JANUARY: In the political context of the unfolding French Revolution, les gens de couleur, the mulatto people of the colony, petition for full rights in Saint Domingue.

JULY 7: The French Assembly votes admission of six deputies from Saint Domingue. The colonial deputies begin to sense that it will no longer be possible to keep Saint Domingue out of the Revolution, as the conservatives had always designed.

JULY 14: Bastille Day. When news of the storming of the Bastille reaches Saint Domingue, conflict breaks out between the petit blancs (lower-class whites of colonial society) and the land- and slave-owning grand blancs. The former ally themselves with the Revolution, the latter with the French monarchy.

AUGUST 26: The Declaration of the Rights of Man causes utter panic among all colonists in France.

OCTOBER 5: The Paris mob brings King and Assembly to Paris from Versailles. The power of the radical minority becomes more apparent.

OCTOBER 14: A royal officer at Fort Dauphin in Saint Domingue reports unrest among the slaves in his district, who are responding to news of the Revolution leaking in. There follows an increase in nocturnal slave gatherings and in the activity of the slave-policing maréchaussée.

OCTOBER 22: Les Amis des Noirs (a group of French sympathizers with African slaves in the colonies) collaborate with the wealthy mulatto community of Paris, organized as the society of Colons Américains. Mulattoes claim Rights of Man before the French Assembly. Abbé Grégoire and others support them. Deputies from French commercial towns trading with the colony oppose them.

DECEMBER 3: The French National Assembly rejects the demands of mulattoes presented on October 22.


OCTOBER 28: The mulatto leader Ogé, who has reached Saint Domingue from Paris by way of England, aided by the British abolitionist society, raises a rebellion in the northern mountains near the border, with a force of three hundred men, assisted by another mulatto, Chavannes. Several days later an expedition from Le Cap defeats him, and he is taken prisoner along with other leaders inside Spanish territory. This rising is answered by parallel insurgencies in the west which are quickly put down. The ease of putting down the rebellion convinces the colonists that it is safe to pursue their internal dissensions. . . . Ogé and Chavannes are tortured to death in a public square at Le Cap.


APRIL: News of Ogé’s execution turns French national sentiments against the colonists. Ogé is made a hero in the theater, a martyr to liberty. Planters living in Paris are endangered, often attacked on the streets.

MAY 11: A passionate debate begins on the colonial question in the French Assembly.

MAY 15: The French Assembly grants full political rights to mulattoes born of free parents, in an amendment accepted as a compromise by the exhausted legislators.

MAY 16: Outraged over the May 15 decree, colonial deputies withdraw from the National Assembly.

JUNE 30: News of the May 15 decree reaches Le Cap. Although only four hundred mulattoes meet the description set forth in this legislation, the symbolism of the decree is inflammatory. Furthermore the documentation of the decree causes the colonists to fear that the mother country may not maintain slavery.

JULY 3: Blanchelande, governor of Saint Domingue. writes to warn the Minister of Marine that he has no power to enforce the May 15 decree. His letter tells of the presence of an English fleet and hints that factions of the colony may seek English intervention. The general colonial mood has swung completely toward secession at this point.

Throughout the north and the west, unrest among the slaves is observed. News of the French Revolution in some form or other is being circulated through the Vodou congregations. Small armed rebellions pop up in the west and are put down by the maréchaussée.

AUGUST 11: A slave rising at Limbé is put down by the maréchaussée.

AUGUST 14: A large meeting of slaves occurs at the Lenormand Plantaton at Morne Rouge on the edge of the Bois Cayman forest. A plan for a colony-wide insurrection is laid. The hûngan Boukman emerges as the major slave leader at this point. The meeting at Bois Cayman is a delegates convention attended by slaves from each plantation at Limbé, Port-Margot, Acul, Petite Anse, Limonade, Plaine du Nord, Quartier Morin, Morne Rouge and others. The presence of Toussaint Bréda is asserted by some accounts and denied by others.

In the following days, black prisoners taken after the Limbé uprising give news of the meeting at Bois Cayman, but will not reveal the name of any delegate even under torture.

AUGUST 22: The great slave rising in the north begins, led by Boukman and Jeannot. Whites are killed with all sorts of rape and atrocity; the standard of an infant impaled on a bayonet is raised. The entire Plaine du Nord is set on fire. By the account of the Englishman Edwards, the ruins were still smoking by September 26. The mulattoes of the plain also rise, under the leadership of Candy.

There follows a war of extermination with unconscionable cruelties on both sides. Le Cap is covered with scaffolds on which captured blacks are tortured. There are many executions on the wheel. During the first two months of the revolt, two thousand whites are killed, one hundred eighty sugar plantations, and nine hundred smaller operations (coffee, indigo, cotton) are burnt, with twelve hundred families dispossessed. Ten thousand rebel slaves are supposed to have been killed.

During the initial six weeks of the slave revolt, Toussaint remains at Bréda, keeping order among the slaves there and showing no sign of any connection to the slave revolt.

In mid-August, news of the general rebellion in Saint Domingue reaches France. Atrocities against whites produce a backlash of sympathy for the colonial conservatives, and the colonial faction begins to lobby for the repeal of the May 15 decree.

SEPTEMBER 24: The National Assembly in France reverses itself again and passes the Decree of September 24, which revokes mulatto rights and once again hands the question of the “status of persons” over to colonial assemblies. This decree is declared “an unalterable article of the French Constitution.”

Late in the month, the Englishman Edwards arrives in Le Cap with emergency supplies from Jamaica, and is received as a savior with cries of “Vivent les Anglais.” Edwards hears much of the colonists’ hopes that England will take over the government of the colony.

OCTOBER: By this time, expeditions are beginning to set out from Le Cap against the blacks, but illness kills as many as the enemy, so the rebel slaves gain ground. The hill country is dotted with both white and black camps, surrounded by hanged men, or skulls on palings. The countryside is constantly under dispute, with the rebels increasingly in the ascendancy.

In France this month, radicals in the French Assembly suggest that the slave insurrection is a trick organized by émigrés to create a royalist haven in Saint Domingue. The arrival of refugees from Saint Domingue in France over the next few months does little to change this position.

NOVEMBER: Early in the month, news of the decree of September 24 (repealing mulatto rights) arrives in Saint Domingue, confirming the suspicions of the mulattoes.

Toussaint arranges the departure of the family of Bayon de Libertat from Bréda, then rides to join the rebels, at Biassou’s camp on Grande Rivière. For the next few months he functions as the “general doctor” to the rebel slaves, carrying no other military rank, although he does organize special fortifications at Grand Boucan and La Tannerie. Jeannot, Jean-François and Biassou emerge as the principal leaders of the rebel slaves on the northern plain—all established in adjacent camps in the same area.

NOVEMBER 21: A massacre of mulattoes by petit blancs in Port-au-Prince begins over a referendum about the September 4 decree. Polling ends in a riot, followed by a battle. The mulatto troops are driven out, and part of the city is burned.

For the remainder of the fall, the mulattoes range around the western countryside, outdoing the slaves of the north in atrocity. They make white cockades from the ears of the slain, rip open pregnant women and force the husbands to eat the embryos, and throw infants to the hogs. In Port-au-Prince, the petit blancs are meanwhile conducting a version of the French Terror. The city remains under siege by the mulatto forces through December. As at Le Cap, the occupants answer the atrocities of the besiegers with their own, with the mob frequently breaking into the jails to murder mulatto prisoners.

In the south, a mulatto rising drives the whites into Les Cayes, but the whites of the Grande Anse are able to hold the peninsula, expel the mulattoes, arm their slaves and lead them against the mulattoes.

NOVEMBER 29: The first Civil Commission, consisting of Mirbeck, Roume, and Saint Léger, arrives at Le Cap to represent the French revolutionary government.

DECEMBER 10: Negotiations are opened with Jean-François and Biassou, principal slave leaders in the north, who write to the Commission a letter hoping for peace. The rebel leaders’ proposal only asks liberty for themselves and a couple of hundred followers, in exchange for which they promise to return the other rebels to slavery.

DECEMBER 21: An interview between the commissioners and Jean-François takes place at Saint Michel Plantation, on the plain a short distance from Le Cap.

Toussaint appears as an adviser of Jean-François during these negotiations, and represents the black leaders in subsequent unsuccessful meetings at Le Cap, following the release of white prisoners. But although the commissioners are delighted with the peace proposition, the colonists want to hold out for total submission. Invoking the September 14 decree, the colonists undercut the authority of the Commission with the rebels and negotiations are broken off.


MARCH 30: Mirbeck, despairing of the situation in Le Cap and fearing assassination, embarks for France, his fellow-commissioner Roume agreeing to follow three days later. But Roume gets news of a royalist counterrevolution brewing in Le Cap and decides to remain, hoping he can keep Blanchelande loyal to the Republic.

APRIL 4: In France occurs the signature of a new decree by the National Assembly which gives full rights of citizenship to mulattoes and free blacks, calls for new elections on that basis, and establishes a new three-man Commission to enforce the decree, with dictatorial powers and an army to back them.

APRIL 9: With the Department of the West reduced to anarchy again, Saint Léger escapes on a warship sailing to France.

MAY: War is declared between French and Spanish Saint Domingue.

MAY 11: News of the April 4 decree arrives in Saint Domingue. Given the nastiness of the race war and the atrocities committed against whites by mulatto leaders like Candy in the north and others in the south and west, this decree is considered an outrage by the whites. By this time, the whites (except on the Grande Anse) have all been crammed into the ports and have given up the interior of the country, for all practical purposes. The Colonial Assembly accepts the decree, having little choice for the moment, and no ability to resist the promised army. The mulattoes are delighted, and so is Roume.

AUGUST 10: Storming of the Tuileries by Jacobin-led mob, virtual deposition of the King, call for a Convention in France.

SEPTEMBER 18: Three new commissioners arrive at Le Cap to enforce the April 4 decree. Sonthonax, Polverel and Ailhaud are all Jacobins. Colonists immediately suspect a plan to emancipate the slaves (which may or may not have been a part of Sonthonax’s original program). The commissioners are accompanied by two thousand troops of the line and four thousand National Guards, under the command of General Desparbés. But the commissioners distrust the general and get on poorly with him because of their tendency to trespass on his authority. Soon the commissioners deport Blanchelande to France.

OCTOBER: In the aftermath of a conflict between his troops and the petit blanc Jacobins of Le Cap, General Desparbés is deported by the commissioners to France as a prisoner, along with many other royalist officers. This event virtually destroys the northern royalist faction.

OCTOBER 24: The Commission led by Sonthonax begins to fill official posts with mulattoes, now commonly called “citizens of April 4.” By this tendency Sonthonax begins alienating the petit blancs Jacobins of Le Cap by creating a bureaucracy of mulattoes at their expense. In the end, Sonthonax closes the Jacobin club and deports its leaders.

The Regiment Le Cap’s remaining officers refuse to accept the mulattoes Sonthonax has appointed to fill vacancies left by royalists who have either been arrested or had resigned.

DECEMBER: Young Colonel Etienne Laveaux mounts an attack on the rebel slaves at Grande Rivière. By this time, Toussaint has his own body of troops under his direct command, and has been using the skills of white prisoners and deserters to train them. He also has gathered some of the black officers who will be significant later in the slave revolution, including Dessalines, Moyse and Charles Belair.

Toussaint fights battles with Laveaux’s forces at Morne Pélé and La Tannerie, covering the retreat of the larger black force under Biassou and Jean-François, then retreats into the Cibao Mountains himself.

DECEMBER 1: Laveaux is sent to try to recall the disaffected Le Cap officers to the fold, but his efforts are ineffective.

DECEMBER 2: The Regiment Le Cap, without cartridges, meets the new mulatto companies on parade in the Champ de Mars. Fighting breaks out between the two halves of the regiment and the white mob. The mulattoes leave the town and capture the fortifications at the entrance to the plain, and the threat of an assault from the black rebels forces the whites of the town to capitulate.

In the aftermath, Sonthonax deports the Regiment Le Cap en masse and rules the town with mulatto troops. He sets up a revolutionary tribunal and redoubles his deportations.

DECEMBER 8: Sonthonax writes to the French Convention of the necessity of ameliorating the lot of the slaves in some way—as a logical consequence of the law of April 4.


JANUARY 21: Louis XVI is executed in France.

FEBRUARY: France goes to war against England and Spain.

Toussaint, Biassou and Jean-François formally join the Spanish forces at Saint Raphael. At this point Toussaint has six hundred men under his own control and reports directly to the Spanish general. He embarks on an invasion of French territory.

MARCH 8: News of the King’s execution reaches Le Cap.

MARCH 18: News of the war with England reaches Le Cap, further destabilizing the situation there.

APRIL: Blanchelande is executed in France by guillotine.

MAY: Early in the month, minor skirmishes begin along the Spanish border, as Toussaint, Jean-François and Biassou begin advancing into French territory.

MAY 7: Galbaud arrives at Le Cap as the new Governor-General, dispatched by the French National Convention, which sees that war with England and Spain endangers the colony and wants a strong military commander in place. Galbaud is supposed to obey the Commission in all political matters but to have absolute authority over the troops (the same instructions given Desparbés). Because Galbaud’s wife is a Creole, and he owns property in Saint Domingue, many colonists hope for support from him.

MAY 29: Sonthonax and Polverel, after unsatisfactory correspondence with Galbaud, write to announce their return to Le Cap.

JUNE 10: The commissioners reach Le Cap with the remains of the mulatto army used in operations around Port-au-Prince. Sonthonax declares Galbaud’s credentials invalid and puts him on shipboard for return to France. Sonthonax begins to pack the harbor for a massive deportation of political enemies. Conflicts develop between Sonthonax’s mulatto troops and the white civilians and three thousand-odd sailors in Le Cap.

JUNE 20–22: The sailors, drafting Galbaud to lead them, organize for an assault on the town. Galbaud lands with two thousand sailors. The regular troops of the garrison go over to him immediately, but the National Guards and the mulatto troops fight for Sonthonax and the Commission. A general riot breaks out, with the petit blancs of the town fighting for Galbaud and the mulattoes and town blacks fighting for the Commission. By the end of the first night of fighting, the Galbaud faction has driven the commissioners to the fortified lines at the entrance to the plain. But during the night, Sonthonax deals with the rebels on the plain, led by the blacks Pierrot and Macaya, offering them liberty and pillage in exchange for their support. During the next day the rebels sack the town and drive Galbaud’s forces back to the harbor forts by nightfall. The rebels burn the city. Galbaud empties the harbor and sails for Baltimore with ten thousand refugees in his fleet.

In aftermath of the burning of Le Cap, a great many French regular army officers desert to the Spanish. Toussaint recruits from these, and uses them as officers to train his bands.

AUGUST 29: Sonthonax proclaims emancipation of all the slaves of the north.

This same day, Toussaint issues a proclamation of his own from Camp Turel, assuming for the first time the name Louverture.

SEPTEMBER 3: Sonthonax writes to notify Polverel of his proclamation of emancipation. Polverel, though angry at this step having been taken without consultation among the commissioners, bows and makes similar proclamations in the south and west.

On the same day, the Confederation of the Grande Anse signs a treaty with the governor of Jamaica transferring allegiance to the British crown.

SEPTEMBER 19: The British invasion begins with the landing of nine hundred soldiers at Jérémie. The surrounding area goes over to the British, but the eastern districts and Les Cayes are still held by mulatto General Rigaud for the French Republic.

SEPTEMBER 22: Major O’Farrel, of the Irish Dillon regiment, turns over the fortress of Le Môle with a thousand men, including five hundred National Guards, to a single British ship. The peninsula goes over to the British as far as Port-au-Paix.

OCTOBER: A thousand more British soldiers land in the south, the mulattoes of the Artibonite revolt, and a new confederation of whites and mulattoes invites the English into the west. Similar events at Léogane mean that Polverel and Port-au-Prince are surrounded by the British invaders. From Le Cap, Sonthonax reacts by advising Polverel and Laveaux to burn the coast towns and retreat to the mountains, but they refuse.

OCTOBER 4: Laveaux, walled up with a small garrison at Port-de-Paix, is being encroached upon by the Spanish from the east and the English from Le Môle, with his forces crippled by illness and fewer than seven hundred men fit for service. He writes to complain to Sonthonax of insubordination of the black troops.

Laveaux has left Le Cap under command of the mulatto Villatte, who established control of the town after the rebels of the plain had exhausted the plain and left it. Le Cap becomes the mulatto center of the north during the next several months.

DECEMBER: At the end of the month, Sonthonax joins Polverel at Port-au-Prince. Toussaint, fighting for the Spanish, occupies central Haiti after a series of victories.


FEBRUARY 3: A delegation sent by Sonthonax, led by the black Bellay, is seated in the French Convention. Next day, the French Convention abolishes slavery, following an address from Bellay, in a vote without discussion.

FEBRUARY 9: Halaou, African-born leader of ten thousand maroons and newly freed slaves on the Cul-de-Sac plain, parleys with Sonthonax at Port-au-Prince.

MARCH: Halaou is assassinated by mulatto officers during a meeting with the mulatto General Beauvais. Leadership of Halaou’s men is assumed by Dieudonné.

Intrigue by Biassou and Jean-François weakens Toussaint’s credit with his Spanish superiors. Toussaint removes his wife and children from the Spanish to the French side of the island. Biassou lays an ambush for Toussaint en route to Camp Barade in the parish of Limbé. Toussaint escapes but his brother Jean-Pierre is killed.

MARCH 4: In France, Robespierre, chief of the French Terror, is arrested and subsequently executed.

APRIL: Toussaint, who now commands about four thousand troops, the best armed and disciplined black corps of the Spanish army, contacts Laveaux to open negotiations for changing sides.

MAY 6: Toussaint joins the French with his four thousand soldiers, first massacring the Spanish troops under his command. He conducts a lightning campaign through the mountains from Dondon to Gonaives, gaining control of the numerous posts he earlier established on behalf of the Spanish.

MAY 18: Toussaint writes to Laveaux, explaining the error of his alliance to the Spanish and announcing that he now controls Gonaives, Gros Morne, Ennery, Plaisance, Marmelade, Dondon, Acul and Limbé on behalf of the French Republic. The Cordon de l’Ouest, a military line exploiting the mountain range which divides the Northern and Western Departments of Saint Domingue, is under his command.

MAY 30: The British and their French colonial allies attack Port-au-Prince. A thousand whites under Baron de Montalembert come from the Grande Anse, twelve hundred confederates come from Léogane under Hanus de Jumécourt, and a fleet with fifteen hundred British troops attacks by sea. Commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel retreat to Rigaud’s position in the south.

After their victory, the English ranks are decimated by an outbreak of yellow fever, which kills seven hundred men during the next two months and leaves many more incapacitated.

JUNE: An offensive led by British Major Brisbane fails to break Toussaint’s Cordon de l’Ouest. Toussaint tries unsuccessfully to capture Brisbane through a ruse.

JUNE 9: Sonthonax and Polverel are served with a recall order from the French Convention; they sail to France to face charges derived from the many disasters which have taken place under their administration, including the sack and burning of Le Cap. Before his departure, Sonthonax gives his commissioner’s medal to the maroon leader Dieudonné and invests Dieudonné with his commissioner’s authority.

JULY 7: Jean-François, having lost various engagements with Toussaint’s force on the eastern end of the Cordon de l’Ouest, falls back on Fort Dauphin, where he massacres a thousand recently returned French colonists, with the apparent collusion of the Spanish garrison.

SEPTEMBER 6: Toussaint’s assault on the British at Saint Marc penetrates the town. He occupies Saint Marc for two days but is forced to retreat by a naval cannonade.

OCTOBER: Brisbane begins an offensive in the Artibonite Valley, disputing the natural boundary of the Artibonite River with Toussaint, supported by a Spanish offensive in the east. Toussaint uses guerrilla tactics against Brisbane, drives the Spanish auxiliaries from Saint Michel and Saint Raphael, and razes those two towns.

OCTOBER 5: Toussaint attacks Saint Marc again, capturing the outlying Fort Belair, and establishing a battery on Morne Diamant above the town. His fingers are crushed by a falling cannon. The British drive him from his new positions and he retreats to Gonaives.

NOVEMBER: Many of Toussaint’s junior officers (including Moyse, Dessalines, Christophe, and Maurepas) are formally promoted by Laveaux. Laveaux tours the Cordon de l’Ouest and reports that fifteen thousand cultivators have returned to work in this region under Toussaint’s control, and that many white colonists have returned to their properties in safety.

DECEMBER: Rigaud attacks the British at Port-au-Prince unsuccessfully, but succeeds in holding Léogane, the first important town to the south.

DECEMBER 27: Toussaint leads five columns to engage Spanish auxiliaries in the valley of Grande Rivière.


JANUARY: Toussaint drives Brisbane from the town of Petite Rivière and leads a successful cavalry charge against British artillery at Grande Saline. Mulatto officer Blanc Cassenave continues work on fortifications begun by the British at La Crête à Pierrot, a mountain above the town of Petite Rivière and the Artibonite River.

JANUARY 7: Toussaint reports to Laveaux the success of his operations in the region of Grande Rivière. Most of the Spanish force has been expelled from this northern territory.

FEBRUARY 6: Blanc Cassenave, arrested by Toussaint for a mutinous conspiracy with Le Cap commandant Villatte, dies in prison.

MARCH 2: Brisbane dies of a throat wound he suffered during an ambush. Toussaint besieges Saint Marc once again.

MARCH 25: Laveaux informs the French Convention that he has promoted Toussaint colonel and commander of the Cordon de l’Ouest.

JUNE: The Spanish try to purchase the loyalty of Toussaint’s troops at Dondon. Jean-François writes a contemptuous rejection of Laveaux’s attempt to convert him to Republican principles. Toussaint accuses Jean-François of slave trading.

Joseph Flaville, in a rebellion against Toussaint supposedly sponsored by Villatte, is defeated by Toussaint at Marmelade.

JULY 23: The French Convention names Laveaux Governor-General. Toussaint, Villatte, Rigaud and Beauvais are promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

AUGUST 6: Toussaint reports to Laveaux that he has gained control of the interior town of Mirebalais, and captured neighboring Las Cahobas from the Spanish.

AUGUST 22: In France, the Constitution establishing the Directoire as national governing body specifies that the colonies are integral parts of the French Republic and to be governed by the same laws.

AUGUST 31: Toussaint reports his defeat of a British assault on Mirebalais led by the white Creole Dessources.

SEPTEMBER 14: Toussaint reports to Laveaux an alliance made with Mamzel, leader of the Docko maroons, a large band in the Mirebalais area.

Later this month, the British regain Mirebalais, defeating Toussaint’s brother Paul Louverture, who was left in charge of the town.

OCTOBER 13: News of the Treaty of Basel reaches Saint Domingue. By this treaty, Spain cedes its portion of the island to France, deferring transfer “until the Republic should be in a position to defend its new territory from attack.” Jean-François retires to Spain. Most of his troops join Toussaint’s army.

OCTOBER 25: In France, after a lengthy trial, Sonthonax is formally cleared of all charges concerning his conduct in Saint Domingue.


JANUARY: Having moved the seat of government from Port-de-Paix to Le Cap, Laveaux finds his relationship with Villatte deteriorating and begins to suspect the latter of plotting for independence. The mulattoes of the north are roused to further insubordination by the activities of Pinchinat, sent to Le Cap from the south by Rigaud.

FEBRUARY 12: Toussaint sends a delegation to Dieudonné with a letter meant to persuade him to join the French Republican forces. Dieudonné is overthrown by his subordinate Laplume, who turns him over to Rigaud as a prisoner. Laplume brings Dieudonné’s men to join Toussaint.

MARCH 20: Villatte attempts a coup against Laveaux, who is imprisoned at Le Cap. Officers loyal to Toussaint engineer his release.

MARCH 27: Toussaint enters Le Cap with ten thousand men. Villatte and his remaining supporters flee the town.

MARCH 31: Laveaux, describing Toussaint as the “Black Spartacus” predicted by Raynal, installs him as Lieutenant-Governor of Saint Domingue. On the same day, Dieudonné dies a prisoner in Saint Louis du Sud, suffocated by a weight of chains.

MAY 11: Emissaries of the French Directoire arrive in Le Cap: the Third Commission, led by a politically rehabilitated Sonthonax and including the colored commissioner Raimond and whites Roume, Giraud and Leblanc. The new Commission brings thirty thousand muskets to arm the colonial troops, but only nine hundred European soldiers, under command of Generals Rochambeau and Desfourneaux.

MAY 19: The Third Commission proclaims that colonists absent from Saint Domingue and residing elsewhere than France itself are to be considered émigrés disloyal to the French Republic, their property subject to sequestration.

JUNE 30: Sonthonax proclaims it a crime to publicly state that the freedom of the blacks is not irrevocable or that one man can own another.

JULY 5: Toussaint’s elder sons, Placide and Isaac Louverture, embark for France on the French warship Wattigny.

JULY 18: Unable for want of European troops to take possession of the Spanish part of the island, Rochambeau is stripped of his rank and deported to France.

AUGUST 17: Toussaint writes to Laveaux concerning his wish that the latter stand for election as a delegate to the French legislature, representing the colony.

AUGUST 27: Emissaries sent by Sonthonax to Rigaud and other mulatto leaders of the south create such ill will that a riot breaks out in Les Cayes, in which many whites are killed. Rigaud parades Sonthonax’s proclamations through the streets of the town, tied to the tail of a donkey.

SEPTEMBER: Sonthonax and Laveaux are elected, among others, as representatives from Saint Domingue to the French legislature.

OCTOBER 6: Members of the Third Commission write to the Directoire about their concern over the single-minded personal loyalty shown by the black troops toward particular leaders, especially Toussaint.

OCTOBER 14: With further encouragement from Toussaint, Laveaux departs from Saint Domingue to assume his position in the French legislature.


MARCH: In France, royalists, reactionaries, and proslavery colonists make significant gains in new elections.

APRIL: Toussaint successfully recaptures Mirebalais and the surrounding area and uses the region as the base of an offensive against the British in Port-au-Prince. British General Simcoe defends the coast town successfully and attacks Mirebalais in force. Toussaint burns Mirebalais and makes a rapid drive toward Saint Marc, forcing Simcoe to retreat to defend the latter town. This campaign is the last British challenge to Toussaint’s control of the interior.

MAY 1: Sonthonax arrests General Desfourneaux, leaving Toussaint as the highest-ranking officer in the colony.

MAY 8: Sonthonax names Toussaint commander-in-chief of the French republican army in Saint Domingue.

MAY 20: The newly elected French legislature convenes, with the proslavery colonial point of view energetically represented by Vaublanc. AUGUST 20: Toussaint writes to Sonthonax, urging him to assume his elected post in the French legislature.

AUGUST 23: Sonthonax consents to depart, in his words “to avoid bloodshed.”

SEPTEMBER 4: In France, royalist and colonial elements are purged from the government; the Vaublanc faction loses its influence.

OCTOBER 21: Toussaint informs the French Directoire that, after successful negotiation with Rigaud, the Southern Department has been reunited with the rest of the colony.


MARCH 27: General Hédouville arrives from France as agent of the French Directoire to Saint Domingue. His orders include the deportation of Rigaud. He lands in Spanish Santo Domingo, to confer with Roume, a survivor of the Third Commission stationed in the Spanish town.

APRIL 23: British General Maitland begins to negotiate with Toussaint the terms for a British withdrawal.

MAY 2: A treaty is signed by Toussaint and Maitland. British will evacuate Port au Prince and their other western posts, in return for which Toussaint promises amnesty to all their partisans, a condition which violates French laws against the émigrés.

MAY 8: Hédouville arrives at Le Cap and summons both Toussaint and Rigaud to appear before him there.

MAY 15: Following the British evacuation, Toussaint and his army make a triumphal entry into Port-au-Prince.

JUNE: Following his first encounter with Hédouville, Toussaint indignantly refuses to obey the order to arrest Rigaud.

JULY: During interviews with Toussaint and Rigaud at Le Cap, Hédouville seeks to weaken the power of both generals by turning them against each other.

JULY 24: Hédouville proclaims that plantation workers must contract themselves for three-year periods, arousing suspicion that he plans to restore slavery.

AUGUST 31: Toussaint signs a secret agreement with Maitland, stipulating among other points that the British navy will leave the ports of Saint Domingue open to commercial shipping of all nations.

OCTOBER 1: Môle Saint Nicolas, the port of the northwest peninsula, is formally surrendered by Maitland to Toussaint. Following the transfer, Toussaint dismisses a number of his troops from the army and returns them to plantation work.

OCTOBER 16: Instigated by Moyse and Toussaint, the plantation workers of the north rise against Hédouville’s supposed intention to restore slavery.

OCTOBER 23: Under pressure from the rising in the north, Hédouville departs from Saint Domingue, leaving final instructions which release Rigaud from Toussaint’s authority. Commissioner Raimond, previously elected to the French legislature, accompanies Hédouville to France.

OCTOBER 31: Toussaint invites Roume to return from Spanish Santo Domingo to assume the duties of French agent in the colony.

NOVEMBER 15: Toussaint announces that plantation work will hence-forward be enforced by the military.


FEBRUARY 4: Roume brings Toussaint and Rigaud together at Port-au-Prince for a celebration of the abolition of slavery, hoping for a reconciliation between them. But Rigaud leaves the meeting in anger when asked to cede to Toussaint control of the posts he’d won from the British in the Western Department (Grand et Petit Goâve, Léogane).

FEBRUARY 21: In an address at the Port-au-Prince cathedral, Toussaint protests the insubordination of Rigaud and warns the mulatto community against rebellion.

JUNE 15: Rigaud makes public Hédouville’s letter releasing him from obedience to Toussaint.

JUNE 18: Rigaud opens rebellion against Toussaint; his troops seize Petit and Grand Goâve, driving Laplume back from this area.

In the following days, the mulatto commanders at Léogane, Pétion and Boyer defect to Rigaud’s party. Mulatto rebellions break out at Le Cap, Le Môle, and in the Artibonite. Toussaint rides rapidly from point to point to suppress them, placing Moyse and Dessalines in command at Léogane and Christophe in charge of Le Cap. At Pont d’Ester, members of his entourage are killed in a night ambush.

JULY 8: Toussaint dispatches an army of forty-five thousand men to the south to combat Rigaud and his supporters.

JULY 25: Toussaint breaks the siege of Port-de-Paix, where his officer Maurepas was under attack from the Rigaudins.

AUGUST 4: Fifty conspirators at Le Cap are executed after a failure to take over the town for the Rigaudins.

AUGUST 31: In the midst of suppressing rebellion on the northwest peninsula, Toussaint narrowly escapes assassination near Jean Rabel. Returning in the direction of Port-au-Prince, he is ambushed, again unsuccessfully, at Sources Puantes.

SEPTEMBER 23: Beauvais, mulatto commander of Jacmel, who had attempted to maintain neutrality in the Toussaint-Rigaud conflict, sails for Saint Thomas with his family.

NOVEMBER: Dessalines’s offensive retakes Petit and Grand Goâve from Rigaud.

NOVEMBER 9: In France, Napoleon Bonaparte assumes power as First Consul of the French Republic.

NOVEMBER 22: Jacmel, key to the defense of the southern peninsula, is besieged by Toussaint’s troops.

DECEMBER 13: In France, the new Constitution establishing the French Consulate states that the colonies will be governed by “special laws.”


JANUARY 18: Toussaint requests Roume’s permission to occupy Spanish Santo Domingo according to the terms of the Treaty of Basel, citing the urgency of stopping the slave trade which continued to some extent on Spanish territory. Roume denies the request.

JANUARY 19: Pétion assumes command of Jacmel, entering the besieged town by stealth.

MARCH 1: Pétion evacuates the women of Jacmel.

MARCH 11: Pétion leads the survivors of the siege on a desperate sortie from Jacmel and manages to rejoin Rigaud with the shreds of his force, abandoning Jacmel to Toussaint. Rigaud retreats onto the Grand Anse, leaving scorched earth behind him.

APRIL 27: Under pressure from Toussaint, Roume signs an order to take possession of the Spanish side of the island.

MAY 22: Agé, a white general loyal to Toussaint, arrives in Santo Domingo with a symbolic force and is resisted by the population.

JUNE: A new group of emissaries from the French Consulate debarks in Spanish Santo Domingo, including General Michel, Raimond, and Colonel Vincent (the latter a white officer close to Toussaint). Their instructions are to keep the two halves of the island separate and to bring the black/mulatto war to a close—while at the same time conciliating Toussaint. Both Michel and Vincent are arrested briefly by Toussaint’s troops, on their way into the French part of the island.

JUNE 16: Roume rescinds his order of April 27, 1800, in the face of Agé’s failure.

JUNE 24: Colonel Vincent meets with Toussaint for the first time since his arrival, and informs him of the Consulate’s intention to maintain him as General-in-Chief.

JULY 7: Rigaud is decisively defeated by Dessalines at Aquin—last of a series of lost battles.

AUGUST 1: Toussaint enters Les Cayes, Rigaud’s hometown and the last center of mulatto resistance. Rigaud flees to France by way of Guadeloupe. Toussaint proclaims a general amnesty for the mulatto combatants. But Dessalines, left in charge of the south, conducts extremely severe reprisals.

OCTOBER 12: Toussaint proclaims forced labor on the plantations, to be enforced by two captain-generals: Dessalines in the south and west and Moyse in the north.

NOVEMBER 4: French Minister of Marine Forfait instructs Toussaint not to take possession of the Spanish portion of the island.

NOVEMBER 26: Roume, blamed by Toussaint for Agé’s failed expedition to Santo Domingo, is arrested by Moyse and imprisoned at Dondon.


JANUARY: Toussaint sends two columns into Spanish Santo Domingo, one from Ouanaminthe under command of Moyse and the other from Mirebalais under his own command.

JANUARY 28: Toussaint enters Santo Domingo City, accepts the Spanish capitulation from Don García, and proclaims the abolition of slavery.

FEBRUARY 4: Toussaint organizes an assembly to create a constitution for Saint Domingue.

JULY 3: Toussaint proclaims the new constitution, whose terms make him governor for life.

JULY 16: Toussaint dispatches a reluctant Vincent to present his constitution to Napoleon Bonaparte and the Consulate in France.

OCTOBER 1: The Peace of Amiens ends the war between England and France. Napoleon begins to prepare an expedition, led by his brother-in-law General Leclerc, to restore white power in Saint Domingue.

OCTOBER 16: An insurrection against Toussaint’s forced labor policy begins on the northern plain and, in the coming weeks, is suppressed with extreme severity by Toussaint and Dessalines.

NOVEMBER 24: Moyse is executed at Port-de-Paix.

NOVEMBER 25: Toussaint proclaims a military dictatorship.


FEBRUARY: Leclerc’s invasion begins with a strength of approximately seventeen thousand troops. Toussaint, with approximately twenty thousand men under his command, orders the black generals to raze the coast towns and retreat into the interior, but because of either disloyalty or poor communications the order is not universally followed. Black General Christophe burns Le Cap to ashes for the second time in ten years, but the French occupy Port-au-Prince before Dessalines can destroy it.

In late February and March, the French forces pursuing Toussaint fight a number of drawn battles in the interior of the island, with heavy casualties on both sides.

APRIL 1: Leclerc writes to Napoleon that he has seven thousand active men and five thousand in hospital—meaning that another five thousand are dead. Leclerc also has seven thousand “colonial troops” of variable reliability, mulattoes but also a lot of black soldiery brought over by turncoat leaders.

APRIL 2: Leclerc subdues the northern plain and enters Le Cap.

Early this month, the black General Christophe goes over to the French with twelve hundred troops, on a promise of retaining his rank in French service. But Toussaint still holds the northern mountains with four thousand regular troops and a great number of irregulars. Leclerc writes to the Minister of Marine that he needs twenty-five thousand European troops to secure the island—that is, reinforcements of fourteen thousand.

MAY 1: Toussaint and Dessalines surrender on similar terms as Christophe. Leclerc’s position is still too weak for him to obey Napoleon’s order to deport the black leaders immediately. While Toussaint retires to Gonaives, with his two thousand life guards converting themselves to cultivators there, Dessalines remains on active duty. Leclerc frets that their submission may be feigned.

MAY: A severe yellow fever outbreak begins in Port-au-Prince and Le Cap in the middle of the month, causing many deaths among the French troops.

JUNE: By the first week of this month, Leclerc has lost three thousand men to fever. Both Le Cap and Port-au-Prince are plague zones, with corpses laid out in the barracks yards to be carried to lime pits outside the town.

JUNE 6: Leclerc notifies Napoleon that he has ordered Toussaint’s arrest. Lured away from Gonaives to a meeting with General Brunet, Toussaint is made prisoner.

JUNE 15: Toussaint, with his family, is deported for France aboard the ship Le Héros.

JUNE 11: Leclerc writes to the Minister of Marine that he suspects his army will die out from under him—citing his own illness (he had overcome a bout of malaria soon after his arrival), he asks for recall. This letter also contains the recommendation that Toussaint be imprisoned in the heart of inland France.

In the third week of June, Leclerc begins the tricky project of disarming the cultivators—under authority of the black generals who have submitted to him.

JUNE 22: Toussaint writes a letter of protest to Napoleon from his ship, which is now docked in Brest.

JULY 6: Leclerc writes to the Minister of Marine that he is losing one hundred sixty men per day. However, this same report states that he is effectively destroying the influence of the black generals.

News of the restoration of slavery in Guadeloupe arrives in Saint Domingue in the last days of the month. The north rises instantly, the west shortly afterward, and black soldiers begin to desert their generals.

AUGUST 6: Leclerc reports the continued prevalence of yellow fever, the failure to complete the disarmament, and the growth of rebellion. The major black generals have stayed in his camp, but the petty officers are deserting in droves and taking their troops with them.

AUGUST 24: Toussaint is imprisoned at the Fort de Joux, in France near the Swiss border.

AUGUST 25: Leclerc writes: “To have been rid of Toussaint is not enough; there are two thousand more leaders to get rid of as well.”

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER: In his cell at Fort de Joux, Toussaint composes a report of his conduct during Leclerc’s invasion, intended to justify himself to the First Consul, Bonaparte.

SEPTEMBER 13: The expected abatement of the yellow fever at the approach of the autumnal equinox fails to occur. The reinforcements arriving die as fast as they are put into the country, and Leclerc has to deploy them as soon as they get off the boat. Leclerc asks for ten thousand men to be immediately sent. He is losing territory in the interior and his black generals are beginning to waver, though he still is confident of his ability to manipulate them.

As of this date, a total of twenty-eight thousand men have been sent from France, and Leclerc estimates that ten thousand five hundred are still alive, but only forty-five hundred are fit for duty. Five thousand sailors have also died, bringing the total loss to twenty-nine thousand.

SEPTEMBER 15: General Caffarelli, agent of Napoleon Bonaparte, arrives at the Fort de Joux for the first of seven interrogations of Toussaint.

OCTOBER 7: Leclerc: “We must destroy all the mountain Negroes, men and women, sparing only children under twelve years of age. We must destroy half the Negroes of the plains, and not allow in the colony a single man who has ever worn an epaulette. Without these measures the colony will never be at peace. . . .”

OCTOBER 10: Mulatto General Clervaux revolts, with all his troops, upon the news of Napoleon’s restoration of the mulatto discriminations of the ancien régime. Le Cap had been mostly garrisoned by mulattoes.

OCTOBER 13: Christophe and the other black generals in the north join Clervaux’s rebellion. On this news, Dessalines raises revolt in the west.

NOVEMBER 2: Leclerc dies of yellow fever. Command is assumed by Rochambeau.

By the end of the month the fever finally begins to abate, and acclimated survivors, now immune, begin to return to service. In France, Napoleon has outfitted ten thousand reinforcements.


MARCH: At the beginning of the month, Rochambeau has eleven thousand troops and only four thousand in hospital, indicating that the worst of the disease threat has passed. He is ready to conduct a war of extermination against the blacks, and brings man-eating dogs from Cuba to replace his lost soldiery. He makes slow headway against Dessalines in March and April, while Napoleon plans to send thirty thousand reinforcements in two installments in the coming year.

APRIL 7: Toussaint Louverture dies a prisoner in Fort de Joux.

MAY 12: New declaration of war between England and France.

JUNE: By month’s end, Saint Domingue is completely blockaded by the English. With English aid, Dessalines smashes into the coast towns.

OCTOBER: Early in the month, Les Cayes falls to the blacks. At month’s end, so does Port-au-Prince.

NOVEMBER 10: Rochambeau flees Le Cap and surrenders to the English fleet.

NOVEMBER 28: The French are forced to evacuate their last garrison at Le Môle. Dessalines promises protection to all whites who choose to remain, following Toussaint’s earlier policy. During the first year of his rule he will continue encouraging white planters to return and manage their property, and many who trusted Toussaint will do so.

DECEMBER 31: Declaration of Haitian independence.


OCTOBER: Dessalines, having overcome all rivals, crowns himself emperor. A term of his constitution defines all citizens of Haiti as nèg (blacks) and all noncitizens of Haiti as blanc (whites)—regardless of skin color in both cases.


JANUARY: Dessalines begins the massacre of all the whites (according to the redefinition in the Constitution of 1804) remaining in Haiti.

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