13 Vendémiaire

Last updated

13 Vendémiaire
Part of the French Revolution
and the War of the First Coalition
Napoleon Bonaparte's quelling of the Royalist revolt, 13 Vendémiaire, in front of the Église Saint-Roch, Saint-Honoré Street, Paris.
Date5 October 1795
Paris, France
Result Decisive Republican victory
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

4,500 Regular Troops 1,500 'Patriots'

Total:- 6,000 Men

40 cannons
30,000 men
Casualties and losses
100 dead and wounded 300 dead
2 executed
400 civilians

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


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.


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 ]

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.

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 ]

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 ]

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 cockades of France. Rumours began to circulate regarding the likely defection of the entire Paris National Guard.[ citation needed ]


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 1795), 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 Le 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] )


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.


  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.

Related Research Articles

Paul Barras French politician

Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, commonly known as Paul Barras, was a French politician of the French Revolution, and the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799.

French Directory Executive power of the French Constitution of 1795-1799

The Directory was the five-member committee that governed France from 2 November 1795 until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, and replaced by the Consulate. It gave its name to the final four years of the French Revolution. Mainstream historiography also uses the term in reference to the period from the dissolution of the National Convention on 26 October 1795 to Napoleon's coup d’état.

War of the First Coalition 1790s war to contain Revolutionary France

The War of the First Coalition is the traditional name of the wars that several European powers fought between 1792 and 1797 against the French First Republic. They were only lightly allied and fought without much apparent coordination or agreement; each power had its eye on a different part of France it wanted to appropriate after a French defeat, which never occurred.

Jean-Charles Pichegru French general

Jean-Charles Pichegru was a distinguished French general of the Revolutionary Wars. Under his command, French troops overran Belgium and the Netherlands before fighting on the Rhine front. His royalist positions led to his loss of power and imprisonment in Cayenne, French Guiana during the Coup of 18 Fructidor in 1797. After escaping into exile in London and joining the staff of Alexander Korsakov, he returned to France and planned the Pichegru Conspiracy to remove Napoleon from power, which led to his arrest and death. Despite his defection, his surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3.

Timeline of the French Revolution timeline

The following is a timeline of the French Revolution.

War in the Vendée part of the War of the First Coalition

The War in the Vendée was a counter-revolution in the Vendée region of France during the French Revolution. The Vendée is a coastal region, located immediately south of the Loire River in western France. Initially, the war was similar to the 14th-century Jacquerie peasant uprising, but quickly acquired themes considered by the Jacobin government in Paris to be counter-revolutionary, and Royalist. The uprising headed by the newly formed Catholic and Royal Army was comparable to the Chouannerie, which took place in the area north of the Loire.

François de Charette French Royalist soldier and politician

François Athanase de Charette de la Contrie was a French Royalist soldier and politician. He served in the French Royal Navy during the American Revolutionary War and was one of the leaders of the Revolt in the Vendée against the revolutionary regime. His relative Athanase-Charles-Marie Charette de la Contrie was a noted military leader.

Chouannerie French royalist uprising during the revolution

The Chouannerie was a royalist uprising or counter-revolution in 12 of the western départements of France, particularly in the provinces of Brittany and Maine, against the First Republic during the French Revolution. It played out in three phases and lasted from the spring of 1794 until 1800.

The Catholic and Royal Armies is the name given to the royalist armies in western France composed of insurgents during the war in the Vendée and the Chouannerie, who opposed the French revolution; hence, they were counterrevolutionary by definition. They were also known as the "Red Army" on account of their emblem: the Sacred Heart.

Events from the year 1795 in the French First Republic.

Invasion of France (1795)

The invasion of France in 1795 or the Battle of Quiberon was a major landing on the Quiberon peninsula by émigré, counter-revolutionary troops in support of the Chouannerie and Vendée Revolt, beginning on 23 June and finally definitively repulsed on 21 July. It aimed to raise the whole of western France in revolt, bring an end to the French Revolution and restore the French monarchy. The invasion failed; it had a major negative impact, dealing a disastrous blow to the royalist cause.

Jean Baptiste Camille Canclaux French general

Jean Baptiste Camille de Canclaux was a French army commander during the French Revolution and a Peer of France. He joined a cavalry regiment the French Royal Army in 1756 and fought at Minden in the Seven Years' War. He attained the rank of maréchal de camp in 1788 and lieutenant general in 1792. He commanded the Army of the Coasts of Brest from May until October 1793 fighting several actions during the War in the Vendée. Replaced for political reasons, he led the Army of the West in 1794–1795. He held interior posts during the rest of the French Revolutionary Wars and under the First French Empire of Napoleon.

The Army of the West was one of the French Revolutionary Armies that was sent to fight in the War in the Vendée in western France. The army was created on 2 October 1793 by merging the Army of the Coasts of La Rochelle, the so-called Army of Mayence and part of the Army of the Coasts of Brest. In 1793 the army or its component forces fought at Second Châtillon, First Noirmoutier, La Tremblaye, Cholet, Laval, Entrames, Fougères, Granville, Dol, Angers, Le Mans and Savenay. After the main Vendean army was crushed, the revolt evolved into guerilla warfare and there were few pitched battles. In 1794 Louis Marie Turreau tried to suppress the rebellion with extremely brutal methods using the infamous infernal columns. Calmer heads finally prevailed and Turreau was recalled. On 6 January 1796, the army was absorbed into the newly-formed Army of the Coasts of the Ocean. The Army of the West came into existence a second time on 17 January 1800 and was finally suppressed on 21 May 1802.

The Army of the Coasts of Brest was a French Revolutionary Army formed on 30 April 1793 by splitting the Army of the Coasts into this army and the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg. The formation was first put under the command of Jean Baptiste Camille Canclaux and charged with fighting the War in the Vendée, combatting the Chouannerie and protecting the coasts of Brittany against a British invasion. After successfully defending Nantes and suffering setbacks at Tiffauges and Montaigu, Canclaux was recalled on 5 October 1793 and many of the army's soldiers were absorbed into the Army of the West. Over the next few years, Jean Antoine Rossignol, Jean-François-Auguste Moulin, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, Lazare Hoche and Gabriel Venance Rey led the army in turn. In June–July 1795 the army crushed a Royalist invasion at Quiberon. On 5 January 1796 the formation and two other armies were merged into the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean and placed under the command of Hoche.

Jean-Pierre Travot French general

Jean Pierre Travot was a French general and nobleman, the son of Philibert Travot and Catherine Guodefin.

Army of the Interior

The Army of the Interior was a name given to two field armies of the French Revolutionary Army.

Charles Sapinaud de La Rairie general

Charles Henri Félicité Sapinaud de la Rairie was a French soldier and Vendéen general during the war in the Vendée.

Louis de Frotté French soldier

Marie Pierre Louis de Frotté was a French soldier and an opponent of the Republic during the Revolutionary Wars.

Amédée Willot French soldier and politician

Amédée Willot, Count of Gramprez, held several military commands during the French Revolutionary Wars but his association with Jean-Charles Pichegru led to his exile from France in 1797. He joined the French Royal Army as a volunteer in 1771 and was a captain by 1787. He was elected commander of a volunteer battalion in 1792 and served in the War of the Pyrenees. Shortly after being promoted commander of a light infantry regiment Willot was appointed general of brigade in June 1793. A few months later he was denounced as a Royalist and jailed. In the light of later events, this may have been an accurate assessment of Willot's sentiments. After release from prison in January 1795, he led troops in Spain during the summer campaign. He was promoted to general of division in July 1795.

Treaty of La Jaunaye

The Treaty of La Jaunaye was a peace accord signed by François de Charette and Charles Sapinaud de La Rairie, on behalf of the leaders of the Vendée rebels and chouans, and by Albert Ruelle on behalf of the National Convention on 17 February 1795 at the manor of La Jaunaye, at Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire, near Nantes. The treaty brought an end to major hostilities in the War in the Vendée - the rebels recognised the French Republic and in return received assurances on freedom of religion, the abolition of conscription and the right to arm a militia.


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