Poland's Caribbean Tragedy: A Study of Polish Legions in the Haitian War of Independence 1802-1803
By Jan Pachonski and Reuel K. Wilson
East European Monographs, Boulder, Co. Distributed by
Columbia U. Press, NY 1986. ISBN # 0-88033-093-7
Below are some notes I took while reading the book I just reviewed -- POLAND'S CARIBBEAN TRAGEDY. I thought I would share them with you since perhaps a single note here or there might spark some interest for different people and a few lines of discussion might result.
- P. 25 Code Noir, 1685 required mulattos be freed on their 25th birthday.
- P. 27. Fouchard says this was a unique situation in the Caribbean: People of one continues to do the work (Africa) in another (Caribbean / Americas)
for profit of another (Europe)
- War of Knives: More about class than color.
- P. 43: Toussaint executed Moyse Oct. 25, 1801.
This alienated left wing of anti-white blacks.
- P. 45. Napoleon's admission that he erred in not dealing
with Toussaint and the blacks at Saint Domingue.
- P. 49. French dynamited Crete-a-Pierrot after taking it. Thus the present Crete-a-Pierrot is not what it was during the battle? I visited here with a group of students in 1989 and was astonished at how small it is.
- P. 54. Chilling account of yellow fever. Clinical.
- P. 60-64. Interesting story of Belaire whom Dessalines hated, captured and turned over to the French. He was shot.
- P. 66. 1st Pole -- General Jablonowski died of yellow fever. Sept. 29, 1802 in Jeremie. Only in Haiti a little over a month. He was part black! 32 years
old. Generals were young in those days!!!!
- P. 74. Most contemporaries of France knew Napoleon was Saint Domingue to rid himself of troublesome army units.
- P. 75. Jun 1802. 2,270 Poles arrived at OKap.
- P. 104-107 Recounting of a debate as to whether Poles participated in the massacre of 400 black French soldiers in St. Marc. Seems to be the ground of the popular belief that Poles were sympathetic to the Haitians.
- P. 108. After disastrous earthquake of 1770, Port-au- Prince was rebuilt in wood, not stone.
- P. 113. Fairly detailed story of Rochembeau's human-eating dogs.
- P. 119-120. Black rebel pirates using canoes took a French ship, killed the men, raped the women and threw them overboard. When captured some were taken to Leogane and were killed by mobs of women!
- P. 122. Dessaline's wife saved many whites' lives.
- P. 201. Given the war with Britain, Napoleon preferred an American presence in North America to a British one, and he knew Louisiana wasn't defensible. The
author's analysis of the Louisiana Purchase.
- P. 211. First mention of Poles remaining in Haiti. Part of the defenders of Jeremie.
- P. 213. Corbett's role as an agent!!!! Edward Corbett.
See his papers in Jamaica. Hey, a good genealogical excuse to go to Jamaica! He was a British spy!
- British declared war again on France in May 1803. They then aided the Haitian rebels a great deal, but also served as a useful out for the French, giving them someone to surrender to other than the Haitians.
- P. 242: Why the French defeat:
The author's argue this order:
- The rebels' determination and organization.
- Yellow fever.
- The renewed war with England.
- P 244. Authors claim that the only solvent government in Haitian history was Christophe's.
- P. 248. Strategic reason for Dessaline's murder of all the French in 1805:
- This would totally alienate the French and the Haitians.
- Would keep the country on a military footing.
Both contributed to reducing the chance of a French re-invasion.
- P. 249. British slavery: Stricter conditions than in Saint Domingue. British
halted slave trade in 1808 and slavery in 1833.
- (This book has more printing errors than any book I've ever read from a professional printing company.)
- Some Polish who made it to Cuba worked as privateers against the British
- Masonic order played a role in the revolution. One group of Poles were allowed to continue on from Jeremie to safety in Cuba because their commander shared a secret Masonic handshake with the British commander. In general many French and Haitian elite were Masons
- General Ferrand (French commander) set up in Santo Domingo in 1805. He used privateers to harass American traders with Haiti, claiming that it was illegal activity. The Americans responded with naval force to protect trade.
- Privateering ended by 1809 when France and Spain were at war and the French had to give up Santo Domingo.
- This book is mainly a retelling, shortening and organizing of one source, the handwritten book of Lux and Wierzbicki, which is actually a sort of memoir.
- Worthwhile secondary sources enrich (and correct) the Lux and Wierzbicki account, making this book even more valuable.
- P. 295.
The provision of the 1805 Haitian Constitution that prohibited whites from owning property made exceptions for:
- Poles, German (included Swiss) and foreign women who were married to Haitians.
- P. 296: Jan. 1806. "In January 1806, France and Spain convinced the America government to declare a trade embargo against Haiti."
Whoa! This is not the main line I normally hear. Is this so? Check it out.
- P. 297 ff. About Lux and Wierzbicki themselves.
- Poles in sum sent 5280 people. 4000 dead
- 400 remained in Haiti
- 700 returned to France
- 20 to U.S.
- Some in Cuba.
- Total loses for whole revolution (from Leclerc expedition only) total loss of Europeans: 50,271
total loses of Haitians : 80,000 approx.
- Haitians liked the Poles because:
- Poles mainly opposed the war (though they fought it out of a sense of duty)
- Poles sympathized with the Arawak/Taino Indians.
- Poles were not as racist as the French.
- Dessaline had a demibrigade called Les Polonais.
these were newly arrived Africans, so named because like the Poles, they spoke bad Creole.
- P. 309: Again: Freemasonry: widespread among Haitians.
- P. 310: "In Haiti it was (and still is) widely believed that Poles supported Dessalines in significant numbers, i.e. that entire units deserted together with their officers."
But, the authors claim that any white contribution to the revolution was insignificant. (This seems to me false of the British and American support!)
- Only 120 to 150 Poles joined the rebels.
- Of the 400 Poles who stayed in Haiti none had been officers. They mainly farmed. 160 got permission to leave in 1805.
- By 1900 only 50 families with Polish surnames were reported to live in Haiti. (But, surnames were changed because they were hard to pronounce.)
Where would Polish Haitians be today?
- La Vallee de Jacmel
- Fond des Blancs (La Baleine)
- Port Salut
- St. Jean du Sud
- P. 317. Short biography of Faustin Wirkus (Polish American on his mother's side.) He died in 1945.
- Affects of Polish experience in Saint Domingue on Poland:
- Undermined belief in France's good intentions toward Poles.
- Many believed Napoleon deliberately sacrificed Poles in Saint Domingue.
- Loss of 2/3 of army personnel was serious blow to Polish aspirations.