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9375: Dauphin Plantation: a cannon and "Poetic License" (fwd)

From: Perdue and Persinos <vtandwi@erols.com>

The following items were sent to me by Robert Pettigrew, Jr., son of the
first manager of the Dauphin Plantation near Fort Liberte.  The first is
Pettigrew, Sr's  account of a cannon found in 1927 on Diale, the section
of West Bay Plantation near the inlet to Fort Liberte Bay.  It was later
moved to the Pettigrew residence near the Phaeton (Faiton) sisal
factory.  and "mounted in the garden".  Subsequently, it was shipped to
"Faiton", the Pettigrew residence at Tappahannock, VA and later donated
to Ft. Ticondoraga, NY..

The second item is verbatim from pages 274-275 of THE MAGIC ISLAND, by
W. B. Seabrook, published in 1929 by Harcourt, Brace and Company.  On
page 274 of his copy,. Robert Pettigrew, Sr. noted  (followed by his
initials "RLP"): "No !!" and "A lot more than poetic license.  He was
never near the place".

My thanks to Maria Persinos for typing these documents.

Bob Perdue


The bronze cannon, bearing the inscription "Equateur", mounted in the
garden, was brought from Haiti in 1950.  It had been mounted in the
garden of the Manager's House, which we occupied at La Plantation
Dauphin from 1930, until its removal and shipment to me at Tappahannock.

Long before it was cleared for planting, I was inspecting the area known
as Diale with the view to acquiring it for the Plantation.  This area
being completely wooded, without trails, the inspection was made by boat
following the shore line.

At about the point on the Diale shore line nearest the town of Fort
Liberte across the bay, I came across this cannon in a standard carriage
mount.  The mount was in the edge of the water and was pretty much
rotted away.  Subsequently I had the gun brought to Faiton (Haiti) and
mounted in the garden as above mentioned.

Inquiry at various sources developed the following:

The cannon was taken to this point on the shore line about 1906 by a
group of revolutionists.  A government (Haitien) gunboat was anchored
near Fort Liberte.  The revolutionists hoped to sink or capture the
boat.  One man (Haitien) who claimed to have been with the
revolutionists group at the time, said the gun fired several times at
the boat but "li pas jamais arrive."  (The shots all fell short.)

The boat immediately pulled up anchor and made for the open sea.  In so
doing it fired a number of shots in the general direction of the cannon,
most of which apparently landed as duds in the woods back of the
cannon.  From various sources it appears the boat was the "Nord Alexis"
and on her were mounted several pieces of Schnieder manufacture.  She
escaped untouched - and the revolutionists were untouched.

Several years later when we were clearing the Diale area for planting,
in the vicinity where the cannon was, brush fires set off a number of
explosions.  Investigation revealed that these were caused by fairly
modern shells, undoubtedly from the "Nord Alexis."  A number of
unexploded shells were collected.  There were at least three different
sizes.  One of our workmen was seriously hurt by one shell explosion.
Shells and exploded pieces were kept for some time at the plantation but
they were later destroyed for safety reasons.

The cannon was cast in 1773, as per inscription, in France.  It was
undoubtedly a naval piece, the dolphins forming the necessary rings to
lash the gun to the ship side to ease recoil.  Also it was the old
custom to have the ship's name on the guns and this gun was probably for
a ship named "Equateur."

As Christophe's Citadel was armed largely with bronze pieces from ships,
it is most likely that the piece was taken from the Citadel by the

A romantic and inaccurate account of the finding of this gun appears in
Seabrook's "Magic Isle," Chapter X.  I related the story to Seabrook who
was never in the vicinity, and he modified it to make it sound good.


 I visited Fort Liberté with a man named Pettigrew, who is clearing the
jungle thereabouts to plant sisal.  While rambling along the desolate
shore to see the old Spanish fortifications, we came upon a brass
cannon, still upright on its ancient worm-eaten wooden carriage, and
Pettigrew, who knows something about guns, said, "look here, somebody
has been firing this piece; look at the powder stains.  How the devil
could that be?"

With us was one of Pettigrew's barefoot black overseers, who explained
proudly, "I myself am the man who shot it.  I was Guillaume Sam's
commander of artillery."  He patted the green-rusted antiquity which
pointed immovably askew out to sea in the general direction of New York
or Labrador, and continued, "Yes, with this I fought valiantly for the
revolution; with this great cannon which you see I shot nine rounds."

Pettigrew said, "What in the name of God were you shooting at?"

"But, oh," the pained late commander of Guillaume Sam's artillery
replied, "you do not understand these matters!  It was not to shoot at
anything.  It was for the capture of the town of Terrière Rouge; you
see, they could hear the noise there."