Until the end of World War II it was hard to imagine that any regime placed in power could be so brutal to it's own citizens. Today, most people have heard about the atrocities committed against the Armenians by the Turks in 1916-1917, by Stalin in the purges and assuredly by the Germans against Jews, Adventists, Gypsies, Catholics, prisoners. Yet few, even now have ever heard about one nation whose ideals fall somewhat short of the words written in their own "Rights of Man and of the Citizen"
I speak of Republican France, whose geocide in the Vendee was marked by one atrocity after another all in the name of "the Revolution". The War on the Vendee was instigated by the War in the Vendee which arose from the dissatisfaction with the republican government over the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and the levée en masse or the conscription of soldiers.
Civil Constitution of the Clergy comprised four titles.
Title I, Ecclesiastical Offices: Diocesan boundaries were to agree with those of departments, 57 episcopal sees being thus suppressed. The title of archbishop was abolished; out of 83 remaining bishoprics 10 were called metropolitan bishoprics and given jurisdiction over the neighboring dioceses. No section of French territory should recognize the authority of a bishop living abroad, or of his delegates, and this, adds the Constitution, "without prejudice to the unity of faith and the communion which shall be maintained with the head of the Universal Church". Canonries, prebends, and priories were abolished. There should no longer be any sacerdotal posts especially devoted to fulfilling the conditions of Mass foundations. All appeals to Rome were forbidden.
Title II, Appointment to Benefice: Bishops should be appointed by the Electoral Assembly of the department; they should be invested and consecrated by the metropolitan and take an oath of fidelity to the nation, the King, the Law, and the Constitution; they should not seek any confirmation from the pope. Parish priests should be elected by the electoral assemblies of the districts. Thus all citizens, even Protestants, Jews, and nominal Catholics, might name titulars to ecclesiastical offices, and the first obligation of priests and bishops was to take an oath of fidelity to the Constitution which denied to the Holy See any effective power over the Church.
Title III, Salary of ministers of Religion: The Constitution fixed the salary of the Bishop of Paris at 51,000 livres (about $10,200), that of bishops of towns whose population exceeded 50,000 souls at 20,000 livres (about $4000), that of other bishops at 12,000 livres (about $2400), that of curés at a sum ranging from 6000 (about $1200) to 1200 livres (about $240). For the lower clergy this was a betterment of their material condition, especially as the real value of these sums was two and one-half times the present amount.
Title IV, dealing with residence, made very severe conditions regarding the absences of bishops and priests.
This is certainly unacceptable to Catholics and was formally announced by the Pope Pius VI in Caritas, Encyclical promulgated on 13 April 1791.. While estimates vary and some priest and Bishops signed the Constitution, many more did not. In the Vendee this was especially hard as priests were forced into hiding for not signing or were forced to emigrate. As with the Protestant Reformation in England and the penal laws Catholic priests were hunted down if they would not jure. The Vendee arose as one in the defense of their religion and of the nobilty. Not all the leaders were nobles, laying to rest the myth that it was the nobility which enticed the peasent to revolt. Names like Cathelineau, D'Elbee, de Lescure, de la Rochejacquelein and others were called upon by the populace to defend the Faith, Honour and the King. Following the initial outbreak, there were spontaneous and uncoordinated riots on March 10-13 in many towns and villages. The representatives of the Republic — mayors, judges, National Guardsmen, educationalists, priests and others — were singled out for attack and murder. In the bloodiest outburst, in Machecoul on March 11 forty men were beaten and stabbed to death on the streets, before another four hundred or so were gathered up and arrested. The men were taken out in 'rosaries' (tied in a line with rope around the chest), made to dig ditches and then shot - their bodies tumbled into the graves they had dug.
The crowds then joined, moving from the smaller to the larger settlements, armed with captured weapons and led by gamekeepers and wheelwrights. Cholet and Chemillé in the north and Fontenay-le-comte in the south, quickly fell to the Vendéan, their numbers overwhelming the inadequate Republican garrisons. Local nobles were approached, and while many declined, some (d'Elbée, Sapinaud de la Verrie, Charette) became the leaders of their local force, creating a small loyal force for each locality. The clergy were also fairly reticent, but certain prominent members played an important role in rallying the people.
Within a few weeks the Vendéan 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.
The Republic was quick to respond, dispatching over 45,000 troops to the area by the end of March. Unfortunately for the government, less than one bleu in twenty was adequately trained, the majority were raw young recruits - barely trained, badly equipped and fed, scared and with miserably low morale. Worse, this force was scattered in "penny packets" of fifty to a hundred men throughout the region, allowing the brutality of the 'invading' bleus to anger many people, but limiting control to a few urban centres, inviting attack and providing many weak garrisons as targets.
War in the Vendee
The first pitched battle was on the night of March 19. A Republican column of 2,000, under General de Marcé, moving from La Rochelle to Nantes was intercepted north of Chantonnay at Pont-Charrault (La Guérinière), near the Lay. After six hours of fighting rebel reinforcements arrived and routed the Republican forces. The Vendéans advanced as far south as Niort. In the north, on March 22, another Republican force was routed near Chalonnes, leaving their equipment for the grateful Vendéans.
The Vendée Militaire covered the area between the Loire and the Lay - covering the Vendée (Marais, Bocage Vendéen, Collines Vendéennes), part of Maine-et-Loire west of the Layon, and the portion of Deux Sèvres west of the Thouet. Having secured their pays the deficiencies of the Vendéan army became more apparent. Lacking a unified strategy (or army) and fighting a defensive campaign, the army lost cohesion and its special advantages from April onwards. Successes continued for some time: Thouars was taken in early May and Saumur in June, there were victories at Châtillon and Vihiers. But the Vendéans then turned to a protracted and wasteful siege of Nantes.
On August 1 the Committee of Public Safety ordered General Jean-Baptiste Carrier to perform a ruthless pacification. The Republican army was reinforced, benefiting from the first men of the levée en masse and reinforcements from Mainz. The Vendéan army had its first serious defeat at Cholet on October 17; worse for the Vendéans, 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 their thousands, the force was finally shattered in the last, decisive battle at Savenay on December 23.
The Reign of Terror, seen elsewhere in France, was extraordinarily brutal in the Vendée. Following the law of 14 Frimaire, in December alone over 6,000 prisoners were executed, a number in what was called the "national bath" - tied in groups in barges and then sunk into the Loire. Among them were 400 children whom Carrier hated especially, seeing in them "brigands to be".
Reynald Secher has written a book (A French Genocide: The Vendee) in which he says that in that the actions of the French republican government during and after the revolt was the first modern genocide, as does Adam Jones his book Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction...
From February 1794 the Republican forces launched their final "pacification" (the Vendée-Vengé or "Vendée Avenged")- twelve columns, the colonnes infernales ("infernal columns") under Turreau, were marched through the Vendée, indiscriminately targeting not only the remaining rebels and the people who had given them support, but those who were non-combatants as well. Beyond this massacre there were formal orders for forced evacuation and 'scorched earth' - farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned, villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combantant status, political affiliation, age or gender. The campaign was ordered as such by the Comité de Salut public:
"The committee has prepared measures that tend to exterminate this rebellious race of Vendéeans, to make their abodes disappear, to torch their forests, to cut their crops."
The orders to Turreau were:
"Exterminate the brigands to the last man instead of burning the farms, punish the fleeing ones and the cowards, and crush that horrible Vendée". Combine the most assured means to exterminate all of this race of brigands.
When the campaign dragged to an end in March 1796 the estimated dead numbered between 117,000 and 500,000, out of a population of around 800,000.
If the larger number can be accepted and there is no reason to believe it cannot,then more than half the population was destroyed. The names of the generals who lead this bestial attack on its own people may be found on the walls of the Arche de Triomphe.
Other articles in this vein may be found here.
This long litany is sufficiently moving to be it's own commentary. We invite all those that have not done so to go on pilgrimage in Memory to the Chapel of Petit-Luc in which all the names of these young martyrs may be found listed.*
Marie-Modeste AIRIAU, de la Ricoulière, 5 ans et 7 mois,
Thomas AIRIAU, de Villeneuve, 10 mois,
Joseph ARCHAMBAUD, de Puyberne, 20 mois,
Agathe ARNAUD de Belleville (tuée au Lucs ) 4 ans et demi,
Etienne BERIAU, de l’Erzandière.15 jours,
Marie-Madeleine BERIAU, de Roblin, 2 ans et 11 mois,
Jeanne BERIAU, du Petit-Luc, 4 ans,
Marie BERNARD, de la Jarrie, 3 ans,
Céleste BOISSELEAU, de la Grézaudière, 6 ans,
Pierre BOISSELEAU, de la Gaconnière, 6ans et demi,
François BOSSIS, du bourg du Grand-Luc, 7 mois,
Joseph BOSSIS, son frère, 23 mois,
Louis BOSSIS, autre frère, 5 ans,
Pierre BOUET, de la Surie, 27 mois,
Louis BOURON, de Bourgneuf, 3 mois,
Madeleine BOURON, sa cousine, de Bourgneuf, 3 ans,
Marie CHARUAU, de la Guyonnière, 2 ans,
Marie-Madeleine CHARUAU, sa sœur, 4ans et 3 mois,
Jean CHARRIER, de la Devinière, 3 ans,
Marie DAVIAUD, de l’Erzandière, 1 mois,
Pierre DAVIAUD, son frère, 5 ans et 8 mois,
Jeanne DAVIAUD, au Petit-Luc, 2 ans et 11 mois,
Pierre DAVIAUD, son frère, 4 ans et 10 mois,
Louis EPIARD, du Chef-du-Pont, 5 ans et 10 mois,
Jean-François ERCEAU, de la Sorinière, 27 mois,
Pierre FETIVEAU, de la Gaconnière, 27 mois,
N…FETIVEAU, son frère, 3 mois,
Jeanne FEVRE, du Chef-du-Pont, 5 ans et demi,
Suzanne FORGEAU, de la Sorinière, 20 mois,
Rose-Aimée FORT, du Champ-Dolent, 31 mois,
Pierre-René FORT, son frère, 5 ans et 9 mois,
Marie-Anne FOURNIER, bourg du Grand-Luc, 30 mois,
Jacques FOURNIER, son frère, 5 ans et 5 mois,
Marie GARREAU, de la Cornetière, 7 ans,
Marie-Anne GAUTRET, de la Guénière,7 ans,
Pierre GEAI, des Temples ; 25 mois,
Jean GIRARD, du Chef-du-Pont, 1 an,
Marie-Jeanne GIRARD, sa sœur, 4 ans et 2 mois,
Pierre GIRARD, leur frère, 6 ans et 4 mois,
Pierre GOUIN, des Temples, 1 an,
Louis GRALEPOIS, de la Grézaudière, 13 mois,
Jeanne GRALEPOIS, de la Bretonnière, 5 ans,
Pierre GRATON, du Puy, 3 ans et 4 mois,
Jeanne GRIS, de la Cernetière, 5 mois,
Pierre GRIS, son frère, 5 ans,
Lubin GUILLET, du Bourg du Grand-Luc, 6 ans,
Marie GUITET, de l’Erzandière, 4 ans et demi,
Marie HERMOUET, du bourg du Grand-Luc, 5 mois,
Louis HIOU, de Bourgneuf, 2 ans et 11 mois,
Marie-Anne JOLI, de la Bromière, 27 mois,
Marie MALARD, du Marchais, 4 ans,
Jean MALIDIN, de la Primaudière, 18 mois,
Marie MALIDIN, sa sœur, 3 ans et 11 mois,
Jeanne MALIDIN, de la Bruère, 3 ans,
Rose MALIDIN, sa sœur, 6 ans et 2 mois,
Joseph MANDIN, du bourg du Grand-Luc, 23 mois,
Louis MANDIN, son frère, 5 ans et 9 mois,
Véronique MARTIN, de la Moricière, 1 an,
Marie-Françoise MARTIN, du Petit-Luc, 2 ans,
Louise MARTIN, sa sœur, 5 ans et 4 mois,
Rosalie MARTIN, de la Guénière, 2 ans et 10 mois,
Louise MARTIN, sa sœur, 5 ans et 3 mois,
Rosalie MARTINEAU, de Bourgneuf, 2 ans et 11 mois,
Jean MIGNEN, de la Sorinière, 1 an,
Louise MINAUD, du Brégeon, 15 jours,
Louise-Marie MINAUD, sa sœur, 15 mois,
Jean MINAUD, leur frère, 5 ans et 3 mois,
Pierre MINAUD, autre frère, 6 ans et 11 mois,
Jeanne MINAUD, de la Davière, 15 mois,
André MINAUD, son frère, 4 ans et 2 mois,
Véronique MINAUD, leur sœur, 6 ans et 8 mois,
Pierre MINAUD, leur cousin de la Davière, 4 ans,
Louise MINAUD, de l’Ethelière, 33 mois,
Marie-Anne MINAUD, sa sœur, 6 ans et 11 mois,
Anne MORILLEAU, de la Primaudière, 2 ans
Céleste MORILLEAU, sa sœur, 6 ans et 5 mois,
Jean PERROCHEAU, du Retail, 5 ans et 3 mois,
Pierre POGU, de la Pellerinière, 22 mois,
Jean POGU, son frère, 5 ans,
Rose PREVIT, de Villeneuve, 10 mois,
Marie PREVIT, sa sœur, 6 ans,
Rose REMAUD, de Bourgneuf, 4 ans et 11 mois,
Marie REMAUD, de la Grande-Métairie, 4 ans et demi,
Pierre RENAUD, de la Nouette, 18 mois,
Catherine RENAUD, sa sœur, 3 ans et demi,
Jeanne RENAUD, leur cousine, de la Nouette, 4 ans,
Marie-Anne RENAUD, de la Petite-Brosse, 4 ans,
Pierre RENAUD, son frère, 6 ans et demi,
Marie RICOULEAU, de la Bromière, 22 mois,
Jeanne ROBIN, de la Retardière, 5 ans,
Marie-Anne RORTAIS, de la Guyonnière, 4 ans,
Jeanne ROUSSEAU, de la Gaconnière, 23 mois,
Jean ROUSSEAU, son frère, 3 ans et 11 mois,
Louis ROUSSEAU, autre frère, 7 ans,
Victoire ROUSSEAU, cousine, de la Gaconnière, 11 mois,
Jeanne ROUSSEAU, sœur de Victoire, 4 ans,
Jeanne SAVARIAU, de la Sorinière, 5 ans et 10 mois,
Pierre SIMONEAU, de la Moricière, 6 mois,
Jean SIMONEAU, son frère, 4 ans et 10 mois,
Jacques SIMONEAU, de la Bugelière, 18 mois,
Joseph, SIMONEAU, cousine, de la Bugelière, 8 mois,
Henri SORET, du Petit-Luc, 2 ans,
Jacques SORIN, de la Bromière, 5 mois,
Jean SORIN, son frère, 3 ans et 3 mois,
Madeleine TENET, du Chef-du-Pont, 7 ans,
Louis VRIGNAUD, de la Ricoulière, 23 mois,
Marie-Jeanne VRIGNAUD, de la Cornetière, 3 ans,
Jean-Baptiste VRIGNAUD, son frère, 4 ans et 5 mois
Let us resume the prayer composed in 1994 (at the time of Bicentenary) to ask the Beatification of the children martyrs of the Lucs:
"Lord Jesus, that crowned the martyrs, the small children sacrificed in Bethlehem in your place by Herod, please to grant the glorification of these small children of the Petit-Luc, victims of revolutionary impiety. Was it not in hate of your name that they were slaughtered, these new Holy Innocents from this now nicknamed parish the Bethelem of the Vendee? Notre-Dame du Petit-Luc, Queen of the Martyrs, pray for us!".
The time may come, and come soon, for our Faith and our country to become mutually exclusive. If that day comes will we be ready to choose God over country as the Vendeans, or country over God?.
Reine des Martyrs, priez pour nous !
Dieu le Roy!
*French: Cette longue litanie est suffisamment émouvante pour se passer de commentaires. Nous invitons tous ceux qui ne l’ont pas encore fait d’aller en Pèlerinage du Souvenir à la Chapelle du Petit-Luc dans laquelle sont inscrits tous les noms de ces jeunes martyrs.
Reprenons la prière composée en 1994 (lors du Bicentenaire) pour demander la Béatification des enfants martyrs des Lucs:
« Seigneur Jésus, qui avez couronné de l’auréole des martyrs les petits enfants de Bethléem immolés à votre place par Hérode, daignez nous accorder la Glorification des petits enfants des Lucs, victimes de l’impiété révolutionnaire. N’est-ce pas en haine de votre nom qu’ils furent eux aussi massacrés, nouveaux SAINTS INNOCENTS de cette paroisse justement surnommée le BETHELEM DE LA VENDEE? Notre-Dame du Petit-Luc, Reine des Martyrs, priez pour nous ! ».