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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 15

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The massacre of Savenay had not settled La Vendée. There was spirit and strength enough left to rise again in fury at the barbarities of Carrier, Rosignol, and the ravages of the infernal columns. In the spring of 1794 armed parties were again on foot. The largest body was that under Charette, posted on the Isle Noirmoutier, to which many of the fugitives who escaped from the massacre of Savenay betook themselves. Amongst these was the wounded general D'Elbée, with his wife, and a brother of Cathelinau. Charette quitted the isle to make an attack on some of the republican troops left in small bodies in the country, consigning the care of the sick and wounded to the protection of a garrison of one thousand eight hundred men. This garrison was soon corrupted by the republican general, Turreau; it surrendered, and D'Elbée and his wife were both shot, and the sick and wounded treated with merciless cruelty. This was about the only place of any strength left the Vendéans; but a worse misfortune was at hand. The young and chivalrous Henri La Roche-Jaquelein, marching, at the head of a body of his own peasantry, betwixt Trementine and Nouaillé, met two republican soldiers. The count generously offered them quarter; but, instead of accepting it, one of them instantly levelled his musket, and shot him through the head. The two soldiers were immediately dispatched by his followers, and, supposing that a republican column must be at hand, they buried the three hastily in one grave, and fled. The young count was only in his twenty-first year, and with him died the hopes and confidence of his peasantry. Stofflet succeeded him in the command of his people, but Charette might be considered the commander-in-chief of the Vendeans.

The fall of Robespierre produced a marked change in the policy of the convention towards the royalists of this district, and they were promised, on laying down their arms, that they should enjoy their country and their religion in peace. On this assurance, Charette signed a treaty of pacification with the agents of the government at Nantes, in February, 1795.

But scarcely was the peace signed, when Charette received a letter from Monseigneur - brother of the late king, and now appointed regent, by the royalist party, to the dauphin, now styled by them Louis XVII. - assuring him of his confidence, declaring him the second founder of the monarchy, and appointing him his lieutenant-general. Charette wrote back to inform him that he had been compelled to sign a peace, but that his submission was only apparent, and, when the royalist affairs were somewhat reinstated, he should be ready to take up arms and die in the service of his prince. The young general Hoche, who was sent to reduce the insurgents of Bretagne, whilst Canclaux reduced those of La Vendee, did not for a moment believe in the sincerity of the peace. He was aware that Puisaye, the chief of the insurgents in Bretagne, was gone to England, to endeavour to induce Pitt to do what all the efforts and importunities of the Bourbon princes and emigrant nobles had failed to do - to send an expedition to the coast of Bretagne, with another to the coast of La Vendee, in which the English fleets should support the bodies of emigrants who had, in England and the Channel Islands, formed themselves into regiments for the purpose. Aware of this, he still did all he could to reconcile the peasantry to the peace, and very soon they would have been pacified by this judicious treatment, and averse to rise again, with a prospect of re-experiencing their former sufferings; but the Bourbon princes and the tribes of emigrants now driven from the Rhine did not allow them that chance. They had been busy in England, in Spain, and in Russia, entreating for assistance. The count d'Artois had gone to Petersburg with a gay train of followers, and was well received by the empress Catherine, who presented him with a fine sword and a million of livres in cash, as well as a frigate to carry them away. In truth, she was glad to be rid of them, for the retainers of these royalists had begun to preach jacobinism amongst the common people of Petersburg, and Catherine had them arrested, conveyed to an asylum as lunatics, and their heads shaved and well blistered.

Puisaye's mission to London had been successful. Pitt was imbecile enough to fall into the plan of sending over the emigrants in our ships - as if any such force could do more against the republican armies than create fresh miseries to all parties, and bring down worse vengeance on the unfortunate Vendeans and Bretons. Puisaye, with the aid of the counts d'Hervilly, d'Hector, du Dresnay, colonel Routhalier, and other royalist officers, had mustered a most miscellaneous body of three thousand emigrants, most of whom had been soldiers, and who were accompanied by four hundred artillerymen of Toulon, commanded by Routhalier Besides these men, of whom the count d'Artois, for the time, gave the command to Puisaye, intending himself to follow, Puisaye carried over ten thousand pounds, furnished by the count d'Artois from the Russian money, twenty- seven thousand muskets, six hundred barrels of gunpowder, uniforms for seventeen thousand infantry and four thousand cavalry, as well as provisions for three months. These troops and stores were conveyed in a little squadron of three ships of the line and six frigates, attended by transports, and commanded by Sir John Borlace Warren. They sailed from the Isle of Wight in the beginning of June, another squadron being sent to take up the emigrant troops in the Channel Islands, and land them at St. Malo, where they were to cooperate with bodies of Chouans. These Chouans were smugglers and bandits, who had led a life of plunder, and had been easily collected into a sort of guerilla force, where their mode of warfare still bore a strong resemblance to their old habits. These men, under their different chiefs, had been excited by Puisaye to combine for a strong resistance to the republicans. They were dressed in green coats and pantaloons, with red waistcoats. During his absence, Puisaye had deputed the chief command of the Chouan bands to the so-called baron Cormartin, or Sieur Dessotheux, who had assumed the title of baron de Cormartin from a small estate of his wife's. Cormartin was a vain, weak man, and by no means reliable, being ready, at any moment, to supersede his chief', Puisaye, and act for himself. If the expedition against St- Malo did not succeed, it was to join Puisaye and his detachment in the bay of Quiberon; and transports were also sent to the mouth of the Elbe, to fetch thence the emigrant regiments with the black cockade, and bring them to join Puisaye. If all went well, the count d'Artois was to follow with English troops. The grand error of the whole was, that the French prince did not put himself at once at the head of the expedition, and see the different squadrons united in the bay of Quiberon before making the descent, though, even then, it could have effected no great success.

On the passage, the squadron of Sir John Warren came in sight of the French fleet of Villeret-Joyeuse, of nine ships of the line, but it bore away, and left them to pursue their course. They entered the bay of Quiberon on the 25th of June, and, after much wrangling as to the best situation for landing, they put the troops ashore at the village of Carnac. There they were immediately joined by Georges Cadoudal, d'Allègre, Dubois-Berthollet, and other Chouan chiefs, with about four thousand or five thousand of their wild and bandit-looking soldiers. Along with the Chouans came troops of peasants, crying " Vive le Roi!" and bringing in abundance of fresh eggs, poultry, and other provisions. Puisaye was delighted, and felt confident that all Bretagne was ready to rise. But this delusion was soon dissipated. The emigrants, accustomed to regular armies, looked with contempt on this wild and ragged band, and they, on their part, were not restrained, on the landing of the arms and uniforms, from seizing and carrying them off, without much exertion on the part of Puisaye. There was danger of bloodshed. At length, in about a couple of days, ten thousand of them were put into red coats, and furnished with muskets. But fatal dissensions prevented all operations. Puisaye proposed to march up the country, seize different towns, such as Vannes and Rennes, and take up their position behind the Mayenne; but d'Hervilly refused to march till the troops were formed into regular regiments, and the emigrants joined him in despising the Chouans, and in complaining that they had not been taken to La Vendée to join Charette. Puisaye and d'Hervilly also disputed the supreme command, and Puisaye had to dispatch letters to London, to count d'Artois, on the subject. At length, when five days had been wasted in this contention, Puisaye proposed that they should endeavour to carry Fort Penthièvre, which stood on a small peninsula on Quiberon Bay, and was united to the main land by a sandy isthmus. To this d'Hervilly consented, and Sir John Warren agreed to support him in the attempt. On the 1st of July Warren began to bombard the fort, and on the 3rd, the place being warmly assailed by both the English and the Chouans, the republicans surrendered. Meantime, Puisaye had sent off emissaries all over Bretagne, to rouse Scépeaux, Charette, Stofflet, and the rest of the insurgent chiefs. The news of the landing had flown all over Bretagne in a few days, and the royalists were full of joy.

But the convention sent to Hoche two extraordinary commissioners, Blad and Tallien, to stimulate him to the utmost activity. Hoche immediately wrote to the committee of public welfare to assure them that nothing was wanting to his success but for government to support him with "provisions, of which we are in want, and the twelve thousand men, whom you promised me so long ago." He posted his generals on every frontier, and in every strong place: Chabot, between Brest and L'Orient, with four thousand men -, fresh detachments at St. Malo and on the coast; and, sending to Canclaux for reinforcements from La Vendée, posted his troops strong about Rennes, Ploermel, and Vannes; and by the 2nd of July he was already at Auray with from three to four thousand men. Thus he had enveloped Bretagne on all sides; instead of the Bretons rising en masse, as was expected, they kept quiet, and only the Chouans appeared in arms. Even they demanded that the count d'Artois should come and put himself at their head; and the emigrants demanded to be re-embarked, and taken to La Vendee to support Charette. On their part, the able arrangements of Hoche and Canclaux prevented the Véndeans operating in favour of the Bretons, and thus Puisaye saw himself paralysed by the vigour of his opponents and the dissensions of his followers. The different bodies of Chouans were repulsed by the republicans as they advanced towards Quiberon Bay, and they complained that d'Hervilly had withdrawn the four hundred men of the line who had been ordered to support them. D'Hervilly replied that he had recalled them to assist at the taking of Penthièvre. Thus favoured by the wranglings of the royalists, Hoche, on the 5th of July, found himself established on the heights of St. Barbe, commanding the Isthmus of Falaise. On the 7th d'Hervilly, supported by all his regulars and by two hundred English marines, endeavoured to drive him thence, but was repulsed with great slaughter. Hoche then bore down from the heights, and drove all the miscellaneous forces of emigrants and Chouans, mingled with women and children, to the promontory, and under the guns of fort Penthièvre. But for the well-directed fire from Warren's boats the mass, nearly twenty thousand fugitives, must have surrendered at once, having no outlet of escape. There, however, for some days, they stoutly defended themselves.

On the 15th the English squadron brought in the emigrant troops from the Elbe, under the young and gallant count de Sombreuil; but they amounted only to eleven thousand men. Puisaye now ordered the count de Vauban to advance against Hoche with twelve thousand Chouans, and, whilst they attacked on the right, he himself attacked his lines in front. After some desperate fighting they were driven back, and lost most of their cannon in the deep sand of the isthmus. Their misfortunes were completed on the 20th, by the garrison of the fort of Penthièvre going over to the enemy, surrendering the fort to them, and helping to massacre such of their officers and comrades as refused to follow their example. The English admiral exerted himself to receive the remainder of the troops who remained true on board his ships; but the storminess of the weather and the impatience of the fugitives rendered this a most difficult task. About fourteen thousand regulars and two thousand four hundred Chouans were got on board; but Sombreuil, exposed to the murderous fire from the enemy whilst waiting on the beach, surrendered on promise of life. No sooner, however, were they in the hands of the republicans than Sombreuil, the bishop of Dôl, who had accompanied the expedition as the pope's legate, and all the officers and gentlemen, were led out and shot; and the common men enrolled in Hoche's regiments.

Sir John Warren put the two thousand four hundred Chouans on shore near L'Orient, and left them to return to their own predatory mode of warfare. He then located himself on two small neighbouring islands, and waited for a fresh squadron carrying four thousand British troops, which arriving in September, he bore away with them for La Vendée, and thus terminated the miserable descent on the coast of Brittany. The descent on the coast of La Vendée was still more unsatisfactory. On arriving there, it was found that fifteen thousand republicans were in possession of the Isle Noirmoutier, formerly the stronghold of Charette. The English, therefore, disembarked on the little desolate island of d'Yeu, about five leagues from Noirmoutier, and there awaited the arrival of count d'Artois, who did not come till the 10th of October, and then, alarmed at the fusillading of the officers at Quiberon, declined to land. On hearing this, Charette exclaimed - " We are lost! To-day I have fifteen thousand men about me; to-morrow I shall not have five hundred! " And, in fact, chagrined at the pusillanimous conduct of the prince, and the approach of Hoche with his victorious troops from Brittany, his followers rapidly dispersed, and at the end of the year the English armament returned home, having done nothing. From this day may be dated the extinction of the war in La Vendée. Stofflet, in January, 1796, was defeated, and, in February, was betrayed to the enemy, and, on the 26th of that month, was executed at Angers with four of his companions. Charette was captured a month afterwards, and was shot at Nantes on the 29th of March. With him died the last Vendéan general of much mark. By this time, the spring of 1796, not a fifth part of the male population of La Vendee remained alive; and Hoche himself calculates that the Vendéan war had cost France a hundred thousand men.,

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