San Domingo's Bloody Revolt (2)

Leclerc met with Toussaint and other black leaders, generals Henry Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who accepted his assurances of freedom and the rebel armies ended hostilities.

Toussaint retired to private life and while he publicly appeared to have accepted French control of his island he was only biding his time. He believed that yellow fever, which had already killed some 10,000 French troops, would soon weaken the Europeans so much that they would be easier to expel from San Domingo.

Unfortunately, for him, Leclerc found out about the plan and had Toussaint arrested and sent to France where he died miserably of starvation in his freezing prison cell.

With the French intention to reintroduce the lucrative business of slavery now out in the open, San Domingo again rose in rebellion, only this time there would be no quarter.

The blacks and coloureds fought furiously against a reimposition of that terrible trade and often battled to the death rather than submit.

Leclerc now made a horrendous decision and ordered that all blacks over the age of 12, including women, were to be killed. The genocide that followed sparked outrage in America and Europe.

Leclerc died of yellow fever in late 1802 and his successor, General Donatien Rochambeau, took the massacres to even greater levels of brutality.

In one incident at Cap Francois he executed 6000 blacks and brought in savage bloodhounds to hunt the rebels down. He ordered that the dogs not be fed, their only food would be the meat of blacks, he said.

In Paris, Bonaparte looked at the casualty figures of his men in San Domingo and decided the island was costing too much to continue fighting for.

France's prestige was being damaged by the bloodthirsty nature of the rebellion and the French First Consul had no wish to further antagonise the United States because he wanted to sell them the territory of Louisiana.

By January 1803 he had had enough and told Rochambeau that no further reinforcements would be coming.

Trapped, Rochambeau tried to fight on, but by September he only had 7000 men left and most of them were stricken with fever. Knowing he would get no mercy at the hands of the blacks, the general surrendered to the British and asked for protection. No doubt the French sailed into internment with hearts glad to be free from the horrors of San Domingo.

Many French families stayed on in the hope of rebuilding their lives, but the new black leader, General Dessalines, celebrated his victory by ordering the deaths of every French person on the island. In March and April 1804, more than 4000 men, women and children were butchered.

San Domingo had won independence, but at an appalling price in blood.

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