The War Of The Vendee: Jaques Cathelineau And His Companions Were Fighting The Same War Against The Same Demons That We Fight Today

In the Northwest part of France there lies the fertile farmland of the region called the Vendée. It was out of this quiet country that The War of the Vendee took place. The people of this region, Catholic to the core, were the only resistance that dared stand up to the French Revolution and all that it stood for. This sweet countryside was the birthplace to France'a martyred heroes of the Reign of Terror.

Sacred Heart BadgeSacred Heart Badge Worn By The Vendeans

The most famous of these "rebels" was Jacques Cathelineau, also called "The Saint of Anjou" or the peddler-general. But every man who took up arms against the new regime deserves to be remembered. These people of the Vendee uniquely lived the real meaning of freedom and equality, not that which the Revolution had made its own.

By the year 1793, the French Revolution had not yet met a Catholic people in arms who knew how to draw the sword of Hernan Cortes. This army wore a peasant uniform which consisted of the forbidden white cockade of the French king. Many Vendeans wore crosses and images of the Sacred Heart as a mark of their loyalty. As Warren Carroll wrote, "the spirit of the Crusades was upon them."

This spirit was instilled in them largely due to the zeal of St. Louis Marie de Montfort in spreading devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Rosary and the Sacred Heart just a century before.

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The Spirit Of The Crusades Was Upon Them

The War of the Vendee

The Vendeans were very close the the Sacred Heart. It should be remembered that Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673 and asked that France be consecrated to His Sacred Heart.

His wishes were neglected by the French kings and it is the belief that the unheeding of Christ's requests brought about the French Revolution in a mode of persecution. Exactly 100 years after Christ requested France be consecrated to His Sacred Heart, the Reign of Terror struck France. King Louis XVI did consecrate his nation to the Sacred Heart but it was not until he was in prison and awaiting his execution - too late. 

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

Enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home.

Consecrate your family to the Sacred Heart.

Recite the Consecration Prayer daily (see below).

Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion Daily - for reparation. Make the nine First Fridays. If not possible, make an Act of Spiritual Communion

Offer a Holy Hour once a week - for reparation.

But the Vendee and Bocage carried out the spirit of a people who were consecrated to the Sacred Heart. The requirements that are requested by Our Lord are easy enough to follow and it is something that every Catholic who realizes that we are in our own version of the French Revolution should perform with zeal and vigilance.

But what if you can't attend mass or receive Holy Communion daily? Remember, even the Vendeans did not attend the mass that was said by a priest that was sent to them by the corrupt government. They were commanded by their good priests who were taken away from them to "Never assist at the Mass of an intruder!"

A certain pastor went further to say, "Each Sunday, as far as I am able, I will say Mass at the same hour for you." From then on, Vendeans in that region would assemble at 10:00 am and assist at the "invisible Mass". And daily Spiritual Communions have never been denied anyone. I encourage everyone to put on the spirit of the Vendee and implement these devotions. 

Jacques Cathelineau and Other Heroes Of The War Of The Vendee

Jacques CathelineauJacques Cathelineau

The story goes that Jacques Cathelineau was kneading bread when he heard the news of the Catholic rising in the Bocage. He dropped his work immediately and went to join the uprising.

The historian Warren Carroll tells us that "he was 33 years old. Tall and strong, with a young-looking open face, he was a poor man, an itinerate peddler of wooden goods, modest and unassuming, deeply religious." This is he who was called "The Saint of Anjou" by his men and rightly so. He would later be voted unanimously as commander-in-chief of the Royal and Catholic Army. 

There were others who rose to defend God and country in the Vendee. There was the flamboyant General François de Charette who, though he would drag his feet in the beginning, gave the cause all he had. He was executed by firing squad at which he himself issued the order to fire, displaying his great pluck. Read more about his execution here...

It is also fair to mention the Marquis Henri de la Rochejaquelein who famously said, "If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, shoot me. If I am killed, avenge me." This man was probably the youngest Vendean leader on record as he himself said, "I am only a child". Carroll tells us that he was only 20 years old. The courage, zeal, and valor of these men can't help but be admired.

1793 Events - From The Death Of King Louis XVI In January To The Fall Of Our Hero In June

Execution of King Louis XVIThe Execution of His Most Christian Majesty, King Louis XVI

The execution of King Louis XVI sent a wave of shock through most of France and all of Europe. This crucial event took place the morning of January 21st, 1793. What the government did not foresee was the sudden drop in volunteer rates for enlistments which were so badly needed since France had already rashly declared war on Europe in order to make the whole continent in its own image of revolution. This expressed a need to draft men to fight in the war for world conquest.

The revolutionaries received outright resistance in the Vendee. On March 12th, the day of the enlistment, the rising broke out almost spontaneously. In a particular village, thousands of peasants armed with guns and primitive weapons such as pitchforks and field scathes marched to the town square. When the drawing of lots for the conscription was about to begin, someone in the crowd shot the Revolutionary speaker and the French soldiers opened fire on the crowd. But they were outnumbered and the National Guard was forced to flee the village.

General François de CharetteGeneral François de Charette

The rising spread like wildfire over the entire region. The Bocage and the Vendee were liberated from Revolutionary control in only thirty-six hours. The Vendeans would shout “We want our King, our priests and the old regime!” In every town they freed from Revolutionary control they would cut down the tree of liberty and a bonfire was made with the wood. Decrees of the Revolution and everything tricolored was burnt. The Vendéan Royal Catholic Army claimed sweeping victories, never resting whether they were the victors or the vanquished.

The next month, April 6th, the Committee of Public Safety was created. A branch inside of this organization was the Department of War and the Department of Foreign Affaires. This French version of the gostapo was put in charge of quelling the War of the Vendee. They were permitted to use any force necessary to put out the fire of Truth ablaze in Western France. The most inhumane crimes where committed against the men, women and children in the Vendee under this new Terror. 

In May, 1793, the Vendee people drew up a manifesto to the Nation to which the Committee in Paris responded in rage declaring that "nothing like this has been seen since the Crusades." This manifesto was the growing proof that the Catholic uprising might yet succeed in overthrowing the Revolution. This manifesto was the response to the question asking what they would do if and when they toppled the Reign of Terror and the Revolution.

Marquis Henri de la RochejqueleinMarquis Henri de la Rochejaquelein
  1. They asked that the name Le Vendée be preserved and that this region include the formerly secluded Bocage.
  2. They requested the King for once to honor that rude and remote county with his presence. (The dauphin at this time was only a boy in prison.)
  3. They wished that, in memory of the war, a white flag permanently fly on every steeple throughout the region. And they requested that a corps of Vendéans should be admitted into the King’s guard.

But people make history, not their strategies and achievements. The Vendeans were not destined to be the overthrow of the Revolution though they gave the Republic an injury that they would not soon forgive or forget. The rising only lasted 6 months but the Royal and Catholic Army gave the Revolution a good punch in the nose and proved that the Catholics of the country would not be silent and go down without a fight.

Sacred Heart Consecration Prayer

The cause of their military blunder was a bad move on Jacques Cathelineau's part. He was humble and good and sometimes a genius leader. But the army came to a hard decision: Either march on Paris and capture the capital or secure a seaport so food and supplies were guaranteed.

Cathelineau's instinct told him that the sea town of Nantes needed to be open for supplies and even reinforcement troops from England. Marquis Henri de la Rochejaquelein begged that Cathelineau order a march on the heart of the Revolution, the capital, and crush the Revolution once and for all.

Charrett agreed that the coast must be open to guarantee further victories and survival. Cathelineau knew that the army could not split and that only one town could be taken. If they had succeeded in taking Nantes, they would have then turned their gaze to Paris and, as Napoleon later said of this valiant struggle against tyranny, they would have flown their white flag above Notre Dame in Paris before the government even knew they were there.

At Nantes, the Royal and Catholic Army met a crushing defeat and Cathelineau was shot. No one knew, especially Cathelineau himself, how indispensable he was. The army remained in the Vendee region, keeping the Revolution at bay but never attacking Paris.

The War of the Vendee should never be seen as a failure. The people of the region's spirit has inspired us, many generations later, with their determination to resist, their peasant resourcefulness, and their Catholic zeal.

Today, we are assaulted with the same enemy that Charette described to his soldiers. These enemies are the same "demons who rise up again century after century" who have created a country "in their brains" while "we have it under our feet". We, like the Vendeans, are "the youth of God and of fidelity, and this youth we will preserve for our children, true humanity and liberty of the soul."

Stay close to the Sacred Heart and resist until it hurts!

In They Eyes Of The World They Failed But They Left To Us A Legacy And A Model To Follow

War in the VendeeWe recently represented the Vendee at an around-the-world potluck

In Cardinal Wiseman's book Fabiola, he imagines a conversation between pagan Fabiola and St. Sebastian discussing the prospect of death. Sebastian remarks how, to him, death is not the last page of a book but a new chapter that is illuminated by a glow of life. Fabiola supposes that he means that, when he dies as a hero in battle, he foresees the glory the world will lavish upon him as a great hero of Rome. Sebastian of course means that he knows the Beatific Vision awaits him after death.

Surely both of these glories are given to the Catholic Vendeans who fought the Revolution of their time. Not only do they now enjoy the merits of their heroism, but they are also remembered even here on this earth for being French heroes.

Very similar to how we have Civil War Reenactments, the Catholic French also perform and remember the War of the Vendee with skits and reenactments. On the Chartres Pilgrimage, the French Chapter performs a reenactment at the camp. I have yet to drag my crippled body into the camp with enough energy to stay up most of the night to watch this performance, but I intend to someday.

Of course, Navis Pictures' The War of the Vendee recounts this story very well and started a major interest in this Catholic uprising. I encourage you to read the full movie review here...

Most of the information that I have learned about the Vendee Uprising is taken from The Guillotine and the Cross by Warren Carroll. This is a fascinating and beautiful retelling of one of the most horrifying and disturbing historical events in history. The reader meets the architect of the Revolution as well as the many forgotten martyrs of the Vendee.

Although I've never read it, I'm sure another good read about the War of the Vendee is Michael Davies' For Altar and Throne: The Rising in the Vendee

Put Your Vendee On!

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An aid for families encouraging the reconstruction of the social fabric by sparking interest in Christian art and culture. Find beautiful novels, films, music, food and customs. 


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