In 1650, Charles Houël, then governor, lord and owner of Guadeloupe, built a fortified house on a hill overlooking the town of Basse-Terre, capital of the island at that time. This building is a secure place but especially the symbol of its power over the population. It bears the name of Fort Saint-Charles.
From its inauguration, it is regularly the target of the English attacks, then the great competitor of the French in the Antilles with the Dutch and the Spaniards. Although it is easy to bomb from the sea, it is gradually transformed into a real fortress. After an intensive bombardment, on January 23, 1759, during the Seven Years’ War, it was evacuated by the French army. At that time, it was renamed Fort Royal.
In 1794, during the Revolution, Basse-Terre was occupied by the English and the fort is the stake of violent fights. Victor Hugues manages to seize the fort which allows him to take control of Guadeloupe and to enforce the abolition of slavery decreed on February 4 by the National Convention.
In May 1802, Napoleon having re-established the legality of slavery in the colonies where the abolition had not yet been applied because of resistance from the planters, he let his general Richepanse invade Guadeloupe to restore slavery, this time outside any legal framework. The fort was occupied by the colonial army of Delgrès and Ignace, in resistance against the assault of Richepanse and his troops from the metropolis. This battle, lost by Delgrès and his men, is the last battle involving this fort.
On August 23, 1904, the fort was officially decommissioned by the military. Classified historical monument on November 21, 1977, it is renamed Fort Delgrès in 1989 by the General Council of Guadeloupe in tribute to the hero of the abolition Louis Delgrès. Since 2004, it is owned and headquartered by the Directorate of Cultural Affairs and Heritage.
The fort is located at the southern end of the city of Basse-Terre, against the Galleon and the edge of the Caribbean Sea. It dominates the city of Basse-Terre. Its thick stone walls overlook the sea and offer a vast panoramic view of the sea, the city and the mountains.
Access is from the streets of Basse-Terre, in the Carmel district
The original fort was built in the seventeenth century, then undergone two large expansions in 1720-1759 and again in 1759-1770. Built in stone, its imposing walls are visible from the sea.
The initial layout of the fort is in the east-west direction, perpendicular to the sea. Backed by the north bank of the Galleon, its main weakness is the alignment of its various living areas from the sea, making it very resistant to gunfire enemy. Scrolls are built to stop the ball race and compartmentalize each part.
Between 1720 and 1750, the casemates, the postern and the large powder magazine came to complete the oldest part of the monument.
Between 1763 and 1780 were added, kitchens, cisterns, an underground that leads into the ditches towards Carmel. The large buttresses in the shape of half-moon come to improve the defense of the fort.