The town of Soufriere, once capital of St Lucia under the French, is a colourfully spattered palette of the island’s dynamic past. The picturesque town is home of architectural treasures, agricultural riches, and geological wonders. It is no wonder then that Soufriere was so coveted and as a result, the site of some of the most significant battles fought in St Lucia during the colonial era. Among them is the Battle of Rabot, a conflict in 1795 that determined more than possession of the territory.
The French Revolution which reverberated throughout the French territories worldwide had brought an end to the institution of slavery, returning freedom to the thousands of Blacks who then populated the island of St Lucia. The British, who had been engaged in an ongoing struggle to wrest control of the strategically and economically important colony back from the French, attempted to intervene. A British victory would have condemned this newly liberated population to slavery. Much was at stake.
The battle deciding this fate was centred in the French stronghold and seat of power, Soufriere, and Fond Doux and Rabot Estates, prosperous sugar and cocoa producing plantations became the stage for the conflict. Fond Doux ridge, a strategic barrier and look out point over the basin of Soufriere, played an important role in determining the outcome of the battle.The revolutionary forces, known as Laree Françoise dams le Bois, used the strategic vantage of the ridge to ambush and beat back the advancing forces led by Brigadier General Stewart. Legend purports that Rabot Lake, a marshy, bushy death-trap played an integral part in thwarting the attempts of the British. Mired in the sludge and seemingly attacked by the vegetation, the British stood little chance.
After the musket fire died down, victory was declared and the tricolour once more flew over the town of Soufriere. The town subsequently became the seat of the revolutionary tribunals and a guillotine was set up in the town square where the trials and executions of the Royalists took place. The cells which held the defeated British soldiers are still intact and along with a hike along the famous Fond Doux ridge form part of the historical odyssey through Fond Doux Estate today.