The Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue (Volunteers of Saint-Domingue) was an all black regiment founded on March 12, 1779. This group of soldiers hailed from the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which eventually became the Republic of Haiti, to serve in the Revolutionary War.
Their courage and bravery were instrumental in helping the American cause, yet the men of this regiment are often overlooked and forgotten.
Black and African-American soldiers participated in the Revolutionary War in the thousands, both as patriots and loyalists, despite being rarely commemorated. While many former slaves exchanged their freedom for military service, most of the Chasseurs-Volontaires enlisted as free men.
African-American soldiers served in the Northern militias in the early years of the Revolutionary War, fighting at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. However, slaveholders in the South were unwilling to arm the enslaved population out of fear of a revolt. As a result, many African-Americans fought for the British, who offered them freedom and wages for their service.
The Chasseurs-Volontaires were the largest black regiment during the Revolutionary War and the largest military unit during the Siege of Savannah. Over 500 soldiers sailed from the Caribbean to Savannah.
After the war, several of the Chasseurs-Volontaires, including Henry Christophe, were prominent figures in Haiti’s own independence struggle over the next quarter-century. These soldiers were instrumental in the overthrow of French rule which led to the independence of the first black republic in the western hemisphere in 1804.
In recognition of their contributions, a monument was mounted in Savannah’s Franklin Square to honor the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue. Franklin Square, a public park in Savannah’s historic district, was established in 1816 and named after Benjamin Franklin. The monument was sculpted by James Mastin.
The monument depicts six members of the regiment mounted atop a 6 ft. by 16 ft. granite pillar with inscriptions honoring their bravery and strength. The Battle of Savannah was one of the bloodiest battles during that time, and these brave Chasseurs-Volontaires soldiers fought alongside the Americans to defend Savannah against the British.
In addition to the statue and plaques, the monument in Franklin Square is located in a small park area with benches and lush vegetation, making it a peaceful and contemplative space for visitors. The monument is a popular tourist destination for visitors interested in American and Haitian history and is a testament to the contributions made by Haiti to the cause of American Independence.
The monument honoring the Chasseurs-Volontaires in Franklin Square, Savannah, Georgia, serves as a reminder of the regiment’s valor and sacrifice, as well as the contribution of all black soldiers to the American Revolution.
“Take memories only, leave footprints behind.”