Dominican War of Independence

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Dominican War of Independence
Dominican Republic War of Independence.jpg

Dominican victory

  • Expulsion of Haitians
  • Dominican independence

Separation of the Santo Domingo territory from Haiti

  • Establishment of the First Republic
  • Dominican control of the larger east side of Hispaniola
Dominican Republic Republic of Haiti (1844–1849)
Second Empire of Haiti (1854–1856)
Commanders and leaders

Juan Pablo Duarte
Francisco del Rosario Sánchez
Matías Ramón Mella
Pedro Santana
Antonio Duvergé
Felipe Alfau

Juan B. Cambiaso
Juan B. Maggiolo
Juan Acosta
Manuel Mota
José Mª. Cabral
Lucas Peña
José Mª. Imbert
J. J. Puello
Pedro E. Pelletier
Haiti Charles Hérard
Haiti Jean-Louis Pierrot
Haiti Faustin Soulouque
Haiti Vicent Jean Degales 
Haiti Pierre Paul
Haiti Auguste Brouard
Haiti Gen. Souffrand
Haiti Gen. St.-Louis
Haiti Jean Francois
Haiti Gen. Seraphin 
Haiti Gen. Garat 
Antoine Pierrot 
Pierre Rivere Garat 
  • Volunteers: 15,000
  • Regular army: 40,000+
Casualties and losses
  • Less than 20 dead (1844–1845)
3,000+ dead, thousands wounded (1844–1845)
The exact number of casualties is unknown;
however, Haiti is estimated to have lost three times more troops than Dominican Republic[1]

The Dominican War of Independence made the Dominican Republic a sovereign state on February 27, 1844. Before the war, the island of Hispaniola had been united for 22 years when the newly independent nation, previously known as the Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, was unified with the Republic of Haiti in 1822. The criollo class within the country overthrew the Spanish crown in 1821 before unifying with Haiti a year later.

After the struggles that were made by Dominican patriots to free the country from Haitian control, they had to withstand and fight against a series of incursions that served to consolidate their independence (1844–56). Haitian soldiers would make incessant attacks to try to gain back control of the nation, but these efforts were to no avail, as the Dominicans would go on to win every battle.


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. For most of its history, Santo Domingo had an economy based on mining and cattle ranching. The Spanish colony's plantation economy never truly flourished because Spanish law prevented masters to brutally exploit their slaves in contrast to their French counterparts who were free to (mis)treat them as they wish, and the enslaved population had been historically significantly lower than that of the neighboring Saint-Domingue, which was nearing a million slaves before the Haitian Revolution.

Ephemeral 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, promised his full protection and support to the frontier governors, and thus he ceremoniously entered the country with around 10,000 soldiers in February 1822, after most of the cities and towns proclaimed their allegiance to the Republic of Haiti between November 1821 and January 1822, including Puerto Plata (December 13, 1821) and Santiago (December 29, 1821). On February 9, 1822, Boyer formally entered the capital city, Santo Domingo, where he was met with enthusiasm and received by Núñez who offered to him the keys of the Palace. Boyer rejected the offer, while saying: "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.[citation needed]


An assembly of the Trinitarios

In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte, an educated nationalist, founded a resistance movement called La Trinitaria ("The Trinity") along with Ramón Matías 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"). The Trinitarios won the loyalty of two Dominican-manned Haitian regiments.[2]

In 1843, the revolution made a breakthrough: they worked with a liberal Haitian party that overthrew President Jean-Pierre Boyer. However, the Trinitarios'[3] 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. Upon returning to Haiti, Hérard, a mulatto, faced a rebellion by blacks in Port-au-Prince. The two regiments of Dominicans were among those used by Hérard to suppress the uprising.[2]

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 Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo who commanded a private army of peons who worked on his estates.

On February 27, 1844, some 100 Dominicans seized the fortress of Puerta del Conde in the city of Santo Domingo, and the following day the Haitian garrison surrendered.[2] As these Haitian troops withdrew to the west side of the island, they pillaged and burned.[2] Ramón Mella headed the provisional governing junta of the new Dominican Republic. On March 14, Juan Pablo Duarte finally returned after recovering from his illness and was greeted in celebration.

War of Independence[edit]

Haitian Commander, Charles Rivière-Hérard, sent three columns totaling 30,000 men to try and stop the Dominican uprising.[4]

The Battle of Fuente del Rodeo was the first major armed encounter against Haiti in the war. It was fought on March 13, 1844 in the southwest province of Bahoruco. A force of Dominican troops, a portion of the Army of the South, led by General Fernando Taveras, defeated an outnumbering force of the Haitian Army led by Charles Rivière-Hérard. The Dominicans fought with stones, knives, machetes, lances, clubs and rifles.[5][6] The Battle of Cabeza de Las Marías was fought between March 13 and March 18, 1844, in the southwest region near Azua de Compostela, Azua Province. Dominican troops led by General Manuel de Regla Mota, forced 10,000 troops of the Haitian Army to flee to Azua. A day later the Battle of Azua was fought on March 19 1844, at Azua de Compostela, Azua Province. A force of some 2,200 Dominican troops led by General Pedro Santana and General Antonio Duvergé defeated the outnumbering force of 10,000 troops of the Haitian Army led by General Souffrand.[7][page needed]

Meanwhile in northern region the Battle of Santiago was fought on March 30, 1844, at Santiago de los Caballeros, Santiago Province. Although outnumbered, Dominican troops, part of the Army of The North and led by General José María Imbert, defeated Haitian Army troops led by General Jean-Louis Pierrot.[7][page needed]

Schooner "Separación Dominicana" during the Battle of Tortuguero

At sea, the Dominican schooners Maria Chica (3 guns), commanded by Juan Bautista Maggiolo, and the Separación Dominicana (5 guns), commanded by Juan Bautista Cambiaso, defeated a Haitian brigantine Pandora (unk. guns) plus schooners Le signifie (unk. guns) and La Mouche (unk. guns) off Tortuguero on April 15.[2]

On June 17, 1845, the Dominicans, under the command of General Antonio Duvergé, invaded Haiti in retaliation for Haitian border raids. The invaders captured two towns on the Plateau du Centre and established a bastion at Cachimán.[4] Haitian President Jean-Louis Pierrot quickly mobilized his army and counterattacked on July 22, driving the invaders from Cachimán and back across the frontier.[1] On August 6, Pierrot ordered his army to invade the Dominican Republic. On September 17, 1845 the Dominicans defeated the Haitian vanguard near the frontier at Estrelleta where the Dominican "square" repulsed, with the use of bayonets, a Haitian cavalry charge.[2] On September 27, 1845, Dominican Gen. Francisco Antonio Salcedo defeated a Haitian army at the battle of "Beler," a frontier fortification.[2] Salcedo was supported by Adm. Juan Bautista Cambiaso's squadron of three schooners, which blockaded the Haitian port of Cap-Haïtien.[7][page needed] Among the dead were three Haitian generals. On October 28, other Haitians armies attacked the frontier fort "El Invencible" and were repulsed after five hours of hard fighting.[2][1] In a significant naval action between the Hispaniolan rivals, a Dominican squadron captured 3 small Haitian warships and 149 seamen off Puerto Plata on December 21.[1]

Battle of Las Carreras (April 21, 1849)

On March 9, 1849, President Faustin Soulouque of Haiti led 18,000 troops in an invasion of the Dominican Republic. Dominican General (and presidential contender) Santana raised 400 soldiers and, with the help of several gunboats, routed the Haitian invaders at the Battle of Las Carreras on April 21–22. The battle opened with a cannon barrage and devolved into hand-to-hand combat.[2] Three Haitian generals were killed. As the remnants of the Haitian army retreated along the southern coastal road, they were under fire from a small Dominican squadron.[2]

[At the first encounter] ... a division of negro troops of Faustin ran, and their commander, Gen. Garat, was killed. The main body, eighteen thousand troops, under the Emperor, encountered four hundred Dominicans with a field piece, and notwithstanding the disparity of force, the latter charged and caused the Haytiens to flee in every direction ... Faustin came very near falling into the enemy's hands. They were once within a few feet of him, and he was only saved by Thirlonge and other officers of his staff, several of whom lost their lives. The Dominicans pursued the retreating Haytiens some miles until they were checked and driven back by the Garde Nationale of Port-au-Prince, commanded by Robert Gateau, the auctioneer.[8]

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.[9] The Dominicans also captured Dame-Marie, which they plundered and set on fire.[10]

By late 1854 the Hispaniolan nations were at war again. On November, 2 Dominican ships captured a Haitian warship and bombarded two Haitian ports.[1] In November 1855, Soulouque, having proclaimed himself Emperor Faustin I of a Haitian empire which he hoped to expand to include the Dominican Republic, invaded his neighbor again, this time with a ravaging and looting army of 30,000 men marching in three columns.[1] But again the Dominicans proved to be superior soldiers, defeating Soulouque's army, which vastly outnumbered them.[11]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Clodfelter 2017, p. 302.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Scheina 2003.
  3. ^ The members of La Trinitaria.
  4. ^ a b Clodfelter 2017, p. 301.
  5. ^ Caamaño Grullón, Claudio (2007). Caamaño: Guerra Civil 1965. Tomo I. Mediabyte, pp. 10. ISBN 9789945130461.
  6. ^ Romero, Santo (2008). Raíces étnico-culturales y divisiones territoriales de nuestra isla. Búho. ISBN 9789945162530.
  7. ^ a b c Showalter 2013.
  8. ^ Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 28, 1856.
  9. ^ Schoenrich 1918.
  10. ^ Léger 1907, p. 202.
  11. ^ It was the last Haitian invasion, but Haiti did not formally recognize the independence of the Dominican Republic until 1874.


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