Death of the Vendean generalissimo Maurice d’Elbee

January 20, 2011

Maurice Joseph Louis Gigost d’Elbée, generalissimo of the Vendean Catholic and Royal Army

[Charette] was far away on his road to Noirmoutiers. During his absence in Anjou, General Haxo had traversed the Marais in all directions without effect, and Turreau, a man forever execrated as the organizer of the infernal columns, had been sent to supersede him. Upon this Haxo determined to attack the isle of Noirmoutiers, an enterprise he had hitherto deferred from want of sufficient strength; and on the 3rd January 1794, the defenders of Barbastre capitulated, upon the faith of General Haxo’s word, that those who laid down their arms should save their lives—and he was known to be a man of honor. Unhappily Haxo had no longer the command in chief, and Turreau ordered all the prisoners to be put to death. More than fifteen hundred men were thus murdered.

Execution of General d’Elbée. d’Elbée had been severely wounded at the battle of Cholet in 1793. He was removed to the island of Noirmoutier to be executed. However, his injuries were such that he had to be seated in an armchair to face the execution squad.

The value of their victory was doubled by the discovery that D’Elbée was among the vanquished. “Look,” said one of the commissioners of the Convention, “here is D’Elbée!”

“Yes,” was the answer, “here is your greatest foe; and had I been able to fight, you had not been here.”

“What will you do, if we give you your life?”

“Commence the war again.” Turreau attempted to worm out of him some information about the insurgents, but in vain; he was much struck with his firmness, but could not understand his religious principles. It seemed to him incomprehensible that a man of intelligence should attach the slightest importance to this or that form of worship. When he saw that nothing was to be learned from him, he ordered him to be shot; and after five days’ torture, he was led out to the tree of liberty along with two of his comrades.

Shootings at Nantes, 1793, watercolor by a witness

As the word was about to be given to the executioners to fire, one of the commissioners observed that there were “only three victims; the number four, as being square and symmetrical, was more agreeable to the eye.” “Well,” said another, “there is Wieland,* take him.” Wieland was accordingly taken, although he was a sincere republican, tied to the stake, and shot. The next morning the wife of D’Elbée shared her husband’s death, and showed herself worthy of her lord.

General Louis Marie Turreau de Garambouville, who ordered the murder of fifteen hundred unarmed men.

* [Wieland, the republican governor of the small town of Barbastre, had been defeated shortly before by Charette. He was being held prisoner in the town of Barbastre, when the Blues reconquered the town from the Royalist insurgents.]

George J. Hill, The Story of the War in La Vendée and the Little Chouannerie (New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co. n.d.), pp. 116-117.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 42


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