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Monday, June 1, 2020

Battle of Matouba and the death of Louis Delgrès - this day year 1802

At Port of Spain in 1976, India created record chasing 403 with ease under Bishan Bedi and bloodbath followed at Sabina Park in Apr 1976.  No Andy Roberts – it was Michael Holding, Wayne Daniel, Bernard Julian and Vanburn Holder.  West Indies won the Jamaica Test by picking up just 11 legitimate wickets. Anshuman Gaekwad, Gundappa Viswanath and Brijesh Patel suffered serious injuries in trying to counter the terrifying West Indian bowling, in fact Mohinder, Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and every other batsman were hit and were bleeding.

Immediately after the 1975 WC win, West Indies had been humbled 5-1 in Australia.  Clive Hubert Lloyd was a wounded man.  As umpires Ralph Gosein and Douglas Sang Hue didn't try to rein in the bowlers, the ball passed tantalisingly close to the face of Indian batsmen on several occasions.  In that blood spilling arena,    India declared at 306 for 6 in the first innings after the injuries. In the absence of express bowlers to utilise the uneven bounce of the surface, India conceded 391 in the first West Indian innings. In the second Indian essay it was more hostile and Indians  were reduced to 97-5. With serious injuries to Anshuman Gaekwad, Gundappa Viswanath, Brijesh Patel and skipper Bishan Bedi and his spin bowling partner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar unable to bat, India declared their second innings, suffering a 10-wicket defeat.  That was a decade ruled by WI pacers - battery of fast bowlers – Andy  Roberts, Holding, Garner, Marshall … Croft, Ambrose, Patterson, Walsh, Bishop and more…………  the team unitedly called West Indies – but representative of more Nations that dominated the Cricket world for decades.

West Indies were once known as the "calypso cricketers". It was a slightly patronising description which reflected the fact that while, at their best, they could provide rich entertainment, all too often they went home a beaten side. Then something happened. They became good, very good indeed as the authoritative captaincy of Clive Lloyd turned them into a brilliant match-winning machine. They had the game's most dominant batsman, Viv Richards, openers like Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes  and the most fearsome fast bowlers in the world.  The great era of Caribbean cricket, which began with their success in the inaugural World Cup of 1975 and continued into the early 1990s.. .. ………

In early 1858 Texas, brothers Ace and Dicky Speck drive a group of shackled black slaves on foot. Among them is Django, sold off and separated from his wife Broomhilda von Shaft, a house slave who speaks German and English. They are stopped by Dr. King Schultz, a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter seeking to buy Django for his knowledge of the three outlaw Brittle brothers, overseers at the plantation of Django's previous owner and for whom Schultz has a warrant. When Ace levels his gun at him, Schultz kills him and shoots Dicky's horse. As a result, the horse falls on top of Dicky, pinning him to the ground. Schultz insists on paying a fair price for Django before leaving Dicky to the newly freed slaves, who kill him and follow the North Star to freedom. Schultz offers Django his freedom and $75 in exchange for help tracking down the Brittles.

Django Unchained  is a 2012 American revisionist Western  film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson, with Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, and Don Johnson in supporting roles. 

The West Indies though they play Cricket collectively is not a single Nation but  a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago. The region includes all the islands in or bordering the Caribbean Sea, plus The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are in the Atlantic Ocean. This term also includes modern-day Belize, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.  Indigenous people were the first inhabitants of the West Indies. In 1492, Christopher Columbus became the first European to arrive at the islands, where he is believed by historians to have first set foot on land in the Bahamas. After the first of the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, Europeans began to use the term West Indies to distinguish from the other Regions.

‘Slavery’ – keeping humans chained and treating them worser than animals and trading them – ‘slavery’ would remain one of the worst cruelties of mankind  yet its perpetrators stood glorified as ‘merciful’ mainly because History was written from their side.   To me ‘Amistad’ was more moving .. yet this movie too cast its spell –     “Django Unchained’  directed by Quentin Tarantino

Guadeloupe is an archipelago forming an overseas region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands, Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings.  It lies south of Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat, and north of Dominica. Its capital is Basse-Terre on the southern west coast; however, the largest city is Les Abymes and the main city is Pointe-à-Pitre.   Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493.  The islands are locally known as Gwada.

By 1640,  the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique had gone bankrupt, and they thus sold Guadeloupe to Charles Houël du Petit Pré who began plantation agriculture, with the first African slaves arriving in 1650.  Ownership of the island then passed to the French West India Company before it was annexed to France in 1674 under the tutelage of their Martinique colony.  Institutionalised slavery, enforced by the Code Noir from 1685, led to a booming sugar plantation economy.  During the Seven Years' War the English occupied Guadeloupe from the time of 1759 British Invasion of Guadeloupe until the 1763 Treaty of Paris.    During this time about 18,000 slaves were imported to Guadeloupe.   So prosperous was Guadeloupe at the time that under the 1763 Treaty of Paris France forfeited its Canadian colonies in exchange for Guadeloupe.  Coffee planting began in the late 1720s, also worked by slaves, and by 1775 cocoa had also become a major export product.

The Battle of the Saintes was fought between France and Britain in 1782. The 1789 French Revolution brought chaos to Guadeloupe. Under new revolutionary law free people of colour were entitled to equal rights. Taking advantage of the anarchic political situation, Britain invaded Guadeloupe in 1794, to which the French responded by sending in soldiers led by Victor Hugues, who retook the lands and abolished slavery.  
In 1802 the First French Empire reinstated the pre-revolutionary government and slavery, prompting a slave rebellion led by Louis Delgrès The French authorities responded quickly, culminating in the Battle of Matouba on 28 May 1802. Realising they had no chance of success, Delgrès and his followers committed mass suicide by deliberately exploding their gunpowder stores.  In  1810 the British again seized the island, handing it over to Sweden in 1813.   Slavery was abolished in the French Empire in 1848. Louis Delgrès (August 2, 1766 – May 28, 1802) was a leader of the movement in Guadeloupe resisting reoccupation (and thus the reinstitution of slavery) by Napoleonic France in 1802.

Delgrès was mulatto, born free in Saint-Pierre, Martinique. A military officer for Revolutionary France experienced in the wars with Great Britain, Delgrès took over the resistance movement from Magloire Pélage after it became evident that Pélage was loyal to Napoleon. Delgrès believed that the "tyrant" Napoleon had betrayed both the ideals of the Republic and the interests of France's colored citizens, and intended to fight to the death. The Jacobin government had granted the slaves their freedom, in Guadeloupe and other French colonies, but Napoleon attempted to reinstate slavery throughout the French Empire in 1802.   At the Battle of Matouba on May 28, 1802, Delgrès and his followers ignited their gunpowder stores, committing suicide in the process, in an attempt to kill as many of the French troops as possible.

In April 1998, Delgrès was officially admitted to the French Panthéon, although the actual location of his remains is unknown. Delgrès' memorial is opposite that of Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, the location of whose remains is also a mystery.

The Code Noir  was a decree originally passed by France's King Louis XIV in 1685. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and ordered all Jews out of France's colonies.

Today ie., 28th May – history remembers  the Battle of Matouba and the death of  Louis Delgrès in 1802.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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