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24707: Hermantin (News) Monument planned for Haitian soldiers of American Revolution
leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Thu, Apr. 07, 2005
Monument planned for Haitian soldiers of American Revolution
SAVANNAH, Ga. - Unsung Haitian soldiers who made up the largest military
unit in the Revolutionary War's bloody siege of Savannah may finally get a
monument in their honor 226 years later.
A proposed $500,000 bronze monument was expected to be approved by city
planners Friday. Underscoring the project's importance to Haitians, Interim
Prime Minister Gerard Latortue scheduled a Savannah visit to meet with
potential donors Saturday.
Though not well known in the U.S., Haiti's role in fighting for American
independence is a point of national pride for Haitians.
In October 1779, a force of more than 500 Haitian free blacks joined
American colonists and French troops in an unsuccessful push to drive the
British from Savannah in coastal Georgia, the last of the 13 colonies.
More than 300 allied soldiers were gunned down charging British
fortifications Oct. 9, making the siege the second-most lopsided British
victory of the war Revolution after Bunker Hill.
"Not too many people know about the contributions of Haiti to the greatness
of America," said Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador-designate to the U.S.
He said Latortue, leader of Haiti's interim government since the ouster of
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide last year, was to fly to Savannah from Rome
after attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
"The prime minister feels we have to do something to make Haitians proud
again of the their homeland because we have gone through a very negative
period in our recent history," Joseph said.
The Miami-based Haitian-American Historical Society began lobbying Savannah
officials for a monument to the Haitian soldiers in October 2001.
Featuring lifesize bronze statues of six uniformed soldiers atop a concrete
pedestal 14 feet in diameter, the monument would sit beneath a canopy of
live oaks in Franklin Square near the downtown riverfront.
"It's a way to let people know Haitians didn't just come from the boat,"
said Daniel Fils-Aime, the historical society chairman. "We shed our blood
in 1779 and that's something that should be recognized."
Haitian records from that era were destroyed by a fire in the 1830s, so it's
unclear exactly how Haitian troops contributed to the battle at Savannah,
said Scott Smith, director of Savannah's Coastal Heritage Society, which is
developing a 9.5-acre park on the battlefield site.
But records do exist showing 545 Haitian troops sailed to Savannah in 1779 -
making them the largest military unit of the Savannah battle, Smith said.
The Haitians are also believed to be the largest black unit to serve in the
After returning home, Haitian veterans of the Revolutionary War soon led
their own rebellion that established Haiti's independence from France in
"There was definitely experience gained for these Haitians to see a
large-scale European battle and realize these Europeans were not
invincible," Smith said. "Within a little over a decade, the Haitian leaders
in Savannah were leading a revolution against the French."
One of the monument's statues, depicted as an adolescent drummer, is of
Henri Christophe, who served in Savannah and became king of Haiti after its
Savannah's Historic Sites and Monuments Commission, which has already
approved the monument in concept, will meet to sign off on its final design
The City Council gets the final say, but approval is expected. Former Mayor
Floyd Adams Jr. was a key supporter of the monument during his last term
that ended in 2003.
The greatest obstacle remaining is money. Fils-Aime said only about $100,000
has been raised so far - one-fifth of the monument's cost. He hopes
Latortue's visit will soon change that.
"People are skeptical about helping us to raise the money," Fils-Aime said.
"By having him, this is something tangible to know that we're serious."
ON THE NET
Haitian-American Historical Society