Part 1: 1450-1750
Part 2: 1750-1805
<--Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

Narrative | Resource Bank | Teacher's Guide

Historical Documents
"Revenge Taken by the Black Army"

Resource Bank Contents

click image for close-up
In 1805, two years after the death of Toussaint L'Ouverture, Marcus Rainsford published "An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti." Many of the book's illustrations were engraved after Rainsford's own sketches. "Revenge Taken by the Black Army" depicts actions taken against the French in Saint Domingue's war for independence from France and slavery.

Toussaint had since been taken captive, but rebel soldiers followed his orders forbidding them to retaliate against prisoners of war for the brutality of the French soldiers. However, when French commander Rochambeau retreated, leaving a trail of mutilated black prisoners to die slowly, Dessalines "could no longer forebear; he instantly caused a number of gibbets to be formed, selected the officers whom he had taken and ... had them tied up in every direction by break of day, in sight of the French camp.... Such was the retaliation produced by this sanguinary measure; a retaliation, the justice of which, however it is lamented, cannot be called in question."

While tales of blacks freeing themselves from slavery may have inspired the British -- who were on the verge of abolishing their international slave trade -- to North American slaveholders, tales of black atrocities so close to their own shores, justified or not, only intensified the growing fear of domestic slave uprisings.

Image Credit: The Library Company of Philadelphia

previous | next

Related Entries:
The Haitian Revolution
Toussaint L'Ouverture
"Revenge Taken by the Black Army"
Douglas Egerton on the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Jefferson
Julius Scott on John Brown Russworm and the Haitian Revolution

Part 3: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop

WGBH | PBS Online | ©