Henri Christophe

There is this book: What makes Atlantic Creoles stand apart from related works, like Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker’s The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), is Landers’s focus on black militiamen. “These men,” she avers, “were eyewitnesses and participants in many of the most important military contests of their day. They had access to a wide range of political information, both printed and oral” (143). Here, I am reminded of Paul Gilroy’s powerful discussion in The Black Atlantic (1993) of the ship as a symbol and a micropolitical, microcultural unit in motion. Landers discusses the very lives that traverse the ocean and land. Black militiamen, as literal political units, played an integral role in the diaspora of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary ideas. The knowledge gained from travels and encounters made these men important nodal points in an intricate network of information. As Landers observes, these militiamen were known for their prowess. Their previous experiences often coalesced when units were mixed. In 1812, for example, various revolutionary experiences came together on the grounds of Spanish Florida. Landers writes, “On this one Atlantic frontier, men who had fought in the American Revolution, the Saint Domingue slave revolt, spin-offs of the French Revolution, spin-offs of the French Revolution, the Indian Wars, and Cuban slave uprisings were joined in one polyglot unit” (112).

Then there is the fact that Henri Christophe, future King of Haiti, apparently served as a
drummer boy, at the age of 12, in a regiment of free persons of color sent by the French
to support the American Revolution. The regiment fought at the Siege of Savannah, Georgia, in 1779 and suffered very heavy casualties. They were the Chasseurs Volontairs de Saint Domingue and they were the first Black regiment in the French Army – and this is just one more thing about Haiti that people do not know.

*

I do not quite understand what it is I have been doing in Louisiana all of this time, not
just jumping in and studying these things. I would have done great things and I would
be happy and famous by now.

Of course I dealing with these odd universities, with Reeducation, and I have been trying to follow the standard advice that people give so urgently. (You must stay in field, you must not deviate, you must economize, you must squeeze yourself, you must produce, you must limit; if you do not do exactly as we say, you will fall.) But the fact is that to have jumped in and studied these things was and is the actual answer.

I wonder whether I should start transforming my current book project, which is too broadly
conceived and which is difficult for that reason, in this direction which I had planned to take up next.

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