Friday, December 23, 2011

Battle of Savenay

‘Mademoiselle Mamet saw the points come near her, but she was not wounded.  After that, she dressed herself like a Bretonne; and this worthy man, whose name was Laurent Cochard, consented to keep her.  She passed the winter at his house, in the parish of La Chapelle, and from time to time came to see us.  She was little and young, and like a child, which made her less liable to suspicion.  Some days afterwards, another woman of my mother, Mademoiselle Carria, left at Savenay, found also a means of joining us.  She had, when the defeat became total, fled on horseback at full speed, without knowing where she was going to.  She heard people killing behind her; and after having miraculously passed through some villages, she got to the houses of peasants who were royalists, and concealed her.  Little by little she drew nearer, and had found us out.

She gave us some details of that unfortunate battle of Savenay, of which she had been witness, and which completed the ruin of our army. ..At the point of day, the republicans attacked, and the battle began furiously.  M. de Marigny, at the head of the bravest, precipitated himself three times on the blues, holding my standard, and shedding tears of rage.  M. de Marigny saw that all was over.  “Women” cried he, “all is lost! save yourselves!”.  He stopped his cannon in the little wood near Savenay, and there began a second battle, which gave the fugitives time to escape…’ 

The text above comes from “Memoirs of the Marchioness of Larochejaquelein”, and provides a firsthand account of the Battle of Savenay (December 23, 1793).  In addition to Bernard de Marigny, who is mentioned above, Henri de la Rochejaquelein was a Royalist general in this battle; one who had successfully led several battles against the Revolutionary Army.  Savenay ended differently, and decisively turned the tide in favor of the revolution.

Sir Walter Scott wrote a preface for the memoirs for Archibald Constable's "Miscellany".  Scott’s preface begins:

‘The civil war of La Vendee forms one of the most interesting events of the Revolution in France.  It was little known in this country while it was raging, and there is much room for censuring the ministers of Britain, who did not avail themselves of the opportunities which it afforded, of obtaining the most important advantages for the allied cause.  We knew, indeed, generally in England, that the Royalists had a force in part of Poitou, and that they had several reencounters with the Republicans, which had terminated to their advantage.  But few English, if any, were fully aware, that while every other province in France submitted more or less patiently to the dominion of Robespierre and his associates, La Vendee, a province hardly known, to us by name, had on foot large armies which fought pitched battles, - gained decisive victories, - took fortified towns, and more than once might, with a moderate degree of assistance from troops and  money, have perhaps ended the Revolution by a march to Paris…’

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