Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Monument Would Serve to Honor Haitian Soldiers; Unit Fought in Revolutionary War, Led Own Rebellion in Haiti

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Monument Would Serve to Honor Haitian Soldiers; Unit Fought in Revolutionary War, Led Own Rebellion in Haiti

Article excerpt

Byline: RUSS BYNUM, The Times-Union

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- After 226 years, Haitian soldiers who made up the largest military unit in the Revolutionary War's bloody siege of Savannah may finally get a monument in their honor.

A proposed $500,000 bronze monument was expected to be approved by city planners today. Underscoring the project's importance to Haitians, Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue scheduled a Savannah visit to meet with potential donors Saturday.

Though not well known in the U.S., Haiti's role in fighting for American independence is a point of national pride for Haitians.

In October 1779, a force of more than 500 Haitian free blacks joined American colonists and French troops in an unsuccessful push to drive the British from Savannah in coastal Georgia, the last of the 13 colonies.

More than 300 allied soldiers were gunned down charging British fortifications Oct. 9, making the siege the second-most lopsided British victory of the Revolution after Bunker Hill.

"Not too many people know about the contributions of Haiti to the greatness of America," said Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador-designate to the United States.

He said Latortue, leader of Haiti's interim government since the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide last year, was to fly to Savannah from Rome after attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

"The prime minister feels we have to do something to make Haitians proud again of the their homeland because we have gone through a very negative period in our recent history," Joseph said.

The Miami-based Haitian-American Historical Society began lobbying Savannah officials for a monument to the Haitian soldiers in October 2001.

Featuring life-size bronze statues of six uniformed soldiers atop a concrete pedestal 14 feet in diameter, the monument would sit beneath a canopy of live oaks in Franklin Square near the downtown riverfront.

"It's a way to let people know Haitians didn't just come from the boat," said Daniel Fils-Aime, the historical society chairman. …

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