Happy 4th of July, America!
Today, in 1776, America signed its Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. July 4th, also known as “Independence Day”, “Fourth of July” or sometimes just “The Fourth”, is a holiday most Americans know quite a bit about. What isn’t as well known, however, is how Haitian soldiers helped American troops in their fight for that hard-won independence.
First, a brief history of the American Revolution: In 1775, Great Britain, after a decade of lax imperial enforcement and supervision, began to exert greater control over its thirteen original North American colonies. This caused tension within the colonies towards the British monarchy, and these rapidly mounting tensions ultimately led to the rebellion for independence that we celebrate today. Known as the American Revolutionary War, this rebellion lasted until 1783, resulting in victory for the Americans and the official recognition of the United States of America as its own free nation.
One of the many battles that occurred during this period is known as the “Siege of Savannah”. On October 9th, 1779, a group of over five hundred French, American and Haitian soldiers in Savannah, Georgia launched an attack on the occupying British forces. The attack failed and the British army pursued and laid siege to the retreating American soldiers, resulting in numerous casualties and lives lost. It was only due to the bravery and fast action of the Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue, a reserve unit of Haitian infantrymen, that many more were saved. These brave Haitian soldiers rushed to cover the flanks of the fleeing American soldiers allowing them to retreat to safety.
One of these Haitian infantrymen was a young boy named Henri Christophe. The name may sound familiar, as he later became a leader in the struggle for Haitian Independence. Christophe also went on to become King of Haiti, the world’s first independent black republic and the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere.
A memorial depicting Christophe and other Haitian American soldiers, named and unnamed, stands in Savannah, Georgia today. It is one of only a small handful of monuments dedicated to this heroic event. Precious little is known about these troops, as much of the documentation about them and the battle sadly ended up burning in a fire during the 1830s. During the last decade, as more and more Americans learn of this important part of their history, a call for a larger show of remembrance for this event has been rightfully made.
America, please take a moment today, while you celebrate and watch those fireworks sparkle across the night sky, to remember these unsung heroes of your independence.
Have a happy Fourth of July.
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Marleen is a Haitian Creole translator and Language Advocate. After completing her Graduate Studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), she decided to launch Creole Solutions to focus on her mission to promote Haitian language and culture. She worked for the Consulate General of Haiti in Chicago and the United Nations Environment Program in Haiti.
Marleen se yon tradiktris k ap travay pou defann dwa lang. Apre li te fini ak etid siperyè li nan Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), Marleen te deside lanse Creole Solutions pou konsantre sou misyon li pou voye lang ak kilti lakay monte. Avan sa li te travay pou Konsila Jeneral Ayiti nan Chikago ak Pwogram Nasyonzini pou Anviwònman an Ayiti.