Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a military general who served under the great Toussaint L’Overture during the Haitian revolution. He was born into slavery in the French colony of Saint Dominque, and his parents were Congolese. Dessalines was originally given the name Duclos, after his plantation owner.
He later adopted the surname Dessalines after the free black landowner who purchased him. During his time as a slave, he had to endure horrific conditions that made violence a way of life for him. Even though he couldn’t read or write he became a quick study under L’Overture earning the nickname “The Tiger” for his fury in battle.
In 1794, Dessalines was vital to his army’s success in capturing the Spanish controlled eastern half of the island, after doing this, he was made governor of the south. In 1802, after L’Overture’s capture, it appeared that Dessalines was siding with the French, but it was nothing more than a plot to gain their trust. He would become the leader of the revolution winning several successful battles against the French (Battle of Crete-a-Pierrot, Battle of Vertieres).
In 1804, Dessalines proclaimed Saint Domingo’s independence, and he chose the name Haiti for the country which was the name used by the island’s aboriginal inhabitants. After the victory, he was chosen by the council to assume the position of governor-general. He ordered the massacre of French settlers resulting in the death of 3,000-5,000 people but declared all other whites such as the polish Haitians could remain on the island.
To prevent the French from regaining power Dessalines instituted harsh guidelines and rules for the white inhabitants of the island to follow. After mulatto members of Dessalines army had begun to grow weary of his tactics, they ambushed and killed him in 1806.