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The first of March, 1803 seemed a delightful time to be in Cap-Français, the capital and commercial center of Saint-Domingue (present-day Cap-Haïtien and Haiti, respectively). The stifling rainy season had not yet descended and the air was still balmy and healthy. But Saint-Domingue was in the grips of war: one year earlier, a 20,000-strong expedition sent by First Consul of France Napoléon Bonaparte had come to oust Governor Toussaint Louverture from office and restore direct French rule. French troops had managed to capture and exile Louverture, but plantation laborers, convinced that Bonaparte intended to restore slavery, had launched a massive revolt that had yet to be subdued. As of March 1803, the French expeditionary army, led by Donatien de Rochambeau after the death of its first commander Victoire Leclerc, only controlled the main ports and adjacent coastal plains in the northern and western provinces of Saint-Domingue. A general uprising had recently racked the southern province; only eastern Saint-Domingue (the present-day Dominican Republic) remained quiescent. [Figure 1]

Figure 1: French Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Map by Philippe Girard.

From 1801 to 1809, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) was also under French occupation.


March 1803 was also the time when the Napoléon cast anchor in Cap-Français. Arriving from Cuba, she brought 40,000 gourdes in cash, 25 horses, and 100 dogs destined to become the main actors in one of the most notorious episodes of the Haitian War of Independence. [1][1] The dogs’ imminent departure from Cuba was mentioned... The Cuban dogs were similar to the Santo Domingo breed, which a contemporary witness judged to be “at least equal to the largest Scottish or Russian greyhound... with the head shaped like the wirehaired terrier.... The look and motions of this animal at once told consciousness of superiority.” [2][2] Charles Hamilton Smith, Natural History of Dogs; Canidae... [Figure 2]

Figure 2: Charles Hamilton Smith, Natural History of Dogs; Canidae or Genus Canis of Authors; Including also the Genera Hyaena and Proteles vol. 2 (Edinburgh: W. H. Lizars, 1840), 307.

The dog described here was purchased near Sámana Bay, employed in Saint-Domingue, then taken to Jamaica after the French evacuation.


An enthusiastic crowd lined the streets to celebrate the dogs’ arrival. [3][3] On the whole of this episode, see Lacroix, “Mémoire... People threw flowers on their path and decorated them with cockades and ribbons. Rochambeau decided that the dogs’ aggressiveness should be put to the test. The dogs were put on starvation rations while a wooden arena was hastily built (probably in the garden of Les Religieuses, a former convent and Catholic school) [Figure 3]. [4][4] The execution took place in Les Religieuses according...

Figure 3: Phelipeau, “Plan de la ville du Cap François et de ses environs dans l’isle St. Domingue” (1786), Article 14/3, Service Historique de la Défense – Département de la Marine, Vincennes, France.

The March 1803 demonstration probably took place in the convent of Les Religieuses at the center of the map. The former government house (to the right of the Place d’Armes) and the Charrier plantation in Haut du Cap (left of this map, not pictured) are also mentioned as possible locations (see note 4). Later, executions took place in the gardens of the new government house (to the right of Les Religieuses). North is to the right on this map.


On an appointed day, a rambunctious crowd gathered to witness what promised to be a unique and ghastly spectacle. The scene is known to us through the French sailor Jean-Baptiste Lemonnier-Delafosse, the French general Pamphile Lacroix, and the mixed-race officer Juste Chanlatte, all of whom apparently witnessed it in person, and the nineteenth-century historians Thomas Madiou and Beaubrun Ardouin, who collected oral histories from Haitian veterans. A black prisoner was dragged into the arena and tied to a pole (according to Lacroix, Madiou and Ardouin, he was the servant of Rochambeau’s chief of staff Pierre Boyer). Teams of dogs next made their entry. Though maddened by hunger and the public’s clamor, they could not understand what was expected of them and stood motionless around their foe. It took some prodding by their drivers – and, according to Ardouin and Madiou, Boyer cutting open the victim’s stomach – before the dogs warmed up to the scent of blood. Then, suddenly, in a whirl of red dust, they devoured their hapless prey to the roar of the crowd and the blare of military music. The execution had lasted but a few minutes. Their appetite for vengeance satiated, the spectators then retired to their domicile, while the dogs, having proven their ferociousness, were prepped for their first mission: a counterinsurgency operation in the nearby island of La Tortue (Tortuga).


The use of man-eating and -hunting dogs may come as a surprise in a Napoleonic campaign; such barbaric methods seem more appropriate for the decadent games of Ancient Rome than for the era of liberté and fraternité. But the March 1803 execution is well documented and consistent with an expedition marked by numerous atrocities ranging from mass drowning to burning at the stake. The basic facts are not in question, but three important issues remain open-ended: responsibility (who decided to buy the dogs?); motive (why resort to dogs?); and effectiveness (did the dogs fulfill the mission imparted to them?). To these questions, the existing historiography offers a clear set of answers. Rochambeau is to blame; the use of dogs reflected the irrational brutality of French officers such as Rochambeau and Boyer; and the dogs were an important psychological tool as the French army fought to subdue Dominguan rebels. [5][5] On Rochambeau’s responsibility and motives, see Cressé,...


One should be wary of this standard response, however. Histories of the Haitian Revolution invariably mention the man-eating episode, which is too striking a scene to omit, but none ever studies it at length. Books typically recycle passages in Madiou and Ardouin’s 1847 and 1853 histories, which are occasionally inaccurate (though available in published form, the accounts by Lemonnier-Delafosse and Chanlatte are rarely cited, as is the case with Lacroix’s handwritten memoir). These works vividly flesh out the execution scene of March 1803 but say relatively little of the more general context in which the dogs were bought and employed. To find information on these important facets of the story, one needs to comb archival deposits scattered between France, England, Cuba, and the United States, particularly the French military and diplomatic dispatches housed at the Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes and the Archives Nationales in Paris.


These largely untapped sources paint a rather different, though still horrific, picture of the dogs’ historical role. They show that, contrary to what is commonly asserted, Rochambeau had little to do with the decision to purchase the dogs. The idea originated with his predecessor Leclerc, who enjoys a comparatively flattering reputation among historians, and with the French envoy to Cuba Louis de Noailles, who purchased the dogs largely on his own. Far from being the irrational act of a handful of sadistic madmen, the resolution to resort to man-hunting dogs was primarily a military decision intended to revive the fortunes of the French army by providing troops with the means to locate their opponents in Saint-Domingue’s difficult terrain and by scaring rebels into submission (on a more personal level, Noailles seems to have abused the situation to enrich himself). Finally, despite the prominent place it occupies in the historiography, the French army’s fearsome new weapon proved to be a dud. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, French military accounts concluded that the dogs’ performance in combat was disappointing and that the rebels were too committed to their cause to be frightened by man-eating dogs. If anything, the use of dogs proved counterproductive as it pushed hesitant officers of color into the rebel camp.


Since the military significance of Rochambeau’s war dogs was so limited, one may wonder why they loom so large in the historiography. Only by approaching the question through the prism of historical memory can one explain this seeming contradiction. The episode, by connecting the Haitians’ plight to that of Tainos three hundred years before and by underlining the de-humanization inherent in Europe’s colonial project, provided proponents of Haitian independence with a powerful rallying cry for centuries to come, or what Pierre Nora might call a “lieu de mémoire” (memory site) for the new republic.

I) The decision-makers


The most detailed and influential account of the decision-making process that led to the employment of dogs in Saint-Domingue is to be found in Beaubrun Ardouin’s Etudes sur l’histoire d’Haïti, in which he asserted that Donatien de Rochambeau had sent Louis de Noailles to Cuba in the fall of 1802 with the stated mission of purchasing war dogs. [6][6] Ardouin, Études vol. 5, p. 340. See also Denis Laurent-Ropa,... Assigning the decision to Rochambeau seems consistent with the general profile of a man who was otherwise cruel, depraved, and reactionary, but it is historically inaccurate since the decision originated with Rochambeau’s predecessor as captain-general of Saint-Domingue, Napoléon Bonaparte’s brother-in-law Victoire Leclerc.


Leclerc was not acting on any orders from Paris. As part of the contingency planning that had preceded the Saint-Domingue expedition, a French general had suggested that French columns should be seconded by Native American scouts from Florida, whose use would “undoubtedly be less immoral than employing dogs to destroy maroon blacks, as is done in Cuba.” [7][7] [Louis Marie] Turreau, “Plan pour la conquête de Saint-Domingue”... Bonaparte’s official orders to Leclerc eschewed the topic of dogs altogether and asked him to unseat Louverture by conventional amphibious operations or, preferably, negotiation and ruse. [8][8] Napoléon Bonaparte, “Notes pour servir aux instructions... In 1803, after hearing of the cruel and unusual punishments employed by the French army in Saint-Domingue, the minister of the navy Denis Decrès insisted that deporting the rebels to Corsica, not “rigorous punishments,” was the only acceptable punishment per Bonaparte’s standing orders. [9][9] Denis Decrès to Rochambeau (12 March 1803), CC9/B22,...


Leclerc made no mention of dogs before his departure from France. Maybe he developed the idea during the long Atlantic crossing in December 1801-February 1802, when the French-born bourgeois, who had no prior knowledge of Caribbean mores, first had the opportunity to acquaint himself with the history of Saint-Domingue. Leclerc brought with him an extensive library and may have been introduced to Bartolome de Las Casas and Guillaume Raynal, who had related in their classic histories of the Caribbean how Spanish conquistadors had employed dogs against the indigenous Tainos during their conquest of Hispaniola. [10][10] On Victoire Leclerc’s library, see “Procès verbal d’énumération...


After Leclerc reached Saint-Domingue, a local planter informed him that man-hunting dogs were still in use in Cuba (Leclerc may have learned of this through other channels as well, since the fact was well known in the colony). [11][11] Gambart to Leclerc (27 March 1802), Box 3/162, Rochambeau... There were other recent precedents. During their war against the Blue Mountain maroons in nearby Jamaica, the British had employed Cuban bloodhounds, which had proved less effective than hoped. [12][12] Roger Norman Buckley, ed., The Haitian Journal of... Meanwhile, after invading parts of Saint-Domingue in 1793-1798, the British had contacted the governor of Cuba to purchase 200 dogs to help them flush out rebels from their mountain strongholds (the governor had refused to part with the dogs, which were used to catch slave runaways in Cuba). [13][13] Adam Williamson to [Don Juan Nepomuceno de Quintana]... Other historical examples of the use of combat dogs abound, going back to Ancient Times (as mentioned in Pliny’s Natural History), but contemporary documents made no mention of them. [14][14] John Bostock and Henry T. Riley, The Natural History...


It was in February 1802, shortly after landing in the colony, that Leclerc sent the civilian administrator François Lequoy-Mongiraud to Cuba with orders to borrow money and purchase 500 dogs. The latter point must have been of importance to Leclerc, because a few weeks later he reminded Lequoy-Mongiraud of this delicate aspect of his mission after the envoy failed to report any progress on the matter. [15][15] “I have not lost track of the 500 dogs you requested.... Lequoy-Mongiraud, who seemed quite reluctant to associate his name with this dastardly business, had still not sent the 500 dogs by November 1802, when Leclerc abruptly died of yellow fever. The delays in obtaining the dogs must have frustrated Leclerc, who faced a variety of setbacks on all fronts and was on the verge of a mental breakdown by the end of his life. But they salvaged his reputation since historians remain largely unaware to this day of his role in the controversial episode.


As part of a multi-pronged diplomatic offensive in the troubled weeks that followed Leclerc’s death, his successor Rochambeau sent Louis de Noailles on a diplomatic mission to Jamaica, Cuba, and the United States in December 1802. Noailles’ main task was to shore up the army’s shaky finances by borrowing vast sums of money. Noailles was also expected to report on Jamaica’s military potential, convince Cuba to contribute 1,000 troops, spy on Spanish defenses in Havana, and perform a myriad other tasks; but Rochambeau’s detailed orders, contrary to Ardouin’s claim, said nothing of purchasing dogs. [16][16] Daure and Rochambeau, “Instructions pour le général... The omission is consistent with Rochambeau’s strategy for victory, as outlined to Decrès around the same time: to await reinforcements from France, with which he would “destroy or deport” black soldiers and plantation laborers in three successive military campaigns. [17][17] Rochambeau to Decrès (7 Dec. 1802), CC9B/19, AN. Rochambeau’s correspondence with the governor of Cuba also failed to mention the dogs, focusing instead on the French army’s dire need for money and food. [18][18] Rochambeau to Marques de Someruelos (21 May 1803),...


After a quick stop in Jamaica around Christmastime, Noailles headed for Havana, where he spent the bulk of the winter and spring of 1802-1803 (he never reached the United States). [19][19]  Some sources indicate that Noailles stayed in Jamaica... In the first of many long and detailed reports, he indicated that he had made some progress on the financial side, but that the governor, the marquis of Someruelos, had categorically rejected his request for troops. Noailles, who also noted derisively that Spanish troops “never maneuvered” and used “Gothic tactics,” did not push the issue any further. He did, however, point out that Leclerc, in his time, had petitioned Cuban authorities for war dogs. The idea caught Noailles’ eye. Even though his orders said nothing of buying dogs and he found it “very hard to obtain the dogs and convince their drivers,” he immediately busied himself with fulfilling Leclerc’s old wish. “From what I could gather we would need at least 400 dogs in the colony. The English used 300 in their expedition, but they only fought in a single spot.” Soon, he explained, he would gather enough dogs to ship some aboard the Napoléon (100 dogs), Courrier (50 dogs), and Supérieure (50 dogs), along with horses and money. [20][20] Noailles to Rochambeau (30 Dec. 1802), 416AP/1, AN


Rochambeau’s cash-strapped treasury could not shoulder the cost of purchasing the dogs, which, according to Ardouin, came to the fantastic sum of 927,000 francs. [21][21] Ardouin, Etudes vol. 5, p. 341. One source says the... Noailles thus pressed Someruelos for additional financial assistance, cleverly arguing that if the French lost Saint-Domingue the slave revolt would promptly spread to Cuba and destroy that colony as well. By February, Someruelos agreed to loan 160,000 gourdes and allowed Noailles to export 400 dogs and their drivers, along with 300 horses. [22][22] Noailles to Someruelos (10 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN The Cuban colonial government, which throughout the expedition advanced the funds needed to repair French ships in Havana’s arsenal and for the daily expenses of French envoys like Noailles, fronted the money for the purchase of the dogs and horses.


Cuba’s generous line of credit proved insufficient to the French army in Saint-Domingue, which received almost no funds from Paris and faced a dire financial crisis. In addition to borrowing vast sums from Havana (and other Spanish outposts like Veracruz, Caracas, and Cartagena), French envoys thus looked eagerly for commercial opportunities. [23][23] On Veracruz, see Lanchamp, “Instructions pour suivre... In Havana, some envoys sold the food they had brought on their ships, along with black servants and prisoners from Saint-Domingue, a breach of Spanish mercantilist trade restrictions and, more ominously, a serious threat to the stability of the Cuban slave system. [24][24] Noailles to Rochambeau (18 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN;... Angered by this contraband trade and concerned by Saint-Domingue’s financial problems, Someruelos sent an envoy to Saint-Domingue in March to “express the just complaint about the fact that cunning negroes have been sold furtively or brought in ships of war or ships of the state” and demand that the French stop borrowing money. [25][25] Someruelos, “Instrucción que se da al Sr. D. Francisco... Meanwhile, he reminded Noailles to reimburse him for the cost of the dogs’ purchase. [26][26] Someruelos to Noailles (21 Apr. 1803), 416AP/1, AN But the expedition’s financial situation was such that the French were in no position to pay back their debts. Instead, Bonaparte – horrified by the vast sums borrowed in France’s name by the expedition’s envoys – declared all letters of exchange issued in Saint-Domingue null and void and the Cuban loans were never paid back. [27][27] “The secretary of the treasury will send to Saint-Domingue... The Cuban colonial treasury thus effectively (though unwittingly) bore the costs of purchasing the dogs in the expedition.


By February 1803, Noailles proudly reported that a first shipment of 100 dogs was ready to depart. These were the dogs of the Napoléon, which caused such a stir when they landed in Cap-Français around 1 March. [28][28] Noailles to Daure (23 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN. Rochambeau, who had drafted no reply upon hearing of the dogs’ purchase, never reprimanded Noailles for his initiative and thus tacitly approved his decision. But the matter must have been of secondary importance to him because his correspondence from the period focused primarily on obtaining the vital trifecta of cash (from Spanish colonies), troops (from France), and food (from the United States). Since the dogs were already in Saint-Domingue, however, Rochambeau must have concluded that there was a novel experiment worth seeing to its conclusion.

II) The Rationale


Thomas Madiou and Beaubrun Ardouin’s accounts, in an effort to portray the use of man-eating dogs as the product of Donatien de Rochambeau’s deranged, vicious mind, specify that more merciful French generals like Michel Claparède, Bertrand Clauzel, and Pierre Thouvenot disagreed with his policies and refused to attend the March 1803 execution in protest. [29][29] Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, p. 411; Ardouin,... All three were indeed liberal figures who would later become involved in a failed conspiracy to overthrow Rochambeau. [30][30] Thouvenot to Rochambeau (15 Sept. 1803), B7/10, SH... But documents indicate that they were not fundamentally opposed to the use of dogs, at least in a combat role, and that they employed dog squads during military operations in March. [31][31] Jacques Boyé to Bertrand Clauzel (7 March 1803), no.... They were not alone in that regard. The military assistance that dogs could provide the embattled French army, more than the occasional gruesome spectacle they could offer, was the primary rationale for the use of dogs.


The context in which the dogs were purchased says a lot about their intended use. Despite receiving a total of 43,000 troops from France in 1802-1803, the expedition faced an acute shortage of combatants caused by continuous fighting and a yellow fever epidemic that decimated the army in the summer of 1802. As of March 1803, Rochambeau plaintively explained to the minister of the navy that his army stood at a mere 11,600 troops (plus 4,100 in hospitals) and that he had yet to endure the losses of a second summer’s deadly fevers. [32][32] Rochambeau to Decrès (29 March 1803), CC9A/33, AN. In one of many similar letters, he asked that 30,000 additional reinforcements be sent over the next few months. [33][33] Daure and Rochambeau, “Extrait des instructions données…... But he must have known that such large numbers (amounting to ten percent of the overall strength of the French army) were unlikely given the sacrifices the French government had already made.


Until the fall of 1802, the expedition had supplemented its sickly contingents of European troops with colonial units of black and mixed-race soldiers, who as long-time inhabitants of the colony were largely immune to yellow fever. But persistent rumors that Napoléon Bonaparte intended to restore slavery in Saint-Domingue, compounded by summary executions of any person of color suspected of abetting the rebels, had pushed the bulk of the colonial army in the North and West into open rebellion by October 1802. To make matters worse, rumors reached the colony in March that war with England might soon renew, which if confirmed would prevent future shipments of troops from France. [34][34] Rochambeau to [Noailles] (13 March 1803), B7/9, SH...


The troop shortage partly explains why Rochambeau agreed to employ war dogs. “The number of soldiers was diminishing considerably, and the physical strength of Europeans was weakening prodigiously,” he later explained. “So it was thought that one could remedy these problems by importing dogs from Cuba, which the Spanish and the English had used in previous wars in the New World.” [35][35] Rochambeau, “Précis des opérations de l’expédition...


More importantly, the dogs were meant to play an important tactical role in a war of skirmishes and ambushes that a later age would dub a “guerrilla” (contemporary Frenchmen spoke of a war of ambushes or an Arab war in reference to the campaign of Egypt). For the dominant military power in such a conflict, the primary difficulty is not to destroy the enemy but to locate it in the first place. Making the best use of Saint-Domingue’s fractured terrain, the rebels pounced on unsuspecting French garrisons and plantations, burned what they could, and then withdrew to their mountainous strongholds when pressed. Chasing them into the woods was usually pointless, as the rebels knew the terrain well and disappeared at will. It could also prove dangerous, for the ponderous French columns were particularly vulnerable in the wooded interior. [36][36] Pierre Boyer to Decrès (10 March 1803), CC9A/34, A...


As early as August 1802, General Pierre Boyer had identified the counterinsurgency tactics most likely to be effective against such an elusive enemy. The French, he explained, should employ small groups of 100 men and encircle an area before attacking it. “What we need to do is essentially a hunt, using trackers to penetrate the forest while exits and ridges are occupied by spotters.” [37][37] Boyer to Jean-Baptiste Brunet (23 Aug. 1802), B7/6,... Boyer’s description of the “hunt” impressed his immediate superior, who used the same choice of words as he passed on his recommendations to headquarters. [38][38] Brunet to Leclerc (26 Aug. 180]), 135AP/6, AN.


The main difficulty in implementing Boyer’s tactics was to find troops agile enough to detect and trap rebels in the mountains. [39][39] Rochambeau to Decrès (14 March 1803), CC9A/33, AN. Bonaparte had sent an overabundance of demi-brigades de ligne (heavy infantry divisions), when demi-brigades légères (light infantry division) would have been better suited to the terrain. [40][40] Jean-Baptiste Guillemain de Vaivres, “Extrait d’un... Later reinforcements included two large Polish demi-brigades of the line, whose troops, taken aback by the heat and hills of Caribbean warfare, were singularly slow. [41][41] Leclerc to Bonaparte (16 Sept. 1802), in Roussier,... For scouting and tracking, the French thus preferred to resort to people of color, who were more at ease in the difficult terrain (before the war, it had been common practice to use black servants in lieu of dogs when hunting). [42][42] On black servants used for hunting, see Michel-Étienne... But the loss of many allies of color in the fall and winter of 1802-1803 left Rochambeau with a dire shortage of the light troops needed to put into effect Boyer’s counterinsurgency tactics.


That dogs could fill that void was the primary rationale for their use. “These dogs can catch up with a Negro even if they are unleashed two days after he escaped,” Louis de Noailles wrote admiringly. [43][43] Noailles to Daure (12 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN. Thouvenot (one of the generals inaccurately listed by Madiou and Ardouin as opposed to the use of dogs) was also enthused by their military potential. The dogs “are the most efficient way to avoid ambushes and pursue the rebels as they flee,” he wrote. “Without them, the Negroes would always escape.” [44][44] Thouvenot to Hugues-Bernard Maret (8 March 1803), B7/20,... A comprehensive plan drafted by Thouvenot in March 1803 specified that the expedition should build blockhouses to defend coastal ports with minimal garrisons, gather available troops in a few spots for concentrated attacks, and use 400 dogs “to hunt the Negroes in the hills and the woods” as the French went on the offensive. [45][45] Thouvenot, “Plan de campagne” (6 March 1803), B7/9,...


Psychological tools aimed at swaying the civilian population have their role to play in combating an insurgency, and some officers hoped that in addition to their tactical contributions the dogs could make a decisive impression on the population of color. This battle for the “hearts and minds” of black Dominguians had initially involved efforts to portray the French side in a positive light by denying that they intended to restore slavery. But as the expedition progressed “psy-ops” became mostly negative in nature: to use punishments that were so horrible that they would scare any person tempted to join the rebel side.


Bonaparte’s instructions to Leclerc had called for the comparatively mild method of deportation. But as the insurgency grew in the summer and fall of 1802 the French switched to firing squads, then hanging, then mass drowning, each time hoping that ramping up violence would discourage the rebels. [46][46] Thouvenot to Capt. Roi (7 Sept. 1802), B7/20, SHD-... Rochambeau went a step further as he revived pre-revolutionary tortures such as burning at the stake, but the rebels, displaying incredible fortitude, still refused to be cowed. [47][47] On the rebels’ fortitude, see Leclerc to Bonaparte... Using combat dogs was the French side’s last attempt to instill fear in the mind of their formidable enemy. “The dogs will so terrorize the rebels, that without any hope of escaping they will surrender to us at will,” wishfully explained Thouvenot. [48][48] Thouvenot to Lespinasse (8 March 1803), B7/20, SHD...


Filling up gaps in French ranks, tracking rebels in a forested, mountainous environment, and intimidating one’s foes: such were the main reasons for using combat dogs in Saint-Domingue. Individual barbarism may explain events like the March 1803 execution, but support for the use of dogs was not restricted to deranged sadists (Thouvenot, for one, apologetically confessed that using dogs “may seem inhuman at first” but was sadly necessary). [49][49] Thouvenot to Lespinasse (8 March 1803), B7/20, SHD... Only experience could show whether the dogs were as effective as their backers hoped and could help shift the course of the war in France’s favor.

III) Dogs in Combat Roles


The main published source on the military uses of combat dogs during the war of independence is Marcus Rainsford’s A Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti (1805). According to Rainsford, the dogs would be locked in a kennel without food during the training period, while a few feet away stood a wicker doll, filled with odorous animal innards, representing a black rebel [figure 4]. After being starved for a few days, the dogs would be unleashed and ravenously eat the entrails, thus learning to associate blacks with food in a kind of Pavlovian reflex. They would then be released into the woods, where they would attack and devour any black person they found, including infants and innocent civilians. [50][50] Rainsford, An Historical Account , 339, p. 423-42...

Figure 4: J. Barlow, “The mode of training Blood Hounds in St. Domingo, and of exercising them by Chasseurs,” in Marcus Rainsford, A Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti (London: Albion Press, 1805), 422.

The black character at the center of the scene is a wicker doll used to train the dogs.


Though published shortly after the events it depicted, Historical Account was written by a Francophobic Englishman who had only spent a few weeks in 1799 Saint-Domingue and did not personally witness the Leclerc-Rochambeau expedition. His account must thus be combined with archival documents to paint an accurate portrait of the dogs’ combat role. Taken together, these sources are consistent with Rainsford’s rendering of the dogs’ training but they paint a far less impressive picture of their military record.


The arrival of the first shipment of dogs in Cap-Français closely followed a major outbreak of violence in the nearby island of La Tortue (Tortuga), where the French had built a network of hospital wings for recovering yellow fever patients. The uprising (the third in a year) targeted French convalescents, who were massacred in a manner that particularly shocked the French and may explain their forceful reaction. Troops were quickly rushed from Cap-Français, but the island’s terrain was such that the rebels found hiding places and that attacks still continued three weeks after the initial uprising. [51][51] Daure to Decrès (6 March 1803), CC9/B20, AN. On 8 March, the French commander of La Tortue, Adjutant-Commandant Ramel, was sacked for failing to pursue the rebels into their hideouts with sufficient ardor and replaced by Adjutant-Commandant Boscu. [52][52] Boyé to Adj. Cdt. Ramet (8 March 1803), no. 2053, CC9B/11,... The latter was told to “pursue the rebels without a pause until their complete extinction.” To help him “flush out the rebels from their hiding places,” he received a detachment of 25 dogs, one of several squads that the high command had assigned to units in and around Cap-Français after the arrival of the Napoléon. [53][53] Jacques Boyé to Adj. Cdt. Boscu (8 March 1803), no....


The punitive expedition to La Tortue marked the dogs’ first use in combat. Hopes were high and their deployment was prepared conscientiously. Handlers were in short supply, so the dogs’ Cuban drivers received twice the normal daily food ration as an encouragement and the admiral of the Cap-Français squadron combed his ships for sailors familiar with this unusual trade. [54][54] Boyé to Louis-René de Latouche-Tréville (9 March 1803),... Boscu, who was assigned a national guard unit composed of loyal people of color to help contain the uprising, was warned that he should institute a strict racial segregation to ensure the dogs’ effectiveness. [55][55] Boyé to Boscu (9 March 1803), no. 2063, CC9B/11, AN.... People of color, it was feared, might attempt to poison the dogs. There was also the risk that the dogs would become used to “the Negroes’ appearance and smell” if they lived in close proximity with the guardsmen, or that they might mistakenly turn against loyal troops of color if they were sent into combat side by side. The detailed instructions also outlined the dogs’ role in overall French counterinsurgency tactics. The national guard, Boscu was told, would guard springs and hospitals, thus denying the rebels resources and targets. Meanwhile, the dogs would be used to “uncover the rebels’ ambushes” for the benefit of the all-white columns accompanying them. [56][56] Maillard to Boscu (9 March 1803), no. 1086, CC9B/10,...


More cryptically, the instructions specified that dogs should be given “bait” before they were unleashed. [57][57] “Il sera nécessaire, pour les mettre au goût, de leur... The expression might have referred to the wicker dolls mentioned by Rainsford, or to actual human victims. According to a Haitian who used private Haitian collections unavailable to this author, Rochambeau specified that “no rations or expenses are budgeted for feeding the dogs; you should give them Blacks to eat.” [58][58] Sannon, Histoire de Toussaint Louverture vol. 3, p.... One French general stationed in the island during the operation similarly remembered that “written orders asked that the dogs should each be fed half a Negro a day.” [59][59] Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 42.


When compared with the flurry of memos that preceded the dogs’ deployment in La Tortue, after-action reports are surprisingly silent on their actual record. By the end of March, the French announced that rebel activities in the island were nearing their end and proclaimed victory, but they said nothing of the contributions, if any, made by the dogs. [60][60] Clauzel to Rochambeau (26 March 1803), no. 1212, CC9B/10,... The omission probably indicated that the dogs had proved a disappointment. In a later work, a veteran of the expedition concluded that though useful in theory the dogs had provided no help in Saint-Domingue. “They did not have the intended effect in La Tortue, because they were used in front of black and mulatto detachments and had become familiarized with their odor.” [61][61] Philippe-Albert de Lattre, Campagne des Français à... “During the operations the dogs were of no help,” remembered General Lacroix, who served in La Tortue. “The first gunshots terrorized them. We lost several of them, including pregnant bitches.” [62][62] Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 42.


On 17 March, even as fighting still raged in La Tortue, the growing rebellion in the southern province forced Rochambeau to shift his headquarters from Cap-Français to Port-Républicain (present-day Port-au-Prince). Among several pieces of bad news awaiting him there was the news that Petit-Goâve, a port located just a few miles west of Port-Républicain, had fallen to the rebels. Rochambeau sent 600 troops aboard the ship-of-the-line Duguay Trouin and the frigate Franchise to retake the town, but during heavy fighting on 29 March the rebels defended their position with great obstinacy and the French columns had to fall back. The defeat cost the French 15 casualties among officers and 150 among soldiers. [63][63] Capt. Lhermitte to Rochambeau (29 March 1803), BN08269...


No contemporary military document mentions the use of dogs in Petit-Goâve, but Madiou and Ardouin (drawing from oral traditions) specify that 50 dogs were used in the attack to help pursue retreating rebels. The French columns’ own retreat sparked so much confusion, however, that the dogs turned against their own side in the heat of battle. [64][64] Ardouin, Etudes vol. 5, p. 397; Madiou, Histoire... The account is consistent with a memoir by a French officer that described how “the dogs devoured some of our wounded” during the retreat. [65][65] Lenoir, “Notes sur l’état actuel de Saint-Domingue... The episode marked the second time that dogs had been used in battle, and the second time that they had proved an embarrassment.


The arrival in March 1803 of reinforcements such as the 2nd Polish demi-brigade incited Rochambeau to launch an ambitious offensive designed to recover the entirety of the southern province before the onset of the rainy season. The plan was to station four columns of 500 men each in Abricots, Les Irois, Tiburon, and Dame-Marie, small towns located at the extreme southwest corner of the colony. From there, they would mount a coordinated advance eastward along the claw that forms the southern part of Haiti. Those columns proceeding on the northern and southern coasts of the peninsula would receive direct support from accompanying naval units, while those marching in the mountainous interior would each rely on a squad of ten dogs to flush out and disperse rebel concentrations. If everything went as planned, the columns would advance past Grand-Goâve and Baynet near Port-Républicain, where they would establish a defensive cordon to prevent further rebel incursions into the South. [66][66] Rochambeau to Brunet (29 March 1803), B7/9, SHD-DAT;...


A number of egregious mistakes doomed the southern offensive. Despite the recent experience in La Tortue, French columns were scheduled to employ mixed-race national guard units in close proximity with the dog squads. These, furthermore, were a motley group of locally drafted animals since Cuban dogs had not yet arrived in the South. The officers entrusted with the command of each column delegated the mission to less experienced subordinates; slow-moving Polish troops were employed in mountainous areas; and each column proceeded on its own when coordination was essential lest rebels slip through the net. The general commanding rebel forces in the south, Nicolas Geffrard, cleverly attacked each isolated column in turn and the attack collapsed entirely. [67][67] Thouvenot to Alexandre Berthier (10 May 1803), B7/10,...


As with the operations in La Tortue and Petit-Goâve, French after-action reports failed to discuss the dogs’ role in any detail. One must rely instead on a general account of the expedition in which Rochambeau judged the dogs “insufficient or even useless. We used them twice [sic], they bit no one, were of no use against people equipped with firearms, and were not worth the large sums that were spent to import them.” [68][68] Rochambeau, “Précis des opérations de l’expédition... From then on, Rochambeau ordered his troops to fortify themselves in coastal cities while awaiting future reinforcements from France and the more favorable campaigning weather of the fall-winter of 1803. [69][69] Rochambeau to Decrès (31 March 1803), CC9A/34, AN.


The renewal of the war with England (effective June 1803 in Saint-Domingue) meant that the reinforcements never came and that the French instead underwent a series of sieges in which dogs were of no tactical use. Even if circumstances had allowed their continued employment, it is dubious that the dogs would have changed the course of the war since their record in the three operations in which they took part (La Tortue, Petit-Goâve, and the southern offensive) was unconvincing.

IV) Psychological Warfare


In parallel to their purely military role in the field, dogs could theoretically play a secondary purpose as “terror weapons” or “vengeance weapons” (to use World War II terms) designed to break the enemy’s will to fight. The March 1803 execution fell into that category, as did several later episodes in which dogs were used to execute rebels. Under Donatien de Rochambeau, commonly used forms of execution were described in a specialized slang meant to describe each death with appropriate wit. “Netting a prize” thus meant “drowning;” “being promoted” meant “being hanged;” “having one’s face washed with lead” meant “being shot;” a “hot operation” referred to “burning;” and to be crucified was to “rise in dignity.” Last but not least, “descending into the arena” was the code word for an execution by dogs. [70][70] Louis Boisrond-Tonnerre, “Mémoire pour servir à l’histoire...


Executions by dogs became relatively commonplace in Cap-Français. The garden of the new government house across the street from Les Religieuses was the site of such executions. [71][71] “To increase [the dogs’] thirst for black blood, some... Thomas Madiou and Marcus Rainsford also claim, somewhat improbably, that dogs would swim in the bay and devour people as they were thrown overboard; they are also the only authors to mention executions by dogs outside Cap-Français. [72][72] “Dogs that were swimming around the shallops would... [Figure 5]

Figure 5: J. Barlow, “The Mode of exterminating the Black Army as practiced by the French,” in Marcus Rainsford, A Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti (London: Albion Press, 1805), 327.

Note the dogs swimming about the ships.


One such execution, around 12 March 1803, involved the notorious general Pierre Boyer. Angered by some unrelated financial dispute with a white carriage driver, Boyer “wanted to kill a Negro” to pass his nerves, complained an employee of the judicial system. “So, two days later, because one of his guides [mixed-race scouts] had been absent one hour longer than he had been allowed to, he sentenced him to death. He ordered the man sent to the garden of the new government house, to be executed by dogs; which was done.” [73][73] Assistant prosecutor of the tribunal of Cap to Judge...


However horrific, the use of dogs and other tortures like burning and crucifixion completely failed to deter the population of color. In a passage that likely referred to the episode mentioned above, a French general described how, even as he was being devoured, “a guide of General Boyer egged on the dogs, yelled to them eat this, and presented to them his own torn-up limbs.” [74][74] Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 41. Underlined in the... In this and other instances, captured rebels faced death with courage, in part because the threat of re-enslavement meant that their options were (as their revolutionary motto put it) “liberty or death.” Some African-born rebels also believed that they would join the world of spirits in “Guinea” (Africa) after their death, so an execution, however cruel, was not something to be feared but an opportunity to rejoin long-lost relatives. [75][75] Francis Alexander Stanislaus de Wimpffen, A Voyage...


Paradoxically, the atrocities’ only noticeable effects were all detrimental to the French side. They contributed to a somber and depressing environment in French-held towns, with devastating long-term consequences for the troops’ morale, and prompted the rebels to retaliate by inflicting vicious tortures on captured French soldiers. [76][76] Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 41; Lacroix, La révolution... Critics (including Thouvenot) also lamented that random executions incited soldiers of color still loyal to the French side to join rebel ranks. [77][77] Thouvenot to Clauzel (20 Apr. 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT;... To explain his decision to revolt, the rebel leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines indeed wrote of the many colleagues who had been “drowned, hanged, or devoured by these animals that our unhappy isle was feeding for the second time in its history” (a reference to the Tainos). [78][78] Jean-Jacques Dessalines to British Minister (2 Sept.... His subordinate Nicolas Geffrard, writing to the lieutenant governor of Cuba, similarly related how “dogs trained to drink human blood have eaten two or three of our brothers every day in Cap-Français. Your Excellency would have a hard time believing that these cannibals were bred for the honor guard of the captain-general [Rochambeau].” [79][79] Nicolas Geffrard to Sebastián Kindelán (14 Sept. 1803),...

V) Assessment


Contemporaries who criticized the French army’s use of dogs in the Haitian War of Independence did so because they found such methods dishonorable, while advocates defended the morality of their conduct by citing the rebels’ own atrocities. [80][80] “Cette mesure qui paraît d’abord inhumaine est légitimée... But Noailles had looked at the dogs as a military and psychological tool, so it is on a practical level that his plan must be judged. By any measurable criterion, the French army’s use of dogs was costly and senseless. The dogs were only used in combat three times, each time unsuccessfully, and never came close to providing meaningful assistance: this failure, more than any ethical issue, underpinned Rochambeau’s criticisms. They were slightly more efficient as executioners, but hopes that they would terrorize the rebels went unmet. If anything, French atrocities gave hesitant colonial troops yet another reason to defect.


Dog purchases nevertheless continued long after events had demonstrated their worthlessness. In May 1803, after the failure of the southern offensive had brought a final end to efforts to use dogs in combat, Louis de Noailles wrote enthusiastically from Havana that he had just bought “106 horses and 300 dogs…. I doubt one could obtain as good a lot at any price.” [81][81] Noailles to Rochambeau (8 May 1803), 416AP/1, AN. Noailles may have been unaware of the dogs’ limitations due to the paucity of after-action reports; or, more likely, he had a vested economic interest in continuing with the costly purchasing program. A rival French envoy in Havana claimed that Noailles had hastily gathered “300 street dogs in lieu of those trained as hunters; these were picked up so as to amass a certain quantity and justify expenses.” [82][82] Vermonnet to Decrès (8 Aug. 1803), CC9/B22, AN. If so, Noailles never had a chance to enjoy his ill-gotten gains: he died later that year during an attack on a British man-o’-war.


Dogs purchased at this late stage proved even more useless than their predecessors. Three hundred dogs shipped in June died when their boat sank. [83][83] Capt. Reynaud to Rochambeau (c. 3 June 1803), lot 225,... One hundred and five dogs (out of another shipment of 289) died during the short journey from Havana to Cap Français on the brig La Sagesse in July. [84][84] Boyé to Daure (3 July 1803), no. 2667, CC9B/11, AN The period also saw the renewal of the naval war with England and the capture of the French schooner Diligente, which in the words of her English captor had on board “100 bloodhounds from Cuba, intended to accompany the army serving against the Blacks.” [85][85] Henry William Bayntun to John T. Duckworth (30 June... When counting the 100 dogs that had arrived with the Napoléon in March, those four batches totaling 789 dogs probably represented the entirety of dog shipments from Cuba to Saint-Domingue during the Haitian War of Independence. Sixty-four percent of them never reached their destination.


As English squadrons established blockades around the coast, the dogs present in Saint-Domingue found themselves marooned inside besieged French ports where, as months passed, starving French garrisons ate all they could get their hands on: horses, sugarcane, cotton seeds, and the dogs, who finally found some utility as military chow. [86][86] Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies... Their last reserves exhausted, the French then abandoned the colony to the rebels, who proclaimed independence in November 1803, then again more formally in January 1804.

VI) Historical Memory


The dogs’ irrelevance, both as a military and a psychological weapon, stands in sharp contrast with their prominence in Haitians’ public memory of the war of independence. As he traveled through Haiti in 1826-1827, a British consul noted how various interlocutors recounted to him how “Rochambeau, to train blood-hounds, used to bait the unhappy Negro prisoners in front of the government-house, and those poor wretches were literally torn to pieces.” [87][87] Charles Mackenzie, Notes on Haiti Made during a Residence... As they retraced the revolutionary period, nineteenth-century historians and veterans gave the dogs a prominent spot in the list of atrocities committed by the French; this is still true today. [88][88] Beaubrun Ardouin, Géographie de l’île d’Haïti (1832;...


At a more popular level, dogs were and are reviled in Haiti, a fact likely linked to their role in the late colonial era. During the war of independence, the French reported killing a Vodou (Voodoo) priest who was holding a large white dog with a ribbon, possibly as a metaphor for white authority. [90][90] Lacroix to Clauzel (11 Oct. 1802), B7/17, SHD-DAT. Late in the nineteenth century, another British consul noted that one of the worst insults he had ever heard was “neg mangé chen” (this Black eats dogs). [90][90] Spenser St. John, Hayti or the Black Republic (1884;... Dogs remain a recurring character in Haitian popular culture, appearing in numerous literary works and over one hundred Kreyòl proverbs such as “sa k atè se pou chen” (what lies on the ground is only good for dogs). [91][91] André Vilaire Chéry, Le chien comme métaphore en Haïti,... “The state is not your friend,” goes a peasant song associating dogs with authority. “There is no resistance in the face of force / Hate the dog / But tell him how white his teeth are.” [92][92] Joan Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods (1995; reprint,...


France’s use of war dogs, militarily minor but popularly so well known, brings to mind Pierre Nora’s concept of the “lieux de mémoire:” monuments, places, or stories that serve as points of entry as countries try to remember their past. In a 1989 article, Nora further argued that modern, post-agricultural societies and post-colonial nations feel the need to celebrate official “lieux de mémoire” because they no longer have any real public memory (“milieux de mémoire”) due to the “disappearance of peasant culture” and the “ethnological slumber [of] colonial violation.” An interesting aspect of his theory is the willful political work involved in creating and maintaining the “lieux de mémoire” in a society gasping for its past, a trait very much in evidence in Haiti’s case. [93][93] “Lieux de mémoire” from Pierre Nora, “Between Memory...


Dogs loom so large in Haitian public memory because they have become shorthand for the horrors of imperialism. Feeding dogs with rebels essentially relegated them to a lower rung of the animal kingdom. Using animals to tear apart fellow human beings also laid bare the intrinsic logic of racism and undermined colonialists’ and slave owners’ claim that they were acting in their wards’ best interest. When attacking Napoléon Bonaparte’s racial policies in the Caribbean, the French abolitionist Henri Grégoire accordingly made sure to mention Donatien de Rochambeau’s use of man-eating dogs (just as Bartolome de Las Casas had done when denouncing Spanish imperialism in his Destruction of the Indies). The lesson was not lost on later Haitian patriots who, finding themselves re-colonized (this time by the United States) in 1915-1934, planted stories that U.S. Marines had imported war dogs from the Philippines to prey on hapless Haitians. There was no factual basis for the claim, but it spread nonetheless and sparked the expected political storm in Haiti and the United States. [94][94] On Grégoire, see Henri Grégoire, De la littérature...


Emphasizing a crime reminiscent of those committed by Spanish conquistadors also allowed Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who ruled Haiti immediately after independence, to draw parallels between two groups (Taino Amerindians and African slaves) that were racially unrelated but had been similarly victimized by European imperialists – blood brothers in a way. With the same goal in mind, he changed the name of his country from Saint-Domingue (of French and Spanish origin) to Haiti (a Taino word), gave his army the fanciful title of “army of the Incas,” and claimed that he had “avenged America.” This allowed him to portray his regime, not as a ragtag assemblage of rebel slaves, but as the legitimate heir to ancient native civilizations at war with a corrupt Old World. [95][95] On the Taino-Haitian connection, see Dessalines to...


More generally, the elaborate lore surrounding the dogs helped Haitians gain legitimacy for their new state, a difficult undertaking at a time when slavery and colonialism remained the norm in the region, France regarded Haiti as a rebel colony, and Haitians were reviled for massacring white planters in the months that followed their independence. One way to justify the 1804 massacre and Haiti’s right to self-determination was to reject the western narrative of enlightened imperialism and emphasize that the French, by using dogs to devour rebels, had forfeited their rights as a colonial power. “White men,” intoned a Haitian general as he described the March 1803 execution, “if you had seen these deboned breasts, these limbs tossed aside… you would no longer mention your ‘good treatments!’ You would no longer be surprised by our rightful reprisals!” Such was, in the end, the historical contribution made by the fearful man-eating dogs from Cuba: not as weapons of war, but as key actors in a narrative of victimization that underpinned Haiti’s right to exist as a sovereign state. [96][96] “White men” from Cressé, Histoire de la catastrophe...



Philippe Girard is an Associate Professor of Caribbean History at McNeese State University. He is the author of The Slaves Who Defeated Napoléon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence(Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2011).


The dogs’ imminent departure from Cuba was mentioned in Louis de Noailles to Hector Daure (23 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, Archives Nationales, Paris (hereafter AN). The dogs arrived in early ventôse (late February-early March) and were immediately used for an execution according to Pamphile de Lacroix, “Mémoire secret sur l’armée et la colonie de Saint-Domingue” (c. 1803), p. 41, Pièce 98, AF/IV/1212, AN. By 7 March, dogs were being prepped for combat according to Pierre Thouvenot, [Untitled] (4-6 March 1803), Ms. Hait. 66-220, Boston Public Library. So it is likely that the execution took place on or about 1 March 1803, as mentioned in H. Pauléus Sannon, Histoire de Toussaint Louverture vol. 3 (Port-au-Prince: Héraux, 1920-1933), p. 152, not “late in 1802” as claimed in Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 292.


Charles Hamilton Smith, Natural History of Dogs; Canidae or Genus Canis of Authors; Including also the Genera Hyaena and Proteles vol. 2 (Edinburgh: W. H. Lizars, 1840), p. 121. Thanks to Jonathan North for mentioning this work.


On the whole of this episode, see Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 41, written by a French general who served in the Leclerc expedition; A. J. B. Bouvet de Cressé, ed., Histoire de la catastrophe de Saint-Domingue (Paris: Peytieux, 1824), p. 63-68, which reproduces an account by the mixed-race officer Juste Chanlatte; Jean-Baptiste Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue du 1 décembre 1803 au 15 juillet 1809, précédée de souvenirs historiques et succints de la première campagne (Le Havre: Brindeau et compagnie, 1846), p. 66-68, written by a French sailor who served in the Leclerc expedition; Thomas Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2 (Port-au-Prince : Courtois, 1847), p. 411-412, a historical monograph based on oral histories conducted in Haiti; and Beaubrun Ardouin, Etudes sur l’histoire d’Haïti vol. 5 (Paris: Dezobry et Magdeleine, 1853-1860), p. 391-393, another monograph based on oral histories.


The execution took place in Les Religieuses according to Bouvet de Cressé, Histoire de la catastrophe , p. 64. The former government house near the place d’armes is mentioned as an alternate location in Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, p. 441 and Ardouin, Etudes sur l’histoire d’Haïti vol. 5, p. 391. Lemonnier mentions the habitation Charrier in nearby Haut-du-Cap (where the Religieuses had lived in 1781-1783) in Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, p. 66. On the history of this religious order, see Gabriel Debien, “Les religieuses du Cap à Saint-Domingue,” Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française 3:3 (1949), p. 402-422.


On Rochambeau’s responsibility and motives, see Cressé, Histoire de la catastrophe, p. 66; Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, p. 411; Ardouin, Etudes vol. 5, p. 391. On the dogs’ centrality, see Marcus Rainsford, An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti (London: Albion Press, 1805), p. 339, 426-429.


Ardouin, Études vol. 5, p. 340. See also Denis Laurent-Ropa, Haïti: Une colonie française, 1625-1802 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1993), p. 301; Dubois, Avengers of the New World , p. 292.


[Louis Marie] Turreau, “Plan pour la conquête de Saint-Domingue” (c. June 1801), B7/1, Service Historique de la Défense – Département de l’Armée de Terre, Vincennes (hereafter SHD-DAT).


Napoléon Bonaparte, “Notes pour servir aux instructions à donner au capitaine général Leclerc (31 Oct. 1801), in Paul Roussier, ed., Lettres du général Leclerc (Paris: Société de l’histoire des colonies françaises, 1937), p. 263-274.


Denis Decrès to Rochambeau (12 March 1803), CC9/B22, AN.


On Victoire Leclerc’s library, see “Procès verbal d’énumération et estimation des divers effets provenant de la succession du général en chef Leclerc” (10 Nov. 1802), CC9/B23, AN. On Las Casas and Raynal, see Guillaume Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes vol. 3 (Amsterdam, 1773), p. 15; Bartolome de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1559; reprint, Penguin Books: 1999), p. 120-125.


Gambart to Leclerc (27 March 1802), Box 3/162, Rochambeau Papers, University of Florida, Gainesville (hereafter RP-UF).


Roger Norman Buckley, ed., The Haitian Journal of Lieutenant Howard, York Hussars, 1796-98 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), p. xlvi.


Adam Williamson to [Don Juan Nepomuceno de Quintana] (10 Feb. 1796) and Quintana to Williamson (25 Feb. 1796), in José Luciano Franco, ed., Documentos para la historia de Haití en el Archivo Nacional (Havana, Cuba: Publicaciones des Archivo Nacional de Cuba, 1954), p. 104-105; Ashli White, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), p. 82.


John Bostock and Henry T. Riley, The Natural History of Pliny vol. 2 (London: Taylor and Francis, 1855), p. 312.


“I have not lost track of the 500 dogs you requested. This race has almost disappeared, and the few that remain mostly come from Mexico. It would be impossible to gather the number that you asked from me.” From François Lequoy-Mongiraud to Leclerc (4 March 1802), BN08268 / lot 77, RP-UF. “General Leclerc had written to the [Spanish] authorities to get dogs, he only managed to obtain three.” From Noailles to Donatien de Rochambeau (30 Dec. 1802), 416AP/1, AN.


Daure and Rochambeau, “Instructions pour le général de brigade Noailles” (14 Dec. 1802), B7/9, SHD-DAT; Ardouin, Etudes vol. 5, p. 340.


Rochambeau to Decrès (7 Dec. 1802), CC9B/19, AN.


Rochambeau to Marques de Someruelos (21 May 1803), in Franco, Documentos para la historia de Haití , p. 150.


Some sources indicate that Noailles stayed in Jamaica until 28 December; see George Nugent to John Sullivan (26 Dec. 1802), CO 137/109, British National Archives (BNA); Philip Wright, ed., Lady Nugent’s Journal of her Residence in Jamaica from 1801 to 1805 (Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2002), p. 138. But Noailles wrote from Havana as early as 24 December; see Noailles to Daure (24 Dec. 1802), 416AP/1, AN; Noailles to Rochambeau (30 Dec. 1802), 416AP/1, AN.


Noailles to Rochambeau (30 Dec. 1802), 416AP/1, AN.


Ardouin, Etudes vol. 5, p. 341. One source says the dogs cost 50 piastres a piece (approx. 400 francs, or approx. 315,000 francs for 789 dogs). See Noailles to Rochambeau (23 Feb. 1803), lot 231, Vente Rochambeau (Philippe Rouillac). Another mentions 500 to 600 francs a piece (or approx. 400,000 francs total). See B. A. Lenoir, “Notes sur l’état actuel de Saint-Domingue…” (c. 1804), Dossier 9, AF/IV/1213, AN.


Noailles to Someruelos (10 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN.


On Veracruz, see Lanchamp, “Instructions pour suivre les traces d'une négociation de traites sur la Veracruz” (c. 1803), B7/12, SHD-DAT. On Cartagena, see François Pons to Rochambeau (6 Dec. 1802), Box 14/1416, UF-RP; Leblond Plassan to Decrès (12 Dec. 1802), BB4 163, Service Historique de la Défense – Département de la Marine, Vincennes (hereafter SHD-DM). On Caracas, see Thouvenot to Lemoine Villaroy (18 Apr. 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT; Roos to Rochambeau (13 Sept. 1803), Box 20/2079, RP-UF.


Noailles to Rochambeau (18 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN; Jean Vermonnet to Decrès (8 Aug. 1803), CC9/B22, AN.


Someruelos, “Instrucción que se da al Sr. D. Francisco de Arango para la commission con que pasa al Guarico” (5 March 1803), in Franco, Documentos para la historia de Haití , p. 234-237.


Someruelos to Noailles (21 Apr. 1803), 416AP/1, AN.


“The secretary of the treasury will send to Saint-Domingue a fiscal auditor with orders to finalize public accounts, cancel all letters of exchange and return to France at once. The secretary will also inform the paymasters of Saint-Domingue... that all the letters of exchange that are not backed by an order from the minister will not be paid. From Bonaparte to Ministre du Trésor Public (22 Apr. 1803), in Correspondance de Napoléon Ier publiée par ordre de l’empereur Napoléon III vol. 8 (Paris: Plon et Dumaine, 1861), p. 288.


Noailles to Daure (23 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN.


Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, p. 411; Ardouin, Études vol. 5, p. 392.


Thouvenot to Rochambeau (15 Sept. 1803), B7/10, SHD-DAT.


Jacques Boyé to Bertrand Clauzel (7 March 1803), no. 2043, CC9B/11, AN; Adj. Cdt. Maillard to Michel Claparède (10 March 1803), no. 1091, CC9B/10, AN.


Rochambeau to Decrès (29 March 1803), CC9A/33, AN.


Daure and Rochambeau, “Extrait des instructions données… au Général Boyer” (Spring 1803), CC9A/34, AN.


Rochambeau to [Noailles] (13 March 1803), B7/9, SHD-DAT.


Rochambeau, “Précis des opérations de l’expédition de Saint-Domingue de 1802 à 1803” (6 Oct. [Dec.?] 1803), CC9A/36, AN. The document uses the vague pronoun “on” as subject.


Pierre Boyer to Decrès (10 March 1803), CC9A/34, AN.


Boyer to Jean-Baptiste Brunet (23 Aug. 1802), B7/6, SHD-DAT.


Brunet to Leclerc (26 Aug. 180]), 135AP/6, AN.


Rochambeau to Decrès (14 March 1803), CC9A/33, AN.


Jean-Baptiste Guillemain de Vaivres, “Extrait d’un état adressé par le commandant en chef de l’armée navale de Saint-Domingue…” (20 Feb. 1802), CC9/B23, AN.


Leclerc to Bonaparte (16 Sept. 1802), in Roussier, Lettres, p. 228.


On black servants used for hunting, see Michel-Étienne Descourtilz, Voyage d’un naturaliste en Haïti, 1799-1803 (1809; reprint, Paris: Plon, 1935), p. 57.


Noailles to Daure (12 Feb. 1803), 416AP/1, AN.


Thouvenot to Hugues-Bernard Maret (8 March 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


Thouvenot, “Plan de campagne” (6 March 1803), B7/9, SHD-DAT. See also Thouvenot to Senneville (9 March 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


Thouvenot to Capt. Roi (7 Sept. 1802), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


On the rebels’ fortitude, see Leclerc to Bonaparte (7 Oct. 1802), in Roussier, Lettres , p. 253-260; Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue , p. 70-71; Pamphile de Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti (1819; reprint, Paris: Karthala, 1995), p. 364.


Thouvenot to Lespinasse (8 March 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


Thouvenot to Lespinasse (8 March 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


Rainsford, An Historical Account , 339, p. 423-429.


Daure to Decrès (6 March 1803), CC9/B20, AN.


Boyé to Adj. Cdt. Ramet (8 March 1803), no. 2053, CC9B/11, AN.


Jacques Boyé to Adj. Cdt. Boscu (8 March 1803), no. 2055, CC9B/11, AN.


Boyé to Louis-René de Latouche-Tréville (9 March 1803), no. 2059, CC9B/11, AN; Adj. Cdt. Maillard to Claparède (10 March 1803), no. 1091, CC9B/10, AN.


Boyé to Boscu (9 March 1803), no. 2063, CC9B/11, AN. See also Maillard to Rochambeau (9 March 1803), no. 1084, CC9B/10, AN.


Maillard to Boscu (9 March 1803), no. 1086, CC9B/10, AN. See also Boyé to Clauzel (7 March 1803), no. 2043, CC9B/11, AN.


“Il sera nécessaire, pour les mettre au goût, de leur donner avant de les lâcher des appas.” From Maillard to Boscu (9 March 1803), no. 1086, CC9B/10, AN.


Sannon, Histoire de Toussaint Louverture vol. 3, p. 152. The date (6 May 1803) and recipient (Ramel) of the letter don’t fit the chronology.


Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 42.


Clauzel to Rochambeau (26 March 1803), no. 1212, CC9B/10, AN; Boyer, “Ordre du jour” (27 March 1803), CC9/B22, AN.


Philippe-Albert de Lattre, Campagne des Français à Saint-Domingue et réfutation des reproches faits au Capitaine-Général Rochambeau (Paris: Locard, 1805), p. 171.


Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 42.


Capt. Lhermitte to Rochambeau (29 March 1803), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF; Daure to Decrès (31 March 1803) CC9/B20, AN.


Ardouin, Etudes vol. 5, p. 397; Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 3, p. 18. See also Sannon, Histoire de Toussaint Louverture vol. 3, p. 145; Claude Auguste and Marcel Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 1801-1803 (Port-au-Prince: Henri Deschamps, 1985), p. 272; Dubois, Avengers of the New World , p. 292.


Lenoir, “Notes sur l’état actuel de Saint-Domingue…”


Rochambeau to Brunet (29 March 1803), B7/9, SHD-DAT; Thouvenot to Brunet (29 March 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


Thouvenot to Alexandre Berthier (10 May 1803), B7/10, SHD-DAT.


Rochambeau, “Précis des opérations de l’expédition de Saint-Domingue de 1802 à 1803” (6 Oct. [Dec.?] 1803), CC9A/36, AN. See also Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, suivi d’un précis de la guerre dans cette partie du monde” (c. 1805), p. 85, 1M593, SHD-DAT.


Rochambeau to Decrès (31 March 1803), CC9A/34, AN.


Louis Boisrond-Tonnerre, “Mémoire pour servir à l’histoire d’Hayti” (22 June 1804), p. 42, CC9B/27, AN; Baron de Vastey, Revolution and Civil Wars in Haiti (1823; reprint, New York: Negro University Press, 1969), p. 35.


“To increase [the dogs’] thirst for black blood, some were subjected to their ferociousness on a daily basis.” From Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 41. On the frequency of executions in Cap, see also Lacroze, “Mémoire contenant un aperçu succint des événements survenus à SD…” (1804), CC9/B23, AN; Anonymous, History of the Island of St. Domingo, from its First Discovery by Columbus to the Present Period (1818; reprint, New York: Mahlon Day, 1824), p. 165; Franco, Documentos para la historia de Haití , p. 152-154, 237-259.


“Dogs that were swimming around the shallops would tear apart those [thrown overboard] who would come back to the surface.” From Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, p. 412. See also Rainsford, Historical Account , p. 326.


Assistant prosecutor of the tribunal of Cap to Judge Ludot (27 March 1803), CC9/B21, AN.


Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 41. Underlined in the original.


Francis Alexander Stanislaus de Wimpffen, A Voyage to Saint Domingo in the Years 1788, 1789, and 1790 (London: T. Cadell, 1797), p. 135.


Lacroix, “Mémoire secret,” p. 41; Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti , p. 360.


Thouvenot to Clauzel (20 Apr. 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT; Arango, “Comisión de Arango en Santo Domingo,” p. 237-259; Poterat, “Mémoire sur la colonie de Saint-Domingue” (8 September 1803), CC9A/35, AN.


Jean-Jacques Dessalines to British Minister (2 Sept. 1803), CO 137/110, BNA.


Nicolas Geffrard to Sebastián Kindelán (14 Sept. 1803), in Franco, Documentos para la historia de Haití , p. 152-154.


“Cette mesure qui paraît d’abord inhumaine est légitimée par les tortures que ces scélérats font éprouver à tous ceux de nous qui ont le malheur de tomber entre leurs mains, et les chiens éprouveront une telle terreur à ces brigands, qu’étant sans espoir de nous échapper, ils se rendront à discrétion.” Thouvenot to Lespinasse (8 March 1803), B7/20, SHD-DAT.


Noailles to Rochambeau (8 May 1803), 416AP/1, AN.


Vermonnet to Decrès (8 Aug. 1803), CC9/B22, AN.


Capt. Reynaud to Rochambeau (c. 3 June 1803), lot 225, Vente Rochambeau (Philippe Rouillac).


Boyé to Daure (3 July 1803), no. 2667, CC9B/11, AN.


Henry William Bayntun to John T. Duckworth (30 June 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA. See also “A list of vessels captured by his majesty’s ships…” (July 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA; Capt. of Frigate Le Bastard to Decrès (23 Oct. 1803), BB4 182, SHD-DM.


Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, suivi d’un précis de la guerre dans cette partie du monde” (c. 1805), p. 105, 1M593, SHD-DAT; Charles d’Hénin, “Conseil de Guerre,” (2 Sept. 1803), 135AP/3, AN; Barquier to Ernouf (24 Apr. 1809), B7/18, SHD-DAT.


Charles Mackenzie, Notes on Haiti Made during a Residence in that Republic vol. 1 (1830; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1971), p. 231.


Beaubrun Ardouin, Géographie de l’île d’Haïti (1832; reprint, Port-au-Prince; T. Bouchereau, 1856), p. 9; Vastey, Political Remarks , p. 169, 196.


Lacroix to Clauzel (11 Oct. 1802), B7/17, SHD-DAT.


Spenser St. John, Hayti or the Black Republic (1884; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1971), p. 151.


André Vilaire Chéry, Le chien comme métaphore en Haïti, Analyse d'un corpus de proverbes et de textes littéraires haïtiens (Port-au-Prince: Ethnos, 2004).


Joan Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods (1995; reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), p. 96.


“Lieux de mémoire” from Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” Representations 26 (Spring 1989), p. 7.


On Grégoire, see Henri Grégoire, De la littérature des nègres (Paris: Maradan, 1808), p. 53. On the 1915 invasion, see Robert D., Nancy G. and Michael Heinl, Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People, 1492-1995 (New York: University Press of America, 1996), p. 446.


On the Taino-Haitian connection, see Dessalines to British Minister (2 Sept. 1803), CO 137/110, BNA; Boisrond-Tonnerre, “Mémoire pour servir à l’histoire d’Hayti,” p. 1. “Army of the Incas” from Rochambeau to Decrès (31 Aug. 1803), CC9A/34, AN. “Avenged America” from Dessalines, “Proclamation” (28 Apr. 1804), AB/XIX/3302/15, AN.


“White men” from Cressé, Histoire de la catastrophe , p. 67.

Plan de l'article

  1. I) The decision-makers
  2. II) The Rationale
  3. III) Dogs in Combat Roles
  4. IV) Psychological Warfare
  5. V) Assessment
  6. VI) Historical Memory

Pour citer cet article

Girard Philippe R., « War Unleashed: The Use of War Dogs During the Haitian War of Independence », Napoleonica. La Revue, 3/2012 (N° 15), p. 80-105.

DOI : 10.3917/napo.123.0080

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