69 Sonthonax named General Adrien-Nicolas Piedefer,
former marquis de, Lasalle interim Governor General in his stead. Since, however, he
was not only Commander o f the West, but also resident in Port-au-Prince, Lasalle in turn
gave command o f the North to Rochambeau’s former adjutant, General Etienne
Laveaux.70 For his part, Sonthonax seemed genuinely sorry to let Rochambeau go, telling
the general that he was the only man who could save the colony. Rochambeau replied
that he left the island with great regret, the two men having had reciprocal confidence in

68 Executive Council o f the National Convention to General Rochambeau, 9
November 1792. Service historique, Carton Yb 381; dossier lieutenant-general no. 1299,
item 48.
69 Public letter o f Rochambeau to the free men o f Saint-Domingue, 11 January
1793. Service historique, “Troubles de Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55, item 1.
70 Rochambeau to Monge, 10 January 1792. Service historique, “Troubles de
Saint-Domingue,” Carton DXXV 55, item 3, 1. In the contemporary writings, Laveaux
is referred to as “general.” He was not officially promoted until 6 June 1793, but he may
have been breveted to brigadier general by Rochambeau and Sonthonax in December

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their operations and sentiments, but, he again reminded the Commissioner, he must obey
the orders that he had received. With a flattering touch o f sentimentality, the governor
general closed his letter saying “I hope that one day we will rejoin each other in this part
o f the world.” Unfortunately for Rochambeau, this wish would come true.71
Despite Rochambeau’s parting plea and Sonthonax’ heavy-handed rule, the
fighting in Saint-Domingue continued. Notwithstanding the heroic efforts o f General
Laveaux, Rochambeau’s military successes on the island were quickly reversed, and by
January, bands o f rebel slaves once again occupied the Northern Plain. But though events
during the months after his departure would make Rochambeau’s efforts in SaintDomingue seem in vain, the general’s first tour on the island represented a series o f
crucial firsts both for him, and for the nation. He had, after all, been responsible for
integrating the first non-white troops into the French army, but it was here that the general
had his first contact with mulatres in their own environment. The gens de couleur
resident in Saint-Domingue were far different from the urbane sang-meles resident in
Paris, and while their motivations may have had common threads, Paris’ mulattoes
enjoyed the luxury o f loftiness o f purpose while the actual colonials that they supposedly
represented pursued more dangerous, practical, and immediate designs.
Just as important, Rochambeau had received his first taste o f island warfare. In

71 Sonthonax to Rochambeau, 2 January 1793, Rochambeau to Sonthonax, 3
January 1793, and Sonthonax to Monge, 7 January 1793. AN, Correspondances des
Commissaires Polverel et Sonthonax; Rochambeau et son successeur, Septembre 1792 a
Janvier 1793, Carton Colonies CC9A8, unnumbered items. After several provisioning
stops Rochambeau finally sailed from Saint-Domingue on 11 January 1793.
Rochambeau to Minister o f Marine, 10 January 1793. Le Moniteur Universelle, no. 55
(24 February 1793), 1.

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Saint-Domingue his enemy had not been the disciplined troops o f the British or Austrian
armies fighting from meticulously constructed earthworks, or formed as lines o f welldrilled battalions on the field. Among his new adversaries were guerrillas, attacking from
jungles, mountains and sugarcane fields, slipping into the French camps to slit the throats
o f unsuspecting white soldiers as they slept, or laying in wait to ambush columns as they
trudged over steep jungle roads. By late 1792 and throughout 1793, the majority o f the
rebel slaves no longer fought as the frenzied mobs o f 1791, blindly intoxicated by Vodun
and tafia rum, and oblivious to musket or cannon balls.72 Under the guidance o f
Toussaint Louverture, the black armies o f Saint-Domingue, were increasingly learning to
use the white soldiers’ own tools and techniques to their own devastating advantage.
Indeed, as he sailed from Saint-Domingue, Rochambeau could only have had an idea that
the unique political and military instruction that he had received in Saint-Domingue
would soon serve him well. The enemy, he had learned, showed him self in all colors and
all classes, the most dangerous, perhaps, being those who most loudly professed their
loyalty to him and to the Republique FrangaiseP

72 Tafia was a low-grade rum product produced and sold mainly for slave
consumption. Tradition surrounding the death o f the slave leader Boukman in midNovember 1791 serves as a vivid example o f the early combat techniques o f SaintDomingue’s rebel slaves. While leading a mass attack against a well-fortified French
position, Boukman wrapped his body around the mouth of an enemy cannon, calling out
that Ogun, the vodoun god o f war, would save his children from the mouth o f fire. The
gun was fired, and Boukman became a legend.
73 It is both telling and somewhat prophetic that after digesting many thousands o f
pages o f first-hand text dealing with the events in Saint-Domingue, Garran de Coulon still
could form no absolute opinion concerning Donatien Rochambeau. Going against such
documents that were put before the eyes o f the bloodthirsty National Convention, he
concluded his narrative on the general by saying simply that Rochambeau was constantly

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accused by the Commissioners’ enemies o f being a willing accomplice in the works and
opinions o f Sonthonax, and that similarly, those around Sonthonax and Polverel had
maintained that he had done too little to defeat the rebellious slaves. Rochambeau
himself, he added, had countered that he was consistently hindered in these efforts by the
activities o f the “aristocratic colonists” in le Cap. Curiously, throughout the general’s
career, at least two opposing viewpoints have always been left to posterity concerning the
actions o f this enigmatic marshal’s son.

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Chapter VIII
Subjugating Martinique:
January - April 1793

Popular support for the Royalist faction in Martinique had deteriorated steadily
during Rochambeau’s absence. Governor Behague’s chief supporters, the naval officers
posted to Martinique and the colony’s Royalist planters were powerful, but few in
number. On the other hand, his enemies remained plentiful. Under these circumstances,
Behague and his confederates entertained a variety o f plans, most o f them highly
improbable, to bolster their hold over the island.
Since June 1792, members o f Guadeloupe’s Colonial Assembly had been in
contact with Louis de Curt, a member o f the island’s planter aristocracy residing in
London. By late summer, the colonial assemblies o f both Guadeloupe and Martinique
had entreated de Curt to act as a liaison between the colonial governing bodies and
French emigres residing in England and the Continent. In particular, the assemblies had
hoped that de Curt could convince the Prince de Conde to appear in the Antilles in order
to lead a counterrevolution that would restore the islands to Bourbon, rather than
Republican, rule. Any response from the emigres had been slow in coming. As the
result, in September, Martinique’s own assembly president, Louis Dubuc, sailed to

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England to assist de Curt in raising support for the colonies’ cause.1
In October, when the news o f Louis XVI’s deposition and arrest in August arrived
in the island colonies, the reactions in both Guadeloupe and Martinique had been both
quick and severe. Local authorities had purged the colonial assemblies, and the mass
deportation o f revolutionaries had become the order o f the day. Governor General
Behague forced those remaining in positions o f authority to swear oaths o f allegiance to
the King, and further pitted the colony o f Martinique against France by publicly
reaffirming the colony’s loyalty to the Bourbons. Now desperately in need o f allies, on
16 October, the colonial assemblies o f Martinique and Guadeloupe committed treason by
authorizing de Curt to represent the islands by securing assistance from England against
the French Republic. The British government welcomed de Curt’s overtures openly, and
by 5 December, the colonial emissary had met with Charles Jenkins, Lord Hawkesbury,
who was at the time head o f the Board o f Trade in the Home Office, to request English
military aid. Hawkesbury, however, could only demur, for England and France were still
at peace.2
Rather than face deportation to France, hundreds of Behague’s revolutionary
opponents had fled to the nearby islands o f Saint-Lucie and Dominique, where
throughout October, November, and December 1792, they plotted against the Governor

1 Martineau, Trois Siecles d ’Histoire Antillaise, 161-162; Saintoyant, La
Colonisation Franqaise Pendant La Revolution, II, 211.
2 Genevieve Leti, Fort-de-France; Ville Militaire (1639-1985) (Fort-de-France,
Martinique, 1985), 80; Kieran R. Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation,
1794-1802 (Washington, D.C. 1988), 65-68.

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and the Colonial Assembly. Despite these exiles’ failed machinations, events on the
Continent soon turned the tide o f good fortune in their favor. By early November 1792,
official word had arrived from France telling o f the Republican success against the
Prussians and their emigre allies at the Battle o f Valmy, and the subsequent proclamation
o f the “One and Indivisible French Republic.” Throughout the winter, the news for the
Bourbon faction only worsened. In December, they learned o f France’s defeat o f the
Austrians at Jemappes and the ongoing trial for treason o f Louis XVI. A despairing
Behague continued to publish specious propaganda, calling upon islanders to rally around
the drapeau blanc, but the Governor’s support continued to wane. On 13 December
1792, in a final act o f supreme defiance, Behague and Martinique’s Colonial Assembly
formally declared war against France. The cause o f the Bourbons, however, was lost.
The Royalists’ days on Martinique were numbered.3
Perhaps the surest evidence o f Behague’s pending downfall arrived at the
beginning o f that same month in the person o f Captain Jean-Raymond Lacrosse. By 1
December, Lacrosse, who represented the vanguard o f a French fleet o f seven capital
ships charged with subduing the breakaway colonies, had appeared before Saint-Pierre.
Before his departure from Brest, Lacrosse received word that the commercial capital of
Martinique would quietly submit to the will o f the nation upon his arrival. When his
frigate the Felicite (12) came within view o f Saint-Pierre, Lacrosse was shocked to see
the drapeau blanc still fluttering over the city. Conveniently, the corvette Ballon (2) lay

3 Stevens, History o f the French Revolution, II, 479; Martineau, Trois Siecles
d ’Histoire Antillaise, 163.

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at anchor close to the Felicite, and Lacrosse immediately sent an officer to the ship to
make inquiries. When he returned, the officer related to his captain o f the saga o f
General Rochambeau, the Royalists’ usurpation o f power, and the flight o f hundreds o f
Republican citizens from Martinique and Guadeloupe to Dominique.4
Lacrosse did not force the issue at Martinique further, and instead sailed to
Dominique to meet with the exiles o f Martinique. On 4 December, Lacrosse printed and
sent to Martinique and Guadeloupe a proclamation titled “The Last Means o f Conciliation
between the Mere-patrie and the Revolted Colonies.” Denouncing Behague as a traitor,
and warning o f the fleet that would soon follow him, Lacrosse announced “ [E]quality,
liberty, those are the basis o f our Government. Thus it is in you, Citizens o f all colors,
that I am interested. Tell me that you are finally brothers! Throw down the shameful
banner o f despotism and seize the guilty instigators, the chiefs o f this revolt; be assured
that the law commands you. Call upon me and I will fly to you and be your mediator with
the Mere-patrie and we will mix our reciprocal joy in our embraces.”5 The captain’s
words had a tremendous effect. Martinique’s gens de couleur, furious at the repeated lies
of Behague, now turned against the Governor General and the Royalists. In the words o f
one contemporary observer, Lacrosse “had finally opened the eyes o f the men o f color to

4 Saintoyant, La Colonisation Franqaise Pendant La Revolution, II, 215. The
Ballon, as Rochambeau called it, was probably the privateer Bellone. This ship was
captured by the British off Ceylon in 1806 and renamed the Blanche (28).
5 Jean-Raymond Lacrosse, Proclamation, “Le Demier Moyen de Conciliation
Entre la Mere-Patrie et les Colonies Revoltes,” 4 December 1792, 2.

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whom the Royalist colonists had always painted the patriots as bloodthirsty monsters.”6
Once again, Martinique devolved into anarchy.
Lacrosse next turned his attention to Tobago, but like Rochambeau at Martinique,
he was rebuffed by the Royalist governor o f that island on 12 December 1792.
Nevertheless, citizens o f nearby Sainte-Lucie maintained the Tricolor. Without
hesitation, they swore their fidelity to the Republic, leaving Lacrosse free to address the
situation on Guadeloupe, where he arrived on 5 January. Almost immediately, patriotic
clubs sprang up throughout the island while scores o f Royalists fled on any available
W ithin three weeks, Lacrosse and the men aboard the Felicite had paved the way
for Rochambeau’s return to the Windward Isles. Only Martinique remained
unconquered. Simultaneous reports soon reached Martinique that Guadeloupe had fallen,
and the National Convention planned to send 8,000 men against the French West Indian
Islands. Now branded an outlaw by the Convention, and with no promise o f help in sight,
Jean-Antoine de Behague finally faced the realization that he could no longer retain his
authority on Martinique. After plundering the island’s treasury, the traitor-general fled
the island for the British colony o f Saint Vincent during the night o f 10-11 January 1793,
taking with him an entourage o f Bourbon sympathizers.7 By dawn on the 11th, a blood-

6 Bailleul, Report, 4-6.
7 Donatien Rochambeau, “Troubles des Antilles Fran 9aises de 1’Amerique,”
Service historique, MR 589, 17; Others o f the islands key leaders left on board the Ferme
(74), the Calypso (74) and the Coureur (20) for Trinidad, then governed by Don Chacon.
Bailleul, Report, 3, 4.

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red banner flew over a militarized Saint-Pierre warning the Royalists to stay out, while
the Tricolor waved defiantly above the island’s capital o f Fort-Royal.
Throughout the month o f January 1793, de Curt met with Lord Hawkesbury on no
less than six separate occasions, each time pleading for British action to occupy the
islands. In their last meeting, de Curt presented Hawkesbury a proposal for articles o f
capitulation for the island colonies. O f course, the Royalists were only willing to betray
their country by surrendering the colonies to an agent o f the crown with British assurance
that they would be allowed to retain their economic domination o f the islands. Except for
possibly mitigating the loss o f life associated with a British invasion o f the islands, the
ten articles o f the proposal offered little incentive for England to attack the colonies.
Naturally, the document did guarantee a return, in some form, o f the previous status-quo
for the islands’ Royalist planter caste.8
For the British, the costs o f invading the French Caribbean colonies were
potentially high, but the benefits were higher. Martinique had tremendous strategic value.
The island possessed the finest harbors in either the Windward or Leeward Islands, each
easily defensible, and each able to provide adequate shelter for large ships during the
hurricane season. Furthermore, if England controlled Martinique and Sainte-Lucie, the
Royal Navy would have perfectly situated bases from which to control the Lesser Antilles
from Saint Kitts all the way to Grenada. As appealing as these two considerations may

8 Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation, 65-71. King George III
signed a formal agreement with the French representatives on 19 February 1793. The
treaty guaranteed the colonial aristocracy’s privileges, trade, and religion, with the former
French colonies enjoying the same status as the British colonies. Lemery, La Revolution
Frangaise a la Martinique, 226.

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have been, the greater concern was the possibility of a strong French revolutionary enemy
threatening British possessions in the Antilles; a concern which bore more weight daily,
as England and France drew closer to war. Influenced in part by the entreaties o f colonial
French emigres in Great Britain, King George III authorized Secretary o f the Home Office
Henry Dundas to take possession o f both Martinique and Guadeloupe, granting to those
Royalists who would support the capitulation all o f the terms that de Curt had requested.
Ironically, the king announced his decision on 1 February 1793, just hours before France
declared war on Great Britain and Holland.9 The mission was subsequently given to
General Henry Bruce, Commander of British Forces in the Windward Islands to take
possession o f the two islands. A very satisfied de Curt set out to deliver the news to the
Windward colonies while Dubuc remained for some weeks in London as chief negotiator.
Unfortunately for the British, de Curt, Hawkesbury and Dundas planned the
takeover o f Martinique without crucial information. For instance, they could not know o f
the Royalist flight from the island, which resulted in the defection o f forty-four regular
officers and twenty-seven enlisted regulars, and that by 13 January, Martinique’s regular
military force stood at only twenty-eight officers and 270 men, with no navy. As might
be expected, the Royalist officers who fled took the bulk o f the island’s military treasury
o f nearly 16,000 livres, money intended to pay the soldiers who had chosen to remain.10
Furthermore, no one in London could have known that Rochambeau had left Saint-

9 Ibid. As early as December 1792, the Royal Navy had begun to seize French
10 Leborgne to Monge, 9 March 1793. Service historique, Indes Occidentales:
Expedition des isles du Vent, Carton B92, unnumbered item, 1-2.

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Domingue, installed General Collot at Guadeloupe, and then left the island with Captain
Lacrosse to reclaim Martinique for the Republic.11
While a large number o f M artinique’s civil functionaries had fled with the
Royalists, some members o f Martinique’s Colonial Assembly, now calling themselves the
“Intermediary Assembly,” had decided to remain. Afraid o f what might befall them in
the capital city, the remaining legislators moved their sessions to the town o f le Lamentin,
some seven miles east o f Fort-Royal. Immediately, the body passed an order instituting
the Tricolor, and began to address the future o f the island with the immediate aim o f
preventing complete anarchy. Their deliberations would not continue for long. Before
the members o f the Intermediary Assembly were able to quell disorder on the island, or to
even begin planning for its defense, the combined forces o f Rochambeau’s small army
and Captain Lacrosse’s squadron arrived at Saint-Pierre on 3 February 1793.
This time, the Governor General’s reception was quite different. Crowds o f
armed Republicans swarmed around their hero o f the day, proudly singing La
Marseillaise amid a roaring backdrop o f cannon fire.12 Following a short stay in SaintPierre, Rochambeau proceeded to Fort-Royal to make his official powers known. Once at
the capital, he proclaimed the Colonial Assembly dissolved, declaring that the body had
been formed at a time o f public upheaval, when treacherous leaders had held sway over

11 Martineau, Trois Siecles d ’Histoire Antillaise, 204. Rochambeau, “Troubles
des Colonies,” Service historique, MR 593, 16-17. On his way to Martinique,
Rochambeau and Lacrosse also stopped at Sainte-Lucie and finally placed General Ricard
in charge o f that island.
12 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 184.

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The Dictator’s Right Hand

Captain Jean-Raymond Lacrosse

Figure 21. The Dictator’s Right Hand

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O ld Saint-Pierre


The Harbor

A Downtown Street

The Chappe Telegraph

The Docks

Figure 22. Old Saint-Pierre

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the island’s affairs. Branding the assemblymen “rebels and traitors,” Rochambeau turned
his attention to the interim council formed after Behague’s flight. He dismissed them,
suspending their deliberations until new Civil Commissioners, who were expected at any
time, had arrived.13
In the place o f the Intermediary Assembly, Rochambeau recalled members o f the
Republican “Council o f Conciliation” o f 1791 who, as the “Sovereign Council o f
Republique-ville,” would officially register both his and the Republic’s orders. With this
submissive body in place, the governor proceeded to enact his own legislation.
Immediately, he renamed Fort-Royal “Republique-ville,” and the principal fortresses in
the city “Fort-de-la-Republique,” and “Fort-de-la-Convention,” titles which he believed
would clearly symbolize the new governmental authority.14 The next order o f business

13 Rochambeau, Proclamation, 4 February 1793. AN, Lettres de General
Rochambeau, commandant des forces Fran 9aises et d’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 17931799, Carton Colonies CC 8A 101; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 184; Kleczewski,
Martinique and the British Occupation, 75.
14 Ibid.; Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, 209. In this first in a
series o f name changes that would later be made throughout Martinique, the city o f FortRoyal became “Republique-ville,” while the ancient lower bastion, Fort Louis, became
“Fort-de-la-Republique.” In deference to the new national government, Fort Bourbon, the
larger, relatively newer fortress above the city, received the title “Fort-de-la-Convention.”
Construction on Fort Bourbon had begun in 1763, when it was determined after the
British assault o f 1762, that the harbor bastion o f Fort Louis was not sufficient to defend
the city. After paying 50,000 livres to Richard Gamier de la Roche for the necessary plot
on Mome Gamier, the work commenced under the direction o f Henri de Rochemore.
This engineer died in 1768, and the project passed to Charles le Boeuf (chief engineer),
who completed the works with the assistance o f the later-celebrated mathematician
Charles-Augustin de Coulombe. Situated at the southern edge o f Mome Gamier, Fort
Bourbon stood over 450 feet above Fort-Royal and commanded the entirety o f the bay.
When it was completed in 1771, the French government had paid a total o f 7,375,000
livres for its construction. Though it would sustain heavy damage from British naval
artillery in 1794, the works were repaired during the Napoleonic wars, when the bastion

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Fort-de-la-Rep ublique

Aerial View of the Fort

Inside Fort-de-la-Republique

Looking across the city to



The Fort Today

helped design Fort-de-la

Tsii S? I.fruuf?]

Relative Layouts of the
two Forts

Bastion Diagrams o f Fort-de-la-Convention

lunette Bouille

Figure 23. Fort-de-la-Republique, and Fort-de-la-Convention

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was to try to restore order among the island’s citizens. Rochambeau had come, he said in
his first proclamation to the colony, “to put down the signal o f revolt, to raise once again
the Republican standard, to pursue the traitors and rebels without pity.” 15 Entreating the
Republicans to “regain their courage, to maintain their vigilance and their adherence to
the law,” he promised the citizens that “they would not wait long before enjoying the
benefits o f a French regeneration.”16 He admitted, “[y]ou have suffered the violent shock
o f the treason and perfidity o f your leaders; but rally around me, and in concert with the
Civil Commissioners who are invested with the confidence o f the nation, we will assure
the happiness and prosperity o f your colony.”17 Instead o f “happiness and prosperity,”
however, the best that Rochambeau could manage during the next three months was the
imposition o f a tenuous peace, reinforced by an unsought dictatorship.
The Governor General next followed the example of his associate Sonthonax by
overseeing the establishment o f “patriotic clubs” throughout the island, ensuring that
admission to these patriotic societies was open to all free men. Naturally, the effect upon
the island’s mulatto and free black population was tremendous; finally every free gen de
couleur enjoyed equal political rights with his white counterparts. Rochambeau him self

later took the name Fort Desaix in honor o f the late hero General de division LouisCharles-Antoine Desaix, who had been killed at Marengo on 14 June 1800. When the
French defenders once again surrendered Martinique in 1809, the British, using several
tons o f underground explosives finally destroyed much o f the original works. The fort
continues to this day to serve as Fort-de-France’s principal military base.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.

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presided over the first meeting o f Republique-ville’s club, “La Societe des Amis de la
Convention N a t i o n a l e on 7 February 1793, where he promised to “fight to the death the
hated rebels o f the Mere-patrie, the enemies o f liberty and Republican equality.”18
Similarly, Captain Lacrosse opened Saint-Pierre’s club, “La Marseillaise,” four days
Hundreds o f citizens in the principal cities o f Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre
rallied to the Republican cause, but scores o f Royalist planters remained in control o f
many areas o f the countryside. Only the districts o f le Lamentin, le Fran?ois and
“Rochambeau” (formerly Gros-Mome), dared to imitate the example o f Republique-ville
and Saint-Pierre by forming popular societies.20 Having recently suffered under a
governmental authority that had sought to suppress them, the Republicans o f Martinique
were overjoyed that the authorities would work to their benefit. The least that they could
do, the Republicans believed, was to assist the new authority in its endeavors, and just as

18 Rochambeau, quoted in Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 186.
19 Martineau, Trois Siecles d ’Histoire Antillaise, 163-164; Bailleul, Report, 6.
When Rochambeau and Lacrosse organized the patriotic clubs in Republique-ville and
Saint-Pierre, they ensured that each club had its own Committee o f Public Safety, both o f
which were soon subordinated to the Governor General’s Committee o f General Security
in Republique-ville. As Martinique’s Revolutionary government matured, the
Committees o f Public Safety o f Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre evolved from “club
police” into powerful executive arms o f their cities’ municipal governments.
20 Bailleul, Report, 6. Bailleul continues “....[in] substituting this name
[Rochambeau] for that o f Gros-Mome, the inhabitants o f this district had two objects:
first to forget a name considered “execrable” in their town since the establishment o f the
aristocratic camp in 1790, and in the second place, they believed that it would be good
policy to perpetuate the name in the colony o f the First Patriot General whom they
regarded as the protector o f their country. The end proved that they acted too hastily.”
To avoid confusion, “Rochambeau” will continue to be referred to as Gros-Mome.

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in metropolitan France, denunciations would become a patriotic responsibility.
Now armed with a reasonably secure base o f support, Rochambeau turned his
attention to the disastrous state o f the colony. It was immediately obvious that factional
fighting, coupled with the previous government’s neglect and subsequent flight, had left
even the most basic functions o f the colony in a deplorable state. Municipal organization
throughout the island had virtually collapsed.21 None o f the most recent French laws had
been implemented, and the treasury contained only 100 livres and 12 sous. Similarly, the
majority o f the colony’s defensive works had fallen into disrepair. None had been
recently provisioned, and the only troops o f the line that remained on the island were the
barely 200 infantiymen o f the regiments Marechal de Turenne, Sarre, and Bassigny, and
fifteen artillerymen that he had brought with him. Martinique’s National Guard, while
extant, was more a concept than a reality. In short, Rochambeau observed, “order is not
to be found.”22
To gain any real control over the remainder o f the island, Rochambeau decided to
establish a legal, loyal legislative body and a powerful executive arm at the first
opportunity. Accordingly, his first thought was to hold general elections for the

21 The “municipalities” experiment had failed in 1789, but soon after Behague’s
departure, true Republicans, as well as Royalists-tumed-Republicans, had attempted to
fill the administrative void throughout the island by reestablishing the local assemblies.
22 Rochambeau, Proclamation, 8 February 1793, AN, Lettres de General
Rochambeau, commandant des forces Franqaises et d’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 17931799, Carton Colonies CC 8A 101; “Volny Foumiols, depute de la Martinique a ses
collegues du Comite de Salut public, 11 August 1795," reprinted in Sidney Daney de
Marcillac, Documents Pour Servir a I ’Histoire de la Martinique (Saint-Pierre,
Martinique, 1857), 191-192.

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municipalities and a legislative assembly, but too many suspect colonists remained on the
island to make direct elections feasible. In addition, once news reached the surrounding
islands that Rochambeau and Lacrosse had arrived on the island and successfully
assumed control, “patriotic refugees” began to reappear in Martinique in ever-increasing
numbers, all staunchly proclaiming their support o f the new order.23 Loyal Republicans
warned Rochambeau against undertaking such a sweeping reorganization when the
Royalists still had so much influence on the island. They also warned, since his arrival,
the counterrevolutionaries would operate under assumed names and place themselves on
local election ballots at the offices o f the commandant o f the National Guard in
Now the Governor General found him self in a serious predicament. He was
desperately in need o f seasoned administrators, but it remained nearly impossible for him
to know who was reliable. Nevertheless, he would have to form the nucleus o f a new
colonial government from among the hundreds o f Martiniquais citizens who professed to

23 Bailleul, Report, 6, 7; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 185. The positive
response to Rochambeau’s actions throughout early February and March was truly
remarkable. Writing to the Minister o f Marine, Rochambeau’s newly-appointed Auditeur
et Ordonnateur des Fonds, Leborgne, described the patriotic societies as “an intimidating
operation, [that] terrorized the rebels and assured for the Republic the conquest o f the
Windward Isles without commotion and without bloodshed.” “Further,” he said, “if, as
we have been warned, we are attacked by the British, France can rest assured that we will
resist so vigorously that we will bury ourselves in the forts before we surrender. Nothing
is impossible for Frenchmen who are led by a chief in whom they have such
confidence....” Leborgne to Monge, 7 March 1793. AN, Lettres de General
Rochambeau, commandant des forces Fran 9aises et d ’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 17931799, Carton Colonies CC 8A102, item 114, 3.
24 Ibid., 7.


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be “good Republicans.” Faced with the immediacy o f the situation and a lack o f options,
he quickly worked out what was perhaps the best solution possible. He abandoned the
notion o f colony-wide elections for the time being, and on 8 February created a central
Committee o f General Security in Republique-ville, with subordinate Committees o f
Surveillance and Police serving as interim municipal governments throughout the
remainder o f the colony. Undoubtedly, Rochambeau’s authority on the island would
remain susceptible to Royalist sabotage, but for him to have any hope o f destroying
counterrevolutionary activity, it was imperative to have some sort o f local judicial and
law enforcement bodies under his control. As the result, Rochambeau would have to
settle for the reinstallation at least some members o f the former rural bureaucracy, with
his only hope for the policy’s initial success being that at least a small majority o f those
selected would adhere to the laws o f France.25
Certainly the most reliable group o f Republicans on Martinique was the colony’s

25 Rochambeau, Proclamation, 8 February 1793. AN, Lettres de General
Rochambeau, commandant des forces Franchises et d’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 17931799, Carton Colonies CC 8A101; Bailleul, Report, 6, 7; Leborgne to Monge, 7 March
1793. AN, Lettres de General Rochambeau, commandant des forces Franchises et
d’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 1793-1799, Carton Colonies CC 8A102, item 114, 3; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 185. Republique-ville’s Committee o f Surveillance and Police
totaled seven members, Saint-Pierre eleven, la Trinite five, and the remaining parishes
three. As with the municipalities, it had been Rochambeau’s intent to hold elections for
positions on the Surveillance Committees, but such an action would beg the original
question o f problems with voting for municipalities and a general assembly. As a
temporary measure, the government at Republique-ville selected members based upon
perceived notions and citizens’ personal recommendations o f “civism.” Though the
patriotic societies and their associated Committees o f Public Safety went a long way
toward offering suitable candidates, by spring 1793 the composition o f the Surveillance
Committees remained suspect. The government, it was assumed, would be reorganized
following the arrival o f Civil Commissioners.

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recently-empowered gens de couleur, and it was they who Rochambeau saw as the
guarantors o f his “Republican dictatorship.”26 As the result, the governor took every
opportunity to curry favor with the colony’s nonwhite population. Whether he was acting
out o f political expedience or out o f genuine loyalty to the Revolution’s basic tenets of
equality is impossible to determine. The fact remains that from the beginning o f his
governance, Rochambeau not only decreed and enforced civil and political parity as a
matter o f law, but also recruited, trained and bestowed military and civil honors on men
o f all colors throughout the colony. Mulattoes and free blacks flocked to support the
colony’s new administration, and many donned a tricolor sash identifying them as
members o f the new Surveillance Committees, while others would soon wear the epaulets
o f officers o f the National Guard.
Despite his best efforts, the ranks o f Rochambeau’s most important government
bodies continued to harbor counterrevolutionary agitators, many o f whom continued to
engage in regular correspondence with exiles who sought to reclaim the island for the
Royalists. As one Republican noted, “ ....most o f the citizens who served on the
Committees o f Surveillance and Police were those who declared no allegiance to a
particular country or political persuasion, but who instead were willing to sacrifice
everything to conserve their own personal fortunes and who, through their reputations o f
humanity and moderation, gained the support o f the local populace. Rochambeau

26 In his 1936 work, La Revolution Franqaise a la Martinique, Lemery repeatedly
refers to Rochambeau as a tyrannical despot, even titling his Chapter Nine “La Dictature
Republicaine.” This work borrows Lemery’s title with a view toward its obvious irony.

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organized the island’s National Guard using the same criteria.”27
Eight days after his arrival on the island, Rochambeau was joined by two talented
civil functionaries from Saint-Domingue, Mssrs. Pierre-Joseph Leborgne and Jean-Marie
Pelauque. Pelauque, a former member o f Paris’ National Constituent Assembly, had also
served as the general’s secretary in Saint-Domingue, and would continue this role on
Martinique. Leborgne was a different matter. Now styling him self as “the Marat o f the
colonies, the Missionary o f the Convention,” Leborgne had proved in the preceding
months that he was not only a remarkably gifted administrator, but also a staunchly loyal
Republican, who saw his enforcement o f racial equality in the colonies as the highest of
Republican callings.28 Sonthonax had not wanted him to leave Saint-Domingue, but
Rochambeau insisted that he needed an ally such as Leborgne in Martinique. Finally, the
Civil Commissioner allowed him to accompany the general once again in the role o f
Commissary-Auditor o f War, charged with the task o f forming a patriotic army to defend
the island from both internal and foreign threats.29
In addition to their other functions, the two men became Rochambeau’s
representatives to the island’s principle patriotic clubs at Saint-Pierre and Republiqueville. As a result o f the markedly different traits between the two cities, their respective
patriotic societies found it nearly impossible to work together. Saint-Pierre and
Republique-ville had long maintained their differences, but by mid-February 1793 those

27 Bailleul, Report, 7.
28 Lemery, La Revolution Franqaise a la Martinique, 212-213.
29 Bailleul, Report, 7, 8.

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same characteristics that defined one as a center o f commerce and the other as a purely
legislative capital almost undermined the spirit o f revolutionary cooperation that
Rochambeau had tried so hard to foster.
By this time, Saint-Pierre, once the most thriving port in the French Caribbean,
was enduring the full effects o f a near-complete stagnation o f trade. The continued loss
o f commerce with France only exacerbated the problems of customs violations, lack o f
available credit, and smuggling. It was under these conditions that on 16 February,
Rochambeau created a new group o f enemies when he ordered the closing o f all o f the
ports o f the colony to any foreign trade, with the exception o f a tightly-controlled SaintPierre. His reasoning was twofold. First, he believed that isolating the island would
mitigate the external threat by at least hampering further Royalist infiltration through the
more remote seaside villages in Martinique. Second, he assumed that the island’s weak
economy could be bolstered by reestablishing exclusive commerce with France.
While the policy was galling to the colony’s businessmen, Rochambeau did not
consider his decision unreasonable. Exclusive trade remained the law, since he did not
know o f the recent commencement o f hostilities between England and France. On the
other hand, local merchants may have had second-hand knowledge o f recent events in
Europe, and could certainly predict the effect that the Royal Navy would have had on
trans-Atlantic and Caribbean shipping. Worse still, the declining competence o f the
French Navy following the flight o f so many officers was obvious to anyone involved in
maritime industry. Indeed, the prospects for French shipping appeared bleak, but even
without France’s declaration o f war against England, colonial businessmen long had

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known that exclusive trade with France was no guarantee o f economic prosperity.
Despite their furious protests, Rochambeau prevailed, and the local Surveillance
Committees were soon given the responsibility to close the ports o f the island and to
enforce tariffs and customs restrictions, while every citizen was encouraged to report
infractions immediately. Predictably, many officials profited from this otherwise onerous
responsibility and amassed small fortunes through bribery and smuggling, while other
less corruptible authorities performed their duties in dead earnest. Either way, by virtue
of one proclamation, Rochambeau had alienated the colony’s merchant class, and had
thus deprived him self o f one o f the most influential bases of support in Martinique.
Ultimately, his decision would devastate an already debilitated island economy. For
months, no ships appeared in Saint-Pierre, effectively ending legal trade. In the
meantime, Saint-Pierre’s “Za Marseillaise” club abandoned the Governor General and
delivered their support to Captain Lacrosse.30
After his experiences with Saint-Domingue’s petits blancs, Rochambeau was not
inclined to accept opposition from Saint-Pierre. The following day, he stalked through
the doors o f the former church to address the recalcitrant society members. Rather than
giving the audience the verbal lashing that they deserved, Rochambeau invoked the spirit
o f the sweetly fulsome Sonthonax, and handled his audience gently. He began by
thanking them for their earlier support, and then kindly admonished them never to forget

30 Under intense pressure from the colony’s merchant class, Rochambeau
eventually opened three more colony ports the following May and then all o f them in
December. Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 186-187, 191-192; Leti, Fort-de-France,

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that they were united under a single principle:
Citizens, you have encouraged me by your confidence in the
painful functions that I perform, arid your attachment to the
Republican government sustains me in my work. Never has a
better cause been offered to the tribunal o f humanity. The French
Revolution is not an affair o f one city or province, but is an affair
o f the entire world. It is not the object o f interest o f a single day or
year or even a century - this fight belongs to posterity. [The
Revolution] is finally the first seed o f this union, of this former
dream o f a universal league, and it is about to be realized. The
slightest touch could carry it, like a sign scratched with a needle
into the bark o f young oak, the mark will grow with the tree, and
posterity will later read the large letter. Yes citizens, I will be
worthy and I will fight to the death the hated rebels o f la Merepatrie, those enemies o f liberty and Republican equality.31
After explaining his reasoning and emphasizing the absolute necessity o f his decree,
Rochambeau succeeded in mollifying the indignant citizens o f Saint-Pierre, but there
were others who received the general’s sweeping reforms with even greater ire.
Within the ranks o f the island’s armed forces, Martinique’s National Guard posed
a particular problem. After reorganizing the body without any distinction o f color,
Rochambeau and Leborgne found that among the free black and mulatto members o f the
officer corps were scores of whites who had previously served in the Royal Militia. The
potential threat was obvious, and Leborgne, with Rochambeau’s support, demoted these
men and integrated them into the force as common infantrymen. Not surprisingly, these
soldiers refused to perform their duties, claiming that they would neither obey the orders
of, nor serve with, either mulattoes or blacks. Once again, traditional resentments would
ultimately lead to armed challenges against the Governor General’s authority, and within

31 Rochambeau to “La Marseillaise” club, 17 March 1793, cited in Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 186.

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two weeks an armed faction, led by five or six o f these same disgruntled soldiers, began
to gather at a coffee plantation outside Republique-ville. Initially, few people noticed that
this band was gathering strength daily, and even fewer knew that they were receiving
weapons smuggled onto the island by the powerful and well-respected Royalist planter,
Henri de Percin.32
By the end o f February 1793, Rochambeau’s decrees had created a tense
environment on Martinique, a condition exacerbated by his publishing and promising to
enforce all current national law relative to the colonies. The situation soon become even
more dangerous as the result o f the general’s personal indiscretions. His adversaries
believed that after assuring the initial success o f both the clubs and the Surveillance
Committees, Rochambeau seemed to focus on a “fem m e de mauvais vie,” Madame de
Tully. According to reports composed by members o f the Committee o f General
Security, even the general’s aides-de-camp joined in the courtship o f suspect aristocratic
women on the island. Not surprisingly, Martiniquais Republicans were incensed when

32 Bailleul, Report, 7. The faction grew even more quickly after the declaration o f
war against England which Rochambeau made public on the island on 14 March 1793.
Henri de Percin had been a chief agitator against the Revolution until soon after
Rochambeau’s arrival. Eventually convinced that his resistance to the new authorities
was in vain, he quietly retired to his town home at Case-Pilote. Surprisingly, he soon was
offered a commission in the National Guard with command o f the Case-Pilote area. He
refused, so the command passed to a free black named Fran?ois Eusebe. Acting within
his new authority, Eusebe sent a mulatto dragoon to de Percin’s home with orders that the
aristocrat report for duty at Case-Pilote’s garrison. It was this single act that reignited the
civil war on Martinique. De Percin beat the messenger, renewed his vow to make war
against the authorities, and moved to his coffee plantation “Le Maitre” (also referred to as
Lemetre). The topography o f the “Le Maitre” plantation made it the perfect site for an
armed camp, and he was soon joined by scores o f other vengeful colonists. Together the
group changed the name o f “Le Maitre” to “Camp-Decide,” a name which they used
interchangeably with “Camp de Percin” when referring to the group itself.

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The Early Enemy

Henri de Percin

Allan Gardner
Figure 24. The Early Enemy

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news got out o f the general and his staff consorting with potential enemies.33
In a very short time, the island’s Republicans came to believe that Rochambeau
had “abandoned the works o f the Societe (des Amis de la Convention Nationale)'’ and had
distanced him self from his loyal supporters. Furthermore, several officers o f the National
Guard, each o f them suspected as being aristocratic sympathizers, had worked their way
into the Governor General’s good graces. One Committee o f General Security member
(and future chronicler o f events on Martinique to the national Committee o f Public
Safety), M. Bailleul, noted that “ ....already he had begun to lose the animosity that he had
shown and began to frequent the houses o f those who were well-known for their
aristocratic persuasions.” Only the general’s mulatto aide-de-camp, Lahoussaye de
Cypre, showed disdain for the so-called “Republican patriots” that surrounded the
general. He warned Rochambeau o f the dangers o f his actions, but the general ignored
his admonitions.34
Members o f the Committee o f General Security were even more disturbed when
Rochambeau and his staff began to preempt other bits o f advice o f their most loyal
Republican supporters. Throughout February and March 1793, many o f M artinique’s
more vigilant Republicans offered Rochambeau suggestions on how to break up island’s
ever-growing Loyalist conclaves. To their dismay, he and his aides discounted their fears
as simple illusions. Indeed, fully expecting that both reinforcements and Civil

33 Ibid., 6; Rochambeau, Proclamation, 26 Fevrier 1793. Library Company of
Philadelphia [hereafter Library Company], #Am 1793 Roc Log. 1784.F.
34 Ibid.

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Commissioners would arrive at any time, Rochambeau and his staff appear to have
become too comfortable in their supposedly secure surroundings, with the effect that their
off-handed dismissal o f the Republicans’ very real concerns not only fueled the laughter,
but also the fervor o f the counterrevolutionaries. As the result, incidents o f violence
against Republicans on Martinique increased, but the authorities in the colony did little.35
Almost certainly, Rochambeau felt that he could calmly bide his time. By the
second week o f March, a messenger ship had arrived from France bringing news o f the
recent declaration o f war against England and Holland, but just as important among the
dispatches was a letter from Minister o f Marine Gaspard Monge who promised to send
enough reinforcements immediately to Martinique to defend all o f France’s Caribbean
possessions.36 To Rochambeau, it seemed that his pleas had been answered. He proudly
proclaimed the news to the colony on 14 March and began to draft plans to expel Royalist
sympathizers from Martinique and the neighboring French islands. “I am like the
Greeks,” Rochambeau wrote to a friend in late March, “I have burned the boats and I will
never retreat. I soon will march in triumph.” Now, anticipating the arrival o f Republican

35 Ibid. In one case, two citizens, Mssrs. Flomvers and Guerin (a National Guard
colonel o f artillery) were found nailed to trees in one o f the island’s forests. Local
Republicans appealed to their police, who appeared to take no action.
36 Monge’s relief force was indeed organized, but never actually left France. The
fleet, which carried troops, supplies, and four new Civil Commissioners was scattered by
a storm which severely damaged the flagship the Pique (38). After limping into the
harbor at Rochefort, the British Navy prevented the vessels from ever again attempting to
reach the Caribbean. Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 192.

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reinforcements, counterrevolutionaries on Martinique decided to strike.37
Since leaving the colony in December, Behague had never completely
relinquished his hold over Martinique. The former Governor General maintained close
contact with Royalists still on the island who convinced him that Rochambeau’s hold
over the island was weak, and plotted his triumphal return to Republique-ville. At best,
Behague was simply delusional. A British contemporary, General Henry Bruce,
described him as “a man o f great civility,” but “puffed up and overly concerned with his
position as Governor [even though at the time o f their meeting, Behague was in exile].
He imagined him self to be well loved and thought o f as the savior o f Martinique, while
most reports showed him to be disliked even among other Royalists.”38
In Behague’s mind, the Revolution had not brought about his overthrow. Instead,
his exile was the result o f the machinations o f a “Judas in London” (namely Dubuc)
whom, the former Governor General believed, intended to install him self as overlord o f

37 Rochambeau to M. Maurice, 30 March 1793. AN DXXV/50/477, item 9, 3-4.
Still primarily involved with events closer to home, the National Convention finally
declared on 5 March 1793 that as on the Continent, a state o f war existed in all o f the
French colonies. This second declaration o f war would have arrived on Martinique at the
beginning o f April. It instructed all Governor Generals and other military agents, as well
as officers o f the civil administration, to act in concert with the Civil Commissioners and
obey all their requests. Further, the order gave license to all free men in the colonies to
unite as irregular “legions or companies” for the defense of their particular colonies,
under the control o f the Governor Generals and the Civil Commissioners. Governor
Generals and Civil Commissioners were authorized to make any changes that they judged
necessary to maintain the peace in their colonies. Convention Nationale, Collection
Complette des Decrets de la Convention Nationale; Imprimes dans I ’Ordre de leur
Publication, dans le Department du N ord (Douai, 1792-1794.); Daney, Histoire de la
Martinique, 187.
38 Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation, 72.

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Martinique.39 Behague planned to get there first, and assembled on Trinidad a force o f
exiled Royalists. Believing that the British backed Dubuc and that he could retake
Martinique by himself, the former governor did not solicit any type o f English support.
Behague’s confidence was not without foundation; in April, Rochambeau’s forces were
too weak to fend o ff a strong invading force. While Behague only plotted from the safety
o f Trinidad however, de Percin and his followers on Martinique decided to act. Intent on
capturing much-needed supplies, de Percin’s group attacked the coastal batteries at
Sainte-Catherine during the early hours o f 15 April 1793.40 They quickly overwhelmed
the thirty-man contingent at the battery, forced the guards to turn over their arms and
powder supply, and then fled to their nearby hideout at “Camp-Decide.”41
News o f the raid spurred Rochambeau to action, and the next day he made his
move against the Royalists. After gathering approximately 500 troops and a collection of
artillery pieces from the garrison o f Fort-de-la-Convention, he split the force into two
columns, one under his own command and the other under Colonel o f Artillery Rene
Saint-Cyran. Just as he previously had done fighting the slaves on Saint-Domingue,
Rochambeau’s plan was a simple flanking maneuver. He would march directly toward
the rebel camp, which was sited only three and one-half miles from Republique-ville on
the road running from Fort-Royal to the Pitons du Carbet, while Saint-Cyran’s column

39 Ibid., 74; Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a, la Martinique, 218.
40 The Sainte-Catherine works lay astride the main road to Republique-ville
approximately one mile southeast o f the capital’s ship park, Case-Navire.
41 Bailleul, Report, 8; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 194.

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Camp Decide

“Here was Camp Decide

Camp Decide’s works as they appear today.

- so named because o f the dispositions which m otivated those
who w ere resolved to defend it. 15 April 1793.”

Republique-ville (Fort de France)
seen from Camp Decide

Xhe pitons du Carbet

The Ambush Point Along Rochambeau’s Route

Saint-Cyran’s Route

(The right slope is approxim ately 10 m eters high. To the left is
a 200 meter drop.)

Figure 25. Camp Decide

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would move along the coast road to Case-Navire, and then flank the rebel post from the
To a soldier with Rochambeau’s experience, Camp-Decide would have seemed an
easy target. The coffee plantation, almost completely open to the south-east, was
protected only by a gently sloping escarpment, and cris-crossed by hastily-constructed
breastworks and trenches. De Percin’s entourage, many of them former military officers,
recognized the weakness o f this main line o f defense however, and used other terrain
around the plantation to the best advantage possible.
The men o f Camp-Decide expected that the Republicans would arrive from the
Republique-ville road and launch their attack against the trench works. Thus, they
carefully cleared fields o f fire in front o f their positions while removing any trees or brush
that might offer Rochambeau’s troops cover. This standard precaution was just the
beginning. Approximately one hundred meters down the slope from the trenches rose a
prominent, tree covered cliff that overlooked the road. De Percin posted a group o f men
on this cliff, thus turning his otherwise weak defensive line into a perfect L-shaped
ambush. Still farther down the road, he stationed ten men under the command o f the
popular Royalist leader Jaham Derivaux. Derivaux’ mission was critical. His wellhidden detachment would ambush the lead elements o f Rochambeau’s column and then

42 Ibid., 9; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 196. “Loyal” Republican civilians
who claimed to know the various routes which led to the rebel camp wanted to assist in
the raid, but Rochambeau refused to let them accompany his troops. Under the
circumstances, this decision is understandable, but the general’s slight angered many

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Camp D£cid£


D e P ercin ’s A tta ck - R och am b eau ’s R ip oste

Enlarged Area

Figure 26. De Percin’s Attack - Rochambeau’s Riposte

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fall back to Camp-Decide, leading the Republicans directly into de Percin’s trap.43
Just as planned, Derivaux’ guerrillas surprised Rochambeau’s column, but the
Republicans were quick to recover. The general ordered his regulars, grenadiers o f the
Turenne regiment, to clear the enemy position; after several minutes o f close combat, they
had overwhelmed the tiny Royalist force. Most o f the rebels escaped, but Derivaux,
badly wounded, was taken prisoner. Nevertheless, de Percin’s plan succeeded. The
Republican troops charged ahead toward the plantation and were soon caught in the full
fury o f the Royalists’ crossfire.44
Retreat was not an option. Rochambeau had no choice other than to fight his way
forward. Unable to move against the Royalists hidden atop the cliff, he immediately
brought up his artillery and began blasting the rebel positions to his front, while his
infantry companies fired well-ordered musket fire in both directions. Scores o f
Rochambeau’s men fell around him as de Percin’s sharpshooters fired volley after volley
into the midst o f his exposed formations. Try as they might, the Republicans could make
no headway against the rebel fortifications, so the general’s lead units began to fall back.
Leaning low in his saddle, Rochambeau galloped his horse into the ranks o f his lead
companies, yelling and gesturing to his men to hold their positions. Now clearly visible
in the midst o f the chaos, he became a special subject o f rebel attention. One Royalist, a
renowned marksman named Le Pelletier, fired his carbine repeatedly at the general,
cutting his hat plume in half, riddling his uniform with holes and killing his horse, but

43 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 197-198.
44 Ibid., 198.

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Rochambeau continued to fight.45
Four hours after the initial attack, the Republicans still had made no progress. Not
once did the Royalists’ fire slacken; musket barrels became so hot that de Percin’s men
began to wrap them in handkerchiefs to prevent their hands from being burned. The
Royalists continued to decimate their enemy’s ranks, while the Republicans’ fire was
completely ineffective. Rochambeau’s infantrymen hit none o f the enemy who hid
behind trees or in the trenches. Similarly, most o f his artillery, firing uphill, sailed safely
over the rebel camp. A forceful bayonet charge offered the best chance to break the
stalemate, but Rochambeau never gave the order. The success o f such a charge depended
on Colonel Saint-Cyran’s secondary attack on the camp’s flank, but that attack never
came - Saint-Cyran was dead.46
Rochambeau’s choice o f Saint-Cyran had been unfortunate. The colonel had been
a member o f the old Colonial Assembly o f Guadeloupe, but had later sworn his loyalty to
the Revolution. Despite having gained a reputation o f integrity and moderation, at least
some o f his troops still suspected him as being a potential Royalist sympathizer. While
Rochambeau and his men tried to fight their way out o f de Percin’s ambush, Saint-Cyran
moved his column so slowly it was impossible to come to the general’s aid. The troops in
the colonel’s column were so outraged that one o f his soldiers, Barberousse, declared
Saint-Cyran a traitor and shot him dead. Now leaderless, the soldiers o f the second
column wandered back to Republique-ville. After four hours o f waiting, Rochambeau

45 Ibid.
46 Le Moniteur Universelle, no. 207 (26 July 1793): 1.

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ordered his own troops’ withdrawal.47
The Royalists, whose total casualties amounted to the loss o f one slave, rejoiced
in their victory. A defeated Rochambeau returned to Republique-ville and on 17 April,
posted an order to the citizens to disband any armed assemblies, regardless o f political
affiliation, within forty-eight hours, or suffer the pain o f public action. While intended as
an act o f forcefulness, the contrite tone o f the decree indicates that the Governor General
lacked support from all sides o f the conflict.
Certainly it is malevolent gossip that by this attack we wish to
bring war to the planters. Surely they cannot take alarm at public
force engaged against a faction which desires to rend this colony
apart by troubles....rather, action is maintain peace and
security. It is the rebels and de Percin who are responsible for the
end o f public order.48
Not surprisingly, the proclamation met with limited success. Seeing that the
regular troops were not reliable protection, most Republicans feared being unprepared
against surprise attacks by the Royalists; they remained hesitant to put down their arms.
Still others actually grouped themselves into vigilante units and offered their services to
the local Committees o f Surveillance and Police. This, coupled with the raid against
Camp-Decide, gave de Percin and his followers a solid pretext for forming their own
armed mobs. By their reasoning, it was Rochambeau and the Republicans under his
orders who had shown that they were determined to violate the Royalists’ persons and

47 Bailleul, Report, 9; Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, 232;
Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 199.
48 Rochambeau, Proclamation, 17 April 1793, quoted in Kleczewski, Martinique
and the British Occupation, 76.

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property. They would disarm, they claimed, only after the Republicans had surrendered
their own weapons. Unable to mount another attack against the counterrevolutionaries,
Rochambeau had little choice but to accede to their demands; when de Percin offered an
armistice, the Governor General forcibly broke up the Republican bands. De Percin
pretended to adhere to the cease-fire, but in preparation for their next offensive, continued
to supply rebel forces throughout the island with food and weapons.49
Martiniquais Republicans were under no illusions concerning their safety.
Despite the truce, those who did obey Rochambeau’s order to disarm feared moving
freely on the island. Such fears were soon justified. Following several days o f relative
quiet, a group o f Royalists murdered a mulatto named Jacques Laguerre on the road from
Fort-Royal to Lamentin. Sadly, Laguerre had committed no crime other than refusing to
abandon the liberty bonnet symbol that the Royalists had tom from his hat. The news
was met with indignation throughout the colony, but Republicans were even more
incensed that the government made no effort to find the culprits.50
In reality, Rochambeau was powerless to reconcile the two factions. By
disarming the Republicans and showing little resolve against the Royalists, he had once
again estranged a majority o f his supporters. This demonstration o f political ineptitude
was only the beginning. Soon after his failed attack on Camp-Decide, Rochambeau
convened a summary court to try Barberousse for the murder o f Colonel Saint-Cyran.
The general and his entourage were naturally outraged by Barberousse’s act and sought to

49 Bailleul, Report, 11.
50 Ibid.

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influence the proceedings against him, but while Rochambeau may have seen the trial as
a necessary means o f reimposing discipline among his troops, certain facts complicated
the case. While removing Saint-Cyran’s body from the field, soldiers had found in the
colonel’s coat an envelope containing 45,000 livres. In his pockets were another 800
tournois (gold coins from the city o f Tours) and twenty-seven Portugese moi'des. To the
members o f the court, the colonel certainly would not have been carrying such large sums
o f money into battle unless he planned to defect to the enemy. Under these
circumstances, the jury declared that Rochambeau had no place in accusing Barberousse
o f murder. Rather than allow the Governor General to force a showdown against his own
court, Commissary Leborgne intervened with an appeal that the trial be suspended until
the arrival o f the Civil Commissioners.51
Apparently stung by the court’s handling o f the Barberousse case, Rochambeau
took the matter o f the captured rebel leader, Jaham Derivaux, into his own hands. The
Committee o f General Security had recently mandated that all rebels who had taken arms
against the patrie be judged within twenty-four hours, but Rochambeau preempted any
decision by both the Committee and the court by ordering that Derivaux be imprisoned
until the Commissioners had arrived. Clearly Derivaux was guilty. The terms o f his
imprisonment, however, stipulated that he be fed at a daily cost to the government o f
twelve livres. To the loathing o f the Republicans, Rochambeau ordered that Barberousse,
who the jury had tentatively cleared o f all charges, be forced to survive on bread and

51 Ibid., 10.

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A two-week period o f relative quiet followed the raid against de Percin’s camp,
creating a false sense o f security in Rochambeau’s mind. He ignored the repeated
warnings o f his remaining Republican adherents, and made several trips into the interior.
After being met in every town with courtesy and guarantees o f support, Rochambeau
returned after each visit only to report that he had seen nothing to cause him any alarm.
Martiniquais, however, sensed an imminent danger. Any absence o f action on the part o f
the Royalists, they believed, was only the prelude to renewed violence.53
After two months as Governor General o f Martinique, Rochambeau could claim
the establishment o f a Republican administration, but the tangible effects o f his
governance were ephemeral. His defeat at Camp-Decide demonstrated clearly that an
internal Royalist threat to the new administration was never far away. Moreover,
Rochambeau, who had no choice other than to trust those around him who claimed their
loyalty to the Republique, continued to inadvertently integrate men o f questionable
loyalty into the new military and civil administration.
Rochambeau undoubtedly would have been better served had he given more
credence to the admonitions o f the true Republicans in his camp, whoever they were, but
being unaware of British preparations for military action against the French Windward
Island colonies, it is reasonable that he continued to rely on the Minister o f M arine’s

52 Ibid. Daney, who throughout his life was able to interview scores o f actual
witnesses to the period’s events, maintains that Rochambeau had Derivaux shot. Bailleul,
however, makes no mention o f such an important execution in his detailed report.
53 Ibid., 12.

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promises o f reinforcements. Thus, there was no immediacy in forming a more potent
force to battle renegade Royalists in the colony. However, the English were on their way
to Martinique with a force that was far more convincing than any Royalists alone could


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Chapter IX
The Royals Attack:
April - June 1793

By the last week o f April 1793, orders arrived from Home Office Secretary Henry
Dundas addressed to Vice-Admiral Alan Gardner and General Henry Bruce at Barbados.
While not specifying how or when, Dundas’ instructions authorized the two officers to
assist the Royalists on Martinique with both naval support and a land force o f up to two,
five-hundred-man battalions o f infantry. The news was manna for the hundreds o f French
aristocrats who had sought refuge throughout the British Caribbean possessions. Scores
of Royalists, each o f them self-styled situational “experts,” offered their services to their
newest ally. On 7 June, representatives o f Martinique’s outlawed colonial assembly
confidently reported to General Bruce that their armed comrades on the island had
succeeded with their preliminary movements, and that a small British contingent o f only
eight hundred men would be adequate to force the surrender o f the commercial capital at
Saint-Pierre, and then to secure the island from the revolutionaries.1
Gardner and Bruce must have wished for better than to be surrounded by a gaggle

1 Bruce to Dundas, 8 June 1793. Great Britain, Public Record Office, London,
MSS [hereafter PRO], Colonial Office [hereafter CO], 318.12, 293.

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o f disenfranchised French colonials. Behague had made clear to everyone concerned that
he intended to reestablish his former seat on the island, but as planning for the anticipated
invasion continued, he began to complain that he was being slighted by the British for
their failure to consult with him on every matter relating to “his” colony. As a result, he
hesitated for weeks before reluctantly agreeing to support his British “allies.” For their
part, Admiral Gardner and General Bruce secretly welcomed the former Governor
General’s hesitation. Both Behague, and the recently-arrived Dubuc, had become
especially unpopular among their erstwhile supporters on Barbados. Bruce outwardly
treated the two men with the greatest deference, yet he secretly scouted among the
counterrevolutionaries for a new leader to take charge o f them when the invasion o f
Martinique actually did take place. Gardner and Bruce eventually came to choose JeanJoseph Sourbader, chevalier de Gimat.2
As a former aide-de-camp to the marquis de Lafayette, colonel in the Martinique
Infantry regiment, and former Governor o f Sainte-Lucie, de Gimat was qualified for his
new role by virtue o f his credentials, and also by his remaining well-liked among the
planters on Martinique.3 Behague was rabid. N ot only did he refuse to serve under de
Gimat, he also refused to participate in any land attack that General Bruce might
undertake.4 Gardner and Bruce made no further mention o f the matter.

2 Ibid., 293-295; Bailleul, Report, 11.
3 Bruce to Dundas, 8 June 1793 and Dundas to Bruce, 9 August 1793. PRO, CO,
318.12, 293,299.
4 De Poyen, Les Guerres Des Antilles, 28.

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On 27 April 1793, the English frigate Blanche (32) left Dominica and secretly
disembarked Colonel de Gimat at one o f Martinique’s northern ports. He carried with
him the same terms for the island’s capitulation that had been signed by de Curt, Dubuc
and Hawkesbury two months earlier, as well as word that an English flotilla and troops
were en route to subdue the Republicans. Emboldened by the news, thousands o f
Martinique’s Royalists rallied to the chevalier’s camp, eager to begin the fight. The
counterrevolutionaries did not wait long to begin their campaign. During the last days o f
April and the first days o f May, colonial aristocrats, aided by slaves and pro-Royalist
mulattoes, quickly captured the harbor forts in la Trinite and le Marin, the southern
coastal gun batteries at Pointe Dunkerque, and Pointe Borgnesse, and the island’s
northernmost batteries at Basse-Pointe. Even worse, Royalists under de Percin’s
command ensconced themselves in strongholds in the Pitons du Carbet to block land
communications between Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre at will.5
At the same time, other mulatto counterrevolutionaries, led by Pothuau
Desgatiere, began construction on an extensively fortified camp on M ome Vert-Pre, from
which they conducted raids in the adjacent districts o f Gros-Mome and le Robert.6
Before anyone at Fort-de-la-Republique could react, the Royalists controlled six o f the

5 Donatien Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry
for 27 April 1793. AN, Colonies CC 8A1, item 66; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique,
194, 204. Hundreds o f the Royalists’ slaves remained faithful to their masters and
continued to cultivate the plantations and to hide their owners’ personal possessions
during their absence.
6 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 194. The heights o f Mome Vert-Pre (to the
west o f le Robert) not only dominates two o f the island’s older, primary interior roads,
but also has a commanding view o f both sides o f the island.

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island’s most important coastal and interior districts.7 With their initial takeover
complete, the counterrevolutionaries (now wearing black mourning cockades honoring
Louis XVI) proclaimed de Gimat governor, raised the Bourbon flag, and prepared to fight
to the death.8 Rochambeau’s situation was perilous. When confronted by the news o f the
Royalists’ successes, he wrote urgently in his journal:
It is noteworthy that since my arrival in this colony, I am without
soldiers, without officers, without engineers, without artillery,
without money, with few provisions, and only the citizens o f SaintPierre and a few other patriots to defend the colony against the
English and nearly all o f the white inhabitants....the Executive
Council told me on 9 November that at the end o f that month it
would send me a force powerful enough to conquer this rebellious
island; it is now 2 May and nothing has appeared.”9
The sudden turn o f events electrified the colony’s Republicans, and members o f
Republique-ville’s patriotic society demanded, in emergency sessions, that the Governor
General immediately arrest de Gimat and move to crush the Royalists before the English
arrived. To their horror, Rochambeau took no action. In the eyes o f the increasingly
desperate Republicans, the general and his staff appeared to suffer from a paralysis that
smacked o f negligence; accusations soon abounded concerning their collective
incivisme,10 For the moment, Rochambeau could only weather their criticism. If the news

7 Case-Navire, Gros-Mome, la Trinite, le Robert, le F ra n c is, le Marin and le
8 Donatien Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry
for 2 May 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 194.
9 Ibid., entries for 27 April 1793 to 26 June.
10 Bailleul, Report, 12.

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from de Gimat was true, then the Royalists’ attacks were only a prelude to a much more
dangerous English invasion. With only 300 regular soldiers available, it was impossible
for him to man his principle defenses as well as take decisive action against the rebels.
Nevertheless, the result o f the general’s inaction was that panicky Republicans in SaintPierre and the capital began mustering in the two cities, intent upon fighting the
counterrevolutionaries with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on.
Rochambeau (who appears to have been caught completely off guard by the Royalist
attacks) desperately needed troops, but to allow the island’s untrained Republicans to take
arms and form ad hoc, vigilante bands would have meant an instant return to a chaotic
civil war that he could not possibly control.11
The Governor General had a partial solution. Similar to what his colleague
Sonthonax had done on Saint-Domingue the previous year, Rochambeau determined to
undermine the strength of the rebel force (and to supplement his own), and issued a
proclamation promising a monetary reward and permanent freedom to any slave who
would come to the service o f the Republic. At least several hundred slaves broke away
from their masters’ service and reported to Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville. The cities’
authorities organized them into companies o f road laborers, and their primary work would
be to improve the island’s roads and gun batteries.
Rochambeau next issued a heretofore unprecedented call to Martinique’s

11 Ibid. It was probably for this very reason that Rochambeau had dismissed an
earlier proposal by the societies to form a 1,200-man auxiliary force, the “volontaires
nationaux,” to patrol the island’s interior in search o f Royalist sympathizers. Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 191.

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mulattoes and free blacks. Calling upon all free men o f color to volunteer for uniformed
military service, he promised those who would join him full civil and political rights, as
well as full military honors. The tremendous response surprised everyone. Several
hundred formerly disenfranchised free blacks and mulattoes, as well as scores o f white
Republicans, poured into Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre, where they reported to the
cities’ garrison commanders. Immediately moving to gain control o f these new
“soldiers,” Rochambeau posted on 2 May 1793 a proclamation creating an entirely new
type o f volunteer force, the Corps des Chasseurs de la M artinique}2 Unlike any o f its
predecessors, the Chasseurs was open to all free men, regardless o f race; and though they
would initially be supervised by his own officers, Rochambeau hand-picked the elite
among the white and mulatto volunteers to serve in company-grade and staff positions.
The ranks o f the first battalion swelled quickly, and eventually a second battalion would
be created.13
Finally the general had the beginnings o f a reliable auxiliary force; despite his
efforts, many of the island’s Republicans continued to believe that he still was moving
too slowly. De Percin’s group had not cut sea communications between Republique-ville
and Saint-Pierre, and members o f the two cities’ patriotic societies continued, without
Rochambeau’s knowledge, to plan their own campaign against the Royalists.
Commissary Leborgne made repeated appeals for calm, but both societies agreed that “no

12 While in the French military lexicon chasseur refers to mounted light-infantry,
it is significant that the word’s primary translation is “hunter.”
13 Donatien Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry
for 2 May 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 195; Bailleul, Report, 12-13.

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enemy should find asylum or supply in any o f the Royalist plantations, and that the
citizenry should march, torches in hand, to bum them to the ground.” For the time being,
Rochambeau remained silent regarding the Republicans’ agitations, choosing instead to
continue organizing and training the Chasseurs, and to prepare his garrisons at CaseNavire and Republique-ville for the expected English attack.14
Lacking any directive from the Governor General, members o f Saint-Pierre’s La
Marseillaise club began a secret correspondence with the popular mulatto leader Major
Louis Bellegarde (a resident o f Trou au Chat who had recently been commissioned in the
National Guard), asking him to form a militia in that area. In nearby le Lamentin, citizens
assembled under the command o f another National Guard officer, Captain Sougue, who
continued to gather more “soldiers” from the neighboring towns o f le Robert, le Francois,
le Vauclin, le Saint-Esprit, and le Marin. Acting under the purported guidance o f the
local Committees o f Surveillance and Police, these and other armed bands launched a
series o f attacks against Royalist camps and plantations throughout the island, thus
threatening to escalate the entire conflict. On 2 May for example, Bellegarde and forty
men joined Sougue in the town o f le Lamentin to attack a nearby rebel encampment.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, the rebels learned o f the plan and withdrew, only to
return to their positions the next day. While Bellegarde’s initial plan was spoiled, he
continued to gather reinforcements, and two days later set out once again for the le
Lamentin camp. This time, the Republicans’ attack met with some success, and after a

14 Bailleul, Report, 12-13. In Martinique and the other French colonies,
habitation normally referred to plantations (sugar, coffee, etc.).

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quick exchange, Bellegarde’s irregulars drove the enemy from their works and summarily
burned the plantation to the ground.15
Within two days, the civil war that Rochambeau had sought to avoid had broken
out in earnest. This time, however, the contest included a disheartening new element.
Having learned o f the Governor General’s promise o f freedom, hundreds more of
Martinique’s slaves took the opportunity to revolt. Initially burning several plantations,
they soon came to offer their services to Bellegarde, who chose from among them the
most reliable to join his band. By 5 May, an additional 400 Republicans (black, mulatto
and white) from Saint-Pierre had responded to the general’s proclamation, but even with
these reinforcements, Rochambeau still could count only 700 men with enough
experience to man his main garrisons properly.16
Republican groups under various leaders continued to occupy posts throughout
the island, including a series o f entrenchments in the district o f “Rochambeau” (formerly
Gros-Mome), at Mome Regale (a height that dominates the districts o f le Saint-Esprit,
Riviere-Salee and Riviere-Pilote), and others at les Trois-Ilets, les Anses-d’Arlet, le
Diamant and Ilet a Ramiers (overlooking the bay o f Republique-ville). Similarly,
scattered groups occupied several batteries along the coast and on the mountains
overlooking Saint-Pierre.17 The Republican successes, however, were not necessarily

15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.; Donatien Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,”
entry for 7 May 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 200.
17 Ibid. These included the Pitons du Carbet, Mome Calbasse and the hills at
Pamasse, as well as the batteries around le Precheur which guarded the coast in that

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decisive. Royalists still controlled the southern and northern parts o f the island, and most
important, continued to threaten Republique-ville.
On 7 May 1793, the rebels’ principle warship, the Ferme (64), appeared in the
Baie du Republique-ville. Two days later, eight English warships, two o f one-hundred
guns, five o f seventy-four guns, one o f fifty guns and another Royalist frigate, arrived at
Case-Navire.18 Thus, with British naval support in place, de Percin and a sizeable force
marched from their camp in the Pitons du Carbet, intent upon overrunning Rochambeau
and his garrison at Case-Navire. The governor made no effort to resist. Instead, he
abandoned Case-Navire as indefensible, and after sending 200 o f his men to reinforce
Saint-Pierre, he consolidated his remaining troops at Fort-de-la-Convention and prepared
for a siege.19 Under the circumstances, the move was undoubtedly wise. The effect,
however, was to leave Rochambeau and 500 men completely isolated inside Fort-de-laRepublique and Fort-de-la-Convention with absolutely no means o f outside
communication. He still had issued no orders for the Republicans to attack, and now, any
such orders would become increasingly difficult to send.20
The appearance o f the English squadron only fueled the Republicans’ desire to

18 Lacrosse to Monge, 1 June 1793. AN, Colonies CC 8A102, folio 22, 2.
19 Donatien Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry
for 7 May 1793; Bailleul, Report, 16.
20 Two days later, the Royalist ships Calypso (74) and Coureur (20) appeared in
the Baie du Republique-ville, further tightening the counterrevolutionaries’ hold over the

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fight. After apprizing the general o f the perilous situation throughout the rest o f the
colony, delegates asked his permission to attack the most important o f the enemy
outposts. Still, Rochambeau refused. In the Republicans’ view, the general had thrown
them to the wolves, and because he appeared concerned only with the defense o f the
island’s principle forts, Martinique’s complete capitulation appeared inevitable. Minus
organized resistance from the authorities at Republique-ville, the guerrilla war on the
island continued with a renewed fury. Republicans burned Royalist homesteads
indiscriminately, enraging the counterrevolutionaries, and atrocities once again became
commonplace. In one instance, Royalists captured M. Fenelous, a prominent, hotly antiaristocratic notary o f le Lamentin, as he tried to make his way home from Republiqueville by boat. Taken hostage as soon as he landed on shore, Fenelous and six other
Republicans were shot in the back while standing over graves that they had been forced to
dig only moments before.21
Alarmed by Rochambeau’s perplexing behavior and desperate for action,
members o f the Surveillance Committees turned to Captain Lacrosse to try to enlist his
support. N ot surprisingly, they were astonished when Lacrosse assured them that he
wanted to help, but that for the time being, he could not abandon the Governor General.
Further, he said, it was incumbent upon him to keep his only ship ready to sail in case the
situation got worse.22
Day by day, the Republicans became increasingly panicked. They pleaded (to any

21 Bailleul, Report, 16.
22 Ibid., 18.

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military official who would listen) that Major Bellegarde had a plan for attacking the
rebel camp at the Levassor plantation near le Lamentin. All that Bellegarde needed, they
said, was a cannon that could be placed on a small boat, so that they could fire on the
plantation from the sea while the infantry attacked on land. For the time being, the
Republicans’ pleas fell on deaf ears. Secretary Pelauque did make some headway
persuading the general that he could rely on the capabilities o f the Republicans, as well as
the good will o f Lacrosse, but the governor steadfastly continued to refuse to arm the
citizenry, especially as they were now asking for the only few pieces o f artillery that he
still had available. In desperation, the delegation turned to Lacrosse again.
The captain o f the Felicite was as perplexed as the Republicans over
Rochambeau’s behavior. Having neither seen the general for more than two weeks, nor
having received any orders from him, Lacrosse began to assume the worst.23 He agreed to
support the Republicans’ plan, even supplying Bellegarde with a 12-pounder cannon from
his own vessel, and arranged for merchant ships to tow the armed lighter through the Baie
de Republique-ville. With their immediate needs met by Lacrosse, the Republicans again
sought guidance from the Governor General, who still did not want to give the order to
In Rochambeau’s estimation, Bellegarde’s and Lacrosse’s proposed raid was
nothing more than a minor, poorly-planned distraction. Faced with a critical shortage o f
men and artillery, he certainly could not afford to waste any o f his precious assets on

23 Lacrosse to Monge, 1 June 1793. AN, Colonies CC 8A102, folio 22, 2.
24 Bailleul, Report, 19.

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frivolous forays against the enemy. Instead, he became increasingly convinced that the
only practical way to save the island was to occupy its principle forts and gun batteries
with as many men as possible, then to attrit the English forces with a combination o f
superior firepower and carefully planned raids. However, even this approach held little
promise o f success. Both Fort-de-la-Republique and Fort-de-la-Convention remained
drastically undermanned, and he could only find a handful o f National Guard who knew
enough about artillery to service the coastal batteries around les Trois-Ilets, le Diamant
and les Anses-d’Arlets. As the result, by 7 May, the governor had ordered that Fort-dela-Convention’s outer works be abandoned in favor o f properly manning the fort’s
interior. Three days later, troops under Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp, Colonel Daucourt,
had set fire to the ship berths in front o f Fort-de-la-Republique in order to prevent the
enemy from landing there.25
Though he refused to give his full support, Rochambeau finally allowed
Bellegarde to execute his plan, but only under Pelauque’s supervision. On 11 May at
4:00 a.m., Pelauque and a few other Republicans sailed the armed longboat across the
Baie du Republique-ville and soon began blasting the enemy’s works at the Levassor
plantation. With nearly eight-hundred black and mulatto troops under their command,
Major Bellegarde, Captain Sougue, and Captain Octavius (commander o f the Chasseur
company from le Robert) left le Lamentin in three columns and attacked the rebel camp
three hours later. Again, the fighting was unusually fierce. In one area, the youthful

25 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la M artinique,” entries for 7
and 11 May 1793. The guns placed inside Fort-de-la-Convention’s interior offered a
better line of sight on the enemy than those in the exterior works.

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vicomte Legendre de Fougainville, who was commanding a company o f Royalist
volunteers, distinguished him self by continuing to rally his men while fighting his way
out of a murderous ambush by Bellegarde’s troops. Like Rochambeau in the earlier fight
against de Percin, Fougainville would not be stopped. Even after he had sustained several
grievous wounds from Republicans’ muskets and sabers, the vicomte led the remainder o f
his men to safety .26
The counterrevolutionaries’ resistance was stubborn, but the Republican
onslaught would not be halted. Despairing Royalists soon abandoned the works at
Levassor and retreated to the nearby Maltide and Gamier plantations, leaving their dead
and wounded to the care o f their loyal slaves. Those who could not escape immediately
became Bellegarde’s prisoners, and within minutes the Levassor compound was put to the
torch. By any measure the rout was complete, but in the opinion o f the Republicans,
Rochambeau had failed to capitalize on this “brilliant” success. It would have been easy,
the Republicans suggested, for the governor to have sent a column from Republique-ville
to cut the rebels’ retreat, but he had done nothing whatsoever to help the Chasseurs. Their
accusations were partially tme. Rochambeau had done nothing to help Bellegarde, but
instead had remained focused on the imminent threat to the capital.27
In his official report to the Committee o f Public Safety in Paris, Bailleul reported
that the gens de couleur had distinguished themselves well enough in this operation to be
accepted on an equal footing militarily by the whites. Pelauque also reported to

26 Bailleul, Report, 19; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 201.
27 Ibid.


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Rochambeau immediately after the battle, and effusively praised Bellegarde’s conduct.
Realizing that he might have found a worthy subaltern in the mulatto major, the Governor
General promoted Bellegarde to lieutenant colonel, and gave him the command o f the
now battalion-sized Corps des Chasseurs. After issuing his newest officer orders to
occupy the Maltide plantation, and then to reestablish communications with le Lamentin,
he again turned his attention to the British .28
By this time, Rochambeau and British commanders had come to completely
different conclusions regarding the confusion on Martinique. The same lack o f order and
discipline that the Governor General had found so annoyingly distracting, had convinced
General Bruce and Vice-Admiral Gardner that taking Martinique could not be done as
easily as their “allies” had predicted. Bellegarde’s most recent success against the
Royalists at the Levassor plantation had only deepened their apprehension. The
Royalists, however, saw the loss at Levassor as only a minor setback. Attempting to
show the British that they were still a viable force on the island, the following day,
counterrevolutionaries conducted a surprise attack against the small, but strategically
significant village o f Gros-Mome. After promising the Republican defenders that they
would not be harmed, Dubuc’s men occupied the town and its batteries, and soon Bruce
and Gardner were listening patiently to Dubuc and de Gimat. They explained that this
potentially decisive victory marked a true turning point in their fight, and now was the
time, the two maintained, for the English to land their troops and make their conquest

28 Ibid., 20; Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry
for 11 May 1793.

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complete .29 Despite their pleas, the British commanders delayed action. This hesitation
was a godsend to Rochambeau, who became convinced o f what he termed the
“circumspection” o f the English. In his opinion, both the enemy fleet and the rebels on
the island apparently had erred toward caution, and thus had moved too slowly. In the
previous days, the Governor General had simply wanted to conduct the battle
methodically. Now, he decided to take the offensive, and to “conquer Martinique for
France in the face o f the British army and navy .”30
Between 13 and 14 May, Bellegarde and his men continued their success by
driving the enemy from their encampments at the Popote and Gamier plantations. When
news o f this most recent success reached the French headquarters, Rochambeau finally
left the confines o f Fort-de-la-Republique. Almost immediately, the Republicans’
suspicion o f their governor melted away; at last, they believed, he was taking an
appropriately active part in the island’s defense. Rochambeau inspected the recently
captured posts and began to issue detailed orders for the placement o f soldiers and sailors
to secure all o f the areas that had recently been recaptured from the rebels. The
Republicans were even more inspired when their general personally began to lead attacks
against other enemy positions. Following a series o f small but important actions, the
Republican area o f control began to expand north from Republique-ville and le Lamentin,

29 Once the rebels had taken the town, they immediately executed ten o f its
citizens. Bailleul, Report, 21.
30 Dubuc and Clairfontaine, “Recit des Operations Militaires,” AN, Colonies CC
8A102, folio 140, 26 June 1793, 3; Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la
Martinique,” entry for 11 May 1793.

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toward the Royalist strongholds at Camp-Decide and Gros-Mome .31
Aware that Republican forces in the southern part o f the island remained weak,
rebels countered the governor’s success in the north by establishing several strong points
near Riviere-Salee and les Trois-Ilets. Rochambeau, however, could not let this last
village fall and risk the possible capture o f the critical harbor battery at Ilet a Ramiers.
After ensuring the security o f his recently-won positions above Republique-ville, he
organized an expeditionary force o f 500 regular grenadiers and Chasseurs with the
mission to swing around the Baie du Republique-ville and retake the two villages. Due to
Bellegarde’s recent victories, Rochambeau had come to trust the martial qualities o f at
least some o f the Republicans, so he gave command o f this new expedition to another o f
his recently-promoted mulatto officers, Lacorbiere. Again using Captain Lacrosse’s
armed longboat to provide covering fire from the bay, Lacorbiere commenced a series o f
brutal pre-dawn attacks against the two villages. By 18 May, he held both les Trois-Ilets
and Riviere-Salee. Farther north, Bellegarde enjoyed similar success. Royalist forces
collapsed under intense pressure from the Chasseurs, abandoned le Lamentin, and within
days were in full retreat toward the south. At this point, Gardner and Bruce needed no
further evidence that the Royalists were not masters o f the island. During the afternoon
of 18 May, the bulk o f the English fleet sailed for Sainte-Lucie, leaving only the Ferme
and two smaller ships to blockade Martinique .32

31 Bailleul, Report, 21.
32 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 18
May 1793. W ith no ships coming in to Republique-ville, the Royalists’ blockade
accomplished little more than keeping Lacrosse and the Felicite bottled up near le

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By 21 May, Bellegarde’s continued attacks had pushed a major portion o f the
Royalist forces into the southern third o f the island, and the Chasseurs turned their
attention to destroying the remaining rebel camps between le Lamentin and Republiqueville. Two days later, his troops had swarmed through the Surirey, Preclair, Tully, and
Tiberge plantations. Planters in Bellegarde’s path fled in panic, often burning their own
homes to the ground lest their property be captured by the Republicans .33
W ith Republique-ville and the bay secure, Rochambeau spent the remainder o f
May consolidating his gains and continuing his advance upon Camp-Decide and GrosMome. Under the governor’s leadership, the Republicans continued a string o f victories;
within two weeks, the Royalists controlled only the hills outside o f Saint-Pierre, the coast
road between Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre, the roads to la Trinite and Basse-Pointe,
and the batteries around Sainte-Anne .34 One attempt was made to land troops at the inlet
near Sainte-Luce, but National Guard Commandant La Rochette, whose troops were
stationed at Mome Regale and Riviere-Pilote, beat them back into the sea. Republicans
steadily continued their advances, and by 31 May, Rochambeau was personally
reconnoitering the enemy’s advanced posts on the western side o f Gros-Mome. Even so,
Dubuc and his confederates continued to declare to their English comrades that they were

Lamentin. Nevertheless, the Royalists did manage to capture one unsuspecting Gold
Coast slaver that had wandered into the bay.
33 Ibid., entry for 23 May 1793.
34 Bailleul, Report, 21; De Poyen, Les Guerres Des Antilles, 25-28.

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still in control .35
Fortunately for Martinique’s defenders, a period o f relative calm followed the
British squadron’s departure. With the Royalists in check, the island’s Republican
leadership now had the chance to address many issues that had remained since the
beginning of the crisis. While unity should have remained a paramount consideration
among the governor and his staff, Pelauque and Rochambeau began to argue. Having lain
dormant for several weeks, the question surfaced once again concerning the twelve livres
per day to maintain the Royalist prisoner Jaham Derivaux. No communication had
reached Martinique from the government in Paris, and the governor could no longer
substantiate his earlier demand to keep Derivaux incarcerated until the new Civil
Commissioners arrived. The m en’s differences over the disposition o f the prisoner were
short-lived. Rather than continue to spend such an apparently enormous sum to sustain
the prisoner, Rochambeau chose the more inexpensive option and ordered Derivaux
Pelauque, however, was not through, and an even more heated discussion erupted
over Rochambeau’s aristocratic mistress, Madame de Tully. From the time that this
“remarkably beautiful woman” first appeared at Government House, Republicans
suspected that de Tully, who came to hold great sway over the general, had influenced

35 Dubuc and Clairfontaine, “Recit des Operations Militaires,” AN, Colonies CC
8A102, folio 140, 26 June 1793, 4. Soon after the British attack, Rochambeau appointed
Major La Rochette deputy commander o f the 1st Chasseurs. Bellegarde never trusted his
executive officer, and believed that the general planted the major in his ranks to spy on
the Chasseurs.
36 Bailleul, Report, 21-22; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 199-200.

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Rochambeau to favor the Royalists. Certainly, the governor’s earlier refusal to move
against the Royalists only fueled their distrust. When the two men had come to verbal
conflict over the affair, Pelauque stormed out o f the headquarters at Fort-de-laRepublique, saying that he would have nothing more to do with the general if he did not
remove de Tully from the building. Rochambeau refused, preferring to retain his mistress
rather than his most formidable ally. As the result, Pelauque left Republique-ville to join
forces with Bellegarde, and soon became the Chasseur commander’s close friend and
principal advisor .37
With such internal political turmoil occupying the attention o f those in the capital,
few Republicans believed that the respite in the real combat was going to be brief. Two
o f General Bruce’s officers, Colonel Jonathan Meyers and Captain Fiddes, had remained
on the island following the squadron’s earlier departure, and returned to Barbados on 31
May with intelligence that appeared to confirm the Royalists’ confidence in the success o f
an invasion. De Gimat, who now believed Saint-Pierre to be the weak link in the island’s
defenses, badgered the British leadership incessantly, arguing that a coup de main against
the town would tip the balance sufficiently in their favor. Again, the island’s planters
optimistically asserted that all that was needed was an immediate British attack on
Martinique with just a very small force. Days later, a deputation from Martinique’s socalled Intermediary Committee arrived at Barbados and bolstered Colonel Meyers’
findings. Because they now controlled some “very important posts” on the island (the
deputation’s members claimed), a force o f only 800 men would suffice in order to prompt

37 Ibid.


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a “great number o f Royalists to declare themselves, who only awaited the arrival o f the
British for this purpose .”38
To reinforce his case, de Gimat expectantly counted the Republican army at no
more than 190 regular soldiers, a collection o f sailors and other whites (all without
sufficient equipment), and little more than a handful o f the island’s armed mulattoes and
blacks. In contrast, the rebels claimed that they already had 2,000 to 2,500 men on the
island, and that the English potentially could land 1,600 to 1,700 men, with still another
500 to 600 sailors. Eventually, Bruce yielded to the arguments in favor o f a proximate
attack, but disagreed entirely with the idea o f a direct strike against Saint-Pierre. Instead,
he insisted, the greatest chance for success lay in an indirect assault, capturing first the
gun batteries guarding the tow n’s surrounding heights. De Gimat may have been
disappointed with Bruce’s methods, but the promise o f action quieted him temporarily .39
While the Royalists bickered on Barbados, Rochambeau continued to move
against rebel strongholds to the north and west o f Republique-ville. On 1 June he
attacked an enemy outpost at Mont Rosiere, where after fierce fighting, he not only put
the rebels to flight, but also captured most o f their supplies and a much-needed 2 -pounder
cannon. With this victory complete, the governor had to make one o f two choices -

38 Bruce to Dundas, 23 June 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12, items 285, 303, and 304;
“Extract o f a letter from Major-General Bruce to Henry Dundas, At Sea, off Martinico, 23
June, 1793.” Reprinted in “Intelligence from the Pelew Islands and the West Indies.”
The G entleman’s Magazine 63 (August 1793): 759.
39 Dubuc and Clairfontaine, “Recit des Operations Militaires,” AN, Colonies CC
8A102, folio 140, 26 June 1793, 6 ; Bruce to Dundas, 23 June 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12,
item 303.

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either reestablish communication with Saint-Pierre, and in the process destroy CampDecide in the north, or force his way farther west and then move north toward la Trinite.
He decided on the second option. The Republicans in Saint-Pierre had held their own to
this point, and without the help o f the English, de Percin had little hope o f making an
effective move against Republique-ville. On the other hand, if Rochambeau successfully
fought his way to la Trinite, the Republicans would have cut the island in half, and the
town would be available as a second, secure port for the expected French reinforcements.
Only two major obstacles were in the way, Gros-Mome and Mome Vert-Pre. The latter,
the Republicans knew, would be the most difficult to overcome .40
It was not by accident that the Royalists chose Mome Vert-Pre and its associated
village as their principle redoubt. From various points atop the mountain, they could
monitor activity for miles in every direction, and two o f the colony’s main interior roads
intersected in the town. The rebels fully appreciated the strategic importance o f the area,
and had put great time and effort into improving the works begun by Pothuau Desgatiere
one month earlier. Republicans had labeled the extensive series o f earthworks “the
rebels’ Gibraltar” and nothing short o f a potent offensive against this mountain
stronghold offered any chance o f success .41 Steeled by his most recent victory at Mont

40 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 7
June 1793.
41 At nearly 1,000 feet above sea level, Mome Vert-Pre is one o f the highest
points in central Martinique. In 1793, on two o f the mountain’s southern points, the
Royalists had constructed the posts Gravier and Legrand. The only access roads from the
north and south were covered by other cannon batteries, while on the northern plateau
was a semaphore device. Fifty years later, the works were still visible. Daney, Histoire
de la Martinique, 202. Even today, one can find Royalists’ cannons ornamenting the

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Morne Vert-Pre

Morne Vert-Pre seen from the Northeast

The Center o f the Royalist Positions

The Commanding View from Morne Vert-Pre
to la Trinite

Gros-M orne as seen from Morne Vert-Pre

A Long-Forgotten Field Gun of 1794
Left from the Fighting at Morne Vert-Pre

A Cleared Field o f Fire on Morne Vert-Pre

Figure 27. Mome Vert-Pre

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Rosiere, Rochambeau remained undaunted. After summoning reinforcements from Fortde-la-Republique, on 7 June he advanced his own posts toward the enemy stronghold and
issued orders for yet another three-pronged attack to take place the following morning.
One o f the governor’s regular officers, Colonel Lacorbiere, commanding the first column,
had instructions to assault the enemy positions from the Gros-Mome road. Rochambeau
him self would lead a column over the mountainous eastern coastal road toward the town
of le Robert, and then storm the enemy from the right flank. Colonel Torrail commanded
a third column that would attack from the le Lamentin road, hitting the enemy’s
southernmost works, while Bellegarde divided his battalion o f Chasseurs into three
companies to form the lead elements for each o f the columns .42
The three main bodies comprised either regular soldiers, National Guard or
Chasseurs; finally conceding to the criticisms o f the capital city’s Republicans,
Rochambeau agreed to give a company o f volunteers from Republique-ville the chance to
prove themselves. To their commander, Lieutenant Ducassous, the general gave very
simple and specific orders: secure the southern flank by occupying the nearly-abandoned
enemy post at the Coulombe plantation. Ducassous began his march with eighty or ninety
men, but apparently many o f his troops felt slighted by their ignoble task. By the time he
reached Coulombe, at least half o f his force had deserted in favor o f joining Bellegarde’s
now-famous Chasseurs de la Martinique .43

entrances to several farms on the mountain.
42 Bailleul, Report, 22.
43 Ibid., 23.


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At 5:00 a.m. on 8 June, the three columns were in position, and with their final
coordination made, they moved to assault Mome Vert-Pre. Rochambeau’s group was the
first into the fight and the other columns soon were engaged as well, but the recent string
o f easy victories had come to an end. From the protection o f their many breastworks, the
rebels maintained a devastatingly strong resistance, and while they sustained
comparatively few losses, over the course o f the morning the Republicans lost nearly 500
men, killed or wounded. The topography o f M ome Vert-Pre made it nearly impossible
for Rochambeau to effectively control the battle, with the result that the three Republican
commanders’ uncoordinated attacks faltered, and then collapsed, under the enemy’s
withering fire .44
By noon, the situation was rapidly becoming irretrievable. The Royalists would
not to be dislodged by any amount o f tactical dexterity, and with no other options
available to him, Rochambeau concluded that an assault en masse was the only method
by which the Republicans could ever hope to carry the battle. He ordered his men to fix
bayonets, and within minutes nearly 1000 Republicans followed their general over the top
o f the enemy’s entrenchments. A murderous hand-to-hand stmggle ensued; when the two
other columns entered the rebels’ outer trenches, the Royalists finally retired to their
second defensive line. There the fighting became even more furious, and it was only after
a desperate, three-hour battle that Rochambeau’s men finally overwhelmed the enemy’s
northern flank. As Republican soldiers poured into the breach, panic-stricken Royalists

44 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 8
June 1793.

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broke ranks and ran, leaving behind more than one hundred dead, and hundreds more
wounded. This time, Rochambeau would take no prisoners. While the wounded were
shot where they lay, he ordered one o f his companies o f regular dragoons to pursue and
annihilate the fleeing enemy, “an order,” he said, “that they happily obeyed .”45
By early evening, the Republicans had pushed the enemy to within a mile o f GrosMome, and Rochambeau’s exhausted troops made preparations to storm this second
mountain position the next morning. At around 3:00 a.m., however, word arrived at the
Republican camp that the enemy had abandoned the town and its batteries. Further
reports described columns o f terrified Royalists and their families rushing toward la
Trinite to escape the island aboard any boat that they could find. The general wasted no
time descending upon the city, where he found hundreds o f men, women, and children
crowding themselves into already-full sugar barges bound for Dominica. The complete
destruction o f a large part o f M artinique’s counterrevolutionary opposition was finally
within Rochambeau’s grasp, but after surveying the pitiable scene, he ordered an
immediate cease-fire. In a gesture o f compassion, he took only eighty-seven key Royalist
leaders prisoner, and allowed the remainder o f the refugees to leave the city .46
The rout was complete. In only twenty-four hours, the Republicans had captured
thirty-three cannon o f all calibers, all o f the Royalists’ magazines in the area, and reams
o f correspondence. Leaving Bellegarde and his Chasseurs to occupy la Trinite and to

45 Ibid.
46 Bailleul, Report, 24; Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la
Martinique,” entry for 8 June 1793.

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catalogue the recently-won prizes, Rochambeau and his regulars returned to Fort-de-laRepublique to prepare a new campaign against Camp-Decide and the enemy strongholds
in the south. Henri de Percin and his followers, however, would prove to be only a minor
consideration .47
At the same time that Rochambeau was savoring his victory at la Trinite, General
Bruce and Admiral Gardner left Barbados on 10 June with a fleet o f nearly fifty ships,
destined for Martinique. This time, combined British and Royalist troops would invade
the island as two separate bodies. Along with British regular and colonial infantry troops
under Bruce’s command, which numbered close to 1,100 men, Colonel de Gimat would
lead nearly 800 Royalists, many o f whom were already waiting on the island. Two days
later, when their ships appeared before Saint-Pierre, de Gimat again urged the British
general to launch his initial invasion directly against the city rather than the surrounding
heights. Once more he insisted that such an attack would easily make the British masters
o f Saint-Pierre, and that with the combined assistance o f the Royalists there would be
enough to bring about the complete submission o f the rest o f the island, excluding
Rochambeau’s headquarters at Fort-de-la-Republique. Once this initial phase was
complete, de Gimat and his associates asserted, even Fort-de-la-Republique would be
forced to surrender for want o f sufficient provisions. Bruce was unimpressed; while
Gardner’s ships cruised between Saint-Pierre and Case-Navire, a frustrated de Gimat



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soon left the British commander and went ashore to gather his army .48
Royalists throughout the island continued to engage in sporadic skirmishing with
the Republicans. One band surprised and captured Ducassous’ weakly defended post at
Coulombe, while another group attacked a Republican outpost at the Gamier plantation in
order to retrieve a much-needed cache o f supplies. Fortified by these minor successes,
the two groups joined forces to intercept General Rochambeau and his troops as they
returned from la Trinite. By sheer good fortune, Captain Lacrosse and some o f his sailors
(who earlier had joined Rochambeau for the attack on Mome Vert-Pre), discovered the
rebels and scattered them before they could lay their trap .49
In early June, Rochambeau led a column to the town o f les Trois-Ilets to drive out
a group of aristocrats who had assembled at the d ’Audiffredy plantation. The president o f
the parish’s Committee o f Surveillance and Police, M. Marlet, begged the general to
temper the destruction that was about to fall upon his district, but his pleas for moderation
fell upon deaf ears. Rochambeau ordered that the majority o f the Royalist plantations in
the area be burned, and that the aristocrats be rounded up and sent to the gaol. Within
hours, plantations around les Trois-Ilets lay in smouldering ruins, but there was one
suspected Royalist for whom the general made an exception. Accompanied by her two
small children Eugene and Hortense, Marie-Joseph Rose Tascher de Beauhamais sought
refuge at her childhood home in Martinique while her husband, Alexandre-Fran 9ois-

48 Bmce to Dundas, 23 June 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12, items 303 and 304; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 206.
49 Bailleul, Report, 24-25.


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Marie, campaigned with the French Army o f the Rhine. Whether or not Rochambeau
knew the vicomte de Beauhamais personally, he certainly was aware o f the creole
general’s reputation, and o f his notable service to the patrie throughout the course o f the
ongoing war in Europe. At the very least, military protocol dictated that Rochambeau do
everything in his power to protect the family o f a fellow Republican general. After
explaining to Rose that under the circumstances she would be much safer in Republiqueville than at her plantation, he soon found him self personally escorting the future Imperial
family to new accommodations in the capital city .50
Indeed, the situation was growing more dangerous daily. The majority o f the
Royalist enemy had reassembled at Camp-Decide, where Colonel de Gimat was finalizing
plans for an imminent invasion. Operations at the rebel camp, however, were halted by a
temporary interruption. Ever eager to reassert his late authority on Martinique, Behague
arrived on the island and immediately challenged de Gimat for command o f the Royalist
forces. Their arguing was short-lived; the majority o f the island’s planters by now had
come to heartily detest the former Governor General. Before Behague could have his

50 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 205. Since leaving the Army o f the North in
August 1792, de Beauhamais served as chief o f staff o f the Army o f the Rhine under
General Biron. He was promoted to General de division on 3 March 1793, and was given
command o f the Army o f the Rhine on 30 May 1793. Immediately following publication
o f the National Convention’s ban on former nobles serving in the military, de
Beauhamais resigned his command on 18 August and was later guillotined for allegedly
remaining inactive for two weeks at Mainz. Unfortunately for General Beauhamais, the
national government’s Representatives on M ission to the Army o f the Rhine was
Robespierre’s sycophantic young disciple, Louis Antoine Leon (de) Saint-Just.
Presumably, he made the recommendation to have the general executed - the respected
veteran never stood a chance against an accusation made by the twenty-five-year-old


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baggage unloaded from his ship, de Gimat’s Loyalists had forcibly convinced him and his
suite to return to Saint Vincent. Unfortunately for General Rochambeau, he was unable
to capitalize on the temporary division among the Royalist leadership. While they argued
among themselves, Gardner’s warships kept constant pressure on the Republicans by
cruising along the coast between Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville, taking random shots
at the coastal batteries and making travel on the coastal road impossible. The governor’s
forces were helpless to intercede. The plucky Captain Lacrosse was in no position to take
on the British squadron with only the Felicite, and Gardner routinely anchored his ships
at night well out o f range of the guns in and around Republique-ville. The best that
Rochambeau could manage was to arrange for two small fire ships to be launched against
the enemy squadron on the night o f the 12th. The attempt failed .51
By 13 June, Bruce believed that the time was right for his attack; he landed
elements o f his 21st Foot on the beach at Case-Navire the following morning. Since de
Percin’s men still held the battery at Case-Navire, the British unit moved to block the
road from Republique-ville to Saint-Pierre, while de Gimat organized his Royalists. Thus
far, the operation was proceeding smoothly. In an effort to divert the French governor’s
attention toward the south, other rebel groups attacked and captured posts at le Vauclin
and Riviere-Salee. Rochambeau was not so easily fooled. He knew well that the focal
point o f the main attack would be where the British chose to station their seaborne
firepower - the question only remained as to where that was going to be. By 15 June, he

51 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 13
June 1793.

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had his answer. While two o f the larger English ships maintained their blockade o f
Republique-ville, two smaller vessels concentrated their fire on the battery at le Carbet,
forcing its defenders to withdraw. Now Rochambeau was certain that the target was
Saint-Pierre. In the predawn hours o f 16 June, he led 400 mounted soldiers from Fort-dela-Republique and headed north, riding unseen around the Pitons du Carbet by the same
road that had supported their earlier attack on Mome Vert-Pre and Gros-Mome. After
gathering additional militia from a camp near the Riviere Capot, the exhausted
detachment arrived at Saint-Pierre just before noon. Rochambeau made a quick
inspection o f the tow n’s defenses, and then turned his attention to the enemy .52
On 16 June, with the battery at le Carbet now abandoned, Bruce landed the
majority o f his remaining forces at the tiny seaside village o f Case-Pilote, and de Gimat
and his battalion descended from their rallying point in the Pitons du Carbet to join their
British allies. De Perrin’s men and the British contingent remained in positions near
Camp-Decide and Case-Navire, with orders to cut off any reinforcements that the
Republicans might send from the capital. Bruce had realized the first part o f his plan
easily, but Saint-Pierre’s northern batteries at le Precheur and les Abymes remained in
Republican hands. Though three English warships blasted the two positions throughout
the day, the Republicans manning the guns would not be dislodged. It was integral to
Brace’s plan that at least the guns at le Precheur were silenced, but clearly, the only
alternative for forcing le Precheur would be by a direct ground attack. The next day, de

52 Bruce to Dundas, 23 June 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12, items 303, 304; Donatien
Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 16 June 1793;
Bailleul, Report, 26.

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Gimat directed more than 200 o f his men to storm the battery. As they tried to move their
6 -pounder cannons into position, they were attacked by a company o f irregulars from

Saint-Pierre, under the command o f a respected mulatto National Guardsman, Major
Edouard Meunier. The Royalists fought off Member’s group, but the distraction upset
Bruce’s schedule by an entire day. After plundering and then burning the village at le
Precheur, frustrated Royalists prepared to try again the following morning .53
The feeble attack north o f Saint-Pierre further convinced Rochambeau that the
main effort against Saint-Pierre would come from south of the city, probably early the
following morning. However, the governor faced a serious problem. His best chance for
success was to hit the enemy quickly at the water’s edge before they could properly
deploy, but with only 400 troops, he was outnumbered by more than five-to-one.
Rochambeau’s solution was remarkable for its simple audacity. During the afternoon o f
June 17, he divided his small “army” into two, 200-man columns, and gave them their
orders. The first column, under Colonel Cyprien Bihan, was to wait in Saint-Pierre until
dark, and then move south along the mountainous coast road to meet the advancing
enemy. The second column, under Colonel Meslon, would march from Saint-Pierre into
the dense forest o f the Pitons du Carbet, and in the darkness, descend upon the enemy’s
right flank. Throughout the afternoon, M eslon’s men crept along the highland paths to
within a short distance o f the enemy, while Bihan patiently waited for nightfall .54

53 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 16
June 1793; Bailleul, Report, 26; Bruce to Dundas, 23 June 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12, item
54 Bailleul, Report, 26-27.


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The British unwittingly played right into Rochambeau’s hands. During the night,
Bruce landed his remaining troops at Case-Navire, and at 2:30 a.m. on 18 February,
ordered de Gimat and his second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel Malherbe, to form two
columns that would lead the British troops to various attack positions surrounding the
city. The “allies” were unaware that they were headed directly into a trap. Rochambeau
and Bihan had prepared a formidable ambush in the Royalists’ path, and as Colonel de
Gimat and his men led the others along the undulating road from Case-Pilote to SaintPierre road, well-hidden Republicans opened fire. The Royalists were stunned. Surprised
troops at the head o f the column recoiled against Bihan’s fire, and taking advantage o f the
confusion, Rochambeau gave the order for his men to advance .55
Now Meslon became the hammer to Bihan’s anvil. As Meslon’s men advanced
from the blackness o f the forest, the Royalists soon discovered that they were taking fire
both from their front and from their right flank. The resulting effect caused de Gimat’s
pickets to fall back onto his own column, which itself began to retreat toward Malherbe’s
men. In the darkness, the astonished Royalists had no way o f distinguishing friend from
foe, and mistakenly taking de Gimat’s soldiers for the enemy, Malherbe’s troops began
shooting at them mercilessly. Within minutes the Republicans, following the fleeing
Royalists, stormed into the ranks o f the British regulars. Bruce had no alternative but to
sound a general retreat, but before he could regain control o f the situation, Rochambeau’s

55 Rochambeau, “Troubles des Antilles Fran 9aises,” Service historique, MR 589,
18; Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 16 June

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men slipped into the darkness leaving behind only two wounded men .56
On their side, the Loyalists also had suffered remarkably few casualties, but de
Gimat lay dying with a broken skull and a bullet in his chest.57 Unable to rally their
comrades the next day, and seeing the impossibility o f taking Saint-Pierre alone, General
Bruce held a brief council o f war, where he determined to evacuate the island. Between
19 and 21 June, the British re-boarded their ships, taking with them as many o f their
Royalist comrades as possible. The aftermath o f the aborted invasion proved worse than
the failed action itself. Captain Lacrosse brought the Felicite out o f hiding and terrorized
the evacuating parties from the sea, while Colonel Daucourt hunted fleeing rebels on the
land. At Camp-Decide, a demoralized Henri de Percin and a handful o f his remaining
adherents defiantly raised the British flag over the le Maitre plantation, and then
abandoned it. De Percin was not finished. Firing from the batteries both at Case-Pilote
and Case-Navire, he and his men fought frantically to cover the allied evacuation, but
eventually, they too joined the remainder o f the Royalist refugees aboard the English
vessels. Finally, Governor General Rochambeau and his troops marched triumphantly

56 Bailleul, Report, 27; Camille-Marie, chevalier de Valous, Avec le s“Rouges”
aux lies du Vent (Paris, 1930), 191. Rochambeau’s forces took eighty prisoners in the
57 Owing to the almost complete absence o f light in the semi-jungle conditions of
the areas’ forests, the Republicans killed or wounded far fewer o f the enemy than would
have been the case in daylight. According to Bruce’s report to Secretary Dundas, the
British lost only one captain (to exhaustion), three rank and file wounded, and one rank
and file killed. Bruce to Dundas, “Return o f Killed and Wounded in a Skirmish with the
Enemy on the Island of Martinico on 17 June 1793,” 23 June 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12,
item 303.

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into an empty Camp-Decide .58
Based upon his earlier performance at Mome Vert-Pre and les Trois-Ilets, panic
soon spread among Royalists throughout the island that Rochambeau would effect harsh
reprisals - the English offered the only salvation. “As the Royalists would certainly fall
sacrifices to the implacable malignity o f the Republican party,” Bruce wrote, “as soon as
we quitted the island, it became in a manner incumbent upon us, in support o f the
National character, to use our utmost exertions to bring these unhappy people from the
shore ....”59 The English could not move quickly enough. Turning his ships to the south,
Gardner scrambled to evacuate counterrevolutionaries and their families, who were now
crowding the docks in Sainte-Anne, le Marin, and le Vauclin. To his dismay,
Rochambeau had also turned his attention to the south. Scores o f Royalists managed to
reach the British ships on 22 June, but by the next morning, the Republicans were
rounding up prisoners in all three villages. Hastily spiked cannons and broken carriages
were quickly put back into action by Rochambeau’s regular artillerymen, who then
opened fire on the British ships and their refugee cargo .60
Despite the best efforts o f General Bmce and Admiral Gardner, only four hundred
Royalists managed to escape with the British squadron, while the rest fled into the

58 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entries for 19
and 21 June 1793.
59 Bmce to Dundas, 23 June 1793. Reprinted in “Intelligence from the Pelew
Islands and the West Indies.” The G entleman’s Magazine 63 (August 1793): 759.
60 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entries for 23
and 25 June 1793.

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mountains. For the next five days, boats o f all types, many hired by the English, slipped
away from points all along the island’s coastline carrying white refugees and nearly
12,000 slaves. “These,” Bailleul reported, “belonged to the Royalists, the others now
belonged to the Republicans .”61
In his own report to English authorities concerning his failure to secure SaintPierre, Bruce asserted that the French Royalists had proven themselves untrustworthy and
that English assistance should never have been given to the counterrevolutionary forces
on Martinique. Attributing his personal lack o f success to his age, his health, and his
unfamiliarity with the area, Bruce asked Secretary Dundas for his relief in favor of
another officer. Some weeks later, his request was granted. Bruce’s true failure,
however, had been to delay his leaving Barbados for nearly six weeks, giving
Rochambeau ample time to organize his ad hoc regiments of white Republicans,
mulattoes, free blacks, and slaves. Despite the odds, the Republicans had won the first
round, and the immense pride that they felt was more than justified. Eh bien! For a brief
moment, even Governor General Rochambeau would allow him self to gloat, albeit ever
so slightly. Indeed, through his characteristically terse journal entry for 26 June 1793, he
has passed on a fitting epitaph to the first British invasion:
Remember to their glory that patriots alone have conquered for the
French Republic the colony o f Martinique. This they have done
without assistance from Europe, and in opposition to the English
army and navy who have sustained the rebellion .62

61 Bailleul, Report, 27-28.
62 Rochambeau, “Journal du Blocus et du Siege de la Martinique,” entry for 26
June 1793; Bruce to Dundas, 24 June and 10 July 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12., items 304,

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Throughout May and June 1794, Rochambeau came perilously close to losing the
tenuous hold that he had gained over Martinique. In his first three months as chief
military authority, he failed to organize the National Guard, former militia, and other
irregular forces on the island - a choice probably based upon his adverse experiences with
volunteer forces in the Austrian Netherlands and in Saint-Domingue the previous year.
As a result, the general had few available options when a formidable enemy attacked the
colony; when threatened with a seaborne invasion, his response was to consolidate his
regular troops in the forts in Republique-ville. Though Rochambeau and his regulars may
have succeeded in defending the capital, it is clear that he planned for the remaining
troops on the island to fend for themselves. Fortunately for the Republicans, the efforts
o f volunteers acting outside the general’s control prevented a Royalist takeover o f
Martinique; Rochambeau only assumed physical command o f irregular troops after he
was convinced that a British invasion was not forthcoming. Poor timing on the enemy’s
part guaranteed that Rochambeau and his victorious Republican units remained in the
field when the ill-fated invasion finally did occur.
By the end o f June 1793 it was clear to Rochambeau that he could no longer count
on the troops promised by Monge the previous November. Nevertheless, the rout o f the
combined Royalist and British forces proved that the Chasseurs and National Guard were,
possibly, a capable substitute. It was essential that Rochambeau harness and cultivate
these volunteer units as a supporting arm o f his administration. W ith the Royalists

315, 316; De Poyen, Les Guerres Des Antilles, 28-30; Kleczewski, Martinique and the
British Occupation, 79; Lemery, La Revolution Franqaise a la Martinique, 244-245.

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beaten, his next task was to implement the full measure o f Revolutionary authority


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Chapter X
La Dictature Republicaine:
July 1793 - February 1794

While the defeat o f the rebels and their British allies temporarily mitigated one o f
the difficulties facing the colony, at the end o f June 1793, the general situation on
Martinique was far from stable. Unknown numbers o f counterrevolutionaries had failed
to leave with the British, or had deliberately chosen to remain. Many proved savvy
enough to feign Republican sympathies convincingly enough to blend back into
Martiniquais society, but local Committees o f Surveillance and Police continued to round
up hundreds o f suspect Royalists, bringing them before the various towns’ civil
authorities. In an effort to close the matter, Rochambeau offered a general amnesty to all
who would pledge their loyalty to the French Republic. Many former Royalists
responded favorably to the governor’s offer, but nearly 140 others refused to take the
oath. These recalcitrants were summarily locked away in prison hulks with nearly 2,000
other o f the island’s slaves, free blacks, women and children. Others chose a third option,
and retreated into the island’s mountainous interior. From camps hidden in the nearly
inaccessible forests, those who had decided to continue to fight conducted a series o f
sporadic raids, brutally murdering Convention Loyalists, and then looting and burning

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their estates .1
Though sensational, such attacks by white-led rebel groups paled in comparison to
the devastation being wrought by wandering bands o f hundreds, perhaps thousands, o f the
colony’s masterless slaves. Rochambeau’s forces had never been able to extinguish
completely the limited insurrection o f the previous May, and amid the confusion o f the
late civil war and the attempted invasion, the rebel slaves’ numbers had grown steadily.
Referring to themselves as “worker companies,” these well-armed packs o f men
indiscriminately murdered, raped, pillaged, and burned their way across the island’s more
remote northern and southern districts. Undoubtedly, the rebel slaves had the example o f
the 1791 revolt in Saint-Domingue in mind, and the great majority probably believed that
universal terror directed against all whites and mulattoes ultimately would force their
emancipation. The Royalists were quick to try to turn the situation to their own
advantage by telling slave leaders that it was the white Republicans who, despite their
rhetoric, had continued to deny them their freedom .2
Aside from the immediate destruction that was being caused by the revolting
slaves, their two-month absence from the plantations had nearly destroyed M artinique’s
agriculture-based economy. Commerce with France, or any other non-belligerent, had
dwindled considerably since the implementation o f Rochambeau’s trade policies in
February. By summer 1793, so many sugar plantations sat idle that there was little to

1 Bailleul, Report, 28-30.
2 Rochambeau to Monge, 5 August 1793. AN, Archives Fonds, III/209/953, item
19, 1-3; Rochambeau, Proclamation, 2 Julyl793. AN, Archives Fonds, III/209/953, item

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trade. Martinique’s treasury, which Leborgne had reported in April contained 100 livres,
twelve sous, had been only partially replenished after Rochambeau’s proclamation that
asked all loyal citizens to make a voluntary contribution. His subsequent authorization o f
the National Guard to enforce tax collection had done little to improve the situation.
What monies had come into the treasury had quickly been spent to prosecute the island’s
recent conflict.
On 2 July 1793, Rochambeau took action to solve both the economic and the
slave question, and during the morning and afternoon o f the 4th, crowds gathered at notice
boards throughout the island to read his latest proclamation:
The laborers are idle. A great number o f slaves have abandoned
their work to run into the camps, and have fled into the countryside
committing arson, murder and hideous brigandage. All friends o f
France must oppose such excesses. The patriots must work
together to make the slaves return to their masters and to the
cultivation o f the land.
It is the duty o f the Committees o f Surveillance to propagate this
doctrine; it is the duty o f the brave National Guard to respond, and
I am sure that the free men o f color whom I have seen fight with
complete courage will understand the true usefulness o f these
actions. Everyone well knows that the properties o f the emigres
must be cultivated to support the patriots since it is they who are
serving the Republic, and that it must be the rebels who must pay
the cost o f this civil war. I therefore order the Committees of
1. To confiscate all emigre land and possessions;
2. To tally the amount o f sugar, coffee and other goods, or anything else that they can
find o f value, leaving nothing uncounted;
3. To disarm all the slaves, who under the title o f “worker companies” are devastating
the countryside. I reserve the right to form and to take into the service o f the state a corps
o f free men under the name of the Chasseurs de la Martinique', o f which I have already
named the commander, Bellegarde, and several officers;

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4. To require, above all, that military commanders whom we have given responsibility
for the execution o f the aforesaid object and for the disarmament o f the slaves, are
responsible for the abuses of their own troops;
5. The Committees o f Surveillance are further required take the names o f the armed
slaves that have distinguished themselves in this war, who I will set free immediately
after making arrangements with their masters, and for whose permanent liberty I will
arrange with the new Commissioners;
6 . I order all slaves, armed or unarmed, to return peacefully to their master’s plantation
within three days of this proclamation after having given his musket to the local
Committee of Surveillance, or he will be arrested by the National Guard and executed
without due process if he resists;

7. The Committees o f Surveillance will issue to the aforementioned slaves, form
certificates that will attest to their good conduct and docility;
8 . Proprietors will not take punitive measures against these slaves when they return to
their plantations;

9. Proprietors, or those managing sequestered property, are required to plant the greatest
amount o f crops possible to replace those that have been destroyed during the course o f
the campaign.
Fort-de-la-Republique, 2 July 1793, the Second Year o f the French Republic.
Dtn. Rochambeau,3
Though almost hidden in a proclamation that dealt primarily with fugitive slaves,
the first two articles o f Rochambeau’s decree caused an instant uproar. Martiniquais
Royalists (including emigres and those still on the island), employed every means at their

3 Rochambeau, Proclamation, 2 July 1793. AN, Archives Fonds III 209/953, item
15. Rochambeau’s official correspondence from the period underscores the urgency o f
the slave situation. “The Negroes have been armed by the aristocracy” he wrote to the
under-secretaries o f the Ministry o f Marine. “We have followed the same course,
employing the same means, and the beating given to the workers has been violent. We
must return them to their work and to their masters, disarm those who have no use for
guns, and prevent the idea that has been spread by several secret agitators o f a general
freedom. I will thus be obliged to set a rather large number o f them free and use them for
heavy labor until the arrival o f the Civil Commissioners.” Rochambeau to “The
Ministers,” 20 July 1793. AN, Archives Fonds, III/209/953, item 13, 1.


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disposal to prevent the proper execution o f the new law, and denunciations quickly
became a useful tool for both sides. The resulting flood of accusations against both
Republicans and counterrevolutionaries caused such confusion that it became impossible
for either the Governor General or the Committee o f General Security to determine which
were scurrilous and which were not. To complicate matters, a disturbingly large number
of local Committees o f Surveillance and Police were apparently bribed or threatened by
the enemy. Police became increasingly reluctant either to arrest islanders who had been
denounced by fellow citizens, or to take effective action to seize Royalist property.
Others, however, pursued their task with such alacrity that even staunchly Republican
officials came to view the Governor General’s confiscation and arrest policies as a
flagrant violation o f citizens’ rights. Abuses were not limited to the Committees o f
Surveillance and Police. Though they had not been asked to participate in the collection
process, Bellegarde’s Chasseurs would quickly become some o f the government’s worst
offenders .4

4 During the fighting o f the previous May and June, Rochambeau had declared
that he would be unable to supply Bellegarde’s men, and had allowed them to provision
themselves by confiscating and selling emigre property. With Pelauque’s help,
Bellegarde had secretly worked around the governor’s port closure order and had turned
his wartime activity into a thriving business with the Americans. Bellegarde skillfully
avoided scrutiny from Martinique’s civil authorities by promising them that he was only
buying much-needed supplies for his troops. Increasingly, Rochambeau came to lose
trust in his Chasseur commander and even less in Pelauque, but without substantial proof
against them, he could do nothing to curtail their activities other than to accuse them o f
pillaging. Bellegarde and Pelauque protested vehemently against such accusations.
Maintaining that they had no other recourse, they countered repeatedly over the next few
months that Rochambeau and his commissariat chief, Charles-Antoine Daigremont, who
held the joint title o f Ordonnateur (the Revolutionary equivalent o f the colonial
Intendant), were deliberately ignoring their needs. The accusations against Rochambeau
and Daigremont were unsubstantiated. Letters from American businessmen that later

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The confiscation tenets o f the 2 July proclamation were vague and open to
misapplication by its executive agents, but by all indications, the document had been
drafted primarily as a measure to address the immediate slave problem. Rochambeau had
included the first two articles simply to begin the action o f sequestering emigre property;
two weeks later, he would publish a lengthy, fourteen-point regulation that clarified in
great detail how his 2 July mandate was to be applied. Until the second order had
undergone judicial review, however, the Governor General had other matters to attend to.
In the wake o f the recent fighting, it was important that Rochambeau and his civil
authorities inaugurate a public relations campaign. The anniversary o f the fall o f the
Bastille was quickly approaching, and it was reasoned that 14 July would provide the
perfect occasion both to celebrate the Republic’s most recent, local triumph over its
adversaries, and to intimidate those potential enemies who remained. Despite the
colony’s penury, no expense was spared to make the occasion as grand as possible, and
Saint-Pierre (where Rochambeau had recently established a more comfortable residence),
was chosen as the principle center for the festivities .5
The event was a tremendous success, except for a single event. Since
assassinating Colonel Saint-Cyran on 16 April, Barberousse had remained in Saint-

turned up in Martinique proved conclusively that Bellegarde and Pelauque had hidden
hundreds o f thousands o f dollars in American banks. Bailleul, Report, 34.
5 According to tradition, the Governor General o f the Windward Islands
maintained quarters in the capital city inside Fort Saint-Louis (Fort-de-la-Republique).
Another official government residence did exist in Saint-Pierre however, and
Rochambeau became the second Governor General to establish his primary residence

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Pierre’s jail until the colony’s new Civil Commissioners (who still were expected to
arrive at any time), could rule on his appeal. In the interim, many o f the city’s
Republicans had never stopped believing that Barberousse’s incarceration was completely
unjust and a gross violation of the law. Throughout the celebration, crowds chanted for
the prisoner’s release, and probably reasoning that the liberation o f the prisoners in the
Bastille served as an appropriate precedent, a group o f high-spirited sailors decided that
they would similarly liberate Barberousse. Appointing themselves as a “revolutionary
tribunal,” the sailors stormed Saint-Pierre’s jail, overpowered the guards, and set the
prisoner free .6
Rochambeau was faced with a serious, and very delicate, situation. He certainly
would have been acting within his rights to have all those involved arrested, but under the
circumstances, the public outcry from the Republicans undoubtedly would have
outweighed any satisfaction that he might have gained from punishing them.
Rochambeau mulled over his decision for an entire week, and then finally settled the
matter. In a 22 July proclamation, he announced that “important and pressing matters”
had diverted his attention from dealing with the issue, and reminded the island’s citizens
that Barberousse had been found guilty by a jury. Only the Civil Commissioners, he said,
had the authority to adjudicate the case. That the affair merited the printing and
distribution o f an official proclamation indicates the gravity o f the situation. Meanwhile,
Barberousse remained at large. Rather than trying to pursue the fugitive, Rochambeau
ordered, in the name o f the Republic, that Barberousse give him self up at Fort-de-la-

6 Ibid., 36.


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Republique, and once again wait for the arrival o f the Civil Commissioners. To the
sailors who had set Barberousse free, he announced simply “I leave his liberators to their
remorse and to the shame that their actions should have caused .”7
Rochambeau’s handling o f the Barberousse affair may well have been a blatant
political capitulation, but he truly had been occupied by “important and pressing matters,”
especially his new regulation addressing the disposition o f emigre property. This policy
appeared in print on 17 July 1793, and though tailored to meet Martinique’s particular
needs, was modeled closely after the 8 April 1793 law that had been applied to emigre
property in metropolitan France. Foremost among the differences was that, unlike in
France, much o f the real property in Martinique had been either damaged or completely
destroyed during the recent fighting. The 17 July Reglulation acknowledged this state o f
affairs from the outset, and then instructed the Committees o f Surveillance and Police in
each arrondissement to appoint salaried administrators to manage all confiscated or
abandoned rebel estates regardless o f their condition. In official circles, it was reasoned
that the committees’ search for potential administrators would not be very difficult. The
governor mandated that hiring preference be given to those who had an interest in the
lands’ prospering, especially wives who held joint title to property and whose husbands
had either taken flight or were in prison; brothers, sisters, partners, or major creditors
were then considered; and finally, overseers who “merited the confidence o f the

7 Rochambeau, Proclamation, 22 July 1793. AN, Archives Fonds III 209/953,
attachment to item 16.

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committees .”8
Once an administrator was selected, he or she, and a member o f their local
Committee o f Surveillance and Police, were to travel to the property to conduct an initial
survey and inventory. The government would pay the administrator an initial salary
during the startup period, which, after a time to be determined by the local Committee o f
Surveillance and Police, would be re-computed, based on productivity in proportion to
production and to the condition o f the land upon receipt. Thus, agents who administered
ruined land received a higher salary for the time it took to rebuild the estates, and would
be helped by Martinique’s lenders who made loans available for the repair o f buildings,
ships and warehouses, new tools and machinery, etc. For all administrators, however, the
governor’s newest regulation held a particular caveat: an agent’s first responsibility was
to provide food for the property’s slaves, and only then could work to make the estate
productive. Once this condition had been met, an administrator could expect to be paid
ten per-cent o f the property’s revenues. From this, he would pay his creditors and sub­
managers. Daigremont, and a group o f businessmen chosen by him, and the Committee
o f General Security would all act as commissaries to manage the sale o f the remaining
ninety per-cent. It was Daigremont’s responsibility to ensure that the revenues went
directly into Martinique’s treasury. Rochambeau’s Republican “allies” balked at this
arrangement; once again they had been thwarted in their efforts to gain control o f the
treasury. They could not make overt moves against the Governor General or his Orderer,

8 Rochambeau and Daigremont, Reglement, 17 July 1793. AN, Archives Fonds
III 209/953, item 20.

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but members o f the Committee o f General Security were quick to remind the
commissaries that they served purely at the pleasure o f the Committee, and thus were
subject to their recall .9
At the outset, the new plan seemed adequate, but the proclamation’s Article XIII
presented an unexpected problem. As in France, Martinique’s creditors were required to
follow the procedures laid out in the National Convention’s 25 August 1792 decree which
unequivocally outlined procedures for creditors to reclaim debts against confiscated
estates. Though the national rules were clear, conditions in France varied tremendously
from those in Martinique. How, the colony’s creditors demanded, could they be expected
to make loans toward rebuilding plantations, when prior to their being destroyed, those
same plantations had already been serious debt? Most o f the island’s creditors believed
that they had already sustained a total loss on property damaged during the recent
fighting, but their refusal to make reparation loans threatened to stall Rochambeau’s plan
completely. As the result, he and Daigremont were compelled to revise the Regulation on
2 September, mandating that the island’s creditors would be reimbursed before treasury
received any money. Furthermore, available financing to rebuild ruined estates would

9 Ibid.; Bailleul, Report, 28-29. By 5 August Rochambeau had written to the
Minister o f Marine and the Colonies that “I have kept the peace but there are those with
ulterior motives all around. We have seized all o f the emigre goods that weren’t
destroyed or stolen, and have been able to collect from their sale enough to make payment
to the American captains for 3,000 barrels o f flour. I have named two trusted
businessmen, the first to investigate the rest o f the colony’s businessmen looking for
hidden emigre goods that have not been reported, while the second (who serves in the
quality o f Commissary o f the Republic), will be based out o f Saint-Pierre and will handle
the sale o f the goods and the transfer into the public treasury. We will send you the
details once all o f this is done.” Rochambeau and Daigremont to Monge, 5 August 1793.
AN, Archives Fonds III 209/953, item 19.

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come in the form o f public loans from Martinique’s already bankrupt treasury .10
The 2 September proclamation contained another revision as well. Under the 17
July regulation, M. Lavau, Rochambeau’s Commissary o f the Navy and Colonies, was
charged to handle the accounting o f processed sugar in the colony’s ports. This was a
dramatic change in procedure, but transferring what had formerly been a police function
to a professional bureaucrat had become an absolute necessity. By the end o f August
1793, so many o f Martinique’s officials in the Committees o f Surveillance and Police had
proven themselves so corrupt that Rochambeau and Daigremont relieved them from the
responsibility o f overseeing the program completely, and left it entirely under Lavau’s
supervision .11
Rochambeau had enough problems with disloyal agents on the Committees o f
Surveillance and Police, but he soon found even more resistance among the colony’s
ever-mistrusting Republican parliamentarians. As their actual control over the colony’s
finances became increasingly limited, it did not take long for suspicion to grow among
the Committee o f General Security members that Rochambeau was diverting income
from the sale o f confiscated property for his own use. While mistrust was strong, the

10 Ibid.; Rochambeau and Daigremont, Proclamation, 2 September 1793. AN,
Lettres de General Rochambeau, commandant des forces Franqaises et d’Aigremont,
Ordonnateur, 1793-1799, Carton Colonies CC 8A101, item 23.
11 Rochambeau and Daigremont, Proclamation, 2 September 1793. Ibid. The
days o f the Committees o f Surveillance and Police were numbered. At the end o f August,
Rochambeau further eroded their influence by transferring oversight o f all aspects o f the
police to Lavau. Even the Committee o f General Security could not deny that there were
serious problems with various local Surveillance Committees throughout the island.
Some flagrantly abused their authority, Bailleul noted, some protected the aristocrats, and
others were simply incompetent. Bailleul, Report, 36-39.

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evidence against the governor was quite weak. With Lavau’s assent, Rochambeau had
established a general fund from the sale o f captured sugar stocks from which he drew
thirty-three livres per day while conducting a subsequent inspection tour o f the island.
Considering the devaluation o f the currency, and the fact that the Governor General was
required to board and feed him self and his entourage, thirty-three livres was probably
reasonable. To the committee members, the amount seemed both exorbitant and
fraudulent. More than once, Rochambeau had preserved the Revolution in Martinique,
but the colony’s Republicans could never forgive the general’s aristocratic heritage.
Thirty-three livres per day, they complained, could only be used to maintain the governor
in the high style more befitting a general o f the ancien regime than a good Republican.
Their ire was further piqued when free blacks, slaves, and their representatives began to
make claims against the government for non-payment o f services rendered to the
Republic. To the Republicans, it seemed unconscionable that the colony’s leadership
would see to their own comfort without first offering some form o f recompense to these
good patriots for their labor .'2
The lack o f support that Rochambeau received from his own authorities was
problematic enough, but almost immediately he had to turn his attention to those who

12 Black workers made the unsettling observation that it was their labor alone that
had brought any measure o f salvageable wealth back to the colony, and that as the result it
was they who could best administer its disbursement. The men may have had a legitimate
argument, but the Committee o f General Security appears to have made no effort to
persuade anyone in the white community to relinquish any o f the colony’s financial
administration. It was much more politically expedient for the Republicans to accuse
Rochambeau and his administrators o f mismanagement, while at the same time
demanding that he protect them. Bailleul, Report, 28-29.

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would seek to undermine his regime externally. Throughout July, August and September
1793, hundreds o f exiled Royalists began to return to Martinique under the governor’s
amnesty. Many came to assume those available positions as administrators o f emigre
estates, but just as many others arrived seeking to sabotage the Republican
administration. The continued influx o f the former enemy was sure to present problems,
but if Rochambeau and the Committee o f General Security were to give any credence to
their professed support for the Declaration o f the Rights o f Man and the Citizen, they
could not deny anyone who claimed a change o f heart the right to resettle in the colony, as
long as they committed no crimes. On the face o f it, the Committees o f Surveillance and
Police were reporting the names o f all returning emigres; neither Rochambeau nor the
members of the Committee o f General Security believed that any among those on the lists
were principle counterrevolutionary leaders. It was hoped that new “Citizens” would aid
civil order, rather than seek to destroy it. The governor applied the same principle of
tolerance to prisoners that remained captive in the colony’s forts, prison hulks, and jails,
leaving to the Committees o f Surveillance and Police the authority to release anyone they
believed innocent. Those who had committed actual illegalities would remain
imprisoned until the arrival o f the Civil Commissioners .13
Certainly, Rochambeau was not deluded regarding either the internal or external
threat to Martinique, but by virtue o f his position, he faced the nearly impossible task o f
reconciling a Republican governance with the immediate necessity to maintain a semi­
authoritarian regime. In either case, it was incumbent upon him to present the appearance

13 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 213-214.

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o f absolute control. His official correspondence, however, belies the actual tenuousness
o f his situation. “We have our secret agitators,” he wrote to the Minister o f Marine and
the Colonies at the end o f July, “and I must warn you that just as I did in Saint-Domingue,
I will bring war to those among us who wear a costume o f patriotism.”
I am so accustomed to dealing with fools that soon I will attack
them vigorously. I might be reproached for operating outside the
law; I have considered that. Nevertheless, I will employ every
means at my disposal to preserve this post for France. It is
necessary to remedy this problem violently, and I will make all of
this colony ashes rather than cede to any foreign power. If I must
abandon it, I will leave it uninhabitable. P.S. Therefore, send us
ships, men and money - engineers, artillerymen, and above all,
staff officers .14
As straightforward as he was with the Minister o f Marine and the Colonies, a
second letter addressed to the under-secretaries o f the Ministry o f Marine was even more
candid as it appraised the menace that was never far from M artinique’s shores.
“Nothing,” Rochambeau opined, “is more dangerous to our overall political situation than
if no help comes to us from Europe and if the loyal citizens think that they are abandoned
by France. The fleets and the armies o f such powerful foreigners as England sail all
around us, and tell the inhabitants:
‘France has abandoned you and has left you to get by with only
what you now have. We will protect your property and your
commerce the same as we do our own. You will soon be asked to
come under English law. Your land and capital debts can all be
honored when you have once again assumed your legitimate titles,
otherwise you must submit to the terms o f the rebels. Render
yourselves to the reasonable conditions o f English law.’ This has a
strong effect since so many are in debt and do not want to suffer

14 Rochambeau to Monge, 20 July 1793. AN, Archives Fonds III 209/953, item
16, 1-2 .

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the deprivations o f a second war or siege. I have no reason now to
suspect the loyalties o f the good citizens o f this colony, but I
cannot predict what will happen if France continues not to act .’15
At the very least, the governor should have been able to count on the service o f his
own creation, the Chasseurs de la Martinique, to assist him in matters o f internal and
external security. W ith the promulgation o f the 2 July decree, Rochambeau had (as in the
previous May) enjoyed a tremendous response to his call for blacks who had served
during the recent crisis that they come permanently into Bellegarde’s battalion. The
numbers, however, were prohibitive. The mercurial Lieutenant Colonel Bellegarde
already commanded a battalion-sized unit, and Rochambeau was opposed to putting
several hundred more men under his command. Instead, the general created a second
Chasseur battalion in Saint-Pierre. As Major Edouard Meunier had become a local
legend after his fight against the Royalists during the late invasion, Rochambeau
promoted the mulatto officer to Lieutenant Colonel, and gave him command o f the new
battalion. The general’s choice was not unopposed. Bellegarde had looked forward to
doubling the size o f his command, and was not only jealous o f Meunier, but was
displeased that this second battalion was created predominantly from the troops that had
been under his orders. To anyone who would listen, he complained bitterly that he had
been slighted by Rochambeau since Pelauque joined his camp .16

15 Rochambeau to “ The Ministers,” 20 July 1793. AN, Archives Fonds III
209/953, item 13, 1-2.
16 Bailleul, Report, 31. Aside from the obvious need to distribute his forces
effectively throughout the island, another o f Rochambeau’s reasons for establishing the
second battalion at Saint-Pierre was to contain the potentially troublesome Chasseurs in
separate military camps where they would pose less o f a threat to the general population.

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Regardless o f what Bellegarde thought, Rochambeau wanted a second, reliable
force on the mutinous eastern side o f the island. He ordered Bellegarde’s battalion to
occupy positions at Gros-Mome and la Trinite, while he posted M eunier’s battalion
several kilometers to the north, in the seaside town o f Sainte-Marie. Even after the
Royalist evacuations, the areas around la Trinite and Sainte-Marie had remained major
hubs o f counterrevolutionary activity, a problem which only became worse as refugees
returned under Rochambeau’s amnesty. Since it was impossible to judge how much
influence the Royalists had over the Committees o f Surveillance and Police in the area, it
stood to reason that the Chasseur units could at least curtail any overtly treasonous acts.
O f the two towns, Sainte-Marie was considered the more dangerous, so Meunier and his
new recruits expressed their reservations to the general concerning their first assignment.
For whatever reason, Rochambeau minimized their concerns. He declared the absolute
civism o f the district by saying that Sainte-Marie’s Committee o f Surveillance and Police
was the only one to communicate with him regularly during the war, and that the town’s
Republican officials had local affairs well under control. Either the general was correct,
or M eunier and his Chasseurs were lucky; despite their initial worries, the second
battalion occupied Sainte-Marie without incident. Bellegarde, on the other hand, would

Furthermore, suspicion was growing in government circles that Bellegarde (who was
coming increasingly under the influence o f Pelauque), coveted Rochambeau’s position
and sought eventual command o f the colony for himself. As Meunier had no previous
history with the general, the creation o f a loyal, second battalion could have been
designed with the object o f serving as a counterweight against Bellegarde and his men.
This may better explain why the two units would subsequently be stationed within five
kilometers o f each other.

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prove to be a serious problem .17
Only days after the Chasseur reorganization, the covetous Bellegarde came to
believe that Meunier commanded more men than he. Rather than following
Rochambeau’s intent by assisting the National Guard in returning runaway slaves to their
masters, Bellegarde welcomed the runaways into his own camp. Rochambeau was
enraged. Without consulting Bellegarde, he ordered Colonel Daucourt, who he had
recently named commander o f Martinique’s 37th regiment, to march against the slaves at
la Trinite and to force them to return to work. The published order was clear that anyone
who resisted would be shot, but several refractory slaves were killed while skirmishing
with Daucourt’s regulars .18
Rochambeau’s subsequent accusations concerning Bellegarde’s and Pelauque’s
pillaging only exacerbated the tension caused by Daucourt’s raid. Indeed, relations
between the general’s staff and the 1st Chasseur Battalion became so hostile that the
Committee o f General Security eventually had to send one o f their own members to
intervene. Jean Isaac, a free black member o f the Committee, tried his best to mollify the
situation, and finally was able to arrange a series o f fruitful meetings between Bellegarde
and Rochambeau. Pelauque, however, refused to attend, claiming repeatedly that he had

17 Ibid., 31-32.
18 Ibid., 33. Incensed Republicans in the capital maintained that Bellegarde
could have used his influence among the blacks to persuade them to return to work. As
neither Bellegarde nor Pelauque had been forewarned o f Daucourt’s mission, it is
impossible to determine how (or even if) they would have intervened. It is also
significant to note that the 37me Regiment Coloniale de la Martinique was formerly the
Regiment de Turenne. W hen writing o f this unit, Rochambeau always referred to it
(parenthetically) by its ancien regime title.

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information that Rochambeau was consorting with the rebels. O f course, any aristocrat
was considered a Royalist if it suited the purpose o f Martinique’s Republicans, and it was
common knowledge that the governor kept regular company with the colony’s upper
class. Social functions in his Saint-Pierre home were regularly attended by “citizens
known for their Incivisme,” and Rochambeau and his aristocratic mistress Mme de Tully
often would return to Republique-ville and the plantation owned by General Arthur
Dillon, to spend time in the company o f those with comparable education and social
grace .119
Common Republicans could never accept the governor’s contradictory behavior,
especially since they believed that it was these same former aristocrats who were trying to
persuade the governor that Bellegarde and Pelauque were unreliable. For his part,
Pelauque may have been quite clever to use the Republicans’ resentment o f Rochambeau
and his entourage to his own advantage, especially if his denunciations were intended to
draw attention away from his own illicit activities. Nevertheless, Pelauque could
produce no evidence against the general, and though intermediaries made several attempts
to bring the two former friends together, the feud between the governor and his former
secretary only escalated .20
Rochambeau could easily survive the loss o f Pelauque as an ally, but by late
August 1793, he had also lost Captain Lacrosse and the one regular naval asset available
to Martinique, the Felicite. Apparently, based on an earlier order that the governor had

19 Ibid., 34-36.
20 Ibid.


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given, the ship’s crew had demanded for weeks that they be released to return to France.
Martinique’s civil authorities had refused to allow the vessel to depart, alternately
haranguing the crew with threats and impassioned pleas o f how absolutely necessary they
were to the defense o f the island. The men o f the Felicite had good reason to feel
otherwise. Since the end o f the fighting in July, they had done little but sit idle in
Republique-ville. Meanwhile, the captains and crews o f a few civilian merchantmen
(who referred to themselves somewhat anachronistically as “filibustiers”) had armed their
vessels and had begun patrolling the various French and British island possessions,
presumably to monitor the movements o f the emigres. This in itself would have caused
little problem, but when a tiny “corsaire,” under the command o f Jean-Auguste Jung
single-handedly attacked and captured the British frigate Blanche (32) off Barbados, the
few members o f the professional navy in Martinique began to feel that their role had been
usurped. Although Jung had lost his own vessel in the fight, he had returned to a hero’s
welcome in Saint-Pierre, as the Tricolor waved defiantly from the English warship. Even
more galling to the crew o f the Felicite was the news that Jung had captured enemy
correspondence telling o f a planned British invasion o f Martinique. When Rochambeau
finally ordered the Felicite to action, it was only to reconnoiter Barbados and then return
to Republique-ville. Instead, Lacrosse defied the general’s order and sailed for France .21
Aside from providing Rochambeau with early warning o f a potential English
attack, the capture o f the Blanche had other, more immediate implications. Along with

21 Ibid., 39; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 221-222; Lemery, La Revolution
Frangaise a la Martinique, 257. For his part, Rochambeau viewed Lacrosse’s action as

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the ship, Jung and his crew had detained several well-known emigres, and when the prize
arrived in Saint-Pierre, many o f the towns’ citizens clamored to execute the Royalists in
revenge for the ravages of the previous month. The city’s National Guard eventually took
control o f the near-riotous situation, but not before Saint-Pierre’s municipal authorities
called upon Rochambeau to send reinforcements from Fort-de-la-Republique to help
safeguard the prisoners’ lives .22
The event might have passed unnoticed, except that it brought to the attention o f
the new government in Martinique the immediate need for an effective, civilianadministered judicial system. The citizens o f Saint-Pierre sought to address the problem
unilaterally by forming their own Revolutionary Tribunal, and were stalled in their effort
only by the fact that they lacked a presiding judge. City councilmen begged Pelauque
(who had been a former member o f the National Assembly) to assume the position, but he
refused for several reasons. First, he said, he would not leave his friend Bellegarde, and
more important, he would assume no position that might put him in contact with the
Governor General. Were he to assume the presidency o f Saint-Pierre’s Revolutionary
Tribunal, Pelauque warned brazenly, he would be forced to put nearly the entire
government under arrest, since he had papers in his possession that proved conclusively
that Rochambeau and scores o f others were traitors. Naturally, the Committee o f General
Security was quite interested in seeing such papers, but when they asked Pelauque to
show them his evidence, he refused to give anything up .23

22 Ibid., 43-44.
23 Ibid.


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Unlike Rochambeau, most Republicans in Martinique had never had to defend
themselves before the Jacobins in Paris. The result was that in their ignorance, colonial
radicals would unwittingly attempt to employ the most radical institutions o f France in
Martinique, by arguing vehemently that the creation o f Revolutionary Tribunals was the
only sure means o f combating seemingly omnipresent enemies o f the state. True, the
governor’s military justice system had proven problematic, but more moderate citizens
were not deceived by the rhetoric o f the would-be “Jacobins.” One did not have to look
as far as Europe to witness the supreme abuses o f power committed in the name o f the
Revolution, and by summer 1793, Sonthonax’ continued depravity in Saint-Domingue
had proven beyond any doubt that no one was safe from so-called “Revolutionary
The announcement o f the formation o f a tribunal in Saint-Pierre spread terror
among M artinique’s former aristocratic class. Certainly it was they who had the most to
fear from such a development, and through persuasion, bribery and threats, they did
everything in their power to try to prevent the establishment o f more tribunals before the
idea spread past Saint-Pierre. Ironically, the “former” Royalists found their savior in the
person o f the Governor General.
Familiar as he was with the modus operandi o f the Jacobins in Paris, and probably
still smarting over the Barberousse affair, Rochambeau believed that Revolutionary
Tribunals in Martinique would make a travesty o f justice. More than 300 Royalist
prisoners remained in the colony’s jails, and after the capture o f the Blanche, the potential
existed that more would be imprisoned. Royalists or not, Rochambeau steadfastly

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maintained that those armed citizens who had been captured in the recent fighting
(especially those aboard the Blanche) were to be considered prisoners o f war. As such,
they could not be legally tried by a civilian court. He refused to recognize the SaintPierre tribunal, stalled the creation o f any others, and created a military commission o f
five members to deal first with the prisoners o f war. Ultimately, the Governor General’s
justice was no less harsh than that practiced in Paris. He exercised what Bailleul
described as an “eagle’s clutch” over his new “courts-martial,” especially after he
mandated that all prisoners o f war could expect sentencing within twenty-four hours. O f
the nine “emigre” prisoners captured aboard the Blanche, five were immediately
condemned to death and shot, three were found innocent, and the last (who was able to
prove that he was a naturalized Spanish citizen), was locked away in Saint-Pierre’s jail to
await the Civil Commissioners .24
Through either political deftness, or more probably through sheer luck, by midSeptember Rochambeau had managed to hold the fractured colony together for almost
two months. Nevertheless, recent events such as the Blanche incident, the colony’s
continued penury, the ongoing slave revolt, the recalcitrance o f the Chasseurs, the
Royalist and British threat, and the myriad abuses o f power by the colony’s Committees
o f Surveillance and Police, all combined to finally convince him that he could no longer
delay convening a central legislative body. Thus, it was with great fanfare that on 13
September 1793, Governor General Donatien Rochambeau decreed that the colony’s

24 Ibid., 45-46.


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government would be transformed through “direct” elections .25
The date for the general elections was set for 16 September, and for the first time,
all qualified citizens in Martinique voted for “Representative Commissaries” and their
substitutes, who would in turn create a new colonial assembly. More significant at the
local level, the Committees o f Surveillance and Police were to be replaced by
municipality police; voters would choose municipal officers as well as officers for their
local National Guard units. Here the voters’ “direct” influence ended. Citizens in each
parish were allowed to elect only one deputy for every fifty voters, but they were
empowered to decide upon their own representatives’ term length. While the method for
selecting judges and deputies to the National Convention followed essentially the same
pattern, the actual elections were delayed until such time as it would be safe for them to
travel to France where they could be officially recognized. Not all o f the island’s parishes
participated in the process (Royalists still controlled seven or eight o f the more rural
parishes), but for the most part, the elections proceeded remarkably well. On 20
September, the delegates convened in Saint-Pierre’s city’s cathedral, the site o f the first
meeting o f the city’s La Marseillaise society. Rather than begin business that day, a
unanimous motion passed that the representatives wait two days to commence their
deliberations - the first day o f Year Two on the new Republican calendar .26
At exactly 9:00 a.m. on 22 September 1793, Rochambeau opened the new
government’s first official session with one o f his finer speeches. After reminding the

25 Ibid., 40.
26 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 215.

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delegates o f the importance o f the task that lay ahead o f them, he observed that they must
be guided in their deliberations by three simple principles, “first, to always think o f the
public good; second, to employ every man according to his talents; and third, to render to
each man that good fortune that he deserves from his government.”
“We will find the happiest results by abandoning the long list o f prejudices o f our
fathers,” he continued, “and if one can reduce men and things to their true worth, after
reviewing the sad fragments of our past, one discovers that this is the primordial germ
that makes societies prosper. Thus, administrators require more character than spirit, and
less talent than virtue .”27 Though his own children were being raised in Paris,
Rochambeau next spoke to the assembly as a Republican father:
A vast field is open to your meditations, and you will reap in great
abundance the fruits o f liberty that you have sown in future
generations. The national education must take hold o f the children
while their thoughts are still pure, and never leave them when they
become citizens. For this to be, we must develop in them a
national character that will inspire in them a love for the patrie.
She will not have to wait for long if they constantly speak o f great
men, if the public festivals recall immortal images, and if they
receive these feelings throughout their entire being .28
The first lines o f the governor’s speech bordered on the platitudinous, but later in
his address, he bravely broke with Jacobin tradition on the matter o f religion. Since
coming to power just over a year before, the radicals had mercilessly persecuted
clergymen in France. Nevertheless, the majority o f slaves, if not actually practicing

27 Rochambeau to Martinique’s Representative Assembly, 22 September 1793,
cited in Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 215.
28 Ibid., 215-216.


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Christians themselves, had a healthy respect for, or at least fear of, the clergy. Clouded in
their judgement either by their prejudice or their paranoia, most colonial Frenchmen
failed to understand that the multi-theistic Voodoo religion had actually been conceived
as a method o f reconciling Catholicism with traditional tribal religions. Even during the
bloodiest days o f the slave uprisings in Saint-Domingue, a number o f rural priests roamed
freely in the camps o f the murderous Jeannot, Biassou, and Jean-Franqois, where they
continued to spread God’s word while simultaneously performing last rites for the white
prisoners. It was thus unusually astute o f Rochambeau to observe that:
The peasants o f this colony have asked with loud cries that we
replace the religious ministers that they have lost. These kind men
have, in the exercise o f their daily functions, done deeds which
often escape notice, but which are precious to piety. Do not wait to
put them back among the workers, they come before the poor in
their sadness, and they calm the voice o f poverty. Intermediaries,
so to speak, between God and man, they are for many the
dispensers o f His grace, the organs o f His threats, and the
interpreters o f His laws .29
In each o f its subsequent points, the governor’s speech brightly championed
sentiments o f harmony and kindness that, at the time, were quite alien to the French
Caribbean. Amid the glow o f recent victories over their enemies and the prevailing
“peace,” he might be excused for being somewhat magnanimous, but Rochambeau was
no dupe. If indeed there was peace on Martinique, it best served him to promote and
maintain that state o f affairs for as long as possible. “One must always remember that
respect for the lives o f men must be among all nations the first o f sentiments,” he said,


Ibid., 216.

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“since it is the basis fo r social order .”30
Far from being a dictatorship, Donatien Rochambeau’s civil/military
administration in Martinique can be counted as one o f the rare instances in French
Revolutionary history that a Republican government was forced upon an unwilling people
without a reversion to terror. Indeed, the “Jacobin” Governor General o f the Windward
Islands spumed the methods o f Revolutionary “justice” that were fast becoming de
rigueur in the patrie. Even had the guillotine been available in the colonies, Rochambeau
remained loathe to permit executions in the name o f the state.
While he adopted a more enlightened approach in implementing his new
administration, two factors hobbled the creation o f a true “Dictature Republicaine.”
First, even though France was at war, Rochambeau willfully diluted his authority by an
almost slavish preoccupation with conforming to the tenets o f the Declaration o f the
Rights o f Man and the Citizen. He remained quite prepared to administer military justice
under appropriate circumstances, but he balked at extending martial law to any case that
could be construed as falling within the realm o f civil jurisdiction. Thus, by refusing to
create Revolutionary Tribunals and repeatedly holding cases in abeyance until the arrival
o f Civil Commissioners, he appeared indecisive, if not weak, to civilian Republicans in
Martinique. In fact, his restraint is obvious when one considers the general’s recent
history. Rochambeau had served under both o f these administrative bodies, and
witnessed their frightful potency over military and civilian authorities.
Second, any potential for a military dictatorship was nullified by the absence o f

30 Ibid.


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such a system’s key component - a functioning, loyal military. Despite their earlier valor,
the Chasseurs proved themselves a liability in peacetime. The Committees o f
Surveillance and Police were equally troublesome, and the National Guard, as yet, were
Rochambeau certainly was well-schooled in all aspects o f the military art, but his
years o f training and experience left him grossly deficient in the skills required to
confront matters of civil administration - the same was true o f the general officers that he
installed as governors in the other French Windward Island colonies. Regardless, the
Nation expected these soldiers to impose the new regime whatever the circumstances.
Thus, Rochambeau relished forming a conventional, centralized legislative and judicial
body in Martinique. He was delighted to oversee the formation o f Martinique’s nascent
assembly; soon he could expect the subsequent leisure o f executing the more traditional
prerogatives o f the office o f the Governor General.


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1 7 9 2 -1 7 9 4

CHAPTERS 1 1 - 1 8


A Dissertation submitted to the
Department o f History
in partial fulfillment o f the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor o f Philosophy

Degree Awarded:
Summer Semester, 2003

Copyright © 2003
James Lafayette Haynsworth IV
All Rights Reserved

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Chapter XI
The New Order:
September 1793 - January 1794

The first session of Martinique’s new legislature was particularly busy. After
some deliberation, the members rejected the “odious” title o f Assemblee Coloniale, and
took instead the name Assemblee Representative de la Martinique. Once they had
decided to continue holding their sessions in Saint-Pierre, they chose the Ursulines chapel
in the city to be their meeting place. While it was incumbent upon the legislators to deal
with the needs o f the colony, it was typically democratic o f the legislators to take care o f
themselves first. Deliberately copying their contemporaries in the United States, the
Assembly voted for itself a salary o f twelve livres per day while they were in session and
another forty for travel expenses .1
The lawmakers faced some rather daunting problems. It was unthinkable to re­
enact laws from the previous Assembly, since most either were no longer applicable, or
had been drafted under the influence o f the counterrevolutionaries. In addition, any
Colonial Assembly proceedings written before 1790 had been archived in the Maritime
Agency at Brest, and were unavailable. Nevertheless, a legislative framework had to be

1 Bailleul, Report, 41; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 217.

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put in place before the group could enact any meaningful statutes; the Governor General
would provide the guidance and supervision, but the Representative Assembly essentially
had to start from scratch .2
The Law o f 4 April 1792 had given all colonial assemblies the power to write a
constitution for their colony, subject to the approval o f the Governor General. Under the
circumstances, Martinique’s new Assembly found this especially difficult. Hundreds o f
questions o f procedure remained to be answered and, given the unpredictable turnover o f
governments in Paris, it was nearly impossible to determine what was currently legal.
Thus, the Assembly was forced to set aside the drafting o f a constitution. As a result,
simple matters o f colonial administration proved to be that much more difficult to resolve
over the coming months. Despite the lack o f a constitution, some issues could be
addressed immediately. The Assembly chose an easy first target. Knowing that the
action would be in keeping with the latest rulings o f the National Convention, the
Assembly voted to nationalize all church property on Martinique on 24 September .3

2 Ibid.
3 Ibid., 42. The Assembly eventually did follow Rochambeau’s advice, and on 4
November provisionally installed priests in the pay o f the state. The power o f the
Catholic Church in Martinique, however, had been destroyed. In addition to taking the
church’s lands, the Assembly’s 24 September law broke up the religious orders, and
suspended religious vows, replacing them with oaths to the state. This measure, like
subsequent acts concerning the sale o f the clergy’s goods (18 November), the exemption
o f the clergy from military service (29 November), and the status o f monks and nuns (4
January 1794), followed similar procedures adopted in France under the 1790 Civil
Constitution o f the Clergy. There was some room for modification however. Since the 2
November 1789 French seizure o f church property had not been effected on Martinique,
members o f the Assembly argued successfully that the colony’s church was an
“independent entity.” As the result, the French national laws could be adapted to suit the
colony’s specific needs. Clergymen, with the permission o f the local municipalities,

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Seizing the clergy’s goods may have placated Martinique’s Republicans, but it did
little to relieve the colony’s indigence. Rochambeau had already realized that his
embargo policy was untenable due to the scarcity o f ships that had braved coming to
Martinique, and when his 26 August deadline for closing all o f the colony’s ports arrived,
he extended the date until 1 January 1794. The extension proved too little, too late. By
the time o f the Assembly’s convocation, the refusal o f so many o f the colony’s slaves to
work had reduced crop production on the island to the point that M artinique’s plantations
and farms could not produce even enough food to sustain the colony. With no other
option, the Assembly took the further step on 25 September o f revoking many o f the
Governor General’s prohibitive trade laws, and opened four o f the island’s ports to
neutral shipping until April 1794 to allow the colony to receive the most basic
provisions .4
While opening ports was a worthy stopgap measure, goods from neutral countries,
primarily America, still had to be paid for. The Assembly adopted several measures to
raise money, which included a vote on 2 November to sell emigre’s furniture, and to

could keep and dispose o f their personal property, while the municipality ensured that
they maintained sufficient furnishings to conduct their business. Assemblee
Representative de la Martinique [hereafter Assemblee Representative], Extrait des
Registres des Deliberations de I 'Assemblee Representative de la Martinique [hereafter
Deliberations], Decrees o f 4, 18 and 29 November 1793, 4 January 1794, Saint-Pierre,
Martinique, 1793-1794. AN, Lettres de General Rochambeau, commandant des forces
Frangaises et d ’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 1793-1799, Carton Colonies CC 8A101; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 217-218; Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation,
4 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 214; Assemblee Representative,
Deliberations, Decree o f 24 September 1793; Kleczewski, Martinique and the British
Occupation, 103.

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suspend all government pensions, but Martinique still remained deeply in debt. By 18
November, the Assembly had no choice but to declare the colony officially bankrupt.
Although they had tried, Rochambeau and the delegates finally admitted that they could
no longer avoid imposing a mandatory tax on all o f the colony’s citizens. After
announcing that the state o f the treasury jeopardized public safety, the Assembly voted
that the colony’s sugar producers, manufacturers, and landlords would “donate” seven
and a half per-cent o f their gross revenues to the government. All others would pay five
per-cent. The Assembly appointed a Finance Committee to manage the money, and the
Assemblymen asked Daigremont to assist the Committee’s initial efforts by supplying a
full account o f the state o f the treasury since the beginning o f his administration. The
request was not unreasonable. As early as 1 April 1793, Rochambeau had called upon the
island’s citizens to make a voluntary contribution {emprunt) to help bolster the colony’s
depleted treasury. These funds, combined with the ongoing seizure and sale o f emigre
goods, should have amounted to a considerable sum. To the Assembly’s dismay,
however, Daigremont stalled, claiming that he could not deliver his report until his own
Special Receiver o f the Republic, Volny-Aristide Foumiols, had completed his work .5
Daigremont’s weak response was disturbing to the Assembly, who expected that
he would have managed the colony’s treasury at least as well as Leborgne had managed

5 Bailleul, Report, 57; Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decrees o f 2 and
18 November 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 225; Kleczewski, Martinique and
the British Occupation, 106. Foumiols did not complete his report until over two months
later, just days before the British invaded the island. Foumiols would later be elected
from M artinique to the Council o f 500, and serve in the Thermidorean Committee o f
Public Safety where he publicly defended Rochambeau’s actions during his tour as
Governor General o f the Windward Islands.

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unofficial contributions made earlier in the year. Shortly after Rochambeau’s arrival in
February, the citizens o f Saint-Pierre had learned o f the state o f the colony’s finances, and
turned their abundant energy to remedying the problem. As a result, the Republicans in
the city conducted a drive for voluntary donations, which in a short time had netted an
astounding 300,000 livres. No one trusted Daigremont with such a considerable sum, and
the money was given to the government under the condition that Leborgne took
responsibility for its safe keeping. Leborgne made regular, detailed reports to SaintPierre’s Committee o f Public Safety o f payments made from the fund, and before he
returned to France in late October, he left to the city o f Saint-Pierre a full account o f how
the money had been spent during his tenure as trustee .6
For months the Finance Committee did not receive Daigremont’s register, so
numerous complaints began to surface from all quarters about the status o f the sale o f
emigre property. Many citizens demanded payment for goods and services to the
government, only to be told by Daigremont that they would have to address their claims
to the Assembly. Consequently, many in the colony concluded that the Orderer was
corrupt. Despite repeated requests to the Governor General to fire Daigremont and to
replace him with someone that they and the colony’s creditors could trust, Rochambeau
kept him in office .7

6 Ibid.
7 Ibid., 42, 56-57. Charles-Antoine Daigremont had come to Martinique from
Sainte-Lucie to replace the previous Intendant, M. Vievigne, who had been chiefly
responsible for plundering the island’s treasury during Behague’s flight. In light o f recent
history, the very position o f the Orderer was suspect, but Daigremont’s aristocratic
background undoubtedly contributed to the public’s distrust o f him. On nearly every

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Between November 1793 and January 1794, it seemed that no matter what actions
the Assembly or its Finance Committee took, they could not reduce the colony’s
staggering debt. The Committee itself had little power to enforce tax collection, and what
monies did come into the treasury could neither sustain Martinique’s civil administration
nor pay even one quarter o f the debt left over from the latest conflict. Moreover, the
system was fraught with abuse. Suspect citizens were hounded mercilessly for
extraordinary donations, and those who neglected to make regular or “special”
contributions, or to send their share o f slaves to do public works, could expect to have
their property confiscated. Despite such Draconian measures, the state o f M artinique’s
finances remained a disaster .8
A second issue that immediately faced the Assembly was the question o f creating
an official judicial body. Rochambeau had dealt handily with the prisoner o f war
question, but nearly 300 suspect citizens, many held on dubious charges, remained in the
colony’s jails awaiting the arrival o f the Civil Commissioners. Even the most spiteful o f
Martinique’s Republicans viewed such arbitrary detention as a cruel violation o f the
Declaration o f the Rights o f Man and the Citizen, but as the Assembly’s functions were
purely legislative; it was outside o f their purview to resolve the prisoner issue. Once

proclamation from the period his name was misspelled as d’Aigremont, and each time the
mistake had to be corrected by hand. His cavalier attitude concerning the colony’s
finances absolutely cemented any mistrust surrounding his activities. That he was
unfailingly protected by the Governor General did not help his situation, and he would
later be accused o f only paying his and Rochambeau’s aristocratic friends for goods and
services purchased by the government.
8 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 224-225. In many cases, suspects were
required to pay “rent” on their own property.

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again, Rochambeau provided the solution. On the first day o f their deliberations, the
Assembly approved the dissolution o f the Governor General’s Committee o f General
Security and created its own Committee o f General Security to serve as an interim
judicial arm o f the new government. As a result, Rochambeau departed slightly from his
earlier refusal to institute colony-wide Revolutionary Tribunals, and proposed to the
Assemblymen they follow the national example and form a single Revolutionary
Tribunal, answerable to the Committee o f General Security o f the Representative
Assembly .9
To all but Martinique’s Republicans, the specter o f any type o f Revolutionary
Tribunal was fraught with negative implications. Debate over the issue raged for two
days, with the greatest point o f contention being whether or not the Assembly was within
its rights to even consider creating such a body without the assent o f the Paris
government. The issue came to a vote on 28 September, and passed the Assembly by
three ballots. The delegates recognized their authority to implement Rochambeau’s
suggestion, and charged the new Committee o f General Security to organize and define
the powers o f the colony’s new Tribunal Revolutionnaire . 10
The text o f the 28 September decision left a thorough catalogue o f the numerous

9 Bailleul, Report, 41; Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decree o f 28
September 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 217-219; Kleczewski, Martinique
and the British Occupation, 89. Martinique’s new Committee o f General Security was
composed o f twelve o f the Assembly’s own members. In addition to creating the
Revolutionary Tribunals, the Committee o f General Security was charged with
disbanding the Committees o f Surveillance and Police. Assemblee Representative,
Deliberations, Decree o f 24 September 1793.
10 Ibid.


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perceived threats to the island’s security. Undoubtedly, the number o f
counterrevolutionaries being held by the government would only grow as the corsairs
brought in more prisoners, and enemies o f the state, both internal and abroad, were doing
everything in their power to incite revolt among the island’s citizens .11 The very real
possibility existed that if these agitators could somehow join forces with those who were
imprisoned, the island’s authorities would be faced with a riot that they would not be able
to control. Therefore, it became incumbent upon the Committee o f General Security to
“overawe the counterrevolutionaries that are hidden and blended into the colony with the
example o f a terrible justice.” Exactly one month after the Assembly’s vote, the
Committee completed their proposals to the Revolutionary Tribunal, and their
recommendations passed the Assembly without issue .12

11 Overcrowding in the colony’s jails and forts had become so severe that in
Republique-ville, Rochambeau was forced to keep nearly 150 prisoners confined on a
barge anchored below Fort-de-la-Republique.
12 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decrees o f 28 September and 28
October 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 218-219, 222; Kleczewski, Martinique
and the British Occupation, 89. Undoubtedly fearful themselves o f possibly facing the
National Convention’s “terrible justice,” the Assemblymen went to great lengths to
explain in the 28 October decree that because o f the war’s preventing communication
with France, they had been forced to act as sovereign for the protection o f their citizens.
Martinique’s Tribunal Criminel Extraordinaire was designed along similar lines as its
Continental counterpart, and was charged “to judge all counterrevolutionary enterprises,
all attempts against liberty, equality, unity, and the indivisibility o f the Republic; the
internal security o f the colony, all plots attempting to reestablish the royalty or to
establish any other authority that challenged the liberty, equality or sovereignty o f the
people.” The principle difference between the colony’s court and that o f metropolitan
France was that Martinique’s Revolutionary Tribunal had two, twelve-man juries, while
France’s Revolutionary Tribunal had only one in Paris, with sub-courts throughout
France. Because o f the high number o f prisoners awaiting trial, Martinique’s Assembly
arranged that one jury served in Saint-Pierre, while the other decided cases in

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The Revolutionary Tribunal was independent o f the ordinary criminal tribunals
already in place on the island, and was to concern itself specifically with
counterrevolutionary activities directed against the state or its citizens. The Tribunal was
five judges rather than a jury, and each elected by the Representative Assembly. Once
they had passed sentence on the prisoners detained in Saint-Pierre, they then traveled to
Republique-ville to do the same. The Tribunal was given broad latitude to exercise its
power, but held the authority to pass judgement only on offenses committed since
Rochambeau’s arrival on 4 February, when he had first proclaimed the Revolution in the
colony. Thus, any prisoners who had been involved in the Behague affair were tried in
the regular criminal courts .13
From the beginning, the Tribunal was saddled with an impossible backlog. To
assist them, the Assembly named a six-member commission composed o f its own
delegates, with the responsibility to evaluate and report on arrests, information, and the
hundreds o f denunciations that had already been sent to Saint-Pierre by the Committees
of Surveillance and Police. As in France, denunciations had become a lucrative business
on Martinique. If a denunciation was found to have any validity, those making the
accusation normally expected to receive a cash payment up to as much as fifty per-cent o f
the fine levied. It was hoped, therefore, that by creating the new commission and by
imposing other restrictions at the municipal level, the system contained enough steps to

13 Ibid., Decree o f 28 October 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 219, 222224; Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation, 88-90.

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ensure that only the most serious cases came before the Tribunal.14
In fact, the advent o f the screening commission made processing a denunciation
decidedly more complex. Once an official report was made at the municipal level, an act
o f accusation was delivered to the commission, where the six members would review the
accusation, interview the accuser, communicate with the Tribunal’s judges, and then
report to the Assembly. The Assembly made the final decision as to whether or not to
refer the case to the Revolutionary Tribunal for prosecution. The judges merely presided
over those cases that actually came to trial; the jury decided the fate o f the accused. All
sentences were executed without possibility o f appeal, and the property o f those
condemned was transferred to the state; it became responsible for the spouses and
children o f the condemned if they had no other means o f support. W ith the judicial
process thus complete, the condemned was transported to the guillotine at the capital’s
Place du Fort, where Rochambeau personally gave the order for the execution. In truth,
Martinique’s courts system was more severe in theory than in practice, especially when
compared to the executions that were taking place in France during the same period. By
the end o f March 1794, only three people had lost their heads at the Place du Fort,
including M. Genaille, an emigre who was found aboard an English ship, M. Dupin, a
former notary, and a black .15
At the local level, elections for municipal officers proceeded almost as smoothly

14 Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation, 88-90.
15 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 219, 222-224; Kleczewski, Martinique and
the British Occupation, 88-90. The crimes committed by the last two men are unknown.

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as those for the Assembly, and once installed, the municipalities proved eager to put an
end to the Surveillance Committees and their acts o f venal impunity. Rochambeau and
the Assembly were only too glad to support this effort, and mandated on 18 November
that the Surveillance Committees had fifteen days to settle their affairs, compose
complete accounts o f all their activities, and deliver the reports to their municipality’s
new police detachment. Supported by a reliable Republican police force, municipal
officials became vigilant watchdogs over the colony’s interior security, and subsequent
decrees by the Assembly incrementally augmented their authority .16
The various municipalities’ most daunting responsibility was to prevent the free
movement o f counterrevolutionaries, especially by sea. Initially, any Frenchman who in
time o f war swore an oath to, or had any communication with an enemy o f the Republic
would not be allowed to set foot on the island lest he be treated as an enemy as well. By
December 1793 the threat from counterrevolutionaries was so serious that any contact
whatsoever with emigres became a capital offense. Port authorities throughout the island
were ordered to register all boats and their passengers, while Martiniquais commuting by
water were required to carry a passport from their municipality’s offices. Free men,
especially foreigners who could claim no municipality, only were allowed to leave their
ships if they carried a letter signed by the company’s captain for whom they worked; in
addition, no captain, French or otherwise, was allowed to disembark passengers unless he

16 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decree o f 18 October 1793; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 219.

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had received permission from the municipality in which he was anchoring .17
The colony’s transit policies were especially stringent regarding French citizens.
Any French captain who brought an emigre into the colony, or who assisted their arrival,
would be brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal, while foreign captains who
committed similar offenses would face the regular criminal courts, as well as have his
vessel and cargo seized. All mail coming into the colony was to be inspected by
municipal officials prior to delivery, and no foreign ship was allowed to leave any port
after 6:00 p.m. Nevertheless, by early 1794, Martinique’s authorities found that all o f
their restrictions and penalties had only minimally impacted the activities o f the colony’s
enemies. Despite the precautions put in place by the municipalities and the central
government, Royalists continued to pass valuable information concerning the state o f the
colony, and its defenses, to their confederates abroad .18
The free movement of the island’s rebel slaves posed an entirely different set o f
issues. Municipalities were capable o f managing the slave population within their
immediate areas o f responsibility, but hunting down armed, mutinous workers in the
interior o f the island was more appropriately a mission for the army. As the nearly-empty
treasury could barely sustain feeding the troops in garrison, it was nearly impossible for
the government to send their troops on prolonged slave-hunting expeditions. Despite the

17 Ibid., Decrees and deliberations o f 11 and 21 October; 2 ,1 2 ,1 9 and 23
November; 18-19 December 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 219-220, 222.
18 Ibid. By early October the Assembly clarified their definition o f emigre as any
Frenchman, who for any amount o f time, had resided in a colony belonging to an enemy
o f the Republic. Municipalities were ordered to provide the Assembly with regularlyrevised lists o f all reputed emigres in their area.

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obstacles faced by the military authorities, the “worker companies” problem appears to
have solved itself. Neither Rochambeau nor his contemporaries have left any indication
o f the success o f his July amnesty policy which offered a good conduct pass to those
armed slaves who had put down their weapons and returned to their masters. Similarly, a
noticeable lack o f references to continued attacks by black-led rebels indicates that during
the fall and winter o f 1793, the movement had either lost its momentum or had died
There are at least two explanations for the apparent suspension o f the slave revolt.
First, it was quite possible that because o f the severe labor shortage on the island, white
colonists took an active part in rounding up fugitive slaves for work, and the rebels
judged it safer to remain in hiding rather than risk capture. Second, the news would
certainly have arrived in Martinique by October that Sonthonax, who in the summer of
1793 was steadily losing a new war against Saint-Domingue’s mulattoes, freed the slaves
in the colony’s North on 29 August. While Martinique’s rebellious slaves may not have
understood the ramifications and political circumstances surrounding their neighbors’
emancipation, it nevertheless appeared that the Republicans offered the best real chance
for freedom. The governor’s subsequent legislation regarding Martinique’s slaves may
have served to confirm that belief .19
Rochambeau neither forgot nor altered his earlier promise to free those slaves who
served with distinction during the late fighting, but he believed that he was unable to

19 It is also possible that M artinique’s slaves had learned something o f the
earnestness with which their cause was being debated in Paris. The National Convention
would free all o f the colonies’ slaves in February 1794.

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legally fulfill his obligation without the approval o f the Civil Commissioners. O f course,
these men had not arrived, and the Assembly was now in a position to enact the necessary
legislation. Only a technical problem remained. Under the laws o f earlier colonial
assemblies, to set a slave free, a master was required to pay an enormous tax to the
Intendant. Martinique’s new Assembly thus had the opportunity to profit from a sudden
windfall; despite the colony’s penury, Rochambeau would not allow the government to
derive any monetary advantage from what he saw as the Revolution’s highest moral
obligation. Between 6 and 9 October, he steered an act through the Assembly which
delineated the proper procedure for emancipating the colony’s slaves. According to the
governor’s plan, a master could free any o f his slaves at no expense, but he or she had to
put in writing that from that day forward, they renounced all claim to the individual.
Former masters were then required to provide 300 livres per year, paid monthly, to slaves
over the age o f fifty and to those who were sick. However, Rochambeau’s emancipation
edict did contain certain control measures. If a slave was freed for distinguished military
service, the captain under whom he served was required to verify that service. Further, to
ensure that a newly-free slave would not pose a threat to public safety, his actual release
was made subject to the approval o f the municipality in which he resided .20
While the emancipation procedures were open to potential abuse or
discrimination, Bailleul, who was always quick to criticize the Governor General and his
policies, admitted that this particular act was received very well. Apparently, many

20 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decree o f 9 October 1793. Female
slaves who had formerly been the property o f the church had to remain and be registered
in their own municipality.

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Martiniquais citizens welcomed the opportunity to repay their slaves for outstanding
service, either civil or military, while others liberated all o f their slaves simply as a matter
o f conscience. So strongly did the Governor General believe in the justness o f his cause,
that he took extra precautions to ensure that all emancipations on Martinique were made
permanent by the highest government authority. For weeks his functionaries compiled a
list o f all o f the colony’s newly free men and women, and in November 1793,
Rochambeau arranged for his aide, Colonel Lahoussaye de Cypre, to carry the list to
France for approval by the National Convention. His order for the first slave
emancipation in the Windward Islands was a transcendent moment in Rochambeau’s
career. Unfortunately, Bellegarde and his 1st Chasseurs would soon spoil the occasion by
forcing the governor to issue a series o f reactionary laws against those blacks in the
colony who remained in bondage .21
Serious problems with the 1st Chasseurs arose soon after the governor and the
Assembly turned their attention to matters o f colonial defense. Since their creation on 2
May, Rochambeau had given the 1st Chasseur Battalion little in the way o f support or
guidance; they had, after all, been created in a state o f emergency as an irregular force,
intended simply to augment the national troops. In Rochambeau’s opinion, the Chasseurs
could not be compared to the National Guard, since the great majority o f Bellegarde’s
men were not citizens, and since the general personally had selected and then breveted the
officers. In an attempt to resolve their questionable status, Rochambeau signed on 29
September a ruling making the Chasseurs de la Martinique an auxiliary corps o f troops o f

21 Bailleul, Report, 55-56.


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the line, in the pay o f the French Republic, although the government, in fact, had no funds
to support it .22
Bellegarde’s battalion certainly rejoiced in their new-found recognition, but four
days later, Rochambeau and the Assembly announced a general military draft. O f the
island’s twenty-six parishes, the fourteen that were not considered Royalist strongholds
received orders that all men aged seventeen to fifty-five would enlist in m ilitia units.
Upon mobilization, the new units were to report to the various forts and armed camps
throughout the colony, and await further orders from Rochambeau. Those men too old
for regular service were not exempt, but would report to the National Guard or the
municipal police in the capacity o f “veteran companies,” to be called upon as needed by
the local authorities. A separate draft was imposed for an elite force o f 460 men, 200 o f
whom would come from Saint-Pierre; their sole responsibility was to garrison the forts in
Republique-ville. What stung Bellegarde and his men, however, was that the decree also
formally announced that Edouard M ember’s 2d Chasseur Battalion was to be on an equal
footing with the 1st Chasseur Battalion .23

22 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decree o f 25 September 1793.
23 Ibid., Decree o f 3 October 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 220;
Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation, 88 , 105-106. Bailleul maintained
that many problems in the 1st Chasseur Battalion could have been avoided had they
undergone a proper organization, but that Rochambeau had basically ignored the unit ever
since the English had left the island. This newest announcement certainly was not the
type o f organization that they had in mind, and as the result, both Bellegarde and
Pelauque came to believe that the Governor General intended to disband them altogether.
Bailleul, Report, 42, 47. The 3 October decree also mandated that those o f military age
who were absent from the colony had to either pay a special replacement tax (enough to
maintain a soldier for one year) or find a replacement. The money would be paid into
their municipality’s general fund.

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Certainly, Bellegarde and Pelauque saw the provisions o f this 3 October decree as
a threat to their preeminence. More important, however, new troops meant more
demands in a bitter competition for limited resources. The Military Committee o f the
Representative Assembly was responsible to figure out the division o f assets, but based
upon his Commissary’s recommendations, Rochambeau retained the right to decide what
supplies the Chasseurs needed. Though his illicit business with the Americans was
making him a wealthy man, Bellegarde claimed publicly that he and his men had been
cheated by the Governor General. Pelauque wrote an indignant letter to the Assembly on
his partner’s behalf, in which he demanded money and supplies, claiming that the failure
o f the Assembly to tend to the immediate needs o f his battalion was causing a serious
inconvenience. Rochambeau was not impressed. While he may have been prejudiced
against the first battalion, especially after Pelauque’s later defection, it was the
Assemblymen who reminded Pelauque that the colony did not have funds to rearm
Martinique’s forces. Furthermore, the normal expenses incurred by Bellegarde’s
Chasseurs during their last campaigns had to be balanced against the claims o f citizens
whose property the Chasseurs had destroyed or stolen. The costs had run into the
hundreds o f thousands o f livres; with only the emigres’ property available for payment,
the government had to be careful in their disbursements. This line o f reasoning by the
Assembly should have been no surprise to Bellegarde and Pelauque. The last sentences
o f the Assembly’s letter, however, must certainly have caught the two men off guard; the
Chasseurs would have to wait for any funding until after the Assembly’s Finance and


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Military Committees had conducted a complete review o f the battalion’s organization .24
While the Finance Committee tallied the Chasseurs’ debt, the Assembly’s twoman Military Committee discovered that Bellegarde had illegally allowed 180 fugitive
slaves to join his battalion in the weeks following the recent fighting. Rather than
returning these slaves to their masters, the Military Committee recommended putting all
180 of these men into the 2d Chasseur Battalion, thus making the two units approximately
equal in strength. The news came as a shock to the Governor General. Once he was
informed o f the surplus, he immediately issued a proclamation on 13 October which
directed that if slaves in Bellegarde’s ranks had not actually fought in the previous
conflict, then they must be sent back to their plantations by the time that he arrived for an
upcoming inspection. Immediately, Bellegarde took actions to stall the transfer.
Convinced that it was they who had informed the Assembly o f the extra soldiers, he
began to treat as spies the other officers that Rochambeau had appointed to his battalion .25
When the municipality o f la Trinite complained about sinister nightly meetings
Bellegarde was having with his trusted officers, the Assembly knew that they had to act.
Through a series o f denunciations, the municipality assured the Assembly that Bellegarde

24 Bailleul, Report, 47.
25 Ibid., 49. Bellegarde actually began to harass the officers that Rochambeau
placed in the battalion as early as mid-September. In fact, a Chasseur “Council o f War”
threatened the life o f the battalion’s executive officer, Commandant La Rochette, and
forced him to flee his post. When La Rochette reported the event to the Governor
General, an irate Rochambeau condemned the “disgusting” behavior o f the Chasseurs,
ordered La Rochette to return to his station, and vowed to courts-martial those who had
threatened him. Rochambeau to La Rochette, 16 September 1793. AN, Correspondance
a V ’Arrivee Recue aux Colonies, D XXV/50/477, items 11 and 17.

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and his men were planning to destroy Meunier’s battalion, and that they had sworn they
would march on Saint-Pierre and make everything “fire and blood” if the government
persisted in their efforts to transfer their 180 troops .26 Naturally, Bellegarde denied any
such meetings. La Trinite was still suspect as a haven for Royalist agitators, and no one
in Saint-Pierre or Republique-ville knew whom to believe. To determine the facts, the
Committee o f Public Safety o f Republique-ville came up with a rather ingenious plan.
They chose two o f their own members, Jean Isaac, a free black member, and M. Colon to
visit Bellegarde’s camp under the pretext o f presenting an official unit flag to the 1st
Chasseur Battalion. This disguise, it was believed, would not arouse the suspicions o f the
Chasseurs or the citizens o f la Trinite, and might even improve relations between
Bellegarde and the government.27
Bellegarde and Pelauque knew well that the Chasseurs were almost as much a
creation o f the Republicans as they were o f Rochambeau, and it did not take long for the
two men to coopt the delegates. Soon after arriving at the camp, Isaac and Colon were
seduced by Bellegarde’s platitudes and Pelauque’s promises, swearing that they only
wanted what was good for the colony. As the result, it was not long before the two
delegates concluded that the municipality’s complaint against the battalion was based
purely on rumor. The Chasseur leadership pushed their luck even farther by presenting
the Committee’s emissaries with a new list o f officer candidates. In the end, Isaac and
Colon returned to Republique-ville well-satisfied. After expounding upon the sincerity

26 Ibid., 49-50.
27 Ibid.


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and gallantry o f Bellegarde and his men, they presented the list o f officers to the
Committee, and further informed them that the Chasseurs were nearly naked and needed
uniforms. Daigremont had been totally negligent, they charged, and Rochambeau had
done nothing to alleviate the Chasseurs’ suffering .28
With this news, the Committee o f Public Safety o f Republique-ville asked the
governor to do something to meet the needs o f the corps that he had created. However, it
was not in the general’s power to grant anything without a vote o f the Assembly. The
provisioning o f all o f the island’s troops, including both battalions o f Chasseurs, was
solely the responsibility o f the Assembly, and until a bill was brought to him for
signature, all that he could do was make recommendations. This, in fact, he did, and
within days the cash-less Assembly instituted a drive for voluntary contributions for
uniforms for the Chasseurs. The politicians set the example by being the first to donate
cash, and the money collected was put under the direction o f the Assembly’s Finance
Committee .29
Contracted tailors in Saint-Pierre worked feverishly to make the uniforms as
quickly as possible, and in a short time they were ready for distribution - half to the 1st
Chasseur Battalion, and the other half to the 2d Chasseur Battalion. Naturally, the
Chasseurs were thrilled, and Bellegarde soon sent his executive officer, Commandant
Naverres, to Saint-Pierre to send the 1st Chasseur Battalion’s uniforms by boat to le
Lamentin. There, however, the uniforms stayed. Until Bellegarde released the 180 men

28 Ibid., 50-51.
29 Ibid.


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to the 2d Chasseur Battalion, Rochambeau ordered, they would not be allowed to move
the cargo to la Trinite. This preemptive action only further incensed the 1st Chasseur
Battalion, and significantly intensified Rochambeau’s feud with Bellegarde and Pelauque.
Ultimately, the colony’s slaves would lose the most by this confrontation .30
On 20 October, the Governor General set out to conduct the troop inspection that
he announced in his 13 October proclamation. Bellegarde had been allowed plenty o f
time to rid him self o f the non-veteran blacks in his companies. Rochambeau further
prepared for his visit by ordering all o f the colony’s slave owners to post announcements
listing which slaves were missing from their plantations. When the general arrived at
Gros-Mome, he discovered that the Chasseur commander had only formed a small
number o f his troops for inspection. Initially angered by this obvious refusal to follow
orders, Rochambeau demanded that the captain tell him where his troops were. The
officer replied simply that since it was his company, he had given his soldiers the option
of returning to their plantations if they wished. As a result, his ranks were dramatically
thinned by the defection o f a large number o f slaves, who actually preferred to work on
the plantations rather than face the privations currently endured by the neglected
Chasseurs. Rochambeau’s anger turned to shock. When a message arrived moments
later from Bellegarde, instructing the captain to move his troops to la Trinite,
Rochambeau ordered him to keep his men where they were, and sent word to Bellegarde
that he was not to send anyone anywhere until he had received express orders to do so.
Rather than proceed to la Trinite, Rochambeau immediately returned to Republique-

30 Ibid., 51.


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ville .31
Bellegarde was sure that Rochambeau was about to dissolve his battalion. He left
his headquarters under the pretext o f conducting his own inspection o f all o f his detached
companies - Captain Octavius in le Robert; Captain l’Enclume (dit Compere) in le
Marin; Captain Rene-aine in Case-Navire; and Captain Laudan at M ome Vert-Pre. The
“inspection,” however, was nothing o f the sort; Bellegarde, Pelauque, and several o f their
trusted lieutenants, turned the tour into an illegal recruiting spree. Accusing one
plantation owner, M. Legendre-O’Neil, o f “debauching” one o f his house servants,
Bellegarde forcibly removed the slave from Legendre’s house, and countered the master’s
protests by saying only “you know what you know, and I know what I know .”32
When word spread throughout the area that Bellegarde was “liberating” the slaves,
hundreds o f them left their work, thinking that they would not be pursued if they were in
the company o f the Chasseurs. Naturally, the proprietors argued violently with the
mulatto colonel to persuade him to send their workers back, but Bellegarde refused.
Immediately after returning to la Trinite with his new recruits, he wrote to Rochambeau
begging to keep the slaves that he had taken, in order to replace those that either had
returned to the plantations, or been killed or wounded. If he could keep these men,
Bellegarde promised, he would no longer hesitate to send the 180 others to the 2d
Battalion. This was nothing short o f blackmail, but after turning his powers over to the

31 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decree o f 16 October 1793; Bailleul,
Report, 52.
32 Bailleul, Report, 52.


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Assembly, Rochambeau had no legal means o f forcing Bellegarde’s hand. Accordingly,
he sent the matter to the Assembly. Still in the middle o f their review, the Assembly’s
Military Committee was in no mood to address the issue o f recalcitrant Chasseurs. “You
are troops o f the line,” they railed in a letter to Bellegarde, “refer to the Decree o f 13
October!” The Committee’s anger was not only directed at the Chasseurs, but also at
Rochambeau. After they had made very clear to the general how upset they were by his
sending the matter to them at that time, Rochambeau responded by simply agreeing to
Bellegarde’s demands .33
To the Republicans, the Governor General’s unilateral action was outrageous.
The combined strength o f the two Chasseur battalions now stood at somewhere between
1,300 and 1,600 men. Rochambeau, they charged, easily had enough soldiers under arms
to impose a military dictatorship! N ot only that, he had directly violated the Declaration
o f the Rights o f Man and the Citizen, which decreed that no man had the power to
dispose o f another’s property without consent, unless it was in a case o f emergency. The
Assembly correctly concluded that the idea o f a coup was ludicrous, but they agreed with
the radicals that the property issue presented a serious legal challenge. Either the
National Convention or the new Civil Commissioners would have to be the ultimate
arbiter. In the meantime, the Assembly asked Rochambeau and his staff to tally the
amount that the Republic would eventually have to repay to the proprietors. For all
practical purposes, the point was moot. Whatever figures the governor’s staff reached,
there would be no money to pay to the slaves’ owners. Rochambeau settled the matter for

33 Ibid., 52-53.


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the time being by ordering commissaires throughout the colony to compile the bills and
then deposit them in the Assembly’s archives .34
The opinion o f Republique-ville’s Committee o f Public Safety was that
Rochambeau was acting “perfidiously,” and was violating his own 13 October decree. In
truth, his apparent capitulation to Bellegarde was calculated to satisfy both the immediate
security needs o f the colony and his personal honor. In a 25 October letter to the Deputy
Ministers o f the Marine and Colonies, Rochambeau reported that he had decided to
augment his military force by creating two battalions o f 1,334 mulattoes and newlyemancipated blacks. These soldiers were all that he had to fight the English who were
once again joining forces with the rebels. Moreover, he said, he had given his word that
these men would remain free, and that he had promised their masters that they would be
reimbursed, with faith that he would not be disavowed by the Republic. “This debt,” the
general maintained, “is sacred, and I trust that you will regard it as such .”35
Bellegarde’s recent actions, coupled with the fact that Royalists on neighboring
islands were attempting to smuggle well-coached black rabble rousers into Martinique,
prompted the Assembly to circulate a flurry o f heavy-handed slave decrees. In the last
days o f October, a 3000 livre penalty per slave, more than twice an average slave’s selling
price, was levied against anyone harboring fugitives. Further, administrators o f
sequestered emigre property were required to report, after eight days, the names o f any

34 Ibid., 54.
35 Rochambeau to “The Ministers,” 25 October 1793. AN, Lettres de General
Rochambeau, commandant des forces Fran 9aises et d’Aigremont, Ordonnateur, 17931799, Carton Colonies CC 8A101, item 98.

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slaves who were missing from their properties. If a slave arriving in Martinique was
found to belong to an emigre, he immediately was sent to prison. No slave, especially
those who had come from British possessions, would be sold without the seller first
clearing the sale through their municipality. The municipality would have to determine
not only whether the slave posed a threat to the island’s security, but also if the slave’s
emancipation was legitimate. If a slave were found to have been freed either fraudulently
or against his master’s wishes, the emancipation was rescinded and the slave was returned
to his master .36
It was a fairly simple matter to determine if a slave had been freed by a master
who resided within a municipality’s area o f responsibility. The problem remained,
however, that blacks traveling to Martinique claimed to have been freed outside the
colony; only time could tell whether or not these men and women were Royalist agitators.
Even under a heightened state o f security, the government was loath to incarcerate these
immigrants or to return them slavery. The best that Rochambeau’s administration could
do lawfully was to temporarily detain them for observation. Thus, for a newly-arrived
black to secure his freedom of movement on the island, he was required to post a public
petition three times in a month, that announced his presence. He was only considered
free if no one argued his claim. In case the black, or any white as well, caused trouble in
the colony, the Assembly ordered in November that “incitement to revolt” was henceforth

36 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decrees o f 22 and 24 October, 8 and
9 November 1793.

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a capital offense .37
W ith no other dedicated labor available, the slaves o f Martinique became heavily
involved in defense construction. Since mid-September, Rochambeau had undertaken an
ambitious road construction program connecting le Robert, la Trinite, and Saint-Pierre, in
case Republique-ville should ever again be blockaded. He ordered the Committee o f
General Security to supervise the building o f a highway running through the Champ-Flore
between their city and Gros-Mome, but when the Committee requisitioned slaves from as
far away as Basse-Pointe and le Marigot to work on the road, it became obvious that a
new system o f labor distribution would have to be devised. Ultimately, responsibility for
the maintenance o f the colony’s roads was divided equally among the island’s citizens by
toises (approximately six feet), with one toise being assigned to each inhabitant o f an area
where the work was to take place. In most cases, it was Martinique’s slaves who
performed the actual labor. Except for coffee plantation owners, whose property was
cultivated year-round, those citizens who owned slaves were also required to provide one
laborer for every six he owned to assist with other government projects. Those slaves
already owned by the government, usually those abandoned by emigres, were kept in
Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville specifically to work on those city’s forts .38


37 Ibid., Decrees o f 8 and 9 November 1793.
38 Comite de Surveillance et de Police de Saint-Pierre, Decree o f 14 September
1793. Library Company o f Philadelphia, Rare#Am 1793 Mar Log 1837.F, AfroAmericana, 6412; Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decrees o f 15 November, 3
December 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 221. By mid-November, the ChampFlore road was still not complete. As a result, the Assembly decreed on 15 November
that Gros-Mome, la Trinite and le Robert provide between them an extra sixty slaves per
day to complete the work.

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Improvements to the island’s defenses met with considerably less success than
Rochambeau’s road projects. Nearly all o f the colony’s fortifications remained in sore
need o f provision and repair, and actual progress toward correcting any deficiencies was
restricted to what the colony could afford, both in terms o f money and public labor. As
the chief military authority on the island, Rochambeau was responsible for determining
which forts would be repaired and when. He delegated the bulk o f this authority to his
commandant o f artillery, Colonel Le Mestre, a meticulous taskmaster who would later be
accused o f devoting more attention to the quality o f the island’s works than to their
quantity. Between November 1793 and January 1794, the Assembly was able to provide
Le Mestre with 3,000 livres per month and a considerable percentage o f the nearly 5,000
total work days o f slave labor that had been made available to the government. As in the
case o f the roads, the burden o f work on the island’s forts would be shared equally
between all those who lived near a particular fortification. The citizens o f le Lamentin
and Case-Pilote for example, living near Fort-de-la-Convention, were responsible for its
improvements .39
Throughout the fall and winter o f 1793-1794 it seemed that there simply were not
enough available slaves on Martinique to provide the necessary labor to bring the island
to the state o f readiness that Rochambeau sought. An ever-increasing disinclination by
the citizens to provide the necessary laborers when required only aggravated the situation.
By early November, slave owners’ refusal to cooperate had become prevalent enough that
the Assembly ordered that, with the exception o f those on the coffee plantations, Le

39 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 221; Bailleul, Report, 58-59.

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Mestre could order armed detachments to forcibly collect those slaves whose masters
refused to honor their commitment. Moreover, the government threatened to confiscate
the property o f anyone who refused to send his allotment o f slaves to do public works.
By 24 December, even the owners o f coffee plantations had to contribute, and if a master
could not be found or did not properly reclaim his slaves when their service was done,
they become permanent property o f the government. Similarly, any slaves found not to
be gainfully employed either in the fields or on public works projects became permanent
laborers for the Republic .40
While the government did what it could to bolster the defenses around SaintPierre and Republique-ville, the ever-irksome Bellegarde accused Le Mestre o f neglecting
the works on the eastern side o f the island. As the result, the Chasseur commander took
matters into his own hands, and began to construct his own battery in la Trinite, atop the
Anse Tartanne. While establishing works overlooking the city’s harbor should not have
been a problem, the orientation o f this particular battery was such that in the view o f the
city’s inhabitants, the guns proved more o f a threat to them than to any enemy attacking
by sea. Once again, complaints from la Trinite became so vociferous that Rochambeau
sent Le Mestre to assess what Bellegarde was doing. The artillery commandant soon
found that the citizens o f la Trinite had been right. Rather than focusing on the harbor,
the battery instead covered the roads leading into the city and was therefore useless as a
means o f external defense. Rochambeau immediately ordered Bellegarde to cease work

40 Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decrees o f 11 and 16 November, 24
December 1793; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 224-225.

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on the fortifications; despite the governor’s order, he and his men continued their
As money slowly became available from the emprunt and the sale o f emigre
property, Rochambeau him self did the most to perpetuate the treasury’s indigence by
immediately diverting what he could to fund work on the island’s defenses. Large
amounts however, such as the 100,000 ecus (600,000 livres) that the governor was able to


spend on restoring and adequately provisioning the harbor fortress at Ilet a Ramiers, were
seldom available. W hen he was able to resource such a major project, Rochambeau
immediately became subject to the radicals’ criticism. Few among the colony’s
Republicans had any training in the art o f war, and thus could not comprehend the benefit
o f creating larger, more heavily-armed works, as opposed to numerous smaller ones. This
same ignorance made them unable to express their dissatisfaction through any tactical
debate with Rochambeau; the best argument that they could devise was that the Governor
General was apparently doing little to prepare the colony for war. The radicals
immediately expected to see soldiers and gun emplacements everywhere, and intangible
progress, such as the Assembly’s converting Saint-Pierre’s Jacobin Order Hospital of
Saint Jean-Baptiste into a military hospital, did not impress them at all .42
While he did not mention it in his own writings, Rochambeau’s rationale for not
catering to the Republicans’ untutored observations would have been obvious to anyone

41 Bailleul, Report, 54-55; Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis
du Siege et la Prise de l’Isle Martinique par les Anglais en Mars 1794,” [hereafter
Anonymous, “Precis du Siege”]. Service historique, MR 587, 2.
42 Ibid., 56.


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with even a rudimentary understanding o f the enemy’s capabilities. It was only a matter
o f time before the British returned, and the Governor General would have to employ his
scant resources as best he could against an opponent whose forces possessed superior
firepower and, presumably, superior numbers o f well-trained infantry. Only a finite
number o f heavy cannons were available to Martinique. To thwart an English attack from
the sea, these guns were to be placed in the most advantageous positions possible, and
then effectively manned by the few professionally-trained artillerymen stationed on the
island. It made little sense to construct heavy gun batteries in the island’s interior when
British naval forces would, in all likelihood, concentrate their firepower on the defenses
at Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre. The next battle would be one o f attrition Rochambeau’s heavy guns would have to serve as the anti-ship guns that they were
originally designed to be.
The same reasoning applied to the few campaign pieces that the general had
available for use in the field. Just as during the earlier fighting against the Royalists and
the British, he could not afford to lend these smaller guns to patriots who fancied
themselves qualified defenders o f the Republic. At this stage o f their development,
Martinique’s militiamen and National Guard could not be expected to conduct an
effective mobile defense against seasoned redcoats if the British were to force another
landing on the island. Indeed, well-intentioned Republicans might be quickly overrun,
and their precious field pieces become the property o f His Britannic Majesty.
Despite compelling reasons to allow Rochambeau to implement his master plan
for the defense o f Martinique, the Republicans could not comprehend why, by mid338

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November, the Chasseurs still had not been paid, and the Assembly’s Finance Committee
still claimed to have no money. That their fertile imaginations would have found cause to
criticize their government on defense issues is not surprising. At the end o f October
1793, a singular event diverted their attentions from questions o f public administration
and civil rights, to something that they knew even less about - w ar .43
Sometime in late October, a French trading vessel finally brought some recent
news o f events on the Continent to the isolated colony. The ship carried no official
dispatches for the Governor General, thus it may well have been from old copies o f Paris’
daily Moniteur Universelle that citizens o f Martinique read with fascination stories o f the
Revolution’s “marche terrible” o f earlier months. To say the least, the news was
arresting. Details of Jean-Paul M arat’s murder by Charlotte Corday, the revolt in Toulon,
the surrender o f the city o f Mayence to their own General de Beauhamais, and the transfer
o f the queen to the Conciergerie were all stunning bits o f information .44
The papers also contained items o f more immediate relevance to the colony,
including the news that the National Convention had installed Citoyen Jean Dalbarade, a
former corsaire o f the Basque coast, as the new Minister of Marine. This would

43 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege de la Martinique par les anglais, soutenu par le
General Rochambeau du 4 Fevrier 1794 [hereafter Rochambeau, Journal du siege],”
entry for 11 February 1794. AN, Collection Moreau Saint-Mery, Microfilm F 3 40, item 7;
Assemblee Representative, Deliberations, Decrees o f 27 October, 18 November, 3
December 1793. The Republicans failed to observe that Martinique’s regular troops,
from the lowest private to the Governor General, also had not been paid; the colony was
truly bankrupt. Though the confiscated hospital’s slaves were sent to work on the forts,
only lodging and food could be provided to the wounded veterans housed in the hospital
itself. Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 224-225.
44 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 225.

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undoubtedly have an impact on the Governor General, but it was news concerning the
progress o f the war on the Continent that had the most electrifying effect on Martinique.
Forced to fight the allied armies o f England, Holland, Austria and Prussia, along with a
gruesome civil war that had erupted in the Catholic Vendee, the Convention announced
the Levee en masse on 23 August. This famous decree ordering nearly every man,
woman and child to support the war effort became the source o f the highest inspiration to
French citizens in the threatened colony. Without delay, the Assembly reprinted and
distributed copies o f the Levee, and attached their own proclamation which declared that
“the Assembly has hastened to take its turn to show its ardent love for liberty and equality
in vowing to preserve them or to die in their defense .”45
Partake o f this delicious sentiment inspired by the general will, for
the Assembly has no other object than the interest of the people;
she has received an invincible force before which must cringe all
the barbaric hordes o f the enemies o f liberty, like ghosts in the
night they will disappear before the star o f light. Yes, warriors o f
Martinique, it is in your hands that the fate o f the colony is
placed !46
Despite the proclamation’s hyper-patriotic rambling, the propagation o f the Levee en
masse decree had an invigorating effect on the citizens o f Martinique, but their
subsequent threats did little more than stiffen the resolve of the British and the Royalists
on the neighboring islands to avenge their earlier defeat.
It was less exciting, but certainly just as important, that one o f the newspapers

45 Ibid.
46 Assemblee Representative, Proclamation, 26 October 1793, cited in Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 226.

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contained all 122 articles o f the National Convention’s “Stillborn” Constitution o f 1793.
Though the war would prevent its implementation, the document, ratified on 4 August,
would become the guide from which Martinique would model its own constitution.
Nearly two months after they had first met, I ’A ssemblee Representative de la Martinique
approved a final draft. France’s constitution, humbly delivered to Martinique in stacks o f
newsprint, inaugurated a fountain o f legislation, most o f which copied political and
organizational decrees adopted in the patrie. The patriotic clubs, which Rochambeau
maintained were the true vehicle o f the Revolution, became officially recognized and
protected in October. By January 1794, the clubs were required in every one o f the
colony’s villages. More significant, however, on 30 October Rochambeau signed into
law a monumental Assembly decree which elevated the colony o f Martinique to
Department o f France. Henceforth, the government o f Martinique would be completely
independent o f the other French colonies, and a new “Provisional Administration” would
assume control o f the day to day affairs o f the new departement.47
Members o f the Provisional Administration o f the colony would come to office
through an even more indirect electoral process than that o f the Representative Assembly.
To define the qualifications of a voting “Citizen,” Martinique’s Assembly followed the

47 Ibid., Decrees o f 26-28 and 30 October, 18 November, 8 December 1793;
Bailleul, Report, 42-43; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 227; Kleczewski, Martinique
and the British Occupation, 93-94. Martinique’s administration was to remain
provisional until such time as its creation was ratified by the National Convention. The
island was divided into four arrondissements, Republique-ville, Saint-Pierre, la Trinite,
and le Marin, which then were divided further into twenty-seven cantons. In December
1793, the island’s smaller villages were consolidated into the larger neighboring
municipalities. Martinique maintained basically the same organization until Saint-Pierre
was destroyed by the eruption o f Mont Pelee on 8 May 1902.

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national model; it excluded potential Royalists by adding a provision mandating military
service. A Martiniquais “Citizen,” therefore, included all free Frenchmen who were at
least twenty-one years old, bom in the colony or in any other French territory, and who
had served in the National Guard for a minimum o f six months. The policy was indeed
exclusive, but it was possible for a foreigner to become a Citizen if they had served in the
National Guard for one year, owned property, worked in the colony, or was married to or
adopted by a French citizen, or took care o f an invalid .48
A multi-tiered voting system similar to that mandated by the National Convention
was designed to choose those who would serve in the Provisional Administration. On
election day, Citizens in each canton were to meet, select both a canton President and a
ballot examiner, and then vote for an elector to represent them in the subsequent elections
at the arrondissement level. At this point, the system diverged from its French
counterpart. Once the canton electors gathered at their arrondissement assemblies, they
would hold two votes. The first, a simple majority verbal vote, would decide on the
Director o f the arrondissement. The second, a secret, departement-wide ballot, would
contribute to the selection o f the administration’s highest official, the General Procurator.
Once the voting was complete in the arrondissement, the four men selected as Directors
would travel to their new offices at Republique-ville to count the secret ballots for the
General Procurator. If no candidate won by a clear majority, the Directors could order a
re-vote. While this system held great promise for the colony, there would not be enough

48 Ibid.


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time to implement it. In little over a month, Martinique would once again be at w ar .49
Throughout late summer and fall 1793, affairs seemed to be going well for the
Governor General, but it was during this period that he lost one o f his most powerful
allies. Leborgne, the trusted “Marat o f the Colonies,” had a serious falling out with
Rochambeau. While the details remain sketchy, the crux o f the disagreement involved a
denunciation made by Leborgne against someone in the general’s suite. That person, in
turn, wrote Leborgne an insulting letter, but Rochambeau appears to have made no move
to censure the individual. As the result, Leborgne (like Pelauque) took the view that the
governor was siding with the Royalists. The break between the two men had probably
been only a matter o f time, but Leborgne, who also had sided with Pelauque during the
controversy surrounding Mme de Tully, now decided that he was useless on Martinique.
Consequently, he left the island with the excuse that he would travel to France to brief the
National Convention on the state o f the colony and to ask for reinforcements. Instead, he
sailed to Saint-Domingue where he once again offered his services to Sonthonax .50
The loss o f Leborgne was probably o f less consequence than the fact that by
November, both the Ministry o f Marine and the National Convention remained ignorant

49 Ibid. The Provisional Administration simply codified an extant “Directory”
that Rochambeau had established during the early days o f the first British invasion. At
that time, he had named Directors for each o f Martinique’s four “districts,” who served
purely at his discretion. While it may have been a simple oversight, the new constitution
contained no provision to relieve these four individuals o f their duties. Under the new
system, in addition to the four elected Directors and the Procurateur-General-Syndic, the
Provisional Administration also counted a secretary-recorder, and a general treasurer who
managed receivers o f funds in each o f the arrondissements.
50 Bailleul, Report, 37; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 227.

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o f recent events in their newest departement. It was for this reason that Rochambeau sent
his aide-de-camp, Colonel Lahoussaye de Cypre, to France with all o f the most recent
news o f the colony. He would only find out years later that Lahoussaye had never
accomplished his mission. Arriving in Paris at the height o f the Terror in December
1793, the aristocratic Lahoussaye was imprisoned, his dispatches casually examined, and
then forgotten .51
In late 1793 the metropolitan government in France was afforded a fleeting
opportunity to benefit from the work done by Rochambeau in the nation’s newest
departement o f Martinique. Revolutionary order was imposed upon the fractious colony,
and, within the limits o f troops and materiel available, Republican forces were organized
to prepare to repel a foreign invasion. However, policy makers in France were
completely consumed by the war on the Continent; the government in Paris paid little
attention to the military opportunities offered in any o f the Windward Island colonies.
Events on Martinique left Rochambeau little time or military resources to deal
with the counterrevolutionaries in his other colonies. He was fortunate, however, to have

51 Foumiols to the Comite de Salut Public, 11 August 1795, reprinted in Daney,
Documents, 190. This source is particularly noteworthy. Before being elected to
Martinique’s Representative Assembly, Foumiols had been a successful businessman in
Saint-Pierre, and thus one o f the same group that would have held so much resentment
against Rochambeau for his trade policies. After the British occupied Martinique in late
March 1794, at least a part o f the Assembly continued to function in absentia, and
Foumiols was elected as one o f the departement's deputies to the National
“Thermidorean” Convention. It was in this capacity that he and several o f his colleagues
from Martinique were in positions to make recommendations to the new national
Committee o f Public Safety regarding Rochambeau’s performance as Governor General
and his potential reinstatement to command. To a man, each o f the former businessmen
and planters, all considered good Republicans, praised the general’s performance from his
arrival in the colony until its eventual surrender.

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installed subordinate governors who were resourceful enough to fend for themselves on
their respective islands. Guadeloupe, Sainte-Lucie, and Tobago, the three colonies that
comprised the remainder o f the French Windward Islands under Rochambeau’s
supervision, also suffered tremendous upheaval. Revolutionary government lasted on
Guadeloupe and Sainte-Lucie until mid-1794. Tobago was the exception. Rochambeau
had barely installed him self in Republique-ville in February 1793 when France lost the
tiny colony to its previous owner, the King o f England .52

52 Today’s Saint Lucia was “Sainte-Lucie” during the French occupation.

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Chapter XII
Les Isles du Vent:
August 1789 - January 1794

By 1789, Tobago had been a French possession for only six years - one o f
England’s concessions to France as a result o f the 20 January 1783 armistice ending
hostilities in the American Revolution. When French soldiers under Colonel Arthur,
comte de Dillon arrived on the island in 1781, they forced the island’s population o f
Spaniards, Indians, blacks, and British subjects (the majority o f whom were Scottish
plantation overseers working for absentee English landlords) to become “neo-Frangais”
by swearing allegiance to Louis XVI. Since colonial repossessions were historically
commonplace in the Caribbean, the transition took place without incident. Dillon and a
handful o f French administrators settled in the island’s capital, Port-Louis, while native
colonists remained as socially distant from their new masters as appropriate .1

1 Edwards, A History o f the British Colonies in the West Indies, IV, 281-282. In
the intervening years, there was little interaction between Tobago and Paris, owing in
large part to the colony’s governor, Arthur Dillon. As commander o f Dillon’s Irish
regiment during the American Revolution, he led the 1781 French capture o f Tobago, and
later married into one of Martinique’s preeminent sugar-producing families. Destined to
become governor, and principle rum importer, o f Tobago, his native English-speaking

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In late summer 1789, Dillon left Port-Louis to serve as deputy to the new National
Assembly in Paris. He appointed the commander o f the island’s battalion o f regular
troops, Lieutenant Colonel, sieur de Jobal, to serve as governor until his return. De
Jobal’s governorship might have passed without incident had Tobago remained isolated
from France, but in the middle o f October 1789 news reached the colony describing the
tumultuous events that had occurred in Paris earlier that fall. As a result, on 18 October
pro-Revolution soldiers from de Jobal’s battalion joined with Tobagonese civilians to
raise new Tricolors over several buildings in Port-Louis; de Jobal intervened with his
remaining Loyalist troops to have the provocative flags taken down. Days later, the
island’s liberal Colonial Assembly attempted to remodel itself as a Patriotic Assembly.
When the Assembly tried to swear-in some o f the island’s Republican troops as members,
de Jobal again intervened and prohibited the assembly from meeting .2
For several months, de Jobal managed to keep tight control over the colony’s
affairs, but the dissatisfaction among his battalion’s enlisted soldiers eventually resulted
in his downfall. In February 1790, hundreds o f the garrison’s troops revolted when their
officers refused to ease strict regulations governing the soldiers’ use o f their barracks
cantine. For two days, mutinous infantrymen controlled Port-Louis until Loyalist officers

ability and his non-invasive leadership style were reassuring to the Tobagonese. Dillon’s
governorship appeared so successful that policy makers at Versailles concluded that the
majority o f non-French Tobagonese fully supported the French administration. In fact,
Tobago was so far removed from France that little taking place in the metropole had any
appreciable impact in the colony.
2 Saintoyant, La Colonisation Frangaise Pendant La Revolution, 227-228.
Tobago’s Assemblee Patriotique lasted only three days.

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and members o f the island’s National Guard drove the men back into their barracks,
where they remained until they revolted again in late April. This time, the rebellious
troops accidentally set fire to part o f Port-Louis during the night o f 2-3 May 1790,
causing de Jobal to fully mobilize Tobago’s National Guard. Within a few days time, the
entire garrison was forcibly embarked for France .3
During spring 1790, news o f the radical proceedings o f the National Assembly
arrived in Tobago which further aggravated the more liberal members o f Tobago’s
Colonial Assembly. French legislators in the colony desperately wanted to follow a path
similar to their counterparts in Paris, but de Jobal refused to compromise. Even worse for
the pro-Republican faction, a fresh battalion o f the 31st Line arrived from France in
summer 1790, supporting de Jobal’s provocative stance against the Tobago’s
Republicans. The new battalion pledged their support to de Jobal, but warned that they
too would attack and pillage Port-Louis if they were not paid regularly .4
Throughout the remainder o f 1790 until spring 1791, de Jobal maintained his
authority by threatening to deploy the 3 1st Battalion against Tobagonese Republicans.
Eventually, the National Assembly learned o f the interim governor’s disobedience; on 17
February 1791 M. de Marguerot was named governor o f Tobago, and de Jobal was
ordered to Martinique to explain his actions to the Civil Commissioners that had recently
arrived there with Governor General Behague. Instead o f sending de Jobal to Martinique,
de Marguerot defied the Assembly and allowed de Jobal to remain at the head o f the

3 Ibid.
4 Ibid., 228-229.


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island’s troops. Behague raised no objection. Over the course o f the year, the
conservative de Marguerot repeatedly demonstrated his support o f Behague’s political
policies, and the Bourbon’s flag continued to fly over Tobago .5
On 12 December 1792, Captain Lacrosse arrived at Tobago, claiming that he
came on behalf o f the national government to ensure the colony’s loyalty to the
constitution. De Marguerot knew that national intervention in his colony’s affairs was
simply a matter o f time, so he countered Lacrosse’s subsequent declarations by claiming
that not only did he consider the Captain’s word unofficial; moreover, in accordance with
certain protection clauses guaranteed by the 1783 armistice, he had decided to put the
government wholly under English law. W ith only the sailors and marines aboard his
ship, Lacrosse did not have enough manpower to overwhelm the island’s garrison.
Rather than force the issue, he sailed north toward Sainte-Lucie. De Marguerot
maintained his hold over the island for several more months until a new Republican
antagonist arose in the person o f Lieutenant Colonel Monteil, the newly-arrived
commander o f Tobago’s contingent o f the 31st Line .6
Although de Jobal restricted the French troops to their barracks, the soldiers
maintained enough contact with the island’s Republicans to realize that they had been
deceived by the colony’s leadership. Thus, it became a simple matter for Monteil to
organize a revolt against the island’s Royalist government. When the news arrived from

5 Ibid.
6 Ibid., 229. Between summer 1790 and winter 1792, scheduled troop rotations
had almost completely republicanized the battalion that had earlier sworn its loyalty to de

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Martinique that Behague had declared war against la Metropole on 13 December 1792,
Monteil planned his own war against the Royalists. This time, there was no fighting in
the streets o f Port-Louis; when de Marguerot learned that Rochambeau had taken charge
of Martinique and that Behague had fled, he abandoned Tobago with a handful o f
Royalists . Lieutenant Colonel Monteil re-established military control over the colony
and soon received word from Rochambeau that he was to continue as Tobago’s governor
until his replacement came from France. With only 300 regulars and as many National
Guard, Monteil was expected to defend Tobago against any enemy .7
In spring 1793, no one in Tobago knew that they would be the first target o f
England’s new war against France. On the other hand, British policy makers had known
for months that war was imminent, and the promise o f easy victories and immediate
financial gain in the Caribbean held far greater appeal than a costly land attack against the
French on the Continent. Throughout the winter o f 1792-1793, staff officers in the
British army and navy ministries designed plans to carry out their country’s war aims in
the West Indies. Soon after the war was announced, Secretary Henry Dundas issued
orders on 10 February 1793 to General Sir John Cuyler and Admiral Sir John Laforey to
capture Tobago.
The ministers at Whitehall reasoned that because o f the potentially high numbers
o f British sympathizers on Tobago, that island would be a comfortable first step toward
reducing French power in the Windward Islands. On 14 April 1793, when Admiral Allan

7 Ibid., 229; Edwards, A History o f the British Colonies in the West Indies, IV,

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Gardner’s squadron appeared in Tobago’s Great Courland Bay, General Cuyler sent a
messenger ashore offering Lieutenant Colonel Monteil the opportunity to surrender the
island without a fight. Rather than accept a dishonorable surrender, Monteil decided to
defend the colony .8
Cuyler estimated that he did not have enough men to conduct a siege o f PortLouis, so he opted instead to attack the city’s principle defenses at Fort-Farewell-laRoque on the fort’s northwest side, where the works remained unfinished. Between 2:00
and 3:00 am on 15 April, British infantrymen began a stealthy march toward the north o f
the fort. When they reached the village o f Scarborough, a local French inhabitant saw the
formation moving in the darkness and sounded an alarm. Surprisingly, no one in the fort
fired at the advancing troops, but the alarm frightened the slave leading the English
grenadiers, causing him to flee into the night. As the result, the British column split; the
grenadiers and part o f the light infantry went one way, and the remaining light infantry
went another .9
Fortunately for the British, the mishap caused the attack to proceed better than
they had planned. General Cuyler and the main body o f light infantry arrived first at the
fort’s barrier gate and distracted the French defenders, while the grenadiers and remaining
light infantry stormed the fort’s weak flank. Within minutes, fifty-eight men o f the 3 1st
Line surrendered, along with ten gunners, and nearly eighty National Guard and sailors.

8 Lieutenant Colonel Monteil to Rochambeau, 15 April 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12,
item 219.
9 Cuyler to Dundas, 18 April 1793. PRO, CO, 318.12, item 187.

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uinasnpvi auiijuiqM |e u o i)e \[ \s 3 jjn 0 3

Figure 29. “The Capture o f Tobago by Major General Cuyler,
and Vice Admiral Sir John Laforey”

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Monteil and the remaining French defenders retreated into the fort’s innermost ramparts.
Casualties on both sides were remarkably light. Among the British, only General Cuyler
was injured, while the French counted six men killed and seven others wounded. At
dawn, Lieutenant Colonel Monteil surrendered his sword to General Cuyler, and he and
his men boarded a British prison ship bound for Barbados .10
When the news was made public in Martinique, the fall o f Tobago was regarded
as a harsh blow to the prestige o f Rochambeau’s new Republican regime. However, the
loss of this smallest French Windward island spurred events that bolstered Rochambeau’s
reputation both in the eyes o f the British and his detractors. Gardner was flushed by his
victory at Tobago, and it was this easy British success that emboldened him to make his
ill-fated and premature move against Rochambeau at Martinique the following month .11

Though they were spared an English invasion in 1793, French citizens on
Guadeloupe and her satellite island, Marie-Galante, faced many o f the same difficulties as
their counterparts on Martinique and Tobago. Simple geography ensured that
Rochambeau and Guadeloupe’s governor, General Georges-Henri-Victor Collot,
remained largely ignorant o f what was happening on each other’s islands throughout 1793
and 1794. It was problematic enough that the British colony o f Dominica, the haven o f
choice for Martinique’s emigres, lay directly between Guadeloupe and Martinique. Even
worse, once war was officially proclaimed, British warships from Antigua and Saint

10 Ibid. For Return o f Ordnance Captured at Tobago, see appendix.
11 Edwards, A History o f the British Colonies in the West Indies, IV, 282.

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Kitts, both to Guadeloupe’s north, intensified their efforts to ensure the isolation o f
Guadeloupe from government authorities on Martinique. The Royal Navy blockaded
Guadeloupe, and it was rare when news arrived from, or could be sent to, Rochambeau,
less than one hundred miles away.
As in Martinique, political activity on Guadeloupe centered around the island’s
two main cities o f Basse-Terre, the commercial capital, and the legislative capital at
Pointe-a-Pitre. It was in Pointe-a-Pitre that the effects o f the French Revolution were first
felt in Guadeloupe. When news o f the storming o f the Bastille arrived on the island in
early fall 1789, Republicans in Pointe-a-Pitre joyously celebrated developments in Paris,
while the Royalist commander o f the island’s regular troops made preparations to call out
his men and crush any sign o f rebellion. Seeking to avoid bloodshed, the colony’s
governor, General Marc-Antoine, baron de Clugny, offered both sides what he believed
was a lawful compromise. He would recall the colony’s extant Colonial Assembly to
Pointe-a-Pitre to decide if the colony should follow the National Assembly.
To the Royalists’ surprise, the Colonial Assembly split into two opposing camps.
To preserve the peace, de Clugny sought help from Governor General Damas d ’Antigny
in Martinique. Damas, however, was saddled with his own difficulties. General Coquille
Dugommier and his men, who had left Guadeloupe earlier in the year to “help” SaintPierre’s Republicans, continued to threaten Fort-Royal and spread pro-Revolution
propaganda among Martinique’s National Guard. Since Damas was compelled to keep
his remaining loyal troops close at hand in case Martinique’s National Guard mutinied, he
was unable to send reinforcements to Guadeloupe. Such was the situation until in March

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1791, Guadeloupe’s Colonial Assembly learned that Damas had been recalled to France,
and that a new Governor General, Antoine Behague, had arrived in Martinique .12
Republicans and conservatives in Guadeloupe’s assembly knew that Behague was
an aristocrat, but because he was selected by the “radical” National Assembly neither side
could be sure o f his political leanings. In an effort to find out, Guadeloupe’s legislators
sent a deputation to Martinique to meet with Behague, and to apprize him o f the situation
on their island. He soon learned from the delegation that Guadeloupe’s Assembly
ostensibly had accepted the decrees o f the National Assembly, but the situation in the
colony remained unchanged. While Behague saw this as good news, the Civil
Commissioners that accompanied him were not pleased. These men were determined to
dissolve the old colonial assemblies and to enact the newest laws o f the National
Assembly; with Behague’s help, de Clugny’s deputation persuaded the Civil
Commissioners that the situation on Guadeloupe was delicate, and that maintaining the
comparatively moderate Colonial Assembly o f Guadeloupe was the only way to keep the
peace. Eventually, the Civil Commissioners allowed de Clugny to maintain the status
quo, and agreed to send only one battalion o f fresh troops to the colony instead o f
replacing the island’s entire regular garrison .13
The presence of General Dugommier and his Guadeloupian volunteers on
Martinique posed only a temporary threat to Governor General Behague. Shortly before
Behague’s arrival and D amas’ subsequent return to France in April 1791, Saint-Pierre’s

12 Saintoyant, La Colonisation Frangaise Pendant La Revolution, 196-199.
13 Ibid., 203.


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revolutionaries persuaded Dugommier to go to Paris to seek aid for their cause. Once the
general was out o f their way, the Civil Commissioners in Martinique ordered
Dugommier’s troops to return to their own colony. Behague understood clearly the
danger o f returning armed antagonists to his subordinate colony without supervision, and
predictably, as soon as Dugommier’s volunteers landed in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupian
radicals approached them to try to win their support for a coup against the existing
government. A renewed outbreak o f violence on Guadeloupe appeared imminent, but
several days later the impending insurrection was checked when Behague’s “police”
arrived aboard the frigate Calypso (12), commanded by Captain de M allevault .14
Few on Guadeloupe understood why de Mallevault, who claimed to come to the
island only to prevent trouble, had turned up. Nevertheless, Behague’s reinforcement was
just what de Governor de Clugny needed. Under his protection, Royalist soldiers o f the
capital’s garrison joined de Mallevault’s sailors to quash pro-Revolutionary activity in
Pointe-a-Pitre, while de Clugny focused his efforts on suppressing the now-rebellious
National Guard in Basse-Terre. Pro-Revolutionary civilians on Guadeloupe could offer
no serious resistance to de Clugny’s soldiers at first, but when de Mallevault’s sailors
began to abuse private citizens and confiscate personal property, the municipalities o f
Sainte-Anne (near Pointe-a-Pitre) and Basse-Terre took steps to defend themselves by
forming protective federations with their surrounding parishes. Soon, the continued
depredations o f de Mallevault’s men prompted Guadeloupe’s moderates in the Colonial

14 Ibid. De Mallevault’s expedition was purely Behague’s work and was not
sanctioned by the Windward Islands’ Civil Commissioners.

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Assembly to bring the smaller federations together into a larger, general federation. They
wanted to avoid armed conflict, but Guadeloupians were past the point o f trying to reason
with de Clugny’s and Behague’s unrestrained counterrevolutionary men-at-arms. In fact,
distrust o f the conservative military forces became so unyielding that the colony’s
Assembly declared that any soldiers o f Pointe-a-Pitre who refused to swear loyalty to the
new federation would be arrested .15
For two, very different reasons, in the minds o f the Governor General Behague
and his Commissioners, de Clugny was obviously not in control o f Guadeloupe. To
Behague, his subaltern appeared too tolerant o f the Republicans, while to the
Commissioners, de Clugny seemed to be working against the enforcement o f the National
Assembly’s Revolutionary principles. When the Commissioners protested his handling
o f Guadeloupe, Behague cunningly arranged that they should leave Martinique. He
convinced them that the situation on Guadeloupe demanded their full attention, and
ordered all four o f the government functionaries to sail to the colony to remedy de
Clugny’s mismanagement. The Commissioners relished the chance to implement the
directives o f the National Assembly without Behague’s interference, and upon their
arrival at Pointe-a-Pitre, they seized the colony’s archives and copied the most damning
records to provide ammunition for their denunciations. Within days, they declared all
Guadeloupian federations illegal regardless o f their pro-Revolutionary affinities .16
Despite initial successes, the Civil Commissioners met increasing resistance to

15 Ibid., 204-206.
16 Ibid., 208-209.


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their attempts to control the colony’s government. He could not admit it publicly, but
Behague was undoubtedly displeased with the Commissioners’ failures; his plan to end
what he considered de Clugny’s “moderate” administration was collapsing, and the
Commissioners were doing little to advance his agenda. Thus, when Republicans
threatened the conservative administration o f Sainte-Lucie in September 1791, Behague
saw little damage in ordering the Commission to split into two pairs, one remaining in
Guadeloupe and the other to address the problems in Sainte-Lucie .17
With two Civil Commissioners gone and the majority o f Guadeloupians now
supporting him fully, de Clugny defied the remaining two Commissioners by refusing to
promulgate their orders. The men were outraged by the governor’s obstinance, but when
they persisted in attempting to make policy on the island, Governor de Clugny and his
Intendant, Rene-Marie, vicomte d’Arrot, offered their resignations. Guadeloupe’s
Assembly was not prepared to lose their moderate associates to what they perceived as
the machinations o f two radical Parisian functionaries. As the result, they forcibly
interceded to prevent the governor’s resignation and reduced the Civil Commissioners to
the status o f spectators .18
Behague seethed. He issued a proclamation ordering the Commissioners to take
control o f Guadeloupe’s government, but when they attempted to put the decree into
effect, the Assembly officially declared them incompetent to perform their functions.
Beaten and powerless, the two Commissioners returned to Martinique, only to have

17 Ibid.
18 Ibid., 210.


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Behague order their immediate return to France. Almost simultaneously, the two other
Commissi oners returned from an unsuccessful sojourn in Sainte-Lucie. Once Behague

had confiscated their papers, they too were sent home. Behague had no choice but to deal
with de Clugny, and following a reconciliation between the two governors, the two men
ruled their respective colonies according to their own will, imposing only those laws o f
France that best fit their needs. When de Clugny died in August 1792, d ’Arrot continued
in his stead, but instead of continuing de Clugny’s policy o f moderation, d ’Arrot
embraced de Mallevault’s fervent Royalism and adopted a much more confrontational
stance against the Revolution .19
Only days before Rochambeau made his first appearance at Martinique, Behague
and his adherents received a specious report from the British colony at Montserrat that a
combined Prussian/Austrian army had occupied Paris and restored Louis XVI to his
throne. At Captain de M allevault’s insistence, a twenty-one gun salute signaled BasseTerre’s once again raising the white Bourbon flag over the city on 12 September 1792,
and the captain him self presided over the public spectacle o f burning piles o f desecrated
Tricolors in the city’s square. Almost immediately, Guadeloupe’s regular army garrisons
divided into two factions, one loyal to the nation, the other loyal to the Bourbons. In an
effort to determine where his battalion’s allegiances truly lay, Colonel Fitz-Maurice, the
Royalist troop commandant on the island, ordered his men to pledge that “I swear to be
loyal to the King, my master, and to the colony, and to employ all my energy to repulse
the national brigands.” To the colonel’s dismay, a surprisingly large number o f troops

19 Ibid., 210-211.


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refused to take the oath, and countered with the promise that “ [W]e swear to remain true
to the Nation, to the law, and to the King, and to die with our brethren to defend these.”
If their military superiors refused to accept this oath the pro-Revolutionary soldiers
demanded that they be returned to France. Rather than acquiesce to the demands o f
disloyal revolutionaries, Governor d ’Arrot ordered the arrest o f nearly 200 soldiers,
several officers and forty colonists and deported them to France to face trial for treason .20
Once the purges were complete, de Mallevault and the crew o f the Calypso sailed
to Martinique to deliver the news that the Revolution was over on Guadeloupe. Behague
was certainly pleased, but de Mallevault’s ship had barely dropped anchor in the capital
city when Rochambeau arrived, carrying with him the National Assembly’s decree o f 2
July relieving Behague, d ’Arrot, and any Civil Commissioners remaining in the
Windward Islands. When Rochambeau was denied permission to land on the island, de
Mallevault him self led the Royalist naval squadron that chased him from Martinique, and
forced him to proceed to Saint-Domingue rather than attempting to land at Guadeloupe .21
The news that Behague had abandoned Martinique and the appearance o f Captain

20 Ibid., 212; Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique, 162-163. All
these men were acquitted.
21 Ibid., 212. Having been slowed by his transports, Rochambeau’s squadron
barely outran de Mallevault’s squadron. The Bien-venue broke down during the pursuit
and was forced to put into the nearest port at the British colony o f Saint Christopher.
With Rochambeau safely out o f the way, de Mallevault and his sailors returned to
Guadeloupe. Just days after his arrival, de Mallevault effectively took control o f the
colony and established a brutal counterrevolutionary dictatorship. In time, he persuaded
the British to return the Bien-venue, which soon afterward sailed triumphantly into
Martinique’s capital with the tidings that Guadeloupe had submitted completely to the
authority o f Governor General Behague. Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la
Martinique, 162-163.

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Lacrosse in December 1792, finally quieted the counterrevolution on Guadeloupe, but not
before the Calypso and the corvette Marechal de Castries ( 8) evacuated a considerable
number o f aristocrats from the colony. In the absence o f a governor or Governor General,
Lacrosse assumed the role o f lawgiver on the island and in his first address to the island’s
Republicans, he challenged his audience that Guadeloupe had the opportunity to be the
first o f the French Caribbean colonies to model themselves according to the principles of
the Revolution. Ultimately, Lacrosse had little time to fully implement his Revolutionary
government on the island, managing only to create a General Extraordinary Commission
in early January 1793 to replace Guadeloupe’s Assembly. In the course o f his return to
Martinique from Saint-Domingue later that month, Rochambeau arrived at Guadeloupe
and installed General Collot as governor, and took Lacrosse with him to Martinique as his
second-in-command .22
Collot initially worked well with the Extraordinary Commission, but the
counterrevolutionary threat was never far away. Within six months, Royalists infiltrated
the revolutionary society in Basse-Terre, and worked their way into the company o f the
governor himself. By fall 1793, counterrevolutionists had even formed a powerful party
o f their own in Basse-Terre, focusing their efforts to upset the Extraordinary
Commission’s proceedings. Throughout the winter the situation only deteriorated.
Increasingly, Royalist agitators attacked individual Republicans, and eventually menaced
the Extraordinary Commission until the members moved their meeting place from BasseTerre to Point-a-Pitre. Eventually, even Collot and his own government were at odds. By

22 Bailleul, Report, 70-72.


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the new year 1794, his disagreements with the Commission became so violent that the
general made plans to elect a new assembly for the colony rather than continue to deal
with the increasingly radicalized Extraordinary Commission. Collot made no actual
arrangements to disband the Commission; the group disbanded itself after realizing the
futility of trying to compete with another conservative governing body. One month later,
Guadeloupe fell to the English .23

The French Revolution in Sainte-Lucie had a unique, but similarly violent
narrative. Before Rochambeau and Lacrosse arrived in Sainte-Lucie in January 1793, the
Revolution was waged almost single-handedly by a mulatto leader, Jean-Louis Gentil.
That Gentil’s efforts were unsuccessful was due in the largest part to his being the
island’s chief agitator for an immediate, general emancipation o f all o f the colonies’
slaves. A strong conservative element existed in Sainte-Lucie, but in their short tenure on
the island, Lacrosse and Rochambeau enjoyed a tremendous response to their call for
Republicans to support the Revolution. Good citizens on the island rallied to Governor
General Rochambeau by the hundreds, but as would happen in Martinique weeks later,
with the Republicans came scores o f counterrevolutionaries, all claiming to support the
Republic. Once Rochambeau raised the Tricolor above the government building at
Castries, the island became known as Sainte-Lucie-/a-/ic/e/e, and its capital renamed
Felicite-ville. More difficult issues demanded their attention in Martinique, so

23 Ibid., 73. D ’Arrot again rose to power as the colony’s overseer for the British.
To this day he remains vilified as a traitor.

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Rochambeau and Lacrosse remained in Sainte-Lucie for only a few days. When the time
came for them to depart, they left General Nicolas-Xavier Ricard in charge .24
Following Rochambeau’s instructions, Ricard organized a patriotic society in
Sainte-Lucie, but this club enjoyed considerably less success than its counterparts in
Martinique. Not only did the elderly Ricard lack Rochambeau’s and Lacrosse’s
dynamism, but Felicite-ville’s club also could not gamer the same measure o f support
offered by the Republicans o f Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville. Within six months,
many o f Felicite-ville’s most sincere Republicans were edged out o f positions close to the
governor by more influential Royalists who pretended their loyalty to the Republic;
Sainte-Lucie’s legislative body would soon follow. After General Ricard held elections
for a new Colonial Assembly, those same delegates who earlier proclaimed their fidelity
to the governor and to the Republic soon came to demonstrate a decidedly conservative
bias. When Gentil and his allies pushed for the implementation o f the Law o f 4 April, the
predominantly aristocratic assembly did everything in its power to nullify the measure. It
did not take Ricard long to realize that he had to change the composition o f the Assembly
or he would get nothing done. He dissolved the body and called for new elections for an
Assembly that would meet on 4 October 1793.25
When the appointed date came, few delegates showed up. Not only were the
counterrevolutionaries conspiring to sabotage the Assembly by remaining conspicuously


Ibid., 60.

25 Ibid., 61-62; Rochambeau, “Troubles des Colonies,” Service historique, MR
593, 18.

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absent, but the colony’s Republicans came to believe that Ricard was a Royalist. The
general stubbornly issued several proclamations mandating that the delegates report for
deliberations on 29 October; once again, only a handful o f deputies responded to his
order. Ricard gave the others two days to change their minds, but when the 3 1st Line
arrived, the Assembly was no larger. Rather than admit defeat, Ricard told the deputies
present that he would continue to wait for those who were absent; in the mean time, he
organized an “Emergency Deliberative Assembly” composed o f himself, the municipal
authorities o f Felicite-ville, and selected military and administrative officers .26
Gentil and his radical confederate, M. Pelouse, were enraged. Both men had been
properly elected to the partially attended Assembly, but now they were denied the
opportunity to fight for their agenda o f enforcing the Law of 4 April. When copies o f the
National Convention’s “Stillborn” Constitution arrived from Martinique, Gentil and
Pelouse maintained that they alone would fight for any o f the new constitution’s
provisions that promoted the cause o f racial equality in the colonies. By early November,
Gentil’s protests became so fierce that Ricard personally arrested him. Ricard formed a
detachment o f the colony’s 3 1st Line, but only told the men that they were going to seize
public demonstrators who were stirring up the troops in the garrison at Mome Fortune.
As the result, they were quite surprised when Felicite-ville’s Procurer appeared before the
column and ordered them to halt. In the Procurer’s opinion, Ricard and his troops were
about to commit a crime against the constitution. A violent argument ensued between the
general and the city official, but when the troops learned the true object o f their mission,

26 Ibid., 62.


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they immediately refused to continue. The resulting stalemate was potentially explosive.
Ricard returned to his offices, but the citizens o f Felicite-ville could do little more than
await his next move. On 6 November, anxious members of the Emergency Deliberative
Assembly dispatched a delegation to Martinique to alert the Assemblee Representative to
their problems, and to seek guidance from Rochambeau .27
Sainte-Lucie’s delegates arrived in Saint-Pierre the next day. Led by GentiFs
associate, Pelouse, they went immediately to report to Martinique’s Committee o f
General Security. The delegates vehemently denounced General Ricard’s “arbitrary”
actions, and asked that Rochambeau write an address to the Assembly o f Sainte-Lucie
ordering the aristocrats to adhere to the will o f the Republicans. Rochambeau found little
merit in their accusations. He made perfectly clear to Sainte-Lucie’s delegation that he
supported Governor Ricard, and saw nothing wrong with his actions. To reinforce his
point, he followed-up his interview with the delegation by writing a letter to Ricard not
only praising his actions, but encouraging him to continue .28
Since members o f a subordinate governing body had come to Martinique without
the permission o f the colony’s governor, Rochambeau had every right to arrest the
Republicans from Sainte-Lucie for treason. Owing to recent legislation, such a
potentially impolitic move was not necessary. A heightened threat from Royalist
infiltrators in early November 1793 caused Rochambeau and the Representative

27 Ibid., 63.
28 Ibid., 64; Rochambeau, “Troubles des Colonies,” Service historique, MR 593,


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Assembly to order a complete embargo on all ships in Martinique’s ports. As the result,
the Sainte-Lucie delegates were forced to remain in Saint-Pierre for nearly a month.
When the Sainte-Lucie delegates appealed to Martinique’s Representative Assembly,
their unofficial detention was made worse when they received a stem reprimand from the
legislators for even coming to Martinique .29
Meanwhile, in Sainte-Lucie counterrevolutionaries, ostensibly reconciled with the
government, formed their own Colonial Assembly. Claiming their full support for
Ricard, this new Assembly sent their own deputation to Martinique to explain their
activities. Once they arrived in Saint-Pierre, the group unblushingly announced to
Rochambeau and to Martinique’s Assemblee Representative that everything that had
recently transpired in Sainte-Lucie was “nothing more than an unfortunate mistake that
was best simply forgotten.” Having both deputations in Saint-Pierre was a serious
problem for Governor Ricard and for Martinique. Both groups claimed that they were the
voice o f the constituted government in Sainte-Lucie, and each claimed that the other was
simply a faction bent on destroying the rule o f law. Martinique’s moderate Assemblymen
declared their support for Ricard, and accused Saint-Lucie’s Republicans o f being
criminals determined to incite a slave rebellion so that certain leaders could exploit the
confusion by pillaging. Conversely, Martinique’s Republicans maintained that their
brethren in Sainte-Lucie were being persecuted by Ricard and the aristocrats, whose only
true motive was to promote the cause o f the counterrevolutionaries .30

29 Ibid., 63-66.
30 Ibid., 65-66.


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While Martiniquais citizens wrestled with the dissension in their own ranks, the
Sainte-Lucie abolitionist, Pelouse, attempted to create a rift between the regular troops o f
both islands. During his “detention” in Saint-Pierre, he ingratiated him self with the city’s
La Marseillaise club, who asked him to deliver a written greeting to their city’s own
detachment o f the 3 1st Line on behalf o f Sainte-Lucie’s troops. Pelouse was happy to
accept the invitation. After praising the gallantry o f the regiment’s counterparts on
Sainte-Lucie, Pelouse went on to say that in reality, it was the colonies’ soldiers who had
the greatest respect for the law, certainly more than their political leaders did.
Beware o f the greetings that will soon follow from the second
[Sainte-Lucie] deputation. They have employed all sorts o f ruses
to destroy the soldiers’ spirits, and it is they who follow the same
path as the counterrevolutionaries in France. Do not listen to them.
In their effort to distort the truth and achieve their goals, they will
tell you not to fraternize with Martinique’s patriots, and will bring
false letters to that effect from your officers in Sainte-Lucie. The
soldiers o f the 31st in Sainte-Lucie will not have even seen them !31
Fortunately for Rochambeau, neither delegation found great numbers o f
supporters in Saint-Pierre. Believing that both o f Sainte-Lucie’s deputations were simply
a means to excite Martinique’s citizens to support their respective agendas, the Assembly
remained circumspect. When Ricard was apprized o f the situation he was mortified. He
immediately wrote both to Rochambeau and to Martinique’s Assembly apologizing
profusely for the inconvenience, offering his own account o f events in Sainte-Lucie.
Neither o f the two delegations, he reported, was legitimate. As the result, the citizens o f
Martinique, the majority o f whom were now genuine supporters o f Rochambeau and the

31 Ibid., 64-65.


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Assembly, agreed. In early December, both o f Sainte-Lucie’s representative groups were
told to return to their own island .32
Peace was maintained on Martinique, but the situation in Sainte-Lucie devolved
into a mini-civil war; the colony’s extant problems were exacerbated by the actions o f
two Republican officers o f Sainte-Lucie’s detachment o f the 3 1st Line. For reasons which
remain unclear, Captain Sabatier-Saint-Andre, the battalion’s chief o f staff, and Captain
Kermene, the first captain, learned that Ricard planned to have them arrested. In
response, Felicite-ville’s Republicans, who believed that they would soon lose two of
their best military allies, took up arms to protect the two officers. After penning their
resignations, Sabatier-Saint-Andre and Kermene left their headquarters accompanied by a
strong escort, and traveled into Felicite-ville to put themselves under protection o f the
colony’s civil legal authorities. Still feeling threatened, the two men soon decided to
leave the colony altogether. After setting sail in a small boat, they were immediately
pursued. Sabatier-Saint-Andre was fortunate to escape, but Kermene was captured and
thrown into his garrison’s brig, where he subsequently committed suicide, allegedly by
slashing his own wrist .33
The Republicans were astonished. They refused to believe that Kermene took his
own life, and maintained that he had been executed. The response by the battalion’s
conservative leadership to the Republicans’ allegations did nothing to help the situation.
Whether Kermene committed suicide or was executed was irrelevant, the battalion

32 Ibid.
33 Ibid., 66-67.


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commander told his troops, in either case, his death had been for the best. Kermene, he
maintained, was an aristocrat who plotted to overthrow General Ricard and install him self
as commander o f Sainte-Lucie. To make matters worse, Captain Kermene’s military
wake was a disgrace. One soldier punched the corpse as it lay in the coffin, while another
ripped out a fistful o f Kermene’s hair to give the dead man, he said, “a proper SainteLucie sendoff .”34
More arrests followed the purported coup attempt, and key leaders o f the slave
emancipation movement, including Pelouse, M. Leveneur, and M. Gex, were
immediately imprisoned. Gentil and his adherents fled into the island’s forests rather
than attempt to promote their cause from the confine’s o f Felicite-ville’s jail. With the
full support o f the Assembly, Ricard set out after them, willingly accompanied by soldiers
o f the 31st Line. In fact, he was helped by scores o f the colony’s mulattoes, who had
become convinced that the activities o f Gentil and his band would wreck the new status
that they had recently gained from the Republicans .35
It did not take long for Ricard’s posse to surround Gentil and his men in their
jungle hideout; with only sixty men, the fugitives could not resist for long. Captain
Sabatier-Saint-Andre, who had eluded capture earlier, was among the first o f those killed
in the ferocious fighting - after his former comrades tore his corpse apart, they impaled
his severed head on a pike and carried the grisly standard in front o f their ranks. Just
before his camp was completely overrun by Ricard’s troops, a panicked Jean-Louis Gentil

34 Ibid.
35 Ibid., 67-68.


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disbanded his group and ordered them to escape to the surrounding islands. Gentil
followed his own advice, and put to sea in an unseaworthy rowboat with four o f his
companions. For two days the party was batted about in the straits between Sainte-Lucie
and Martinique, but just as the craft was about to sink, the men swam ashore at SaintPierre .36
Gentil may have eluded Ricard, but he would not escape Rochambeau. Even the
most radical citizens o f Saint-Pierre would not allow Gentil to bring his particular form o f
rebellion to their colony, and they heartily complied with Rochambeau’s order to take
him and his followers into custody. Gentil and his compatriots cheerfully agreed to
remain in prison until the Civil Commissioners arrived, and offered to make the best o f
their incarceration by working with the labor crews in the colony’s military camps.
However, there was a method to the prisoners’ apparent cooperation. If their plan
succeeded, they soon would be working in the company o f the same slaves that they
intended to incite to rebellion .37
Martiniquais Republicans were surprised and distressed by the apparent lack o f
concern that Rochambeau displayed concerning events in their neighboring colony. The
fragmented reports and wild rumors that reached the colonial capital did little to paint a
complete picture o f what was occurring in Sainte-Lucie, and certain citizens, especially
members o f Martinique’s Committee o f General Security, began to imagine that

36 Ibid.
37 Ibid.; Foumiols to M. de Fermont, membre du Comite de Salut Public, 11
August 1795, reprinted in Daney, Documents, 199.

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Rochambeau was involved in a grand, inter-island, counterrevolutionary conspiracy.
Such uninformed suspicions were intensified by what they considered Rochambeau’s
typical negligence in matters o f their own public security. When members o f SaintPierre’s La Marseillaise club approached Rochambeau concerning the possibility o f
sending troops to Sainte-Lucie to support the Republicans and help put down the
seemingly uncontrollable Royalists, he simply replied that such a move would be useless,
especially since he had full confidence in the patriotism and capabilities o f Governor
Ricard. “I know he has a few bad subjects that want to make trouble,” Rochambeau told
the assembled club members, “but several musket shots will make them see reason .”38
In Rochambeau’s opinion, the Sainte-Lucie affair had caused enough trouble in
Martinique. Though Governor Ricard’s colony may have been on the brink o f civil war,
Rochambeau and the Representative Assembly did their best, especially through
censorship o f unofficial correspondence, to prevent Sainte-Lucie’s problems from
affecting Martinique. Rochambeau began a more active communication with Ricard,
whom he ordered to bring the situation in his colony under control. In response, Ricard
arrested and then deported scores o f the colony’s agitators, though no official judgements

38 Ibid., 68-69. The response by Rochambeau did little to satisfy Martinique’s
more radical Republicans, who surmised that the governor must have been referring to
them, since in their opinion, the majority o f Sainte-Lucie’s inhabitants were obviously
Royalists. In fact, the seemingly off-hand comment soon came back to haunt
Rochambeau when a Saint-Pierre radical, M. David, wrote to a comrade in Felicite-ville
detailing the remark. The response was intercepted by a member o f the Representative
Assembly, and formed the basis o f a subsequent denunciation against M. David. In the
return letter, the Republican in Felicite-ville boasted that “the affair o f Sainte-Lucie, will
indeed be solved - by several musket shots, several houses burned, and several
plantations destroyed.”

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could be passed until Civil Commissioners arrived from France .39
The volatile political situation throughout the French Windward Islands
demanded action, or at least distraction. To contemporary chroniclers, it appeared that
Rochambeau found a useful outlet for the frustration o f his citizens by promoting the idea
o f carrying the Revolution to the neighboring British colonies. Martiniquais Republicans
began to write o f serious preparations for war in December 1793, but in fact,
Rochambeau had been considering an expedition against England’s Caribbean
possessions for months. As early as July, he admonished staff officers in the Ministry of
the Marine and Colonies:
In previous letters, I asked for a ship that would not be intercepted
by belligerents. I also told you that the Map Depot [in Martinique]
was pillaged during the first insurrection, and that I must have the
duplicates that are in the Paris depot relative to the Windward Isles
or the English, Dutch, and Spanish possessions in our area. My
requests have been ignored. I cannot complain about not being
able to do anything offensive when you do not even provide me
what I need for a defense. Think about this....and send me what I
need .40
Throughout summer and fall 1793, such demands continued unanswered, and by
October, his exasperation had reached a breaking point. Tired o f relying upon ministry
functionaries, Rochambeau wrote directly to Minister Monge:
Simply give me some sailors, some weapons, some money, and
eight or ten thousand troops that I can land. I am convinced that
the situation in the theater is so good that I will have no trouble
entering into a favorable situation. Do not make me an empty-

39 Ibid., 69-70.
40 Rochambeau to the Under-secretaries o f the Marine and the Colonies, 20 July
1703. AN, Archives Fonds AF III 209/953, item 18.

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booted laughing stock !41
On 29 December 1793 a courier ship, the Union, arrived from France. At last, it
appeared that the Minister o f Marine and the Colonies had honored Rochambeau’s
requests. W ithout doubt, the news that Rochambeau and the citizens o f Martinique
received was nothing short o f remarkable. According to Monge’s dispatches,
reinforcements were scheduled to arrive shortly, including at least six ships o f the line, a
large number o f frigates and 13,000 men. In the jaundiced view o f Bailleul, it appeared
that “at this moment, there was not a single person who did not pretend to be the best
Republican in the colony.” Indeed, unreconstructed Royalists in the Windward Islands
certainly had reason to fear for their future. To their shock, they learned that the French
Army was enjoying spectacular successes against their enemies on the Continent - the
Levee en masse had saved France and the Convention troops had taken the offensive. If
the war on the Continent were brought to a close, the Royalists reasoned, it was only a
matter o f months before the Convention would turn their attention, and undoubtedly their
military forces, against the Caribbean colonies .42
Not everyone on Martinique was so quick to believe the ministerial reports.
Pelauque and Bellegarde sent out Chasseurs from la Trinite to warn islanders that the

41 Rochambeau to Monge, 16 October 1793. AN, Archives Fonds AF III
209/953, item 18, 1-2.
42 Bailleul, Report, 73; Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du
Siege,” 2. Because the Union had made its first stop in Guadeloupe, conspiratorial
rumors emerged in Martinique that Rochambeau and his governors planned to arrest
radical Republicans and then use the Union to deport them to Royalist-controlled areas in
France. In fact, the Union remained in Martinique until the colony capitulated to the
British in March 1794.

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recent news was a trick engineered by Rochambeau. Information from the most reliable
sources, they claimed, was that if any squadron was coming to Martinique, it would be
British. The Chasseurs’ prevarications had no small effect on the Assembly members,
who, in turn, sought answers from Governor General Rochambeau. After several days,
Rochambeau admitted to the Military Committee that he was aware o f an English naval
squadron and troops assembling at Barbados, but he noted that they were returning to
their respective garrisons. To promote his point, he published a message in Saint-Pierre’s
newspaper saying that he knew from a reliable source that the Court o f Saint James
vowed not send additional British forces to the West Indies. Initially, Martinique’s
authorities were placated. They believed that Rochambeau maintained a reliable
intelligence network throughout the Caribbean colonies, and when sealed letters arrived a
short time later, Rochambeau presented the packet to the Assembly to be opened publicly
and then read aloud. To the relief o f the Representative Assembly, the commercial
intelligence confirmed what Rochambeau had said concerning the disposition o f British
forces in the Caribbean.43
Now enjoying the full support o f the Assembly and the promised support o f the
Minister o f Marine, Rochambeau prepared to go on the offensive. Men o f all ages and
colors in Martinique’s various National Guard companies rallied to support Rochambeau.
Company commanders drilled their men almost daily, and civilian supporters collected
available supplies. Still, the enthusiasm o f potential action was threatened by a lack o f
available funds. When Rochambeau announced to the Assembly that he wished to form a

43 Ibid., 74-75.

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company o f guides, asking for the necessary money to equip and pay the troops, he was
told that he could raise the unit and appoint the officers but that the Assembly would not
be able to pay the men until they were put into action.44
War fever infected the Republicans o f Martinique, but as always, the financial
problems were obvious. Rochambeau repeatedly found him self encumbered or opposed
by the legislative body that he had created. Nevertheless, the members o f the Assembly
believed they were quite supportive o f him. On 12 November they unanimously voted to
subordinate themselves to Rochambeau by passing an extraordinary measure which stated
that in time o f war, military authority would override civil authority. In addition, the
Assemblymen passed a series o f Draconian measures in early winter 1793 intended to
enforce discipline among members o f the island’s military establishment. They enacted
the national laws o f 25 July and 26 August 1792, which condemned to death any
commander of a fortified place who surrendered his station while he still had the means
to resist. Likewise, any public functionary who abandoned his post would meet the same
fate, along with civil administrators or public functionaries who attempted to persuade
defenders to capitulate prematurely. The impact o f such acts did not stop with the
military or civil servants. According to the ruling o f the Representative Assembly, a
death sentence also awaited any private citizen who advocated the surrender o f a place
under siege.45

44 Ibid., 75-76. The guide company was never formed. The British arrived in
Martinique before Rochambeau could field the unit.
45 Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 220-227.

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After 6 December, all citizens were denied passes from the island; anyone who
actually left the colony was subject to property confiscation. If called upon, those who
refused to serve in the National Guard would be deported and their property seized. In
summary, the Revolutionary government o f Martinique expected all citizens to defend
their posts to the end. The enemy would find no neutral ground in the colony when the
patrie was at war. Certainly such bellicose legislation from the Representative Assembly
was useful to those who would actually conduct the fighting, but when the warriors
approached the Assembly to ask for the necessary funds to prepare for the inevitable
combat, the legislators were unresponsive. When it came to disbursing the limited
treasury funds, Assemblymen were quick to point out that no war was currently being
fought in Martinique.46
Another more serious problem with Rochambeau’s war plans was that in his
enthusiasm to prepare for an inter-island invasion, he inadvertently appeared to neglect
M artinique’s own defenses. Just as his father had prepared for the French invasion o f
England in 1780, Donatien Rochambeau spent the majority o f his time on the field
drilling his troops for combat. Moreover, he had delegated all engineering efforts to the
officer most suited for such an undertaking, his commander o f artillery, Commandant Le
Mestre. In the intervening months, Le Mestre improved principal fortifications o f the
island. The artilleryman focused on detail and quickly used his allotted 5,000 hours o f

46 Kleczewski, Martinique and the British Occupation, 99; Daney, Histoire de la
Martinique, 224, 221. By January 1794, the Assembly decreed that anyone who
communicated with the enemy would be considered a traitor, while Rochambeau ordered
a complete embargo on all ships in the colony’s ports and roads. All vessels were to be
searched, even if they were French.

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slave labor to do very specific work at the expense o f more general modifications on
works throughout the island. For the colony to be truly fortified, Le Mestre needed more
time, more money, and more laborers; none o f these were available in quantity on
Yet, in the last weeks o f 1793, none o f these shortcomings seemed to matter.
When the commander o f the Union, Captain Mary, docked his ship in Saint-Pierre, he
announced at the end o f December 1793 that the long-awaited French squadron was only
eight days behind him. By the end o f January 1794, the vessels had not yet arrived. To
some, Monge had indeed made Rochambeau an “empty-booted laughing stock,” but to
others, the failure o f the Paris government to fulfill its promises had more sinister
connotations. It did not take long for the Martiniquais Republicans to conclude that
Rochambeau was creating his own personal army to impose his will upon the island
without fear o f the civilian authorities. Indeed, when he engineered the dismissal o f
several civil servants with whom he had become displeased, the Assembly began to
realize just how easily Rochambeau could dispose o f anyone who did not agree with him.
Fearing rumors o f a military coup, the Representative Assembly reversed their earlier
supportive stance and decreed in January 1794 that no military unit would be put into
movement without their express consent.48
In concert with these suspicions, Republicans again promoted the idea that
Rochambeau was favoring Royalists who had infiltrated their ranks. Similar distrust

47 Bailleul, Report, 76-77.
48 Ibid., 77.

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affected members o f the Assembly, who demanded that just as in France, certificates o f
civism be issued for all public functionaries. Rochambeau refused this measure, saying
that according to the Assembly’s own laws, the Popular Society o f Republique-ville held
that particular responsibility. Furthermore, they already had the certificates in their
possession. The Assemblymen fought Rochambeau, but he held firm, thus averting a
potential purge o f the Representative Assembly by the organization’s more radical
While internal dissension became stronger in the ranks o f the government
officials, Rochambeau again found him self under attack from his irregular military forces.
By December, the subject o f rations gave the Chasseurs a new reason to complain, and
messages from Bellegarde and Pelauque at la Trinite told Rochambeau that their men
were starving. Like other regular troops in the colony, the Chasseur leadership
complained that they wanted salted beef. Pelauque charged that Commissary Daigremont
prevented the Chasseurs from purchasing anything from the government warehouses in la
Trinite, since all captured goods were put at the disposal o f the government. In truth,
Daigremont was faced with the same limitations as Rochambeau. The fault rested with
the Military Committee of the Representative Assembly. They controlled the disposition
o f government property for the island’s military forces, but they failed to pay for or to
distribute much-needed supplies for the Chasseurs in la Trinite.50
Attempting to follow established procedure, Rochambeau turned the matter over

49 Ibid., 78.
50 Ibid., 79.

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to Daigremont, who in turn brought the issue before the Military Committee; weeks later,
the Assembly finally sent two o f its representatives to investigate the Chasseurs’
accusations. They found that what Bellegarde and Pelauque alleged was in fact true, and
that owing to a similar lack o f proper coordination, the Chasseurs were not allowed to use
the city’s hospital. The delegates sent their findings to the Military Committee, but
nothing happened. As far removed as they were from the colony’s seat o f government, it
is unlikely that the Chasseurs fully understood the relationship between Rochambeau,
Commissary Daigremont, the Military Committee, and the Assembly; Rochambeau and
Daigremont once again became the object o f their suspicion. Sympathy for the Chasseurs
grew in Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville. When Rochambeau and his Commissary tried
to explain the situation, citizens began to suspect that they were trying to blame the
situation on the Assembly.51
In mid-January the Chasseurs again displayed their talent in causing problems for
Rochambeau. Despite the severe restrictions placed on travelers to the colony, M.
Dautreman, a free black from the British colony o f Grenada, made his way into la Trinite.
When Municipality officials denounced him and alleged that he was an agent o f the
British who had come to promote a general slave uprising, Rochambeau immediately
ordered the foreigner arrested. A dispatch rider was sent to la Trinite to deliver the order
and to bring Dautreman to Republique-ville, but when he arrived, he found that five o f
Bellegarde’s Chasseurs had put Dautreman under their protection. The Chasseurs, who
drew their sabers lest anyone attempt to take Dautreman, would not allow anyone near

51 Ibid., 80-81.

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Since the Chasseurs chose to violate a direct order from Governor General
Rochambeau, the Municipality o f la Trinite sent a company o f the city’s National Guard
to arrest Dautreman. However, the members o f the fugitive’s escort were not intimidated;
during a heated exchange, one o f the Chasseurs used his saber to slash the executive
officer of the National Guard across the face. Thus thwarted in their efforts to execute the
law, la Trinite’s Municipality appealed directly to Bellegarde to bring Dautreman into
custody. The next day, Dautreman appeared before the city’s Hotel de Ville escorted by
fifteen o f Bellegarde’s Chasseurs, but his arrival was not to offer his surrender. When
Dautreman called for the city officials to present themselves, his new escort arrayed
themselves for battle and threatened to bum the building if the Municipality persisted in
trying to arrest him. To emphasize their point, the Chasseurs then fired a volley o f
musket shots at the building and returned to Fort Bellegarde.53
In essence, Bellegarde and his men had revolted against the colony’s authorities,
but both Rochambeau and the Assembly failed to deal with the crisis quickly and
decisively. The two Assembly delegates who had come to la Trinite the previous month
to address the rations issue were too frightened to stand up to the Chasseurs, and once
again the Committee o f Public Safety o f Republique-ville sent Jean Isaac and M. Colon to
Bellegarde’s camp to attempt to defuse the situation. Rochambeau considered sending
regular troops against the Chasseurs, but decided against it, realizing it would cause even

52 Ibid., 82-83.
53 Ibid.

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more serious problems. Even with four government representatives in la Trinite calling
upon Bellegarde and Pelauque to obey the law, the situation was never resolved - the
English would arrive first.54
In fact, the Dautreman affair was only one incident in a much larger British effort
to smuggle Royalists and other agents onto Martinique. Despite the government’s best
efforts, in January 1794 counterrevolutionary guerrillas once again began to conduct
sporadic nightly raids against remote, weakly-held Republican positions. Throughout the
month, the Royalists’ numbers and activities steadily increased, but they were never able
to muster enough strength to overpower Rochambeau’s forces. Their only hope for
success lay with an invasion by the British. Contrary to what they were being told by the
government, intelligence arriving in the colony’s ports in January 1794 began to convince
Martiniquais citizens that another British attack was imminent; as their fear grew,
Republicans again attacked Rochambeau. Since his arrival, they maintained, he had done
little to try to save the colony or to prepare the troops for the island’s defense. Instead,

54 Ibid. No official explanation exists for Bellegarde’s protection o f Dautreman,
but his motives may have been either racially or politically based. On 30 November
1793, the Assembly passed a law that if a slave was convicted by the Revolutionary
Tribunal, that conviction would be permanent and without appeal. However, death
penalties were to be commuted to life sentences for slave leaders, while those who were
forced by their masters to engage in counterrevolutionary activity would only receive five
years labor in the fields. While the new laws appeared lenient to the colony’s white
leaders, such measures remained intolerable to the blacks in Bellegarde’s battalion. For
this reason, the Chasseurs de la Martinique may have sought to protect the presumably
innocent Dautreman from receiving a requisite life sentence. On the other hand,
Bellegarde and Pelauque may have protected Dautreman because he truly was a British

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they asserted, “he had done nothing more than act like a general o f the ancien regime.”55
After a twelve months as Governor General o f the Windward Islands,
Rochambeau could not have been deluded that the difficulties in his and the other
colonies within his jurisdiction were not o f his own making. France’s inablility to
properly sustain Tobago resulted in the loss o f that colony, but Rochambeau had installed
his own men, Collot and Ricard, in Guadeloupe and Sainte-Lucie. On these islands, the
men that Rochambeau entrusted with the nation’s Revolutionary stewardship proved
unequal to their task. Collot’s tenuous administration in Guadeloupe may largely have
been the result o f hostile topography, but Ricard could claim no such handicap. SainteLucie’s proximity to Martinique guaranteed that his gubernatorial failures directly
impacted Martinique.
Without money, troops, ships, or support from France, there was little that
Rochambeau could do to bolster his multi-island administration. Thus, he directed his
energies to Martinique. Unfortunately for Rochambeau, his noteworthy successes in
Martinique proved ephemeral. While his Representative Assembly quibbled over
finances, his Chasseurs flirted with treason. Indeed, the organizations that Rochambeau
created to sustain the Revolution became the forces that would prevent him from
preserving it.


Ibid., 82-83.

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Chapter XIII
6 - 7 February 1794

The British did not accept their earlier failure to seize Martinique, and considered
the defeat an affront to the nation’s honor and a temporary setback. Just weeks after
reports from General Bruce reached England concerning his aborted invasion attempt,
Secretary Dundas organized a second, more potent force under the command o f two o f
England’s most distinguished officers, Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey, and ViceAdmiral Sir John Jervis. In a lengthy set o f secret instructions to Grey, Dundas ordered
an immediate attack on the islands o f Martinique, Guadeloupe and Sainte-Lucie
respectively. If he could not capture Martinique’s Fort-de-la-Convention, Dundas
instructed Grey, then he was to turn his attack into a blockade and take the other islands.1

1 Dundas to Grey “Orders and Secret Instructions,” 11 November 1793. PRO,
CO, 318.13,452-453, 455. As a major general, the future Lieutenant General Charles
Grey (1729-1807), then Baron Grey de Ho wick, commanded in several victories during
the American Revolution, most notably against Major General Anthony Wayne at
Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1777. It was this loss that Wayne later sought to avenge in
1779 with his attack at Stony Point, New York. Grey returned to England in 1782, where
he was appointed commander in chief in America, but the war ended a short time later, so
he never assumed the post. Following extensive duties in the West Indies, he retired from
military service in 1801, and was raised to Viscount Howick and Earl Grey in 1806.
Admiral Sir John Jervis’ most notable performance came while serving under
Horatio Nelson in 1797 when, with fifteen ships under his own command, he defeated a

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The King’s Men

Sir Henry Dundas




Sir John Jervis

Lieutenant General
Sir Charles Grey

Lieutenant General
Robert Prescott
H.R.H. the Duke of Hannover
Figure 30. The King’s Men

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In his initial estimates for the expedition against the French Windward Islands,
Dundas placed fourteen infantry regiments, or about 11,000 troops, under Grey’s
command. However, in late September 1793, Dundas diverted eight o f Grey’s regiments
to bolster allied operations in Flanders. Consequently, Dundas was compelled to revise
his campaign strategy for the Windward Islands by attacking the islands o f Sainte-Lucie
and Guadeloupe before attempting to invade the more formidable defenses o f
Despite the reductions, Grey maintained 6,085 infantrymen under his command,
including a detachment o f black soldiers known as the “Carolina Dragoons,” while
Jervis’ fleet included four First Rate ships, nine frigates, and scores o f corvettes, bomb
ketches, and transports. The expeditionary force left Portsmouth on 26 November 1793.
Upon its arrival in Carlisle Bay, Barbados on 6 January 1794, the squadron was joined by
the Asia (64) and another three frigates. Although the last instructions that Dundas gave

twenty-seven ship Spanish squadron off Cape Saint Vincent. For this action, Jervis
received a peerage, and became Earl o f Saint Vincent. While serving as First Lord o f the
Admiralty (1801-1806), Jervis concentrated on restoring discipline in the ranks o f the
Royal Navy primarily attending to matters o f shipboard health and sanitation. For a short
time in 1806, Jervis returned to sea as Commander in Chief, Mediterranean until his
health began to fail later that year. In 1821, he became the second officer in the modem
Royal Navy (after William Henry Hanover, Duke o f Clarence in 1811) to hold the rank o f
Admiral of the Fleet. He died in 1823.
2 David Geggus, “The British government and the Saint Domingue slave revolt,
1791-1793,” English Historical Review, XCVI: 379 (1981): 300-301. One month later,
five o f these eight regiments were again reassigned, this time to support French Royalists
in Brittany. When Royalists opened Toulon to a British naval squadron at the end o f
August, Dundas was offered another tempting opportunity to strike at the French on the
Continent. Dundas ordered that more o f Grey’s allotted troops (those stationed at
Gibralter) go to Toulon.

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to Grey were to take the smaller islands first, detailed reports from French emigres in
Barbados convinced Grey that an initial attack against Martinique would succeed.3
Whether by Dundas’ design, or as the result o f his ignorance o f military affairs, it
helped the British effort because General Grey was given the latitude to modify his orders
as best suited the situation. Dundas’ primary goal was for Grey to capture all o f the
French Windward Islands, but regardless o f the order, Martinique remained the key. Grey
knew that once he controlled this strongest o f the French possessions, he could easily
force the surrender o f Sainte-Lucie and Guadeloupe, but not vice-versa. Indeed, the
amount o f troops required to conquer and occupy the other islands would dangerously
deplete the forces that he needed for a successful campaign against the principle French
force under Rochambeau. Worse still, if he did not capture Martinique in the 1794
campaign season, the anticipated arrival o f French reinforcements would make his
mission considerably more difficult, if not impossible.4

3 Rev. Cooper Willyams, Expedition Against The French West India Islands.
(London, 1796) 15-16; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 228; Kleczewski, Martinique
and the British Occupation, 130-135. Grey’s reported personnel totals did not include
224 men who remained sick aboard the ships, or 977 sick men who were left at Barbados.
Nevertheless, Rochambeau, who based his information on the latest reports that he
received from France, still believed that Grey had anywhere from 12,000 to 16,000 elite
troops at his disposal, with even more arriving from Canada under the command o f his
Royal Highness, Prince Edward. Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 4 February
4 Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 21; Kleczewski,
Martinique and the British Occupation, 132-133. Dundas put very few stipulations in his
“secret instructions” to Grey, demanding primarily that the general acquire the islands “in
the most expeditious manner, and with the least loss or hazard to our troops.” Dundas to
Grey “Orders and Secret Instructions,” 11 November 1793. PRO, CO, 318.13, 452-453,

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Once the fleet arrived in Barbados, it became imperative that Grey and Jervis
commence their operation before verifiable information concerning the latest disposition
o f British forces could reach Martinique. Thus, Jervis did not wait to begin the first phase
o f the attack, and by 10 January, several British warships blockaded the island from
positions over the horizon, just beyond Martinique’s lookouts. The enemy squadron did
their job well. For an entire month, Rochambeau and the citizens o f Martinique received
no outside communication whatsoever, and remained oblivious to what was taking place
around them.5
Grey’s strategy called for a well-timed, three-pronged attack at critical points on
the island, forcing the defenders to divide their forces and make his own landings easier.
As the fleet closed on the island, Jervis was to divert twenty ships to the Baie du Galion
on Martinique’s eastern side, where Secretary Dundas’ nephew, Major General Thomas
Dundas, would drive Bellegarde and his Chasseurs from their defensive positions, and
then seize la Trinite. Simultaneously, Grey and the remainder o f his troops were to sail
directly into the southern Baie du Marin, where after disabling the enemy batteries at
Pointe Borgnesse and Pointe Dunkerque, Lieutenant General Robert Prescott and his men
would ashore at the village o f Trois Rivieres. With these first two attacks fully developed
and the Republican defenders focusing their efforts in the south and the east, Grey would
then send Colonel Charles Gordon’s brigade northwest to launch yet another attack at
Case-Navire, isolating Republique-ville from Saint-Pierre. With their initial objectives
taken, all three brigades were then to move inland, surround Republique-ville, and force

5 Ibid.

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The British Master Plan
A View of

and ike M and's Defensive Works



English Miles
3 4
5 6 7




K ilo m e tre s







to iz


Le P n





j General
brigade lands
aT Galion 6
FebruaryCom modore

!v /i r

continues to
^ a Trinite







Cap Salomon.

Pte. Bouigant
ItfAnftf 1'AiU


Colonel Gordon ’s \
brigade continues
north to attack
Case-Navire -

forccdK bnJx
Case -P ilote on 8

Pte. B

A dm iralJem s and

initial attack in the Baie ( /



at Trois-Rivieres 6 -7
% February1794
l-o n g ilu d e W e s t

6 r o t' G r e e i n v i e l i

Figure 31. The British Master Plan

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the colony’s surrender.6
A critical contribution to the general’s planning was well-informed reports from
many o f Martinique's key Royalist leaders concerning the dispositions o f the Republican
troops and the state o f the fortifications on the island. Henri de Percin offered his
services as one o f the most useful informers.7 Thus armed with solid and current
intelligence, the British expeditionary force remained in Barbados’ Carlisle Bay for just
over a month, making extensive preparations for what all expected would be a heavilyresisted invasion. Grey and his subordinate army commanders drilled their infantry and
artillerymen on shore, while Admiral Jervis personally supervised details shipboard,
including training his sailors as pike bearing foot soldiers, and assembling prefabricated
gun boats that the fleet had brought from England.8

6 Royalist informers on Martinique also informed Grey and Jervis that Bellegarde
defended la Trinite, and that he and Rochambeau were at odds. Willyams, Expedition,
10; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 33; Daney, Histoire de la
Martinique, 229. Gordon temporarily commanded the third brigade in the place o f
H.R.H. Edward Augustus Hanover, Duke o f Kent, who was expected to arrive from
Canada with reinforcements.
7 De Percin’s associates included Fort-de-la-Convention’s former chief engineer
M. de Guignod, Pothau Desgatiere, and scores o f others. Years earlier, de Guignod had
assisted the noted French fortifications engineer, Claude F ra n c is, marquis de Bouille, in
the construction o f Fort-de-la-Convention. Once the British began their campaign on
Martinique, these emigres immediately returned to their plantations and put their
demoralized slaves, who had heard rumors concerning the Civil Commission’s
emancipation o f Saint-Domingue’s slaves, back to work. Rochambeau, “Journal du
siege,” entry for 9 February 1794. Unfortunately for the island’s slaves, the National
Convention’s 4 February 1794 emancipation decree arrived on Martinique just days after
the British forced Rochambeau to surrender the colony. The liberation o f Martinique’s
slaves did not actually occur until many years later.
8 These lateen-rigged gun boats were well-suited amphibious attacks, especially
for close-in work against seaside towns and fortifications. Small and extremely difficult

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Admiral Jervis’ Gun Boats

Top and cutaway views - the gun boats’ principal armament was a 24pounder cannon in the fore. When fired, the cannon rolled back on
wooden rails. Ropes helped absorb the main gun’s recoil. The gun boats’
secondary armament was small-bore swivel guns, which were
permanently replaced in 1801 with 12,18,24, or 32-pounder carronades.

Gun boat model at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich,
England. This version, ca. 1808, shows the boat outfitted with a standard

Gun boats in action with the H.M.S Sirius
Figure 32. Admiral Jervis’ Gun Boats

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As the sun set on Tuesday, 4 February 1794, lookouts on Martinique were barely
able to discern topsails as they began to appear over the island’s southern horizon. From
such a distance it was impossible to recognize the nationality o f the approaching fleet.
When the news reached Republique-ville and Saint-Pierre, Martiniquais citizens, who
like Rochambeau believed the ships to be the long-awaited French reinforcements, made
preparations to receive their saviors with great celebration. By 2:00 p.m. on the 5th, the
erstwhile celebrants’ joy turned to panic as it became clear that between ninety and one
hundred ships were sailing toward the Baie du Marin, and were positively English.9
The army headquarters was caught completely by surprise. Martinique’s military
leadership immediately knew that they were drastically outnumbered; the intelligence that
Rochambeau received from France months earlier described a British invasion force o f
twelve to sixteen-thousand men possibly destined for the Caribbean. Despite Dundas’
diversion, the decrease in the numbers o f British troops preparing to land in Martinique
made little difference. Rochambeau commanded only four to five hundred regular troops
in the whole o f the Windward Islands, and a considerable number o f those had
succumbed to tropical illnesses.10

to hit, they were quite deadly. Each boat carried a 24-pounder mounted in the bow, and
either four swivel guns (two per gunwale) or a carronade (a short-barreled gun also
known as a “smasher” that could effectively fire rounds weighing between twelve and
sixty-eight pounds up to 500 yards) mounted aft.
9 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 87; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 228.
10 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 4 February 1794; Daney, Histoire de
la Martinique, 228-229. Rochambeau could only count among his veteran troops o f the
line on M artinique sixty men o f the former Royal Sarre and Marechal de Turenne
Regiments, who were now serving as members o f the 3 1st Line. In addition, he had under

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By 4:00 p.m., Jervis’ lead ships were receiving heavy fire from the French
batteries at Pointes Dunkerque and Borgnesse. The fleet remained out o f range o f Pointe
Dunkerque, but the guns at Pointe Borgnesse had to be silenced before Grey could begin
his landing at Trois Rivieres. Several vessels quickly maneuvered into the Baie du Marin
and anchored within point-blank range o f Pointe Borgnesse. Almost immediately, Jervis’
flagship, the Boyne (98), and the Veteran (64) fired full broadsides against the battery,
while a detachment o f Royal Marines landed to storm the works from the beach below.
Once they noticed the British landing party, the majority o f the garrison at Pointe
Borgnesse, mostly citizens from the village o f Riviere-Pilote, fired several shots from
their cannons and then fled. The fight for Pointe Borgnesse, however, was not over. The
battery commander, a mulatto National Guard captain named Compere, chose to stay
behind with eleven other men, and the ensuing hand-to-hand fighting continued until
most o f his remaining troops were dead. Though Compere him self was seriously
wounded, he alone managed to escape capture. After twenty minutes, Pointe Borgnesse
belonged to the British. The Royal Marines raised the Jack over the battery, amid three
loud cheers from the squadron.11
While the British focused their attention against Pointe Borgnesse, at the nearby
village o f Sainte-Luce, the local cure and a handful o f doughty Republicans attempted to
assist their beleaguered brethren from their town’s own tiny battery. The British shut

his direct command only three companies o f Chasseurs, and the island’s militia units. In
total, his available forces numbered around 900 supposedly reliable men.
11 Willyams, Expedition, 20; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 88; Rochambeau,
“Journal du siege,” entry for 5 February 1794.

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Pointe Boxgneu

Generals Prescott and Gref Land
the Bulk o f the British Invasion


6We B l l l y
Koval M arines

\ iiii\



I nrees

bngflscm cvm

Admiral Jarvis Attacks
in the Baie du. Matin
5-7 February 1794

The British Invasion in the South
5-7 February 1794

Enlarged Area

Figure 33. The British Invasion in the South 5-7 February 1794

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down the cure's guns without hesitation. After the priest and his compatriots hit the
Boyne with a heated ball from one o f the village’s two 24-pounders, crewmen aboard the
Veteran opened fire with their lower deck cannon and blasted the Frenchmen out o f their
works.12 Next, several other ships turned their guns against the battery at Sainte-Anne;
after a quick series o f broadsides, the Republicans vacated these works as well. A
detachment o f Royal Marines landed there to spike the guns, and destroy their carriages.
With Sainte-Anne secure, Grey landed a detachment o f infantrymen in the village with
orders to move south to take the battery at Pointe Dunkerque from the rear. By early
evening, the soldiers had accomplished their mission; Sainte-Luce Channel and the
entrance to the Cul de Sac du Marin were open for the main British landing.13
On the other side o f the island, the citizens o f le Robert and la Trinite also
discovered that the twenty ships sailing toward them were enemy. When the British
squadron appeared in the Baie du Galion late on the afternoon o f 5 February, Bellegarde
sent a rider to Republique-ville to alert Rochambeau to prepare reinforcements. This
second British attack proved to be a complete surprise to the staff at army headquarters at
Fort-de-la-Republique. In fact, Rochambeau was in Saint-Pierre reviewing troops that,

12 Both Rochambeau and Bailleul mention the heroic actions o f Sainte-Luce’s
cure. However, the official history o f the village (one copy remains in the Sainte-Luce
library) maintains that during the period, Sainte-Luce had no cure. While certain details
o f the encounter may be legend, Reverend Cooper Willyams, who witnessed the
engagement from aboard the Veteran, was quite specific in his description o f the event.
To this day, a weathered 24-pounder cannon rests in a concrete carriage on a bluff above
the village.
13 Willyams, Expedition, 20; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 88; Rochambeau,
“Journal du siege,” entry for 5 February 1794.

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Attack at le Marin and Landing at Trois Rivieres

Entrance to the Baie du Marin
(Pointe Bunquerque is in foreground)

Pointe Borgnesse and the entrance
to the Cul de Sac du Marin

The Battle fo r le Marin as seen from Admiral Jervis’ Flagship

Baie du Marin from the city’s fort

Sainte-Luce Today

The British Landing Site at Trois Rivieres
Figure 34. Attack at le Marin and Landing at Trois Rivieres

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ironically, he was drilling for his proposed expedition against the British Caribbean
possessions. Colonel Daucourt was acting as temporary commander o f Republiqueville’s garrisons. When Bellegarde’s message reached the headquarters, he left the capital
immediately to carry the news to his chief personally.14
Daucourt arrived at Saint-Pierre at 7:30 p.m. and gave Rochambeau clear
confirmation o f both attacks. The general spent the next thirty minutes repositioning
forces in Saint-Pierre for the defense o f the island. The soldiers at Saint-Pierre would not
carry the Revolution to the British colonies, but they would fight once again for the
survival o f their own city. Having done what he could in Saint-Pierre, Rochambeau
turned his attention to the rest o f the colony.
In his most recent letter, Lieutenant Colonel Bellegarde had assured Rochambeau
that “barring any unforseen circumstances” he could hold la Trinite; he was already
ensconced in “Fort Bellegarde” with three o f his five Chasseur companies. Thus,
Rochambeau ordered Major Edouard M ember’s battalion to leave Saint-Pierre to
reinforce the position at Mome Vert-Pre. This first task was difficult enough, but
Rochambeau complicated the orders by saying that should Saint-Pierre become
threatened, Meunier and his troops were to return to positions overlooking the city at le
Mome Rouge. Since no enemy was currently in sight near Saint-Pierre, the city’s defense
was left initially to its own citizens and National Guard. Similarly, the citizens o f CaseNavire and Case-Pilote would be responsible for their towns’ defense, but they would not

14 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 90; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry
for 5 February 1794.

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be without help. Rochambeau was confident that the regular artillerymen manning the
batteries around the two towns could defeat a British landing in that area and prevent an
overland enemy advance toward Saint-Pierre. Nevertheless, Rochambeau designated
Fort-de-la-Convention as the final rallying point for forces defending the island, and
prepared a small group o f his most experienced soldiers to march to Republique-ville to
occupy the fortress.15
Before leaving Saint-Pierre, Rochambeau delivered a letter to the Representative
Assembly, apprizing them o f the situation on the island. That evening, the Assembly
officially declared Martinique in a state o f siege, and selected twelve volunteer members
to serve as a general Committee o f Public Safety for Martinique. After awarding the new
committee full legislative powers to defend the colony by whatever means necessary, the
Assemblymen issued a final proclamation calling upon Republicans to “remember their
strength and their earlier victories, and to fight to the death rather than surrender the
island.” With these parting words, the Representative Assembly dissolved itself, and its
members quickly returned to their own parishes. Rochambeau, on the other hand, set out
to find the enemy. When he stopped at Republique-ville to change horses, he confirmed
to the anxious city authorities that the British had invaded several points on the island,

15 Ibid., 91; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 5 February 1794; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 229. Rochambeau further advised Bellegarde to fall back to
Gros-Mome if he were unable to hold la Trinite, but he kept two o f Bellegarde’s
companies in reserve, one under Captain Octavius in le Robert, the other in Republiqueville. Further, though Major Edouard Meunier was instructed to eventually move to
Saint-Pierre, Rochambeau gave him contradictory orders to put him self and his men
under Bellegarde’s command if the situation warranted it. Meunier ignored this second
order - a decision that would have grave consequences when the British attacked
Bellegarde at la Trinite.

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and that he was on his way to Pointe Borgnesse to reconnoiter the main British attack
himself. Rochambeau then disappeared into the twilight.16
On the morning of 6 February, Major General Dundas’ brigade encountered fierce
resistance in his landing in the Baie du Gabon. Elements o f 1st Chasseur Battalion
augmented by National Guard from la Trinite delayed the British landing for several
hours by ambushing Dundas’ troops from sugarcane fields, several yards from the beach.
They withdrew toward their entrenchments only after being driven out o f their positions
by British bayonets.17 Despite the delay, by mid-morning Dundas disembarked 800
infantrymen and two field pieces. He made his first encampment at a nearby plantation
whose Royalist overseer, M. Charton, offered to guide the enemy to Mome Vert-Pre,
where Dundas and his troops could easily overwhelm Edouard M eunier’s recently-arrived
Chasseur battalion. This diversion was not in his instructions, but to Dundas, protecting
his southern flank by clearing the Republicans from the former “Royalists’ Gibralter”
seemed to be sound military reasoning. When the British reached M ome Vert-Pre that
afternoon, however, they were surprised to discover that Meunier and his battalion were

16 Ibid., 89, 94; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 5 February 1794.
While the new Committee o f Public Safety in Saint-Pierre organized itself, three former
members of the Assembly’s Committee o f General Security in Republique-ville held all
government power throughout the night o f 5-6 February. At around midnight, this
intermediary body learned from another Chasseur messenger that not only had la Trinite
fallen to the British, but that Rochambeau had been beaten on the field. Further, the
Chasseur announced, the British mandated that all committees and assemblies on the
island were to cease their functions immediately. Fortunately for the French, the
committee members took no action - the message was a complete fabrication.
17 Willyams, Expedition, 34; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 87.

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General Dundas *Landing

Baie du Galion

Road up from the Landing

The Landing Beach

Dundas’ Campsite

Galion - in 1794, this plantation was owned by Dubuc and
managed by M. Charton
Figure 35. General Dundas’ Landing

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not alone in the works.18
While Dundas’ troops landed at le Galion, Republican soldiers from throughout
the area around Mome Vert-Pre concentrated at the mountain stronghold. They came for
a variety o f reasons. When the citizens o f le Robert saw the British squadron pass the
previous afternoon, the town’s National Guard company took positions at Mome Vert-Pre
in hopes o f stalling a British land attack from the north. Likewise, Captain Octavius, who
commanded the Chasseur company originally stationed in reserve in le Robert, took his
soldiers to Mome Vert-Pre, where he believed he would be in a better position to assist
Bellegarde. Several hours later, Commandant Cezaire and his National Guard company
from Gros-Mome marched to the more secure Mome Vert-Pre when they learned that
they would be left to defend their town’s works alone. As the result o f these unauthorized
troop movements, by mid-moming on the 6th, M eunier’s one battalion had become two
Dundas’ first attack column never reached the main works at Mome Vert-Pre. As
the unsuspecting British infantrymen climbed the winding road from the Galion
plantation toward the Republican positions, Captain Octavius and his Chasseur company
surprised them from ambush positions well ahead o f the principle entrenchments. After
losing several men, the stunned British fell back to their camp, where Dundas made hasty
preparations to move against the Republicans along another route. Octavius learned o f
this change in the enemy plans, and simultaneously moved his company in order to

18 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 89.
19 Ibid., 89-90.

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V j B l t f Jtt kalian
j 4 l |r > N D A S

Le Robert

Dundas’ Landing and Attacks Near Morne Vert-Pre
6 February 1794 - M ajor General Thomas Dundas landed his troops at Galion. Elements
o f Bellegarde’s 1st Chasseur Battalion and National Guard from la Trinity offered stiff
resistance at the beach and then retreated. Dundas made two attempts to take the
Republican stronghold at Morne Vert-Pre, but was stopped by Lieutenant Colonel
Edouard M eunier and companies o f the 1st and 2d Chasseur Battalions (augmented by
National Guard from le Robert and Gros-Morne).



Figure 36. Dundas’ Landing and Attacks Near Morne Vert-Pre

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ambush the British on their new route o f advance.20
Had Meunier augmented Octavius’ company with some o f his own men, the
Chasseurs o f the 1st Battalion could have done considerably more damage to the British
infantrymen. Rather than put his own men at risk, Meunier chose to follow only the letter
o f his instructions in fulfilling Rochambeau’s intent. He ordered the National Guard from
Gros-Mome to assist Octavius, rallied his own Chasseurs, and then moved west along the
mountain roads to occupy the preplanned secondary positions near Saint-Pierre. After all,
he reasoned, the area between Gros-Mome, Mome Vert-Pre and la Trinite was
Bellegarde’s responsibility, not his.21
W ith only two companies, Octavius managed to halt the British column a second
time. Again the enemy retreated to the Charton plantation, where Dundas abandoned his
fruitless enterprise and returned his attention to his primary mission o f taking la Trinite.
Once Dundas’ cavalry were landed at le Galion, he put them at the head o f his infantry
and advanced to attack Bellegarde.22
La Trinite was only a short distance to the north along the coast road, but Dundas
attempted to turn Bellegarde’s flank. Instead o f taking the more direct route, he marched
his brigade west and then north along difficult mountain trails. Scouts o f the Chasseur
detachment provided Bellegarde with solid intelligence concerning the latest enemy
movements, but he opted to take advantage o f Dundas’ poor choice o f roads with a

20 Ibid., 90; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 7 February 1794.
21 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 7 February 1794.
22 Ibid.; Willyams, Expedition, 34.

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La Trinite

L a T rinite H arb or

T he old W aterfron t

V iew from the old la
T rinite B attery

T he C ann on s o f
“F ort B elleg a rd e”

Figure 37. La Trinite

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minimum o f risk to his unit. He posted the National Guard from Trou au Chat
(Commandant Preville) and Gros-Mome (Commandant Cezaire) along the route to
ambush the enemy, but he contributed only a handful o f his own soldiers, led by his leasttrusted Chasseur officers. W ith nearly 160 troops in place, Bellegarde returned to his
fort, apparently, to retrieve more ammunition for his soldiers. He was not to be found
when the British force met the Republicans.23
The National Guard tried desperately to stem the British advance, but this time the
enemy would not be stopped. Now employing all o f his available resources, Dundas
massed his artillery, cavalry and infantry, and drove headlong into the Republican
positions. The shock was tremendous. After losing what may have been the only officer
present, Bellegarde’s Chasseur detachment broke before the disciplined fire o f the British
Redcoats. Not surprisingly, the National Guard performed no better. Untrained to resist
the enemy’s ordered volleys, these soldiers scattered to the safety o f their own homes.
Within minutes after the start o f the engagement, the majority o f the Republicans had
thrown down their weapons and were in full flight, while those remaining fell to their
knees and begged the British for quarter. “In a word,” commissaire Bailleul wrote, “the
terror was so great in the troop, that this human debris could not be rallied by their leaders
until they had run nearly six leagues away from the battlefield, beyond the Riviere

23 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 91-92; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,”
entry for 6 February 1794.
24 Ibid., 91-92; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege”, entry for 6 February 1794;
Willyams, Expedition, 34.

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B aie d u Gallon.

■ S ill

Le Robert

Dundas’ Attack at la Trinite
6 February 1794 - Dundas attacked la Trinite. Bellegarde abandoned the city’s defenses,
set fire to the warehouse district, and fled toward Saint-Pierre. In defiance of
Rochambeau’s orders, Bellegarde and his men did not occupy Gros-Morne, and left the
main road to Republique-ville open.


Figure 38. Dundas’ Attack at La Trinite

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Dundas’ men immediately seized the initiative and poured into Fort Bellegarde,
only to find the works abandoned. In fact, the Chasseur commander and a select group o f
Chasseur officers had retreated to the city’s eastern battery, Fort-de-la-Trinite, nearly an
hour before the British approached Fort Bellegarde. From this position Bellegarde and
his men fired wildly from the battery’s two 24-pounders to slow Commodore Charles
Thompson’s squadron as it maneuvered into la Trinite harbor. The efforts were futile.
Within minutes after capturing Fort Bellegarde, Dundas continued his march toward the
city. Bellegarde and his ten or twelve officers abandoned Fort-de-la-Trinite, and rushed
into the city to try to bum the city’s warehouses before the British arrived.25
The ill-placed fire offered by the Chasseurs at Fort-de-la-Trinite failed to slow the
British naval approach to the city. When Commodore Thompson saw the British colors
raised over both forts, he ordered his ships into the inner harbor o f the city. His sailors
boarded the captured French vessels, while Dundas and his infantry occupied la Trinite.
Once again, Bellegarde managed to escape, but not before leaving the evidence o f his
criminal trade in flames. The British soldiers and sailors in la Trinite had little success
salvaging provisions from the blazing warehouses; instead o f resting, they spent the night
and most o f the next day desperately trying to save la Trinite from complete destruction.
As the result, it was not until the evening o f 7 February that Dundas was finally able to
leave the smoldering ruins to begin his march into the interior.26

25 Willyams, Expedition, 34; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 91.
26 Ibid. Rochambeau warned Bellegarde against taking any ill-chosen positions,
and was astonished to learn how quickly Bellegarde had “been beaten completely and had
evacuated all o f his posts without a fight.” Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 6

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On the western side o f the island, Lieutenant General Robert Prescott met no
opposition in his landing at Trois Rivieres on 6 February. By late morning, 2,484
infantrymen and his full complement o f artillery and cavalry were assembled on the
beach. W ith the bulk o f his southern invasion force ashore, General Grey landed and
prepared to encircle the Grande Anse peninsula. He ordered Brigadier General Alan
Whyte to lead a battalion o f light infantry along the road from Trois Rivieres to le
Diamant, and then continue to les Anses-d’Arlet, where he was to seize the coastal
battery at Pointe Bourgant (modem Pointe Burgos). Whyte and his men were then to take
the village o f Grande Anse, and capture a second battery at Cap Salomon. Grey’s intent
was simple. Not only would W hyte’s march secure the bottom h alf o f the peninsula, but
capturing the batteries at Pointe Bourgant and Cap Salomon would leave the critical
fortress at Ilet a Ramiers unprotected from the south.27
Since Grey expected Whyte’s advance to be much slower than his own, he
ordered the battalion to leave Trois Rivieres at 12:00 p.m., five hours ahead o f the main
body. The battalion was slowed temporarily at le Diamant by a force o f fifity-five
National Guard. Despite their initial success, the Republicans retreated toward les Ansesd’Arlet, allowing W hyte’s men to continue their march. Precisely at 5:00 p.m., General
Prescott’s brigades left Trois Rivieres and followed the relatively flat road from to
Riviere-Salee. Prescott encountered no resistance; by early evening, his forces were

February 1794.
27 Ibid., 20-24.

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Le SafaHiS]


Cul de*Sac dii/Marin

Generals Whyte and Prescott Attack Across the Grande Anse
6 - 7 February 1794 - Brigadier W hyte led a battalion across the Grande Anse peninsula.
After minor skirmishing at le Diamante, W hyte and his men pushed on to les Ansesd ’Arlet. National Guard offered only token resistance and then retreated northward to
Morne Charles-Pied.

Enlarged Area

Figure 39. Generals Whyte and Prescott Attack Across the Grande Anse

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encamped at Riviere-Salee, having lost only one soldier to the extreme heat.28
Now under attack from two sides, the defensive posture o f the Republican forces
on the island devolved from confusion to near-chaos. Rochambeau moved widely about
the southeastern side o f the island on 6 and 7 February attempting to rally his troops, but
everywhere he rode, he found that hundreds o f panic-stricken National Guard had either
surrendered to the British, or were hiding in their homes or in the forests far from their
assigned positions. Since rumors o f his defection to the enemy were spreading quickly,
the majority o f the Republican soldiers were relieved to see Rochambeau, but after he
gave them instructions and then departed, many troops went back into hiding, or
reassembled so slowly that they would be little use against the invaders.29
Before leaving Admiral Jervis’ flagship to go ashore at Trois Rivieres, Grey
prepared a packet containing a surrender proclamation and notes to both Rochambeau and
the military commander at le Marin, offering to negotiate a peaceful settlement if either
would concede defeat. Jervis prepared a small vessel to deliver the message, and with a
white flag o f truce, two o f his lieutenants and his ship’s chaplain set out to deliver the
messages to the authorities le Marin. When the party came within range o f the heavy
guns at le M arin’s garrison, however, they came under fire. The lieutenants were unable
to deliver Grey’s message directly to the authorities in le Marin, but during their return to
the Boyne, they noticed several blacks who appeared to be congregating on the shore near

28 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 88, 93; Willyams, Expedition, 20-24; Daney,
Histoire de la Martinique, 229.
29 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 6 February 1794; Bailleul, Report
{Seconde Partie), 93.

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Pointe Borgnesse. The blacks scattered when they saw the English boat coming toward
them, and when the officers came ashore, they discovered that the men were assisting a
white man whose leg had been shattered by a cannon ball. Rather than offering to assist
the wounded Republican themselves, the lieutenants simply left him with a copy o f the
surrender proclamation and returned to their ship.30
Another message was sent the next day, but Rochambeau had received the British
terms, apparently sent by the wounded man, while inspecting le Marin the previous day,
and was singularly unimpressed. Grey had hundreds o f placards distributed warning
Martiniquais against futile resistance, and asking the troops to lay down their arms and
put themselves under the protection o f King George III. Rochambeau had seen the
hackneyed verbiage before. “This placard,” he remarked in his diary, “was copied from
the same proclamation that Lord Hood addressed to the city o f Toulon, the only
difference being that this time, the British generals were taking possession o f the colony
for George III, and not some imaginary young king.” Refusing to honor the summons
with a reply, Rochambeau instead sent a company o f National Guard to le Marin with
strict orders to hold the city at all costs.31
By the afternoon o f 6 February, the British plan was becoming obvious to the

30 Willyams, Expedition, 20-24. Republicans in le Marin later answered the
accusation o f firing on a flag o f truce by saying that because the messenger boat was
flying a white flag, they assumed that it was the detested pavilion blanc o f the Royalists.
To the British, this reply was pure nonsense. Following the incident, however, Jervis
made arrangements with Rochambeau that in the future, any truce ship would fly the
French Tricolor from the fore, and the British national colors aft.
31 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 6 February 1794.

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colony’s professional soldiers; while Rochambeau contended with the deteriorating
situation in the southeastern side o f Martinique, Colonel Daucourt rode to les Trois-Ilets
to ensure the loyalty o f the Republicans encamped at the base o f Mome Charles-Pied.
Rochambeau depended on this garrison to protect Ilet a Ramiers from the east, but when
Daucourt arrived at the fort, he found that only a score o f Republicans remained at their
post - the rest had fled to their homes. Daucourt augmented the garrison with
replacements from Republique-ville and then he returned to Fort-de-la-Republique. Later
that evening, a Royalist spy named Bouteiller infiltrated the camp and convinced the
defenders that Rochambeau had concluded a secret treaty with the enemy and was now
advancing against them. If this news was not shocking enough, the Republicans were
further stunned to learn that Rochambeau would attack them in the morning with 1,800
crack British troops. Within minutes, the post at M ome Charles-Pied was abandoned.32
By the morning o f 7 February, the isolated citizens of Republique-ville received
unsubstantiated reports concerning the fall o f la Trinite. This news was confirmed by the
National Guard commander at le Lamentin, who, after delivering the sad tidings,
immediately begged to be excused from service because o f a sudden illness. The
situation in the capital became even more confused the next morning when Colonel
Daucourt failed to fire the general alarm from Fort-de-la-Republique. Immediately,
members o f the Commune and scores o f National Guard seeking ammunition descended
upon Daucourt’s quarters; he was pulled from his bed by Republique-ville’s mayor, who

32 Ibid.; Bailleul, Report {Seconde Partie), 93. The remains o f the fort at Mome
Charles-Pied can be found today overlooking Anse Mitan.

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demanded to know why the alarm had not been sounded. “What good would it do?” the
exhausted Daucourt asked. “Commander,” the mayor said forcefully, “I require you in
the name o f the law to fire the gun on the field to warn the Citizens o f this city that the
colony is in danger.” Rather than try to explain to the mayor the futility o f his demand,
Daucourt complied and fired the prescribed signal. To everyone’s horror, however, the
normal response was not heard from the battery at Case-Navire - either the artillerymen
there were negligent, or they had abandoned their posts. Under the circumstances,
Daucourt distributed ammunition to the National Guard.33
Most disturbing o f all, Rochambeau could not be located. He had not been heard
from in the capital for over twenty-four hours, and various rumors circulated that he was
seen treating with the English at le Marin, had fallen in battle, or was taken prisoner by
the enemy and shot. Coupled with Daucourt’s inertia, this latest “news” inspired the
inhabitants o f Republique-ville to take matters into their own hands. A group o f civic
leaders appeared at the door o f the General Counsel o f the Commune o f Republique-ville.
In Rochambeau’s absence, they agreed that some sort o f decisive action was warranted.
Probably unaware that the Representative Assembly had created a colony-wide
Committee o f Public Safety in Saint-Pierre the day before, the General Counsel agreed to
the creation o f an “Emergency Committee o f Public Safety” for Republique-ville. This
second committee was formed without hesitation, and soon two “commissaires” were
assigned to army headquarters at Fort-de-la-Republique, primarily to watch Daucourt.

33 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 95. In fact, the battery at Case-Navire did
not have enough gunpowder at the time to fire a sufficiently audible response.

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The colonel was understandably displeased at the appearance o f these political police, but
with Rochambeau potentially missing in action, he could do little to rebut the mandate o f
this newest government body.34
A short time later, the Emergency Committee sent a delegation by boat across
Republique-ville Bay to inspect the defenses around Ilet a Ramiers and to confirm that
there was a commander o f artillery present. When the inspectors arrived at Mome
Charles-Pied, they learned that Rochambeau remained alive, loyal, and in command, with
stray units o f National Guard there. The arrangements appeared satisfactory to the
inspectors, so the delegation returned to Republique-ville. Later that afternoon, a dragoon
delivered an official dispatch from Rochambeau confirming his whereabouts and the loss
o f la Trinite, but he assured the city officials that the English had not captured the island
and that he had not been beaten on the field. Though this was good news to the citizens
o f Republique-ville, their hope would be short-lived.35
The previous evening, the mayor o f les Anses-d’Arlet, M. Mazieres, sent a
dragoon to reconnoiter the British advance to his district. The dragoon returned later that
evening and excitedly informed the mayor that his town was to be attacked the next
morning by three British columns o f nearly 1,000 men each. Mazieres could not be sure
if the report was entirely correct, but with the survival o f his district in mind, he
announced the next day that in his capacity as Justice o f the Peace o f his district, he

34 Ibid., 96-97; Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,” 3.
35 Ibid. More important, the delegation from the Emergency Committee o f Public
Safety was tasked to verify a rumor that 15,000 muskets may have been cached there.

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would surrender the batteries at Pointe Bourgant and Cap Salomon after only a token
fight. When the British attacked the next day, at least 100 National Guard marched
directly to Mome Charles-Pied, while another 300 men obeyed the mayor’s directive and
offered the British “honorable” resistance. They managed to slow the enemy advance by
firing cannon and mortar rounds into the advancing British columns, but the invaders’
discipline and numbers steadily overwhelmed the Frenchmen. Under constant British
pressure, the defenders o f les Anses-d’Arlet slowly fell back toward the camp at Mome
Charles-Pied, and by the evening o f the 7th, Whyte’s men occupied the two batteries and
were preparing to continue toward Ilet a Ramiers. Mayor Mazieres made good on his
pledge - he saved his town, but at the expense o f his honor.36
Though British infantry gained control o f much o f the Grande Anse peninsula on
6-7 February, their ultimate goal remained to capture or destroy the harbor defenses at ilet
a Ramiers. With this fort out o f commission, Jervis ships could move his ships freely
into the Baie de Republique-ville, while remaining out o f range o f the guns at both Fortde-la-Republique and Fort-de-la-Convention. Grey did not assume that Whyte could
establish positions overlooking the island without resistance from French troops posted at
Mome Charles-Pied. By nightfall on 8 February, the only impediment remaining between
Grey and Ilet a Ramiers was the reinforced National Guard camp at Mome CharlesPied.37

36 Ibid., 107, 111. According to Whyte, the force defending les Anses-d’Arlet
was composed o f only about 150 mulatto militia. Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO,
CO, 318.14, 33.
37 Willyams, Expedition, 26.

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The French garrison at Mome Charles-Pied numbered less than 200 men, but
Grey cautiously waited until well past midnight to launch his attack. After the majority o f
the Frenchmen were asleep, British artillerymen quietly dragged two howitzers to the top
o f Mome Charles-Pied and opened fire. The Republicans had no time to organize a
defense before the British 70th Foot charged and drove them from the camp.38
On the eastern side o f Martinique, General Dundas’ brigade also was making
rapid progress. After garrisoning the smouldering ruins o f la Trinite, he set out on the
evening o f 7 February for Gros-Mome. Dundas knew the danger that lay ahead o f him;
he already was pursuing several groups o f Republicans who were retreating southwest
toward Gros-Mome, and Bellegarde and his Chasseurs certainly would be wellentrenched in the fortified camp, fully prepared to stop his advance toward Republiqueville. Expecting the worst, Dundas arranged to reach the fortified village late in the
evening, and then delay his attack until after midnight. Captain Octavius’ company and
the National Guard from le Robert repeatedly tried to block the enemy advance, but each
time they were driven deeper into the mountain forests. When the British arrived at GrosMome just after midnight, they were delighted to find that Bellegarde had made no effort
whatsoever to occupy the extensive works. Had the 1st Chasseur Battalion chosen to
make a stand, the entrenchments would have drastically mitigated the four-to-one
advantage that Dundas had over Bellegarde’s men. Instead, Bellegarde retreated with the



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majority o f his battalion to Saint-Pierre.39
When Rochambeau learned what Bellegarde had done, he was furious. His
instructions to Bellegarde had been clear - if he could not hold la Trinite, he was to retire
along the road to Gros-Mome to delay the British approach toward the capital. Instead,
Bellegarde left the road to Republique-ville completely open by circumventing GrosMorne altogether and taking the northern toward Saint-Pierre. In a scathing entry in his
journal, Rochambeau wrote that Bellegarde’s “carelessness” showed just how little he
deserved his good reputation. Not only had he speeded the advance o f the enemy by
seven or eight days, he had also made a terrible example for the National Guard. “I
believe this maneuver ridiculous,” Rochambeau wrote, “and the result o f correspondence
between Bellegarde, Pelauque, and the mulattoes, with the English and the colony’s
emigres. I believe that they [Bellegarde and Pelauque] received money for this [treason],
and their conduct at the time o f the embargo is a certain indication, since it would have
been to their future advantage.”40
After doing little to prevent Dundas’ brigade from advancing inland from la
Trinite, Bellegarde and Pelauque slipped into Saint-Pierre on the afternoon o f the 7th with
the remnants o f their battalion. Since rumors had already spread throughout the colony
that Bellegarde was a traitor, the citizens o f Saint-Pierre were understandably shocked
when he and his men entered the city. When questioned, Bellegarde and his “intimate

39 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 7 February 1794; Willyams,
Expedition, 35; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 229.
40 Ibid.

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friend” Pelauque maintained that it was Rochambeau who was the traitor - he had not
given the order to release Bellegarde’s two other companies from Republique-ville. The
two men also claimed that Rochambeau would soon sell out the colony to the British!
The crowd remained skeptical. Pelauque continued to harangue the citizens o f SaintPierre for another thirty minutes, but seeing that he was having little impact, he demanded
to make his case before the new Committee o f Public Safety o f Martinique.41
Once he met the committee members, Pelauque described in great detail the fall of
la Trinite, and how Bellegarde had performed his duties admirably during an intense
battle that lasted more than three hours. To justify their coming to Saint-Pierre, Pelauque
explained that a soldier informed Bellegarde early on the morning o f 6 February that
British soldiers had taken a battery near the city. Bellegarde responded by leaving la
Trinite and moving as quickly as possible to attack the enemy from the rear. The attack
was a failure, Pelauque lamented, and the outnumbered Chasseurs came to Saint-Pierre in
search o f reinforcements so that they could undertake a counteroffensive against the
enemy. Undoubtedly, Pelauque’s pleas were compelling, but when he finished, the
Committee asked that he excuse him self so that they could deliberate the issue in
In fact, the committee members only feigned an interest in this latest installation

41 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 100-101. In fact, Bellegarde’s adjutant,
Commandant Naverres entered Saint-Pierre ahead o f his commander, and attempted to
pave the way for Bellegarde’s arrival. During a loud argument with some o f the city’s
National Guard, Major Naverres faithfully proclaimed Bellegarde’s loyalty, bravery and
military prowess.
42 Ibid.

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in the Chasseur saga. Knowing the questionable history o f the 1st Chasseur Battalion, the
Committee appeared to believe that Bellegarde and his men were, or were soon to
become traitors. The request by Pelauque for reinforcements, they reasoned, was nothing
more than a ploy to strip Saint-Pierre o f its own troops so that it might fall more easily
into the hands o f the enemy. As the result o f his failed meeting, a disbelieving Pelauque
begged the group to allow him to consult with Bellegarde and then return the next
morning to give them a more definitive account o f the previous days’ events. The
Committee agreed, but the next day, none in Saint-Pierre would have time to listen to
Pelauque’s fabrications.43
While the British army enjoyed virtually uncontested success on land, Admiral
Jervis attempted to force the surrender o f le Marin. Once all six o f his prefabricated gun
boats were assembled and launched, the English squadron bombed le Marin for several
hours. The principal fort in le Marin, Fort Saint-Etienne, was heavily damaged in the
process, but the National Guard who occupied positions around le Marin offered such
stout resistance that the British were unable to land troops. In addition, French musket
fire from the city was so intense that officers o f the fleet debated whether all o f the
Republican defenders were waiting for them at le Marin.44
Rochambeau finally returned to Republique-ville late in the evening on 7
February, bringing with him every member o f the National Guard that he could find.
Officials in the capital were reassured by his return, but as he passed through le Lamentin,

43 Ibid.
44 Ibid., 101; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 8 February 1794.

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Rochambeau had seen yet another British squadron heading north past the Baie du
Republique-ville. Although he immediately realized that this was another attack force
destined for Saint-Pierre, he appeared before the Emergency Committee o f Public Safety
in Republique-ville to reassure them and make a full report on all that had transpired
during the previous two days. The committee members, however, could not be certain
that what Rochambeau told them was the truth. In their eyes, he had done nothing, at
least operationally, to turn the course o f the English invasion in favor o f the French.45
Rochambeau’s calm demeanor and his humorous rebuttals against accusations
that he had joined the British went a long way to sooth the uneasy civic leaders. He
assured the group that, owing to his personal reconnaissance o f the island, he knew that
reports o f the size o f the invading English force were greatly exaggerated. Furthermore,
he also knew the names o f the British generals and their principle officers. The task that
lay ahead, he asserted, was to organize the remaining Republican units into a cohesive
force capable o f halting the various English incursions on the island. With the colonies’
chief authority once again in the capital, the Emergency Committee o f Public Safety
ceased its functions, but not before former members o f the Representative Assembly
gathered the island’s archives and moved them to the protection o f Fort-de-laConvention.46
In two days, General Grey's army had progressed far beyond establishing a
foothold on Martinique. Dundas occupied the most important port in the east and was

45 Ibid., 102-103.
46 Ibid.; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 7 February 1794.

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marching westward to cut the island in half, while Prescott had isolated the southwest
peninsula and was prepared to open the Baie du Republique-ville to Jervis' fleet. Once in
the bay, Jervis’ warships could attack the capital city’s fortifications directly while
masking his transports as they maneuvered into position near Republique-ville. The only
task that remained in the opening phase o f the invasion was to put troops ashore west o f
the capital. Indeed, Rochambeau was quite correct in his appraisal o f the situation.
Without enough men to fight the British in open combat, his only possible recourse was
to use his troops in ambushes positions or limited attacks to slow the English advance
toward the city o f Republique-ville. Without French reinforcements, his prospects were


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Chapter XIV
“A Phalanx that Nothing Can Withstand”:
8 - 12 February 1794

On the morning o f 8 February, the senior Republican officer commanding the
southern part o f the island, Commandant Soudon-Longbois, dispatched a letter from his
headquarters at Mome Regale begging the commander at le Marin to send him
reinforcements. If he did not receive help immediately, Soudon warned, he would be
forced to surrender Mome Regale to the enemy. The British were nowhere near M ome
Regale, but the previous day panicked National Guard threatened Soudon so effectively
that he was forced to leave his station to seek refuge at his plantation near Riviere-Salee.
When Rochambeau discovered what had happened, he was outraged, and ordered that
Soudon resume; when he returned, the Mome Regale entrenchments were empty. Now
alone and completely unaware o f the enemy situation, he ordered two local militiaman to
contact the closest towns, le Vauclin and le Marin; Republicans in both towns responded
immediately and marched to M ome Regale, burning the plantations o f suspected
Royalists along the way.1

1 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 101; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry
for 6 February, 1794; Chapter title borrowed from Willyams, Expedition, 24.

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When the National Guard from le Marin arrived at Mome Regale that night, they
were surprised to find that their comrades from le Vauclin had continued on to
Republique-ville - Soudon was preparing to defend Mome Regale with only a handful o f
local mulattoes. The enemy remained far from Mome Regale, but a besieged le Marin
had sent away at least half o f its defending force. It was fortunate for the French that at
the same time, Jervis broke off his attack o f le Marin and moved elsewhere.2
Thus far, the British invasion had proceeded exactly as Grey had planned. The
bewildered Republicans had no idea where to focus their efforts, and Grey was taking full
advantage o f the confusion. W ith la Trinite and Gros-Mome under Dundas’ control, and
Prescott preparing to attack ilet a Ramiers from land, Grey decided that the time was right
to initiate his third attack. On the morning o f 8 February, the same thirty-ship squadron
that Rochambeau saw the previous evening attempted to land a third brigade commanded
by Colonel Sir Charles Gordon at Case-Navire; Republican resistance in the town was
much better organized than the British expected. Regular artillerymen expertly manned
the harbor battery, and a company o f Chasseurs commanded by Captain Rene occupied
reinforced positions on the beach. As the enemy squadron approached the town,
Republican artillery pounded the British transport ships, the Chasseurs helped thwart the
British landing with repeated musket volleys that stmck Gordon’s men as they attempted
to exit their landing boats. The British warships redoubled their fire while everincreasing numbers o f infantry attempted to reach the shore, but each subsequent attempt
was stopped with disastrous consequences. Indeed, the Republicans’ determination to

2 Ibid., 101; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 6 February, 1794.

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prevent the British from landing at Case-Navire was so resolute that Rochambeau, who
arrived shortly after Gordon began his attack, wrote in his diary that he was truly amazed
to see such a small group o f men holding off a large English force. After nearly an hour,
a frustrated Colonel Gordon decided to launch his attack elsewhere.3
Gordon chose Case-Pilote, only a few miles north of Case-Navire, as his new
landing point. For ten hours, Captain Josias Rogers’ frigate, the Quebec (32), and a
second man-o-war, pounded the village battery, but with only thirty cannon rounds
available, the artillerymen in Case-Pilote could do little in retaliation. Meanwhile, other
English ships discovered a nearby landing spot that was not effectively covered by the
French battery at nearby Fond Capot. While enemy naval artillery bombarded this
position, Gordon landed his troops. Again Captain Rene’s Chasseurs resisted the landing
from positions on the beach and the surrounding bluffs. Faced with being overrun by the
hundreds o f men that Gordon landed, however, Rene eventually ordered his Chasseurs to
retreat to redoubts in the hills above the village.4
By nightfall, Gordon’s entire brigade occupied Case-Pilote. The naval squadron
continued to pummel the surrounding French batteries, negating an infantry attack against
them. Meanwhile, Gordon realized the dangerous possibility that he and his men might
become caught between French reinforcements moving south from Saint-Pierre and north

3 Willyams, Expedition, 30; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 104; Rochambeau,
“Journal du siege,” entry for 8 February 1794; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO,
CO, 318.14, 33; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 229. Case-Navire was the site o f a
successful British invasion in 1762.
4 Ibid.

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Gordon’s Landing

Looking across Case-Navire to Sainte-Catherine and
Fort-De-France (Republique-ville)
Gordon’s first landing attempt failed here.

Gordon and his brigade landed here successfully, but
quickly abandoned the town.
Figure 40. Gordon’s Landing

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Le Carbet


Gordon Attacks at Case Navire
8-9 February 1794 - A British squadron first attacked at Case-Navire, but was repulsed by
Republican regular artillerymen and Captain Rene’s Chasseur company. The squadron
then succeeded in landing Colonel Charles Gordon’s brigade at Case-Pilote. Gordon
immediately moved his men deep inland, surprising and capturing scores o f National Guard
in hilltop redoubts. In Saint-Pierre, National Guard repositioned to defend the city.

Enlarged Are i

Figure 41. Gordon Attacks at Case Navire

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from Republique-ville. So, Gordon abandoned Case-Pilote and marched inland from the
village into the relative safety o f the Pitons du Carbet. For hours the British infantrymen
groped through the darkness along wiry jungle trails until his battalions were able to
attack the French redoubts above Case-Pilote from the rear. When the British
commenced their assault, Rene’s Chasseurs were caught completely by surprise. He and
his men managed to escape, but scores o f National Guardsmen were taken prisoner; by
daybreak on the 9th, Gordon had seized several strategically important vantage points.
With the British now behind them, the beleaguered French defenders in the batteries
surrounding Case-Navire and Case-Pilote realized they had little chance o f holding the
positions. By late morning, their works were empty.5
When they heard the opening shots at Case-Navire, alarmed city officials in SaintPierre ordered that defensive positions be occupied throughout the municipality. On the
morning o f 8 February, sailors on armed vessels in the harbor manned their guns, while
many o f their comrades volunteered to serve in batteries on shore. The garrison
commander o f Saint-Pierre, Lieutenant Colonel Mollerat, assembled his National Guard
and divided them into three battalions; the first battalion took a position to the south at le
Carbet; the second joined forces with Edouard M eunier’s Chasseurs in the north at le

5 Ibid.; Bailleul, Report (,Seconde Partie), 104; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,”
entry for 8 February 1794; Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du
Siege,” 3; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 33; Daney, Histoire de la
Martinique, 229. The presence o f the British squadron off o f Case-Pilote already
prevented any communication by sea between Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville. With
the capture o f the fortified positions above the village, Gordon effectively blocked any
communication by land. More important, Gordon’s brigade established such a strong
foothold inland that Grey could move against Republique-ville from the south (Prescott),
from the east (Dundas) and from the northwest (Gordon).

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Precheur, and the third blocked the road leading southwest from M ome Rouge.
Bellegarde remained with his Chasseurs in Saint-Pierre. When they made no attempt to
resist the British landings at Case-Pilote, the Committee o f Public Safety ceased all
communication with the 1st Chasseur Battalion; rather than include them as part o f the
city’s defense, the Committee ordered them to leave Saint-Pierre and to report to General
Rochambeau at Republique-ville. At least there, the Committee reasoned, Bellegarde’s
men might be o f some use in the forts. Bellegarde ignored the order, while his friend
Pelauque orchestrated fresh problems for the Committee.6
Earlier that morning, Pelauque offered to recapture la Trinite if Bellegarde were
sent reinforcements, but he was immediately rebuffed by the Committee o f Public Safety.
La Trinite, the members retorted, was nothing but ruins while Saint-Pierre, Case-Navire
and Republique-ville were in the greatest danger. Pelauque would not be dismissed so
easily. He claimed that Bellegarde had too few men to break through the British lines
near Case-Pilote, and asked permission to raise 400 irregular troops in the Saint-Pierre
area. With this augmentation, he reasoned, Bellegarde could move east through the
Pitons du Carbet and then south to secure the critical road network around le Lamentin.
While the Committee debated the issue, Pelauque slipped away from the deliberations,
and within a few hours had unilaterally enlisted the support o f several hundred sailors in
the city. As soon as the Committee learned what had happened, they ordered every law
enforcement body in Saint-Pierre to stop him, but they were too late; Pelauque,
Bellegarde, and their new-found reinforcements had escaped. Once out o f the reach of

6 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 99, 105.

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the authorities at Saint-Pierre, Bellegarde and his Chasseurs dismounted their horses and
marched east with their new recruits into the Pitons du Carbet and then south toward
Republique-ville 7
At Mome Regale, Commandant Soudon-Longbois found that though the National
Guard companies from le Marin and le Vauclin had abandoned him, nearly 300 other
citizens and slaves had responded to his call for help. Unfortunately, many o f these men
were armed with only farm implements. Such well-intended support brought little hope
to the demoralized Soudon, but he did welcome the volunteers with a rousing speech,
inviting them to join him and fight to the death. Soudon, however, had no intention o f
fighting the British. After ordering his remaining lieutenants to defend the farm hands in
Mome-Regale’s trenches, he excused him self to write a report to Rochambeau. When he
emerged a short time later, instead o f allowing a dragoon to deliver the message to
Rochambeau, he announced that for personal reasons, he would deliver the report
himself, after first stopping to check his plantation near Riviere-Salee. Later, the
volunteers learned that Soudon traveled to Riviere-Salee not to inspect his estate, but to
offer his services to the English commander who had established his headquarters there.8
The English were gratified by the number o f defections among Martinique’s
defenders; hundreds o f reformed counterrevolutionaries flocked to various enemy camps,
volunteering themselves as guides, or offering their services. The treasonous Soudon
proved an especially willing tool o f the invaders. On 9 February, he wrote a detailed

7 Ibid.
8 Ibid., 106.

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letter to his brother-in-law, Colonel Rivecourt, describing many particulars o f ongoing
British operations on the island, and emphasizing the uselessness o f further resistance. “It
is plain for all to see,” he wrote, “that it is impossible for you to receive forces from
France. Look at how your navy is destroyed and how your ports are blockaded!”9
Because Soudon knew that Rivecourt would pass the contents o f his letter to the
Rochambeau, he also proposed that if the general would surrender the island, he would
immediately find himself safe aboard a frigate that the British had already made available
to him and his associates. But, Soudon added, for Rochambeau to receive any favorable
treatment from the British, he must not wait until the works had been breached. Like most
of the military hierarchy on Martinique, Soudon was well-apprized o f the animosity
between Rochambeau and his former secretary, Pelauque. With a final, inflammatory
twist, he closed his message by warning that if Rochambeau failed to comply with the
British commander’s instructions, Grey would have no alternative but to open direct
negotiations for the surrender o f the island with Pelauque. After all, Soudon asserted
provocatively, “it was Pelauque who [was] probably best-suited to handle such delicate
negotiations with the British.” 10
When word reached the men at M ome Regale that their commander was a traitor,
many returned to their plantations, while the few who remained elected a new leader to
replace Soudon. The mens’ choice was Captain Compere, the distinguished former

9 Ibid., 110
10 Ibid.; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege”, entry for 9 February 1794. Rivecourt
not only was Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp, but also among his closest friends.

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commander o f Pointe Borgnesse, who immediately marched toward Republique-ville to
join Rochambeau. The captain did not have everyone’s support however. When
Compere made a final call for volunteers among the citizens o f le Vauclin, few answered.
Worse, a National Guard detachment from le Saint-Esprit deserted him and returned to
their own municipality, where they were forced to surrender their weapons to the British
soldiers who had recently occupied the village.11
To the south, Admiral Jervis abandoned his attack against le Marin, and on the
morning of 9 February, rendezvoused with Brigadier Whyte’s troops at Grande Anse.
After landing provisions and heavy artillery on the village beach, two hundred sailors,
armed only with pikes and pistols, joined W hyte’s infantry battalion to move north to
occupy M omet Matherine, a dominant height on Pointe Blanche no more than 400 yards
from Ilet a Ramiers. Though the distance was relatively short, the British quickly
discovered that the mountain road leading north from Grande Anse to Pointe Blanche was
more difficult than anyone had imagined. Rainfall the night before had turned the steep
dirt road into a quagmire, and the artillerymen who were attempting to drag heavy siege
cannon over five miles of nearly-impossible terrain were unable to keep up with the light
infantry. When the artillerymen finally arrived at M omet Matherine the next day,
however, they discovered that W hyte’s men not only occupied the strategic vantage point,
but had already dug and reinforced the siege gun positions.12

11 Ibid., 108.
12 Ibid., I l l ; Willyams, Expedition, 27-30; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794.
PRO, CO, 318.14, 33.

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S a in ts

Cap Salomon

Lea Ansea d Arlete


Culde<Sae du/Marin


British Maneuvers Against Ilet a Ramiers
8 - 1 1 February 1794 - Admiral Jervis ended his attack at le Marin to deliver heavy guns
and supplies to Brigadier W hyte at Grande Anse. During the night o f 8 - 9 February,
Prescott’s troops attacked the Republicans in the works at Morne Charles-Pied and
overwhelmed them. W hyte and his men began their attack on Ilet a Ramiers on 9
February. The fortress fell on the 11th.

Enlarged Area

Figure 42. British Maneuvers Against Ilet a Ramiers

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Courtesy National Maritime M useum

Ilet a Ramiers

Pigeon Island, Martinique

The route to Ilet si Ramiers from Grande Anse

M ornet-M atherine (left) & Ilet a Ramiers

Figure 43. Ilet a Ramiers

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Inside Ilet a Ramiers, meanwhile, the French prepared for the impending battle.
Nearly thirty regular artillerymen manned the guns, while another sixty volunteers cached
gunpowder in rock openings on the opposite side the island. Though it was clear that the
British intended to initiate their attack from M omet Matherine, the defenders at Ilet a
Ramiers had to conserve their ammunition in anticipation of an attack from the sea. As
the result, the Republicans fired at the British land forces only occasionally during the day
and night of the 9th to dismpt their entrenching operations and harass them .13
By midday on 9 February, Bellegarde, Pelauque and a handful o f Chasseur
officers walked down from the Pitons du Carbet into Republique-ville, bringing with
them soldiers and sailors who continued to trickle into the capital city throughout the
evening. Rather than arrest Bellegarde and Pelauque, Rochambeau welcomed them.
Citizens in the capital, disgusted by the 1st Chasseur Battalion’s poor performance at la
Trinite, were even more surprised when Rochambeau loaned Bellegarde one o f his
personal mounts, and asked him to choose whatever mission he thought he could best
support. Bellegarde’s response was to establish an encampment north o f Republiqueville at the Tiberge plantation on the southern end o f the Surirey Heights. From here,
Bellegarde told the general, he and his Chasseurs could conduct a series o f attacks that
would a least slow down, if not halt, General Dundas’ advance from the w est.14
While it appeared to the Republicans that the falling out between Rochambeau
and Bellegarde had been nothing more than a “bizarre game,” Rochambeau, at least, was

13 Ibid., 108; Willyams, Expedition, 27-30.
14 Ibid., 107; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 9 February 1794.

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Le Carbet


C u c-N aiit


Bellegarde’s March on Republique-ville
9 February 1794 - After leaving Saint-Pierre with his recruits, Bellegarde arrived at
Republique-ville. Rochambeau ordered the Chasseurs to occupy the Surirey Heights to
block Dundas’ advance on the capitol.

Enlarged Are

Figure 44. Bellegarde’s March on Republique-ville

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concerned with more pressing matters.15 Dundas had left Gros-Mome early that morning
and was steadily closing in on Republique-ville; it was imperative that he be delayed for
as long as possible. Rochambeau knew that he could not rely on Bellegarde and his
motley collection o f soldiers, but they were the only forces available to block the British
advance. With no other option, Rochambeau agreed with Bellegarde that the most
effective course o f action was for the Chasseurs to block the enemy west o f the Surirey
Heights. Perhaps as the result o f accurate intelligence, or perhaps by good fortune,
Dundas did not reach Surirey on the 9th. At noon, the British halted short o f Surirey at
Mome le Brun, and occupied the abandoned defensive works known as “Fort Maltide.”
From the British perspective, the day’s march was a complete success. Except for minor
skirmishing, they had met no serious resistance; now, from their new positions, they
could clearly see Republique-ville and its defenses.16
Rochambeau and his staff received only bad news throughout the afternoon and
evening o f 9 February. The British had overrun the camp at Mome Charles-Pied, in
itself, a disaster, and Captain Rene’s troops had abandoned the regular artillerymen in the
batteries around Case-Pilote and Case-Navire. Subsequent reports proved that Rene’s
retreat had resulted in desertions throughout Republique-ville’s western defenses;
artillerymen in every position from Case-Pilote to the Sainte-Catherine works had spiked
their guns and evacuated their posts. Rochambeau was dismayed that the captain who

15 Ibid., 107
16 Ibid.; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 9 February 1794; Willyams,
Expedition, 35.

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had displayed so much promise the day before had been beaten so easily. According to
the Emergency Committee o f Public Safety in Republique-ville, Rene and his men were
told that their leaders had betrayed them to the enemy - information that in all likelihood
was propaganda circulated by British sympathizers.17
On the morning o f 10 February, a group o f Republique-ville’s more radical former
Assemblymen advised Rochambeau that since communications from the Committee o f
Public Safety in Saint-Pierre were being intercepted by the British, he should choose from
among them a group to serve as a permanent Committee o f Public Safety for the capital
city. Whatever the Assemblymen’s motives, Rochambeau realized that a second
Committee o f Public Safety could be useful as long as they supported him so he carefully
selected the members o f the small, but powerful group. To represent the mulattoes, he
selected Jean Isaac, a man whom he knew well and trusted. The city was represented by a
notable in the Commune o f Republique-ville, M. Bailleul. The remaining four members,
M. Baboul, M. Laniboire, M. Lamaury, and M. Grandmaison were selected based upon
their previous service in the Representative Assembly.18
The members o f the new Committee suspected that Rochambeau’s ulterior motive
was simply to leave them to oversee political affairs in the city while he managed the

17 Ibid.; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 9 February 1794.
18 It was these men who would later sign Bailleul’s 100-page chronicle o f
Rochambeau’s time on Martinique, referred to throughout these chapters as “Bailleul,
Report.” After the fall o f Martinique, Bailleul was repatriated to France by the British
and delivered the work to the Committee o f Public Safety in Paris. Maximilien
Robespierre signed as having read the report on 27 July 1794, the very day o f his fall
from power.

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colony’s defense. The last thing that Rochambeau wanted was untrustworthy radical
politicians influencing, and possibly compromising, his military operations.
Rochambeau’s reprieve from political oversight, however, was short-lived. As soon as
Republique-ville’s Committee o f Public Safety was officially inaugurated, M.
Grandmaison declared that one o f their principal responsibilities was to be visible among
the troops. Rochambeau had no disagreement with that point, but when Grandmaison
announced that at least two members o f the Committee would accompany him as
“Representatives o f the People,” he realized that now, just as in France, his every order
would be scrutinized by the Martiniquais equivalent o f the Representatives on Mission.
Nevertheless, he made the best o f the situation. He chose Jean Isaac and Lamaury as his
new associates, and set out to find Captain Rene. Within hours, Rene and his men had
been severely reprimanded by Rochambeau and the Representatives, and were sent back
to their assigned positions.19
Rochambeau and his two companions left Republique-ville with an escort o f
dragoons and volunteers under the command o f Commandant Jean Ducassou, an officer
who was known not only for his bloodthirstiness, but also for his ability to inspire
soldiers. Though the composition o f Ducassou’s unit included 400 men and one field
piece, his infectious desire to kill British troops and Royalists considerably influenced his
troops. The men begged for an opportunity to attack the enemy, but Rochambeau had a

19 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 113; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry
for 10 February 1794. In his journal, Rochambeau claimed that the creation o f the new
Committee o f Public Safety was actually intended to restore the flagging morale o f
citizens in Republique-ville.

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better idea. Instead o f sending the hastily-raised volunteers directly against the British
professionals, he arranged for Ducassou to set up an ambush astride Gordon’s most likely
route o f advance, on the trail from Mome Bois d ’Inde to Fond Lahaye. Once Ducassou’s
force was in position, Rochambeau sent one o f his regular artillerymen, Mestre
d’Artillerie Le Peltier, to take charge o f the guns at the nearby Sainte-Catherine.20
W ith the trap set, Rochambeau and his dragoons drew their swords and moved
north toward Bois-Ville (now Terreville) to determine the strength o f the enemy advance
columns. To his surprise, the British were much closer than he thought. W ithin a half
hour, he inadvertently stumbled right into the midst o f Gordon’s main column, turning
their reconnaissance into a fighting withdrawal. The dragoons, who believed that
Rochambeau was deliberately sacrificing them to the enemy, immediately fled the scene,
leaving their general to fend for himself. He called after his men to take one o f the
mountain trails back toward Sainte-Catherine, but the terrified dragoons chose to follow
the road directly toward Case-Navire. The minute they reached the coast road, the
dragoons were fired upon by a British corvette so close to the shore that the sailors on
board were able to hit them with volleys o f musket fire.21
Fortunately, Rochambeau’s hapless bodyguards were saved by the guns at the
Sainte-Catherine batteries. Le Peltier and his artillerymen drove the enemy ship away,
but it soon returned joined by three larger British warships. Rochambeau, meanwhile,
was able to fight his way out o f the crowd o f Redcoats surrounding him at Bois-Ville and

20 Ibid., 114; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 10 February 1794.
21 Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,” 5.

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Le Carbet



Rochambeau and Doucassou Ambush Colonel Gordon
10 February 1794 - Rochambeau left Republique-ville to reconnoiter enemy
positions above Case-Navire. Gordon’s troops repulsed Rochambeau’s
reconnaissance party, but marched directly into Doucassou’s ambush. A British
corvette fired on the retreating reconnaissance party, but was temporarily driven
away by French artillerymen in the Sainte-Catherine works.

Enlarged A r


Figure 45. Rochambeau and Doucassou Ambush Colonel Gordon

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make his own way to Sainte-Catherine, where he immediately regained control o f his
dragoons and took charge o f the coastal battery. From the outset o f the fight,
Rochambeau and Le Peltier were at a tremendous disadvantage; the previous occupants o f
Sainte-Catherine had spiked all but two o f the heavy cannons in the batteries. The
British, on the other hand, brought the guns o f all four warships to bear on the position.
The mismatch in firepower was obvious to both sides, but unfortunately for the British,
the captains tried too hard to press their advantage. While attempting to land troops, most
of the British vessels maneuvered so close-in against the Republican works, they were
unable to elevate their cannons high enough to fire on the French. Similarly, Le Peltier
could not depress his two guns low enough to return fire.22
Though tempted to march to the fight at Case-Navire, Ducassou and his
volunteers remained in their ambush in the forest above Case-Navire. They did not have
to wait long, Gordon heard the gunfire at Sainte-Catherine and marched from their
position in the Pitons du Carbet to assist his countrymen. His infantry marched in two
columns along the route where Ducassou was waiting, but the trap was compromised. As
the British neared the ambush, a group o f undisciplined Republicans prematurely sounded
the alarm. W ith no other road leading to Sainte-Catherine, Gordon had to advance or
retreat. For more than an hour, his men attempted to overrun the Republican positions;
Ducassou and his volunteers held the British regulars at bay, and eventually forced them

22 Ibid.; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 114; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,’
entry for 10 February 1794. The fight around the Sainte-Catherine battery lasted nearly
four hours.

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to retreat.23
Having beaten Gordon, Ducassou’s troops marched to Sainte-Catherine, where
they soon became part o f an unusual battle. Neither side could employ their artillery, so
Republican artillerymen and British sailors resorted to shooting at each other with their
muskets. Though French resistance at Sainte-Catherine was fierce, artillerymen firing
from the batteries could not stop the British from launching landing boats from the
unengaged sides o f their ships. Ducassou immediately ordered his troops to the beach
beneath the battery, and for the next two hours regular musket volleys by the volunteers
prevented Royal Marines from occupying the landing boats. Rochambeau finally ended
the stalemate. Riding north with his bodyguard in search of reinforcements, he returned
with three field pieces, abandoned in a nearby battery. Once the guns were positioned on
the beach, Rochambeau ordered his artillerymen to load cannister - with that first shot,
the fight immediately turned in favor o f the French. The British marines had no defense
against the guns, so they reembarked and the frustrated British turned seaward.24
By any measure, the engagement at Sainte-Catherine was an inspiring success for
the French. During their return to Republique-ville, however, Rochambeau candidly
confided to the two Representatives that regardless o f the valor and the dispositions o f the
Republican defenders, the fall o f the colony was inevitable unless France break the

23 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 114; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry
for 10 February 1794.
24 Ibid.; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 10 February 1794. The fight
around the Sainte-Catherine battery lasted nearly four hours. Remarkably, only one
Republican was killed.

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Le Carbet





The Land/Sea Skirmish at Case-Navire
10 February 1794 - After defeating Gordon’s troops in an ambush near BoisVille, Doucassou and his volunteers marched to assist Republican artillerymen
at Sainte-Catherine. The Republicans drove away the attacking British
squadron after Rochambeau employed light artillery from the beach.

Enlarged Are i

Figure 46. The Land/Sea Skirmish at Case-Navire

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British blockade and send reinforcements. Unfortunately for the French, salvation
appeared increasingly unlikely. Isaac and Lamaury dutifully reported Rochambeau’s
comments to the Committee o f Public Safety in Republique-ville; despite their
indignation, the committee members were realistic about the situation. Barring one or
two notable exceptions, recent events called into question the reliability o f the Chasseurs
and the National Guard. Thus, the committee members agreed that Rochambeau had not
spoken treasonously, but they were alarmed by his defeatist tone. At what point, they
wondered, would he mention surrender?25
When Rochambeau appeared at the Hotel de Ville the next morning, the
Committee received their answer - Rochambeau would not give up. If French
reinforcements truly were en route, he explained, the British might be beaten. The key,
he said, was to hold Republique-ville for as long as possible. The shortage o f available
forces made it impossible to mount any large-scale counterattack, but he certainly could
delay the British by establishing a tight defensive perimeter around the capital city. He
reminded the Committee that remnants o f his battalions still held heavily-defended
outposts around Republique-ville. If these units conducted slow, fighting withdrawals

25 Unlike some members o f the Committee o f Public Safety in Republique-ville,
Revolutionary dogma did not cloud Rochambeau’s military judgement - he held no
delusions concerning the condition o f the island’s defenders. “The enemy’s initial
success had taken a severe toll on the spirits o f the troops,” he wrote in his journal, “now
they were coming to realize their weakness.” The Committee o f Public Safety in the
capital, was not prepared to admit the possibility o f defeat. As a result o f Rochambeau’s
sober appraisals, they took steps to gain control o f military affairs themselves. Perhaps
believing that they could control the general by controlling the army’s dwindling supplies,
the body ruled that the Orderer o f military stores in the capital would release nothing
unless the requisition was approved by a member the Committee. Rochambeau, “Journal
du siege,” entry for 11 February 1794; Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 114, 118.

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toward Fort-de-la-Convention, then every day that the capital held might bring a miracle.
On 11 February, however, only disaster befell the defenders o f Republique-ville,
beginning with news o f Bellegarde and his Chasseurs being routed at M ome le Brun.26
Bellegarde established a camp on Surirey, then he led his new recruits to attack
Dundas at nearby Maltide during the night o f 10-11 February. Cleverly, the men
advanced through the adjacent sugar cane fields to surprise the British outposts, but when
they reached their encampment, they discovered that the majority o f the enemy regiment
was not there. A rare opportunity for pillage now presented itself; Bellegarde’s crew
murdered the British sentries and began looting the supply tents. Their luck suddenly ran
out, and they were surprised by the return o f a British column. A furious, twenty-minute
skirmish followed, but when the British infantrymen fixed bayonets and charged, the
“Chasseurs” melted into the jungle, leaving scores o f abandoned weapons in the British
camp. Dundas ordered a pursuit. Throughout the night his troops clashed with the
retreating French troops as they tried to make their way back to Republique-ville. By
5:00 a.m. the next morning, British advance elements crossed the Riviere Monsieur and
established positions at Poste Calon, a hilltop on the Surirey heights that directly
overlooked F ort-de-la-Convention.27
While this latest failure threatened the Republican situation, it paled in
comparison to the day’s greatest tragedy, the loss o f Ilet a Ramiers. The small island

26 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 116-117.
27 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 11 February 1794; Anonymous
(aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,” 5, 6; Daney, Histoire de la
Martinique, 232.

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Bellegarde’s Failed Attack at Morne le Brun
1 0 - 1 1 February 1794 - Bellegarde made an ill-fated attack against Dundas’ supposedly
empty camp at “Fort Maltide” on Morne le Brun. The 1st Chasseur Battalion was surprised,
repulsed and pursued. Dundas subsequently gained a foothold on the Surirey Heights.

Enlarged Area

Figure 47. Bellegarde’s Failed Attack at Mome le Brun

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fortress at the mouth o f the Baie du Republique-ville constituted the first line o f defense
of Republique-ville, and remained a central element in his overall defensive strategy for
Martinique. Based upon long-held assumptions that the main effort o f any invasion of
Martinique would be against the capital by sea, the heavy guns at Ilet a Ramiers, Fort-dela-Republique, and Fort-de-la-Convention were positioned in such a way that their
interlocking fires could prevent an enemy’s entrance into the bay. Hence, during the
preceding months Rochambeau invested the enormous sum o f 600,000 livres to provision
the garrison at the island. Now, it appeared, the money was well spent. The Republicans
in Ilet a Ramiers severely hampered the construction o f British artillery positions to their
rear, and stopped several attempts by enemy infantrymen to maneuver within musket
range o f the island.28
Despite the bombardment from Ilet a Ramiers, the British completed their own
batteries on M omet Matherine on the evening o f 10 February. For hours, British and
French fired mortar shells at each other’s works, but few rounds from either side did any
serious damage. In fact, had Whyte continued the siege alone, the Republicans in ilet a
Ramiers might have held out. However, while British land forces continued to draw the
attention o f the French toward M omet Matherine, Jervis sent a contingent o f Royal
Marines by sea to assault the northern side o f the island. Throughout the night o f the 10th,
Whyte’s artillerymen maintained a steady bombardment o f net a Ramiers; British
transports moved from Grande Anse to Anse Noir to launch the marines as close to their

28 Bailleul, Report (<Seconde Partie), 116-117; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,”
entry for 11 February 1794; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 33.

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objective as possible. The distraction succeeded. By 5:00 a.m. on 11 February, at least
thirty British landing boats enabled the marines to storm the rocky beach below the fort.


Indeed, this particular mission was unusually perilous. The garrison at Ilet a Ramiers
could only be reached by climbing ladders from the beach, up the cliff face. Once there
was enough light for the men to find their way around the rocks surrounding the island,
Whyte’s artillerymen halted their fire and the marines commenced their amphibious
When the alarm announced the attack, the French accelerated their fire, this time
in two directions. Republicans manning the heavy guns in the fort doubled their efforts to
blast the British out o f their positions on M omet Matherine, while their compatriots fired
muskets at the Royal Marines who were attempting to seize ilet a Ramiers by scaling the
ladders leading into the fort. As the battle progressed, enemy warships maneuvered into
the mouth o f the bay and added their own firepower to the fight. Echoes o f heavy cannon
fire reverberated across the water, and citizens in Republique-ville watched the desperate
battle that was taking place on the other side o f the bay. The fight raged inconclusively
throughout the morning and Rochambeau, who felt confident that his men in ilet a
Ramiers would repulse the attack, joined members o f the city Committee o f Public Safety
on the ramparts o f Fort-de-la-Republique to observe the battle.30
At 11:00 a.m., the struggle for ilet a Ramiers suddenly ended when a British

29 Ibid.; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 11 February 1794.
30 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 11 February 1794; Bailleul, Report
{Seconde Partie), 116-117.

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-fiD R O Q N



Royal Marines Attack Ilet a Ramiers
11 February 1794 - Troop transports launched Royal Marines at Anse Noir. By 10:00 a.m. the
marines landed at Ilet a Ramiers. The fort exploded one hour later when a stray mortar round
landed in the powder magazine.

Enlarged Area

Figure 48. Royal Marines Attack Ilet a Ramiers

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mortar round rolled into the main powder magazine on the island and set off a chain
reaction so violent that it “astonished everyone who witnessed it.” When the magazine
exploded, fifteen Frenchmen died instantly, and another twenty-five were severely
wounded. In fact, the echo from the blast was so powerful that it rocked buildings in
Republique-ville; the smoke cloud that enshrouded the island rose to a height o f more
than 100 feet. Understandably, witnesses in Republique-ville were held spellbound, but
when the smoke finally cleared, the drapeau tricolore o f the French Republic no longer
flew over Ilet a Ramiers - the flag o f Great Britain flew in its place.31
The store o f captured weapons that the British conquerors inventoried inside the
fort was impressive: eleven 42-pounders; six 32-pounders; four 13-inch mortars; and a
howitzer. In addition, the enemy found “huge quantities o f stores and ammunition, a
good set o f barracks, and a large stove to heat shot.” The loss was devastating, but
Martiniquais Republicans maintained a modicum o f pride in their belief that only twenty
men had held Ilet a Ramiers for nearly two days.32 They reasoned that only the explosion
o f the powder magazine had forced the capitulation. While citizens in the capital
discussed the matter, the first ships o f Jervis’ squadron sailed into the Baie du
Republique-ville, just beyond the reach o f the guns at Fort-de-la-Republique.33

31 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 116-117.
32 In fact, the British counted 203 Frenchmen in Ilet a Ramiers. Grey to Dundas,
16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 33.
33 Willyams, Expedition, 27-30; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 9
February 1794. Those who wanted to believe in the defenders’ gallantry at ilet a Ramiers
were mortified to learn later that Captain Leonard, a former emigre who commanded the
fort, surrendered the garrison just after the explosion. Two other emigres, M. La Grange

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Jervis Infiltrates the Baie du Republique-ville
11 February 1794 - After the fall o f Ilet a Ramiers, Jervis moved his fleet into the Baie du
Republique-ville to re-supply British land forces. Prescott marched his battalions off of the
Grande Anse Peninsula to Riviere-Salee where Grey prepared the troops to march le Lamentin the
following day.

Enlarged Area

Figure 49. Jervis Infiltrates the Baie du Republique-ville

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Ironically, the disaster at ilet a Ramiers simplified Rochambeau’s defense plans.
He had lost control o f the southern h alf o f the Baie du Republique-ville, but the combined
firepower from Fort-de-la-Republique and Fort-de-la-Convention remained adequate to
defend the immediate area around the capital city. Without creating a new defensive
perimeter, Rochambeau issued the necessary orders to tighten the line.
Although Grey had phased his attacks with methodical precision, the time
advantage that Rochambeau gained by Grey’s deliberation was outweighed by the vast
numerical superiority o f the British troops. Grey understood well that time was on his
side; he spent the remainder o f 11 February resting his forces for the main attack against
Republique-ville. After the capture o f Ilet a Ramiers, Generals Prescott and Whyte
reorganized their units and marched from Grande Anse Peninsula to link up with Grey at
Riviere-Salee. To the northwest o f the capital, Gordon remained in his strongholds
overlooking Case-Navire, while east o f Republique-ville, Dundas rested his troops in
their camps at Poste Calon and Mome le Brun.
After he issued his orders, Rochambeau left Republique-ville at noon on 11
February to inspect his remaining western outposts; his first stop was Camp-Decide.
Since de Percin’s previous stronghold sat astride the principle road that ran through the

and M. Percin-Comette, entered the fort ahead o f their British allies, where they found
Leonard at the head o f his wounded defenders, welcoming the English with open arms.
Immediately recognizing Captain Leonard as a fellow aristocrat, La Grange and PercinComette were said to have then laughed contemptuously at the remaining defenders who
had been so easily duped by their commander. Once these men were rounded up,
Leonard was told to go home to get his Cross o f Saint-Louis so that he might wear it on
his uniform when he dined with his emigre friends that evening - the remaining defenders
o f Ilet a Ramiers were taken in shackles to a British prisoner ship. Bailleul, Report
(Seconde Partie), 118.

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Pitons du Carbet from Saint-Pierre to Republique-ville, Rochambeau expected the
soldiers posted there to stop any enemy troops (Gordon) who might move against the
capital from the northeast. Just as important, if Gordon chose to attack by way o f the
coast road from Case-Navire, then the Republicans at Camp-Decide were well-positioned
to attack the enemy battalions on their left flank or their rear. In fact, Rochambeau had
sent reinforcements to the plantation several times over the previous three days, but when
he arrived on the afternoon o f the 11th, he found that numerous desertions left too few
defenders at the plantation to counterattack the enemy or even to defend their own
encampment. Rochambeau had no additional troops to assist those who remained at
Camp-Decide, but Committee o f Public Safety members in the capital were quick to
criticize him. “Rather than augment [the troops at Camp-Decide] or try to bolster their
confidence,” they wrote, “ [he] simply abandoned them in their positions with only some
kind words.”34
Following the same mountain trail that de Percin and his band used in their own
raids months before, Rochambeau descended from the Pitons du Carbet to Case-Navire.
To his satisfaction, his artillerymen and Ducassou’s troops remained in their assigned
positions, maintaining a vigilant guard against three British frigates that cruised the CaseNavire roads just out o f range o f the Sainte-Catherine battery. By 8:00 p.m., a messenger
brought word o f yet another disaster: Colonel Gordon had attacked and then captured
Camp-Decide just minutes after Rochambeau departed. Gordon now controlled all o f the
roads leading from the Pitons du Carbet to Republique-ville; unless Rochambeau and the

34 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 118.

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Republicans at Case-Navire moved quickly, the British might cut off their line o f retreat
to the capital. After securing his two field pieces and a mortar from Case-Navire,
Rochambeau ordered a withdrawal. Within thirty minutes, Gordon signaled his men to
continue their march toward Case-Navire.35
Fortunately for Rochambeau and his men at Case-Navire, Gordon chose not to
advance along the same road (through Terreville) where he was beaten the previous day.
Fully expecting to meet Ducassou’s volunteers along the way, Gordon and his men
inched their way down from the Pitons du Carbet, allowing Rochambeau and his troops
the time they needed to escape. Although the Republicans conducted their withdrawal
quickly and without the enemy’s knowledge, Rochambeau could not be sure that Gordon
was not also moving troops along the road leading from Camp-Decide to Republiqueville. He sent a messenger to Bellegarde countermanding an earlier order to attack the
British encampment at Poste Calon, and instead told him to block the northern approach
from Camp-Decide. The messenger was too late; Bellegarde and his men had already
begun the first o f three failed attacks they would make during the night o f 11-12 February
against the Surirey Heights.36
It was not until dawn on 12 February that Gordon realized that the batteries o f
Case-Navire and Sainte-Catherine were abandoned, so his troops moved into the
abandoned town and defenses. Gordon now controlled the coast road from Saint-Pierre

35 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 11 February 1794.
36 Bailleul, Report (,Seconde Partie), 118-119; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794.
PRO, CO, 318.14, 33.

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to Republique-ville. Two days later, his brigade held eveiy battery between Case-Navire
and the city limits, and were camped within three miles o f the capital. On the other side
of the Pitons du Carbet, General Dundas defeated Bellegarde’s weak attempts to dislodge
his brigade from the Surirey Heights, and worked quickly to prepare positions for the
siege artillery that would soon arrive.37
O f all o f the British operations on 12 February, those by the British fleet most
clearly prophesied the end for Republique-ville. French military engineers in Martinique
had remained confident that no invading fleet could penetrate the Baie du Republiqueville - a fact confirmed by the westward orientation o f the bay’s fortifications. By
midday on the 12th, however, the seaborne enemy was swarming into the undefended
French rear. In fact, Jervis’ entry into the most heavily defended area o f Martinique
happened with such ease, that rather than occupying themselves with the myriad tasks o f
combat command, many o f the fleet officers simply marveled at the beauty o f the scenery.
When Grey’s chief chaplain, who was aboard Jervis’ flagship first observed Martinique’s
capital, he noted that:
On the north we saw [Fort-de-la-Republique] and the town of
Republique-ville; and immediately behind it, on the top o f a steep
hill, was the strong fortification o f [Fort-de-la-Convention], which,
with the tri-coloured flag waving on its walls, formed a
conspicuous object in the landscape; the parapet being built o f
white stone, strongly contrasted with the vivid glow o f verdure on
the surrounding hills.38
By midday on the 12th, transport and cargo ships anchored unmolested at les

37 Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 33.
38 Willyams, Expedition, 29, 49.

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Case-Navire K&« jiflHI K



® (


Closing In On Republique-ville by Land and Sea
1 1 - 1 2 February 1794 - Gordon captured Camp Decide on the 11th and occupied SainteCatherine on the 12th. Bellegarde attacked Dundas’ positions at Poste Calon during the night of
11-12 February; after three defeats, the Chasseurs returned to Republique-ville. Grey and
Prescott continued to le Lamentin, while Jervis sent ships across the bay to begin unloading
troops and artillery at Pointe des Grives and the Cohe du Lamentin.

Enlarged Are;

Figure 50. Closing In On Republique-ville by Land and Sea

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The British Gain Control of the Baie du

Courtesy National Maritime M useum


Courtesy National Maritime Museum

View of Forts de la Republique and de la Convention as seen
from Jervis’ Flagship

British Troops Land at Pointe des Grives
Figure 51. The British Gain Control o f the Baie du Republique-ville

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Trois-Ilets to unload tons o f provisions needed by Prescott’s troops. Artillerymen at Fortde-la-Republique attempted to bombard the enemy vessels, but their rounds consistently
fell short. This encouraged Jervis to send more transports into the Cohe du Lamentin to
unload troops and heavy artillery even closer to Republique-ville. This maneuver was
also successful. A short time later the British brazenly began to construct a pier at Pointe
des Grives; there was little, if anything, that Rochambeau could do about it.39
Thus far, the British had gained military success against the most formidable
Republican garrison in the Windward Islands with remarkable ease. They moved so
quickly that Republicans did not realize the extent to which the British had subsumed the
island. At le Vauclin, for instance, Captain Compere could muster only seventy o f the
600 men under his command. Nevertheless, he prepared these few National Guard to
march to Republique-ville the next day. At around 11:00 p.m, however, 250 British
soldiers killed his sentries and then surprised the encampment; Compere and his men
resisted, but finally were forced to withdraw, leaving two men dead and three others
On the other hand, many in the 1st Chasseur Battalion escaped capture by making
sure that they were not even close to the battlefield. By late afternoon on the 12th,
hundreds o f Chasseurs were milling around in Republique-ville, well out o f sight o f the
British. Rochambeau detailed some o f the Chasseurs to the city’s forts, but angrily

39 Ibid.; Grey to Dundas, 16 March 1794. PRO, CO, 318.14, 33.
40 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 120.

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ordered the rest to return to their camp at Surirey.41 Even with the arrival o f the 1st
Chasseur Battalion, the military defenders o f Republique-ville numbered barely 800.
Nevertheless, Rochambeau might resist for weeks in Forts de-la-Republique and-de-laConvention if Bellegarde prevented the British penetrating the city’s northern and eastern
The plan may have seemed clear enough to Rochambeau, but he was besieged by
questions from Committee o f Public Safety members in the city, who were repeatedly
confronted by distressed citizens. Field reports by stragglers from Camp-Decide and the
1st Chasseur Battalion described a catastrophic situation around Republique-ville. This
resulted in the spread o f unsubstantiated rumors, foremost was the tale that Rochambeau
was a traitor. When he went to the Hotel de Ville to report to the Committee o f Public
Safety, one o f the members stupidly questioned Rochambeau on that particular charge.
Rochambeau hid his disgust and easily discredited the claim, replying simply that “were I
a traitor, Monsieur Commissaire, I certainly would not be making such sacrifices.” In a
scene reminiscent o f his cross-examination by the Jacobin Club in 1792, Rochambeau
was made to account for his actions before the very Committee that he had so recently

41 Rochambeau kept a small Chasseur detachment in Republique-ville to augment
the city police force, and two National Guard companies to assist in the forts.
42 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 120. When Bellegarde convinced the
general that his Chasseurs could hold the northern and eastern approaches to Republiqueville, Rochambeau allowed Bellegarde to conduct a mobile defense. The Committee o f
Public Safety in Republique-ville condemned this decision, even though there was no
available labor force. They preferred that the army dig a network o f defensive trenches
throughout the northern and eastern sectors o f the city.

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In fact, the Committee o f Public Safety o f Republique-ville was becoming
increasingly hostile toward Rochambeau. When a group o f Chasseurs complained that
Rochambeau was not with them at the ill-fated attack at Maltide, the Committee
convened a special tribunal o f three members to interrogate him. In the first round o f
questions, a committee member asked Rochambeau if he had been in the capital city
during the Chasseur attack. Obviously, Rochambeau had spent more time outside
Republique-ville than any o f the committee members, but he was careful when he
denounced the scurrilous intimation. Lamaury and Isaac, he said, could certainly account
for his time on the 10th. By the time that the Chasseurs began their attack, Rochambeau
and the Representatives had barely returned from the fight at Case-Navire, and were
deploying volunteers from Saint-Pierre in Fort-de-la-Convention. Rochambeau declared,
“ [a] general must always be the first into the attack and the last in the retreat,” although
his own prowess on the battlefield was not being questioned, his platitudes did little to
reassure Republique-ville’s Committee o f Public Safety.44
W hen he finally dispelled the notion that he had been negligent by not leading the
Chasseurs against the Maltide camp, other committee members pointedly asked
Rochambeau if he was withholding critical information. Rochambeau had kept the
contents o f the ministerial packets secret since they arrived the previous December, but
now the Committee demanded to know the contents. Rochambeau refused to produce the

43 Ibid., 119.
44 Ibid.

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Minister o f the M arine’s packet, arguing that the dispatches contained secret plans for an
upcoming French campaign in the Caribbean. What campaign Rochambeau and Minister
Monge were referring to was anyone’s guess. When the insinuations and accusations
became more vicious, Rochambeau finally confided to the commissaires that the
dispatches contained news that additional troops and money were en route to the colony.
The committee members were astonished by the revelation, and were crushed by the
national government’s failure to make good on such a solemn promise.45
W hen he was pressed on the issue, Rochambeau declared “ [i]f you want my
personal opinion, I never believed that troops were coming from France.” One o f the
committeemen replied, “ [t]hen General, do you not see any way to save the colony?”
Rochambeau responded “I see none if we continue to do as Bellegarde did at la Trinite,
and as several companies that we placed in the posts covering the forts have done.” They
inquired if the enemy had sufficient forces to capture the forts, and he responded “[y]es, it
is quite possible; they certainly have the means.” When they asked about the size o f the
British force, he admitted “ [j]udging by the regularity and the slowness o f his operations,
I would estimate that he has ten to twelve-thousand men....furthermore, I am expecting to
receive terms o f surrender at any time which I will make known to the Committee so that
everyone can discuss them with me.” W ith that response, Rochambeau left the tribunal,
and the three committee members returned to the Hotel de Ville to submit their report to
the full Committee o f Public Safety and Commune o f Republique-ville. The tribunal
members recounted in elaborate detail their interview with Rochambeau, and added that

45 Ibid., 120-121.

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in their opinion, his responses were intended to sway the Committee to accept the first
enemy surrender proposals. Faced with such serious allegations against Rochambeau,
parliamentarians in Republique-ville argued about the realities o f the situation and the
undeniable truth that the British cordon around the capital was tightening quickly.46
Throughout the previous century, the “impregnability” o f Martinique depended
heavily upon cooperation between Saint-Pierre and Republique-ville. In less than one
week, Grey and Jervis broke French resistance in the south, east and west o f the island
with minimum loss to their own troops; Republique-ville was isolated. Had citizens in
Saint-Pierre even considered coming to the aid o f the capital, Gordon’s controlling the
western coast road made that impossible. The military in Saint-Pierre now focused on a
possible siege against their own city - the commercial and legislative capitals o f
Martinique would now face General Grey’s army alone.


Ibid., 122-123.

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Chapter XV
Strangling Martinique:
13 - 20 February 1794

By the morning o f 13 February, the bulk o f Jervis’ fleet lay anchored in
Republique-ville Bay. Rochambeau him self counted “no less than five ships o f the line,
several more o f fifty and forty-four guns, a great number o f frigates and corvettes, two
bomb ships, seven gun boats, and scores o f transports.” In all, at least seventy-seven
ships hovered around Ilet a Ramiers, serving notice to the French that Jervis and Grey had
the resources to subdue Martinique. To reinforce the point, two British gun boats
brazenly maneuvered across the bay to within range o f Fort-de-la-Republique, but were
quickly driven away by the French 24-pounders. Early the following morning, General
Prescott and the majority o f his brigade left their encampment at Riviere-Salee; by
midday, they established communications with Dundas at Mome le Brun and Surirey.
Rochambeau anticipated these maneuvers, and was not surprised on the morning o f 15
February to see eleven British transports anchored in the Cul de Sac du Lamentin, with
their crews unloading heavy artillery.1

1 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entries for 13 and 14 February 1794;
Willyams, Expedition, 37. In fact, there were no ships o f fifty guns near Martinique,
unless Rochambeau included deck guns on ships o f forty-eight.

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Any chance that the Republicans had for holding the capital depended upon
finding and paying laborers to improve the city’s defensive works and supplies. Again,
the critical shortage o f money proved an insurmountable obstacle. It was the duty o f the
Committee o f Public Safety o f Republique-ville to deal with the depleted city treasury;
after minimum deliberation, they decided a mandatory war loan was necessary. It was
impossible to collect from the municipalities, so the Committee chose to canvass the few
remaining ships’ captains and businessmen in Republique-ville. Rochambeau approved
the decision, and the Committee summoned available business leaders to the Hotel de
Ville to discuss the terms o f the new law. The meeting, did not go as planned. The
businessmen refused to cooperate, and told the Commissaires that they had no faith
whatsoever that the current government could even protect their property, much less
repay a war loan. Even if they were to loan the government money, they were doubtful
that their funds were safe in the hands o f suspect government agents like Daigremont.
Unable to respond, the Committee adjourned the meeting without resolution, and called
on Rochambeau to help.2
On 14 February, Rochambeau and the three committee members met again with
the “Captains o f Commerce,” but this time, there were no demands.3 Rochambeau simply
asked for any money that they could lend the government to sustain the defense effort,
and offered his personal guarantee that France would make good on the loan. After
Rochambeau presented his request, the businessmen politely excused themselves,

2 Ibid., 121.
3 The three commissaires were Bailleul, Isaac and Lamaury.

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probably, most believed, never to be heard from again. To everyone’s surprise they
reappeared a short time later and offered to provide 170,000 livres at no interest, asking
only that Rochambeau and the Committee write letters o f guarantee that the Government
o f France would reimburse them for their potential losses. There was one problem; the
merchants asked for reimbursement not in paper currency, but instead in gold Tournois,
which, at the time, held an exchange value o f 1 = 1V2 to the French livre. Naturally, the
committee members revolted at the idea o f a not-so-well-hidden fifty per-cent interest
rate, but despite their pleas to the lenders to support the patrie in good faith, the
merchants persisted in their demand. When Rochambeau assured everyone concerned
that the interest would pose no problems, the commissaires reluctantly acquiesced to the
terms. The treasury was empty, the committee members believed, and they did not want
to be held responsible for the capture o f the colony by not approving the loan.4
As soon as Rochambeau and the Committee signed the agreement with the
lenders, a new battle between the military and civil authorities ensued over the
distribution o f the funds. When Commissary o f W ar Daigremont reported a short time
later that the supposedly depleted treasury still contained 56,000 livres, the shocked
committee members expressed outrage that they were not told that such a considerable
sum remained available. This knowledge could have improved the Committee’s

4 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 14 February 1794; Bailleul, Report
(Seconde Partie), 124-125. The Tournois d ’or had been minted in various iterations
since the 9th Century, first by the Abbey o f Saint Martin in Tours and later by the city’s
municipal government. Until 1783, the Tournois d ’or, known also as the “Tournois
Pound” was equal in value to one livre, but as the paper currency depreciated, the
Tournois d ’or maintained its value on the international market.

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bargaining position with the city’s businessmen considerably, and immediately, the
members accused the military o f duplicity. They were soon made more suspicious when
Daigremont adjusted his initial report, announcing another 3,300 livres that he had
forgotten to include.5
Daigremont’s negligent accounting was more than the Committee o f Public Safety
o f Republique-ville was willing to tolerate. They immediately put the remaining funds
under their personal protection, demanded that Daigremont be relieved, and called upon
Rochambeau to justify why he had so vigorously promoted the idea that the colony was in
a fiscal crisis. The colony was indeed in financial straits, Rochambeau explained. Most
o f the 56,000 livres had been committed already, and it was he, not Daigremont, who had
approved the expenditures. From memory, he enumerated several recent purchases,
including 14,000 livres to the head surgeon in charge o f the city hospital, and another
12,000 to be divided between the 32nd and 37th Lines in partial payment o f the regular
soldiers’ in arrears.6
That Rochambeau had obligated funds to pay his professional soldiers infuriated
the civilian committee members. Why should the French regular troops be paid, they
asserted, when good Republicans on the island were willing to fight for free? “Lest the

5 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 126.
6 Ibid. The situation worsened when the Committee discovered that the majority
o f these commitments were made just before Daigremont was to make his report. Again,
committee members accused Daigremont o f Royalist sympathies, and included this
allegation in their justification to sequester the treasury. The Commissary o f War did his
best to dispel the supposition, but the former aristocrat found little sympathy among the

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32nd and 37th Lines decided to ‘fight’ as well as the National Guard,” Rochambeau
countered, “it was a wise investment for him to do whatever he could to provide for
them.” Naturally, Republican zealots were piqued by the barb against the National
Guard, but there was little they could say in the troops’ defense. The indignant
commissaires turned the argument to one o f proprietorship, declaring that Rochambeau
did not have the right to usurp their authority by spending money without their approval.
“On the contrary,” Rochambeau parried. Under the circumstances, it was he who must be
in control o f the finances, because he was ultimately answerable for the colony’s defense.
Thus, the responsibility lay solely with him to divert whatever sums he deemed necessary
to pay the troops and to sustain military operations.7
Neither side wanted to back down, but the Committee eventually allowed
Rochambeau to spend the money that Daigremont already held in the treasury, and to take
an additional 50,000 livres o f the money that had just been loaned them to spend as he
deemed necessary.8 When the question turned to the use o f the remaining 120,000 livres,
the commissaires maintained that Rochambeau no longer had proprietary authority; the

7 Ibid., 127. If not for the “machinations” o f their commanding general, the
regular soldiers defending Martinique would never have received any o f their arrears. It
was even more fortunate for the regulars that when the colony finally surrendered to the
British, the French soldiers were allowed to keep all o f their pay.
8 Ibid., 128-129. These funds came under scrutiny when it was discovered that
Rochambeau paid his mistress, Mme. de Tully, in full for the services her slaves performed
in rebuilding the city arsenal; and 3,000 and 3,300 livres respectively were paid for goods
and services to the port captain Robert-Marguerite de Tascher de la Pagerie (brother o f
the future empress) and Lieutenant Destourelles shortly before the two men deserted the
island. Another creditor received 14,000 livres before the Committee knew what money
had been paid to “those in Rochambeau’s favor.” Ultimately, the Committee never could
account for any o f the second 50,000 livres.

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lenders had given the money to the Committee o f Public Safety for them to manage.
Though a furious Rochambeau reminded the Committee that nearly all o f the 120,000
livres was owed to his regular troops for back salary, the Committee held firm. They
would pay nothing more to the regular soldiers until the island first was clear o f the
enemy threat, and then only after the treasury held over one million livres in reserve.
Rochambeau protested vehemently, but the Committee closed the discussion after
ordering Daigremont not to allow him to spend any more money without their personal
That night, two British gun boats again slipped within range o f Republique-ville
and at around 1:00 a.m. opened fire on the city. Soon, a brig joined in the bombardment,
and the three vessels shelled the capital until 2:30 a.m. Alarms echoed throughout the
city. Most citizens sought cover in their homes, but others walked the streets loudly
announcing that the enemy action was only intended as harassment. The real attack, the
antagonists promised, was yet to come if Rochambeau did not surrender the island. Real
attack or not, at 4:00 a.m., the port captain, Robert-Marguerite Tascher de la Pagerie, and
two o f his associates, Marlet and Grandmaison Sainte-Rose, arrived at the Hotel de Ville
and asked commissaire Lamaury to join them in a private conference. Lamaury agreed,

9 Ibid. In this environment o f heightened distrust, the Committee o f Public
Safety o f Republique-ville concluded that they were fully competent to conduct military
trials with or without Rochambeau’s approval, and published an order to the National
Guard commanders that committee members and Rochambeau both were empowered to
give military orders. The chaos which resulted was predictable; Royalist agents operating
among the Republican soldiers used every opportunity to confuse or distort instructions
issued by the colony’s “highest military authorities.” Rochambeau later attempted to
resolve the situation by asking the Committee to form a civil/military tribunal, with the
authority to impose capital sentences for treasonous actions.

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and followed Tascher through the darkened streets and into a nearby office. Tascher drew
back the curtains to allow some moonlight into the chamber and invited the committee
member to sit. Grandmaison Sainte-Rose informed Lamaury that they had evidence that
Pelauque and Bellegarde had entered into negotiations to surrender the colony, and that
they were waiting for the most opportune moment to deliver Republique-ville. The city
already was in immediate danger, Grandmaison Sainte-Rose asserted; according to what
he knew o f Bellegarde’s plan, Chasseur agents would soon attempt to take control o f
When Grandmaison Sainte-Rose finished, Marlet took over the discussion, and
described the inevitable results o f France’s abandonment o f the colony. In the current
circumstances, he asserted, there was no possible way that the national government could
save Martinique; the country had no naval forces available to save any o f the colonies.
The room fell silent. Lamaury asked how the colony could be rescued from the “black
cloud” that it had fallen under. Tascher observed that the laws passed by the
Representative Assembly threatened death to those who discussed surrender. He believed
that such action would be the only way to prevent the horrors o f an impending British
siege. “Since we all have confidence in you,” Tascher reminded Lamaury, “we expect
that you will keep what we have told you a complete secret.” Lamaury responded that in
his opinion, there was nothing more that anyone could say.11
The meeting did not remain a secret for long. By morning, Lamaury finished

10 Ibid., 131.
11 Ibid., 131-132.

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writing a full account o f the meeting, and Rochambeau was summoned to the committee
chambers. When Lamaury presented his report, Rochambeau remained inappropriately
undisturbed; he simply dismissed Tascher’s fears as alarmist, and left the building.12
Despite his coolness before the Committee, it was clear to Rochambeau that
Grandmaison Sainte-Rose was correct that the Chasseurs were Martinique’s greatest
internal threat. Since their rout at la Trinite, Bellegarde demanded to know why
Rochambeau spent so little time supervising their operations. They were abandoned, the
Chasseurs proclaimed publicly, and they vowed once again that before they were made
prisoners o f the British, they would “make everything in Martinique fire and blood.” The
earlier tension between Bellegarde and Rochambeau obviously had inflamed the
imaginations o f many Chasseurs. In fact, several o f the battalion officers repeatedly
wrote to politicians in the capital claiming that Rochambeau was a traitor and that the
government would soon have to make a choice - deal with him, or face their wrath. This
enmity came to a head on 15 February, when the city Committee o f Public Safety
received intelligence that corroborated Grandmaison Sainte-Rose’s earlier report.
Selected Chasseurs planned to assassinate Rochambeau and then install Bellegarde in
Fort-de-la-Republique as military commander o f Martinique. Once Rochambeau was
dead, the news alleged, Bellegarde would give the assassins, Elie and Pierre Millet,
command o f Forts de-la- Convention and Republique.13

12 Ibid., 132.
13 Ibid., 132-134; Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,”
7; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 15 February 1794.1n such a confused
atmosphere, no one could be sure whether the plot was real or just rumor. What was

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On the morning o f the 15th, Rochambeau and several o f his aides-de-camp left
Republique-ville to reconnoiter enemy positions and to inspect Bellegarde’s defenses at
Surirey.14 After giving Bellegarde express instructions to occupy and defend certain
positions along the road to the capital city, Rochambeau and his entourage left the
Chasseurs to return to Fort-de-la-Republique - Elie and Pierre M illet followed. When the
general stopped to inspect a battery near the Hotel de Ville, he discovered that Elie and
Millet had also entered the position. Furthermore, Elie was engaged in a loud argument
with the sergeant in charge o f the artillery, and was commanding him to fire his cannons
over the hills to the southeast o f the city (today Cite Dillon) in an attempt to hit the
English ships anchored in the Cohe du Lamentin. The artillery sergeant protested
vigorously. He could not see the enemy ships, much less determine their range. Elie
pulled a loaded pistol from his belt, put it to the sergeant’s head, and threatened to kill
him if he did not immediately fire three shots from his cannon. Faced with the
alternative, the sergeant fired his gun twice and was preparing to fire a third time when
Rochambeau approached and stopped him, demanding to know what was going on.
When the sergeant explained the situation, Elie tried to justify his actions, claiming that

certain was that Elie, a mulatto from Grenada, was arrested eight months earlier in SaintPierre for inciting rebellion among the slaves in the city, and had remained a prisoner in
Fort-de-la-Republique until the assembly decided, just weeks prior to the invasion, that
there was no case against him. Following his release, Elie enlisted in the 1st Chasseur
Battalion, and reportedly had fought the British with conspicuous bravery.
14 Commandant Naverres (the 1st Chasseur Battalion adjutant and one o f the only
white officers in the unit) accompanied Rochambeau and his aides on this trip.
Bellegarde had dismissed the officer two days earlier, amid claims that he was a british
spy. Rochambeau intended to go before the Chasseurs on Naverres’ behalf to dispel the
rumors. Bailleul, Report (Seconde Par tie), 134.

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he was checking the quality o f the battery’s powder.15
Pierre M illet saw that the plot was in danger o f being compromised. He joined
Rochambeau and Elie, and offered more ludicrous excuses on behalf o f his associate.
Rochambeau was unconvinced. When he ordered Elie arrested, Elie once again
brandished his pistol, this time aiming it at Rochambeau, and threatened to “blow the
general’s brains out if anyone came near him.” Rochambeau remained perfectly calm,
walked toward Elie, and told him to give him the gun. Instead, the Chasseur pulled the
trigger - miraculously, nothing happened. Before the general’s escorts could seize the
would-be assassin, he leaped onto his horse, and with Pierre Millet, galloped toward the
battery exit. A quick-thinking sentry threw a pole across their path; both horses fell and
the men were immediately apprehended. Millet was imprisoned in Fort-de-laRepublique, while Elie was brought before a military tribunal at Fort-de-la-Convention
and sentenced to death.16
Though the circumstances leading to Elie’s trial and subsequent execution were
certainly remarkable, the courts-martial produced an even more sensational piece o f
news. Elie testified that Bellegarde was planning to raise the island’s slaves and
Chasseurs against the existing government. Anyone who was not involved in the plot,
Elie said, was to be put to death.17

15 Ibid., 135; Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,” 7.
16 Anonymous (aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,” 7.
17 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 15 February 1794; Anonymous
(aide-de-camp to Rochambeau), “Precis du Siege,” 7.

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When Rochambeau appeared before the Committee o f Public Safety later that day,
the members were surprised that he seemed so undisturbed by the affair. He was aware
o f the plots against him, but he believed that it was simply the work o f a few fractious
individuals. The denunciations were too vague, he said, and he would do nothing more
about it. Yet, Rochambeau did act. The next morning he posted an announcement that
ten men had failed in their attempt to assassinate him. “Men o f good conscience,” he
announced, “now have every advantage over the island’s conspirators and assassins, who
have proven themselves nothing more than timid cowards. Good men can brave all
Although Rochambeau maintained a strong public appearance, he was gravely
disheartened. “Every day,” he wrote, “the same mistrust, the same apathy, and the same
weakness among the mulattoes; the desertions have not decreased. The whites do not
trust the mulattoes, and are fighting with them rather than with the enemy.” On the
afternoon o f 15 February, the second-in-command o f the 1st Chasseur Battalion,
Commandant La Rochette, defected to the British.19
While Rochambeau and the Committee o f Public Safety battled the enemies
among them, the British prepared for their main attack. To the west o f the city, Gordon’s

18 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Par tie), 136.
19 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 16 February 1794; Bailleul, Report
(Seconde Partie), 136. Reporting this most recent desertion, Rochambeau again tried to
put the best light possible on the deteriorating situation. Just as he had in September
1793, Rochambeau told the Committee, La Rochette was again threatened day and night
by the treasonous Chasseurs at the Surirey post. Nevertheless, he general encouraged the
committee members. It remains uncertain whether La Rochette was among Bellegarde’s
co-conspirators, or whether he was attempting to save his own life.

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brigade overlooked Republique-ville from positions on both the heights o f SainteCatherine and the road leading from Camp-Decide. In the east, Grey united with Dundas
and Prescott at M ome le Brun. With British forces now surrounding Republique-ville,
Grey gave Dundas new orders: return to Gros-Mome, move west over the Pitons du
Carbet, and attack Saint-Pierre.20
When they reached Gros-Mome on 14 February, Dundas halted his brigade and
ordered Colonel William Campbell to form an advance element composed o f his 66th
Foot and an additional battalion o f light infantry. At 4:00 p.m., Campbell set out through
the Bois le Buc (known today as the Bois Lezards). Because o f the difficulty o f the
terrain, the baggage trains continued to la Trinite, where one o f Commodore Thompson’s
sloops stood by to carry the gear to Basse-Pointe. Dundas and the remainder o f his
brigade left Gros-Mome one hour later. By dawn o f 15 February, Dundas’ force had
crossed thirty miles o f mountains.21
Even though the Republicans in Saint-Pierre would not expect a land attack
northeast o f the city, Dundas anticipated significant opposition. Dundas concluded that at
least half o f the National Guard from the Saint-Pierre district would be in positions
oriented to the south, but the French would also occupy positions east o f the city at le
Mome Rouge. This village, situated northeast o f Saint-Pierre at the base o f the Calbasse
Heights, controlled two principal roads, from Basse-Pointe, and Saint-Pierre to la Trinite.
Dundas sensed that Campbell’s detachment alone would not be sufficient, ordered the

20 Willyams, Expedition, 37.
21 Ibid.

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Le SaW^&j

British Land and Sea Movements Against Saint-Pierre
14 - 15 February 1794 - Dundas received orders to attack Saint-Pierre by land. He marched to
Gros-M orne, sent his brigade’s baggage to la Trinite, and then continued through the Pitons du
Carbet to le Morne Rouge. Jervis held Thompson’s squadron in reserve at Basse-Pointe.



Figure 52. British Land and Sea Movements Against Saint-Pierre

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colonel to march only as far as le Mome Rouge at Montigne, and to avoid contact with
the enemy until reinforcements could arrive.22
After resting for three hours, Dundas and his men crossed the headwaters o f the
Riviere Capot at Champflore, and reached the base o f the Calbasse Heights. To their
front, the Tricolor flew above a fortified mountain encampment at the des Rosiers
plantation. The British rested again before beginning their climb, and then attacked up
the hillside with such energy that they immediately overwhelmed elements o f Edouard
Meunier’s 2d Chasseur Battalion. The Chasseurs disabled their single field piece,
scattered the ammunition, and fell back several miles to the Debut redoubt in le Mome
It was fortunate for Dundas that the Chasseurs had abandoned such a potentially
unassailable post so quickly. Not willing to relinquish the initiative, he doggedly pushed
his men forward. Within an hour, they covered the remaining four miles to le Mome
Rouge, where they found Colonel Campbell and his battalions embroiled in a serious
skirmish at the Debut redoubt. Unfortunately for the British, nearly 600 Republicans
occupied the works - far more than Dundas expected. In addition to M eunier’s Chasseurs
another 400 National Guard moved into the village. When the commander o f the
National Guard in the Saint-Pierre district, Commandant Lacorbiere, learned that the
British were attacking from the northeast, he ordered his men to vacate their

22 Ibid. Based upon intelligence from emigres that were familiar with the area,
Grey and Dundas estimated that Republican positions at le Mome Rouge would
constitute Saint-Pierre’s first line o f defense in the east.
23 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Partie), 137-139; Willyams, Expedition, 38-39.

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emplacements in the southeast and occupy new positions between le M ome Rouge and
Although most o f the Saint-Pierre Chasseurs preferred the relative safety o f the
redoubt, two o f his company commanders continued to attack. They gathered any men
they could find to join them, and repeatedly attacked Gordon’s battalions for nearly an
hour; Dundas’ arrival turned the tide. Now completely outnumbered, the Chasseurs
abandoned the redoubt, leaving nine men dead and ten wounded. This time, the British
also suffered important losses. When the smoke cleared, nearly eighteen British troops
lay dead or wounded on the field, including one senior officer who had been shot in the
head - Colonel Campbell.25
At noon, the British swept through le Mome Rouge, turned south, and then
captured another post at Lavemade, which indirectly protected the city’s military camp in
the Quartier du Fort. The Republican situation was becoming critical. The Committee o f
Public Safety in Saint-Pierre desperately ordered more troops to cover this flank, but the
response o f the National Guard was slow and weak. Only the arrival o f 200 volunteers
under Pierre Boscq, another militia leader who was well-known for his bravery,
temporarily renewed the flagging confidence o f the Republicans in Saint-Pierre. With
Boscq leading a second column, Lacorbiere gathered his own forces and charged the
enemy near the Terrien redoubt. The action, however, was short-lived. The Republican

24 Ibid., 137-139; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 16 February 1794.
25 Ibid., 138; Willyams, Expedition, 39; Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry
for 16 February 1794.
A ll

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volunteers could not hold their positions in the face o f the British professionals, and
within minutes, the Boscq’s troops abandoned the fight either to surrender to the English
or to flee to their homes to hide. Lacorbiere was left with no choice other than to retreat
with the remainder of his National Guard to the military camp in Saint-Pierre.26
Throughout the afternoon and evening, Republican detachments around SaintPierre half-heartedly reinforced positions along the eastern approaches to the city, but
there was little willingness to continue fighting. Contradictory orders to reposition their
units further demoralized the National Guard, who soon suspected that their constant
movement was a plot to exhaust them before they faced the enemy. Instead, many
dispirited Republicans chose to either desert or surrender to the English rather than fight.
As the result, the number o f available troops in Saint-Pierre dwindled hourly. Despite the
repeated reassurances by committee members, the politicians were unable to stem the
wave o f pessimism that overcame the troops.27
W ith so many Republicans surrendering or fleeing the field, Dundas pushed his
men throughout the night o f 15-16 February to capture as many enemy positions above
Saint-Pierre as possible. In fact, Dundas could easily have captured Saint-Pierre that
night had he simply pursued the retreating Republican forces; fortunately for the citizens

26 Ibid., 138. In an effort to gain intelligence on the battles taking place northeast
o f the city, the Committee o f Public Safety in Saint-Pierre sent the commander o f the city
garrison, Commandant Mollerat, to inspect the posts along the le Mome Rouge-SaintPierre road. When Mollerat arrived at Terrien, he noticed that the English were moving
to cut o ff a the Republicans’ retreat. Lest they be captured, Mollerat ordered the troops to
fall back to the Valminiere plantation. This order, however, was never followed;
Republicans that were not killed or captured, escaped into Saint-Pierre.
27 Ibid.

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o f Saint-Pierre, Dundas did not know how desperate the situation in the city had become.
By daybreak on the 16th, the British threat to Saint-Pierre proved to be overwhelming.
Without a single round having fallen on the city, civil authorities sent a message to the
British asking for three days to consider terms. Dundas responded that he would allow
only three hours before he resumed his attack. The citizens o f Saint-Pierre never
responded. A short time after they received the British general’s response, an alarm went
up in the city that English warships were sailing into the Rade du Saint-Pierre.28
To assist the land effort against Saint-Pierre, Grey and Jervis had detached seven
heavily-armed warships and a bomb ketch from his fleet at Republique-ville, along with
transports carrying fifteen light infantry and grenadier companies. British naval gunners
spent most o f the day on the 16th ranging various targets in the city, and at 6:00 p.m., they
opened fire in earnest. When artillerymen in two o f Saint-Pierre’s harbor batteries
attempted to drive the ships away with a crossfire o f heated shot, Captain Eliab Harvey’s
Santa Margarita (36) quickly silenced it. Seeing how easily the British crushed the main
harbor battery, Republican artillerists panicked and abandoned the remaining guns around
the harbor. Committee members and commune officials tried to recall the men to their
posts, even forcing Commandant Mollerat to order the repeated beating o f the Generale,
but their efforts were in vain. Less than 100 volunteers rallied to the city’s defense; most
soldiers sought places to hide.29
Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on 17 February, a member o f the Committee o f Public

28 Ibid., 138-139; Willyams, Expedition, 40-41.
29 Ibid., 140; Willyams, Expedition, 41.

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The Battle for Saint-Pierre
15 - 17 February 1794 - Dundas and Campbell attacked Republican redoubts northeast of
Saint-Pierre. Following an initial skirmish at the Rosiers habitation, Meunier and his
Chasseurs withdrew to le Morne Rouge. Dundas subsequently pushed the Republicans
through redoubts at Lavernade and Terrien, and finally into Saint-Pierre. Jervis sent a
squadron and infantry to assault Saint-Pierre by sea. Dundas remained in positions above
Saint-Pierre throughout the 16th and 17th -- the British captured the city from the sea.

Enlarged Art a

Figure 53. The Battle for Saint-Pierre

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Safety, M. Saty, rowed a long boat toward the Asia (64) to offer the squadron commander
an armistice. Though the gun batteries around Saint-Pierre had ceased fire, two o f the
English ships opened fire on Saty’s boat. The men aboard the French lighter retired, but
several hours later, Saty again called upon the Asia. This time, Saty was allowed to
deliver his letter to the English commander, but the Committee’s offer to discuss terms
received no verbal answer. The enemy response was clear enough when at 4:00 a.m.,
Captain John Brown anchored his ships in the port o f Saint-Pierre, and began to unload
troops. To their surprise, the British infantrymen discovered that the republicans had
evacuated the second battery, leaving the guns primed and the colors flying. The English
troops continued to advance and at 7:00 a.m., the first English soldiers entered downtown
Saint-Pierre encountering no resistance. The so-called “Paris o f the Antilles” was lost.30
While many Saint-Pierre officials hid in their cellars, others escaped aboard one o f
the few remaining French ships that were now scrambling to leave the port. Indeed,
among the first to abandon the city was the Counsel-General o f the Commune o f SaintPierre; after advising the Committee o f Public Safety to seek an armistice, he boarded a
waiting ship, claiming that his personal safety was guaranteed by the national Law o f 25
July, 1792.31 Although the Counsel-General’s claim o f protection was a gross

30 Ibid., 142.
31 In fact, the wording o f the Legislative Assembly’s Law o f 25 July, 1792, left
the Counsel-General at least two loopholes by which he could abrogate his responsibility.
Article II, for example, stated that no administrative body may require the commander o f
a fortified place to surrender. Furthermore, Article III stated that even after a council o f
war has decided that a fortified place was no longer defensible, the commander might not
surrender without the unanimous consent o f the Commune Counsel-General and
administrative body - i f they were still available.

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misinterpretation o f the law, there was no time for the loyal committee members to argue
with him. Instead, they pressed Commandant Mollerat to protect the city from capture,
but with no troops available, he convened a council o f war with the officers,
Assemblymen, and Committee o f Public Safety members who still remained in the city.32
It required only several minutes for the council to decide that Saint-Pierre was in
no condition to resist a siege, and that a suitable course o f action was to declare the city
open. This decision was sent to the departing Counsel-General, who responded that
Commandant Mollerat was perfectly within his rights to surrender the city. In fact, the
Counsel-General offered to send a message to the English generals to ask for an
armistice. Rather than accept his offer, the Committee o f Public Safety plundered the city
treasury and then disbanded, only to join the scores o f other city dignitaries who managed
to board the last ship out o f Saint-Pierre. Edouard Meunier, commander o f the 2d
Chasseur Battalion disguised him self as a woman and escaped the city in a rowboat. In
the end, only the mayor, M. Au Cane, honored his pledge to Rochambeau that he would
not surrender Saint-Pierre. The price o f his loyalty was that he was the first city official
taken prisoner by the British. By 10:00 a.m. on 17 February, British troops occupied all
o f Saint-Pierre. Dundas, who was still contending with pockets o f loyal defenders, had
no idea that the city had fallen until he sent an officer to find out the delay o f the
Committee’s response to his earlier ultimatum.33

32 Bailleul, Report (Seconde Par tie), 142.
33 Rochambeau, “Journal du siege,” entry for 17 February 1794; Bailleul, Report
(Seconde Partie), 142; Willyams, Expedition, 42; Daney, Histoire de la Martinique, 232.
Conflicting accounts remain concerning the British occupation o f the city. Grey had

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When news reached the capital that the British controlled Saint-Pierre, members
o f the Committee of Public Safety o f Republique-ville turned their bile against
Rochambeau, accusing him o f negligence for having left the road open between SaintPierre and la Trinite. The general did not bother to rebut these new charges. For days,
the British had effectively contained Rochambeau’s forces in Republique-ville. The
British constructed new artillery positions around the capital, while enemy transports
landed more troops in the Cohe du Lamentin. In every quarter o f Martinique, save the
capital city, the island’s defenses had collapsed. Ironically, it was now Bellegarde and his
Chasseurs at Surirey who constituted Rochambeau’s forward line o f defense.34
Just as Rochambeau was consolidating his defenses around Republique-ville,
Bellegarde and the remnants o f the 1st Chasseur Battalion demanded the opportunity to
attack Prescott’s troops. Rochambeau ordered the battalion to fortify the Surirey