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Haitian history:1779, Les chasseurs volontaires de st- domingue (short intro)





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Uploaded on Apr 21, 2011

In 1779, a light infantry regiment, Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue, was formed under the command of Henry Joseph Chevalier de Forestier. Regiment was made up of 545 free 'men of colour'. les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue Regiment was the largest "all Black regiment " on either side to take part in the american revolution war. The Regiment was also the first French Black regiment in the history of the French Army. Remarkably, neither these facts seem to be well known.

After capturing Grenada, Admiral Valerie d'Estaing landed in Saint Domingue and the Regiment joined his force. D'Estaing's force of 3,000 men landed in Georgia in September 1779 and was joined by the American force under the command of Benjamin Lincoln for the siege of Savannah. The Chasseurs comprised 10% of the Franco-American Army.

The siege lasted six weeks. On the 9th of October, after a long artillery barrage from both on and off shore, the Franco-American force attacked Savannah which was commanded by Gen Augustine Prevost. Leading the troops along with d'Estaing and Lincoln were the Polish Count Casimir Pulaski and Lt Col Francis 'Swamp Fox' Marion. Both d'Estaing and Pulaski were wounded. Although initially successful, the allies were driven back by the counterattack of the British Regular reserves commanded by Col John Maitland. The battle of Savannah resulted in the largest number of casualties in a single engagement suffered by the allies during the war. Among the 800 dead was Casimir Pulaski. D'Estaing survived.

The demoralised allied army began its retreat pursued by Maitland's force. The Chasseurs were assigned the rearguard position. In one action, the Chasseurs repulsed Maitland's attacks and were credited with saving the allied force from destruction.

After Savannah, the majority of the Regiment were transported back to Saint-Domingue where they served as garrison troops until being disbanded in 1783. However, 148 men were sent to garrison Grenada and 60 men (one company) were sent to Charleston. Other Saint-Domingue troops were involved in the later Franco-Spanish attack on Pensacola.

On the 12th of May, 1780, Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charleston to General Clinton. The loss of the city and its 5,000 troops was a serious blow to the American cause. However, fate was to deal an especially cruel blow to the 60 Chasseurs prisoners. Despite being free men, they were judged to be prizes of war and were sold into slavery.


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