Vertierre or Vertieres, Pivotal in Haiti Independence

Saint Domingue on island of Hispaniola was once the most lucrative part of French colony on the Caribbean island from 1659 to 1809. But a slave revolt in which the battle of Vertierre or Vertieres was pivotal ended the colonization. With support of British government ended the French rule in Saint Domingue and the French were forced to withdraw themselves from this European colony in 1803.


The decisive encounter between General Rochambeau of the French army and the separatist British supported leader General Jean-Jacques Dessalines is known as 'War of Vertières'. General Dessalines who was born as a slave led the struggle against the French. The British weakened the French by naval blockades and supplied weapons and ammunitions to General Dessalines. Sensing danger, Rochambeau shifted French headquarters from Port-au-Prince to Cap Français. Dessalines went on capturing places one after another like Jacmel, Cayes, Jérémie and Léogane. When the French Commander surrendered himself on October 3 at Port-au-Prince, stage for physical attack was set on Le Cap Français.

Rochambeau defended his stronghold Le Cap city with about 5000 troops. Some block-houses or forts were constructed at strategic points like Forts Vertières, Champain and Bréda with well armed French soldiers and artillery pieces. These terrains were planned effectively with forts positioned over a narrow valley to expose attackers to a maximum of murderous fire. The location of Fort Vertières was pivotal because it overlooked and controlled the road from Port-au-Prince into Le Cap.

Dessalines started with about 15,000 soldiers to attack the Butte Charrier on the late afternoon on 18 November, 1803. He had plan to seize control over a hill. François Capois, the brave general of Dessalines lead the first attack to cross a bridge over a narrow valley. When two- third of his men were dead and wounded, Dessalines pulled him back and replaced General Gabart in his place. This time the rebels attacked all the blockhouses at the same time so that the French could not concentrate their fire at any one front. General Gabart captured the convenient hill positions within an hour's face to face combat.

They proceeded to fire artillery shells into Fort Vertières until the French were forced to retreat back towards Le Cap. Late that night, Rochambeau requested a settlement to Dessalines but the latter refused and asked him to surrender. The French general had no other option but to accept the demand and depart the island within 9 days. Dessalines proclaimed independence on 1 January 1804 of Saint-Domingue and gave the new state a name given by the Arawak inhabitant long time ago: Ayti, or Haiti (land of mountains). The Battle of Vertières brought success to Haiti's independence movement.

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Read more: Historic Monument, Vertierre, Vertieres, Battle of Vertieres, History, Independence, Slave, Saint-Domingue, History

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