Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HUGUES, Victor, French soldier, born in Marseilles in 1761; died near Bordeaux in November, 1826. At the age of seventeen he was sent to Santo Domingo, where he prospered, and at the beginning of the French revolution in 1789 he professed the new democratic principles. In the ensuing troubles in the island he was transported to France. The committee of public safety appointed him prosecutor of Brest, and afterward of Rochefort. The convention which succeeded the committee of safety chose him in February, 1794, as commissioner to the French West Indies, with orders to reconquer Guadeloupe from the English. Hugues sailed from Aix on 23 April, 1794, on the frigate " La Pique," with only a small force. He sighted Pointe g Pitre on 24 May, and found it occupied by a strong British garrison. He then resolved to attack Basse Terre, and, landing there on 30 May, captured the fortress Fleur de l'Epee, which commanded the bay, drove the English out of the city, and, following them, besieged and took, 6 June, Pointe g Pitre, which was defended by 4,000 men. Meanwhile the English admiral Jervis had brought to the besieged some re-enforcements, and, unable to defend Pointe a Pitre against overwhelming forces, Hugues retreated to the country, and. calling to his aid the negroes, armed 2,000 of them, with which force he again assumed the offensive. On 6 October, he obliged the English general to surrender in his camp of Barville with his whole force, in which were comprised 800 French emigres and 900 colored soldiers, Hugues ordered 300 of the emigres to be shot as traitors, and condemned 100 of the colored soldiers to the public works. After this bloody execution, he set himself at work to pacify and organize the colony, visiting every city of importance and carrying with him the guillotine. For his cruelties he was soon called the "Robespierre" of the West Indies. Yet under his military rule Guadeloupe prospered greatly. Having received some re-enforecments from France, Hugues sent out several expeditions, which reconquered from the English Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, La Desirade, and Sainte-Lueie et Saint Martin, and he restored the latter island to its former owners, the Dutch, in 1795. The English prepared an expedition against Hugues: but he decreed conscription in the island, raised 15,000 men, armed the coast with floating batteries, and sent out privateers, which in two years captured over 150 merchant vessels. But they also attacked vessels of the United States, which complained to the French government. Hugues's corsairs were among the chief causes that brought about, in 1798. the rupture between the United States and France. In the spring of 1798 Hugues met an English invasion of 20,000 men under command of General Abercrombie. The latter took Sainte-Lucie, but his army suffered such losses in the action that he could only hold his position. The directory, which had succeeded the convention, recalled Hugues, who left the government of the colony to General Desfourneaux in December, 1798. In the following year General Bonaparte appointed him governor of Cayenne, but gave him instructions to deal with the inhabitants in a milder way than he did in Guadeloupe. Hugues held that office ten years, till 12 January, 1809, when he signed a capitulation, and surrendered the colony to the English fleet. He was accused of incapacity and treason, and tried in France by a court-martial, which acquitted him (1814). In 1817 Hugues was sent again to Cayenne as special commissioner of Louis XVIII., and governed the colony for two years more. At the expiration of his term of office he remained as a private citizen in the colony, and devoted his time to his immense estate. In the beginning of 1826 he returned to France.
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