Péralte, Charlemagne Masséna (1886–1919)

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Péralte, Charlemagne Masséna (1886–1919)

Charlemagne Masséna Péralte (b. 10 October 1886; d. 30 October 1919), Haitian rebel leader during the 1915–1934 U.S. occupation of Haiti. Charlemagne Masséna Péralte came from a rural, middle-class family in Hinche and was educated at a Catholic secondary school in Port-au-Prince. Afterward, he joined a rebel (Caco) group led by Oreste Zamor, his brother-in-law, who became president in February 1914. Péralte was made commander of Léogane, then of Port-de-Paix (1914).

When the U.S. Marines occupied Haiti, Péralte was forced to leave office. In October 1917, he was implicated in a robbery of the U.S. commander in Hinche. Péralte was convicted and sentenced to five years hard labor in Cap Haitien but escaped in September 1918.

After Péralte announced his intention to "drive the invaders into the sea and free Haiti," he formed a provisional government in the north, appointed himself its chief, and mobilized several thousand peasant irregulars. He attacked outlying military establishments, and then, on 7 October 1919, Port-au-Prince itself. A Marine order to "get Charlemagne" led Sergeant Herman H. Hanneken to trick Péralte into revealing his whereabouts. Hanneken shot him dead near Sainte Suzanne. When a Péralte associate, Benoît Batraville, was killed on 19 May 1920, armed opposition to the occupation dwindled.

Péralte is the best-known rebel leader of the 1915–1920 Caco Revolt, in which Haitians militarily resisted the occupation (which continued until 1934). Although Péralte did not espouse an economic or social program, his reputation as a Haitian hero and resistance leader has grown since the 1980s. He has appeared on stamps and in popular art, and he figures in political speeches.

See alsoHaiti, Caco Revolts .


James H. Mc Crocklin, ed., Garde d'Haïti, 1915–1934 (1956).

Robert Heinl and Nancy Gordon Heinl, Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People 1492–1971 (1978), esp. pp. 451-460.

David Nicholls, From Dessalines to Duvalier (1979).

Roger Gaillard, Les Blancs débarquent, 2d ed. (1982).

Brian Weinstein and Aaron Segal, Haiti: The Failure of Politics (1992), esp. chap. 2.

Additional Bibliography

Michel, George. Charlemagne Péralte and the First American Occupation of Haiti. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Renda, Mary A. Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915–1940. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co., 1996.

                                     Anne Greene