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In this fervently religious and economically backward region, the Revolution of was received with little enthusiasm and only a few minor disturbances.
A general uprising began with the introduction of the conscription acts of February What motivates people to volunteer uprising coincided with rising what is a small claim in Lyon, Marseille, and Normandy and seriously threatened the Revolution internally at a time when it had just suffered a military defeat at Neerwinden March There followed two months of confused fighting.
By autumn the government forces had been reinforced and placed under a unified command. They later retreated south and, after failing to capture Angers December 3turned east but were overtaken and defeated at Le Mans December Perhaps 15, rebels were killed in this bloody battle and in the butchery of prisoners that occurred afterward.
General warfare was now at an end, but the severe reprisals taken by the Republican commander General Louis-Marie Turreau de Garambouville provoked further resistance. With the recall of Turreau May and the rise to power of the moderate Thermidorian faction in Paris Julya more conciliatory policy was adopted.
In December the government announced an amnesty, and on Feb. Charette again took up arms during a British-backed landing of exiled French nobles at Quiberon Bay, in Brittany June In July, General Lazare Hoche announced that order had been restored in the west.
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The war was the first 'total war' in modern history, in which men, women and children were involved. It was also the first modern war in which regular troops were repeatedly beaten by mainly unarmed no firearms peasants.
It was a savage affair in which each side were guilty of atrocities. The name of the region at that time was Bas-Poitou, and it was a poor rural region. As well as peasants, it was inhabited by impoverished aristocrats, petit bourgeoisies and poor priests; so the social inequalities were less marked here than elsewhere in France.
The revolution of was at first full of hope, with a genuine wish for reform, even the English hailed it as a triumph of reason over superstition and privilege. The more the Jacobins took control in Paris, the more events began to escalate.
However, controlling faith was exactly what the Republican government tried to do, which engendered deep resentment that grew over the years. In local government was abolished, followed by what was a considerable blow to poor Catholics, the vote on 12th July for The Civil Constitution of the Clergy. This was state control of their church, with the confiscation of its property, their traditional priests were banned, and all religious orders suppressed.
In the Ecclesiastical Oath forced priests under state rather than episcopal control. Although there had been sporadic riots and easily suppressed uprisings since , the final spark that ignited this smouldering resentment into a barbaric war, was the prohibition of public worship and the closing of all Catholic churches on 3rd March This caused no inconvenience to the nobles, who had their own private chapels in their homes as at La Chabotterie , as well as their personal priests.
However, without access to churches, the ordinary devout Catholic could not fulfil their religious obligations. Paris ordered Republican troops and National Guards to enforce conscription by ballot. On 11th March, Republican soldiers billeted at Machecoul were massacred. That same day the people of St-Florent-le-Vieil turned their horizontal scythe blades into very effective vertical weapons, and routed the government troops, who were supported by cannons.
There were uprisings in many parts of France, but they only lasted at the most a few weeks. If I advance follow me; if I flinch, cut me down: if I fall avenge me. Their first major battle was on 19th March, when a Republican column of over 2, infantry, cavalry, and some cannon, marching to re-enforce Nantes, was ambushed and routed by part of the Army of the Centre, at Pont-Charrault.
With this victory came thousands of badly needed muskets, as well as ammunition, horses and cannon. In the north, Angers fell on 18th June, and there was panic in Paris. They unsuccessfully attacked Nantes, but on the second day of the battle Cathelineau was mortally wounded. The insurgents were supported by 2, irregular cavalry, and a few cannon; and those with muskets were better shots than any French or British infantryman of the day.
It was no rout, they did so in good order. The rebels decided to cross the Loire, and head for a port to await help from England. Despite their plight, La Rochejaquelein won three battles on their homeward journey, but they were unable to re-cross the Loire because of a lack of boats. Republican troops forced the rebels back north to Le Mans where, severely weakened, on 12th December they were defeated. On 23rd December the remnants of the Grand Catholic and Royal Army were annihilated in the woods and marshes of Savenay, where no quarter was given by the Republicans.
Over 2, rebels managed to escape and find their way back home, only to look with horror on the results of General's Turreau's ' douze colonnes infernales '. Their orders were quite simple and very explicit; " Leave nobody and nothing alive. In January a reign of terror began in Nantes and Angers, where there was mass murder by drowning in the Loire, by guillotine and shooting. A treaty was signed on 17th February but broken by Charette on 24th June. On the following day the promised help from England arrived at Quiberon and Pont-Aven, too little and too late, due to the prevarication of the French aristocratic emigrants.
Religious freedom was still officially denied, and so the war began again on 15th October, Republican villages and towns were seized, even Nantes fell on 29th October, but the rebels were too weak to hold it. The Concordat signed on 15th July between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Pope made these rights official. In the Concordat the French Government acknowledged " Catholicism as the religion of the great majority of the French.
Bonaparte also exempted them from conscription, gave them full indemnity, and assisted the reconstruction of the department. To facilitate the supervision of this region, the capital was moved from Fontenay to the then very small village of La Roch-sur-Yon. Two further attempts were made to rekindle the wars, in and The idea that any religious faith could be important to peoples' lives is anathema to the atheists and communists of the left, who site conscription as the cause, and call them civil wars.
The right on the other hand, site the execution of the king, and a desire for the restoration of the monarchy, so refer to the wars as counter-revolutionary wars.
At the twilight of the pre-revolutionary Old Regime, questions about what it meant to be a Catholic and why the church mattered, often stood at the heart of most political debate in France. Yet the combination of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the execution of the king, and the introduction of conscription, would not have been sufficient to ignite a popular revolt.
On 19th July, the governing council of the rebels issued a decree of their intention that: "Desirous, as far as we are able, of re-establishing the Catholic religion and allowing it once again to flourish. There are both English and French versions of these maps. The Vendee Wars. It has perished, with its women and children, under our sword of freedom. Following your orders, I have crushed the children under our horses' hooves, and massacred the women - they will bear no more children for those brigands.
I have not taken a single prisoner. Wounding Gen. Battle of Le Mans. The following year, first Stofflet, then Charette were executed, and the war petered out. Execution of Charette. Signing of the Concordat. Share this Post. Enjoy this article? Living Page. Recipe Corner. Trade Directory. Learn to Speak French. Small Business. Holiday Rentals.