Fort Desaix

Fort Desaix overlooking the city of Fort-de-France was erected between 1765 and 1774 on the Morne Garnier at 146 meters above sea level.

At the time, there were many colonial wars, the European powers waged merciless wars to conquer the greatest number of territories in the Caribbean. It must be said that the islands produced coffee, cocoa, sugar or rum which sold for exorbitant prices once they arrived on European markets.

The English and the Dutch are the main opponents of the French who had conquered and colonized Martinique since 1635.

Following yet another attack by the English in 1762, King Louis XV decided to improve the island's defense system by providing it with a new fort high up on the Morne Garnier. This fort by its positioning would be able to more quickly see the enemies lurking in the area.

First named Fort Bourbon, it was then renamed Fort de la Convention before finally being called Fort Desaix.

6 million pounds were sent to begin work in 1764 under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel de Rochemore. The fortification technique would be the same as that developed a century earlier by Vauban, an engineer and French military architect. The work was completed in 1772 and the fort was then named Fort Bourbon in homage to King Louis XV who had decided to build it.

Fort Bourbon will play a decisive role during the war of independence of the United States because the English will never succeed in attacking the city of Fort-Royal (former name of Fort-de-France) which was the base of the French regiments engaged to American insurgents.

In 1793, the fort was renamed Fort la Convention and was an impregnable fortress during the Capture of Martinique by the English in 1794. The 900 men locked up by General de Rochambeau resisted the 16,000 English who invaded Martinique.

Following the French capitulation, the fort was renamed Fort George by the English who remained in control from 1794 to 1802. After the Treaty of Amiens of March 25, 1802, Martinique was returned to the French by the English and Napoleon 1st then Emperor of the French, gives it its definitive name, Fort Desaix in homage to one of his generals, Louis Charles Antoine Desaix killed during a battle.

No longer suitable for combat towards the end of the 19th century, the fort was restructured several times to serve as support for coastal artillery batteries.

During the Second World War, under the administration of Admiral Robert, the fort housed 286 tons of gold from the Bank of France that was destined for Canada.

In 1961, Fort Desaix became a barracks housing the 33rd Marine Infantry Regiment and the General's headquarters.

In 2009, the fort will be listed as a historical monument before being removed in 2011 following work.

Today the building includes no less than 34 buildings within the walls as well as several bastions and three exterior half-moons, the largest of which measures 90 meters at the base. Fort Desaix remains the headquarters of the Superior Command of the Armed Forces in the French West Indies and Guyana.

Photos gallery