Monday 2 December 2013

From High Command to the Firing Squad: Gaspard de Bernard de Marigny

Gaspard de Bernard de Marigny (Luçon, France, 2nd November 1754 - Combrand, France, 10th July 1794)

Gaspard de Bernard de Marigny

We are back in revolutionary France today to meet a military man, noted for both his loyalty to his men and his ruthlessness towards his opponents. A character of contradictions, Gaspard de Bernard de Marigny was a loyalist who ultimately fell victim to his own comrades. He is visiting the Guide today in honour of a friend who requested a post on this little-known figure for her birthday!

As a young man de Marigny showed an interest in veterinary and natural science, gaining a reputation for this among his friends. However, eventually he joined the military, rising swiftly through the ranks to attain the position of General. He was fiercely loyal to the monarchy and when a revolutionary mob stormed the Tuileries on 10th August 1792, de Marigny held his ground until the royal family had left the palace.

When war broke out in the Vendée in 1793, de Marigny was among royalist soldiers who rallied to the cause of loyalists. He was captured when Bressuire fell and held prisoner for a very short time until he was freed. Returning to service, he became Commander of Artillery and distinguished himself in a series of battles. However, for all his bravery on the battlefield, he was merciless when it came to prisoners.

After the First Battle of Châtillon, de Marigny killed a number of republican prisoners with his own hands and encouraged his men to massacre many more. Among his fellow officers he became known as a loose cannon and, ultimately, a liability. A war counsel condemned him to death yet de Marigny discounted their ruling and continued to fight on, though the strain was beginning to tell. 

De Marigny's health deteriorated and he hid himself in the château de la Girardière, near Combrand. Here he was arrested by the men who had once been his colleagues and executed by firing squad where he stood.

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