A Hispaniola Holocaust: “The Beheadings of Moca children” during an attempted occupation by Haitian troops of Santo Domingo
The dramatic story “Memory for my departure from the island of Santo Domingo on April 28, 1805″ (“Memoria de mi salida de la isla de Santo Domingo el 28 de abril de 1805″), the Dominican Jurisconsultist Gaspar de Arredondo y Pichardo, reveals that forty (40) children were beheaded in the Church of Moca, and that the bodies were found in the presbytery, which is the space that surrounds the main altar of some churches. This tragedy, unparalleled in the history of the island, was part of a genocide that killed thousands of Dominicans.
The dramatic story “Memory for my departure from the island of Santo Domingo on April 28, 1805″ (“Memoria de mi salida de la isla de Santo Domingo el 28 de abril de 1805″), the Dominican Jurisconsultist Gaspar de Arredondo y Pichardo, reveals that forty (40) children were beheaded in the Church of Moca, and that the bodies were found in the presbytery, which is the space that surrounds the main altar of some churches. This tragedy, unparalleled in the history of the island, was part of a genocide that killed thousands of Dominicans, many of them slaughtered. This catastrophe, also without precedent in the islands history, was carried out by the troops of the Haitian general named Henri Christophe, who was led by Jean Jacques Dessalines, when they were retreating from the Spanish part of the island during their attempted invasion of that year in 1805.
Interestingly enough in this commentary and the particular highlights of the tragedy involving Dominican children brutally beheaded and abducted as prisoners and then were made to walk on foot towards Haiti is inexcusable. The slaughter of 40 children in Moca is documented in the story of Gaspar de Arredondo and Pichardo. In his work that is also introduced in the same issue, Alejandro includes this gloomy paragraph:
April 6, Henri Christophe gathers all his troops in Santiago; he kills in the cemetery the prisoners which were all males, among them was a priest by the name of Vasquez and 20 other clerics, they then sets fire to the village and its 5 churches, and left leading a flock of 249 women, 430 girl and 318 boys.
Note that the kid’s throats which were slit in the main altar of the Church of Moca were only 40.
Interestingly enough the relationship of women-children that were brought from Santiago to Haiti “as a herd”, were only 249 women, the children totaled 748, it is to say, three times more boys and girls than women. Women and children of Santiago treated as prisoners and dragged towards Haiti totaling 997 people.
There is very credible information of the actions which points out and identifies it in Moca and Santiago, but ‘Llenas’ narrates that, by the order of Henri Christophe, “Monte Plata, San Pedro and the Cotuí were reduced to ashes, and its settlers beheaded or led away as captive”.
By that order 900 ‘Veganos’ (La Vega province) were also dragged. Santiago was burnt to ashes (now second capital), in addition also San Francisco de Macorís, Moca, Puerto Plata and Montecristi provinces. It is clear that when it is said that they were “dragged”, 900 Veganos to Santiago that indicates the amount of people which were taken as prisoners and everyone had to walk. In a way, 900 Veganos were taken, “dragged”, it must be added which were being “dragged” from Moca, Monte Plata, Cotuí, San Francisco and San Pedro, and those who were taken prisoners in Puerto Plata and Montecristi, were equally “dragged” made to walk towards Haiti.
If in each of these communities these people acted as they did in Santiago, where they beheaded the male prisoners and then “dragged” the women and the children, it is logical to calculate that the women, boys and girls who were “dragged” were in the thousands. And many others slaughtered as prisoners…
All this is a tragedy large enough for which, in relation to the present work, two considerations need to be referred to, the first designated already by said authors, and the second one of which would explain the emphasis, in particular interest , of the beheading and the treatment of children like prisoners, “dragged” and made to walk towards Haiti.
The first consideration to which I refer is the circumstance in which Dessalines has to leave the place. Santo Domingo in 1805 was a failure of enormous dimension for Haiti, equivalent to a severe military defeat because the capital of the former Spanish colony was Santo Domingo. This was a strategic important move, because it was occupied by the French army. This was their number one military goal for Haiti to take the main Capital.
This adverse situation antagonized notably Dessalines, who before leaving he cited; “I did give the order to the commanders of several communes which were conquered to meet everyone and reduce them to prisoners, so your first order is to make them stomp like mules and other animals, when they reach the Haitian part”.
In addition, in virtue of his latest instructions Dessalines left several generals before leaving the place, “they pushed in front of them the rest of the inhabitants, animals and beasts… reduced to ashes all of the towns, villages, herds and cities, they carried everywhere the devastation, iron and fire, and only forgave the individuals intended to be driven to San Francisco de Macorís. And those were led like prisoners”.
Here it is important to highlight the part of the preceding two paragraphs cited by quotes which were extracted from Dessalines own war diary, that is as clear as any confession, it can be recognized as in law, according to some lawyers.
It should be noted that the invading army of Dessalines was composed of more than twenty thousand soldiers, very well endowed with the best weapons of the time of war in Europe, which the Haitians had captured from the army of Napoleón Bonaparte in the defeated of Saint-Domingue, i.e. Haiti. As it has been seen, those more than twenty thousand men received the orders, in their retreat, they dragged all the Dominican people towards Haiti as prisoners, “and the rest of them”, anyone who remain alive, the men who were prisoners were beheaded.
Only in Santiago they “dragged” 249 women, 430 girls and 318 boys, as revealed by Alejandro Llenas, and in La Vega 900 Veganos, it can be deduce that the rest of the communities where the army passed through were also in the thousands, mainly women, boys and girls. What was the fate of 249 women, the 430 girls and the 318 boys of Santiago? What happened to the 900 Veganos who were swept away, what to expected of them in Haiti? The orders of Dessalines were for those and of the thousands to be; “reduce them to prisoners, so your first order is to make them stomp like mules and other animals, when they reach the Haitian part”. It wasn’t just the 900 Veganos that were dragged, in reality it were also women and children, and those of Santiago?
Unfortunately there is not documentary evidence of this genocide in the southern region of the country, which it was where he retreated with part of his great army of Dessalines. There are only mentions in sometext written by Gaspar de Arredondo and Pichardo of the horror that the fugitives narrated coming back by roads and mountains to the Cibao area and from the South.
There is a second consideration that I express here. Some historians have the belief that the invasion of Dessalines was in response to a feverish decree of war, the French general Lois Ferrand who was at that time Governor of the colony of Santo Domingo. In his article ‘Invasion of Dessalines’ Alejandro cited very well this Decree of Ferrand, which was in response to a proclamation of Dessalines calling residents of the Spanish part of the island to surrender. But in his unusual Decree of January 6, 1805 Ferrand authorizes the inhabitants and authorities of the Spanish part, to capture anyone in the territory of the Republic of Haiti up to 14 years of age, in order to sell them as slaves.
Evidently the motor of the immediate invasion of Dessalines was not this Decree, but its content that caused indignation of the Haitian authorities because that text message amounted to a proposal to re-establish slavery, which had been evidently overcome with the proclamation of independence on the part of the Haitian people, and which had also been suppressed by the French Revolution years earlier. The slaughter of 40 children on the altar of the Church of Moca and dragging them as prisoners to Haiti these 748 children of Santiago had to be a clear message. As we have said, the data is well documented, but it should not be considered a unique case. In other Dominican communities where the other butcher walked through, Henri Christophe carried out massive beheadings of children.
With those Dessalines and his official subordinates while in their forced retreat were leaving a message to Lois Ferrand. That Ferrand was not just another invader, but was short-term in the territory, and that the footprint of the genocide would produce amongst Dominicans the horror that to this day the Haitians people provoke, the anti-haitianism that “The Beheadings of Moca” (“El Degüello de Moca”) has sowed amongst Dominicans.
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