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Once upon a time, even the wild story of a 12-year-old American Revolutionary drummer boy becoming King of Haiti couldn’t interest Americans because he – along with his fellow soldiers – was black.
As with America in Vietnam, the British Army dominated militarily during the Revolution—until it lost. And like Vietnam, a local fight for independence from colonial rule became a global war.
In 1778, the British surprised American troops in Savannah and captured the city. Georgia was important enough strategically that French forces joined with their American allies to try liberating Savannah. On September 23, 1779, Admiral Charles-Hector Theodat d’Estaing, fresh from failing to dislodge the British from Newport, Rhode Island, demanded Savannah surrender. Four thousand French troops from the West Indies on 37 ships backed up his demand. Foolishly but nobly, he gave the British 24 hours to consider. The British fortified the ramparts and deployed reinforcements.
Among D’Estaing’s men were gens de couleur, French for people of color. On March 12, 1779, Laurent Francois Le Noir de Rouvray had organized ten companies of 79 light infantry soldiers apiece, divided into two battalions, consisting mostly of, free Haitians of African descent. Some slaves who would earn their freedom through service joined too.
This black marquis, born in the French-controlled island of Saint-Dominigue, fought his way up to becoming a Colonel during the Seven Years War in Canada. He knew that most blacks sided with the British against the American slaveholders.
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Titus 2:8