Louis d'Elbée

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Louis d'Elbée
Maurice d'Elbée.jpg
Louis d'Elbée by Girodet
Born 21 March 1752
Died 6 January 1794
Allegiance Kingdom of France Royaume de France
Royalist rebels
Rank Major General

Maurice-Joseph-Louis Gigost d'Elbée (pronounced: [mɔʁis ʒɔzɛf lwi ʒiɡo dɛlˈbe]; 21 March 1752 – 6 January 1794) was a French Royalist military leader. Initially enthusiastic about the Revolution, he became disenchanted with the disestablishment of the Catholic Church and retired to his estates in Brittany. He was the second commander in chief of the Royal and Catholic Army formed by Royalist forces of the Vendean insurrection against the Republic and the French Revolution.


Born in Dresden (Electorate of Saxony) from a French family, he moved to France in 1777, becoming a naturalised citizen. He embarked on a military career, reaching the rank of lieutenant, but resigned from the army in 1783 and married, thereafter living a retired country life near Beaupréau in Anjou. He then served as an officer in the army of the Prince-Elector of Saxony. After the Revolution, he returned in obedience to the law which ordered emigrants to return to France

Participation in the Vendéan Revolt[edit]

The peasantry and much of the middle class in the Vendée remained loyal to the Catholic church and, in 1792, the count of Rouaririe had organized a general rising, although this was frustrated by the count's arrest. However, when the Convention decreed the levee en masse of 300,000 men, the Vendee mounted a war against what they considered the atheist Republic. The peasants of Beaupréau to appoint him as their leader. His troop joined those of François de Charette, Charles Bonchamps, Jacques Cathelineau and Jean-Nicolas Stofflet. The army experienced several successes: Stofflet defeated the republic army at St. Vincent; D'Elbee and Bonchamps won at Beaupreau; and Henri de la Rochejaquelein won the victories at the Aubiers and First Cholet.[1] He is famous for his actions after the Battle of Chemillé, on 11 April 1793: after the insurgents' victory, many of them planned to avenge their dead and slaughter the Republican prisoners (approx. 400). D'Elbée tried to prevent them, and eventually asked them to recite the Our Father, which they did; then, when they had reached the sentence "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us", he interrupted them with the words: "Do not lie to God!". Moved by this reproach, his men turned away, and d'Elbée was able to save the prisoners. This episode has since become known as "Le Pater d'Elbée" (d'Elbée's Pater Noster).

D'Elbée stands between prisoners and certain death.

By spring 1793, the insurgents controlled the province of Brittany. on 2 June, LaRochejacquelin stormed Saumur and Cathelineau was elected as commander in chief. The eight-year-old held in the Temple prison in Paris, the son of the executed Louis XVI, was proclaimed king of France, and Charette and Cathelineu united their armies to advance upon Nantes. When Cathelineau knelt at the town square to thank God for their victories, he was killed by a Republican sniper on 14 July 1793; d'Elbee replaced him as generalissimo. A skillful general, he led the small Vendéan army to several victories, most notably at Coron and Torfou. Even at his loss at the Battle of Luçon (19 August 1793), he managed to extract his force from danger. At the Battle of Luçon he managed to extricate the Royalist force from a potential rout, but suffered a significant reverse. [2][1]

The Republican government in Paris entrusted its fighting to generals of the old army. Westermann was sent against them first, but on July 5 he was driven from Chatillon and suspended by the representatives on mission. After his dismissal, some of the most incompetent generals of the old army sought to defeat the rebellion. He was succeeded by the Duke of Lauzun, General Biron, who was no more successful, and who was dismissed less than a week later; the committee then sent Jean Antoine Rossignol,formerly a goldsmith's apprentice, Antoine Joseph Santerre, a brewer, and Charles-Philippe Ronsin, a playwright; all were beaten in successive battles, although Rossignol managed to hang on to his command. [3]

Eventually, Jean Baptiste Kléber took command of the Republic army in the Vendee and inflicted a series of defeats. Following the Second Battle at Cholet (17 October 1793), he was badly wounded, and taken prisoner; Bonchamps was killed outright. Three months later, he was executed by firing squad. He was shot sitting in a chair, since he was unable to stand due to his wounds. Rochejaquelein, (1772–1794) a former royal cavalry officer, succeeded him as general of the Vendéan force.[4]

Citations, notes and sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b John Keegan, Andrew Wheatcroft, Who's Who in Military History: From 1453 to the Present Day. Routledge, 2014. p. 86.
  2. ^ Thomas Edward Watson, From the end of the reign of Louis the Fifteenth to the consulate... Macmillan Company, 1901, pp. 799–800.
  3. ^ Watson, p. 859. As a general Rossignol was accused of incompetence by his subordinate, Augustin Tuncq.
  4. ^ Keegan, p. 251.