|War in the Vendée|
|Part of the War of the First Coalition|
Henri de La Rochejacquelein at the Battle of Cholet in 1793 by Paul-Émile Boutigny
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|~30,000 military killed||~130,000 military and civilians killed|
| Inhabitants of the Vendee: ~170,000 military and civilians killed (75–80% royalists and 20–25% republicans) |
170,000–200,000 dead in total
|Part of a series on|
| Persecutions |
of the Catholic Church
The War in the Vendée (1793; French: Guerre de 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.
The departments included in the uprising, called the Vendée Militaire, included the area between the Loire and the Layon rivers: Vendée (Marais, Bocage Vendéen, Collines Vendéennes), part of Maine-et-Loire west of the Layon, and the portion of Deux-Sèvres west of the River Thouet. Having secured their pays, the deficiencies of the Vendean army became more apparent. Lacking a unified strategy (or army) and fighting a defensive campaign, from April onwards the army lost cohesion and its special advantages. Successes continued for some time: Thouars was taken in early May and Saumur in June; there were victories at Châtillon and Vihiers. After this string of victories, the Vendeans turned to a protracted siege of Nantes, for which they were unprepared and which stalled their momentum, giving the government in Paris sufficient time to send more troops and experienced generals.
Tens of thousands of civilians, royalists, Republican prisoners, and sympathizers with the revolution or the religious were massacred by both armies. Historians such as Reynald Secher have described these events as "genocide", but most scholars reject the use of the word as inaccurate. Ultimately, the uprising was suppressed using draconian measures. The historian François Furet concludes that the repression in the Vendée "not only revealed massacre and destruction on an unprecedented scale but also a zeal so violent that it has bestowed as its legacy much of the region's identity ... The war aptly epitomizes the depth of the conflict ... between religious tradition and the revolutionary foundation of democracy."
Class differences were not as great in the Vendée as in Paris or in other French provinces. In the rural Vendée, the local nobility seems to have been more permanently in residence and less bitterly resented than in other parts of France.Alexis de Tocqueville noted that most French nobles lived in cities by 1789. An Intendants' survey showed one of the few areas where they still lived with the peasants was the Vendée. The conflicts that drove the revolution in Paris, for example, were also lessened in this particularly isolated part of France by the strong adherence of the population to their Catholic faith. When the revolutionaries wanted to reduce the Church's influence, people of the Vendée region considered this unimaginable. In 1791, two representatives on mission informed the National Assembly of the disquieting condition of Vendée, and this news was quickly followed by the exposure of a royalist plot organized by the Marquis de la Rouërie. It was not until the social unrest and the fear of The Terror (a period between 1793 and 1794 where tens of thousands of people were beheaded by use of guillotine) combined with the external pressures from the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) and the introduction of a levy of 300,000 on the whole of France, decreed by the National Convention in February 1793, that the region erupted.
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy required all clerics to swear allegiance to it and, by extension, to the increasingly anti-clerical National Constituent Assembly. All but seven of the 160 bishops refused the oath, as did about half of the parish priests.Persecution of the clergy and of the faithful was the first trigger of the rebellion; the second being conscription. Nonjuring priests were exiled or imprisoned and women on their way to Mass were beaten in the streets. Religious orders were suppressed and Church property confiscated. On 3 March 1793, virtually all the churches were ordered closed. Soldiers confiscated sacramental vessels and the people were forbidden to place crosses on graves. Nearly all the purchasers of church land were bourgeois; very few peasants benefited from the sales.
The March 1793 conscription requiring Vendeans to fill their district's quota of the national total of 300,000 enraged the populace,who took up arms instead as "The Catholic Army", "Royal" being added later, and fought for "above all the reopening of their parish churches with their former priests."
Although town dwellers were more likely to support the Revolution in the Vendée,support for the revolution among the rural peasantry was not unknown. Many lived on monastery properties, and they overwhelmingly embraced the Revolution after these lands were seized and redistributed among them by the republican government.
There were other levy riots across France when regions started to draft men into the army in response to the Levy Decree in February. The reaction in the northwest in early March was particularly pronounced with large-scale rioting verging on insurrection. By early April, in areas north of the Loire, order had been restored by the revolutionary government, but south of the Loire in four departments that became known as the Vendée militaire there were few troops to control rebels and what had started as rioting quickly took on the form of a full insurrection led by priests and the local nobility.
Within a few weeks the rebel forces had formed a substantial, if ill-equipped, army, the Royal and Catholic Army, supported by two thousand irregular cavalry and a few captured artillery pieces. The main force of the rebels operated on a much smaller scale, using guerrilla tactics, supported by the insurgents' unparalleled local knowledge and the good-will of the people.
Geographically, the insurrection occurred within a rough quadrilateral approximately 60 miles (97 km) wide. The territory defied description in the terms of the redistricting of 1790, nor did it align itself to descriptors used in the Ancien Régime; the heart of the movement lay in the forests, with Cholet at its center, in the wild districts of the old county of Anjou, in the Breton marshlands between Montaigu and the sea. It included parts of the old Poitiers and Tours, the departements of Maine-et-Loire, the Vendée, and Deux Sèvres, but never completely fell under insurgent control. The further the land was from Paris (the seat of revolutionary power) the more counter-revolutionary uprisings occurred.
The revolt began in earnest in March 1793, as a rejection of the mass conscription edict. In February, the Convention had voted to approve a levy of three hundred thousand men, to be chosen by lot among the unmarried men in each commune. Thus, the arrival of recruiters reminded locals of the methods of the monarchy, aroused resistance nearly everywhere in the countryside, and set in motion the first serious signs of sedition. Much of this resistance was quelled quickly, but in the lower Loire, in the Maugesand in the Vendean bocage, the situation was more serious and more protracted. Youths from communes surrounding Cholet, a large textile town on the boundary between the two regions, invaded the town and killed the commander of the National Guard, a "patriotic" (pro-revolutionary) manufacturer. Within a week, violence had spread to the Breton marshlands; peasants overran the town of Machecoul on 11 March, and several hundred Republican citizens were massacred. A large band of peasants under the leadership of Jacques Cathelineau and Jean-Nicolas Stofflet seized Saint-Florent-le-Vieil on 12 March. By mid-March, a minor revolt against conscription had turned into full-fledged insurrection.
The Republic was quick to respond, dispatching over 45,000 troops to the area. The first pitched battle was on the night of 19 March. A Republican column of 2,000, under general Louis Henri François de Marcé, moving from La Rochelle to Nantes, was intercepted north of Chantonnay near the Gravereau bridge (Saint-Vincent-Sterlanges), over the river le Petit-Lay.After six hours of fighting, rebel reinforcements arrived and routed the Republican forces. In the north, on 22 March, another Republican force was routed near Chalonnes-sur-Loire.
There followed a series of skirmishes and armed contacts:
On 3 May 1793, Bressuire fell to Vendéen forces led by La Rochejacquelein.
On 5 May 1793, the main clash took place on the Pont de Vrine, the bridge over the stream leading into Thouars. The Vendéens proved unable to take the bridge for six hours, until Louis Marie de Lescure (fighting in his first battle) showed himself alone on the bridge under enemy fire and encouraged his men to follow him, which they did, crossing the bridge. The Republicans there were taken from behind by the cavalry under Charles de Bonchamps, which had crossed the river at a ford. Despite the arrival of reinforcements, the Republicans were routed and withdrew towards the city. The insurgents, headed by Henri de La Rochejacquelein, took the rampart by force and poured into the city, and the Republican troops quickly capitulated. The Vendéens seized a large amount of arms and gunpowder, but allowed the captured Republican forces to leave, after having sworn to no longer fight in the Vendée and had their hair shaved off so they could be recognised lest they went back on their word and were recaptured.
On 25 May 1793 the Catholic and royalist army took Fontenay-le-Comte. Lescure led his men in a courageous charge under enemy fire, shouting 'Long live the king!' and braving cannonfire, which left him unharmed. Likewise La Rochejacquelein wore his distinctive three red handkerchiefs on his head, waist and neck even though the gunners in the Republican forces were aiming for them. Following the victory his friends decided to copy him and all decided to wear three red handkerchiefs too so that La Rochejacquelein could not be distinguished by the enemy in the future. After this the only Vendée towns remaining in the control of the Republic were Nantes and Les Sables d'Olonne.
On 9 June 1793, Vendean insurgents commanded by Jacques Cathelineau captured the town of Saumur from Louis-Alexandre Berthier. The victory gave the insurgents a massive supply of arms, including 50 cannons. This was the high point of the insurgency.The Vendeans had never before attempted to take such a large town, and they captured it in a single day, inflicting heavy losses on its Republican defenders. Many prisoners were taken, some of whom went over to the Vendean cause, while many of the citizens fled to Tours.
On 24 June 1793, the commanders of the Catholic and royalist army issued an ultimatum to the mayor of Nantes, Baco de la Chapelle to surrender the city or they would massacre the garrison.On 29 June they began an assault with a force of 40,000. Inside the city were Republicans from the surrounding countryside who had fled to Nantes for safety, fortifying the defenders with tales of the horrors that the rebels inflicted on towns they managed to take. Baco de la Chapelle stood on a dustcart that he called the 'chariot of victory' to urge the people on, even after he had been wounded in the leg. Poor coordination between the four Vendean armies led by Charette, Bonchamps, Cathelineau and Lyrot hampered the assault, and Cathelineau's forces were delayed in their deployment by fighting along the Erdre river with a Republican battalion. Cathelineau himself was shot at the head of his forces, causing his men to lose heart and retreat; ultimately, the Vendeans were unable to take the city. In October 1793, in order to punish the Vendean prisoners taken after the failure of the siege of Nantes, Jean-Baptiste Carrier ordered them to be shot en masse. When this proved impractical, he had the prisoners rounded up and put out on the Loire river in boats equipped with trap-door bottoms; when these opened the victims were left to drown. On this occasion it was rumored that female prisoners were stripped and tied up with men before being sent to their deaths, the so-called Republican Marriage. Some later historians dispute this story as a counter-revolutionary myth.
On July 5, 1793, the First Battle of Châtillon took place at Châtillon-sur-Sèvre near the commune of Mauléon. In that action, Marquis de la Rochejaquelein commanding 20,000 Vendean Royalists attacked a French Republican force led by General François Joseph Westermann. The Vendean Royalists were victorious, killing and wounding 5,000 French Republicans. Among those killed in the battle was French Republican General Chambon.
The Vendeans won a victory over the revolutionary army led by Santerre at the Battle of Vihiers on 18 July 1793.
The Battle of Luçon was actually a series of three engagements fought over four weeks, the first on 15 July and the last on 14 August 1793, between Republican forces under Augustin Tuncq and Vendean forces. The engagement on 14 August, fought near the town of Luçon was actually the conclusion of three engagements between Louis d'Elbée's Vendean insurgents and the Republican army. On 15 July, Claude Sandoz and a garrison of 800 had repulsed 5,000 insurgents led by d'Elbee; on 28 July, Tuncq drove off a second attempt; two weeks later, Tuncq and his 5,000 men routed 30,000 insurgents under the personal command of François de Charette.
The Battle of Montaigu was fought on 21 September 1793 when the Vendéens attacked general Jean-Michel Beysser's French Republican division. Taken by surprise, this division fought back but lost 400 men, including many captured. Some of these prisoners were summarily executed by the Vendeens and their bodies later found in the castle wells by troops under Jean-Baptiste Kléber.
The Battle of Tiffauges was fought on 19 September 1793 between Royalist military leaders against Republican troops under Jean-Baptiste Kléber and Canclaux.
On October 11, 1793, the Second Battle of Châtillon took place at Châtillon-sur-Sèvre near the commune of Mauléon. In that action, a Vendean Royalist force led by Louis Marie de Lescure and Charles de Bonchamps skirmished with a column of French Republican soldiers from the Coasts of La Rochelle Army. The Republican force commanded by Alexis Chalbos was routed by the Vendean Royalists. Later in the evening of the same day, François Joseph Westermann led a Republican raiding party and attacked the Vendean encampment inflicting losses upon the rebel fighters and non-combatants. The next day the Vendean Royalists withdrew toward Mortagne-sur-Sèvre.
The Battle of Tremblaye (15 October 1793) took place near Cholet during the war in the Vendée, and was a Republican victory over the Vendéens. The Vendean leader Lescure was seriously injured in the fighting.
On 1 August 1793, the Committee of Public Safety ordered General Jean-Baptiste Carrier to carry out a "pacification" of the region by complete physical destruction.These orders were not carried out immediately, but a steady stream of demands for total destruction persisted.
The Republican army was reinforced, benefiting from the first men of the levée en masse and reinforcements from Mainz. The Vendean army had its first serious defeat at the Battle of Cholet on 17 October; worse for the rebels, their army was split. In October 1793 the main force, commanded by Henri de la Rochejaquelein and numbering some 25,000 (followed by thousands of civilians of all ages), crossed the Loire, headed for the port of Granville where they expected to be greeted by a British fleet and an army of exiled French nobles. Arriving at Granville, they found the city surrounded by Republican forces, with no British ships in sight. Their attempts to take the city were unsuccessful. During the retreat, the extended columns fell prey to Republican forces; suffering from hunger and disease, they died in the thousands. The force was defeated in the last, decisive Battle of Savenay on 23 December. [ clarification needed ]Among those executed the following day was lieutenant-general Jacques Alexis de Verteuil, but some historians assert that after the battle of Savenay the rebellion was still going on.
After the Battle of Savenay (December 1793), General Westermann reported to his political masters at the Convention: "The Vendée is no more ... According to your orders, I have trampled their children beneath our horses' feet; I have massacred their women, so they will no longer give birth to brigands. I do not have a single prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated them all." [ clarification needed ]Such killing of civilians would have been an explicit violation of the Convention's orders to Westermann. Several thousand living Vendéan prisoners were being held by Westerman's forces though when the letter was supposedly written, but some historians believe that letter of Westermann never existed.
With the decisive Battle of Savenay (December 1793) came formal orders for forced evacuation; also, a 'scorched earth' policy was initiated: farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned and villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combatant status, political affiliation, age or gender.One specific target were the woman of the region. Since they were seen, in a way, that they were carrying anti-revolutionary babies, they were seen as primary targets.
From January to May 1794, 20,000 to 50,000 Vendean civilians were massacred by the colonnes infernales ("infernal columns") of the general Louis Marie Turreau.
Among those killed towards the end of the conflict were Saint Guillaume Repin and 98 other religious, many of whom were later beatified by the Catholic Church.
In Anjou, directed by Nicolas Hentz and Marie Pierre Adrien Francastel, Republicans captured 11,000 to 15,000 Vendeans, 6,500 to 7,000 were shot or guillotined and 2,000 to 2,200 prisoners died from disease.
Under orders from the Committee of Public Safety in February 1794, the Republican forces launched their final "pacification" effort (named Vendée-Vengé or "Vendée Avenged"): twelve infernal columns under Louis Marie Turreau, marched through the Vendée.General Turreau inquired about "the fate of the women and children I will encounter in rebel territory", stating that, if it was "necessary to pass them all by sword", he would require a decree. In response, the Committee of Public Safety ordered him to "eliminate the brigands to the last man, there is your duty..."
The Convention issued conciliatory proclamations allowing the Vendeans liberty of worship and guaranteeing their property. General Hoche applied these measures with great success. He restored their cattle to the peasants who submitted, "let the priests have a few crowns", and on 20 July 1795 annihilated an émigré expedition which had been equipped in England and had seized Fort Penthièvre and Quiberon. Treaties were concluded at La Jaunaye (15 February 1795) and at La Mabillaie, and were fairly well observed by the Vendeans; no obstacle remained but the feeble and scattered remnant of the Vendeans still under arms and the Chouans. On 30 July 1796 the state of siege was raised in the western departments.
Estimates of those killed in the Vendean conflict—on both sides—range between 117,000 and 450,000, out of a population of around 800,000.
According to Theodore A. Dodge,the war in the Vendée lasted with intensity from 1793 to 1799, when it was suppressed, but later broke out spasmodically especially in 1813, 1814 and 1815. During Napoleon's Hundred Days in 1815, some of the population of the Vendée remained loyal to Louis XVIII, forcing Napoleon—who was short of troops to fight the Waterloo Campaign—to send a force of 10,000 under the command of Jean Maximilien Lamarque to pacify the 8,000 Vendeans led by Pierre Constant Suzannet in the Battle of Rocheservière.
The popular historiography of the War in the Vendée is deeply rooted in conflicts between different schools of French historiography, and, as a result, writings on the uprising are generally highly partisan, coming down strongly in support of the revolutionary government or the Vendéen royalists.This conflict originated in the 19th century between two groups of historians, the Bleus, named for their support of the republicans, who based their findings on archives from the uprising and the Blancs, named for their support of the monarchy and the Catholic Church, who based their findings on local oral histories. The Bleus generally argued that the Vendée was not a popular uprising, but was the result of noble and clerical manipulation of the peasantry. One of the leaders of this school of thought, Charles-Louis Chassin, published eleven volumes of letters, archives, and other materials supporting this position. The Blancs, generally members of the former nobility and clergy themselves, argued (frequently using the same documents as Chassin, but also drawing from contemporary memoirs and oral histories) that the peasants were acting out of a genuine love for the nobility and a desire to protect the Catholic Church.
This focus was popularized in the English-speaking world in 1986, with French historian Reynald Secher's A French Genocide: The Vendée. Secher argued that the actions of the French republican government during the War in the Vendée was the first modern genocide.Secher's claims caused a minor uproar in France amongst scholars of modern French history, as many mainstream authorities on the period—both French and foreign—published articles rejecting Secher's claims. Claude Langlois (of the Institute of History of the French Revolution) derides Secher's claims as "quasi-mythological". Timothy Tackett of the University of California summarizes the case as such: "In reality ... the Vendée was a tragic civil war with endless horrors committed by both sides—initiated, in fact, by the rebels themselves. The Vendeans were no more blameless than were the republicans. The use of the word genocide is wholly inaccurate and inappropriate." Hugh Gough (Professor of history at University College Dublin) called Secher's book an attempt at historical revisionism unlikely to have any lasting impact. While some such as Peter McPhee roundly criticized Secher, including the assertion of commonality between the functions of the Republican government and Communist totalitarianism. Historian Pierre Chaunu expressed support for Secher's views, describing the events as the first "ideological genocide".
Critics of Secher's thesis have alleged that his methodology is flawed. McPhee asserted that these errors are as follows: (1) The war was not fought against Vendeans but Royalist Vendeans, the government relied on the support of Republican Vendeans; (2) the Convention ended the campaign after the Royalist Army was clearly defeated—if the aim was genocide, then they would have continued and easily exterminated the population; (3) Fails to inform the reader of atrocities committed by Royalist against Republicans in the Vendée; (4) Repeats stories now known to be folkloric myths as fact; (5) Does not refer to the wide range of estimates of deaths suffered by both sides, and that casualties were not "one-sided"; and more.
Peter McPhee says that the pacification of the Vendée does not fit either the United Nations' CPPCG definition of genocide because the events happened during a civil war. He states that the war in the Vendée was not a one-sided mass killing and the Committee of Public Safety did not intend to exterminate the whole population of the Vendée; parts of the population were allied to the revolutionary government.
Concerning the controversy, Michel Vovelle, a specialist on the French Revolution, remarked: "A whole literature is forming on "Franco-French genocide", starting from risky estimates of the number of fatalities in the Vendean wars ... Despite not being specialists in the subject, historians such as Pierre Chaunu have put all the weight of their great moral authority behind the development of an anathematizing discourse, and have dismissed any effort to look at the subject reasonably."
Debate over the characterization of the Vendée uprising was renewed in 2007, when nine deputies introduced a measure to the Assemblée nationale to officially recognize the republican actions as genocidal.The measure was strongly denounced by a group of leftist French historians as an attempt to use history to justify political extremism.
At the start of 2017 Jacques Villemain published Vendée, 1793–1794 : Crime de guerre ? Crime contre l'humanité ? Génocide ? Une étude juridique, which an analysis by him of the Vendée war from the perspective of the international courts of justice in The Hague (such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). Jacques Villemain is a French diplomat, and is currently the vice representative of France at OECD and is representing France at the International Court of Justice. He presents a legal study on the War of Vendée based on current international law, then according modern findings in the international courts on genocide cases like the Rwanda Genocide, and the Srebrenica massacre, is that there were war crimes performed by The French Republic in March 1793, Crime against Humanity from April to July 1793 and Genocide from 1 August 1793 to middle of 1794.
In the heart of the modern controversy lies Secher's evidence, which Charles Tilly analyzed in 1990.Initially, Tilly maintains, Secher completed a thoughtful dissertation-style thesis about the revolutionary experience in his own village, La Chapelle-Basse-Mer, which lies near Nantes. In the published version of his thesis, he incorporated some of Tilly's own arguments: that conflicts within communities generalized into a region-wide confrontation of anti-revolutionary majority based in the countryside with a pro-revolutionary minority that had particular strength in the cities. The split formed with the application of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and the oath to support it, in 1790–1792. From then, the local conflicts grew more sharply defined, over the choice between juring and non-juring priests. The conscription of March 1793, with the questionable exemption for Republican officials and National Guard members, broadened the anti-revolutionary coalition and brought the young men into action.
With Le génocide français, Reynald Secher's thesis for the Doctorat d'État began with a generalization of the standard arguments to the whole region. Although La Chapelle-Basse-Mer served him repeatedly as a reference point, Secher illustrated his arguments with wide citations from national and regional archives to establish a broader frame of reference. Furthermore, he drew on graphic, nineteenth century accounts widely known to the historians of the Vendee: Carrier drownings and the "infernal columns of Turreau". Most importantly, however, Secher broke with conventional assessments by asserting on the basis of minimal evidence, Tilly claims, that the pre-revolutionary Vendée was more prosperous than the rest of France (to better emphasize the devastation of the war and the repression). He used dubious statistical methods to establish population losses and fatalities, statistical processes that inflated the number of people in the region, the number and value of houses, and the financial losses of the region. Secher's statistical procedure relied on three unjustifiable assumptions. First, Secher assumes a constant birth rate of about 37 per thousand of population, when actually, Tilly maintains, the population was declining. Second, Secher assumes no net migration; Tilly maintains that thousands fled the region, or at least shifted where they lived within the region. Finally, Secher understated the population present at the end of the conflict by ending it 1802, not 1794.
Despite the criticism, a number of scholars continue the assertion of genocide. In addition to Secher and Chaunu, Kurt Jonassohn and Frank Chalk also consider it a case of genocide.Further support comes from Adam Jones, who wrote in Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction a summary of the Vendée uprising, supporting the view that it was a genocide: "the Vendée Uprising stands as a notable example of a mass killing campaign that has only recently been conceptualized as 'genocide'" and that while this designation "is not universally shared ... it seems apt in the light of the large scale murder of a designated group (the Vendéan civilian population)." Pierre Chaunu describes it as the first "ideological genocide". Mark Levene, a historian who specializes in the study of genocide, considers the Vendée "an archetype of modern genocide". Other scholars who consider the massacres to be genocide include R.J. Rummel, Jean Tulard, and Anthony James Joes.
This relatively brief episode in French history has left significant traces on French politics, as the current argument on genocide suggests, yet it is reasonable to see the episode, Charles Tilly has claimed, in a far more benign light:
West's counterrevolution grew directly from the efforts of revolutionary officials to install a particular kind of direct rule in the region: a rule that practically eliminated nobles and priests from their positions as partly autonomous intermediaries, that brought the state's demands for taxes, manpower, and deference to the level of individual communities, neighborhoods, and households that gave the region's bourgeois political power they had never before wielded. In seeking to extend the state's rule to every locality, and to dislodge all enemies of that rule, French revolutionaries started a process that did not cease for twenty-five years.
The Vendée revolt became an immediate symbol of confrontation between revolution and counterrevolution, and a source of unexpurgated violence. The region, and its towns, were eliminated; even the department name of Vendée was renamed Venge. Towns and cities were also renamed, but at heart, in villages and farms, the old names remained the same. Beyond the controversial interpretations of genocide, other historians posit the insurrection as a revolt against conscription that cascaded to include other complaints. For a period of several months, control of the Vendée slipped from the hands of Parisian revolutionaries. They ascribed the revolt to the resurgence of royalist ideas: when faced with insurrection of the people against the Revolution of the People, they were unable to see it as anything but an aristocratic plot. Mona Ozouf and François Furet maintain it was not. The entire territory, none of it unified under a single idea from the ancien regime, had never been a region morally at odds with the rest of the nation. It was not the fall of the old regime that aroused the population against the Revolution, but rather the construction of the new regime into locally unacceptable principles and forms: the new map of districts and departments, the administrative dictatorship, and above all the non-juring priests. Rebellion had first flared in August 1792, but had been immediately quelled. Even the regicide did not trigger insurrection. What did was the forced conscription. Although the Vendeans, to use the term loosely, wrote God and King large on their flags, they invested those symbols of their tradition with something other than regret for the lost regime.
Filmed on location in France, The Hidden Rebellion, a docu-drama produced and directed by Daniel Rabourdin, presents a stunning example of the courage and love for God and country that the royalist peasants possessed. The Hidden Rebellion, winner of the 2017 Remi film award, has aired on EWTN and is avalible for purchase on DVD.
The uprising in the Vendée was also the subject of an independent feature film from Navis Pictures. The War of the Vendée (2012), written and directed by Jim Morlino, won awards for "Best Film For Young Audiences" (Mirabile Dictu International Catholic Film Festival, at the Vatican) and "Best Director" (John Paul II International Film Festival, Miami, FL).
The Vendée Revolt was the setting for one of the BBC's The Scarlet Pimpernel (TV series) series entitled "Valentine Gautier" (2002).
The Vendée Revolt was also the setting for "The Frogs and the Lobsters", an episode of the television program Hornblower . It is set during the French Revolutionary Wars and very loosely based on the chapter of the same name in C. S. Forester's novel, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and on the actual ill-fated Quiberon expedition of 1795.
The Vendée is a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France, on the Atlantic Ocean. The name Vendée is taken from the River Vendée which runs through the southeastern part of the department.
François Joseph Westermann was a French general of the Revolutionary Wars and political figure of the French Revolution.
Jacques Cathelineau, Generalissimo of the Catholic and Royal Army, was a French Vendéan insurrection leader during the Revolution. He was known among his followers as the Saint of Anjou.
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 nephew Athanase-Charles-Marie Charette de la Contrie was a noted military leader and grandson of Charles X the last king of France.
Henri du Vergier, comte de la Rochejaquelein was the youngest general of the Royalist Vendéan insurrection during the French Revolution. A commander-in-chief of the Catholic and Royal Army at the age of 21, he is regarded as one of the most courageous officers in French military history.
The Drownings at Nantes were a series of mass executions by drowning during the Reign of Terror in Nantes, France, that occurred between November 1793 and February 1794. During this period, anyone arrested and jailed for not consistently supporting the Revolution, or suspected of being a royalist sympathizer, especially Catholic priests and nuns, was cast into the Loire and drowned on the orders of Jean-Baptiste Carrier, the representative-on-mission in Nantes. Before the murders ceased, as many as four thousand or more people, including innocent families with women and children, died in what Carrier himself called "the national bathtub".
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 Battles of Fontenay-le-Comte were fought on 16 May 1793 and on 25 May 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars, between forces of the French Republic under Alexis Chalbos and Royalist forces under Marquis de Lescure and Charles de Bonchamps. The battle was fought near the town of Fontenay-le-Comte in Vendée, France, and ended in a Royalist victory. The first battle resulted in the town's successful resistance to the insurgent army; the second battle resulted in the Vendean victory.
The Second Battle of Cholet was fought on 17 October 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars, between French Republican forces under General Jean Léchelle and French Royalist Forces under Maurice d'Elbée. The battle was fought in the town of Cholet in the Maine-et-Loire department of France, and resulted in a Republican victory. D’Elbée was wounded and captured; he was later executed by Republican troops in Noirmoutier. The Royalist insurgent, Charles Melchior Artus de Bonchamps, was fatally wounded in the battle.
Saint-Mesmin is a commune in the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region in western France.
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 Virée de Galerne was a military operation of the War in the Vendée during the French Revolutionary Wars across Brittany and Normandy. It takes its name from French virée (turn) and Breton gwalarn.
The Battle of Savenay took place on 23 December 1793, and marks the end of the Virée de Galerne operational phase of the first war in the Vendée after the French Revolution. A Republican force of approximately 18,000 decisively defeated the Armée Catholique et Royale force of 6,000 at Savenay.
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.
Jean Léchelle or Jean L'Échelle briefly commanded a French army during the French Revolutionary Wars. Having served in the French Royal Army as a youth, the outbreak of the French Revolution found him employed as a fencing master. He was elected to lead a volunteer National Guard battalion which fought at Valmy and Jemappes in 1792. He earned promotion to general officer after distinguishing himself at the Siege of Valenciennes and saving a representative from an angry mob. He won such favor with the politicians and the war office that he was rapidly catapulted into command of an army in the War in the Vendée. After the capable battalion leader demonstrated his total unfitness for the post of army commander, he was just as quickly arrested and thrown into prison where he died, a probable suicide.
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.
The Army of the Coasts of La Rochelle was an army of the French Revolution which was created on 30 April 1793 and responsible for defending a region from the mouth of the Loire River south to the Gironde. Despite its relatively short existence, the army fought numerous battles during the War in the Vendée including Thouars, Fontenay-le-Comte, Saumur, First Châtillon, Vihiers, Luçon, Chantonnay, Coron and Saint-Fulgent. Many of the battles resulted in Republican defeats at the hands of the Vendean Royalists. Of the two principal army commanders, Armand Louis de Gontaut, Duke of Biron was dismissed and later executed by guillotine while Jean Antoine Rossignol was a political appointee who was generally acknowledged to be incompetent. The army was absorbed by the Army of the West on 5 October 1793.
The First Battle of Châtillon during the War in the Vendée saw the Vendean Royalists defeat a French Republican raiding force led by François-Joseph Westermann. The rebel Catholic and Royal Army virtually destroyed the Republican column, only Westermann and a few hundred cavalrymen escaped the disaster. The Vendée revolt was a bitter civil war waged between those who supported the French Revolution and rural farmers who resented the new government's anti-Catholic laws and conscription decrees.
The Machecoul massacre is one of the first events of the War in the Vendée, a revolt against mass conscription and the civil constitution of the clergy. The first massacre took place on 11 March 1793, in the provincial city of Machecoul, in the district of the lower Loire. The city was a thriving center of grain trade; most of the victims were administrators, merchants and citizens of the city.
Reynald Secher is a French historian famous for his work on the War in the Vendée.