1790's Regional Hotspots
By Alice & Gerard Besson
When the British captured Trinidad in 1797 there where many battles for islands taking place in the Caribbean region. © Paria Publishing Company Limited 2000
The European wars for territories in the Caribbean reached a high point in the 1790s. The French Revolution of 1789 added a civil war to the equation. Revolt reigned in the islands, in St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, among the maroons - former slaves who had taken to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica’s central range -, and most violent of all, in Haiti.
There was heavy fighting in the Eastern Caribbean. British troops took Martinique in 1794. A month or two later, they landed in Guadeloupe. There, the British came up against Victor Hugues, leader of the French Revolution in the Caribbean. He had sailed from Marseilles, France, the year before.
His squadron attacked the British in 1795 in Basseterre and forced them out of Guadeloupe by the end of that year.
Victor Hugues set to work to drive the British out of these islands and to convert people to the cause of the revolution of republican France. Agents were sent to St. Vincent. Troops were sent in after the agents, and before long the English were hard pressed to keep Kingstown, while the French, made up of black and coloured troops, and the Caribs held the rest of the island.
Hugues dispatched his agents to Jamaica, where a full-fledged war was waged by the maroons, slaves who had freed themselves, and the British troops. They were so heavily engaged that no reinforcements could be sent to relieve General Maitland’s fever-stricken English soldiers in Haiti. By 1798, the English were compelled to leave Haiti, however in Jamaica, the black maroons had been crushed.
Victor Hugues then turned to Grenada, where there was tension between the English and the French. His agents promoted revolt in. A coloured Grenadian planter, Julien Fedon, was chosen as leader. A group of French and free blacks was formed, and revolutionary troops were sent in from Guadeloupe.
At midnight on the 2nd March 1795 Fedon surrounded the town of Grenville and engaged in English garrison. They soon overran the town killing all.
Fedon withdrew to his estate Belvedere, 2000 ft above sea level on the Mt. St. Catherine where he established three camps, named the ‘Field of Liberty’, the ‘Field of Equality’ and the ‘Field of Death’. The governor and his staff had been taken, and Fedon warned that any attempt to attack the island would mean their death.
Victor Hugues was attempting to destabilise Trinidad, and to demoralise the governor Don José Maria Chacon. He offered to send his men to ‘help’ the governor to ‘control’ the island. Chacon in Trinidad responded by sending a few Spanish soldiers to join the British in Grenada in their planned attack on Fedon’s mountain fortress.
Terrible rainstorms lashed Grenada on the day that Fedon’s encampment was attacked. The English commander inexplicably killed himself.
At the ‘Field of Death’ the hostages were executed. The governor’s wife and daughters, his aid and accompanying officers were all killed. Some 55 persons died. There were a few survivors, among them Dr. John Hay, Fr. McMahon and Mr. Kerr.
The British armed a contingent of 'loyal slaves', the ‘Corps of Lyal Black Rangers’, and pursued Fedon’s men while garrisoning St. Georges. In April, Sir Ralph Abercromby arrived in Grenada with troops and attacked the mountain stronghold. He defeated Fedon there, but not before another 20 hostages had met their deaths.
No one saw Fedon die. He was seen trying to sail away in a small boat and is said to have drowned. Thus ended the Battle Mt. Qua Qua.
Over 150 years later, in the latter part of the 20th century, Grenada again experienced revolution, overthrow and massacre of more than 100 citizens at the fort in St. Georges. Perhaps history repeats itself because of unresolved issues. It is said that people who do not know their HISTORY are doomed to repeat it.
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