Jamaica Fiwi Roots

The Second Maroon War

(1795-1796)


The Second Maroon War, occurring between 1795 and 1796, marked a pivotal and tumultuous period in Jamaican history. Unlike the First Maroon War, which lasted 11 years (1728-1739/40) and involved all Maroons across the island presenting a unified front (albeit with emerging fractures towards its conclusion), the Second Maroon War was characterized by deeper divisions and complexities. It primarily involved a single Maroon group, the Trelawny Town Maroons, in a conflict against British forces. This conflict resulted in a less favorable outcome for the Maroons, with numerous families enduring the harsh fate of deportation to Nova Scotia, while others remained to pick up the pieces and adjust to the new realities of a failed war.

The catalyst for the conflict was seemingly trivial – the public flogging of two Maroons accused of stealing pigs. This act, executed by a black slave under British orders, sparked outrage within Trelawny Town. The Maroons, fiercely protective of their autonomy and justice system guaranteed by treaty, felt deeply humiliated and betrayed.

Yet, the roots of discontent ran far deeper. Decades of simmering tensions had been fueled by encroachments on Maroon lands, restrictions on their traditional activities like hunting and farming, and disputes over territorial boundaries. As the lucrative sugar plantations expanded, so did conflicts over land, exacerbating Maroon grievances.

The eruption of open rebellion saw Trelawny Town Maroons employing guerrilla tactics honed over generations of resistance. Their intimate knowledge of the challenging Cockpit Country terrain, a labyrinth of limestone hills and caves, provided a strategic advantage. They launched coordinated attacks, inflicting significant losses on British forces and disrupting the plantation economy.

Initially, British efforts to quell the uprising were ineffective. The leadership succession, from Colonel James Guthrie to Colonel William Fitch and eventually to Major General Walpole, reflected the challenges faced by the colonial authorities. It was Lieutenant Thomas Craskell's meticulous mapping expedition of the Cockpit Country that shifted the tide. His comprehensive documentation of the terrain enabled British forces to anticipate Maroon movements and establish strategic outposts, gradually turning the tide against the rebels.

Despite fierce resistance, the Maroons' ability to resist dwindled as British forces gained strategic advantages and cut off their supply lines. Ultimately, faced with dwindling options, the Maroons surrendered. The outcome was bleak – deportation to Nova Scotia awaited many Maroon families, marking the end of their struggle for autonomy in Jamaica.

In summary, the Second Maroon War, while shorter in duration, was a deeply divisive conflict fueled by longstanding grievances and exacerbated by a fundamental clash of cultures and interests.


Other Maroon Settlements

Accompong Town's role in the Second Maroon War (1795-1796) remains a subject of historical debate and conflicting narratives. Some accounts suggest that Accompong, a Leeward Maroon community like Trelawny Town, chose to remain neutral during the conflict, adhering to the terms of their earlier treaty with the British. They argue that Accompong, seeking to protect their own interests and autonomy, avoided direct involvement in the war.

However, other historical evidence, including firsthand accounts from British military officers, suggests that Accompong actively sided with the British and fought against their fellow Maroons in Trelawny Town. These accounts describe Accompong warriors participating in military operations alongside British forces, providing crucial intelligence and support.

The reasons behind Accompong's decision to ally with the British are complex and multifaceted. Some historians believe that pre-existing tensions and rivalries between Accompong and Trelawny Town may have played a role. Others suggest that Accompong leaders saw an opportunity to secure their own position and gain favor with the colonial authorities by siding with them.

Despite the conflicting narratives, the evidence supporting Accompong's active participation on the British side is more substantial. The firsthand accounts from British officers, combined with oral histories within the Accompong community, suggest that they did indeed take up arms against Trelawny Town. This decision had significant consequences for the outcome of the war, as Accompong's support provided the British with valuable allies and ultimately contributed to the defeat of the Trelawny Town Maroons.

The complex and often controversial role of Accompong Town in the Second Maroon War highlights the internal divisions and differing loyalties within the Maroon communities. It serves as a reminder that history is often nuanced and multifaceted, with multiple perspectives and interpretations shaping our understanding of the past.


From Rebellion to Exile: The Trelawny Maroons' Journey from Jamaica to Nova Scotia and Beyond

Following a failed rebellion against the British, a group of Trelawny Town Maroons, comprising men, women, and children, were forcibly relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, around July 1796.

Numbering somewhere between 500 and 600, the Maroons arrived in July 1796. Upon their arrival, some were employed in fortifying Citadel Hill, a strategic hilltop fortification in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they constructed one of the bastions known as the "Maroon Bastion."

Initially, the Maroons lived in tents and barracks on the Citadel’s grounds, as well as in barns on the Governor's property. Governor John Wentworth, aiming to promote agriculture, allotted them land in the Preston area. However, the plan proved unsustainable due to dissatisfaction with the quality of the land, the harsh northern climate, and attempts to convert them to Christianity.

Disputes emerged within the Maroon community, with the majority desiring to leave Nova Scotia. Led by prominent Maroon leader James Palmer, a faction sought a separate settlement, leading to the establishment of Boydville, a small community located about 14 miles from Preston. While the Preston Maroons continued to petition for relocation, those at Boydville attempted to adapt to their new environment.

In August 1800, most of the Maroons, like many Black Loyalists before them, chose to immigrate to the free black colony of Sierra Leone in West Africa. They were not permitted to return to Jamaica.

Some members of the Trelawny Town Maroons chose to remain in Nova Scotia after the majority of their peers departed for Sierra Leone in 1800. While exact numbers are not available, it is known that a portion of the community opted to stay, likely due to personal reasons or ties they had formed in Nova Scotian society.

Although their stay in Nova Scotia was brief, the Maroons left a lasting legacy. They contributed to the construction of African Nova Scotian identity, and their name is perpetuated in Maroon Hill and Citadel Hill (Maroon Bastion).

Maroon Hill, a small community located in the Sackville area of Nova Scotia, is named after the Maroons who settled there, particularly those led by James Palmer, who established the Boydville settlement. The name serves as a reminder of their presence and contributions to the area.

Both of these places bear the name "Maroon" to honor and remember the history and legacy of the Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia. This ensures that their story is not forgotten and that their presence in the region is acknowledged and recognized.

Their story stands as a testament to resilience, cultural preservation, and the ongoing struggle for self-determination.