Dominican War of Independence

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Dominican War of Independence
Schooner "Separación Dominicana" during the Battle of Tortuguero, by Adolfo García Obregón.
Date 1844–1856
Location Dominican Republic

Dominican victory

  • Expulsion of Haitian government
  • Dominican Independence
Dominican Republic  Haiti
Commanders and leaders
Pedro Santana
Antonio Duvergé
Felipe Alfau
Juan B. Cambiaso
Juan B. Maggiolo
Juan Acosta
Manuel Mota
José Mª. Cabral
José Mª. Imbert
J. J. Puello
Pedro E. Pelletier
Haiti Charles Hérard
HaitiJean-Louis Pierrot
Haiti Faustin Soulouque
Haiti Pierre Paul
Haiti Auguste Brouard
Haiti Gen. Souffrand
Haiti Gen. St.-Louis
Haiti Jean Francois

The Dominican Independence War gave the Dominican Republic autonomy from Haiti on February 27, 1844. Before the war, the island of Hispaniola had been united under the Haitian government for a period of 22 years when the newly independent nation, then known as the Republic of Spanish Haiti, was invaded by Haiti in 1822. Previously known as the Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, the criollo class within the country overthrew the Spanish crown in 1821 before unifying with Haiti a year later.

After organizing an independent State in February, 1844, the Dominicans were unceasingly harassing the Haitian troops along the borders.[1] Dominican boats were also making depredations on Haiti's coasts.[1] Their flotilla went as far as Dame-Marie, which they plundered and set on fire.[1]

Emperor Faustin Soulouque of Haiti ordered an invasion of the Dominican Republic in December 1855, which was repulsed at the Battle of Sabana Larga on 24 January 1856. After this campaign Great Britain and France interfered and obtained an armistice on behalf of the Dominicans.[1]


At the beginning of the 1800s, the colony of Santo Domingo, which had once been the headquarters of Spanish power in the New World was in its worst decline. Spain during this time was embroiled in the Peninsular War in Europe, and other various wars to maintain control of the Americas. With Spain's resources spread among its global interest, Santo Domingo became neglected. This period is referred to as the España Boba era.

The population of the Spanish colony stood at approximately 80,000 with the vast majority being European descendants and free people of color. Santo Domingo's plantation economy never truly flourished, because of this the black slave population had been significantly lower than that of the neighboring Saint-Domingue, which was nearing a million slaves before the Haitian Revolution.

First Independence[edit]

José Núñez de Cáceres.

During this period in time the Spanish crown wielded little to no influence in the colony of Santo Domingo. Some wealthy cattle ranchers had become leaders, and sought to bring control and order in the southeast of the colony where the "law of machete" ruled the land. On November 9, 1821 the former Captain general in charge of the colony, José Núñez de Cáceres, influenced by all the Revolutions that were going on around him, finally decided to overthrow the Spanish government and declared independence from Spanish rule, this would usher in an Ephemeral Independence, as the nation would be united with Haiti shortly after.

Unification of Hispaniola (1822-1844)[edit]

Jean-Pierre Boyer, the mulatto ruler of Haiti

A group of Dominican politicians and military officers[who?] had expressed interest in uniting the entire island, while they sought for political stability and support under Haiti, which at the time was still seen as having a great deal of wealth and power.[citation needed] Haiti had been by far the richest colony in the western hemisphere and was known as the Pearl of the Antilles.

Haiti's president, Jean-Pierre Boyer, conducted the third military campaign of the Dominican, this one was met with resistance, partly due to the previous invasion experiences, and because of Haiti's overpowering military strength at the time. The population of Haiti had a ratio of 8:1 compared to the Dominican population of 1822.

On February 9, 1822, Boyer formally entered the capital city, Santo Domingo, where he was met and received by Núñez who handed to him the keys of the Palace. Boyer then proclaimed: "I have not come into this city as a conqueror but by the will of its inhabitants". The island was thus united from "Cape Tiburon to Cape Samana in possession of one government."

Eventually the Haitian government became extremely unpopular throughout the country. The Dominican population grew increasingly impatient with Haiti's poor management and perceived incompetence, and the heavy taxation that was imposed on their side. The country was hit with a severe economic crisis after having been forced to pay a huge indemnity to France. A debt was accrued by Haiti in order to pay for their own independence from the European nation; this would give rise to many anti-Haitian plots.


An assembly of the Trinitarios.

In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte, an educated nationalist, founded a resistance movement called La Trinitaria ("The Trinity") along with Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez. It was so named because its original nine members had organized themselves into cells of three. The cells went on to recruit as separate organizations, maintaining strict secrecy, with little or no direct contact among themselves, in order to minimize the possibility of detection by the Haitian authorities. Many recruits quickly came to the group, but it was discovered and forced to change its name to La Filantrópica ("The Philanthropic"), and continued agitating against the Haitians.

In 1843 the revolution made a breakthrough: they worked with a liberal Haitian party that overthrew President Jean-Pierre Boyer. However, the Trinitarios work in the overthrow gained the attention of Boyer's replacement, Charles Rivière-Hérard. Rivière-Hérard imprisoned some Trinitarios and forced Duarte to leave the island. While gone, Duarte searched for support in Colombia and Venezuela, but was unsuccessful.

In December 1843 the rebels told Duarte to return since they had to act quickly because they were afraid the Haitians had learned of their insurrection plans. When Duarte had not returned by February, because of illness, the rebels decided to take action anyway with the leadership of Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Ramón Matías Mella, and by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo who commanded a private army of peons who worked on his estates.

War of Independence[edit]

On February 27, 1844, thereafter celebrated as Dominican Independence Day, the rebels seized the Ozama Fortress in the capital. The Haitian garrison, taken by surprise and apparently betrayed by at least one of its sentries, retreated in disarray. Within two days, all Haitian officials had left Santo Domingo. Mella headed the provisional governing junta of the new Dominican Republic. On March 14, Duarte finally returned after recovering from his illness and was greeted in celebration.

On March 13, 1844 an invasion plan led by Haitian Commander Charles Rivière-Hérard consisted of sending three legions of Haitian soldiers which totaled 20,000. The first, led by Jean-Louis Pierrot, would go to the north and attack Puerto Plata and Santiago de los Caballeros. The second, led by the president himself, sought to conquer San Juan de la Maguana and Azua de Compostela.

The third and final ambush, led by General Agustin Souffront, would attack Neiba. Herard's aim was to divide the Dominican forces. They would first attack Neiba and later Hérard and Pierrot would unite to attack Azua. The Dominicans, whilst being heavily outnumbered, had strongly fortified a number of strategic points in the country with soldiers. This first major clash known Battle of Fuente del Rodeo saw the defeat of the Haitian forces.

For years, Dominican nationalists continued to defend the Republic against all the Haitian attacks, defeating them in the battles of March 19, March 30, El Memiso, and at Puerto Tortuguero.[2] In early July 1844, Duarte was urged by his followers to take the title of President of the Republic. Duarte agreed, but only if free elections were arranged. However, Santana's forces took Santo Domingo on July 12, 1844, and they declared Santana ruler of the Dominican Republic. Santana then put Mella, Duarte, and Sánchez in jail.

On November 6, 1844 a constituent assembly drafted a constitution, based on the United States model, which established separation of powers and legislative checks on the executive. However, Santana included in it Article 210, which granted him unlimited power during the current war against Haiti. The war continued throughout September. and in November 1845 the Haitians were defeated at Estrelleta and Beler.[2] Santana remained as President until 1848, when he lost the election, only to seize power by a coup d'état the year after, when the Haitian President Faustin Soulouque attacked and was defeated at El Número and at Las Carreras.[2]

In November 1849, a small naval campaign was undertaken in which Dominican government schooners captured Anse-à-Pitres and one or two other villages on the southern coast of Haiti, which were sacked and burned by the Dominicans. Soulouque launched a new invasion in November 1855. However, Dominican forces decisively defeated the Haitians in a number of engagements and forced them back across the border by January 1856.[3]

Battles Date Result
Battle of Fuente del Rodeo March 13, 1844 Dominican victory
Battle of Cabeza de Las Marías March 18, 1844 Haitian victory
Battle of Azua March 19, 1844 Dominican victory
Battle of Santiago March 30, 1844 Dominican victory
Battle of El Memiso April 13, 1844 Dominican victory
Battle of Tortuguero April 15, 1844 Dominican victory
Battle of Cachimán June 17, 1845 Dominican victory
Battle of Estrelleta September 17, 1845 Dominican victory
Battle of Beler November 27, 1845 Dominican victory
Battle of El Número April 19, 1849 Dominican victory
Battle of Las Carreras April 21, 1849 Dominican victory
Battle of Santomé December 22, 1855 Dominican victory
Battle of Cambronal December 22, 1855 Dominican victory
Battle of Sabana Larga January 24, 1856 Dominican victory
Battle of Jácuba January 24, 1856 Dominican victory


  1. ^ a b c d Léger, Jacques Nicolas (1907). Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors. The Neale Publishing Company. 
  2. ^ a b c Imperial Wars 1815–1914. 
  3. ^ Haitian-Dominican Counterpoint.