The defence of Rochefort-en-Terre,
painting by Alexandre Bloch, 1885
|Commanders and leaders|
| Jean-Baptiste de Canclaux |
Jean Antoine Rossignol
Jean Baptiste Kléber
Claude Ursule Gency
| Georges Cadoudal |
Joseph de Puisaye
Jean Chouan †
Marie Paul de Scépeaux
Aimé du Boisguy
Louis de Frotté
Pierre Guillemot †
Amateur de Boishardy
Comte Louis de Rosmorduc
Louis de Bourmont
Pierre-Mathurin Mercier †
Guillaume Le Métayer
Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouërie
| Army of the West:|
1795: 68,000 men
1799: 45,000 men
1800: 75,000 men
The Chouannerie (from the Chouan brothers, two of its leaders) 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 French First Republic during the French Revolution. It played out in three phases and lasted from the spring of 1794 until 1800.
Chouan is a French surname. It was used as a nom de guerre by the Chouan brothers, most notably Jean Cottereau, better known as Jean Chouan, who led a major revolt in Bas-Maine against the French Revolution. Participants in this revolt–and to some extent French anti-Revolutionary activists in general–came to be known as Chouans, and the revolt itself came to be known as the Chouannerie.
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have monarchs of the House of Bourbon.
A counter-revolutionary or anti-revolutionary is anyone who opposes a revolution, particularly those who act after a revolution to try to overturn or reverse it, in full or in part. The adjective, "counter-revolutionary," pertains to movements that would restore the state of affairs, or the principles, that prevailed during a prerevolutionary era.
The uprising was provoked principally by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) and the levée en masse (1793) undertaken by the National Convention. A first attempt at staging an uprising was carried out by the Association bretonne to defend the French monarchy and reinstate the specific laws and customs of Brittany that had been repealed in 1789. The first confrontations broke out in 1792 and developed in stages into a peasant revolt, then guerrilla warfare, and eventually to full-scale battles, ending only with their defeat by forces of the Republic in 1800.
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that caused the immediate subordination of the Catholic Church in France to the French government.
Levée en masse is a French term used for a policy of mass national conscription, often in the face of invasion.
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.
Briefer peasant uprisings in other départements such as in Aveyron and Lozère are also identified as "chouanneries". A petite chouannerie broke out in 1815 during the Hundred Days and a final uprising occurred in 1832.
Aveyron is a department located in the north of the Occitanie region of southern France named after the Aveyron River.
Lozère is a department in the region of Occitanie in southern France near the Massif Central. It is named after Mont Lozère.
The Hundred Days marked the period between Napoleon's return from exile on the island of Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815. This period saw the War of the Seventh Coalition, and includes the Waterloo Campaign, the Neapolitan War as well as several other minor campaigns. The phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, Gaspard, comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the king back to Paris on 8 July.
In 1791, the adoption of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy caused the peasants around Vannes to rise in defence of their bishop Sébastien-Michel Amelot against the Republicans of Lorient who wished him to swear the oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution. The following spring, in the area around Quimper, a justice of the peace led several parishes in a rising in the name of King Louis XVI against the local authorities.
Vannes is a commune in the Morbihan department in Brittany in north-western France. It was founded over 2,000 years ago.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Vannes is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in France. Erected in the 5th century, the Episcopal see is Vannes Cathedral in the city of Vannes. The diocese corresponds to the department of Morbihan, and is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Rennes, Dol, and Saint-Malo. Raymond Michel René Centène is the current bishop since his appointment in 2005.
Lorient is a town and seaport in the Morbihan "department" of Brittany in North-Western France.
During the summer of 1792, incidents occurred in the districts of Carhaix (Finistère), Lannion, Pontrieux (Côtes-d'Armor), Craon, Château-Gontier and Laval (Mayenne), where the peasants opposed a levy of volunteers for the army. At Saint-Ouën-des-Toits, in the department of Mayenne, Jean Cottereau (known as Jean Chouan) led the insurgents. His nickname probably came from his imitation of the call of the tawny owl (the chouette hulotte) for a recognition-signal.A reward was put on his head, but nevertheless he reached England in March 1793. The Republican administration recognised him and his brother as the leaders of the revolt.
Lannion is a commune in the Côtes-d'Armor department in Brittany in northwestern France. It is a subprefecture of Côtes-d'Armor, the capital of Trégor and the center of an urban area of almost 60,000 inhabitants.
Pontrieux is a commune in the Côtes-d'Armor department of Brittany in northwestern France.
Craon is a commune in the Mayenne department in north-western France.
In January 1794, the Vendeans of the Vendée militaire , following the setback of the Virée de Galerne, tried to resist the infernal columns of General Louis Marie Turreau. During this time, groups of Chouans north of the Loire took up arms again in the areas crossed by the Vendeans. The Chouannerie was born on the borders of the Mayenne and of the Ille-et-Vilaine, near Fougères, Vitré and Laval.These small groups led by Jean Chouan, Aimé du Boisguy and Jean-Louis Treton (nicknamed Jambe d'Argent, i.e. "Silver Leg"), regrouped Chouans and Vendeans who survived the Virée de Galerne, leaders who were compromised in the peasant uprisings of March 1793 and even deserters. Condemned to live in almost total secrecy, the Chouans knew that being captured by the Republicans would mean certain death. Most of them were motivated by a desire to avenge their relatives who had disappeared in the Virée de Galerne.
In guerilla warfare, Chouans in groups of a few score or a few hundred men ambushed military detachments, couriers and stagecoaches carrying government funds. They attacked Republican towns, executed informers, constitutional priests and republicans, a large number of them administrators.
To oppose the Chouans, Republicans built strongholds or fortified towns which were defended by local territorial guards. They were led by General Jean Antoine Rossignol, chief commander of the Army of the Coasts of Brest. A law enacted on 23 March 1793 mandated that captured insurgents should be executed by firing squad or by guillotine within twenty-four hours. Rossignol also assembled groups of fake Chouan outlaws in order to do as much as possible to discredit the real Chouans.
Murders were carried out throughout the whole war with a varying degree of intensity. For example, in the district of Fougères, in conflict between some 2,000 Chouans and a fluctuating number of Republicans, 219 people were assassinated or executed by Chouans and 300 by Republicans. This did not include deaths during fights, summary executions on the battlefield, or executions following the expeditive revolutionary due process of law.
The Chouannerie spread quickly to Brittany and reached the Côtes-d'Armor, dominated by the Chevalier de Boishardy. On 15 March it reached Morbihan where Joseph de Fay and Béjarry (former officers of the Vendean army) assisted by Pierre Guillemot incited a peasant uprising aimed at Vannes. The insurgents were easily countered by the Republicans at the battle of Mangolérian. However, in the Finistère and the west of the Côtes-d'Armor, the Basse-Cornouaille, the Léon and the Trégor did not take part in the uprising.
Georges Cadoudal and Pierre-Mathurin Mercier, nicknamed la Vendée, rescued from the battle of Savenay, moved to the Morbihan where Boulainvilliers was appointed general-in-chief of the département. However, Boulainvilliers defected to Ille-et-Vilaine with money taken from headquarters. Sébastien de La Haye de Silz succeeded him as general. Boulainvilliers foolishly returned a few months later in the Morbihan; he was captured and shot by Pierre Guillemot's men.
Other départements, however, did not stand as united as the Morbihan. In the north of Anjou, Marie Paul de Scépeaux de Bois-Guignot was named commander for the north of Maine-et-Loire. His authority later extended to Loire-atlantique, Mayenne and Sarthe. However, he commanded in name only: as in other départements, his authority as a Chouan chief only extended to his own canton. Joseph de Puisaye, a former officer compromised in the federalist revolts, realised the necessity of centralised command and attempted to assume the function of general-in-chief of the Chouans. Recognized by some chiefs, Puisaye embarked from Dinard to London on 11 September 1794 to meet future king Charles X of France. Major-General Pierre Dezoteux de Cormatin, his second-in-command, assumed command in his absence. Charles X favoured absolute monarchy and distrusted Puisaye, who advocated parliamentary monarchy. However, following the intervention of British prime minister William Pitt the Younger, Puisaye was appointed general-in-chief of the Royal and Catholic Army of Brittany on 15 October 1794 with the rank of Lieutenant general (thus entrusting him with the king's authority). His power thus extended to all the insurgent areas north of the Loire, including the Maine and Anjou, where Scépeaux appointed him general-in-chief.
Maximilien de Robespierre fell on 28 July 1794. Consequently, the Terror ended and the Convention nationale became more flexible and open to negotiation. The Agence royaliste de Paris asked the Chouans in the name of Louis XVIII of France (then count of Provence) to stop fighting. On 26 December, Brigadier General Jean Humbert and Chouan chief Boishardy met to discuss peace options. Puisaye tried to organise a landing from London, his lieutenant Cormatin assumed full command and negotiated the peace treaty of La Mabilais in April 1795. He was followed by a minority of local leaders.Of the 121 leaders attending, only 21, including de Silz and Boishardy, signed the treaty.
Because neither side had negotiated in good faith, there was an increase in tension following the death of Louis XVII on 8 June. The peace was broken on 26 August 1794 as General Lazare Hoche, who succeeded Jean Antoine Rossignol as head of the Army of the Coasts of Brest, ordered the arrest of those who had refused to sign the treaty of La Mabilais. Hoche thought that Cormatin was trying to outsmart him: Cormatin was imprisoned (and would not be freed before 1802). Boishardy, who did not sign, was killed during the night of 17 to 18 June between Bréhand and Moncontour. Likewise, de Silz, who had taken up arms again, was attacked on 28 June at Grand-Champ by the troops of Adjutant-General Josnet. De Silz was killed in action and his men retreated.
On 23 June 1795 a British fleet led by commodore John Borlase Warren landed 3,500 soldiers of the émigré army in Carnac. They joined 15,000 Chouans led by Vincent de Tinténiac, Paul Alexandre du Bois-Berthelot and Jacques Anne Joseph Le Prestre de Vauban, great-grandnephew of marshal Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. However, disagreements between the general of the émigrés Louis Charles d'Hervilly and the expedition leader Puisaye cost the Royalists precious time.
A counter-attack by Hoche forced the Chouans back to the Quiberon peninsula. On 10 July, two columns of Chouan troops wearing English uniforms embarked on British ships from the peninsula and were landed behind Republican lines. However, the men from the first column, led by Lantivy du Rest and Jean Jan, scattered. The second column, led by Vincent de Tinténiac seconded by Georges Cadoudal, prepared to attack but received a message from the Agence royaliste de Paris requiring them to join a second British landing at Côtes-d'Armor. Tinténiac hesitated in the face of opposition from Cadoudal, but obeyed the order. He was killed on the way at Coëtlogon on 18 July. They reached the bay of Saint-Brieuc but no British fleet joined them, so they returned to the Morbihan and appointed Cadoudal as their general.
During this time, in Quiberon, reinforcements of 2,000 men led by Charles de Virot de Sombreuil joined the émigrés. They attempted to attack on 16 July but were crushed. Hoche launched a final assault on 20 July and routed the émigrés. Louis Charles d'Hervilly was fatally wounded; Puisaye managed to board a British ship. The Republicans took more than 6,000 prisoners. 748 of them were shot by firing squad, including Sombreuil. The day before his execution he wrote a letter to commodore Warren denouncing the flight of chief general Joseph de Puisaye.
This letter had an enormous impact on the Chouans. A council of officers in Morbihan sentenced Puisaye to death in absentia. Puisaye returned to Brittany in autumn 1795, where he was arrested by Pierre-Mathurin Mercier and brought before Cadoudal. Puisaye defended himself vigorously and found he still had the support of the count of Artois. Cadoual and Puisaye were eventually reconciled.
Guerilla fighting resumed after the failure of the English royalist expedition and spread to Normandy where Louis de Frotté, freshly landed in France in 1795, organised the uprising.
Puisaye had suffered some loss of reputation and blamed the Chouans of the Morbihan and their chiefs who, according to him, were hostile towards nobles and wanted to "establish equality under a white flag". Puisaye left the Morbihan for the Ille-et-Vilaine, where the division chiefs were of the nobility, and joined the Mordelles division led by Jean-Joseph Ruault de La Tribonnière. He did not receive much more support than he had in the Morbihan, but remained commander-in-chief thanks to the support of the count of Artois. Puisaye wanted a Chouannerie led by nobles and founded the company of the chevaliers catholiques . Several émigrés joined France to fight with the Chouans, but numerous disputes broke out between them.
In January 1796, Puisaye joined the Fougères division, the most important one in Ille-et-Vilaine, and appointed as his chief Aimé Picquet du Boisguy, chief general of the Ille-et-Vilaine and of the East of the Côtes-d'Armor. However, in practice, Boisguy only controlled the East of Ille-et-Vilaine; Frotté and Scépeaux acknowledged Puisaye as general-in-chief in name only.
To fight the Chouans, the Republican forces were organised in three armies. The Army of the Coasts of Brest, led by Lazare Hoche, based alternately in Rennes or Vannes, controlled the Finistère, the Morbihan, the Côtes-d'Armor, the Ille-et-Vilaine and the Mayenne. The Army of the West, led by Jean Baptiste Camille de Canclaux, based in Nantes, controlled the Loire-Atlantique, le Maine-et-Loire, the Vendée and the Deux-Sèvres. The Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg, led by Jean-Baptiste Annibal Aubert du Bayet, based in Saint-Malo, controlled the Manche, the Orne, the Calvados, the Sarthe and part of the Ille-et-Vilaine.
In December 1795, the Directoire named Hoche chief general of all the Republican forces based in the West and gave him full authority. The armies of the West, of the Coasts of Brest and of the Coasts of Cherbourg were merged to form the Armée des côtes de l'Océan (Army of the Coasts of the Ocean).
Despite the Quiberon disaster, the Chouans gained some victories in the coming months. However, Hoche changed tactics in the beginning of 1796. He set up mobile columns, promised amnesty to Chouans who surrendered, guaranteed religious freedom and strove to discipline the army. Many Chouans and Vendeans were amenable to these measures and laid down their arms.
Hoche's priority was to pacify the Vendée. Jean-Nicolas Stofflet was captured and shot by firing squad in Angers on 25 February 1796. François de Charette was hunted down, imprisoned, and shot on 29 March 1796. His death marked the end of the War in the Vendée.
Now that the Vendée was pacified, Hoche turned his attention to the Chouans. Faced by large Republican numbers, Chouan chiefs gradually surrendered. Scépeaux was the first to surrender, on 14 May.Georges Cadoudal signed a peace treaty on 19 June, Louis de Frotté refused to sign peace himself; he embarked for England and left his lieutenants to sign on 23 June. Aimé Picquet du Boisguy was the last to surrender, on 26 June. Puisaye returned to England.
The uprising lasted until Republican victory in 1800.
The principal leaders of the insurrection were Georges Cadoudal, his brother Julian, Jean Cottereau, called Jean Chouan; Pierre Guillemot, known as the king of Bignan; Joseph de Puisaye, Louis-Charles de Sol de Grisolles, Auguste and Sébastien de La Haye de Silz, John-Louis Treton, nicknamed Jambe d'Argent; Tristan-Llhermitte, Michel Jacquet, known as Taillefer; Joseph-Juste Coquereau, Aimé du Boisguy, Boishardy, Pierre-Mathurin Mercier and Bonfils de Saint Loup.
In Brittany, the Chouans were supported by many nobles: Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouërie, the Chevalier de Boishardy, Count Louis of Rosmorduc, the Picquet brothers of Boisguy, as well as by commoners (the brothers Cadoudal). In Lower Normandy, Count Louis de Frotte had a dominant role. One of the lieutenants in lower Maine was Guillaume Le Métayer, who was nicknamed Rochambeau.
In the Vendee, the nobility were not able to play their normal military role. There was never any properly organised army; it consisted mostly of small elusive bands. The Chouan leaders were, above all, peasant farmers.
In contrast to the earlier War in the Vendee of 1793, the Chouannerie did not possess any territory, the cities and many towns having remained Republican, but some districts did rise in open revolt. There was also the Petite Vendée in lower Maine, controlled by the Prince of Talmont. The Chouannerie was very difficult to suppress as its fighting forces had not been beaten in the battles of the Vendee war, it had many leaders and its army units were small and dispersed.
This rebellion is featured in the novel Les Chouans by Honoré de Balzac and The Man in Grey (short story collection) , a collection of short stories about the Chouans by Baroness Orczy, as well as being the central action of the novel The Marquis of Carabas by Rafael Sabatini. It is also depicted in paintings and popular imagery.
Ille-et-Vilaine is a department of France, located in the region of Brittany in the northwest of the country.
Georges Cadoudal, sometimes called simply Georges, was a Breton politician, and leader of the Chouannerie during the French Revolution. He was posthumously named a Marshal of France in 1814 by the reinstated Bourbons. Cadoudal means in Breton language "warrior returning from the fight".
Montreuil is the name or part of the name of several communes of France:
Fougères is a commune and a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine department in the region of Brittany, northwestern France.
The War in the Vendée was an uprising 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.
Henri du Vergier, comte de la Rochejaquelein, was the youngest general of the Royalist Vendéan insurrection during the French Revolution.
13 Vendémiaire Year 4 is the name given to a battle between the French Revolutionary troops and Royalist forces in the streets of Paris.
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.
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.
Aimé Casimir Marie Picquet, chevalier du Boisguy, sometimes spelt Bois-Guy,, was a French chouan general during the French Revolution. He was nicknamed "the little general" by his men due to his youth. Still a child at the outbreak of the Revolution, he signalled his precocity to fight on the Royalist side, joining the Breton Association at 15 and becoming aide de camp to La Rouërie. At 17 he was made leader of the chouannerie in the pays de Fougères, and a general at 19. Boisguy made the north-east of the Ille-et-Vilaine one of the most active areas of the Breton chouannerie, and showed himself an excellent tactician. Rarely beaten, the chouans there were among the best organised and best disciplined. Fighting in uniform from the end of 1795 and made up of elite troops, even so they suffered from a lack of cavalry and a near-total lack of artillery. The Republicans had to raise major forces to defeat them, and then only with difficulty. In both 1796 and 1800, Boisguy was the last general to surrender, making him one of the main figures of the chouannerie.
The Chouan Army of Rennes and Fougères was a French counter-revolutionary army set up in 1795 by Joseph de Puisaye, who passed on its command to Aimé Picquet du Boisguy, head of the chouans in the area from 1793 onwards. It merged the Royalist divisions from Ille-et-Vilaine and some from Côtes d'Armor.
The Virée de Galerne was a military operation of the War in the Vendée during the French Revolutionary Wars across Britanny and Normandy. It takes its name from French virée (turn) and Breton gwalarn.
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.
Antoine Philippe de La Trémoïlle, Prince of Talmont was a French noble and royalist notable for his military involvement against the French Revolution.
Henri Victor Roulland , or Rouland was a French Brigadier General of the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars. He led the heroic defense of the fortress of Landrecies during the Siege of Landrecies (1794), but was forced to surrender after a devastating artillery bombardment that lasted three days.
The Army of the Coasts of the Ocean was a French Revolutionary Army that was only in existence during 1796. The army was formed by combining the three armies that were engaged in the War in the Vendée and appointing Lazare Hoche to command. While the army's nominal strength was 182,956 men at the time of its formation, this declined to 117,746 during the year. Because its operations were successful, the army was disbanded in September 1796 and approximately half its personnel sent to other armies.
Charles Aimé de Royrand became a Vendean leader in the War in the Vendée, a revolt against the French Revolution. He joined the French Royal Army and served in an infantry regiment during the American Revolutionary War before retiring to his estates in 1780. When the Vendean insurrection broke out in 1793 he was chosen as the leader of the southern army. He led rebel forces at Luçon, Cholet and Entrames. He was fatally wounded at Entrames on 26 October and died at Baugé-en-Anjou.
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.
Pierre Guillemot, called "the King of Bignan" was a military leader in Brittany after the French Revolution.
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