Saturday, 14 August 2021

The end of the Girondins in St-Émilion

[cont. from previous post]

Those who harboured the Girondin fugitives in Saint-Émilion lived under constant threat of retribution. At the beginning of October the Representative of the Convention Tallien had marched into the little town, replacing the municipal government and placed several officials under arrest. Summary executions now took place in nearby Libourne, The Bouquey household was subject to repeated searches and, according to Louvet, an "intimate friend" of Guadet -  identity unknown  - had  signaled his intention to betray the fugitives' whereabouts.  Madame Bouquey was finally pressurised by her relatives into relinquishing her guests.  In the early hours of 13th November 1793 they said their tearful farewells. Valady made for Périgueux where he had relatives (he was later captured and guillotined) and Louvet, the sole member of the group to survive, subsequently set out for Paris.  The rest remained in the local area.  Guadet and Salles  returned to Saint-Émilion where they hid in Guadet's father's house, whilst Madame Bouquet secured Buzot, Barbaroux and Pétion  a new refuge with a wigmaker in the town. 

The Arrest of Guadet and Salle

In the following months the manhunt intensified.  In February 1794 Tallien was replaced as Representative in Bordeaux by Marc-Antoine Jullien, who pursued the search with renewed vigour. Volunteers were enlisted, particularly from the Protestant community of  nearby Sainte-Foy.  The quarries and underground passages around Saint-Émilion were searched using the fearsome local "dogues".  (Vatel met the son of the butcher Marcon, who reported that his father, one of the search party members, had bred "enormous and terrible" dogs, famed in the region for fighting.)

When this strategy failed, the pursuers turned their attention again to the Maison Guadet, which was situated just outside the town walls on the road from Lussac to Montagne.   On 17th June 1794 Guadet and Salle were found hiding  in an attic room.  It was said that they were placed in irons and left in a cabaret in Saint-Émilion.  Guadet père, his sister and two of the servants were confined under guard.  Robert Bouquey, Madame Bouquey, her father aged seventy-seven, and their servant Anne Bérard were  also arrested as accomplices, their house searched and the underground refuge discovered.  At about half-past two that same afternoon the prisoners were all loaded onto a cart to be taken to Libourne.  The elder Guadet was seen to comfort his son, who was distraught at having compromised his family:  "If we die, it is for a good cause" (see Vatel, vol. 3, p.702) The two deputies were executed in Bordeaux  on 19th June 1793 and the members of the Guadet family on 20th July, just seven days before the fall of Robespierre.  Guadet's brother, Saint-Brice Guadet initially escaped arrest, but was apprehended and guillotined on the 21st June.

The arrest of Guadet in Saint-Émilion; engraving by Duplessis-Bertaux
The vineyard, Saint-Julien Château Guadet on the site of the Maison Guadet has been owned by the Lignac family since 1844.  I am not quite sure whether the 18th-century house still survives, but Élie Guadet himself  is remembered in the Château Guadet label.

The Flight of Buzot, Pétion and Barbaroux 

Site of the wigshop which served as a refuge for Buzot, Pétion and Barbaroux 

Buzot,  Pétion and Barbaroux meanwhile had spent a miserable five months hiding out in a dirty garret belonging to the wigmaker, Jean-Baptiste Troquart, at the corner of the Grande Rue - now rue Guadet - and the rue Cap-du-pont. The officials who later searched the premises described it as horrible, a stinking den ("un taudis infecte"), encumbered with all sorts of papers and rubbish. In much of the space it was impossible to stand.  Buzot and Pétion shared the single bed, whilst Barbaroux slept on a mattress on the floor.  According to Troquart's later testimony,  Buzot and Barbaroux occupied themselves with ceaseless writing, whilst Pétion sat in an old armchair; Buzot (Vatel, vol.3, p. 686)

Illustration by Fernand Labat from  Bertin-Roulleau, La fin des Girondins (1911)

On the morning of the 17th June 1794 they learned with dismay of the arrest of  Guadet and his family. In the heat of the afternoon, they watched through the shutters  as the requisitioned cart containing the prisoners  passed in front of the Maison Troquart on its way to the porte de la Madeleine to join the road to Libourne.  The wigmaker's shop was full of soldiers and it was rumoured that the town was about to be searched with dogs; Oré, one of the commissaires sent by Jullien, even attached the bridle of his horse to a bar on the shop window.

In a state of despair, the fugitives determined on immediate departure.  They each entrusted Troquart  with a final letter  - Buzot and Pétion for their wives, Barbaroux for his beloved mother.   In the quiet of the night they left the town by the Porte Brunet.  From later descriptions, we imagine them in a disheveled state, but armed determinedly with pistols and, in the case of  Barbaroux,  a hunting knife.  Troquart had furnished them with basic provisions, a "large loaf filled with cold meat and green peas".

The Porte Brunet today

The men presumably had  some intention of making their way to the Spanish border.  They travelled south  from Saint-Émilion, via Mondot, avoiding the villages, hoping to cross the Dordogne at the little village of Civrac.  By daybreak they had covered only two leagues.  They were on the territory of the commune of Saint-Magne, next to Castillon, having crossed the main road from Bergerac to Bordeaux.    Between the road and the wood was a corn field, where some bushes offered shade. It was here that they sat down to share their meagre provisions. At that moment  some volunteers passed by, en route from Saint-Magne to Castillon. Tradition has it they were preceded by a drummer. The sound  probably alarmed the fugitives who imagined themselves pursued. 

The agony of Barbaroux

 The men made a dash for a small plantation of pines, a "pinada",  at the far side of the field.  The thought is that the prematurely corpulent Barbaroux, found himself left behind; he draw a pistol, put it to his right ear and fired. 

Their abandoned meal confirms that they were indeed surprised.  A  letter from the administrators of Libourne  attests: "On the approach of several citizens to notice them, one of them blew his brains out and the others took flight, leaving behind their arms, munitions, bread and the mouchoir on which they had laid out their food."  (Vatel,vol 3, p.742):

The depositions and letter read out in the Convention imply that the volunteers carried the wounded Barbaroux to Castillon immediately, but Vatel, who questioned the elderly locals extensively, was surprised to discover that this was not in fact the case.  A letter from the municipal officers of Saint-Magne confirmed:  it was only some time after half-past three, that they  arrived on the scene with twelve National Guardmen .  They found the wounded man still lying there in the middle of the cornfield.(Vatel, vol. 3, p.740).  Since they suspected that he was an émigré,  no-one had dared to provide  medical attention, but simply left him in to suffer the heat of the day.  The officials ordered him to be carried to the nearby farm, the Métairie German.  But the farmer refused to take him in, or even give him water to dress his wound or straw to sleep on.  He fared little better at the Metairie de l'Allée on the other side of the road.  Finally he was left outside the farm, close to the main road, propped up on a borrowed chair.  Crowds of sightseers gathered.  According to an elderly man questioned by Vatel: "I saw him sitting on a chair, dying, covered in blood; his eyes were fixed; he looked at the people who surrounded him without being able to speak". The witnesses confirmed that he was not  carried into Castillion - an agonising two hours journey - until gone six in the evening.  

His linen, marked with a BS, prompted the question whether he was Buzot, or Barbaroux.  He was able acknowledged his identity with a nod of his head.   After three days in prison, the maimed man was fastened to a mattress and carried by boat to Bordeaux, where the guillotine finally put an end to his torture.  His brief trial, on 25th June, was  curtailed because of his "démence", though the record of his responses suggests he was coherent and able to speak (p.190).   He was taken out to be executed immediately -  those close said they hear him sob a final quiet farewell to his mother. 

The end of Buzot and Pétion

It is not known exactly how Buzot and Pétion met their end. They almost certainly committed suicide.  

 Locals claimed hat they heard two shots in the night of the 18th-19th.   It was not until the evening of 25th June, eight days later, that a peasant called Béchaud was alerted to the presence of two bodies by the sound of dogs growling in a rye field adjoining the pinewood.  He disturbed three gaunt dogs, fighting over the mutilated corpses which lay hidden in the rye.  They were only about 600 metres from the spot where Barbaroux had been found.   The municipal authorities were alerted; the Justice of the Peace and officials from Castillon arrived at four o'clock the next morning. The dead men could be identified,  but the bodies were in such an advanced state of decomposition, and gave off such a pestiferous odour, that the medical officer with the party refused  formally to examine them. The official account states that the cadavers were "eaten away by worms and by the dogs".  According to  one witness,  they were swollen and "black as the back of a fireplace"; the dogs had ripped out the entrails.  The official descriptions give details of hair colour and clothing, but do not mention facial features, which makes it seem likely that, like Barbaroux, they had shot themselves in the head; the flattened rye around gave rise to speculation that perhaps they did  not  die instantly, though there is no evidence either way.   With the help of some tools,  the investigators managed to retrieve Buzot's watch, but nothing else was found in the men's pockets.  Their pistols, hats and handkerchiefs  were dispatched to Bordeaux.  By seven in the morning  there were almost a hundred onlookers present. It was decided to bury the men on the spot.  Two trenches were dug and the bodies unceremoniously pitchforked into them.   A perfunctory report was dispatched to the Convention.


Monument erected near Saint-Magne-en-Castillon.  The inscription reads:
"To this spot, on 18th June 1794, was carried the Girondin Barbaroux, who had attempted to commit suicide when hunted down by terrorist troops.  He was taken first to Castillon, then to Bordeaux where he was executed.  On the other side of the road, in a field long known  as the "field of the émigrés", the Girondins Buzot and Pétion committed suicide on the evening of the same day. 
"Saint-Magne de Castillon", on Cimetières de France et d'ailleurs  [website]


Entries for "Barbaroux", "Buzot" and "Pétion" on the Tombes et sepultures website:

Charles Vatel, Charlotte Corday et les Girondins (4 vols, 1869-72), 
On Google Books:  Volume 2 [documents]  Volume 3;  Plates

Pierre Bertin-Roulleau, La fin des Girondins : histoire des derniers Girondins, après leur proscription, dans la Gironde (1911).  With engravings by Fernand Labat.

See also: 
G. Lenotre, “La proscription des Girondins” Revue Des Deux Mondes (1829-1971), vol. 35, no. 2, 1926, pp. 241–282. 

Guillaume Mazeau, "L’errance républicaine, les Girondins et l’exil intérieur",  La République en voyage: 1770-1830 (2013), p.149-161.  Open Access.


Earlier thoughts of Suicide

It is clear enough from the memoirs of Louvet and the fragmentary writings left behind by the others, that dead men had long contemplated the possibility of suicide.   Pétion mentioned several times his intention to "blow out their brains" rather than submit to arrest.  As early as 2nd June he records an incident which prefigured his later fate:

From the Memoirs of Pétion, describing his flight from Paris on 2nd June 1793.
 I was with Guadet...We arrived in the fields; we noticed some tall rye and threw ourselves down into it; we lay there on our stomachs and began to consider our situation...After an hour later we heard some people moving around in the rye.  We got our pistols out from our pockets, and prepared to blow our brains out....The people moved away and we breathed again....We were in this awful situation, for seven hours, without eating or drinking, not daring to speak, or scarcely to breath. 
(Quoted Vatel, vol.2, p.152)

Similarly Louvet Barbaroux had rehearsed this final act:

From the Memoirs of Louvet
Once my fortitude having failed, and the courage of Barbaroux having deserted him, I took hold of one of my pistols, and looked at him with a languid smile; he followed my example.  We both kept silence, but our eyes counselled each other fatally;  one of my hands fell on his: he pressed it with a sort of furious ardency equal to that which inspired me.  The moment was now come, that we should give ourselves up to despair: the signal of death was on the point of being given, when Valady, who had been watching our motions, cried "Barbaroux! you have a mother! Louvet! think of Lodoiska!"  The sudden revolution these words produced, is inconceivable.  Our fury subsided into tenderness; our weapons fell from our hands:  our weakened bodies sunk down: we mingled our tears together 

Last letters of Buzot, Pétion and Barbaroux

These moving notes, penned in haste by the three fugitives, entrusted to Troquart, were found among the deputies' papers by the Revolutionary authorities. 

Pétion to his wife: My dear friend, I have lived for you, for my young son, for my country, for my friends, murdered with cruelty and cowardice, for my honour. I have experienced many hardships;  I have borne them with courage;  my character has never wavered.  I do not care what men might think of me;  I have performed my duties zealously; I have always sought the good of my country and my conscience is clear.
I now find myself in the most cruel situation possible to imagine.  I throw myself into the arms of Providence, without hope of return.....
 I embrace you a thousand times my dearest wife;  I embrace my son; my last wishes are for you; that he remembers his father.  Reward as well as you can, this brave man (Troquart) who brings you this letter;  he has done all he can to be of use to us.  

Barbaroux to his mother:  Oh Mother, my dear good Mother!  I have no time to say more. I surrender myself to Divine Providence in the hope of finding some refuge; do not despair of my fate and, if you can, reward the brave man (Troquart) who has this note delivered to you.  Farewell, good mother, your son sends his love.

Buzot to his wife:  My dear friend,  I entrust to a man who has given us great services, these last words of a husband who loves you.  We have to leave a secure, trusted refuge to run new risks;  a terrible catastrophe has taken away our last hopes. I do not hide from myself the pressing dangers which threaten us, but I hold on to my courage...My dear friend, time presses; we must leave.  I ask you, above all, to reward as much as you are able, the generous man who brings you this note. 
Farewell - I will await you in the resting place of the just. 

Quoted: Bertin-Roulleau La fin des Girondins  p.158-60.

The suicide attempt of  Barbaroux 

Letter addressed  Jay deputy for the Gironde, read to the Convention,  8 Messidor (28th June)
On the day before yesterday, in the morning, several volunteers were passing a field of corn, half-a-league away from Castillon, when they heard a pistol shot and saw two men running off into a dense pine-wood. They immediately went to the spot and found a man bathed in his own blood;  they took him  and carried him to Castillon.  Lagarde arrived immediately. Noticing that the linen of the wounded man had the initials R.B, he asked him, "Are you Buzot?".  He could not reply since he had shot himself in the  jaw. but he shook his head; he was then asked if he was Barbaroux and signalled yes;  A request was immediately sent to Jullien for instructions  regarding the captive and the two men seen escaping. Jullien sent Batut and another official, swiftly followed by Laye and Pré... The woman who had harboured the fugitives was interrogated yesterday evening; letters found in her possession identified them as Pétion and Barbaroux. She admitted that ...Salles and Guadet were at the property of Guadet's father, and that Péton, Buzot and Barbaroux were in another house.  It is thought that the people hiding the latter, saw that the Guadet family had been taken, and sent them away; but you can count on them being captured if they are not already, for all the forces in the region are on the alert. 
(Vatel, vol. 2, p.164)

Letter from the Administrators of the District of Libourne, to the Commune of Saint-Magne, dated 30 Prairial, Year II.
We have just been informed that three individuals were noticed on the territory of your Commune who appeared suspect; that on the approach of several citizens to observe them, one of them blew his brains out with a pistol and the other two took flight, leaving behind  their arms, munitions, bread and the handkerchiefs on which each of them had laid out their food.  

And to the Revolutionary Committee in Bordeaux 
...The accomplices of Guadet are not yet all arrested; one of them, who wanted to blow out his brains but missed, was found almost dead in a rye field on the plain of Saint-Magne near Castillon.  He was carried into the Commune of Castillon and placed in the hands of the Medical officers,  who do not despair of his recovery.
Some believe him to be Buzot, others Barbaroux.
The two others who were with him took flight and are wandering in the countryside.  We are pursuing them and we hope to soon have them in our prisons.
(Vatel, vol. 3, p.742-3)

Deposition of two commissaries, Laye and Oré, sent by Jullien to Castillon, (3 Messidor Year II)
In our presences, the Justices of the Peace, Serezac and Lavache, questioned  the unknown man, who had shot himself in the right ear; and established that he was the former deputy Barbaroux.  A procès-verbal was drawn up concerning the removal of his body, the place where he had been found, his possessions, clothing etc.

We conferred and took the advice of Citizens Verneuil and Lassime, health officials,  that by transporting a bed in a boat, he could be transferred to Bordeaux without danger.  As a result the Municipality requisitioned a boat, we deposited a bag containing the said Barbaroux's personal effects and ordered Batut, with a municipal officer, four guardsmen, and Verneuil, officer of health, to take him to Bordeaux.  They left at nine in the morning.
(Vatel, Vol. 2, p.134-6.)

Accounts of witnesses questioned by Charles Vatel in 1869

 Pierre Galineau,  82, then aged nine:  It was around  Saint-Barnabas Day,  when they make hay;  an unknown man shot himself with a pistol the end of the Allée de Trapeau.  He missed and they carred him to the farm of the Allée.  I saw him I saw setting on a chair, dying, covered in blood; his eyes were fixed; he looked at the people who surrounded him without being able to speak.  I can still see him;  he had duck trousers with blood all over them. I only arrived at the end of the day, but the event had occurred in the morning.

François Lapade, 87, then aged thirteen:   This is what I know about Barbaroux.  I had climbed a tree, one of the elms on the way into Castillon.  I saw a crowd running in a great hurry;  I got down to find out what was going on.  I heard that they were going to see a man who had just shot himself with a pistol and was still alive.  I ran with the rest...

When we arrived at the métairie de l'Allée we saw in front of the door a poor wretch sitting on a chair, with his head hanging as though he was unconscious.  He had a wound under and behind his right ear;  it was bleeding copiously.   They spoke to him; he did not reply.  They touched him; he gave no sign of life.  They investigated his wound but did not find the ball.   M. Lawaich, who had been the mayor of Castillon, questioned him, but in vain;  he couldn't or wouldn't talk.

He was a brown man - that is to say he had brownish skin, black hair and beard - tall, dressed in a heavy overcoat.  Some people said "It is a traitor from Paris".  Others claimed he was Petion or Buzot.  Later on we learned that he was Barbaroux.

They gave him nothing to help  - not water, not wine, nothing.  Minds were so worked up in those days!

I am certain that he had only one wound, beneath the ear.  I myself touched it.  At first there were only twenty or so people there, but later the whole of Castillon arrived.

There could have been two or three hours.  They carried him off towards evening.

The chair was in front of the gate.  Barbaroux was thrown across the back, half dead.  He stayed several days in Castillon.  He was then taken away in a boat;  I never saw him again.

Three or four days later, they found Petion and Buzot, all decomposed.  I did not see them.  They were buried near M. Devalz's pines.

(Vatel, Vol 3, p.720-28)

Discovery of the bodies of Buzot and Pétion 

Description and removal of the bodies of Buzot and Pétion    Continuation of the report of Laye and Oré (8 Messidor).

On 8 Messidor, at four in the morning, we received an order...informing us that two bodies had been found in a cornfield, a short distance away from where Barbaroux had shot himself. They were presumed to be those of Buzot and Pétion.

We left immediately with [various officials]  The justice of the peace has drawn up a Proces-Verbal on the state of the two bodies, the personal effects found on them etc.  It was truly surprising that neither body had any form of papers nor any money;  in the waistcoat pocket of Buzot, we found a gold watch; Petion did not have one.  Inspite of the pestiferation of these two bodies, eaten by worms and gods, we cut open their pockets with tools, without finding anything.   We found on the two bodies the following distinguishing features: 

Buzot:  Black hair, dark brown coat with red velvet collar, half-length breeches in blue striped material, with matching waistcoat, shoes with straps, black silk neckerchief, gold watch.

Petion: Grey hair, light brown coat with red velvet collar; white waistcoat and blue striped breeches..

We sent to Citizen Jullien the weapons, watch, hankerchiefs and hat found on the bodies and next to them.....  

Given that the two corpses were polluting the air we ordered the municipality of Saint-Magne to bury them immediately. 
Vatel, Vol. 2, p 152-3.  

The procès-verbal  of the inhumation  (p.158) confirms: it was too dangerous to transport the cadavers to the cemetery, so they were buried on the spot in two ditches dug to a depth of six feet.

Vatel informs us that he owned a little painting by Guérin which, poignantly, showed Pétion in a coat with a red collar.  Now doubt it is this one, now in the Versailles collections.  Louvet complained that Pétion contrived to have distinctive white hair and beard even though he was under forty (p.129)

File:Jérôme Petion de Villeneuve.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Account of Pierre Galineau, aged 82: 

At the moment when [Barbaroux] shot himself, two others who were with him, ran off in the direct of the wood belonging to M.Devalz.  Two shots were heard, pop,pop. Not much attention was paid at the time.

Eight days later they were found in a field of rye, turned onto their backs.  They were black like the back of a chimney and all swollen up. 

It was though that they had shot themselves in the body.  Around them we lots of pistols, perhaps five, six, seven or eight.

Thy brought in twelve men from the National guard, I don't know why; it was useless.

They went about burying them in a very simple manner.there was no coffin, they were placed in the ground at the bottom of two holes that were dug.
Vatel, vol. 3, p.720-21

Letter from the Popular Society of Castillon to the Convention (from the Moniteur 20 Messidor Year II)

Citizen Representatives, our search has not been in vain.  When we annonced to you that the scelerat Barbaroux had been taken, we assured you that his accomplices Pétion and Buzot would soon be in our power.  We now have them , Citizen Representatives, or rather they are no more. 

The end which the law prescribes was too good for such traitors; divine justice reserved for them a fate more fitting to their crimes. We found their bodies, hidden and disfigured, half eaten by worms; their scattered limbs had been devoured by dogs, their bloody hearts eaten by ferocious beasts. Such was the horrble end of their still more horible lives.  People!  Contemplate this awful spectacle, the terrible monument to your vengeance!... Signed The Sans-Culottes of the Societe populaire et republicain de Castillon. (p.166)

The executions of Guadet, Salle and Barbaroux

Account from the "famous trials" of Dessesserts, published in 1796. 

The death sentence was pronounced...and a few hours later Salles and Guadet appeared, tied up and bound, to be taken to the scaffold on the place de la Révolution [in Bordeaux]. When they arrived they said a final farewell of friendship; they wanted to address the people, but the drums drowned out their voices and only the last words shouted by Guadet could be heard:  "People!:  this is the only expedient of tyrants;  they smother the voices of free men in order to commit their crimes".  They mounted the scaffold and died with great courage.  [According to one story Salle had sufficient sang-froid to explain a difficulty with the guillotine; "two minutes later, his head fell"].

Several days later Barbaroux was brought out to the same scaffold. Exhausted by pain, death must have been a blessed release to him; his feelings could not be fathomed; he was  only heard to pronounce the name of his mother, whom he  had cherished;  after having so charmed his life, it seems that she was with him in his last moments to ease his misery and pain.

A month later the Guadet family were collectively condemned. They were executed only eight days before 9 Thermidor: 

A witness worthy of trust, an official of the tribunal who was present in the room where final preparations for execution were made, has related to us the circumstances of these final moments: 

Guadet's father calm and tranquil, seemed occupied only in consoling his family.  "My children", he said to them, "isn't it better to go to one's grave, than to exist among such monsters...What can be done in a country where one is no longer allowed to be a father, where the most sacred sentiments of nature have become crimes!...

Those who saw the Guadet family walk to their death remarked in the expression of the father...a calmness and serenity which seemed to derive from goodness itself; there were few vociferations during their progress;  he representatives  of the tribunal could not command on this occasion any shouts of enthusiasm or anger. The spectacle of a whole family being led to their deaths and an old man bent under the weight of his years, who had no other crime than his virtue, silenced all the prejudices of party. 
Desesserts, Procès fameux, vol. 12, p. 87-88

The death of Madame Bouquey

After the reading of the verdict, whilst the crowd which filled the court-room was applauding or hooting, she, furious and beside herself, pushed aside the ushers and rushed " towards the President, as though she would tear him to pieces." She was removed, foaming with rage. When they came to cut her hair, she escaped from the executioner's assistants. A struggle followed, and " it was necessary to employ violence to hold her." Old Guadet approached her, opened his arms, and pressed her to his breast. Then she burst into sobs, and " emotion brought rest to her heart." 

A law-suit which ensued a few years later between the heirs of Bouquey, brought to light a painful detail of the execution. It was necessary to prove which of the two Bouqueys was the last to die, their marriage contract containing a stipulation that all property should, in the event of the death of either husband or wife, pass to the survivor. But they both died the same day, the same hour, and almost at the same blow. The case lasted until 1810, when the Court at Libourne ordered an inquiry, and the executioner, who was still living, was examined. He stated that, at the foot of the scaffold, " Bouquey, seeing his wife advance alone towards the fatal plank, said to one of the assistants, ' Ah ! give Madame your hand/ But she, quite calmly, earnestly desired to be executed the last, wishing to spare her husband the grief of seeing his wife's blood shed." 

G. Lenotre, "Madame Bouquey", Romances of the French Revolution, trans. Lees (1909), p.304-325.
Romances of the French Revolution | Internet Archive

No comments:

Post a Comment

Print Friendly and PDF