Martinique, the object of Dutch envy?

Martinique, a French possession

In the 17th century, Europe was plagued by violent conflicts, particularly over the division of American lands. Alliances are made and broken, yesterday's enemies become tomorrow's friends ... to become enemies again. So these same conflicts are exported to the American colonies. The battles for land are numerous and Martinique like other islands in the area or on the American continent will sometimes be the possessions of one, then another great European colonial power.

On September 15, 1635, Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, a Norman buccaneer (pirate) landed with 150 other colonists in the vicinity of what is now Plage du Coin in Carbet. Little by little, they settled on the Caribbean coast in the vicinity of Carbet, Bellefontaine, Saint Pierre, to the north, and CasePilote to the south.

Cohabitation with the Caribbean Indians turned into a confrontation. They do not like this foreigner who steals their land and wants to use it as labor in their plantations. The cohabitation will only last 30 years. The Indians are either scattered or driven off the island. Some flee to the island of Dominica or that of Saint Vincent. Very few have managed to integrate into the local population.

The partition of America, the sugar war

The Dutch trade leaders

Amiral Michiel de RuyterIn 1674, Martinique was therefore simply French land when the imposing Dutch fleet of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (opposite photo) landed to seize Martinique on July 20 of the same year. Previously, the Dutch, organized in seven large provinces in Europe (United Provinces) were the world leaders in the trade of products from America and in particular cane sugar.

On the French side, the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales in charge of transporting goods to Europe was completely ineffective and saw the Dutch dominate them even in the shipment of goods from French possessions. This situation annoys Louis XIV, the King of France and Colbert his controller general of finance.

French reaction

To counter this, Colbert prohibited the trade of French possessions with other European powers. On January 23, 1672, Louis XIV decides to attack Holland and summons Jean-Charles de Baas, the Governor General of the French islands of America to accelerate the construction work of the Fort Royal in Martinique in preparation for an attack of the Dutch in Martinique. On April 7, 1672, he decided to attack the United Provinces with the help of the English ally.

The Anglo-Dutch armistice

In the Caribbean, the English seized Sint Eustatius and Saba, two islands south of Puerto Rico, but failed to seize Curaçao, the warehouse island of the area. The English and the Dutch make a pact and the Dutch promise the French to take revenge against their West Indian possessions and in particular Martinique.

Battle of Fort Royal or Rum battle

The imposing Dutch armada

June 8, 1674, Admiral Michiel de Ruyter whose numerous victories in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean had made him popular in the United Provinces, leaving Holland with an impressive fleet of 40 ships to seize Martinique.

3400 sailors and 4000 soldiers accompanying the ambitious project. Sure of their victory, the Dutch designated Count of Stirum as future Governor of Martinique. It also embeds itself in one of the boats planned for shipment.

On 19 July 1674, the Dutch squadron painfully arrived to Anses d'Arlet carried by a light wind. The French Defence is organized with a band of only 161 men available. The French fleet contained at the time only 2 warships and 6 merchant ships! Moreover, the Chevalier de Saint-Marthe, who is responsible for replacing Baas sick to lead and coordinate the response.

Arrival in Fort-Royal Bay

Fort Royal battleThe next day, the Dutch arrived in Fort Royal Bay.

Fort RoyalSainte-Marthe veut absolument bloquer l'accès à l'Anse du Carénage, la droite du fort qui permettrait aux troupes de débarquer sur place. Saint-Marthe insisted to block access to Anse Carenage, the right of the fort that would allow troops to land there.

French strategy

He sank the 3 merchant ships in the bay cowl to block access. Blocked, Admiral de Ruyter pounded the fort and deplaned on board boats 4000 men on the shore and gives them free time for the day.

These men, instead of resting engage in looting stores and seized barrels of wine and « kill devil » (former name of the rum) they consume in proportion.

He launched the attack on Fort at end of the day trying to take the fort with his ground troops (drunk!) . The French are resistant ambushed behind fences and are firing on all cylinders. 1300 men fall Dutch side against only 6 French!

The incredible French victory!

Many misunderstandings occured and a real war of nerves took place between the Dutch and the French who in turn thought that the opposite side had won the battle. The Dutch withdrew using barrels guildive as protection. The noise caused by the withdrawal of Dutch made the French, completely exhausted believe in defeat of their camp and abandon. Sainte-Marthe hoisted the flag of the United Provinces of the fort and left.

But in the early morning of July 21, the French heard no noise on the shore and are surprised to see that the Dutch had given up to conquer the island. However, the men sent by Sainte-Marthe the nightfall arrived to prevent Baas of the defeat Fort Royal and  sent him then the information so wrong.

France is indeed the winner of the Battle of Rum or Battle of Fort Royal.

Rum because of the Dutch defeat?

This battle was called the Battle of Rum because it is the abuse of guildive, the former name of the rum consumed in proportion and drunkenness Dutch soldiers completely drafts that made them unable to respond to the "little" French army (in number).

Recognized by Louis XIV as one of the greatest victories of his reign, he made a medal bearing the words "The Batavians defeated and put to flight in Martinique in 1674".