Brian Skeete has launched an online petition for a monument for a revolutionary Saint Lucian anti-slavery hero that many fellow citizens don’t know about. Following is Skeete’s story of Flore Bois Gaillard:
Flore Bois Gaillard was an enslaved bi-racial woman owned by a man known as Master Bellac. For several years, she worked on his plantation and later in his home as a maid/servant.
There are no records of her early childhood, but it is safe to assume that being bi-racial, she was born on the island to an enslaved black mother who was impregnated by a white man.
Tired of being raped and treated harshly by Master Bellac, Flore managed to escape the plantation in 1793.
She took refuge in the woods where she met the Maroons.
There, she joined the French Army of The Woods, made up of Maroons, escaped Black Slaves, French Revolutionaries and English deserters.
The Army of the Woods planned a rebellion to rid the country of the British and declare St Lucia a free country.
Flore quickly rose in the ranks of the army to become one of the military leaders.
Following a tip that the British were on their way to attack her army, Flore planned a counter-strike.
Flore and her army went to Soufriere to attack slave owners and take revenge for the atrocities of 1791, in what we now know as the ‘Battle of Rabot’.
St. Lucia liberated itself from slavery for almost a year during the height of the slave trade and brought to life one of the Caribbean’s greatest heroines.
In 1791, the slaves from the estates in Soufriere gathered before a planter’s house to request that they be given their liberty from British slave owners, as the French Revolution and all its mayhem made waves across to the Caribbean.
The planter reported this to the ‘Captain’ in the town; the militia was called out, the leaders were captured and tried.
They were tied by hands and feet and pinioned to the ground and the men were executed by having their heads severed from their bodies.
The heads were then placed on spikes and displayed all around the parish as an example to others.
Slaves in the entire district became angered over the events and did not forget.
Retribution for the 1791 atrocities came in 1795.
With support of arms and troops from Victor Hugues, the Revolutionary Commissioner from Paris, the slaves rose in rebellion.
The French Republicans landed 600 soldiers.
They joined the 250 local Republicans and 300 Blacks, most of them carrying spikes but some with rifles captured from the British.
The British attacked on April 22nd at Fond Doux and Rabot.
A crucial battle took place on that day which proved the Brigands’ military tactics and prowess so that they were able to hold on to the town of Soufriere.
However, destruction was widespread. Whites were attacked and the estates put to the torched.
The English withdrew to Castries and they were eventually defeated on June 19th and fled from the island.
The Royalist planters fled with them, leaving the remaining St. Lucians to enjoy “l’Année de la Liberté” “A year of freedom” from slavery.
Several aristocratic planters went to trial and lost their heads on the guillotine.
One year later, the British invaded with 5,000 troops to capture and re-enslave the island, leading to one of the greatest battles for freedom between Africans and Europeans.
One of the greatest war strategists who led the freedom fighters was none other than Flore Bois Gaillard.