Page:Haiti- Her History and Her Detractors.djvu/163

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Dessalines Attacks Rochambeau at Cap


a reign of terror. The Captain-General did not spare even his own countrymen. The blood of a Frenchman was the last stain upon his hands. "In order to get money," says Gastonnet des Fosses,[1] "he ordered the inhabitants to contribute to a forced loan. Eight European merchants were taxed 30,000 francs each; one of them, Fédon, being unable to pay his share, was arrested and shot by the order of the Captain-General. This was in reality a murder. By his cruelties Rochambeau had incensed the inhabitants so that he could not now rely on their help."

Nevertheless, he was getting ready for an energetic defense. But his plans were frustrated by Dessalines's prompt action. The Commander-in-Chief of the army of the indigenes did not waste time in celebrating his victory. As soon as he was master of Port-au-Prince he began his preparations for the last and decisive struggle. After instructing his generals to centre their troops at Carrefour Limbé, Dessalines left Port-au-Prince on the 21st of October, 1803. When he reached the vicinity of Cap-Français he found himself at the head of an army of 20,000 men, well disciplined and inured to the hardships of war. The plan of attack was cleverly prepared and carried out. The approaches of Cap-Français were defended by forts established at Bréda, Champain, Pierre-Michel, and by Vertières Hill, where a blockhouse sheltered the French infantry.

Dessalines perceived at a glance the mistake made by Rochambeau in neglecting to occupy the important position of Charrier, which he at once instructed Capois to take possession of. This place could not be reached without facing the hostile fire of both the infantry and the artillery. On the morning of November 18 the columns moved forward, seemingly unmindful of the bullets and cannon shots which were mowing down their ranks. Rochambeau in person, surrounded by his guard of honor consisting of artillery and infantry, was in command at Vertières; he was, in consequence, exposed

  1. La perte d'une colonie, p. 344.