A section from a Republican regiment led by general Canclaux massacred a group of Chouans sheltering in a chapel. The Chouans fought to the death. The picture shows the interior of the chapel after the departure of the Republican troops (whose storming of the building is symbolized by the hat with the tricolor cockade left abandoned on the ground). The dead bodies and broken church furnishings testify to the violence of the action.I confess that I did not find this as helpful as I might have if I had known who the Chouans were; or if indeed I knew where Malestroit was. So I kept clicking.
The Chouans took their name from their first leaders, the brothers Chouan, especially the elder brother Jean. Chouan was a sort of nickname acquired by Jean Chouan's grandfather. Opinions differ as to its origin but most historians agree that it is a dialect word for the tawny owl; it is said that the grandfather acquired the nickname because he was so good at imitating its call. Thus these rebels were "the Owls" or "the Silent Ones," a terrific name for a band of guerrillas.
In the district of Fougères, in conflict between some 2,000 Chouans and a fluctuating number of Republicans, 219 people were assassinated or executed by Chouans and 300 by Republicans.A total that does not including deaths in battle. (Painting by Alexandre Bloch of another incident in the same uprising, the defense of Rochefort.)
One of the interesting things about this revolt is that neither contemporary observers nor modern historians have been able to figure out what the rebels believed. They certainly hated the revolutionary government, but their attachment to the French crown was not particularly strong. The future Charles X of France, in exile in London, sent the Comte de Puisaye with a general's commission to assume the leadership of the rebels. De Puisaye arrived on a British naval vessel with a shipload of guns for the Chouans and a promise of more, but he was never able to get the rebel leaders to obey him. After a series of defeats he returned to London complaining that the rebels were actually anarchists, not royalists.
And this explains, I think, why the revolutionary regime was able to survive for years despite foreign and domestic opposition. They knew what they were fighting for: liberté, égalité, fraternité, and the future. Their opponents were a mishmash of royalists, papists, moderates, regionalists, and so on, with no unified principles until Napoleon found one in militant French nationalism.
Interesting where an old painting can take you.