Battle of Vertières

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Battle of Vertières
Part of the Haitian Revolution
Date 18 November 1803
Location Haiti
Result Haitian victory
France France Flag of Haiti 1803.svg Haitian Rebels
Commanders and leaders
France Donatien de Rochambeau Flag of Haiti 1803.svg Jean-Jacques Dessalines
Flag of Haiti 1803.svg François Capois
2,000 men 27,000 men[1]
Casualties and losses
1,200 dead and wounded 1,200 dead
2,000 wounded
Battle of Vertières is located in Haiti
Battle of Vertières
Location within Haiti

The Battle of Vertières (in Haitian Creole Batay Vètyè) was the last major battle of the Second War of Haitian Independence, and the final part of the Haitian Revolution under Jean Jacques Dessalines. It was fought between Haitian slave populations and Napoleon's French expeditionary forces on 18 November 1803 to Saint Domingue to restore slavery for France. Vertières is situated just south of Cap-Haïtien (known then as Cap-Français), in the Départment du Nord, Haiti. By the end of October 1803, Haitian rebels slaves had already taken over all the territory from France. The only places left to France were Môle St. Nicolas, held by Noailles, and Cap-Français, where, with 5000 troops, Rochambeau was at bay.

Defeat of the French Army by the Haitian Army[edit]

After the deportation of Toussaint Louverture in 1802, one of Toussaint's principal lieutenants, Jean Jacques Dessalines, continued the fight for liberty because he remembered the declaration of Toussaint Louverture: “In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of black liberty in St. Domingue. It will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”

Dessalines defeated the French army numerous times before Vertières. During the night of 17–18 November 1803, the Haitians positioned their few guns to blast Fort Bréda, located on the habitation where Toussaint Louverture had worked as a coachman under François Capois. As the French trumpets sounded the alarm, Clervaux, a Haitian rebel, fired the first shot. Capois, mounted on a great horse, led his demibrigade forward despite storms of bullets from the forts on his left. The approach to Charrier ran up a long ravine under the guns of Vertières. French fire killed a number of soldiers in the Haitian column, but the soldiers closed ranks and clambered past their dead, singing. Capois' horse was shot, faltered and fell, tossing Capois off his saddle. Capois picked himself up, drew his sword; brandished it over his head and ran onward shouting: "Forward! Forward!" En avant.... en avant... He screamed. Mesmerized by his valiant courage, the French soldiers had a temporary cease of fire when they all applauded Capois.

Rochambeau was watching from the rampart of Vertières. As Capois charged forth, the French drums rolled a sudden cease-fire. Suddenly, the battle stood still. A French staff officer mounted his horse and rode toward the intrepid Capois-la-Mort (Capois-the Death). With a great voice he shouted: "General Rochambeau sends compliments to the general who has just covered himself with such glory!" Then he saluted the Haitian warriors, returned to his position, and the fight resumed.

General Dessalines sent his reserves under Gabart, the youngest of the general and Jean-Philippe Daut, Rochambeau’s guard of grenadiers formed for a final charge. But Gabart, Capois, and Clervaux, the last fighting with a French musket in hand and one epaulette shot away, repulsed the desperate counterattack.

A sudden downpour with thunder and lightning submerged the battlefield. Under cover of the storm, Rochambeau pulled back from Vertières, knowing he was defeated and that Saint-Domingue was lost to France.

Results of the Battle[edit]

By the next morning, the general Rochambeau sent Duveyrier, to negotiate with Dessalines. At the end of the day, the terms of the French surrender were settled. Rochambeau got ten days to embark the remainder of his army and leave Saint-Domingue. The wounded French soldiers were left behind under lock and key until they could be returned to France, but they were drowned a few days later.[2] This battle occurred less than two months before Dessalines' proclamation of the independent Republic of Haiti on 1 January 1804 and delivered the final blow to the French attempt to stop the Haitian Revolution and re-institute slavery, as had been the case in its other Caribbean possessions. [citation needed] November 18 has been widely celebrated since then as a Day of Victory in Haiti.


  1. ^ Jacques de Cauna, Haïti, l'éternelle révolution: histoire de sa décolonisation (1789-1804), p.177.
  2. ^ Jeremy D. Popkin (2012). A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-9820-2. Page 137.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 19°44′00″N 72°13′28″W / 19.7333°N 72.2244°W / 19.7333; -72.2244