Law of 14 Frimaire

Hello, and welcome to Revolutions.

So, welcome back to our regularly scheduled program. I hope you enjoyed the supplementals while I was away. The tours, as usual, were fantastic, and I’ve got a little collection of pictures up at revolutionspodcast.com so you can get an idea of just how much fun we had and just how many different cool things we saw on both the European and American legs of the tour. Before we dive back into the action, though, I have one big piece of news that will have an impact on how the rest of the French Revolution is going to play out. Mrs. Revolutions is pregnant with baby number two, and the due date is in early October. So the French Revolution is now officially scheduled to wrap up the last week of September. This means a couple of things. First, I’m setting the endpoint at the Coup of 18 Brumaire, which is the coup that brought Napoleon to power as First Consul in November 1799. Second, by necessity, I’m going to have to truncate a few things over the next five months to make sure that we cover everything. Fortunately, the really, truly revolutionary stuff peaks with the fall of Robespierre in the Summer of 1794, and we’re already fast coming up on that as we speak. 

The five years after the Thermidorian Reaction are thankfully a little less hectic than the five years leading up to it. So there just won’t be as much to cover as there was in, say, 1793, when simultaneous and critically important eruptions on all fronts turned it into the year that would never end. 1793 has been fun, but it will never be this complicated ever again. So when all is said and done, the French Revolution will wind up being just over 50 episodes long, which feels about right. 

Once Napoleon ceases to power with the help of a certain sly ex bishop, I’m going to take some paternity leave. And then when I come back, I will launch into the long promised series on the Haitian Revolution. But then after that, it’s kind of wide open. I’m absolutely committed to doing the Mexican Revolution and the Russian Revolution and probably the Cuban Revolution. But before we get there, I might find the revolutionary events surrounding Simon Bolivar irresistible. And maybe I’ll figure out a way to tackle 1848 without it becoming too unwieldy. And maybe I’ll roll out some kind of listener’s choice contest to point me towards a revolution that you really super badly want me to cover. Who knows? By that point, I will have a newborn and a toddler running around the house, and plugging my way blindly through the chaos will be the name of the game. So I’ll just be making it up as we go along. So that’s the big news here at Revolutions headquarters. There is another baby on the way. And with that, let’s get back to plugging our way blindly through the chaos. 

So when last we left off, let’s see, it was October 31, 1793, and the Girondins had all just been executed. And by the way, we were all just at the Conciergerie and saw Marie Antoinette’s cell and the chapel where the Girondins had their final meal together. It was pretty neat, given that I just finished the episode covering their executions right before I left. Anyway, the execution of the Girondins cleared out most of them in one fell swoop but there were a few loose ends to deal with. For example, Madame Roland, who had been arrested back during the insurrection of May 31 – June 2, for her well known part in organizing the Girondin faction in the first place. After spending the last few months cooped up in the Conciergerie area writing her memoirs, she was finally brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal a week after all her friends were killed. 

Convicted of treason under the speedy new rules that made it super easy to obtain convictions, Madame Roland was led to the guillotine on November the 8th, and as she stood on the scaffold, she uttered her famous last words “oh liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name?” Then zip. Thud. The end. 

Her husband, Jean-Marie Roland, had himself managed to slip out of Paris when his colleagues were getting arrested and had been in hiding ever since. When he learned that his wife had finally been executed, he despaired and killed himself on the side of a road near Rouen. Over the next few months, the few remaining Girondins who had gotten away were one by one, either apprehended with predictably fatal consequences, or they committed suicide to avoid Madame la Guillotine. Jerome Pétion and a few others managed to hold out until June 1794, when they finally decided that Robespierre’s Great Terror would never relent and committed suicide. That was just a month before Robespierre was himself overthrown and guillotined. 

While we’re tying up loose ends, I may as well mention that just a few days after Madame Roland was executed, old Jean Sylvain Bailly was hauled before the Revolutionary Tribunal and accused of intentionally orchestrating the massacre of the Champ de Mars. It took no time at all to convict the man who had stood at the very center of Jacques Louis David’s great and unfinished painting, The Oath of the Tennis Court. On November 12, the guillotine was moved from its spot in the Place de la Revolution to the Cham to Mars, so that Bailly could be executed on the spot where he had betrayed the nation

In the freezing rain, he stood on the scaffold while the audience heckled him. One guy apparently shouted, “do you tremble Bailly?” And Baille responded “yes, but only because it’s cold”. Then zip, thud. The end. 

As I mentioned a few episodes back, though these kinds of major political figures are the victims most often associated with the Terror, the bulk of the victims were not, in fact, major political figures. They were obscure men and women who happened to be on the wrong side of the day’s reigning political faction and who happened to have fallen under the jurisdiction of a particularly bloodthirsty representative on mission. 

Because, though we’ve already established that the Terror was mostly operative in departments recently in revolt against Paris, the whims of the particular representative sent to your town played a huge role in how vicious the Terror was going to be. The first great example of this came in Lyon, where originally the wheelchair bound Georges Couthon had been dispatched to oversee the inevitable reprisals against the city once it capitulated. But after Lyon did capitulate, Couthon quickly discovered that he had no taste for implementing revolutionary justice, and he was replaced by his more zealous colleague, Jean-Marie Collot d’Hérbois. 

Collot had been one of the guys appointed to the Committee of Public Safety to mollify the sans-culottes after the insurrection of September 5, and he absolutely had a taste for revolutionary justice. In his former life, Collot had been an actor and dramatist who had, coincidentally enough, spent 1787 running one of the major theaters in Lyon to apparently mixed reviews. When Collot came back to Lyon at the end of October 1793 to take up his new assignment, he was appalled at the bare minimum Couthon had done to punish the Federalist stronghold. Only a couple of dozen people executed, only a few houses destroyed. This simply would not do. Didn’t Couthon realize that the people of Lyon didn’t know great theater when they saw it? I mean, we’re a bunch of dangerous counterrevolutionaries, threatening the indivisibility of the nation. These people must pay. 

Arriving along with Collot was a contingent of the sans-culottes filled revolutionary army that had also been established after September 5, Collot dispatched these guys every night to conduct house searches overturning every inch of the city looking for suspects and evidence of treason, which, of course, they found everywhere. But though he speeded up the accusation and execution process, Collot was still dissatisfied that by the end of November, only about 200 enemies of the nation had been killed. So he streamlined the operation of the tribunal to dispense justice even quicker. 

Almost overnight, another 300 were condemned. But now the convictions were coming in so fast that even the super efficient guillotine couldn’t keep up. So Collot had to turn to mass executions, and he settled first on the practice of lining everyone up next to an open grave and then blasting them with a cannon. Really horrible stuff, especially when a bunch of the condemned turned out to have been merely wounded by the cannon shot and they had to be finished off one by one by hand. Yuck!

This all went on through the winter, and by the end of April 1794, somewhere close to 2,000 people will have been killed in Lyon, making the city one of the major epicenters of the terror. And I’ve heard that to this day, Lyon is still kind of mad at Paris about it. 

But though Collot is one of the most infamous practitioners of government by terror, he was not the most infamous. That honor must surely go to Jean Baptiste Carrier, a man who may in fact have been literally insane when he was assigned to the Vendée to help end the great uprising. But before we get into the grisly details of Carrier’s work, let’s first wrap up the last major organized campaign of the uprising, a campaign that will see the Republic emerge victorious, though that victory will not really end the insurrection, it will simply turn it into a torturous gorilla brush fire rather than a field army led inferno. 

So last we left the war in the west, the rebels had been soundly defeated at Cholet on October 17. But the remains of the Catholic and Royal army had managed to slip across the Loire river into Brittany. Their plan was to race north to the coastal city of Granville, which was the nearest port to the British island of Jersey, from which they would hopefully be able to get weapons, provisions and maybe even some armed backup. As the rebel caravan progressed, they picked up disgruntled Bretons along the way, because remember, the rural population of Brittany had started to revolt the same time the Vendée had exploded, there were just more Republican troops around to put the clamp down. 

So by the time the rebel army reached Granville on November 14, they were numbering something like 60,000 men, women and children. They then set up shop and started to lay siege to the city, praying that British relief would arrive soon. But unfortunately, though the British and the rebels had been in touch with each other over the last few months, events had moved too quickly after Cholet to alert the commander of Jersey that this rebel horde was on its way. The intelligence was being routed through London. So though they were just 50 miles away with plenty of supplies, the British garrison at Jersey didn’t get word until November 26 that the rebels were in dire straits and needed help. By then, it was already too late. 

The British sailed down to Granville on December 2, but the rebels had already been forced to abandon the siege for lack of supplies and equipment. Their position in Brittany untenable and without British aid, they elected to try to force their way back into their home territory. But on December 4, they were unable to force their way back across the Loire. A week later, an army led by Francois Westermann caught up with the rapidly disintegrating rebel army at La Mans and in a night attack, smashed them to bits. Westermann ordered no quarter given, and something like 10,000 people were killed, either in the battle or in the retreat that followed. 

Then on December 23 the last 10,000 or so were cornered at Savigné. Almost all of them were either killed in the ensuing battle or in the mass executions that followed. Westermann supposedly wrote the Committee of Public Safety following the battle that, quote, there are no more Vendée republican citizens. It died beneath our free sword with its women and its children. I have just buried it in the swamps in the woods of Savigné. Following the orders that you gave me. I crushed their children beneath the horses hooves, massacred the women, who, at least, will bear no more brigands. I do not have a single prisoner to reproach myself with. I have exterminated them all

But this letter is, of course, either extreme hyperbole or very possibly a later fabrication, but it does fit in generally with Republican conduct after major field operations ceased, especially given the conduct as we’re about to see, of Jean Baptiste Carrier to say nothing of the infernal columns, which haven’t even gotten rolling yet. 

While the war proper was being waged north of the Loire, Carrier was dispatched as representative on mission to Nantes with near absolute authority over the three Vendée departments that had been in revolt. Carrier had been a far left member of the Mountain since being elected to the National Convention, and he had already been dispatched as representative on mission once before up to Normandy where he had shown a judicious temperament and the revolutionary tribunals he ran there conformed to something resembling the rule of law. 

But when he was transferred down to Nantes, something had changed. Whether it was the queue from Paris that terror was now the order of the day, or whether he actually became a little unhinged after watching the brutal struggles with the Catholic and Royal rebels, Carrier appears to have arrived in Nantes with nothing but coldblooded brutality in his heart, a brutality directed most especially at the local clergy who Carrier believed were behind the entire counterrevolutionary insurrection. His plan was to wipe them all out

Under Carrier’s direction, accusation and conviction quickly became synonymous. It would be too much to even call the tribunal’s processing of prisoners a show trial. If you were taken into custody, you were doomed. But Carrier soon ran into the problem that Collot had run into in Lyon, even the super efficient guillotine was not proving efficient enough. After initiating a large-scale firing squad in the quarries outside of town, Carrier then devised an even more sinister method of mass execution, a method that would be used primarily against the hated clergy

Carrier ordered carpenters to rig floating barges so that they could be sunk at will. On November 19th, 90 priests were hogtied and led onto the barge. The barge was then floated a distance out into the Loire. The plugs were pulled and the barge sunk, drowning the struggling prisoners. Carrier appears to have been so delighted with the result that the mass drownings became a regular thing. About once a week, for the next two months or so, a barge full of prisoners will be floated out into the Loire and sunk, a process that would become known as Republican Baptisms in the National Bathtub.

As the drownings proceeded, new humiliations were devised, and in at least one instance, men and women were stripped naked and chained together in pairs before they were drowned. The revolutionaries laughingly referred to these as Republican Marriages

Of course, as the drownings progressed, they became more indiscriminate. Rather than simply targeting priests, now we have old men and women and children all being killed if they were suspected of being a Royalist sympathizer, which is frankly, about as flimsy an accusation as you’ll ever find this side of Pol Pot’s “Hey, that guy is wearing glasses”. 

The final grisly details are disputed, but somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 men, women and children were drowned in the Loire over the winter of 1793 – 1794. And that was on top of all the people that were being guillotine or killed in the mass firing squad. But don’t worry, though. Carrier will finally get his in September 1794. But not before he denies that he had anything at all to do with those terrible drownings in Nantes. The guy was a real piece of work. 

The cases of Collot in Lyon and Carrier in Nantes represent the most extreme edge of the first stage of the terror. An extreme edge reached not just because Lyon and the Vendée were hotbeds of revolt, but also because of the individual personalities of the men in charge of the reprisals. Collot and Carrier were bloodthirsty fanatics. By way of contrast, over the same period, down in Marseilles, another Federalist stronghold, just under 1,000 people were brought to trial by the local revolutionary tribunal, about half were acquitted outright and of those convicted, only about half again were executed. 289, to be precise. 

Meanwhile, over in Bordeaux, the capital of the Girondin homeland and a city that had explicitly called for a Federalist army to march on Paris, only 300 would be executed from the whole Girondin department. This random and unsystematic application of the terror started to trouble the members of the Committee of Public Safety back in Paris. In some places, unchecked and bloody excess threatened to create far more enemies than it eliminated while in other places there appeared to be a dangerous leniency, a leniency possibly purchased from unscrupulous representatives on mission, ready to turn their nearly unlimited powers in the direction not of national purity but personal gain. The untidiness of it all rankled the incorruptible Robespierre to no end. 

But that was not the only bit of untidiness that was rankling Robespierre to no end at the end of 1793. The other big thing is that this is also the moment in the Revolution when violent dechristianization really takes over. And Robespierre had no truck at all with the atheists or their plan to destroy the Church. Not only did he consider organized religion essential to civic life, but Robespierre firmly believed that dechristianization was actually a major part of that Foreign Plot which was designed to undermine and discredit the Revolution, because, as we’ve seen, nothing alienates people from the Revolution faster than assault on the Church. 

This is something we’ve been following from the very beginning. Like, for example, when those first civic oaths back in 1989 turned a bunch of disaffected parish priests from supporters of the Revolution into arch enemies practically overnight. And then, of course, we’ve seen how the attacks on the local clergy more than anything else really got the Vendée uprising off the ground. Robespierre was convinced that the only people who would push for an even more extreme anti-religious platform had to have some sort of sinister ulterior motive. He just couldn’t believe that for a lot of the leftist revolutionaries, eliminating religious superstition from public life was actually the logical conclusion of the whole project. 

The latest cycle of anti religiosity can be traced first, of course, to the rise of Jacques Hébert as the voice of the people in Paris. Hébert was an avowed atheist who wanted to tear the whole facade of superstition down. But more specifically, it can be traced to a representative on mission named Joseph Fouché. And for you Napoleon files out there, yes, this is that Joseph Fouché

A world class survivor and side switcher, Fouché would wear many, many hats during a political career that would take him all the way through to the Restoration. And he is at present in the early far left radical phase of his career. He had been assigned as representative on mission in the Vendée in the early days of the uprising and had emerged from that mission convinced that the Catholic Church needed to be eradicated if the Revolution was going to survive. So when, in the autumn of 1793, he was appointed representative to Nièvre in central France, he arrived with a rather bold plan. 

On his own initiative, he started forcibly dechristianizing the department. With the help of volunteers who formed a local revolutionary army modeled on the Paris version, Fouché and his boys went around stripping churches of all religious icons, gathering up whatever valuables they could find in the churches and then shipping them off to the treasury to be used to fund the revolution’s wars. He even went so far as to remove crosses from cemeteries and ordered that the inscription “Death is an eternal sleep” be posted outside the newly rationalized burial grounds. In place of all this old superstition, Fouché introduced a new civic religion that would merge seamlessly in with the short lived Cult of Reason, which we’re going to talk about here in a second. 

Fouché’s dechristianization really caught on when Pierre Gaspar Chaumette, a native of Nièvre who also happened to be president of the Paris Commune, came home for a visit. Already a staunch enemy of the counterrevolutionary superstitions of the clergy, Chaumette was excited by Fouché’s zeal and returned to Paris, fired up to transform the capital along the same lines and then hopefully export the movement across France. Fouché, meanwhile, was subsequently reassigned to join Collot in Lyon, where he continued his zealous destructions of all things Christian and helped Collot implement some of the worst excesses of the Reign of Terror. The fact that Fouché managed to survive through Thermidor and get on with the rest of his long and varied career is actually kind of mind blowing. 

When Chaumette returned to Paris he immediately set about organizing the Festival of Reason, which would culminate with Notre Dame being re-Christened, though that’s probably not the best way to put it, rededicated as the Temple of Reason. They installed an altar to liberty inside to replace the Christian altar, and “to philosophy” was inscribed above the main door. The Festival of Reason itself involved girls dressing up in old Roman togas but wearing a tricolor sash on top of it, and then everyone gathering around an actress who was playing the part of the Goddess of Reason. 

This festival, or something like it, was then repeated throughout France as copycat revolutionary armies sprang up across the country, eventually numbering something like 40,000 people. These guys started stripping away all the symbols of Christianity. Churches were closed, clergy were forced to renounce their offices and take wives. And we’re talking now about civic clergymen who had sworn every revolutionary oath that had ever been put in front of them. So, yeah, this was no longer about putting the church under the authority of the nation, it was about destroying it completely.

In place of Christianity, men like Hébert and Chaumette and a bunch of others hoped to found the Cult of Reason, which they dreamed of as a sort of civic antireligion. It would have the outward trappings of religion, there would be congregations and acts of devotions, but there would be no God to worship, only the people who they would try to perfect through the noble pursuit of truth and liberty and reason. Human faculties that would be admired but not worshiped. 

For a brief little while over the winter of 1793 and 1794, the Cult of Reason picked up adherence among the sans-culottes and were led by more radical intellectuals, particularly in the Paris Commune. But it was all strongly resisted by Robespierre and Danton, who both thought the whole project dangerously counterproductive. Both were strongly and publicly opposed to dechristianization. Robespierre called the Festival of Reason a ridiculous farce. He said that atheism was aristocratic and that the people believed in a supreme being and that trying to violently purge religion from France was folly of the worst kind. Danton thundered in the Jacobin Club that the excesses of the anti-pious would do far more harm than good in the end. 

And so, with dechristianization, a new line is now being drawn in the revolutionary sands, one that just so happened to parallel a line that was also being drawn in the sand over the continuation of the Terror.

You see, by the end of November 1793, the situation everywhere seemed to have improved dramatically. The Federalist revolt had been pretty much squashed, except for Toulon, whose fall we’re about to get to. The rebels in the Vendée had been put to flight and the region was nominally back in Republican hands. And then, up along the frontier, the Allies were all collectively in retreat. So Danton, the man who had coined the phrase “terror is the order of the day” now stood up in the Jacobins and said it was time to start winding it all back down. The emergency has passed

When he was attacked for his moderation Robespierre of all people stood up and defended him. And this marked the opening of a new round of intense factional fighting between the revolutionaries. Those who circled around Danton, who opposed dechristianization and wanted to dial back the Terror were soon dubbed the Indulgents. Those who circled around Jacques Hébert who supported dechristianization and wanted to ratchet up the Terror, were dubbed, well they weren’t really dubbed anything but taking a cue from Robespierre, Ultras is a pretty serviceable working name for them. Next week’s episode will be all about the running battle between the Indulgents and the Ultras, a battle that will be won by, well, trick question. Neither side is going to win, because by then, Robespierre and his buddies in the Committee of Public Safety will have consolidated power to the point that they will be able to feed both the Ultras and the Indulgents to Madame La Guillotine. 

That final consolidation of power was made possible by a law passed by the National Convention at the beginning of December. Confronting both a haphazard reign of terror that no one seemed to be in control of, and a spontaneous and possibly sinister dechristianization movement, a wary National Convention decided to vest in the Committee of Public Safety the last few bits of authority it needed to truly run France as a de facto dictatorship

In a sweeping piece of legislation passed on December 4, 1793, aka 14 Frimaire year two of the new calendar, virtually the entire apparatus of government, all government everywhere, was put under the control of the Committee. First and foremost, that meant bringing to heel the representatives on mission that the Convention themselves had been dispatching to run things out in the departments. Vested with nearly absolute powers in their assigned provinces, the representatives were now going to take orders from and answer to the Committee of Public Safety. 

All those spontaneous revolutionary armies that have been sprouting up and being deployed by the representatives were ordered to cease operations immediately. The law also gutted the power of local authorities to be anything but implementers of the Committee’s will. All those municipal and departmental governments that had been set up way back in the early days in the National Assembly were now told they could not alter or interpret decrees to suit their own needs, and certainly not initiate any of their own. Those local authorities had been a hotbed of Federalism, and they were now going to be monitored very closely and given the keys to nothing. Agents would be arriving shortly to make sure that no one started thinking for themselves again, and those agents would be sending back reports to Paris every ten days like clockwork. All the local revolutionary tribunals and surveillance committees would report their findings up the chain of command, and orders would be sent back down for them to implement. The entire apparatus of the terror was now going to be centrally planned and monitored. Everything throughout France was now under the jurisdiction of the twelve men of the Committee of Public Safety. 

Now, this was all, of course, anathema to everything the Revolution had once stood for, and in every way was simply a more dangerous and more comprehensive version of the centralized monarchy of the Ancien Régime. But Robespierre defended the necessity of the law. He said that the constitutional government could not survive in the chaos and anarchy that currently defined France. The goal of a constitutional government, he said, was to preserve the Republic. But we haven’t even gotten that far yet which is why we must have a revolutionary government whose goal would be to found the Republic, to put the Republic on solid enough ground that later a constitutional government could come in and preserve it

Now, maybe Robespierre was right. Maybe it all had to be done. But with the law of 14 Frimaire, France was now run by a dictatorial committee who would inevitably, because you just knew this was coming, start to conflate their own interests with those of the nation. So God help you if the Committee decided that you were a threat to their interests because that meant ipsofacto you were a threat to the nation and liable to become a victim of the newly systematized and centrally planned Reign of Terror. 

Two weeks after the Law of 14 Frimaire was put into effect, the newly empowered committee received some very good news. News that would help bolster the Indulgent argument that the national emergency was receding and that the terror could be dialed back: the all important port of Toulon had been retaken. I find it an interesting historical coincidence that just as dictatorial government was being entrenched in Paris, the man who would in the end fully embody and perfect dictatorial government was making his debut on the world stage. Because the siege of Toulon would never have been brought to a successful conclusion had it not been for a brilliant young artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte. And since he will be weaving his way in and out of our story for the next five years and then ultimately bring it to a close, we will close today by introducing the boy who will be emperor. 

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Corsica in 1769. He was the third son of a minor noble family of Italian origin. He also just so happened to be born in the year that Corsica was ceded to the French by Genoa. Now the internal politics of the island of Corsica are way too complex to get into here, but just know that basically the greatest leader in French history was himself not very French at all and in his youth he was actually a Corsican nationalist who would soon be talking about the 30,000 Frenchmen who have vomited upon our shores. 

His family was of some means and connections and his father served as the Corsican representative to the court of Louis XVI starting in 1777. Two years later, young Napoleon was accepted to a provincial military academy up in north central France and upon graduation he gained admission to the prestigious military school in Paris where he trained to be an artillery officer. 

Now through his years in school it was clear to everyone, student and faculty alike, that this Bonaparte kid was crazy smart and crazy driven. He excelled at just about everything and never stopped reading, writing, studying and thinking. Needless to say, this did not make him particularly popular with the other boys who teased him about his provincial Corsican accent. And this is of course a good as time as any to mention that Napoleon Bonaparte was not also teased about his diminutive stature because contrary to all historical myth, he was not short. He was about five foot seven, which made him average for his day and age. 

His father died while he was at school and the subsequent financial hit his family took meant that Napoleon had to race to complete a two year program in a single year, which he was of course able to do, merging with a commission as a second lieutenant in 1785. He served fairly anonymously in the army of the Ancien Régime until the Revolution broke out in 1789, at which point he seems to have taken advantage of all the uncertainty and demoralization within the officer corps to take a leave of absence that wound up lasting years. 

He returned to Corsica and threw himself into a three way fight for control of the island between French royalists, French revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. But though he was close with the leader of the Nationalist, Bonaparte himself decided to volunteer for the Revolutionary National Guard, which ultimately pitted him against the Nationalists. Forced to leave the island in 1793, a Corsican friend brought him to the attention of Augustine Robespierre, the brother of the incorruptible Maximilian. These two guys recognized something special about young Bonaparte, and they pushed him into the artillery corps against the wishes of the artillery commander, just as the Republican army in the southeast was coming together to stamp out the Federalist uprising in the Summer of 1793. 

After Marseilles fell, these armies moved on to Toulon and set up a siege that would soon draw in about 35,000 Republican soldiers. As the siege dragged on, not terribly successfully, Captain Bonaparte had zero qualms about writing a blunt letter to the Committee of Public Safety complaining about the incompetence of the officers around him. And he wasn’t wrong. They were pretty incompetent. Bonaparte had diagnosed in about five seconds what it was going to take to break the Allied hold on Toulon, and he simply had to sit around and wait for the higher ups to get with the program, time that he spent drilling his totally inexperienced troops in the finer points of artillery. A few command replacements up at the top later, Bonaparte, now a colonel, was finally ordered to do what he always knew they were going to have to do to take Toulon.  

He led the charge against the key British fortification on the night of December 16, took the fortification, and was wounded in the leg in the process. Now totally exposed to a French bombardment, the Allies were forced to withdraw, but not before successfully burning a good chunk of the French fleet. This was all a huge relief for the leaders back in Paris, and a great triumph for young Bonaparte personally. It put him on the map, kicking off a career that would wind up seeing him not just on the map, but holding the map in his hand and redrawing it at will. But that is all still a ways off, and next week, we will get into one of the defining factional fights of the whole revolution: the battle between the Ultras and the Indulgence, with the guillotine looming as punishment for defeat. But the fight would not be a defining one because of what everyone was fighting over. It would be a defining fight because in the end, everyone will lose.

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