New research shows that the French Revolution massacred vast numbers of women, children, and noncombatants in the Vendée region of France in 1794-95, after repressing a short-lived rebellion against the Revolutionary regime. Jaspreet Sing Boparai describes the incredible bloodshed in an article in Quillette titled “The French Genocide That Has Been Air-Brushed from History.” This debunks the official mythology propagated by pro-regime chroniclers. That mythology depicts the Vendée rebellion as a would-be civil war instigated by deluded peasants that was put down with no more atrocities than those committed by the Vendéens themselves. As Boparai says, the French revolutionary
General Turreau set out with two armies of six divisions each on a ‘Crusade of Liberty’…He ordered his lieutenants to spare nobody: women and children were also to be bayoneted in the stomach if there was the slightest hint of suspicion. Houses, farms, villages and thickets were all to be set on fire. Anything that could burn would have to burn. Soldiers in the ‘Infernal Columns’ of the Crusade had explicit instructions to wipe out every last possible trace of resistance or rebellion.
Crusaders for Liberty were relatively sparing in their use of the bayonet. Men, women and children were more often shot, or burned alive in their houses. Some of the Crusading soldiers had the idea of lighting ovens, stoking them and baking Vendéen families in them. Babies were not spared; nor were toddlers or small children. The usual practice was to kill babies in front of their mothers, then kill the mothers. Young girls were often drowned, after first being raped. Widows were usually beaten, insulted and drowned. Though there was no established standard procedure.
Not all brigand corpses were dumped, or left in the ruins of their homes. Many bodies were skinned for their leather. On April 5, 1794 at Clisson, General Crouzat’s soldiers burned 150 women alive to extract their fat to use as grease….Reynald Secher estimates that just over 117,000 Vendéens disappeared as a result of the brigands’ rebellion, out of a population of just over 815,000.
Revolutions are very bloody processes. Usually much bloodier than the regime they replace. The French celebrate the storming of the Bastille fortress and prison in the revolution in their Bastille Day holiday. But the monarchy the revolution deposed was so mild and nonviolent in comparison with the revolution that followed it, that the Bastille contained only seven prisoners when it was taken. By contrast, members of the garrison were butchered after the prison was seized in the revolutionary violence.
This article was republished with permission from Liberty Unyielding.
[Image Credit: Village Theatre CC BY-SA 4.0]