Fight to Control the West Indies
on San Domingo
struggle for the rich islands of the West Indies was an important
part of the overall battle for supremacy between Britain and France.
controlled the region would gain the valuable resources of sugar,
spices, rum, coffee, cotton and cocoa and, obviously, deny them
to the enemy.
majority of islands of the West Indies are located just to the north
of the South American continent and run in a semi-crescent from
southerly Trinidad to Jamaica in the west and the Bahamas in the
had long controlled Jamaica and Barbados, it took over Trinidad
from Spain in 1797, and picked most of the other islands in the
chain with an aggressive policy of military force.
interest in the islands was no small wonder as the booming trade
from the West Indies netted the Goverment more than 4 million pounds
a dominant navy, Britain could land its forces wherever it chose.
1793 and 1810 it captured Tobago, Martinique, St Lucia, Guadeloupe,
St Martin and French Guyana from the French; Trinidad from Spain;
St Bartholomew from Sweden; Demerara, St Martin, Curacao, Surinam
and Essequebo from the Dutch and St John, St Thomas and St Croix
would change hands several times as the fortunes of war flowed one
way then the other, and in 1802 the Peace
of Amiens saw Britain having to give up all its conquered possessions
(apart from Trinidad). It later reconquered them.
there were very few major battles, casualties were extremely high
among European troops as tropical diseases struck with regular brutality.
a period of a decade, more than 45,000 British soldiers died while
serving in the West Indies - with fevers being blamed for almost
all of the deaths - and almost as many again were forced out of
military service with debilitating conditions caused by the illnesses.
San Domingo, where Napoleon
Bonaparte sent some 60,000 men to topple the rebel black leader
Toussaint l'Overture, more
than 80% had succumbed to yellow fever - including his brother-in-law
and expedition commander General