Guadeloupe – Fort Delgrès

In the administrative capital of Guadeloupe, the commune of Basse-Terre, there is a place scarred by conflicts, Fort Delgrès.

This fortification has had several names over the years: Saint-Charles, Fort Royal, Fort Mathilda, Fort Richepance and now Fort Delgrès in honor of a dedicated combatant for the right to equality among men.

In 1650 stood the fortified house of Charles Houël, hence the first name given to the place. Over the years, the site was expanded to withstand the violent battles of English and Spanish troops. The site of French resistance was briefly one of the English armies.

We can walk around the place today. Access to the site is free and includes several informative sections on the fort, including one on the last volcanic eruption of 1976. The fort was then used as a communication center.

The heat can be very dense within the walls which have only a few trees. Bring your water. We received a map of the site and the course of the parcours is signposted. Explanatory posters are in French and English.

You will explore some historic buildings such as the officers’ pavilion, the large barracks, the small cistern, the prison, the Galion postern, the vaulted kitchens and the military cemetery. In this cemetery rests Jean-Jacques Latouche – Baron d’Ambert, Joseph Bourrousse de Laffore, René Cappès, Denis Despagne, Jean-Baptiste Augustin Gourgeyre, Gurin, Jean-Baptiste Cusson Maillé and Antoine Richepanse.

In addition, a Delgrès memorial has been created on the site that bears his name. It was on this very site that Mr. Louis Delgrès, an officer, stood up with 300 men against the reestablishment of slavery ordered by Napoleon in 1802. It was General Richepanse who represented the French militia in Guadeloupe at that time. The fort bears his name. Despite all the efforts, the Delgrès army was surrounded. They did not surrender.  They believed in “live free or die” and blew up their entrenchment. Delgres and his faithful men all died in Matouba at the Anglemont habitation after 18 days of battle, with him his faithful men. The islands of Guadeloupe will forever remember this strong nonconforming warrior confronting the French ruler on human rights.

For an overview of Guadeloupe click here.

For all posts on Guadeloupe click here.