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March 6, 1793: War in the Vendée

The following is an excerpt from my novel, Silence in the Mist:

Charette smiled and took a seat, tapping his finger on the dossier.  “I have been reading about the exploits of a young soldier by the name of La Rochejaquelein. Are you acquainted with him?”

Françoise shook her head.

“Before a recent battle in Cholet, he was quoted as saying, ‘If I advance, follow me; if I retreat, kill me; if I die, avenge me.’”  The general laughed, slapping his desk. “What a superb statement! I wish I had thought of it myself. His horse was shot from beneath him, he was stabbed in the leg, but he still managed to kill seven republicans!”

In writing Silence in the Mist, I tried, whenever possible, to use real people instead of fabricated characters.  On this day in 1793, monarchists and counter-revolutionaries launched the first of a series of rebellions against the Revolution.  These organized rebellions would develop into what is now called, The War in the Vendée .  In honor of of the first rebellion, I would like to tell you a little about three of the people mentioned in Silence in the Mist.

François-Athanase Charette de la Contrie
Of noble birth, François-Athanase Charette de la Contrie was born May 2, 1763 in Couffé, a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department.  Charette served in the French Navy, notably in the American War of Independence. A soldier and politician, he was also one of the primary leaders of the Vendéan Revolt. Charette was wounded during a battle with General Lazare Hoche's men, but escaped. Eventually captured near Le Logis de la Chabotterie (a major setting in Silence in the Mist), he was taken to Nantes where he was sentenced to death. He died heroically by firing squad.

Françoise Després

Silence in the Mist is a novel based on the exploits of the counter-revolutionary spy, Françoise Després.  In truth, very little is actually known about the real Després. 

In her book, Blood Sisters, Marilyn Yalom writes, "Dressed as a beggar, Françoise Després, carried secret messags for the royalist army in the Vendée, often escaping arrest and inspiring her compatriots with her zeal for the counterrevolution." 

Orphaned at a young age, Després was educated by her uncle, who happened to be a parish priest.  This young woman of humble origins, in possession of a gifted intellect and superior education, was admitted to Saint-Cyr in 1775, where she worked in the infirmary.

As a devout Catholic, she must have been outraged when she learned of the atrocities being committed in the name of the French Republic. 

Whatever her motivation, she elected to join the counterrevolutionary cause, a decision which would often place her life in great peril.  She escaped capture many times.  At a time when women did nto serve in the military, she joined the ranks of men to fight to preserve and protect that which she held dear.  She was a true hero of the Counterrevolution!

Henri du Vergier, comte de La Rochejaquelein

"Mes amis, si j'avance, suivez-moi! Si je recule, tuez-moi! Si je meurs, vengez-moi!"   Translated:  "Friends, if I advance, follow me! If I retreat, kill me! If I die, avenge me!"
As a woman who has spent her life appreciating the beauty and power of words, I find a man like Henri du Vergier passionately inspiring.
Henri du Vergier, comte de La Rochejaquelein, was a larger-than-life hero that most novelists attempt to create.  He was one of the more dashing leaders of the Vendée Army.

He was born August 30, 1772 in the Chateau Durbelière near Chatillon-sur-Sevre.  Being the son of the Marquis de La Rochejaquelin, afforded him the opportunity to attend the exclusive military academy Sorèze.

He was only sixteen years old when the mob marched on Versailles.  His first military action was helping to defend the royal family during the attack at the Tuileries Palace. 

In March 1793, he participated in the uprising in the Vendee and continued to fight valiantly until his death on January 28, 1794.  Although he is only briefly mentioned in Silence in the Mist, he played a vital part in the War in the Vendée.

The Death of Henri de La Rochejaquelein,
painting by Alexandre Bloch

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