Charlemagne Péralte

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Portrait of Charlemagne Péralte

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.[1]:213 Péralte remains a highly praised Haitian hero.

Early life[edit]

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[citation needed], (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. #¶¥£

Guerrilla resistance[edit]

An officer by career, Charlemagne Péralte was the military chief of the city of Léogane when the US Marines invaded Haiti in July 1915. (See United States occupation of Haiti (1915–1934))

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 a botched raid on the Hinche gendarmerie payroll, and was sentenced to five years of forced labor.[1]:212 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.[1]:213

Death and aftermath[edit]

Péralte waged an effective guerrilla war against the US occupiers and succeeded in establishing a provisional government in the north of the country in 1917. But he was betrayed and murdered by one of his generals. The US marines wished to make an example of Péralte by taking a photograph of his body tied to a door for distribution throughout the country.

Centre for Research on Globalization [2]
The body of Charlemagne Péralte

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.[1]:215-217

Péralte was shot in the heart at close range.[1]:217 Hanneken and his men then fled with Peralte's body strapped onto a mule.[1]:218

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.[1]:218 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.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Musicant, I, The Banana Wars, 1990, New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., ISBN 0025882104
  2. ^ France and the History of Haiti by Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Global Research, January 22, 2010