The book in Polish language, featuring Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803), a Haitian general and the most prominent leader of the Haitian Revolution on the cover, describes a today little known history of the involvement of the Poles in the Haitian revolution and the independence of the country, which became the world’s first free black republic.
In 1802, France under Napoleon sent to the colony of Saint Domingue 5280 Polish soldiers to put down the Haitian Revolution. The soldiers believed to be sent to the island only shortly to suppress a prison revolt and also hoped, that with cooperating with France, Napoleon would reward them by restoring Polish independence.
Upon arriving to the island the Polish soldiers soon discovered, that their mission was to fight rebellious slaves in an exceedingly unfriendly conditions. In the next years around 4000 Poles died of yellow fever and similar tropical diseases, leaving the survivors in an uncooperative mood.
One of the biggest losses was the death of a promising young general Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski (1769 – 1802), the first Polish general of African descent. Born to an unknown father of African origins and a British mother, he was adopted by his mother’s later husband, a Polish nobleman Konstanty Jabłonowski.
After years of living in disastrous conditions on the island the Polish soldiers turned on the French and sided with the slaves of African origins, fighting for their independence in the Haitian revolution.
In 1804, when the revolution ended with the former colony’s independence, the Polish soldiers were granted the classification as Noir (black), making them a part of the new ruling class and protecting them from the massacre of the French after the revolution. Some 400 or 500 Poles remained in Haiti after the Revolution and their descendants are today known as Polish Haitians.
The author Artur Oppman (1867-1932) was a Polish poet, writer and editor, interested in the local and military history. Oppman based the book on diaries of major Bazyli Piotr Wierzbicki (1776 – 1852), major Kazimierz Małachowski (1765-1845) and a soldier Jakub Filip Kierzkowski (1771-1862), who all served in Saint Domingue between 1802 and 1805.
We could trace approximately four examples in libraries outside Poland (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Central Connecticut State University, University of Pittsburgh, Berkley Library). The other examples appear to be eBooks.
References: OCLC 33326307, 1064519713.