Napoleon Series Archive 2005

Re: Quiberon Bay - From the Internet.

27 Jun 1795 émigrés land at Quiberon Bay.
16-20 Jul 1795 Hoche defeats French royalists and British at Quiberon.
Aug 1795 Pichegru initiates secret contacts with émigrés.

(kbrôNì), peninsula, Morbihan dept., NW France, in Brittany, projecting into the Bay of Biscay. The town of Quiberon (1993 est. pop. 4,647), a fishing port and resort, is at the tip of the peninsula and is linked with the mainland by a thin stretch of sand. A force of some 3,000 French royalists was landed at Quiberon by British ships in 1795 in the hope of reviving the Vendee movement, an anti-Revolution peasant uprising. The local population failed to rally, and bad weather prevented the British ships from giving assistance. Thus, the invaders were forced to capitulate; but, contrary to the capitulation terms, the French government ordered all prisoners executed. Some 750 were shot, and the rest were allowed to escape.

The last major popular rising of the Revolution occurred in the spring of 1795, when the near-total devaluation of the assignats produced a price rise that devastated the poor. But this rising was put down so effectively that the counter-revolutionaries imagined the monarchy might soon be restored, and their activities escalated. In response, the Thermidoreans now struck against the counter-revolutionaries, defeating and executing a group of émigré soldiers landed by the English at Quiberon Bay in Brittany during the summer of 1795.

From the Nafziger Collection:

795NHAA: Royal Navy Convoy Escort in Quiberon Bay, August 1795 - 1 pg
795NJAA: Royal Navy Squadron in Quiberon Bay, Autumn 1795 - 1 pg

Tom Wareham 'This Disastrous Affair: Sir John Borlase Warren and the expedition to Quiberon Bay, 1795' (Age of Sail. Volume 2. 2004).

Quiberon Bay
The French force consisted of 12 ships of the line plus frigates, the British had 17 ships of the line plus frigates. The French under Vice-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse had been intending to enter Brest but coming upon the British fleet he ran for Lorient. Vice-Admiral Lord Bridport ordered a general chase but only eight British ships were able to make contact. Bridport called off the action, some say prematurely, because of the nearness of the French coast.
Fought : 23 June 1795
type : Naval engagement

Original location : Twenty miles or so southwest to south of the port of Lorient, western France.
Outcome : Victory for British Fleet over French Fleet

Figures # engaged casualties
French Fleet 670
British Fleet 144

“Philip Charles DURHAM (1763-1845),
Captain of the Anson in the action off Isle Groiz and L'Orient, 1795, and in the expedition to Quiberon Bay, 1795.”

“The 78th Highlanders: On the 18th of August the 78th, in company with the 12th, 80th, and 90th Regiments, and some artillery, embarked under the command of Major-General W. Ellis Doyle, and sailed for Quiberon Bay; the design was to assist the French Royalists. They bore down on Noirmoutier, but finding the island strongly reinforced, and a landing impracticable, they made for L’Ile Dieu, where they landed without opposition. Here they remained for some time, enduring the hardships entailed by continued wet weather and a want of proper accommodation, coupled with an almost total failure of the commissariat, but were unable to assist Charette or his royalist companions in any way. Finally, the expedition embarked in the middle of December, joined the grand fleet in Quiberon Bay, and proceeded with it to Spithead.”

“640 émigrés and 108 Chouans were shot”

“LAMBERT, Henri. Pour Dieu et le roi, ou l'inutile sacrifice - Quiberon, juin-juillet 1795.
Editions Marque-Maillard, Lons-le-Saunier, 1987. In-8° broché, 433 p., appendice, bibliographie.”

“CONCORDE, 36. (Captured by MAGNIFICENT near St. Eustratia on 15 February 1783. Sold 1811): Capt. Anthony HUNT (from 8/94) In June 1795 she accompanied Sir John WARREN to Quiberon Bay and her marines and seamen were landed to destroy Fort Pentievre on 3 July.
Her boats took part in an expedition up the Morbihan which destroyed a corvette, a cutter and a lugger near Vannes; several merchantmen were brought out.

CONCORDE later escorted a brig to the Ile Dieu with arms and ammunition for the Royalist forces in the Vendee. Lieut. EVANS going on shore with 4000 ball cartridges was attacked by Republican troops from St. Gilles and had to swim out to GREYHOUND's cutter which stood in and opened a heavy fire. The Republicans were routed in their turn by Gen. Cherette's Royalists and the whole cargo was landed. CONCORDE took part in the occupation of the Ile Dieu and assisted in the capture of the brig EVEILLE on 15 October. She continued to cooperate with the Royalists until November. “

“The first division sailed from Cowes on June 10. On the 23rd Lord Bridport engaged the French fleet and drove it into port. Four days later the émigrés landed at Carnac, among the early monuments of the Celtic race. It was a low promontory, defended at the neck by a fort named after the Duke de Penthièvre, and it could be swept, in places, by the guns of the fleet. Thousands of Chouans joined; but La Vendée was suspicious and stood aloof. They had expected the fleet to come to them, but it had gone to Brittany, and there was jealousy between the two provinces, between the partisans of Lewis XVIII. and those of his brother the Count d’Artois, between the priests and the politicians. The clergy restrained Charette and Stofflet from uniting with Puisaye and his questionable allies, whom they accused of seeking the crown of France for the Duke of York; and they promised that, if they waited a little, the Count d’Artois would appear among them. They effectively ruined their prospects of success; but Pitt himself had contributed his share. Puisaye declined to bring English soldiers into his country, and his scruples were admitted. But, in order to swell his forces, the frugal minister armed between 1000 and 2000 French prisoners, who were republicans, but who declared themselves ready to join, and were as glad to escape from captivity as the government was to get rid of them. The royalist officers protested against this alloy, but their objections did not prevail, and when they came to their own country these men deserted. They pointed out a place where the republicans could pass under the fort at low water, and enter it on the undefended side. At night, in the midst of a furious tempest, the passage was attempted. Hoche’s troops waded through the stormy waters of Quiberon bay, and the tricolor was soon displayed upon the walls.
The royalists were driven to the extremity of the peninsula. Some, but not many, escaped in English boats, and it was thought that our fleet did not do all that it might have done to retrieve a disaster so injurious to the fame and the influence of England. Sombreuil defended himself until a republican officer called on him to capitulate. He consented, for there was no hope; but no terms were made, and it was in truth an unconditional surrender. Tallien, who was in the camp, hurried to Paris to intercede for the prisoners. Before going to the Convention, he went to his home. There his wife told him that she had just seen Lanjuinais, that Sieyès had brought back from Holland, where he had negotiated peace, proofs of Tallien’s treasonable correspondence with the Bourbons, and that his life was in danger. He went at once to the Convention, and called for the summary punishment of the captured émigrés.
Hoche was a magnanimous enemy, both by character and policy, and he had a deep respect for Sombreuil. He secretly offered to let him escape. The prisoner refused to be saved without his comrades; and they were shot down together near Auray, on a spot which is still known as the field of sacrifice. They were six or seven hundred. The firing party awakened the echoes of Vendée, for Charette instantly put his prisoners to death; and the Chouans afterwards contrived to cut down every man of the four battalions charged with the execution.
The battle of Quiberon took place on July 21, and when all that ensued was over on August 25, another expedition sailed from Portsmouth with the Count d’Artois on board. He landed on an island off La Vendée, and Charette, with fifteen thousand men, marched down to the coast to receive him, among the haggard veterans of the royal cause. There, on October 10, a message came from the Prince informing the hero that he was about to sail away, and to wait in safety for better times. Five days earlier the question had been fought out and decided at Paris, and a man had been revealed who was to raise deeper and more momentous issues than the obsolete controversy between monarchy and republic. That controversy had been pursued in the constitutional debates under the fatal influence of the events on the coast of Brittany. The royalists had displayed their colours, sailing under the British flag, and the British alliance had not availed them. And they had displayed a strange political imbecility, contrasting with their spirit and intelligence in war.”

Graham, Sir Thomas (1748 - 1843): Led his regiment [90th Foot] at Quiberon Bay 1795.

“On the 27th of June, 1795, an English fleet landed the flower of the old nobility of France at the Bay of Quiberon in southern Brittany. It was only to give one last fatal proof of their incapacity that these unhappy men appeared once more on French soil. Within three weeks after their landing, in a region where for years together the peasantry, led by their landlords, baffled the best generals of the Republic, this invading army of the nobles, supported by the fleet, the arms, and the money of England, was brought to utter ruin by the discord of its own leaders. Before the nobles had settled who was to command and who was to obey, General Hoche surprised their fort, beat them back to the edge of the peninsula where they had landed, and captured all who were not killed fighting or rescued by English boats (July 20). The Commissioner Tallien, in order to purge himself from the just suspicion of Royalist intrigues, caused six hundred prisoners to be shot in cold blood. [The documents relating to the expedition to Quiberon, with several letters of D'Artois, Charette, and the Vendean leaders, are in Records: France, vol. 600. ]“

“Puisaye was born at Mortagne in the Province of Perche in Northern France in 1755, studied in the Sulpician seminary in Paris, and later took up the profession of arms. He rose rapidly and in 1791 we find him already a Colonel. He opposed the revolutionists and was obliged to flee to London in 1794 with a price on his head. From London he took part in 1795 in a naval expedition to Quiberon on the French coast against the Jacobins. The expedition was a failure and even the royalists blamed Puisaye. He thus became exiled for life. In England, he married Suzanna Smithers, who died before he came to Canada.”

“The defeats of the chouanne insurrection finally persuaded London and its French emigrants of the necessity to support it with an expeditionary corps. Under admiral Warren’s orders an English squadron gets under way the 10 th of June with 4000 emigrants, 80 000 guns, 80 cannons, food, some uniforms and a quantity of fake assignats. In front, Puisaye and d’Hermilly are determined to urge to insurrection the whole western region of France and march on Paris. Hearing of this, the capital’s royalist plotters grow bold. On June 17 the “jeunesses dorées” (golden youths) cut large numbers of Trees of Liberty to their hearts content and trample on tri-colored cockades.
On June 26 the emigrants land at Carnac. The day before, Charette violated his engagement and resumed the hostilities. He caused a massacre at a republican post at Les Essarts. He joins the chouans, Hermilly takes Auray but is defeated at Vannes. Hoche then launches his counter-offensive. He takes Auray back on June 30 and lock up the insurgents in the Quiberon peninsula. Hermilly resists violently in the Fort of Penthièvre, which is the lock of the battlefield.
The Division Sombreuil, which arrived from England on the 15 th of July reinforces the expeditionary corps at Quiberon. After Hermilly’s death July 16, Penthièvre falls on the 20 th, accomplishing the complete victory of Hoche.
Only Puisaye and a handful of emigrants are able to rejoin the English fleet. All others are either killed or taken prisoners. The repression is merciless for the emigrants, 748 of whom are shot to death in contrast with the amnesty given to most captured chouans.
In retaliation, on the 2 nd of August Charette has some 300 republican prisoners executed.
The failure of the landing at Quiberon does not discourage the royalist rebellion. On the 13 th of September there is a revolt at Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais stretching as far as Dreux. But the royalists are unable to go past Nonancourt where they are routed.”

Soldier, politician, diplomatist and colonizer, de Puisaye was born at Mortagne-en-Perche, France, about 1755 and enlisted in the French Army at 18. Elected to the States General in 1789, he supported reform but, alarmed by the course of the Revolution, later organized resistance on behalf of the Royalists. Outlawed, he sought refuge in England and in 1795, as Lieutenant-General, led an ill-fated expedition to Quiberon, Brittany. Three years later, with some fourty other emigres, he arrived in Upper Canada and established a short-lived settlement in the Markham-Vaughan region. In 1799 he purchased a farm here on which he lived until he moved to England in 1802. There he died in 1827.”

“Rawdon, Francis, Earl of Moira, Marquis of Hastings, son of the 1st Earl of Moira, was born in Ireland 7th December 1754. Lord Moira was appointed to direct the Quiberon expedition. Deceased in Baia Bay, 29th November 1825, aged 70.”

“In 1795, a maritime expedition was fitted out against Quiberon, at an expense of eight millions of dollars. This port of the French coast had then a naval defence of near thirty sail, carrying about sixteen hundred guns. Lord Bridport attacked it with fourteen sail of the line, five frigates, and some smaller vessels, about fifteen hundred guns in all, captured a portion of the fleet, and forced the remainder to take shelter under the guns of the fortifications of L'Orient. The French naval defence being destroyed, the British now entered Quiberon without opposition. This bay is said by Brenton, in his British Naval History, to be "the finest on the coast of France, or perhaps in the world, for landing an army." Besides these natural advantages in favor of the English, the inhabitants of the surrounding country were in open insurrection, ready to receive the invaders with open arms. A body of ten thousand troops were landed, and clothing, arms, &c., furnished to as many more royalist troops; but the combined forces failed in their attack upon St. Barbe, and General Hoche, from his intrenchments, with seven thousand men, held in check a body of eighteen thousand, penned up, without defences, in the narrow peninsula. Reinforced by a new debarkation, the allies again attempted to advance, but were soon defeated, and ultimately almost entirely destroyed.”

Web pages:

“Le 26 juin 1795, les chouans préparent à Carnac un débarquement anglais. Hoche, prend aussitôt ses dispositions et lance la contre-offensive. Il demande et obtient du comité de salut public 12 000 hommes en renfort ainsi que des vivres. Il déploie ses régiments tout le long de la Bretagne, occupant ainsi tout le territoire, et poste un régiment de 8000 hommes à Sainte Barbe, en attente des insurgés. La confrontation a lieu le 6 juillet. Elle tourne à l'avantage des républicains qui repoussent les assaillants britanniques dans le fort de Penthièvre. Après une attente de plusieurs jours, et des combats sporadiques, Hoche décide de lancer l'offensive de nuit. Malgré la résistance des vaillants anglais, le fort tombe le 20 juin au mains des républicains.
Après ce succès, Hoche obtient le commandement de toute l'armée de l'ouest, et remplace aussitôt le général Canclaux à Nantes.”

The “Mémoires du comte Joseph de Puisaye“ are available on Gallica. Vol V through vol VI part 2. [Vol 5 is background vol 6 part 1 the start of the expedition.]

“Lazare Hoche d'après sa correspondance et ses notes / par Claude Desprez“ Is available on Gallica.

“Les débris de Quiberon, souvenirs du désastre de 1795 : suivis de la liste des victimes... / par Eugène de La Gournerie“ Is available on Gallica.

Mémoires sur l'expédition de Quiberon : précédés d'une notice sur l'émigration de 1791, et sur les trois campagnes des années 1792, 1793, 1794 / par Louis-Gabriel de Villeneuve-Laroche-Barnaud,... Gallica.

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