I have some good news to report! This month, I have finally started writing the first chapter of my historical fiction novel, Children of the Ocean God. This story will chronicle the up and down saga of the Second Carib War, which was contested between the Black Caribs (Garifuna), French and the British on the island of Hiroona (now called St. Vincent), from March 1795 to March 1797.
What attracted me most to recount this tale, apart from the fact that the Black Caribs are my ancestors, is that it is a compelling story about the courageous yet futile resistance of an indigenous people against a mighty colonial superpower – Great Britain. Tragically the war ended not only in their defeat, but also in the genocidal deportation of almost the entire Black Carib population from their beloved homeland – Hiroona.
Equally sad, as my research has uncovered, is that many of the historical records about the Black Caribs are incomplete, inconsistent or unreliable in one way or another. For instance, as a result of British colonization, many of the original indigenous place names in St. Vincent (such as Tarratee and Conarie), that are referenced in various historical accounts, can no longer be found on present-day maps of the island. Making matters worse, sloppy historical recordkeeping in the past also means that dates and names are sometimes confused in different records. For instance, the arrival of Lieutenant General Ralph Abercrombie in St. Vincent is reported as being on June 3rd, 1797 or alternatively four days later on June 7th, in differing accounts.
Another, historical peculiarity is that, with the exception of paramount chief Joseph Chatoyer, only the first names of key Black Carib chiefs who fought in the war, such as Codron, Duvallé and Joyette, are recorded, with little or no accompanying biographical information. In contrast, the full names and biographical details of key European figures in the war, such as Major Alexander Leith and Governor James Seton are all well documented. Worse still, is the fact that many of the widely disseminated accounts of the Black Caribs, by French priest Adrien Le Breton and British nobleman Sir William Young, are one-sided and patently racist. Indeed the Black Caribs are invariably, incorrectly depicted as violent savages and cannibals; largely to advance European colonial interests, i.e., to justify the seizure of their lands and ultimately their extirpation.
As a result piecing together a coherent, reliable story, from the perspective of the Black Caribs, about the Second Carib War has been a challenge to say the least. Thankfully, among the most useful resources that I have laid my hands on thus far have been Reverend Horatio Nelson Huggins’ Hiroona: An Historical Romance in Poetic Form and Christopher Taylor’s The Black Carib Wars: Freedom, Survival, and the Making of the Garifuna. Despite, their imperfections both of these books have allowed me to carefully construct a historical lattice work on which I am now able to develop Children of the Ocean God.
Below is a short chronology of the historical events surrounding the Second Carib War, on which my fictional story will be based.
Chronology of Second Carib War:
1789-99 French Revolution
1794/Feb4 First French decree abolishing slavery in it colonies
1794/Apr1 Start of First Brigand War in St. Lucia
1794/June Victor Hugues arrived in Guadeloupe from France
1795 British breach treaty with Black Caribs
1795/Mar2 Start of Fedon’s Rebellion in Grenada. Led by Julien Fedon
1795/Mar5 Word reaches St. Vincent of Fedon’s Rebellion in Grenada
1795/Feb21 Start of Guerre du Bois (First Brigand’s War) in St. Lucia
1795/Mar8 Second Carib War begins with burning of the estate of Madame La Croix
1795/Mar14 Black Carib forces amass on the summit of Dorsetshire Hill overlooking Kingstown
1795/Mar14 Chatoyer takes down the British flag, replacing it with the French Tricolor
1795/Mar14 Chatoyer killed by Major Alexander Leith in a duel on the summit of Dorsetshire Hill
1795/Apr22 Battle of Rabot in St Lucia. Part of the Guerre du Bois (First Brigand War)
1795/May Colihalt Uprising in Dominica
1795/Jun19 End of Guerre du Bois (First Brigand War) in St. Lucia. British defeated and flee from St. Lucia
1796/May25 British retake St. Lucia from the French
1796/June End of Fedon’s Rebellion in Grenada
1796/Jun3 Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Abercrombie arrived in St. Vincent
1796/Jun10 Black Caribs surrender to the British. Negotiation of terms is drawn out over next 9 months
1796/July Exile to Baliceaux island off Bequia. Captives spend nearly 9 months there and many die
1797/Mar10 End of Second Carib War. Last Black Caribs arrive on Baliceaux island
1797/Mar11 Deportation of 722 men, 806 women, and 720 children by ship to Roatan Island, Spanish Honduras
1797/Apr12 Arrival in Roatan
Let me know what you think about this in the comments below. Thanks!