When Jorge Biassou arrived in St. Augustine in 1796, he was already a legend. His appearance was similar to that of a king, as wore gold-trimmed clothes, a silver saber, and an ivory dagger while parading into town with his wife and Haitian followers. His followers were acknowledged as being his “family” because of their loyalty and dependence on him. General Biassou was known to be the fieriest leader in the Haitian slave revolt against the French. He was also Florida’s only black militant political leader.
Biassou was born “Georges” on the island of Hispaniola. He was the son of slaves in French Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). During this time, the plantation owners there were known to be extremely harsh and brutal with their treatment towards the slaves. In 1791, thousands of slaves rose up and poured out their anger against the dominant white community. Biassou joined with the slaves and quickly assumed the leadership along with Jean François. He commanded that the ex-slaves burn the plantations and murder those who were white. Along the way, he fueled his own and his followers’ national spirit through religious practices of their African ancestors.
During the war on the French, slaves were given weapons, supplies, salaries, and Spanish citizenship. Francois, Biassou and his aid, Toussaint L’Ouverture, received gold medals and letters of thanks and confidence from the Spanish government. It was during this time in 1793, “Georges” became “Jorge” Biassou, a free, French-speaking, Spanish general of his freed rebels, the Black Auxiliaries of Carlos IV. Biassou coveted his title and salary. He proved his Spanish loyalty a year later when Toussaint withdrew a portion of the Black Auxiliaries to focus on freeing more slaves.
Biassou served St. Augustine’s military well for five years. He died in 1801 at the age of sixty; he had achieved ten years of freedom.