July 14, 1793 Anniversary of Jacques Cathelineau's death

On July 14 the Bastille was stormed, it is the French National Day but it also commemerates the death of Jacques Cathelineau, hero of the Vendee.

Jacques Cathelineau was born on the 5th January 1759 at Pin-en-Mauges. he was born into a poor but devout family and was the second of 5 children, His father was a stonemason and held the office of sacristian to the priest of his village. His father thus is able to gain some knowledge of the people in his village in making notations in the parish directory. It is in this very Christian, and Catholic atmosphere, between his house and the presbytery that Jacques will grow.

During this era, school was reserved for the sons of noblity. There was no school in the village, and in any event the cost was well too dear for the common people. When the priest observed a gifted child, he would propose to him some small works in exchange for instruction in religious things, The young Jacques must been truly gifted, since the priest proposed to M. Cathelineau to send his son to be instructed in the rectory of the chapel in Genêt.

In February 4 1777, Jacques Cathelineau, while still a minor, married Louise Godin, 9 years his elder. They will have a total of 10 children of which 5 that will die in their first year. Cathelineau works as a stone mason, just as his father. He is very active in his parish, and it is there he is elected, in 1787, syndic, an advocate in the court of justice. The life in this period is difficult. Epidemics succeed the natural catastrophes, and the farmers the Mauges believe it is the punishment of God. They repeat prayers of devotion to let the anger fall of God to be lessened.

The Revolution in the Vendee,

Most of the people of this Vendee region are the very peasants who the revolutionary leaders claimed to be speaking for. The people, like most people in France, indeed every country, wished for government reform and less taxes. However, they were steadfastly loyal to their King, both on earth and in Heaven, to their hereditary royal government and especially Holy Mother Church. When the revolution erupted in all of its horror, the people of the Vendee rose up as one voice to say, "Non!" They will form an army which will later be called "The Catholic and Royal Army." They are nicknamed "Chouans" which means screech owls. Their rallying cry is "Rembarre", which loosly translated means "Get at them!", and... they place fear in the hearts of the "Bleus".

In March 12 1793, the "Levee en Masse" a conscription, is announced in St Florent. Against this there is hostility on the part of the population due to their close ties with the Catholic church, the excesses of the revolution and stong affection to the nobility of the region of the Vendee. Unmarried men have no intention to go to kill on the frontiers in order to protect a republic that they oppose On that day, the whole city of St Florent finds itself demonstrating opposition to the "levee en masse". The crowds turn on the so-called "patriots" that attempt to flee. The attacks were violent, and several repulicans were killed, War in the Vendee had become inevitable. Cathelineau that is not concerned by the draft, and does not participate in the attack on the republicans. Now that the war is here, he decides to command the force at Pin-en-Mauges. The next day, he takes the command of a group of men of the "Pine". From everywhere in the Mauges, peasants, and craftsmen, provide him with their pitchforks, knives and hunting arms, to hunt the despoilers of the Vendee. The war has begun, but to organize it.. that is a different matter. The peasants ask those that they believe the most qualified to direct them: the "aristocrats" of their village. They have experience in leading and some have been in the "Metropolitan Armee" of the King. Cathelineau is an exception. Stofflet and he are the only ones to take command of the force. Cathelineau has the stature of a leader. He has received the necessary leadership skills from his father. His activities within the parish provide him with the respect and confidence of his men. The army takes as it's badge, a red heart surmounted by a red cross placed on a white field, the Sacred Heart.

Cathelineau takes the road to war, at the head of his small army. Until July, it will fight, going from victory to victory, and experiencing only a few defeats.

According to Stofflet, The army marches on Chemillé, Cholet, then March 16 on to Vihiers. At Vihiers, The Army of Anjou causes a republican battalion to flee and captures a cannon. This cannon, is baptized Marie-Jeanne in honor of Mary the Queen of Heaven and Jeanne the "Maid of Orleans", and make it their mascot. Following this advance, Bonchamps, Cathelineau and Stofflet seize Chalonnes next. This "Catholic and Royal Army, " advances without opposition.

As Easter approaches the army pauses to celebrate the Saviours resurrection. Cathelineau and his men return home, to see wives and children for the holiday celebrations. The republicans, of course, flee the village, and the abbot Cantiteau celebrates, in peace, the great Easter feast day. The republican forces use this time not to celebrate the resurrection of the Saviour but take advantage of the pause and reorganize. They profit by the truce and send for the reinforcements from all over France. They constitute four columns and march on Mauges. After a sanguine battle and with heavy losses, the Vendean Army is compelled to abandon Mauges to the republicans and to withdraw to Tiffauges.

The draft arrives in Châtillon April 13, a month after St Florent. In Deux-Sèvres, conscription is rejected as well. Following de la Rochejaquelein, the call of the priests, the men attack the republicans and the forces their retreat. This new army, with to his head this young man of 21 years, rallies itself to the Angevins. Now grouped together in a single Army, they decide to attack the republican columns, before they can regroup.

The combined Army is born on April 17, with its head Cathelineau, Bonchamps, d'Elbée, de Le Rochejaquelein and Stofflet. Animated by their commanders, they retake Cholet, leaving 1000 "bleus" dead. By the edge of the sword they liberate all the Mauges and follow on to Bressuire. In the prison of Bressuire, are the Marquis de Lescure, his wife, the Marquis de Donissan and Marigny. The Catholic army liberates the city, and opens the prison doors. Lescure and Marigny that recover their liberty, and place themslves at the head of the "Royal and Catholic Army."

The newly formed force, now 10000+ men strong, with La Rochejaquelein at its head and Lescure march on Thouars. Once again they find victory. A great cache of weapons are seized: including 12 cannon, 7000 muskets and 20 caissons. Bonchamps, Lescure and Cathelineau order the army not to pillage, and for the inhabitants no ill treatment. The commanders of the armies of Anjou and Poitou, with the notable exception of Marigny, continually treat their prisoners with a humanity. There have been outrages but it has not been the fault of the leaders.

The first successes of the Vendéans are due to the fact that the "Bleus" had not expected an insurrection. When the resistance to the "Chouans" became more serious, differences arose among their leaders. To avoid these rivalries and provide a unified command, it is thought that Cathelineau was named generalissimo of the rebels. The rest of the military leaders, almost all of whom are "aristo"s, choose a leader, a man of the people. Why him? This choice is doubtless at once logical and political choice. Cathelineau undoubtedly deserved this post. Perhaps he is chosen because he was not noble, to foil a republican claim that the uprising in the Vendee was formed by the aristocracy. This choice is without reroach and was not through personal ambition. He is pious. he is a symbol of a popular uprising that is not instigated by the noblility, but on the contrary, it is of the people. He is a good leader, a visionary and he is appreciated by his men.

The "Chouans" who are strengthened by their victories, decide to advance futrther. They prepare the siege of Nantes, a republican stronghold. June 29, with the assistance of Charette, as reinforcements, Bonchamps and Cathelineau attack the city. Perhaps too sure victory, they come up against well prepared republicans. During the battle, Jacques Cathelineau is injured of a bullet to the chest. He is brought to the rear then evacuated to Saint Florent le Vieil. The wound proves mortal. On the threshold of death, the abbot Cantiteau comes to him. The abbot will write that Cathelineau knowing itself dying, remained calm, happy that he has given his life in the name of God. He lingers, close to death, as long as possible to be informed of the disposition of his army. On July 14 1793, Jacques Cathelineau dies. His body is buried in the cemetery of Saint Florent le Vieil. His death remains secret, in order not to demoralize his men by the loss of it leader. He is 34 years old...

On July 20, d'Elbée is elected commanding general to relace Cathelineau. The war loses it mystical side and becomes a more of a military matter. The death of Cathelineau, with the defeat at Nantes becomes a turning point of the counter revolution.

The Vendéan army receives a serious check at Cholet on October 17, and the army becomes divided. In October 1793 the larger, headed de la Rochejaquelein and numbering some 25,000+ accompanied by thousands of refugees cross the Loire for the port of Granville where they hope to be united with British forces and exiled aristos. Arriving at Granville, they found the city surrounded by Republican forces, with no British ships in sight. Their attempts to take the city are unsuccessful, their position untenable, and they retreat. 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 genocide in the Vendee drags on on to an end in March 1796, the estimated dead numbered between 117,000 and 500,000, out of a population of around 800,000.

Vive le Roy.

Note Some of the redirects and links are in French, je suis désolé.


Inspector Clouseau said...

Nice work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the blue Nav Bar located at the top of my blogger.com site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

Brantigny said...

Thanks for you kind comments

Leah Marie Brown said...

Merci pour le post! Thank you for posting this piece about one of my favorite heroes of the Vendee.