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committed acts calculated to alienate the inhabitants. Saj^i-
naud, after making, as we have seen, a hostile attempt on
Montaigu, had offered to submit, and had obtained from
General Willot a ridiculous peace, to which Hoche coiild not
consent. Lastly, Stofflet, still playing the part of prince, and
Bernier, his prime minister, were reinforcing themselves with
the deserters who had forsaken Charette, and making secret
preparations. The cities of Nantes and Angers were in want
of provisions. The patriots who had lied from the surrounding
country were crowded together there, and launched out in the
clubs into furious declamations, worthy of Jacobins. Lastly,
it was reported that Hoche had been recalled to Paris only
to be stripped of his command. Some said that he had been
displaced as a royalist, others as a Jacobin.

His return silenced all these rumours, and repaired all the
evils occasioned by his absence. He gave directions for recom-
mencing the disarming, for filling the magazines, and for
provisioning the towns ; he declared them all in a state of
siege ; and thenceforth authorized to exercise a military dic-
tatorship in them, he shut up the Jacobin clubs, formed by
the refugees, and particularly a society known at Nantes by
the appellation of Chambre Ardente. He refused to ratify the
peace granted to Sapinaud ; he occupied his districts, and
left to himself the option of quitting France or hiding in the
woods at the risk of being taken and shot. He hemmed in
Stofflet more closely than ever, and renewed the pursuit of
Charette. He committed to Adjutant-general Travot, who
combined with great intrepidity all the activity of a partisan,
the task of pursuing Charette with several columns of light
infantiy and cavalry, so as to leave him neither rest nor hope.

Pursued night and day, Charette had now no means of
escape. The inhabitants of the Marais, disarmed and watched,
could no longer afford him assistance. They had already de-
livered up seven thousand muskets, several pieces of cannon,
and forty barrels of powder ; aiid it was impossible for them to
betake themselves to arms. Had it even been in their power,
they would not have done so, because they were happy in the

388 HISTORY OF mar. 1796

quiet which they enjoyed, and had no inclination to expose
themselves to fresh devastations. The peasants came to ac-
quaint the republican officers with the roads which Charette was
taking, with the retreats where he was for a moment resting
his head ; and when they could secure some of those who
accompanied him, they brought and delivered them up to the
army. Charette, attended by scarcely a hundred devoted
servants, and followed by a few women who administered to
his pleasures, had nevertheless no thoughts of surrendering.
Full of confidence, he sometimes caused his hosts to be put
to death when he was apprehensive of being betrayed by them.
It was said that he ordered a curé to be murdered whom he
suspected of having denounced him to the republicans. Travot
fell in with him several times, killed about sixty of his men,
several of his officers, and among the rest, his brother. He
had now only about forty or fifty men left.

While Hoche was thus causing Charette to be harassed
without intermission, and prosecuting his plan of disarming,
Stofflet saw with consternation that he was surrounded on all
sides, and was well aware that, when Charette and Sapinaud
were destroyed and all the Chouans subdued, he should not be
long suffered to retain the princely kind of state which he had
arrogated to himself in Upper Anjou. He thought that it
would not be right to wait till all the royalists were exter-
minated before he began to act : alleging as a pretext a
regulation of Hoche's, he again raised the standard of revolt
and resumed arms. Hoche was at this moment on the banks
of the Loire, preparing to set out for the Calvados, that he
might judge from actual observation of the state of Normandy
and Bretagiie. He' immediately deferred his departure, and
made his preparations for taking Stofilet before his revolt
could acquire any importance. Hoche was otherwise pleased
that Stofflet himself furnished him with occasion to break the
pacification. This war embarrassed him but little, and authorized
him to treat Anjoii like the Marais and Bretagne. He de-
spatched his columns from several points at once, from the
Loire, the Layon, and the Nantes Sèvre. Stofflet, assailed on all
sides, could not keep his ground. The peasants of Anjou were
still more sensible of the benefits of peace than those of the
Marais : they had not responded to the call of their old chief,
and had allowed him to begin the war with the profligates of
the country, and the emigrants with whom his camp was filled.
Two assemblages which he had collected were dispersed, and
he was obliged to betake himself, like Charette, to the woods.
But he had neither the obstinacy nor the dexterity of that


chief, and his district was not so favourably disposed for con-
cealing a troop of marauders. He was delivered up by his
own followers. Lured to a farmhouse, upon pretext of a con-
ference, he was seized, bound, and given up to the republicans.
It is asserted that his trusty minister, the Abbé Bernier, had a
hand in this treachery. The capture of this chief was of great
importance, on account of the moral effect which it could not fail
to produce in those parts. He was conveyed to Angers ; and after
undergoing an examination, he was shot, on the 7th of Ventose
(February 26), in the presence of an immense concourse.*

These tidings produced the greatest joy and anticipations of
the speedy conclusion of the civil war in that unfortunate
country. Hoche, amid the arduous duties of this kind of war-
fare, was overwhelmed with disgust. The royalists called him
a villain and a drinker of blood ; this was natural enough,
though he resorted to the fairest means for destroying them :
but the patriots themselves annoyed him by their calumnies.
The refugees of La Vendée and Bretagne, whose fury he
checked, and whose indolence he thwarted by ceasing to feed
them as soon as they could return with safety to their lands,
denounced him to the Directory. The authorities of the towns
also which he placed in a state of siege complained of the
establishment of the military system, and denounced him.
Communes subjected to fines, or to the military levy of the
taxes, complained in their turn. There was an incessant chorus
of complaints and remonstrances. Hoche, whose temper was
irritable, was several times driven to desj^air, and formally ten-
dered his resignation. The Directory refused it, and cheered
him by new testimonies of confidence and esteem. It made
him a national present of two fine horses — a present which was
not merely a reward, but an indispensable aid. This young
general, who was fond of pleasure, who was at the head of an
army of one hundred thousand men, and who had at his dis-
posal the revenues of several provinces, was frequently in want
of necessaries. His appointments, paid in paper, were reduced
to nothing. He was in want of horses, saddles, bridles, and he
solicited permission to take, on paying for them, six saddles,
six bridles, horse-shoes, a few bottles of rum, and some loaves
of sugar, from the stores left by the English at Quiberon — an
admirable example of delicacy, which our republican generals
frequently gave, and which daily grew more rare as our

* "That intrepid Vendean chief, Stofflet, pressed by the forces of the Republic,
after braving and escaping a thousand dangers, was at length betrayed by one
of his own followers at the farm of Pegrimaud, where he was seized, gagged,
conducted to Angers, and executed." — Jomini.

390 HISTORY OF map.. 1796

invasions became more extended, and as the manners of our
military men became corrupted by tlie effect of conquests and
of the manners of a Court.

Encouraged by the government, Hoche continued his efforts
for finishing his work in La Vendée. The complete pacifica-
tion now depended entirely on the capture of Charette. That
chief, reduced to extremity, sent to Hoche to demand permis-
sion to retire to England. Hoche granted it, agreeably to
the authority which he found for doing so in the ordinance of
the Directory relative to the chiefs who should submit. But
Charette had made this application merely to gain a short
respite, and had no intention of availing himself of the per-
mission. The Directory, on its part, was resolved not to
pardon Charette, because it conceived that this famous chief
would always be a firebrand in the country. It wrote to
Hoche, desiring him not to enter into any compromise. But
when Hoche received these new orders, Charette had already
declared that his application was only a feint to obtain a
few moments' rest, and that he wanted no pardon from re-
publicans.* He had again betaken himself to the woods.

Charette could not escape the republicans much longer.
Pursued at once by columns of infantry and cavalry, watched
by troops of disguised soldiers, denounced by the inhabitants,
who were anxious to save their country from devastation,
tracked in the woods like a wild beast, he fell, on the 2nd of
Germinal (March 23), into an ambuscade laid for him by
Travot. Armed to the teeth, and surrounded by some brave
fellows, who strove to cover him Avitli their own bodies, he
defended himself like a lion, and at length fell, after receiving
several sabre wounds. He would not deliver his sword to any
but the brave Travot, who treated him with all the respect due
to such extraordinary courage. He was taken to the re-
publican headquarters, and admitted to table by Hedouville,
chief of the staff. He conversed with great serenity, and
showed no concern about the fate that awaited him. Con-
veyed first to Angers, he was afterwards removed to Nantes,
to end his life in the same place that had witnessed his
triumph. He underwent an examination, at which he answered
with great calmness and temper. He was questioned concern-
ing the pretended secret articles of the treaty of La Jaunaye,

* " When the Directory offered Charette a safe retreat into England with his
family, and a million francs for his own maintenance, he replied, ' I am ready to
die with arms in my hands, but not to fly and abandon my companions in mis-
fortune. All the vessels of the Republic would not be suflicient to transport my
brave soldiers into England. Far from fearing your menaces, I will myself come
to seek you in your own camj).'"


and confessed that there existed none. He attempted neither
to palliate his conduct nor to excuse his motives. He acknow-
ledged that he was a servant of royalty, and that he had
striven with all his might to overthrow the Republic. He be-
haved with dignity, and showed great unconcern. When led
forth to execution, amidst an immense concourse of people.
who were not generous enough to forgive him for tKe calami-
ties of civil war, he retained all his assurance. He was covered
with blood, had lost three fingers in the last combat, and
carried his arm in a sling. A handkerchief was wrapped round
his head. He would neither suffer his eyes to be bandaged
nor kneel down. Standing erect, he removed his arm from
the sling, gave the signal, and instantly fell dead.* This was
on the 9th of Germinal (March 30). Thus died that celebrated
man, whose indomitable courage brought so many evils upon
his country, and might have covered him with glory in a
different career. Compromized by the last attempt at in-
vasion which had been made upon these coasts, he would not
again recede, and closed his life under the influence of despair.
He is said to have expressed strong resentment against the
princes whom he had served, and by whom he considered
himself as having been abandoned.

The death of Charette caused as much joy as the most
glorious victory over the Austrians. His death decided the
termination of the civil war. Hoche, conceiving that there
was nothing more for him to do in La Vendée, withdrew from
it the mass of his troops, for the purpose of carrying them
beyond the Loire and disarming Bretagne. He left, however,
forces sufficient to repress the solitary robberies which usually
follow civil wars, and to complete the disarming of the country.
Before he went to Bretagne he had to quell an insurrectionary
movement which broke out in the vicinity of Anjou, towards

* "After his capture, Charette entered into Nantes, preceded by a numerous
escort, closely guarded by gendarmes, and generals glittering in gold and plumes,
himself on foot, with his clothes torn and bloody, pale and attenuated, yet more
an object of interest than all the splendid throng by whom he was surrounded.
Such was his exhaustion from loss of blood that he fainted on leaving the
Quarter of Commerce ; but no sooner was his strength revived by a glass of
water than he marched on, enduring for two hours, with heroic constancy, the
abuse of the populace. He was conducted to the military commission, and
sentenced to death. On the following morning he was brought out on the scaffold.
The roll of drums, the assemblage of all the troops and national guard, and a count-
less multitude of spectators, announced the great event which was approaching.
At length the hero appeared, descended with a firm step the prison stairs, and
walked to the place where his execution was to take yjlace. A breathless silence
prevailed. Charette advanced to the appointed place, bared his breast, and
himself gave the command, uttering with his last breath the words, ' Vive le
Roi .'' " — Alison.

392 HISTORY OF mar. 1796

Le Berry. This was only the business of a few days. He
then proceeded with twenty thousand men into Bretagne, and
adhering to his plan, enclosed it with a vast cordon from the
Loire to Granville. The wretched Chouans could not with-
stand an effort so powerful and so well concerted. Scépaux,
between the Vilaine and the Loire, first tendered his submis-
sion. Ho delivered up a considerable quantity of arms. The
nearer the Chouans were pushed to the sea, the more obstinate
they grew. Having spent their ammunition, they fought hand
to hand with daggers and bayonets. At length they were
driven back to the very sea. The Morbihan, which had long
separated itself from Puisaye, surrendered its arms. The other
divisions successively followed this example. All Bretagne
was soon reduced, and Hoche had nothing to do but to dis-
tribute his hundred thousand men into a multitude of canton-
ments, that they might watch the country, and be enabled to
subsist with the greater ease. The duties which still required
his attention consisted only in matters of administration and
police. A few more months of mild and able government
were requisite to appease animosities and to re-establish peace.
Notwithstanding the outcry of the furious of all parties, Hoche
was feared, beloved, and respected in the country, and the
royalists began to forgive a Republic that Avas so worthily re-
presented. The clergy, in particular, whose confidence he had
continued to gain, were wholly devoted to him, and gave him
correct information of every matter that it was interesting for
him to know. All things promised peace and the end of
horrible calamities. England could no longer reckon upon the
provinces of the West for attacking the Republic in its own
bosom. She beheld, on the contrary, one hundred thousand
men, half of whom became disposable, and might be employed
in some enterprise injurious to her: Hoche in fact had formed
a grand plan, which he reserved for the middle of the summer.
The government, pleased with the services which he had ren-
dered, and wishing to reward him for the disgusting task that
he had so ably performed, obtained for him, as for the armies
which gained important victories, a declaration that the army
of the Ocean and its commander had deserved well of the
country. Thus La Vendée was pacified so early as the month
of Germinal (March), before any of the armies had taken the
field. The Directory was enabled to attend without uneasiness
to its great operations, and even to draw useful reinforcements
from the coasts of the Ocean.

The fifth campaign of liberty was about to commence. It was
going to open on the two finest military theatres in Europe —


on those most beset with obstacles, with accidents, with lines of
defence and attack. These were, on the one hand, the exten-
sive valley of the Khine and the two transverse valleys of the
Mayn and the Neckar ; and on the other, the Alps, the Po,
and Lorabardy. The armies which were about to take the
field were the most inured to war that had ever been seen
under arms. They were sufficiently numerous to cover the
ground on which they were to act, but not to render combina-
tions useless and to reduce war to a mere invasion. They
were commanded by young generals, free from all routine,
emancipated from all tradition, but yet well informed, and
roused by great events. Everything therefore concurred to
render the conflict obstinate, varied, fertile in combinations,
and worthy of the attention of men.

The plan of the French government was, as we have seen,
to invade Germany, in order to maintain its armies in an
enemy's country, to detach the princes from the Empire, to
invest Mayence, and to threaten the hereditary States. It
purposed, at the same time, to make a bold attempt upon
Italy, with a view to maintain its armies and to wrest that rich
country from Austria.

Two fine armies, of from seventy to eighty thousand men
each, were given upon the Rhine to two celebrated generals.
About thirty thousand famished soldiers were given to an un-
known but bold young man, to try Fortune beyond the Alps.

Bonaparte arrived at the headquarters at Nice on the 6th
of Germinal (March 27). Everything there was in a deplor-
able state. The troops were in the utmost distress. Without
clothing, without shoes, vtdthout pay, sometimes without food,*
they nevertheless endured their privations with extraordinary
fortitude. Owing to that industrious spirit which characterizes
the French soldier, they had organized plunder, and descended
by turns and in bands into the plains of Piedmont to procure
provisions. The artillery was absolutely destitute of horses.
The cavalry had been sent to the rear to seek subsistence on
the banks of the Rhône. The thirtieth horse and the forced
loan had not yet been levied in the South, on account of the
troubles. Bonaparte had been furnished, as his sole resource,

* "The misery of the French army, until these Alpine campaigns were vic-
toriously closed by the armistice of Cherasco, could, according to Bonaparte's
authority, scarce bear description. The oflBcers for several years had received
no more than eight livres a month (twenty pence sterling a week) in name
of pay, and staff-officers had not among them a single horse. Berthier pre-
served, as a curiosity, an order of the day, dated Albenga, directing an advance
of four louis d'or to every general of division, to enable them to enter on the
campaign." — Scott's Life of Napoleon.

394 HISTORY OF mar. 1796

with two thousand louis in money, and a million in bills, part
of which were protested. With a view to supply the defi-
ciency, negotiations were set on foot with the Genoese govern-
ment in order to obtain from it some resources. Satisfaction
for the outrage on the Modeste frigate had not yet been
obtained, and in reparation of that violation of neutrality,
the Senate of Genoa was rec(uired to grant a loan, and to
deliver up to the French the fortress of Gavi. which commands
the road from Genoa to Milan. The recall of the Genoese
families expelled for their attachment to France was likewise
insisted upon. Such was the state of the army when Bona-
parte joined it.

It exhibited a totally different aspect in regard to the men
who composed it. They generally consisted of soldiers who
had hastened to the armies at the time of the levy en masse.
well informed, young, accustomed to privations, and inured
to war by the combats of giants amid the Pyrenees and the
Alps. The generals were of the same quality. The principal
were Massena. a young Nissard, of uncultivated mind, but
precise and luminous amidst dangers, and of indomitable
perseverance ; Augereau, formerly a fencing -master, whom
great bravery and skill in managing the soldiers had raised to
the highest rank ; Laharpe, an expatriated Swiss, combining
information with courage ; Serrurier, formerly a major, metho-
dical and brave ; lastly, Berthier, whom his activity, his atten-
tion to details, his geographical acquirements, and his facility
in measuring with the eye the extent of a piece of ground
or the numerical force of a column, eminently qualified for
a useful and convenient chief of the staff.

This army had its depots in Provence. It was ranged along
the chain of the Alps, connecting itself by its left with that
of Kellermann, guarding the Col di Tende, and stretching
towards the Apennines. The active army amounted at most to
thirty-six thousand men. Serrurier's division was at Garession,
beyond the Apennines, to observe the Piedmontese in their en-
trenched camp of Cava. Augereau's, Massena's, and Laharpe's
divisions, forming a mass of about thirty thousand men, were
on this side of the Apennines.

The Piedmontese, to the number of twenty or twenty-two
thousand men, and under the command of Colli, were encamped
at Ceva, on the back of the mountains. The Austrians, thirty-
six or thirty-eight thousand strong, were advancing by the
roads of Lombardy towards Genoa. Beaulien. who commanded
them, had distinguished himself in the Netherlands. Though
advanced in years, he possessed all the ardour of youth The


enemy had therefore about sixty thousand men to oppose to
the thirty thousand whom Bonaparte had to bring into line ;
but the Austrians and the Piedmontese were far from agreeing.
Pursuant to the old plan, Colli was for covering Piedmont ;
while Beaulieu wished to keep himself in communication with
Genoa and the English.

Such was the respective force of the two parties. Though
Bonaparte had already acquired reputation with the army of
Italy, he was thought very young to command it. Short,
slender, without anything remarkable in his appearance but
Roman features and a bright and piercing eye, there was
nothing in his person or past life to make an impression upon
men. He was not received with much cordiality. Massena
owed him a grudge for having gained an influence over
Dumerbion in 1794. He addressed the army in energetic
language. "Soldiers," said he, "you are ill fed and almost
naked. The government owes you much, but can do nothing
for you. Your patience, your courage, do you honour, but
procure you neither glory nor advantage. I am going to lead
you into the most fertile plains in the world ; you will there
find large cities, rich provinces ; you will there find honour,
glory, and wealth. Soldiers of Italy, would your courage fail
you ? " The army hailed this language with delight : young
generals who all had their fortune to make, jjoor and adven-
turous soldiers, desired nothing better than to see the beautiful
countries to which they were bound. Bonaparte made an
arrangement with a contractor, and procured for his soldiers
part of the arrears of their pay. He gave to each of his
generals four louis in gold, which shows what was then the
state of their fortunes. He afterwards removed his head-
quarters to Albenga, and made all the authorities proceed
along the coast under the fire of the English gunboats.

The plan to be followed was the same that had suggested
itself the year before at the battle of Loano. To penetrate
by the lowest heights of the Apennines, to separate the Pied-
montese from the Austrians by bearing strongly on their centre
— such was the very simple idea conceived by Bonaparte on a
survey of the situation. He commenced operations so early
that he had hopes of surprising his enemies and throwing them
into disorder. However, he was not able to anticipate them.
Before he arrived, G eneral Cervoni had been sent forward upon
Voltri, quite close to Genoa, to intimidate the Senate of that
city, and to force it to consent to the demands of the Directory.
Beaulieu, apprehensive of the result of this step, hastened to
get into action, and moved his army upon Genoa, partly on


Online LibraryAdolphe ThiersThe history of the French revolution (Volume 4) → online text (page 44 of 69)