Colonel Armand, France and USA!

Ok so as I like history, will tell you about one personnage very dear to me and many others… I read about it while living in New Jersey many years ago, and finally while walking the streets of Fougéres in dept 35 Ille et Vilaine of my lovely Bretagne came upon a statue of him very seldom mention but worth a lot for the history of the two dear countries of mine. The story is long even if condensed bear with me and hope you like it.

Armand-Charles Tuffin, Marquis de La Rouërie, born April 13, 1751 in Fougères,dept 35 Ille et Vilaine died January 30, 1793 at the Château de La Guyomarais in Saint-Denoual, dept 22 of Côtes d’Armor all in Bretagne. He was a French soldier, hero of the American Revolutionary War and the organizer of the Breton Association. After a stormy youth, La Rouërie decides to go to America. He participates in the American War of Independence in the Continental Army. Known as Colonel Armand, he distinguished himself at the head of the 1st Legion of Dragons and actively participated in the Battle of Yorktown. Admirator of the American Revolution, friend of George Washington, La Rouërie returned to France with the rank of brigadier-general, decorated with the cross of Saint-Louis and the order of Cincinnatus. Back in Bretagne, La Rouërie defends the Parliament of Brittany against the edicts of Versailles, which is worth to be locked in the Bastille July 14, 1788. Opposed to absolutism, he first saw with joy the signs of the French revolution but the refusal of the Breton nobility to have deputies at Versailles prevents him from playing a role in the States-General. Royalist freemason, La Rouërie rallies the counter-revolution following the suppression of the particular laws and customs of Brittany. He created the Breton Association to raise an army against the revolutionaries. Betrayed, the Rouërie dies before being able to finish his enterprise but the movement organized by the marquis was later to be precursor of the Chouannerie (rebels in Brittany,Maine, Anjou and Normandy regions in favor of Royals and against the French revolution).

Fougeres

A bit of a long history I like

In 1766, his family bought him a certificate of sign in the regiment of French Guards. Aged 15, he left the Château de Saint-Ouen-la-Rouërie where he spent his childhood for Paris. He takes his service at Versailles. The French Guards being an elite body and parade, the leisure takes more time than the service, at the beginning life in Paris and Versailles pleases him, but quickly it is gained by the boredom. During a duel, due to a dispute over the cooking of a chicken!, he badly wounds the comte de Bourbon Busset to the point that one fears for his life. This event provoked the anger of King Louis XVI, whose Bourbon Busset was a childhood friend. The duels being prohibited, the King threatens to hang the marquis. Rouërie resigns from the French Guards and exiles in Geneva. This exile does not last, the King agrees that La Rouërie can return to France on the condition that he withdraws to his land.

It was during this period that the news of the American Revolution finally reaches Brittany. La Rouërie was initiated to Freemasonry, to the lodge of the Royal-Roussillon Cavalry Regiment; the Perfect Union and also frequents the Masonic Lodge of Fougères, the Aimable Concorde as Scottish Master. The Freemasons fougerais, in correspondence with their American counterparts, frequently receive news from the Thirteen Colonies; it is thanks to these steps that La Rouërie keeps abreast of the events. The desire for revenge on the English in the wake of the Seven Years’ War, the taste for adventure, the desire to forget his past, the opportunity to revive his military career abroad with a cause that he is right, are the principal motives which impel La Rouërie to embark for America.

After a first unsuccessful attempt to leave on a French ship, the Amphitrite, belonging to Beaumarchais from Le Havre, La Rouërie managed to embark, with one of his servants named Lefebvre on the Morris, an American ship sailing from Nantes. in the first months of the year 1777. An eventful voyage, which ends at swimming ashore, the English having attacked the ship in Delaware Bay. A boat is put to the sea, Rouërie takes place with his servant after the captain handed him the dispatches. Refusing to leave the cargo to the English, Captain Anderson blows up his ship. The boat is overthrown by a wave caused by a cannonball and all its occupants must swim to the shore. Rouërie and Lefebvre arrive in Philadelphia and get an audience with the Congress to offer their services in the Continental Army. The Marquis was recommended to Congress by Robert Morris. At the hearing, La Rouërie says he is ready to refuse to pay a salary, only wishing to put his sword in the service of the cause. He also declares that, not wishing to be known under his title of marquis or under family name, he wishes to keep only his baptismal name, which is why he had to engage himself under the name of Charles Armand and be known by the nickname Colonel Armand. This spirit of panache and devotion pleases the Congress which gives Armand, on May 10, a the right to use colonel. Confirmed in his rank of colonel, La Rouërie can not however join the continental army, because at this moment no post is vacant, instead he is allowed to raise a body of partisans and militiamen. There are, however, few Frenchmen in the US Army at this time and La Rouërie is to report to a commander of a free infantry corps, composed mainly of German-speaking Pennsylvanians. Quickly, Rouërie enters into conflict with the commander, reproaching him for his looting habits. Gen Washington gives him reason, he dismisses the commander and La Rouërie takes the head of the infantry corps.

Fougeres

The Battle of Short Hills (New Jersey) is the baptism of fire of La Rouërie which is placed with its troops at the forefront of the attack. The battle ends, however, with a defeat for the Americans against the British better trained and twice as many. Armand’s corps, made up of infantrymen and dragons, officially takes the name of 1st battalion of the legion of partisans. The Patriots, however, resume some hopes when they learn the victory of General Horatio Gates at the Battle of Saratoga. The latter had to convince king Louis XVI to send troops. La Rouërie and La Fayette were then the only two French officers of high rank in the American army, La Fayette arrived in America in July, shortly after La Rouërie, quickly they experience friendship and mutual esteem. In the spring of 1778, La Rouërie obtained the authorization of the Congress to create a legion of “Free and Independent Chasseurs” of 452 men and 14 officers, placed under his orders and supported financially by the Congress. As early as March, he recruited volunteers from prisoners of war. Armand’s corps consisted of horse-drawn dragons and light infantrymen, who rode horsemen as the legion moved long distances.

La Rouërie is in charge of capturing Colonel John Graves Simcoe, commander of a troop, the Queen’s Rangers who had been marked by many ravages. After a long ride Armand Legion seizes Simcoe on the Raritan River near South Amboy, New Jersey, (near where I lived there!!!) as it prepares to sink ships. US troops of the Southern Army have suffered several defeats and are particularly lacking in cavalry. Gen Washington decided to reinforce the Southern army with the Delaware and Maryland regiments, as well as with the Armand legion. General Casimir Pulaski (a Polish American hero and places there name after him today) was killed on October 11, 1779 at the Savannah headquarters. On February 25, 1780, Congress decided to incorporate what remains of the Pulaski Legion into the Armand legion. In May 1780, La Rouërie took the road south, before joining the army he made a stop in Wilmington, North Carolina, where are the soldiers of Pulaski responsible for strengthening his legion.

La Rouërie embarked for France in February 1781, he traveled with Colonel John Laurens to negotiate financial assistance to King Louis XVI. Following a trip without any surprises, the Marquis de La Rouërie arrived in Versailles in April 1781. Wishing to make the King and the Court forget his stormy past in the French Guards, he had asked and obtained from Gen Washington a certificate of service status. But the main goal of La Rouërie is to obtain the necessary equipment to rearm its legion. For this, he must go into debt and pledge his own land. After a visit to Fougères and Saint-Ouen-la-Rouërie where he visited his family, La Rouërie embarked with his cargo at Brest, towards the end of June 1781, aboard one of the two French ships who form a convoy of arms for the Americans, escorted by The Magician, a frigate of the Royal French Navy. During the trip, one of the transport ships dismay during a storm and must go to Spain for repairs. The other ship carrying La Rouërie and her cargo arrives in Boston on August 15th. La Rouërie thus returns to America after six months of absence.   Nevertheless, thanks to the intervention of the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Spain, the outcome of the war seems to turn to the advantage of the Insurgents. In Virginia, English Gen Charles Cornwallis must shut himself up at Yorktown with his army. when the French and American troops, led by Gen Washington, Gen Rochambeau and Marquis de La Fayette, march on Yorktown, La Rouërie is in Philadelphia, where he tries to recruit new troops. Legion veterans still fight in the La Fayette division. But the fact of being removed from the operations becomes unbearable for La Rouërie who decides to join the army. After two weeks of travel, he joined the Franco-American camp near Yorktown, a few days before the siege of that city.

To take Yorktown, the French and Americans must first take the two redoubts that are the main defensive elements of the city. However, both must be taken during the same offensive, otherwise the English will have no trouble in taking the other. It is decided that the French and Americans will each attack a redoubt. On the French side, the attack was led by Antoine Charles of Houx de Viomenil, but the troops that formed the spearhead of the attack were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume de Deux-Pont, seconded by the Baron de l’Estrade . For the second redoubt, on the left, it was the Marquis de La Fayette who led the attack for the Americans, the command of the offensive came to Colonel Alexander Hamilton, assisted by Colonel Gimat, the former aide La Fayette camp, and Colonel John Laurens. The attack is scheduled for 11 pm.   In the afternoon, a few hours before the attack, Colonel La Rouërie will find General Washington and ask permission and honor to participate individually in the assault of redoubts, without exercising command and accompanied of only a few of his officers. Washington agrees. The attack, at night, is successful; the Americans seize their redoubt more quickly than the French. During the fight, La Rouërie is among the first to enter the American redoubt. Three days later, on October 17, 1781, General Charles Cornwallis surrendered.

However, in June 1782 La Rouërie left Virginia after six months in Charlottesville. He is ordered to settle with his troop in York, Pennsylvania. In early 1783, Colonel Armand still serves in the US Army. Arrived among the first in America, Rouërie is one of the last French to leave. The French Expeditionary Force re-embarked for France at the end of 1782 and La Fayette departed shortly after the siege of Yorktown. On March 26, 1783, La Rouërie finally received the reward he had been waiting for a long time. He is promoted by the Congress to the rank of Brigadier-General. One thinks of the constitution of armed forces in peacetime, La Rouërie is invited by the Congress to give its opinion on the composition of the cavalry (known as the father of the US Cavalry!). In his written response to Washington, La Rouërie proposes to continue his service in the US Army, he recommends Lieutenant-Colonel de Ternant to take the lead of his former legion which has grown to 340 soldiers perfectly well disciplined, he also points out in this letter “his attachment to your Excellency (Gen Washington) and to the form of the republican government,” who later became one of the leaders of the counter-revolution in France. On September 3, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the American war of independence officially ended. On November 25, 1783 Armand ‘s Legion soldiers parade for the last time in Philadelphia in front of General Washington. On December 15, 1783, General George Washington wrote to La Rouërie: (small excerpt of the letter will post here):

“My dear Marquis, Among the last actions of my life as a public man, there is none which gives me more pleasure than that which puts me in a position to recognize the help I have received from those honorable men whom I have I had the honor to command and whose actions and conduct have contributed so much to the safety and freedom of my country ..”

After finishing the dismissal of his Legion, La Rouërie embarked in the spring of the year 1784 for France from Baltimore on the Count of Estaing, battleship and arrived in Nantes on August 29, 1784, accompanied of 6 officers including his friend Major Georges Schaffnerlors and definitively leaves America. Back in Brittany, La Rouërie is welcomed as a hero on his return to Fougères and Saint-Ouen-la-Rouërie where he finds his family. He became engaged then married Louise Caroline Guérin of Saint-Brice, who lived at the Château de La Motte, near Saint-Ouen, and came from a wealthy family. On December 27, 1785, the Marquis de La Rouërie and Louise Caroline Guérin of Saint-Brice married at the chapel of the Château de La Motte in Saint-Brice-en-Coglès.

At the beginning of the year 1786, La Rouërie sought to resume the career of arms, thanks to his services in America where he was appointed General, he hopes to be granted an equivalent position within the French army. General Washington recommended the Marquis to Count Rochambeau in a letter dated May 16, 1784. Meanwhile; Madame de La Rouërie is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Dr Chevetel argues that only the air of the mountain could cure the marchioness, so it is decided to send it to Cauterets, in the Pyrenees. La Rouërie and Chevetel quickly became friends, so the marquis went along with his views. Soon Louise de La Rouërie sets out for the Pyrenees. But he soon learned of his wife’s death on July 18, 1786, shortly after her arrival at Cauterets.

On May 8, 1788, King Louis XVI passed the edicts of Brienne and Lamoignon. These edicts nullify the political powers and diminish the judicial competence of the Parliaments. But the Parliament of Brittany refuses to apply these edicts, which it considers contrary to the Treaty of Union of Brittany to France of 1532. The nobility of the States of Brittany en masse signs a petition to the king and decides to send a deputation of twelve Breton nobles at Versailles. The twelve chosen nobles are the Marquis of Tremargat, Bourdonnaye-Montluc, Carné, Bois de la Ferronnière and La Rouërie, and the counts of Nétumières, Becdelièvre, La Fruglaye, Bedée, Cicé and Godet de Chatillon, and finally the Chevalier de Guer. On August 25, 1788, the ministry efforts to obstruct the nobles led by Etienne-Charles Loménie de Brienne falls, which causes the release of the twelve Breton nobles the same day. The return to Brittany, and especially to Fougères for the Marquis La Rouërie, is a triumph. By its action and its loyalty, La Rouërie gains a very big popularity in Brittany

La Rouërie is liberal, having fought for the United States, he really admires the American revolution and he said he was very attached to the US Republican government. But in France, La Rouërie remains fiercely royalist. On March 22, 1791 in Fougères, the Marquis de La Rouërie received the visit of François-René de Chateaubriand who was due to leave for America. La Rouërie writes him a letter of recommendation for Gen Washington, it must be the last letter written by the Marquis to the President of the United States.

La Rouërie therefore decides to address the Comte d’Artois, brother of king Louis XVI, (later king Charles X) then emigrated to Koblenz in the Holy Empire. They arrive in Koblenz on May 20, then go to Ulm where they are received by the Count of Artois. After having received from the Comte d’Artois a signed document confirming his agreement on the creation of the Association Bretonne, the Bretons cross the border and return to France. Seeking a place to spend the night in Paris, La Rouërie goes with his companions to his friend Dr Valentin Chevetel who hosts them. When they had met La Rouërie and Chevetel had quickly become friends, they had discussed politics and at the beginning had immediately shared the same liberal ideas, so Rouërie told him about his projects without any suspicion. He does not know, however, that since then Chevetel’s ideas have been totally different from his. Chevetel lived in the Hotel La Fautrière, rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, near the Cordeliers Club. Becoming a patriot, he became particularly close to Jean-Paul Marat and Danton, the latter was also his neighbor. If he welcomes La Rouërie and his companions at home, he is careful not to share his revolutionary convictions with his guests. Subsequently, the Breton Association also receives the support of the Comte de Provence, (later King Louis XVIII) who since then had also emigrated. La Rouërie now finds support among the Breton population, very disappointed with the French revolution, after having first been favorable, and strongly hostile to the civil constitution of the clergy. Although not particularly pious, La Rouërie was Catholic.

On April 20, 1792, France declared war on the Archduchy of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, which received the same day the support of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Army of the Emigrants, the First Coalition against the French revolutionaries is formed. The Breton Association is ready for the fight, its strength is then 10,000 soldiers!

On the edge of the park of the Château de Launay-Villiers, is the forest of Misedon. This forest was the den of Jean Cottereau, aka Jean Chouan and his men who had taken the name of Chouans. Cottereau and his companions revolt on August 15, 1792 against the revolutionaries in Saint-Ouen-des-Toits. For several weeks, the Breton association await the instructions of the king’s brothers. The wait causes some nervousness among some of the partners. On one side La Rouërie must calm the ardor of some of them who wanted to take up arms on the spot, on the other he firmly calls to order the committee of Saint-Malo who challenges his orders and asks to wait for the capture of Paris by the allies before taking up arms. Finally, towards the end of August, Fontevieux arrives at Launay-Villiers, he is carrying a letter from Calonne dated August 11th. This one announces the next offensive in France of the armies of the coalition. La Rouërie spreads the news to all the committees. He fixed the taking of arms for October 10, 1792 the date of the taking of Châlons-en-Champagne, by the armies of the coalition.

On August 19, 1792, after having repulsed the offensive of the French revolutionaries, the Prussian and Austrian troops entered France. Dr Valentin Chevetel then returned to Paris, and on September 2nd, the very day of his arrival, he appeared at 3 am, to Danton, then Minister of Justice. Chevetel (traitor) informs Danton of the danger represented by the Breton Association, and informs him of all he knows.   But at the end of September, La Rouërie receives news of the victory of the French revolutionaries, on September 20, at Valmy, located only 35 km from Chalons-en-Champagne. The coalition troops retreat, cross the border and leave France. On September 22, 1792 the French monarchy is overthrown and the French Republic is proclaimed.

La Rouërie quickly ranks with their views and the date of the insurrection is postponed for March 10, 1793. Being the principal sought, he must go into hiding. On January 12, 1793, after galloping in the vicinity of the forest of Hunaudaye, La Rouërie and his two companions will find refuge at the Château de La Guyomarais, belonging to the family of the same name, in the parish of Saint-Denoual. It snowed that day and Saint-Pierre is suffering from fevers. Monsieur de La Guyomarais is a member of the Breton Association and has hosted La Rouërie three times in the previous months. They are housed in a castle room. With chills and violent coughing, La Rouërie suffered from pneumonia. The next day, Schaffner and Fontevieux arrive at La Guyomarais, and bring with them a newspaper which has informed them of the execution of king Louis XVI on the 21st of January 1793. However the associates decide not to reveal the death of the king to the marquis, believing that it would aggravate the fever whereas despite the episode of the day before one maintains the hope of its recovery. La Rouërie takes it and learns the death of Louis XVI. La Rouërie then has a crisis of delirium, he jumps out of bed, dresses, declares he wants to leave but collapses, totally weakened. For three days,he alternates between prostration, delirium and unconsciousness. Finally, La Rouërie died on January 30, 1793, by 4am (4h).

On the 31st of January, however, it was necessary to hide the body during the night, Schaffner, Fontevieux, Loaisel, Lemasson, the gardener Perrin, servants and members of the La Guyomarais family, burying the body of La Rouerie secretly in the woods of Vieux Semis (old sowing), which belongs to the castle. But before that, at the end of January, Thérèse de Moëlien, who knows La Rouërie was sick, wrote to Dr Valentin Chevetel. She asks him for help, remembering his profession as a doctor. Chevetel then arrives at La Fosse-Hinguant. He learns from Désilles the death of the Marquis de La Rouërie, as well as the place and circumstances of his death. Later on February 25, the Chevelet, at the head of 15 French Republican soldiers, burst in La Guyomarais. He arrested all his occupants, the family of La Guyomarais, and their servants. The three doctors who had treated the marquis were also arrested and taken to the manor. Lalligand-Morillon then interrogates the prisoners, one by one, for long hours and in the mansion itself. All the defendants deny having sheltered La Rouërie. However Lalligand-Morillon intoxicates the gardener Perrin who ends up talking. This one leads Lalligand-Morillon and some soldiers in front of the tomb. The body of the Marquis de La Rouërie is exhumed,and he had it beheaded. He then returns to La Guyomarais and throws to the ground the head of La Rouërie which rolls at the feet of the accused. Monsieur de La Guyomarais then said: “There is no more to deny. This is the noble head of the man who has made you tremble so long.”

The body of La Rouërie is then put back in the ground. His head, abandoned after the departure of the French Republicans and their prisoners, is recovered by the two girls of La Guyomarais and hidden under a slab of the castle chapel. The skull was discovered in 1877 and handed over to the La Belinaye family (his mother’s side family). On the denunciations of Chevetel, Lalligand arrested several members of the Breton conspiracy. He also discovers the papers buried by Désilles. But most associates escape thanks to Thérèse de Moëlien, who soon after the death of La Rouërie burns the list of members of the Association. In all, Lalligand-Morillon arrested 27 people, who were taken to Paris for trial. After several months of imprisonment, the trial opens on June 4, 1793, and ends on June 18. At the end of the judgment thirteen accused are acquitted, two are sentenced to deportation, the gardener Perrin and the doctor Lemasson, who were sent to Bicêtre, are executed there on June 26, 1794 during the conspiracy of the prisons, and twelve are sentenced to death ; Monsieur and Madame de La Guyomarais, Louis du Pontavice, La Chauvinais, Madame de la Fonchais, Morin de Launay, Locquet de Granville, Jean Vincent, Groult de La Motte, Picot de Limoelan, Georges de Fontevieux and Thérèse de Moelien. They are executed the same day.

The expected date of the uprising of the Breton Association was March 10, 1793, but an insurrection still took place in the month of March 1793. The application of the levy en masse provokes the revolt of peasants in Brittany, Maine , in Vendee. The rebellious peasants then give themselves the name of the first insurgents of Mayenne: the Chouans. They choose soldiers and nobles for chiefs, most of them former members of the Breton Association. In 1794, Joseph de Puisaye presents himself as the successor of La Rouërie, in order to unify the groups of Chouannerie, he tries to resuscitate the Breton Association.

Couple famous excerpts written for La Rouërie:

Monsieur de La Rouerie came here some time before me, and obtained the rank of Colonel with the command of an independent corps. He was everywhere and everywhere he distinguished himself by a truly French bravery, an indefatigable zeal and above all difficulties, a violent love of his profession. He had happy opportunities. Is it not, my dear cousin, officers like you? I am all the more certain that you will like M. le Marquis de la Rouerie that the qualities of his heart and his mind do not yield to his military qualities. ” Marquis de La Fayette

“The rival of La Fayette and Lauzun, the predecessor of La Rochejaquelein, the Marquis de La Rouerie was more intelligent than they; he had fought more often than the first; he had kidnapped actresses at the Opera as the second; he would have become the companion in arms of the third. He foraged the woods in Brittany with an American major, and accompanied by a monkey sitting on the rump of his horse. The law schoolchildren at Rennes loved him because of his boldness of action and his freedom of ideas. He had been one of the twelve Breton gentlemen sent to the Bastille. He was elegant in size and manner, brave and charming, and resembled the portraits of the young lords of the League. ” – François-René de Chateaubriand

This is the Castle or Château de la Rouerie that can be visited. Offiical Chateau de La Rouerie

In the woods of the Château de La Goyomarais (really a manoir house) at Saint Denoual ( a very small town of less than 500 folks) there is a tomb of the Marquis de La Rouërie, it has a stone plaque erected by the Embassy of the USA in France. The village is between St Malo and St Brieuc about 1h30 from me and less than an hour from St Malo. Tel +33 (0) 2 96 31 50 36 . No webpage.

In his native Fougéres behind the Hôtel de La Bélinaye , former home of the Bélinaye family now housing the district courthouse you can see on the back of the square the bronze statue of the Marquis de La Rouërie, born in this mansion. There is a bit on him at the tourist office of Fougéres here: Official tourist office of Fougeres see end page for La Rouerie

I had to give you this long post because I have been to these places,i love the history of the two dear countries USA and France ,and understand the will of the Breton! So there you go a nice round trip that can be done with a car to visit all these places. Enjoy a bit more the friendship in blood of these two nations.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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