A Plan to Put Down Slave Revolts using Native Americans

doguesThe notorious General Turreau submitted a plan to Napoleon, then First Consul, in 1801 which outlined how the former slaves in the colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) could be brought to heal. This was around the time that Toussaint Louverture and his army of liberated slaves were showing increasing signs of autonomy, and just Napoleon sent the expedition under General Leclerc to reconquer the French colony. Turreau advocated sending a large number of European troops to subdue the colony, but also suggested that these be supplemented with some rather deadly auxiliaries.

Turreau’s plan was creative, and his suggestion for who these auxiliaries might be is especially interesting. He wanted to use Native Americans to track down the blacks:

“A retired engineer, and an inhabitant of Saint-Domingue, has spent 18 months travelling through the Floridas and he has had the idea of asking, by means of the French interpreters attached to the tribes there, whether the savages would consent to fighting a war in Saint-Domingue. Those chiefs who were consulted thought that, from those tribes known to them, perhaps some 4000 or 5000 volunteers, all drawn from the best warriors, could be assembled. They would engage to destroy the black population of the island in six months if the following conditions could be met: that each warrior should be paid 26 sols a day and that the chiefs be paid according to their rank; that, in addition to their traditional weapons, they also be given, to keep, a musket and sabre; that a sum of 100 dollars be given to each man who survives the war and that they be transported back to their own lands once their services are no longer required.

This method, which is certainly more moral than employing hunting dogs against runaway slaves, as they do in Cuba, will spare the blood of our soldiers and is sure to lead to our success. Twelve or fifteen hundred savages, used carefully, would be extremely useful especially when the enemy is fleeing as they would pursue the fugitives and also help avoid being caught in ambushes. There would be no need to feed these men as they eat fruit, roots and vegetables. However, I do no think it wise to entrust the entire operation to these savages as it might be the case that they would seek to make themselves independent in the place of the blacks. The idea that these people are cannibals when they wage war truly terrifies the blacks. There exists a remorseless, almost inveterate, hatred between the American Indians and the blacks. We just do not have soldiers so cunning, so capable, so tireless or so brave, as these American savages.”

Cited in Nemours ‘Histoire militaire de la guerre d’independence de Saint-Domingue’, volume II.