I recently learned about the War of Knives, but one thing I haven't been able to figure out is why its actually called the War of Knives. The war happened well after guns were in popular use, and both sides of the war were well stocked and equipped.

So why is it called the War of Knives?

  • I don't have the rep, but please add the tags hati and war-of-knives to this quesiton Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 0:20
  • Those tags don't exist yet for a reason - they are not (at least yet) of sufficient interest. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 0:47
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens Yes... but there is now. This is the point of beta - to flesh out the content. Hati and war-of-knives are clearly relevant and in-scope for this site, so should be added. The fact that no questions on the tag exist yet is irrelevant. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 1:59
  • hati or haiti?
    – user13123
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 2:37
  • @HorusKol Hah, that's embarrassing. haiti please. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 2:43

1 Answer 1


The civil war on Haiti called the War of Knives (1799-1800) was fought between Toussaint Louverture and André Rigaud (basically, blacks from North Haiti versus mulattoes established in the South).

Wikipedia article on Toussaint Louverture:

Toussaint delegated most of the campaign to his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who became infamous, during and after the war, for massacring mulatto captives and civilians. The number of deaths is contested: James claims a few hundred deaths in contravention of the amnesty. The contemporary French general, Pamphile de Lacroix, suggested 10,000.

Dessalines really had a fixation with death-by-machete. After seizing the power, he ordered the Haiti massacre of 1804:

Dessalines later gave the order to all cities on Haiti that all white men should be put to death. The weapons used should be silent weapons such as knives and bayonets rather than gunfire, so that the killing could be done more quietly, and avoid warning intended victims by the sound of gunfire and thereby giving them the opportunity to escape.

My guess is the War of Knives got its name because the irregular fighting and lots of saved ammo.

Googling your question brings two more possible answers:

The black/mulatto civil war of 1799 was bitterest of all - known as the War of Knives because the combatants were inspired by their reciprocal hatred to throw down their guns and attack each other with nails and teeth instead. (lol, i mean... link)


On June 16, 1799 Rigaud attacked Petit Goave, putting many people to death with the sword. It was from Rigaud's violence with the sword that this civil war got it's name -- The War of Knives. (link)

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