Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Portraits of a Terrorist? Jean-Baptiste Carrier

[See also my earlier post:]
There are few portraits of Carrier. Those which exist, date mainly from the time of his trial or later, and inevitably they are highly coloured by the negative assessment of his character.

The only sympathetic images are the little painting attributed to David in the Musée Lambert - if it indeed represents Carrier - and this sketch from the Bibliothèque National, provenance unknown.  This drawing is the only one to depict Carrier in conventional late 18th-century dress with his hair in a pigtail, so we can guess that it dates from early in his Revolutionary career.

Most other portraits can to be found described in the biography by Alfred Lallié: 
J.-B. Carrier : représentant du Cantal à la convention 1756-1794 (1901), p.16-7:

Lallié lists:

1. An original watercolour which he himself had purchased, showing Carrier in a hat, with a distracted rather than hard expression.  The features were so different from those of other portraits that Lallié doubted it was really him him.

2.  A print in the public library in Nantes, annotated as "drawn from life" by Gabriel and engraved by Perrot.  This is clearly the picture in question (There is also a copy on Gallica).  Lallié remarks that the profile has the characteristic protruding lower lip;  interestingly enough here too Carrier is shown wearing a hat:

3. A portrait by Lamarie (Lamary), a well-regarded local sculptor and municipal official in Nantes during the time of Carrier's mission.  The picture shows Carrier dressed in a pelisse, with fur collar. Lallié remarks that this is the only portrait which represents Carrier at his true age, as a young man in his thirties.
The picture can be found reproduced in Verger ed., Archives curieuses de la ville de Nantes vol.2 (1838), p.176

The accompanying text specifies that the portrait has been faithfully copied for publication by a local illustrator M. de la Michellerie; "This portrait of Carrier, drawn from an original by the late M. LAMARY, whom we have only recently lost, reproduces the model with the greatest exactitude".

4. The engraving by François Bonneville produced for his series of revolutionary portraits,  which is annotated as "drawn from nature at the Tribunal" and dated 1796.  Most 19th-century prints are based loosely on this depiction.

5. Lallié  mentions  particularly the engraving by Duplessis-Bertaux, which is probably the most widespread and most copied.  It dates from the late 1840s. As Lallié justly remarks, this unsympathetic portrait ages Carrier by twenty years.

 Compare also the earlier engraving by Delpech, which was produced in about 1830. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this portrait is the one preferred by Carrier's descendants.

Jean-Baptiste Carrier, lithograph by F.-S. Delpech after a painting by J.-B. Belliard, c.1830

Here is a final print, recently used as the cover for the paperback version of Jean-Joël Brégeon's Carrier et la Terreur nantaise. 

The catalogue entry for the Bibliothèque National copy specifies only that it was published by Pierre Charles Coqueret, probably in the 1790s. 

 A second example, reproduced in the LEEMAGE online image collection has what looks to be a handwritten annotation; this supplies the information that it is a "drawing by Gouneville from the time of the interrogation of the members of the Revolutionary Tribunal."  The pose and clothing look very much like those of the Lamary portrait, though Carrier is clearly older.  I can find no further information as to who "Gouneville" was.

The BN version is reproduced in the Stanford University Libraries French Revolution Digital Archive

The visual record can be supplemented by a few (equally meagre) verbal descriptions, again mostly hostile.  Carrier's sworn enemy, Fréron offered the following portrait to posterity:

This monster is very tall.  He is almost all arms and legs.  He has a  curved back, his head, his face oblong and  marked by a strong personality.  His eyes, small, angular and deepset, are of a colour which mixes blood and bile.  His aquiline nose makes his appearance even more terrible. His complexion is copper-coloured. He is thin and nervy, and the prominence of his hips, together with his lack of belly, makes him appear cut in half like a wasp.  The sharpness of his voice is made even more noticeable because of his southern accent.  When he is at the tribune and slightly animated, he seems to tear his speeches from his entrails, pronouncing his 'R's like a growling tiger.  His physionomy is a faithful reflection of his character. (Lallié confirmed that Carrier was remembered in Nantes for the way in which he pronounced his 'R's)
L' Orateur du peuple, 29 brumaire, Year 3, p.245

The executioner Sanson handed down this description:
Carrier was a man of five feet seven, thin and boney, very stooped; his complexion was yellow and tanned like a Creole;  his hair, dull black in colour, fell in long straight locks onto his shoulders. His prominent cheekbones, his angular features, wide mouth and lidded eyes, gave him a appearance which was really much more ordinary than ferocious.
Sept générations d'exécuteurs, 1688-1847 : Mémoires des Sanson. T. 5 (1862)

The description of the historian Jean Delmas is also often quoted: 
According to contemporaries he was a tall man, but slightly stooped.  His face was that of a dreamer, with small eyes which seems always to be wandering in the void;  his skin was tanned like that of a mountain peasant, his voice harsh, his language quick.

With these unattractive features corresponded an unprepossessing external appearance; in the midst of the elegant powdered wigs of the period, his untamed black curly hair hung loose.
Jean Delmas "La jeunesse et les débuts de Carrier", La Révolution française, 1895 p.424-5

Oddly enough Madame Tussaud, who may or may not have met him in real life, strikes a discordant note:
It appears extraordinary, that so cruel a being as Carrier should have in his exterior aught of the “human form divine;” yet Madame Tussaud describes him as a good-looking man, tall, rather a fine figure, very gentlemanly in his appearance and manners, always dressed extremely well, and was agreeable in conversation, and appeared well constituted for the purposes of society.
Memoirs of Madame Tussaud (1838), p.407

Monday, 1 January 2018

Landmarks of the Terror in Nantes

In Nantes two hundred years of industrial growth, land reclamation and wartime devastation have wrought major changes on the urban landscape and physical reminders of the Revolution are sparse.  Here, such as they are, are the main lieux de mémoire.

As elsewhere in Western France, much of the impetus to preserve and record comes from local Vendéen memorial associations, notably the Souvenir Chouan de Bretagne, which in November 2017 organised its twentieth commemoration of the "noyades de Nantes". 

The Préfecture, formerly Palais de la Chambre des Comptes

The seat of the present-day préfecture on the Quai Ceineray, is an imposing neoclassical building designed by the architect Jean-Baptiste Ceineray, and built in 1763 to house the Chambre des comptes for the province of Brittany.  It boasts "a superb vestibule and fine staircase with double balustrade". After the suppression of the Chambre in September 1790, it stood empty.  During the Terror it housed the Departmental and District administrations; plus the Revolutionary Committee.  According to Lenotre,  "On its heavy facade the cyper of the Republic and the Phrygian cap replaced the arms of France."  The Directory of the Department met in the former Great Hall.

The Palais de la Chambre des Comptes, c.1775

The Hôtel de La Villestreux 

The Hôtel de La Villestreux in the place de la Petite-Hollande, built in 1727 for a rich colonist from St. Domingo, was the official residence of members of the Convention on circuit. In the 18th century this area was part of the Île Feydeau, now incorporated into the north bank of the Loire.  Carrier occupied the first floor of the mansion, from which there were views over the river - Lenotre imagines him observing the noyades from his window.

The plaque outside says simply "Carrier y séjourna".

Today guided tours are taken to see the imposing inner courtyard.  The main staircase,  with its wrought iron bannisters, was judged by Lenotre to be one of the most evocative locations in Nantes:
To him who seeks to make the past live again, the most moving spot in the city is the dark staircase of the hôtel de La Villestreux in Little Holland - the staircase where Carrier dwelt.  It is solemn, severe, bare, and terrible.  On its steps have echoed the boots of Lamberty, over them the sabre of Grandmaison has trailed, the pumps of Goullin have slouched.  The furs of the Proconsul hae brushed these walls, and his oaths have wakened the echoes beheath these arches.....

Further views of the Hôtel, ["Nantes ou la Venise de l'Ouest"]

The place du Bouffay

The central square of the old town, the place du Bouffay, now opens onto a road where the northern channel of the Loire once ran. In the late 18th-century a long barracks block fronted the water, whilst to the east the Mint, which was demolished in 1822, barred access to Port Maillard. The guillotine, painted red, was erected in the centre of the square.  

Front and main staircase of the prison du Bouffay from the square where the scaffold stood
Plate from Lenotre.
Le Bouffay from the quay on the Loire.  Plate from Lenotre.
The medieval prison du Bouffay, now also vanished, stood to one side. Here is Lenotre's description:

Le Bouffay was an old and sordid building- black, furrowed, and frowning - the older parts of it dating from the tenth century. For four hundred years it had served as law-court and prison.  In the seventeenth century the front looking on the Place had been rebuilt in a fairly regular style.  A heavy and lofty staircase in stone led on that side to the halls where the revolutionary tribunals sat.  The rest of the block, a jumble of towers, narrow courts, and erections, huddled together at the mercy of successive renovations, was hemmed in on three sides by wrietched dog-holes, tottering and unstable.  From this irregular congeries of roofs and tottering walls projected a belfry surmounted by a dome of lead upheld by caryatides and sheltering a peal of bells.  The door of the registry once passed you found an irregular courtyard, damp and dark, encumbered with an old chapel and surronded by the quarters ntended for the prisoners - pestilent rat-holes or plague-ridden garrets, known as the "great" and the "little civil", the "higher dungeon", the "Tower", the "Tower room", and so forth.

In late 1793 Le Bouffay, received some 500 detainees. The Revolutionary Tribunal had its seat in an adjacent building.  As Jean-Joël Brégeon points out, despite the stories of brutality and overcrowding, the prison operated with relative normality, compared with subsequent improvised places of detention, in former religious buildings or on board ships moored in the Loire.

The prison went out of use 1832 and was finally demolished in 1848. The metal crown-work of the belfry was incorporated into the tower of the nearby church of Sante-Croix.  Some corridors and cells can still be seen under a restaurant in the square. This changed hands recently and the remains are now incorporating the fabric of the restaurant.

Restaurant La Prison du Bouffay

Église Sainte-Croix
It was from the fine mahogany pulpit of the Église Sainte-Croix that Carrier famously haranged the people of Nantes on 16thh November 1793 immediatelyprior to the first noyade.  At the time of the Revolution the church was only just finished;  begun in 1669 on the site of the former chapel of the château de Bouffay, it was under construction for almost a century.

In December 1791 the prieur-curé M. Clair Delaville was replaced by one of his vicaires, M. Guibert, elected as his successor.  The church was despoiled of its silverware in October 1792 and finally closed altogether as a place of worship in November 1793. During the Terror it served as a prison and also as the meeting place for the radical société Vincent-la-Montagne, which moved there from the smaller  Église Saint-Vincent (now demolished).

The building returned to use as a church in 1795.  It was extensively renovated under the Second Empire in flamboyant gothic style, substantially rebuilt after damage during the Second World War and again  renovated in 1999.  Inside it still boasts its original pulpit and an 18th-century Madonna.

Carrier's private residence 

In mid-January 1794 Carrier requisitioned a house for his personal use in the eastern suburb of Bourg-fumé, in the "chemin de Richebourg" at the corner of the present-day rue d'Allonville and rue Frédéric-Cailliaud.  Whilst affording an adequate degree of comfort, the premises were easily modified for security.  No trace of the house remains today, but Lenotre describes its appearance in the early years of the last century:

This retreat was situated on the road to Tous-Aides,  on the right hand towards Doulon. It is a fairly large building, though of an irregular and rustic exterior. In front on the street-side the ground-floor windows and door have been walled up. Was this done as a precaution in Carrier's day ? It may be, at least it gives the empty house a blinded and sinister look. A doorway opened on the courtyard, where was a guard-house, in which soldiers were housed who kept watch day and night over the safety of the Representative. The chambers, turned into wine-stores of late years, were comfortable and even elegant; first came a drawing-room, and then the bedroom, with lights towards the garden. The windows, guarded within by solid shutters of oak, were provided with large bolts strongly secured. The ceilings of these two rooms still retain traces of mouldings and rosettes. In the bed-chamber is the deep alcove where Carrier reposed on a bed of yellow damask. The garden is not large, but at the end of the plot, which ran as far as the common of Mauves, still stand two little summer-houses with slate roofs, meant as alcoves or wine-arbours.

Note: Such was the state of the house three years ago. M. Albert, who lived there, kindly permitted me to go over it; but at that time it was on the point of changing hands, and if not pulled down by now, I believe that its demolition is to all intents decided on.

 Despite Lenotre's predictions, the house was not in fact knocked down until 1972:
See, Yves Merlant, " De la place de la duchesse Anne à la rue Stanislas Baudry"Les Annales de Nantes et du pays nantais, , p. 3.

Illustration from Lenotre
Old postcard from the Communes Anciennes website

The Entrepôt des cafés

Situated at the corner of the rue Lamoricière and the rue Dobré still stands the site of the Entrepôt des cafés, the most notorious prison of the Terror in Nantes.  Originally an immense private warehouse for coffee from the colonies, the complex was requisitioned in October 1793 from sieurs Crucy and Duparc, as a detention centre for the captured rebels of the Vendée.  It was situated at the far end of the port, safely away from the town centre, and  conveniently equidistant from the Loire and the carrières de Gigant where the firing squads operated.  The buildings themselves formed a quadrangle which enclosed a courtyard large enough to hold six thousand prisoners. According to some estimates as many as 10,000 were held there at any one time.

The Entrepôt in the early 20th century - illustrations from Lenotre
The Entrepôt was never properly speaking a prison: there was  no register of admissions, no warders, no effective chain of command;  its workings were shrouded in secrecy.  Those prisoners who were not shot or drowned, died of disease; in foul conditions, with meagre rations and a tainted water supply thousands succombed to typhus and dysentery.  Of thirty-two guards, nineteen died in a few days.  According to Jean-Joël Brégeon for space of six months the Entrepôt was "an authentic deathcamp, comparable in every respect to those of Hitler's Germany" (p.140).

Here is Noël Stassinet, president of Souvenir Chouan de Bretagne , at the site of the Entrepôt , on L'ombre d'un doute in 2012: 

"One must imagine here a a great construction in wood where coffee or tobacco was dried; three floors in which between 8-12000 people were piled up. The food allowance was 8 ounces or 240 grams of rice per day, without bread. On a diet of unrinced rice the prisoners rapidly succombed to dysentery and intestinal disease.  One sees the desire to have them die as soon as possible."

Eyewitnesses are few. Julienne Boishéraud, one of the rare detainees to be rescued alive left the following testimony:
I have tried in vain to describe that terrible place.  I do not have sufficient words.  You need to have been there to understand. I will say only that death was everywhere before your eyes: there was only the dead and dying.  Scarcely had they expired before those monsters would grab them by an arm or leg and drag them outside like beasts.  Those still alive,  they would kick, saying coldly, "That one is for tomorrow"......We saw prisoners appear who then disappeared immediately. One evening they brought in 300; by the next day they were gone. Two or three times a day, they would take a certain number at random whom they shot without trial or judgment....On 18th January 1794, when I got out of this tomb, I felt as if I were a new Lazarus.(quoted by Brégeon, p.139):

Carrier  "in the hospital in Nantes": usually identified as interior of the Entrepôt. Print of 1795.

Lenotre recounts the experience of a certain Fontaine, in charge of the stores of provisions, who had to go to the Entrepôt to carry bread.  He found neither fire nor light; the darkness in that huge sepulchre was such that he could not serve out the rations.  Just as he was leaving he was accosted by a man in trousers and a red cap, who declared himself an agent of the Revolutionary Committee.

"It is I," said the unknown to Fontaine, "it is I that am told off to draw back the panel at the drownings, and nothing is done without my orders.  If you care to come, I will give you brigands' brains to eat"

 Thomas, an officer of health at Nantes, one of the few doctors allowed to enter, discovered an "appalling butchery",scattered with corpses, children still quivering or "fallen into tubs full of ordure."  On seeing him the women gave vent to cries of alarm, thinking he was a noyeur.

The physician Pariset, placed in charge of final disinfection, wrote: 
I had heard a great deal, of the filthy state of the Entrepôt, and expected to encounter a revolting stench.  But as I set foot on the staircase I only experienced a faint and mild smell, which made me incline to vomit.  I went slowly through the wards; they had lost during the night more than a hundred of their miserable tenants, pale and fleshless spectres, lying prostrate on the floors, or crawling and staggering as if in drunkenness...In the morning the bodies were thrown from the windows; they were piled up under voiles;  then they were loaded onto carts and taken to the quarries of Gigant suburb.
[Letter from Pariset, physician and surgeon, dated 8th February 1837, quoted by Lenotre]

The quarries

The stone and mineral quarries of Miséri, Gigant and Chantenay in which the Vendéan prisoners were shot and buried have long since disappeared beneath the streets of modern Nantes.  The site of the principal quarry, the carrières de Gigant, is marked by a modest memorial beside a residential block in the rue de Martyrs.
Memorial 7 rue des Martyrs

John Haycraft was shown the site in 1789: 
At the rue des Martyrs, we saw a monument to those executed in the quarries which, then, were worked nearby.  A cross and the monument stood incongruously, crammed into a small space, close to a block of modern flats.  "I've never seen this building before", said Mme Pierregat [the guide] in amazement. "The cross used to stand on its own.  It's incredible the way they are building everywhere in Nantes.
Haycraft, In search of the French Revolution  p.182

Two military commissions operated in Nantes for the judgment of rebels captured "under arms".  The first was the Commission Lenoir  which sat in the Hôtel Pépin de Bellisle, rue Gambetta. The second, which was responsible for the majority of executions, was the Commission Bignon, set up in Le Mans in December 1793.  During its operation in Nantes the formal president was Gonchon, but its most active member was François Bignon, captain of the Paris batallions.  It sat mainly in the Entrepôt but also at Le Bouffay and the Hôpital La Réunion (the former Santitat).  The commission was responsible for the execution of three thousand rebels in five months: 661 in three days following the battle of Savenay and a further 1948 between 9 and 30 nivôse (29th December 1793 -19th Januay 1794) - an average of eighty a day.

 Judgment was summary - the surviving records give only the names, age and place of birth of those condemned. They were taken swiftly from the court to the quarries of Miséri, Gigant and Chantenay.  The identity of the firing squad is uncertain:  accounts mention the "légion germanique"(German deserters) and "les hussards américains".  Eyewitnesses described  female prisoners shot, finished off with rifle butts, then their corpses stripped of possessions and left  lying exposed on their backs.  Carrier was concerned at the speed of proceedings and hence resorted to illegal noyades; president Gonchon was threatened with  being shot himself when he failed to co-operate (see Brégeon, p.156).

By January, the accumulation of the dead was such that citizen "volunteers" had to be commandeered in order to bury the corpses. A Commission de salubrité put in place by Carrier opened four substantial burial ditches, and officially created a vast new cemetery in a quarry situated beside the modern route de Rennes.  Of  almost 12,000 burials recorded by the Commission between 26 Nivôse and 30 Thermidor (15th January to 17th August 1794), over five-and-a-half thousand took place in this site. In 1796 the remains of Charette were deposited there.  The cemetery was sold off in 1825 and, although there were plans for a monument, the site remained unmarked.   It was only accidently rediscovered in 1981 when building works in the  avenue du Lavoir off the rue Costes-et-Le-Brix uncovered a communal burial pit some 25 metres by 8 metres.  In 1997 the association Souvenir Vendée erected a plaque on the spot in honour of "Charette and more than 8,000 persons".

The Noyades

Inevitably material reminders of the mass drownings are few.  The organisation Souvenir Chouan de Bretagne, holds annual commemorations.  For several years it has gathered on the town's central bridge, the pont Anne de Bretagne, to cast a bouquet of flowers into the river, and in 2016 a modest plaque was erected on the quayside.This year members have taken a boat trip down the Loire to the village of Trentemoult, tracing the route of the gabares

Here are some photos on Vendéens et Chouans blog, post of 27.11.2017.

Occasionally remains have resurfaced.  Lenotre reported that in his day one of Lamberty's gabares was still visible sanded up somewhere towards the Île Cheviré. As recently as 1952 work for a power station at Cheviré dredged up from the river human bones including skulls and also the remains of chains.

See:  "Il y a soixante ans, en 1952, des témoins sortent de la Loire", Souvenir Chouan de Bretagne [blog] post of 28.01.2012.


Map of Nantes in the Year IV

"Nantes au coeur des guerres de Vendée", Vendéens & Chouans, post of 23.07.2017. [map of memorial sites and interview with Jean-Joël Brégeon
 from the local newspaper Presse-Océan]

Blog of the association Souvenir Chouan de Bretagne

Nantes on the InfoBretagne website

Rues de Nantes [blog]

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Lenotre on the noyades (cont.)

View of the port of Nantes before the Revolution (attributed to Ozanne Nicolas)
The Terrorists of Nantes now moved on to the mass of detainees who filled the prisoners. As Jean-Joël Brégeon emphasises, the decision to carry out futher drowning was in part a panic response to the threat of disease and to the sheer logistic difficulty of feeding ten thousand "mouths" By this time the prisoners had already been concentrated outside the town centre, in the Entrepôt des cafés and on board ships moored in the harbour. 

On 14 and 15 frimaire (4-5 December) a series of conferences took place which are  reveal the anxieties  which beset the authorities; all parties must have been well-aware of the two noyades of priests  carried out clandestinely a fortnight previously.

On the evening of 14 frimaire Carrier, together with the principal members of the Revolutionary Committee, met in the former Chambre de comptes with representatives from the Revolutionary Tribunal,  the Municipality and the Departmental administration. The immediate pretext for action was the discovery of  a conspiracy among the prisoners in Le Bouffay.  It was a dramatic meeting; according to bishop Minée a “horrifying bacchanalia”.  Goullin suggested putting all the prisoners to death, a proposal  which so horrified Phelippes-Tonjolly and his fellow judges that  they immediately walked out.  Robin, Carrier’s close companion, who was less than twenty years old, supported Goullin, thundering against “moderatism, Feuillantism and federalism”. Carrier interrupted him to express his fears of “plague” in the prisons and plots among those detained.  They came down in favour of proscription.

It was decided to convene a jury to draw up a list of those to be executed.  The members sat for two days and two nights without pausing to eat more than a hasty meal of biscuit and fricot.  By 5 o’clock on the morning of  15 frimaire they had compiled a list of three hundred names.  An order to bring out the prisoners was presented to General Boivin, commandant of the city, who refused to execute it; Minée, in charge of the department, suspended it.  Discussion resumed, but Carrier dared not force the issue.  The following day, however, he wrote to the Committee of Public Safety detailing “the most horrible plot”, reporting the execution of the six prisoners involved, and declaring ominously, "A grand measure will deliver us of the others”.  The stage was set for the noyades to go ahead.

Brégeon observes that there were two different sets of terrorists involved in actually carrying out the drownings.  The first  was the "compagnie Marat", one of the best organised and most militant of the armées révolutionnaires. The Marats already existed at the time of Carrier's arrival in Nantes, having been constituted by the Revolutionary Committee on 14th October 1793 with the approval of the representative Francastel.  According to Richard Cobb, they they numbered about fifty men, mostly poorer artisans, many from the former luxury trades,  They were paid 10 livres a day  and took a colourful oath: “death to royalists, fanatics, muscadins, Feuillants, moderates of all colours and guises”. The majority had served in the National Guard during the recent conflict, an experience which goes much of the way towards explaining their mercilessness towards the  "brigands" of the Vendée.  Theoretically the Marats were answerable to the Representative or the Committee, but in practice they were difficult to control.  However,  they were more interested in plundering the well-to-do of Nantes, and participated in the noyades only intermittently.  Carrier suppressed them: by end of nivôse the compagnie no longer existed as an entity.

The second group represented Carrier’s handpicked entourage. The chief instigator was Guillaume Lamberty, a coachbuilder by trade, distinguished by his ardeur against Vendéans and by his talents as an informer;  Carrier had probably encountered him during his brief time with the army.  His lieutenant was Robert Fouquet.  Other individuals named were  Laveau, Foucault, Robin and O’Sullivan (a Nantais of Irish origins) (See Brégeon, p.162-3).

The noyades

Having been thwarted by Boivin, then by Phelippes-Tronjolly in person, the Revolutionary Committee finally got its way on the night of 24 to 25 frimaire (14th–15th December). This third noyade took the lives of 129 detainees from the Bouffay prison.  Led by Goullin and Grandmaison, the “Marats” arrived at the prison and presented  the concierge Bernard Laquèze with an order for the transfer of prisoners to “Bellelle-en-Mer”.  Too drunk to verify their lists, they took prisoners at random, rifled their possessions and bound them two-by-two, employing a great deal of brutality and callous humour.  Goullin tried to hurry them along by warning that the tide would soon be out.  The prisoners were taken down river and drowned near the Île Cheviré just past Trentemoult.

The subsequent noyades are more difficult to unravel. They involved almost exclusively Vendéan prisoners from the Entrepôt. The 19th-century historian Alfred Lallié believed he found documentary evidence for eight further drownings. Gaston Martin, writing in the 1920s, verified only three, possibly four, more.   They took place mainly in the pool between Trentemoult and Chantenay, styled by Carrier la baignoire nationale. Tales of “republican marriages” and the systematic drowning of children are almost certainly apocryphal.  

The noyade of 3 nivôse (23rd December) is testified to by two  witnesses, and alluded to in the records of the Revolutionary Committee, which refers to 850 livres paid for “gabarage”.  The batelier Pierre Robert testified to “about eight hundred individuals” of all ages and both sexes, who were loaded onto two boats and drowned opposite Chantenay “as in the preceding noyade”.  The carpenter Affilé, who was charged with adapting the gabares, reckoned about five hundred prisoners were embarked.  Two rowing boats were attached to each barge in order to tow them out into open water  to be scuppered.  In their desperation some prisoners managed to escape and climb onto the boats, only to be repelled with sabres.

From 9 nivôse (29th December) to 18th January took place the so-called noyades des galiotes. Rather than being taken directly from the prisons, the victims first transferred to galliots in the harbour, where they could be more effectively stripped of their possessions.  It is impossible to say whether there were two or three occasions.  Pierre Robert and various other boatmen  affirmed that each time there were two or three hundred prisoners, of both sexes, and including children; they were plundered of their personal effects “without regard for the modesty of the women” and were drowned off the Île Cheviré. Two survivors supplied further details.  Jeanne Blanchard spent only three days at the Entrepôt, then eight days in the hold of a boat moored near the Sechérie.  Then “men with great golden epaulettes” had pillaged the belongings of the women and made them get into a flat bottomed barge.  At the last minute the sailors had helped her back onto the boat and saved her from death.  Jeanne Chesneau had seen death at even closer quarters. Transferred from the Entrepôt to one of the galliots, at between five and six in the evening of the 11th January, she was herded among three hundred prisoners, bound in pairs, onto a barge, wearing only her chemise. She was rescued in extremis by a customs man who had hauled her onto his boat at the moment that the barge sank.

The final noyage, which was intended to empty the Entrepôt prison, took place on the night of the 29th-30th January, and involved about four hundred prisoners.

The total number of victims of the noyades is impossible to determine exactly.  Lallié estimated 4,860, whereas Gaston Martin thought  only 1,800. In all probability, says Jean-Joël Brégeon, the truth lies "somewhere between the two". Although Saturnin Depois, a guard at  the Entrepôt, thought he recognised Carrier, and Lenotre imagines him watching from the window of the hotel de Villetreux, in reality Carrier did not take part personally.  Nor is it likely he organised the drownings of children which Thomas and Phelippes-Tronjolly talked of at his trial.

The Third Noyade

Forthwith the hatch was closed and carpenters began to secure it with blows of the hammer; but in a last despairing effort the bellowing cargo piled itself together, writhing frantically, and gave the crazy woodwork so mighty a heave that they raised the  planking of the deck. The ruffians hastily nailed rings on the panels/ and the order was given to cast loose. ..

The lighter, guided by Affilé and his carpenters, took the stream and disappeared in the night, floating down the river. 

On the lid of this great gliding coffin, full of uproar and groans, sat Grandmaison and the men of his gang ; they were singing uproariously, to drown the cries of their victims. 
" To Cheviré Island," commanded Affilé in a low tone. 

Cheviré is a bank of low earth, the spit of which lies down-stream of Trentemoult, at a point where the width of the river, divided into several branches, attains 1700 feet. The lighter glided with the stream, towing two little boats, which the assassins would presently use to reach the bank.  Rene Naux had just made use of one of them to carry an order signed by Goullin to the gunners on guard at the pontoon  of La Sécherie to " let them pass."  The lighter passed in due course, and was soon level with Chant enay. Affilé gave warning that the critical moment was at hand. 

His workmen descended into the boats and prepared to open the ports to admit the water.  But the uproar from the hold of the lighter continued to augment, and cries of " Save us! Save us! There is yet time ! " rang through the night. 

Most of the doomed, heaped together like dung in this floating oubliette, had succeeded in unfastening their bonds.  Thereupon a frightful scene ensued ;  their fingers clutched and con- vulsively tore aside the planks, which, yielding, revealed a crowd of hands and arms, tossed in gestures of despair.  The " Marats " were seized with alarm, and while the shipwrights, hacking at the planks, opened the ports for the whirling wave, Grandmaison, wielding his sabre like a sickle, severed these beseeching hands and writhing arms, plunging his blade into the gaps, and piercing at random  his unseen adversaries, whose prison, invaded by the water, sank slowly and evenly ;  its inmates on the point of suffocation, uttering shrieks of terror so piercing that they were heard even in the city.

The Loire did not keep the secret of what had befallen in this great sunken tomb even till the jaded assassins got back to shore.  As the waves filled and silenced those howling mouths, overwhelming their heads and flinging hither and thither  the bodies of such as clung to the sides of the lighter, one had remained desperately clinging and suspended by the hands to an opening of the hatch.  It was the body of Julien Leroi, the egg-dealer [who testified at the subsequent trials]….

Julien Leroi was not dead.  At the moment of embarkation, when flung to the bottom of the lighter, he had cut with his teeth the rope that still bound him to his fellow ; the latter in turn unbound him also, and when the water rushed into the vessel,  Leroi, whose hands were free, remained chnging despite the terrible eddy. The lighter, sunk on a shallow, did not go down wholly.  Her upper port remained above the water, which, finding its level, left between its surface and the deck of the vessel a space sufficient to allow Leroi' s head to rise above it. He could thus breathe, but in what a horrible position!  We have his own narrative of that night of terror….  It does not seem that the poor fellow felt any great emotion ; the only thing that struck him was that he was still alive, and he gloried in the thought.   All else mattered little to him. He says nothing of his sensations when the outcry of his fellows suddenly came to an end in that terrifying obscurity ; nothing of the dying men whom he felt jostle and writhe around him :he floated " for two hours upon corpses."  At daybreak — the drowning, though no one gives the exact time, must have taken place after five in the morning — Leroi heard a boat pass and hailed the boatman who, without appearing either astonished or horrified, climbed on the deck of the sunk lighter, cut a hole in it with his boat-hook, and threw a rope to the survivor, whom he took on board his boat and carried ashore. 

Leroi went straight to the guard-house. He was almost naked ; he said he came from Montoir and had been shipwrecked. The soldiers lent him a cloak and took him before the Revolutionary Committee, where he found Bollogniel, Leveque, Perrochaud, Jolly the deputy, and Bachelier, who was presiding.  On seeing the poor wretch, shivering and dying of distress, these worthy dignitaries realised whence he came. "They looked at him and burst into laughter." But Jolly, whose vanity as an author was at stake, since he was one of the organisers of the drowning, took a severe view of this insolent fellow, this refractory, who had the effrontery not to be dea ; he decided that he should be " pitched back into the water."  Bachelier, for fear of vexing his colleague, gave the order that Leroi should be taken back to Le Bouffay, and "led out" that evening with the others.  But the eggman got off with a hundred days in durance on bread and water. 

[The second survivor] Alexis Garnier, who had escaped before the embarkation, had made his way to Nantes itself, to the house of a friend. There he remained in hiding for three months, waiting for a chance to get on board a ship.  One day, having been rash enough to leave his hiding-place, he encountered the turn-key of Le Bouffay, Joson Gerardeau, who seized him by the collar and dragged him before the Committee. GouUin abused him roundly. " What, rascal, is that you ? I used a whole candle looking for you, but you shall pay me well for it." 

He was reincarcerated at Le Bouffay, and thrown into an underground dungeon. " Don't trouble," he was told, " we shall come back one of these days for you, and you will make one with the others." And they came indeed to look for him. But it was in the hour when the Committee, now muzzled, was cast into prison in its turn

The gabares

Our intention is not to narrate in their tragedy the various  noyades  of Nivôse and  Pluviôse, year II. That would only mean multiplying scenes of horror similar to those already described…. But it will not be superfluous …to group together a few features common to all the "noyades”….

We know the leaders of these  forays.   In almost all of them the share of Lamberty, Grandmaison, Foucaud, Robin, Fouquet, O' Sullivan, Jolly, and Lavaux is attested, these having as understudies certain chosen "Marats" — Durassier, Naux, Ducou, Richard, and Lucas, jointly with other satellites of hearty goodwill, hailing from none knows where, and who came to filch a shirt or a pair of shoes. Affilé the carpenter, appointed as a sort of engineer in ordinary to this staff of bandits, made it his business to manipulate the boats and engage the boatmen necessary to handle them on the Loire. 

Detail from an illustration to  Prudhomme, Histoire générale...des erreurs..., Paris, 1797  Bibl.nat

The craft intended for the " noyades " were, it will be remembered, " sapines " or " gabares," of the nature of tenders, roughly fashioned and ordinarily used as lighters to vessels of larger tonnage between Nantes and Paimboeuf, and having no other value than that of the planks of which they were knocked together. They were taken to pieces after each trip, and their price did not exceed two or three hundred livres apiece ; but they needed a certain amount of preparation before being turned to account for a " noyade." 

The tradition has been preserved of vessels which gaped widely at the bottom and allowed their human cargo to slide into the river in a solid mass. This is a fable ; for at first, at any rate, the immersion was effected by means of ports pierced above the water-line, and which were opened in mid-stream. However, this plan had its inconveniences, and would seem to have been improved upon, while retaining the ports, by the addition of a plug.  Affilé's evidence is the clearest on this point. " Fouquet," says he, " brought me four boats to insert plugs in them." … O'Sullivan also owns the use of " boats with plugs."  Grandmaison likewise vouches for it.  When asked if a carpenter had not contrived  "a trap designed to send the vessel to the bottom”  he answered, "That is so, but I had no share in it " ;  and Laurence the armourer declared that he saw '' the trap opened on a ' sapine ' crowded with prisoners, and the whole of the poor wretches sent to the bottom."  If we are to believe one of the witnesses, this contrivance worked automatically by means of a petard stowed on board the "gabare," which by its explosion opened the trap. 

Boats with traps were thus employed, but this contrivance was not intended merely to discharge the victims, while keeping the " gabare " afloat ;  it was an extra port pierced in the bottom of the vessel, and only subserving the more rapid influx of water. All the " sapines " used in the " noy-ades " were in reality doomed beforehand, and so little did they reckon on the opening of the trap to expel the heaped-up bodies into the river  that the latter were sometimes secured by ropes and iron clamps to the very bottom of the vessel itself.  Lighters and victims were engulfed together. 

Moutier, the blacksmith, recalled that Carrier, passing one day along the quay of La Fosse, inquired where were the boats set apart for the destruction of the brigands. On being shown them he remarked, " That's very convenient."

For one thing, the small amount of time spent in these preliminary manipulations made any complicated carpentering out of the question.  When a drowning was fixed, Fouquet, Lamberty  and Robin went and bought one or more "sapines." These were usually supplied by Joachim Mary of Port Maillard, who under took to bring the boats round to the Cale Chaurrand, not far from the Entrepôt, where Affilé  trimmed them up.  All was finished the same day, and when evening came the slayers, backed by soldiers requisitioned at the neighbouring post, proceeded to the prison. The course of events was always the same. Fouquet and Lamberty, brilliantly habited as general officers,  and with gold epaulettes, caused the doors to be opened to them, and armed with enormous bundles of new lengths of rope paraded the warehouses and barns crowded with prisoners, binding with their own hands those of whom they made choice. Strongly tied together in couples by the wrists and arms, the victims passed down into the street, where soldiers awaited them, drawn up in line before the entrance of the Entrepôt.  Orders were given for the utmost silence.  It was a very long business ; for when the batch was a heavy one, these preliminaries lasted from five to eleven in the evening.

The doomed victims took their places docilely in file, two couples to a rank ;  peasants for the most part, farmers, labourers, workmen from the spinning shops at Cholet, some sick and scarcely able to stand, others still vigorous.  As they had been allowed to suppose they were being merely transferred to Brest,  they were not uneasy.  Some even appeared content.  The most wary showed their doubts of the fierce air of the whippers-in and the gloomy mien of the soldiers.  All had prepared themselves for a journey, carrying with them their bread, baskets, and little bundles of belongings tied to their belts, or slung over the shoulder with string or cloth-edgings.

Exploits of the Compagnie Marat, print 1794/5.  Bibl.nat.
The file, watched only by some National Guards, lengthened out at the foot of the walls of the Entrepôt, those in front moving forward as others arrive, and formed up in their rear. Sometimes it extended as far as the Sanitat.  These poor folks complained of nothing but their bonds. When they saw Fouquet, Lamberty, Robin, or Foucaud going round, with candles in their fingers, they begged that their bonds might be loosened, for they caused them unbearable tortures.  One day young Robin, infuriated by these outcries, was seen to rush into the ranks and furiously overturn five pinioned couples, whom he battered haphazard with the flat of his sword.

The signal to start being given at length, Fouquet passed along the ranks, tightening such knots as seemed too lax, and the herd moved forward in good order. Carrier came once to witness the march past and hold a review of the grim levy ; he wore a dark roquelaure and a round hat.  His squeaking voice was heard commanding, " Quicken your step ! March in line ! " [according to testimony of Satumis Depois, turner]

When the funereal column was almost wholly composed of women, as was the case in Nivôse when three hundred female captives were drowned at one sweep, the scene was heart- breaking. These hapless beings were more suspicious than the men ; for they could not, like them, be duped with the pretext of a necessary transfer for the erection of fortifications.  That day, by-the-bye, the sightseers were in exceptional numbers on the road from the Entrepôt to the quayside.  How did the rumour spread through the city that women were going to be the victims ?  No one knows, but certain people were always informed in good time of the place and hour where their charity might be exercised, and came to save the children. There were indeed mothers among those who were to die; with their free arms they held their babies tightly clasped. All lamented and sobbed, and when the slayers bade them go forward, their cries of despair redoubled ; they appealed to the spectators ranged along their path. " They are going to drown us," they cried, " and they will not try us ! "

Despite the arms held out to them in pity, many would not part with their children ; others, more heroic or more loving, gave them over to strangers.  One of them determinedly flung her little one among the crowd. At once it was caught " like a ball " by a woman who cried out to the mother " “that she would take care of it." ….. Plenty of families at Nantes, poor and rich alike, thus gave shelter to little strangers who grew up without ever knowing who were their parents.

When the procession reached the side of the Loire, facing the embarking slip, a halt was called ; a gangway formed of planks laid from vessel to vessel  led to the yawning lighter. The ruffians quickly searched each couple, bore off their ties and belts, turned out their pockets, and passed a hand under their shifts ; then they piled up on the quay the spoil, which later on they would gather together in large baskets, to be sold next day at the harbour….

The prisoners were pushed on to the gang-way, where a boatman stood, who in his turn snatched whatever he could clutch in passing, hats or caps, of which he made a heap in the barge.  One of the soldiers having ventured on board and cast an eye on the bottom of the gabare, already full , saw in the welter of heaped-up bodies a man whom he recognised, still despoiling them and carrying off what little his fellows had not taken…..

"Carrier in 1794"  Print from the Bibl. de Nantes

The Galliot drownings

The narratives of these excursions, which have been styled "galliot drownings," are fairly abundant. Many of them emanated either from boatmen or National Guards, who had to be called in to protect the drowners.  One of these auxiliaries declares that, the night he was on duty, Lamberty's vessel had some fifty women on board ; there were also children and some boys of fifteen, who were brought out of the hold one by one to be flung into the water.   Julien Pichelet, whose evidence will be quoted at full length, for he owed his life to a whim of Robin's, was put on board the galliot with three hundred men and fifty women.  All were summoned separately into the captain's cabin, stripped, bound together, and let down in their shifts into a lighter which had put out. Even this miserable rag — this shroud, more properly — excited the cupidity of the executioners, for on one of the raids, probably that of January 17th (Nivose 28th), the seamen told off to work the craft saw at first thirty women let down wholly naked.  Roused to indignation, they ventured to protest, when the remaining victims were left their shirts.

Though inured to such frequent sights, these seamen were sometimes seized with pity.  Oneof them, Colas Freteau, seeing them throw a weeping woman into the lighter, struggling and calling for help, was bold enough to suggest to Fouquet, " Citizen, let us at least save that woman. If you agree, I will go and fetch her." Fouquet gave vent to an oath. " Are you going shares with her, b…… scoundrel ? " he bawled.

And flinging himself on the suppliant he split her head with a blow of his sword.
Such was discipline on board. 

On the occasion of another " noyade," while three hundred naked prisoners, with hands tied behind their backs, were being shaken down in the lighter, "a young man, singing the Carmagnole the while "—we seem to recognise Robin— struck off the heads of two "brigands," who seemed to be no more than eighteen. Their headless trunks were flung into the water.  When the Loire was at low water the plan adopted was as follows : men were flung from a launch into a part of the river which was shallow, and if they succeeded in getting a footing, were shot or sabred by the slayers from boats. This carnage, which was witnessed by two Nantais, lasted an hour and a half.

At times also whether it was that the lighters were not forthcoming or for some other reason, the condemned would remain some time on board the galliot, awaiting a propitious opportunity for execution.  In this manner a volunteer of the Vendéan army languished for two days with three hundred and fifty companions on a boat anchored within sight of Chézine. Did they feed these men, lying at death's door, or what did they do? On half a pound of bread a day, says a witness ; but most assuredly no care was taken of them.  Berthé, the boat-builder, saw " a great crowd of prisoners " taken on board the galliot from the Entrepôt; they went down into the depths of the hold and the hatches were battened. When these were opened " some days later " eighty of these unfortunates were found dead of hunger or lack of air. They picked out sixteen  of the survivors from among the most robust and sent them back to the Entrepôt, in order to clean their prison. When the work was done they took them back again to the galliot, which was found empty; dead and living alike had been flung into the Loire. Although the sixteen flattered themselves that they would be spared, they " made difficulties about going on board  again," narrates the witness, but next day were drowned  one after the other.

The system of separate immersion, as well as that of wholesale treatment in a lighter, had its advantages, but also sundry drawbacks. The latter, to be sure, was the more expensive method, since the vessel went down with its cargo. Moreover, when she sank in a deep place she blocked the bed of the river, but at least she retained the corpses, so that the turn of the tide could not carry them back towards the city, which was invariably the case with bodies despatched singly or in couples. It must also be noted that the " gabare " sometimes went to pieces on a sandbank and allowed its freight to escape. This is what happened on December 13th (Nivôse 3rd), at the great whelming of the eight hundred. They had been divided between two craft, one of which sank in midstream ; the other, dropping down, ran against the foreshore of the Prairie au Due, went aground and burst open. The victims, thus released, fled, tumbling over each other, among the rushes ; but naked and pinioned, they could go no farther. Fouquet and his  men hastened in pursuit, and drove them back into the water with sword- thrusts.


It was therefore in the great pool formed by the Loire below the Prairie au Due, between Trentemoult and Chantenay, that the chief " noyades " took place. And this is what Carrier styled "the National Bathing-place." It appears that only for one such excursion did  they take time sufficient to drop down as far as Indret.  A very useless precaution for that matter ; as the constant action of the flood and ebb drifted the corpses from Paimboeuf to Nantes, and flung them upon the two banks. Stranded on the sands of the foreshores, they afforded pasture to the dogs and birds of prey. At Indret they gathered at  Île Pivin, and on the embankments.  The Commandant of the Republican Foundries caused " many women and naked men to be buried there." One barge even floated down stream as far as Lavau, and came to on the sands ; two hundred and twenty-six corpses were found in it "pinioned with ropes several times twisted, and which had undergone no change."  They were interred five hundred ells from the village, at the foot of La Garenne Tower. The riverside folk hastened to thus bury them. When the Conventional Dubois-Crancé  came to The Foundries "he had before his eyes," as he protests, "the heartrending spectacle of a crowd of delvers ranged along the bank, and were doing nothing but interring heaps of corpses." ' Testimonies  of this kind abound ; those of the boatmen who phed on the river are not less eloquent.  Noel, a mariner of Nantes, perceived on the bottom of the water a barge full of dead ;  Boutel, a ship's captain, found half a score of bodies, tied together in a sunk lighter. A third saw a sunk "sapine" full of drowned women ; they were all naked and bound to the side of the barge — " some peasants unbound them and buried them in a great trench."  

Berthé, the boat-builder, testifies that the sunk " gabares " were " all constructed alike, and that the year after the " drownings " several were still to be seen in the Loire."  One of these craft was sold as jetsom to a certain Bouvier, who, wishing to float it again, found in it the pestilent remains "of a prodigious number of bodies."  And many Nantais can still re- member having seen, some thirty years ago, in a shed on the Cale of the Entrepôt, a heap of human bones, taken from an old lighter fished out of the river by the men of the Ponts et Chaussées. The Loire did not cast up all its victims. People declare that one of Lamberty's  "gabares" is still sanded up somewhere towards the  Île Cheviré, and that its mouldered hull occasionally shows at low tide.