The defence of Rochefort-en-Terre, painting by Alexandre Bloch, 1885
Date 1793–1804,
Location Brittany, Maine, Normandy
Result Republican victory
 France (First Republic - First Empire) Kingdom of France Chouans
Kingdom of France Vendéens
Kingdom of France Émigrés
 Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Jean-Baptiste de Canclaux
Jean-Michel Beysser
Jean Antoine Rossignol
Jean-Baptiste Kléber
Lazare Hoche
Jean Humbert
Guillaume Brune
Gabriel d'Hédouville
Pierre Quantin
Claude Ursule Gency
Georges Cadoudal
Joseph de Puisaye
Jean Chouan
Marie Paul de Scépeaux
Aimé du Boisguy
Louis de Frotté†
Pierre Guillemot†
Amateur de Boishardy
Comte Louis de Rosmorduc
Louis de Bourmont
Louis d'Andigné
Pierre-Mathurin Mercier†

Jean-Louis Treton
Guillaume Le Métayer
Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouerie

Armée de l'Ouest:
1795: 68 000 men
1799: 45 000 men
1800: 75 000 men
1795- 1800:
~ 55 000 men
History of France
French Revolution
National Assembly
Storming of the Bastille
National Constituent
(1, 2, 3)
Legislative Assembly
and fall of the monarchy
French First Republic
National Convention
and Reign of Terror
War in the Vendée
Related: Glossary,
Timeline, Wars,
List of people,
First Empire
July Monarchy
Second Republic
Second Empire
Third Republic
Fourth Republic
Modern France

The Chouannerie was a royalist uprising in twelve of the western departements of France, particularly in the provinces of Brittany and Maine, against the French Revolution, the First French Republic, and even, with its headquarters in London rather than France, for a time, under the Empire. It played out in three phases and lasted from the spring of 1794 until 1800.[1]

Its members, known as Chouans, were motivated by their opposition to conscription and their support of the Catholic Church. They engaged in what would later be called guerrilla warfare. One of their leaders was Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouerie, and another was the namesake of the insurrection, Jean Chouan.



From 1791, the rejection of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy caused the peasants around Vannes to rise in defence of their bishop against the patriots of Lorient who wished to impose the oath on him. The following spring, in the area around Quimper, a justice of the peace led several parishes in a rising in the king's name against the local authorities.[2]

During the summer of 1792, incidents occurred in the districts of Carhaix (Finistère), Lannion, Pontrieux (Côtes-d'Armor), Craon, Château-Gontier and Laval (Mayenne), where the peasants opposed a levy of volunteers for the army. At Saint-Ouën-des-Toits, in the district of Laval, Jean Cottereau (known as Jean Chouan) led the insurgents. His nickname probably came from his imitation of the call of the tawny owl (the chouette hulotte) for a recognition signal.[2] A reward was put on his head, but nevertheless he reached England in March 1793. The republican administration recognised him and his brother as the leaders of the revolt.[3]


The Breton Association


First phase

Second phase

Third phase

Chouan leaders

The principal leaders of the insurrection were Georges Cadoudal, his brother Julian, Jean Cottereau, called Jean Chouan; Pierre Guillemot, known as the king of Bignan; Joseph de Puisaye, Louis-Charles de Sol de Grisolles, Auguste and Sébastien de La Haye de Silz, John-Louis Treton, nicknamed Jambe d'Argent; Tristan-Llhermitte, Michel Jacquet, known as Taillefer; Joseph-Juste Coquereau, Aimé du Boisguy, Boishardy, Pierre-Mathurin Mercier la Vendée, and Bonfils de Saint Loup.

In Brittany, the Chouans were supported by many nobles: Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouerie, the Chevalier de Boishardy, Count Louis of Rosmorduc, and the Picquet brothers of Boisguy, as well as by commoners (the brothers Cadoudal). In Lower Normandy, Count Louis de Frotte had a dominant role. One of the lieutenants in lower Maine was Guillaume Le Métayer, who was nicknamed Rochambeau.

In the Vendee, the nobility couldn't play their normal military role; there was never any properly organised army; it consisted mostly of small elusive bands. The Chouan leaders were above all, peasant farmers.

Differently from the earlier War in the Vendee of 1793, the Chouannerie didn't possess any territory, the cities and many towns having remained republican, but some districts did carry out open revolt. There was also the Petite Vendée in lower Maine, controlled by the Prince of Talmont. The Chouannerie was very difficult to suppress as its fighting forces hadn't been decimated in the battles of the Vendee war, its leaders were many in number and its army units were small and dispersed.

Typology of the Chouans



This rebellion is featured in the novel Les Chouans by Honoré de Balzac and The Man in Grey, a collection of short stories about the Chouans by Baroness Orczy.

It is also depicted in paintings and popular imagery.



  • Jacques Duchemin des Cépeaux, Souvenirs de la Chouannerie, 1855 ;
  • Émile Souvestre, Scènes de la Chouannerie, Michel Lévy, Paris, 1856[4];
  • Abbé Jean-François Paulouin, La Chouannerie du Maine et Pays adjacents. 1793-1799-1815-1832. Avec la Biographie de plus de 120 Officiers., Monnoyer, Le Mans, 1875
  • Jean Morvan, Les Chouans de la Mayenne. 1792 - 1796, Lévy, Paris, 1900
  • Abbé Almire Belin (dir.), La Révolution dans le Maine. Revue bimestrielle, Imprimerie Benderitter puis M. Vilaire, Le Mans, 1925–1937
  • Marc Valin, Chouans de la Mayenne, Éditions Siloé, Laval, 1985
  • Jean Barreau, La chouannerie mayennaise sous la Convention et le Directoire, Imp. Martin, Le Mans, 1988.
  • Anne Bernet, Les Grandes Heures de la chouannerie, Perrin, 1993
  • Roger Dupuy, Les Chouans, Hachette Littérature, 1997[5].
  • Anne Bernet, Histoire générale de la chouannerie, Perrin, 2000[6].
  • Jean Lepart,"Histoire de la Chouannerie dans la Sarthe", in Revue Historique et Archéologique du Maine, Le Mans,tome CLIII, p. 13-64, 2002 et tome CLV, p. 65-120, 2004.
  • Hubert La Marle, Dictionnaire des Chouans de la Mayenne, Éditions régionales de l'Ouest - Mayenne. 2005[7].
  • Bernard Coquet, Le dernier des Chouans Louis-Stanislas Sortant, 1777-1840, Éditions Ophrys-SPM, Paris, 2007.

Works of fiction


  1. ^ Albert Soboul (dir.), Dictionnaire historique de la Révolution française, Quadrige/PUF, 1989, p. 217, "Chouans/Chouannerie" entry by Roger Dupuy
  2. ^ a b Albert Soboul (dir.), Dictionnaire historique de la Révolution française, Quadrige/PUF, 1989, p. 218, entrée « Chouans/Chouannerie » par Roger Dupuy
  3. ^ There are at their head, wrote the procureur syndic of Ernée, on 28 April 1793, two men whose surname is Cottereau, called Chouan. We have promised a reward to whoever arrests them, but people must take precautions for these two individuals are very brave and very determined. If on your part you could seize them, this would render a true service to the public cause.
  4. ^ A journalist, Émile Souvestre researched the survivors and, without taking sides too much, entered two theses which always remain diametrically opposed and he allows us to better understand the Chouannerie movement's birth.
  5. ^ Analyses the evolution of the Chouannerie during 7 years of civil war in the western French departments. Its different facets (pré-chouannerie, guérilla chouannerie, military chouannerie...) are treated in detail. Besides the historical aspects, the author describes the "chouans au quotidien", or everyday chouans : numbder, age, profession, wives, priests, nobles ...).
  6. ^ A general history of the revolt, integrating the Chouanneries in Mayenne, Normandy and Brittany and associating them with the War in the Vendee. It brings to life the key characters at certain key moments in their lives. At the end are 2 indexes (16 pages of first names, and 9 pages of placenames) and some illustrations, including an artist's impression of Jean Chouan.
  7. ^ The names and distinctions of around 4000 Mayenne chouans, officers, NCOs and men, as well as almoners serving in the Mayenne departement between 1792 and 1832. Biographical notes on the Chouans' military careers, a non-exhaustive list of around 3000 choauns. It also contributes to rectifying two historical errors - the revolt recruited in the towns as much as in the counrtyside, and the army quickly organised itself into companies, legions then divisions, in a more and more highly-structured manner.

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