|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2010)|
Charlemagne Masséna Péralte (1886 - 1 November 1919) was a Haitian nationalist leader who opposed the US Invasion of his country in 1915. Leading guerrilla fighters called the Cacos, he posed such a challenge to the US forces in Haiti that the occupying forces had to upgrade their presence in the country. Péralte remains a highly praised Haitian hero.
Born in 1886 in the central city of Hinche, Péralte was born into a family that had migrated from an area that is the present day Dominican Republic, (Péralte is a French version of the Spanish name Peralta). Péralte is revered on both sides of the island, in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic.
Name on birth certificate: François Borgia Charlemagne Peralte
Date of birth on birth certificate: 10 October 1885
His father was General Remi Massena Peralte.
Source for correction: 1885–1985, Un Centenaire; Charlemagne Peralte,, Georges Michel. Privately published in Port-au-Prince, 1989. Footnote, p. 19. Cites research of Roger Gaillard concerning birth and baptismal certificates in Premiere Ecrasement du Cacoism, Port-au-Prince:Le Natal, 1981. Also appears in Douglas Henry Daniels's English translation of Michel's book,Charlemagne Peralte and the First American Occupation. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing CO., 1996. #¶¥£
Refusing to surrender to foreign troops without fighting, Péralte resigned from his position and returned to his native town of Hinche to take care of his family's land. In 1917, he was arrested for assaulting the home of an American Officer of the occupation troops, and was sentenced to five years of forced labor. Escaping his captivity, Charlemagne Péralte gathered a group of nationalist rebels and started guerrilla warfare against the US troops.
The troops led by Péralte were called "Cacos", a name that harked back to rural troops that historically took part in the political turmoil of late 19th century Haiti. The guerrilla warriors of the Cacos were such strong adversaries that the United States upgraded the US Marine contingent in Haiti and even employed airplanes for counter-guerrilla warfare.
Death and aftermath
After two years of guerrilla warfare, leading Péralte to declare a provisional government in the north of Haiti, Charlemagne Péralte was betrayed by one of his officers, Jean-Baptiste Conzé, who led disguised US Marines Sergeant Herman H. Hanneken (later meritoriously promoted to Second Lieutenant for his exploits) and Corporal William Button into the rebels camp, near Grand-Rivière Du Nord.
Péralte was shot in the heart at close range and assassinated. His assassins then fled with his body during the skirmish and chaos that ensued.
In order to demoralize the Haitian population, the US troops took a picture of Charlemagne Péralte's body tied to a door, and distributed it in the country. The effect was the opposite. Betrayed and killed at the age of 33, Charlemagne Péralte took the dimension of a martyr for the Haitian nation.
Charlemagne Péralte remains were unearthed after the end of the US occupation in 1935. A national funeral, attended by the then-President of Haiti, Sténio Vincent, was held in Cap-Haïtien, where his grave can still be seen today.
A portrait of Charlemagne Péralte can now be seen on the Haitian coins issued by the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide after his 1994 return under the protection of US troops.
As a footnote, for their daring exploit, Corporal Button (1895–1921) and Sergeant Hanneken (1893–1986) were both awarded the Medal of Honor for killing the "supreme bandit of Haiti". Hanneken later served in World War II, notably at Guadalcanal and ended his career as a Brigadier General. In his late days, he constantly declined to comment on his exploits in Haiti, notably to Haitian journalist asking for interviews on the 100th anniversary of Péralte's birth, in 1986.
- France and the History of Haiti by Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Global Research, January 22, 2010