13 Vendémiaire

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13 Vendémiaire
Part of the French Revolution
and the War of the First Coalition
13Vendemiaire.jpg
Napoleon Bonaparte's quelling of the Royalist revolt, 13 Vendémiaire, in front of the Église Saint-Roch, Saint-Honoré Street, Paris.
Date5 October 1795
Location
Paris, France
Result Decisive Republican victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Republic Royal Standard of the King of France.svg French Royalists
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Paul Barras
Flag of France.svg Napoleon Bonaparte
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg Richer de Sévigny
Strength
5,000 men
40 cannons
25,000
Casualties and losses
100 dead and wounded 300 dead
2 executed
400 civilians

13 Vendémiaire Year 4 (5 October 1795 in the French Republican Calendar) is the name given to a battle between the French Revolutionary troops and Royalist forces in the streets of Paris.

Contents

This battle was part of the establishing of a new form of government, the so-called Directory, and it was a major factor in the rapid advancement of Republican General Napoleon Bonaparte's career.

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Background

The social reforms of the French Revolution had been well received by the majority of the populace of France, but the Revolution's strongly anti-Catholic stance had created anti-republican sympathies in many Roman Catholics. In March 1793, this sentiment boiled over into an armed insurrection in the fiercely Catholic Vendée region of western France. A rebel army titled Armée catholique et royale now proved to be a thorn in the side of the Revolutionary Government in Paris, under leaders such as François de Charette de la Contrie and Louis d'Elbée. The rebels were known as Chouans , a title which comes from early royalist leader Jean Cottereau’s nickname Jean Chouan. He was known for his perfect imitation of an owl’s cry, a noise which had become the rallying cry of the insurgents of Vendée.[ citation needed ]

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Anti-Catholicism intense dislike or fear of Catholicism, hostility or prejudice towards Catholics

Anti-Catholicism is hostility towards Catholics or opposition to the Catholic Church, its clergy and its adherents. At various points after the Reformation, some majority Protestant states, including England, Prussia, and also Scotland made anti-Catholicism and opposition to the Pope and Catholic rituals major political themes, with anti-Catholic sentiment at times leading to religious discrimination against Catholic individuals. Historian John Wolffe identifies four types of anti-Catholicism: constitutional-national, theological, popular and socio-cultural.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

The Armée catholique et royale quickly garnered British support and got off to a promising start, severely defeating several Revolutionary Armies. The Revolutionary Committee of Public Safety ordered General Jean-Baptiste Carrier to pacify the region, and over several months Carrier ruthlessly decimated the populace of the Vendée. The local population dubbed Carrier's forces the colonnes infernales (hellish columns). On 22 December 1793, the Chouan rebellion subsided following a major defeat at the Battle of Savenay.

French Revolutionary Army

The French Revolutionary Army was the French force that fought the French Revolutionary Wars from 1792 to 1802. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary fervour, their poor equipment and their great numbers. Although they experienced early disastrous defeats, the revolutionary armies successfully expelled foreign forces from French soil and then overran many neighboring countries, establishing client republics. Leading generals included Jourdan, Bonaparte, Masséna and Moreau.

Committee of Public Safety De facto executive government in France (1793–1794)

The Committee of Public Safety, created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto executive government in France during the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), a stage of the French Revolution. The Committee of Public Safety succeeded the previous Committee of General Defence and assumed its role of protecting the newly established republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. As a wartime measure, the Committee—composed at first of nine and later of twelve members—was given broad supervisory powers over military, judicial and legislative efforts. It was formed as an administrative body to supervise and expedite the work of the executive bodies of the Convention and of the government ministers appointed by the Convention. As the Committee tried to meet the dangers of a coalition of European nations and counter-revolutionary forces within the country, it became more and more powerful.

Jean-Baptiste Carrier French revolutionary

Jean-Baptiste Carrier was a French Revolutionary and most notable for his actions during the Reign of Terror in Vendée. While suppressing a Royalist counter-revolution, he commanded the execution of 4,000 civilians, mostly priests, women and children in what Carrier described as "the National Bathtub." After the fall of the Robespierre government, Carrier was tried for war crimes, found guilty and executed.

Following the 9th Thermidor, those Chouans willing to lay down arms were granted amnesty by the reformed National Convention. The Chouans responded by attacking the Republican-held town of Guémené on 28 January 1795. The Convention immediately ordered General Hoche to proceed to the Vendée and force the Chouans to agree to a cessation of hostilities. Hoche quickly defeated the Chouan army and on 17 February François de Charette de la Contrie signed a very generous peace settlement.[ citation needed ]

Thermidorian Reaction Counter-revolution in France against Robespierre, July 1794

The Thermidorian Reaction was a counter revolution which took place in France on 9 Thermidor of the Year II. On this day, the French politician Maximilien Robespierre was denounced by members of the National Convention as "a tyrant", leading to Robespierre and twenty-one associates including Louis Antoine de Saint-Just being arrested that night and beheaded on the following day.

National Convention single-chamber assembly in France from 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795

The National Convention was the first government of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the great insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French government organized as a republic, abandoning the monarchy altogether. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

Guémené-sur-Scorff Commune in Brittany, France

Guémené-sur-Scorff is a commune in the Morbihan department in Brittany in north-western France.

A small contingent of Royalists under the command of General Stofflet and the fanatical Abbé Bernier refused to accept the peace settlement and continued to offer resistance to Hoche's Army. They were supported by the British in the form of 4,000 émigrés, 80,000 muskets, and 80 cannon, along with food, clothing, and even a large quantity of counterfeit assignats (to provide the Chouans with funding, but also to unbalance the French economy).[ citation needed ]

Jean-Nicolas Stofflet French military leader

Jean-Nicolas Stofflet was a French leader of the Revolt in the Vendée against the First French Republic.

Musket firearm

A musket is a muzzle-loaded long gun that appeared as a smoothbore weapon in the early 16th century, at first as a heavier variant of the arquebus, capable of penetrating heavy armor. By the mid-16th century, this type of musket went out of use as heavy armor declined, but as the matchlock became standard, the term musket continued as the name given for any long gun with a flintlock, and then its successors, all the way through the mid-1800s. This style of musket was retired in the 19th century when rifled muskets became common as a result of cartridged breech-loading firearms introduced by Casimir Lefaucheux in 1835, the invention of the Minié ball by Claude-Étienne Minié in 1849, and the first reliable repeating rifle produced by Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1854. By the time that repeating rifles became common, they were known as simply "rifles", ending the era of the musket.

Cannon Class of artillery which fires at a low or flat trajectory

A cannon is a type of gun classified as artillery that launches a projectile using propellant. In the past, gunpowder was the primary propellant before the invention of smokeless powder during the 19th century. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees, depending on their intended use on the battlefield. The word cannon is derived from several languages, in which the original definition can usually be translated as tube, cane, or reed. In the modern era, the term cannon has fallen into decline, replaced by guns or artillery if not a more specific term such as mortar or howitzer, except for high calibre automatic weapons firing bigger rounds than machine guns, called autocannons.

This large force was placed under the command of émigré Générals Puisaye and Hermilly. Hearing of this, de Charette de la Contrie broke the peace agreement and reopened hostilities. On 26 June, the émigré force landed at Carnac. Hermilly quickly advanced on Auray before engaging and being defeated by Hoche at Vannes. By early July, Hemilly had been forced out of Auray and was besieged in the Fortress of Penthièvre. This meant that the entire insurgent army was now trapped on the Quiberon peninsula. On 15 July, an additional émigré division arrived to bolster the defense, under the command of Général Sombreuil, but Hermilly was killed in action on 16 July. By the 20th, the fortress had fallen and Hoche swiftly advanced down the peninsula, defeating the hopelessly trapped émigré army. Only Général Puisaye and a small force were able to escape with the British fleet; the remainder were killed in action, taken prisoner, or executed.[ citation needed ]

Despite the failure of the émigré army, de Charette de la Contrie continued to offer resistance. In early September, a popular revolt broke out in the area around Dreux, but it was defeated in battle at Nonancourt. De Charette de la Contrie himself suffered a major defeat at Saint-Cyr on 25 September. Despite this, the Comte d'Artois landed at Île d'Yeu with 1,000 émigrés and 2,000 British troops. Bolstered by this force, the Royalist troops began marching on Paris in early October 1795. The arrival of the Comte d'Artois excited the jeunesse dorée royalist supporters in the Le Peletier section of the capital (named for the Rue Le Peletier in what is now the Second Arrondissement), and they began demonstrations in the form of felling Liberty Trees and trampling tricolour cockades. Rumours began to circulate regarding the likely defection of the entire Paris National Guard.[ citation needed ]

Vendémiaire

Pro-Convention gunners firing on the Royalist mob Gribeauval guns of Bonaparte in the Paris insurrection 5 october 1795.jpg
Pro-Convention gunners firing on the Royalist mob

The Convention quickly realised that it was in severe danger, and that an enemy force was on French soil; indeed, the uprising in Paris meant that there was now an enemy force within the capital itself. The Convention declared its intention to remain in their meeting rooms until the crisis was resolved. It called for the formation of three battalions of patriots to be raised from the Jacobin military staff dismissed after 9 Thermidore. Général baron de Menou was given command of the defence of the capital, but he was severely outnumbered with only 5,000 troops on hand to resist the 30,000 man Royalist Army.

On 12 vendémiaire (4 October), the National Guard arrived in Le Peletier in an attempt to put down the unrest. The Military Committee of the Sections of the Capital under the command of Richer de Sévigny announced that the decrees of the Convention were no longer recognised. Général Danican took command of the National Guard in the La Peletier section. The Convention ordered Menou to advance into Le Peletier, to disarm the entire area, and to close Danican's headquarters. Generals Despierres and Verdière were sent to Menou to assist him. Menou divided his force into three columns and planned an advance into Le Peletier on the evening of 12 vendémiaire. When the advance was set to begin, Despierres reported that he was unwell and unable to proceed, and Verdière refused to advance. Menou timidly advanced towards the Royalist force, inviting the rebels to discuss terms of their dispersal. He withdrew after receiving the insurgents' promise to disarm.

The Le Peletier section, seeing this as a sign of weakness on the part of the Convention, called upon the other sections of Paris to rise up. Menou realised his mistake, and launched a cavalry attack down the Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, temporarily clearing the area of royalists. The Convention dismissed Menou from the command and ordered Paul Barras to take over the defence of the Convention.

A whiff of grapeshot

Bonaparte fait tirer a mitraille sur les sectionnaires (Bonaparte orders to shoot at the section members), Histoire de la Revolution, Adolphe Thiers, ed. 1866, design by Yan' Dargent Bonaparte 13 vendemiaire Saint Roch.jpg
Bonaparte fait tirer à mitraille sur les sectionnaires ( Bonaparte orders to shoot at the section members), Histoire de la Révolution, Adolphe Thiers, ed. 1866, design by Yan' Dargent

Young General Napoléon Bonaparte was aware of the commotion, and he arrived at the Convention around this time to find out what was happening. He was quickly ordered to join Barras' forces mustering for the defence of the Republic. Bonaparte accepted, but only on the condition that he was granted complete freedom of movement.[ citation needed ]

At 1 am on 13 Vendémiaire (5 October), Bonaparte overrode Barras, who was content to let him do as he wished.[ citation needed ] Bonaparte ordered Joachim Murat, a sous-lieutenant in the 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval, to ride to the plain of Sablons and to return with the 40 cannons which Menou had indicated were located there. Murat's squadron retrieved the cannon before the Royalists arrived and Bonaparte organised their arrangement, placing them in commanding areas with effective fields of fire.

At 5 am, a probing attack by the royalist forces was repulsed. Five hours later, the major Royalist assault began. The Republican forces were outnumbered by approximately 6 to 1, but they held their perimeter all the same, the cannons firing grapeshot into the massed royalist forces. The "patriot battalions" supporting the artillery also cut down the advancing Royalist ranks. Bonaparte commanded throughout the two-hour engagement, and survived unscathed despite having his horse shot from under him. The effect of the grapeshot and the volleys from the patriot forces caused the Royalist attack to waver. Bonaparte ordered a counterattack led by Murat's squadron of Chasseurs. At the close of the battle, around three hundred royalists lay dead on the streets of Paris.

Scottish philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle later famously recorded that, on this occasion, Bonaparte gave his opponent a "Whiff of Grapeshot" [1] and that "the thing we specifically call French Revolution is blown into space by it." That is, 13 Vendémiaire marks the ending of the French Revolution. (The phrase is often ascribed to Bonaparte himself, but the words are probably Carlyle's. [2] )

Aftermath

The defeat of the Royalist insurrection extinguished the threat to the Convention. Bonaparte became a national hero, and was quickly promoted to Général de Division. Within five months, he was given command of the French army conducting operations in Italy. The defeated royalists, in an effort to portray the Republican defense as a massacre, nicknamed Bonaparte Général Vendémiaire, a title which he later claimed would be his first title of glory.

In film

The first episode of the 2002 miniseries Napoléon portrays the battle of 13 Vendémiaire.

Notes

  1. Carlyle, The French Revolution, vol.III, book 3.VII
  2. Napoleon's Whiff of Grapeshot. By Jonathan Gifford (undated). Accessed 2015-01-20. Archived 2015-04-09.

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References

Coordinates: 48°51′24″N2°21′04″E / 48.856667°N 2.350987°E / 48.856667; 2.350987