Page:Haiti- Her History and Her Detractors.djvu/148

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Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors

the dauntless spirit needed to inspire them and the strong hand capable of energetically delivering the decisive blows were still missing. Clervaux had followed Pétion; Christophe was about to join them. Still the combined gallantry of these brave soldiers did not suffice: it was the sword and the unfailing courage of Dessalines which were indispensable in the mighty task of freeing the island forever of the oppression of the French domination.

At the very outset Pétion's position demanded the display of much caution and tact. The followers of Petit Noel Prieur, against whom he had not long ago been fighting, assumed a threatening attitude; he had not only to appease them, but also to try and get them to set aside their grievances against Christophe. Giving them himself the example of conformity to discipline and abnegation, Pétion, who up to that time had held the rank of adjutant-general, yielded the command of the insurrection which he had provoked to Clervaux, who was a brigadier-general.

On the 15th of October, 1802, the native troops which had deserted France 's cause stormed Haut-du-Cap. There the French committed a crime so appalling that of itself it would have been sufficient to justify all the excesses of the natives. On learning of Pétion's defection Leclerc had immediately ordered 1,200 native soldiers to be disarmed and embarked on the men-of-war at that time in the harbor of Cap-Français. These unfortunate prisoners were massacred at the first news of the storming of Haut-du-Cap, their bodies being one after the other hurled into the sea. Twelve hundred victims at one stroke! Was not such a merciless act enough to fill the hearts of the men of their race with wrath! Nicolas Geffrard, who was in hiding at Cap-Français, availed himself of the confusion resulting from the fight at Haut-du-Cap to escape and join Pétion. The future leader of the war in the Southern province was thus on hand.

Whilst these occurrences were taking place in the vicinity of Cap-Français, Dessalines had been at work