Volume 25, Issue 1/2, Fall 2019
Dâaga the Rebel on Land and at Sea
An 1837 Mutiny in the First West India Regiment in Caribbean and Atlantic Contexts
This article challenges scholarly understanding of an 1837 mutiny in the First West India Regiment. In the Anglo-Trinidadian narrative, African-born soldiers acted out of blind rage, failing in their rebellion because they lacked skill with rifles and bayonets and did not understand either the terrain of Trinidad or its location in the Atlantic littoral. This article’s counterargument is that the rebels, led by a former slave-trader, Dâaga, who had been kidnaped by Portuguese traders at either Grand-Popo or Little Popo, was, with other African-born soldiers, well familiar with military weapons and, after time in the Caribbean, the ecosystem, society, and topography of Trinidad. Dâaga aimed at escape from eastern Trinidad for either Tobago or nearby South America, but was thwarted after English officers captured some mutineers, while the soldiers who remained on the run clashed with a mixed-race Spanish-speaking militia on the only road to an east-coast point of escape.