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Carl Marx in his writings uses the word Vendeen to mean counter revolutionary and in essence that is what the war of the Vendee was.
The Vendee was Strongly Royalist, this being where Richard the Lionheart had his main castle at Talmont St.Hilaire, nr Les Sables d'Olonne. Richard's Mother Eleanor of Aquitaine was married in the abbey at Maillezais and buried in the royal abbey at Nieul sur l'Autize both just out side Fontenay le Comte in the South of the Vendee. This is Plantagenet country, so with the Revolution the Vendeens found them selves on the losing side.
War of the Vendee
Background
Differences in class were not as great in theVendee as in the other French provinces, or Paris. In rural Vendée, the local nobility seems to have been more residential and less resented than in other parts of France. In this particularly isolated part of France the conflict that drove the revolution was lessened by strong adherence of the populace to the Catholic Church. There were outbreaks of anti-Republic violence in 1791 and1793. It was not until the social unrest combined the Civil Constitution of the Clergy((1790) and then the Conscription(or "Levy") Decree (1793) that the region erupted.
The Civil Constitution required all clerics to swear allegiance to it and to the anti-clerical NationalConstituent Assembly. The Vendean clergy almost to a man refused to swear the oath and were replaced by the Revolutionary authorities with ”Jurors”, who were disliked and condemned as intruders. Nonjuring priests declared the new civic ceremonies worthless; in response gangs of Republicans came from the cities into the countryside, closing and vandalizing the churches of nonjuring priests.
Outbreak of revolt
Vendean peasants initially supported the revolution, but they rebelled against injustices of the Republic on March 7,1793. In the Vendée there were few troops to control them, whereas the more serious riots in Brittany were quickly broken.
There were spontaneous and riots on March 10-13 in many towns and villages. The representatives of the Republic were singled out for attack and murder. In the bloodiest outburst, in Machecoul on March11 forty men were beaten and stabbed to death on the streets, another four hundred were gathered up and arrested. The men were taken out in 'rosaries' (tied in a line with rope around the chest), made to dig ditches and shot - their bodies then tumbled into the grave they had dug.
The crowds moved from the smaller to the larger settlements, Cholet in the north and Fontenay-le Comte in the south, fell to the rebels. Local Nobels were approached, d’Elbee, Sapinaud de Verrie and Charett became the leaders of their local force. The clergy were also fairly active in rallying the people.
. The main force of the rebels operated on a small scale, using guerrilla tactics and supported by the insurgents' local knowledge and the good-will of the people.
Republican response
The Republic responded quickly, sending in March over 45,000 troops to the area. The “Bleu’s” were young, badly trained and equipped with low morale and were dispersed in small groups throughout the region, limiting control to a few urban centers, and providing many weak garrisons as targets.
The first battle was on the night of March 19th. A Republican army of 2,000, under General de Marcé, moving from La Rochelle to Nantes was intercepted north of Chantenay at Pont-Charrault near the Lay. After six hours of fighting rebel reinforcements arrived and routed the Republican forces. The rebels advanced as far south as Niort. On March 22nd, another Republican force was routed near chalonnes in the north leaving their equipment for the grateful Vendéans.
The Vendee Army covered the area between the Loire and the Lay, part of Maine-et-Loire west of the Layon, and the portion of Deux Sevres west of the Thouet. Successes continued for some time: Thouars was taken in early May and Saumur in June, but the Vendéans then turned to a protracted and wasteful siege of Nantes.

Defeat
On 1stAugust the Committee for public safety ordered General Jean-Baptiste carrier to perform a ruthless pacification. The Republican army was reinforced. The Vendéan army had its first serious defeat at Cholet on October17th; their army was split. In October 1793 the main force, commanded by Henri de la Rochejaquelein and numbering some 25,000 crossed the Loire, headed for the port of Granville where they expected a British fleet and an army of exiled French nobles. Granville was surrounded by Republican forces, with no British ships in sight. Their failed to take the city. During the retreat they fell prey to Republican forces, suffering from hunger and disease they died in their thousands, the finally battle at Savenay on December 23rd was decisive.
Claims of genocide
The government in Paris enacted stern measures. The Reign of Terror seen elsewhere in France, was extraordinarily brutal in the Vendée. Followingthe Law of 14 Frimaire, in December alone over 6,000 prisoners were executed, a number in what was called the "national bath" - tied in groups in barges and then sunk into the Loire. Among them were 400 children whom Carrier hated especially, seeing in them "brigands to be”.
From February 1794 the Republican forces launched their final "pacification" (the Vendée-Vengé or "Vendée Avenged") - twelve columns, the colonnes infernales ("infernal columns") under Turreau were marched through the Vendée, indiscriminately targeting not only the remaining rebels and the people who had given them support, but the innocent as well. Beyond this massacre there were formal orders for forced evacuation and 'scorched earth' - farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned, villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combantant status, political affiliation, age or gender.
Extracts from the committee read:
"The committee has prepared measures that tend to exterminate this rebellious race of Vendéeans, to make their abodes disappear, to torch their forests, to cut their crops

The orders to Turreau were:

"Exterminate the brigands to the last man instead of burning the farms, punish the fleeing ones and the cowards, and crush that horrible Vendée. Combine the most assured means to exterminate all of this race of brigands”
The campaign dragged to an end in March 1796. Historians have since estimated the dead to number between 117,000 and 500,000, out of a population of around 800,000, while others have disputed the figures


A solution was hammered out in the end whereby the Vendeens would stop fighting and pay their taxes and in exchange the churches were allowed to reopen.
Napoleon was later, as a way of punishment to take the seat of power away from Fontenay le Comte which had been not only the capital of the Vendee, but of the Bas Poitou region and move it to a small village of just a few houses called "Le Roche sur Yon" and hence was created the first Napoleon town built on a grid system now copied in so many towns and cities in America.
The Emblem of the Vendee is the two inter-linked hearts with a cross on top, symbolizing the twin love of their country and of the church.

When I first came to live in the Vendee 16 years ago there was still a strong hatred of Parisiennes to the extent that if one was to move into a house in the area he could expect to be burgled in the first week, it was a matter of duty, but with the recent explosion in population this seem now after more than two hundred years to be dying out quickly.


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