No. 95: Quirky French History
Yesterday I came across a bit of inspired French history on our way to Anse d’Arlet on the south western shore of Martinique.
To access Anse d’Arlet, a sleepy fishing village, we had to pass by Rocher du Diamont. Diamond Rock is a volcanic island across from Diamond Beach. Lush and green and 600 feet high, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Nowadays it is a famous diving spot renowned for its colorful sea life and assortment of marine birds, but it has a bit of quirky history attached to it from the colonial days.
Although Martinique was mostly held by the French colonialists, the British governed (or attempted to govern) the island for a few years here and there. In 1804, about a 100 English sailors landed on the rock and constructed a fort and armory. Once established, they proceeded to pester the French navy with surprise attacks and cannon fire as they attempted to cross the passage to deliver necessary supplies for the colonialists. These constant disruptions forced the French to abandon this passage. After 18 months (and no luck in retaking the fortified rock), the French decided to get creative.
Having heard that the British soldiers were becoming distraught from their long confinement on the rock and that the limited access to fresh water was contributing to their restlessness, they hatched a plan. They sent a small sailboat loaded with rum to the island. (Some accounts have them simply floating barrels of rum across the channel.) However the rum reached the soldiers, between the combination of thirst and stir craziness, the Brits were soon completely sloshed.
The French retook the outpost in a matter of days.
Now that’s some pretty clever military strategy, n’est-ce pas?
n’est-ce pas? isn’t it?
Rocher du Diamont: Diamond Rock