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FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS
the month of frost. The winter months were Nivôse, the snowy, Pluviôse, the rainy, and Ventôse, the windy month; then followed the spring months, Germinal, the month of buds, Floréal, the month of flowers, and Prairial, the month of meadows; and lastly the summer months, Messidor, the month of reaping, Thermidor, the month of heat, and Fructidor, the month of fruit. To the days Fabre d'Églantine gave names which retained the idea of their numerical order, calling them Primedi, Duodi, &c., the last day of the ten, the day of rest, being named Décadi. The new order was soon in force in France and the new method was employed in all public documents, but it did not last many years. In September 1805 it was decided to restore the Gregorian calendar, and the republican one was officially discontinued on the 1st of January 1806.
It will easily be seen that the connecting link between the old and the new calendars is very slight indeed and that the expression of a date in one calendar in terms of the other is a matter of some difficulty. A simple method of doing this, however, is afforded by the table on the preceding page, which is taken from the article by J. Dubourdieu in La Grande Encyclopédie.
Thus Robespierre was executed on 10 Thermidor An II., i.e. the 28th of July 1794. The insurrection of 12 Germinal An III. took place on the 1st of April 1795. The famous 18 Brumaire An VIII. fell on the 9th of November 1799, and the coup d'état of 18 Fructidor An V. on the 4th of September 1797.
For a complete concordance of the Gregorian and the republican calendars see Stokvis, Manuel d'histoire, tome iii. (Leiden, 1889); also G. Villain, “Le Calendrier républicain,” in La Révolution Française for 1884-1885.
FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS (1792-1800), the general name for the first part of the series of French wars which went on continuously, except for some local and temporary cessations of hostilities, from the declaration of war against Britain in 1792 to the final overthrow of Napoleon in 1815. The most important of these cessations—viz. the peace of 1801-1803—closes the “Revolutionary” and opens the “Napoleonic” era of land warfare, for which see Napoleonic Campaigns, Peninsular War and Waterloo Campaign. The naval history of the period is divided somewhat differently; the first period, treated below, is 1792-1799; for the second, 1799-1815, see Napoleonic Campaigns.
France declared war on Austria on the 20th of April 1792. But Prussia and other powers had allied themselves with Austria in view of war, and it was against a coalition and not a single power that France found herself pitted, at the moment when the “emigration,” the ferment of the Revolution, and want of material and of funds had thoroughly disorganized her army. The first engagements were singularly disgraceful. Near Lille the French soldiers fled at sight of the Austrian outposts, crying Nous sommes trahis, and murdered their general (April 29). The commanders-in-chief of the armies that were formed became one after another “suspects”; and before a serious action had been fought, the three armies of Rochambeau, Lafayette and Lückner had resolved themselves into two commanded by Dumouriez and Kellermann. Thus the disciplined soldiers of the Allies had apparently good reason to consider the campaign before them a military promenade. On the Rhine, a combined army of Prussians, Austrians, Hessians and émigrés under the duke of Brunswick was formed for the invasion of France, flanked by two smaller armies on its right and left, all three being under the supreme command of the king of Prussia. In the Netherlands the Austrians were to besiege Lille, and in the south the Piedmontese also took the field. The first step, taken against Brunswick's advice, was the issue (July 25) of a proclamation which, couched in terms in the last degree offensive to the French nation, generated the spirit that was afterwards to find expression in the “armed nation” of 1793-4, and sealed the fate of Louis XVI. The duke, who was a model sovereign in his own principality, sympathized with the constitutional side of the Revolution, while as a soldier he had no confidence in the success of the enterprise. After completing its preparations in the leisurely manner of the previous generation, his army crossed the French frontier on the 19th of August. Longwy was easily captured; and the Allies slowly marched on to Verdun, which was more indefensible even than Longwy. The commandant, Colonel Beaurepaire, shot himself in despair, and the place surrendered on the 3rd of September. Brunswick now began his march on Paris and approached the defiles of the Argonne. But Dumouriez, who had been training his raw troops at Valenciennes in constant small engagements, with the purpose of invading Belgium, now threw himself into the Argonne by a rapid and daring flank march, almost under the eyes of the Prussian advanced guard, and barred the Paris road, summoning Kellermann to his assistance from Metz. The latter moved but slowly, and before he arrived the northern part of the line of defence had been forced. Dumouriez, undaunted, changed front so as to face north, with his right wing on the Argonne and his left stretching towards Châlons, and in this position Kellermann joined him at St Menehould on the 19th of September.
Valmy. Brunswick meanwhile had passed the northern defiles and had then swung round to cut off Dumouriez from Châlons. At the moment when the Prussian manœuvre was nearly completed, Kellermann, commanding in Dumouriez's momentary absence, advanced his left wing and took up a position between St Menehould and Valmy. The result was the world-renowned Cannonade of Valmy (September 20, 1792). Kellermann's infantry, nearly all regulars, stood steady. The French artillery justified its reputation as the best in Europe, and eventually, with no more than a half-hearted infantry attack, the duke broke off the action and retired. This trivial engagement was the turning-point of the campaign and a landmark in the world's history. Ten days later, without firing another shot, the invading army began its retreat. Dumouriez's pursuit was not seriously pressed; he occupied himself chiefly with a series of subtle and curious negotiations which, with the general advance of the French troops, brought about the complete withdrawal of the enemy from the soil of France.
Jemappes. Meanwhile, the French forces in the south had driven back the Piedmontese and had conquered Savoy and Nice. Another French success was the daring expedition into Germany made by Custine from Alsace. Custine captured Mainz itself on the 21st of October and penetrated as far as Frankfurt. In the north the Austrian siege of Lille had completely failed, and Dumouriez now resumed his interrupted scheme for the invasion of the Netherlands. His forward movement, made as it was late in the season, surprised the Austrians, and he disposed of enormously superior forces. On the 6th of November he won the first great victory of the war at Jemappes near Mons and, this time advancing boldly, he overran the whole country from Namur to Antwerp within a month. Such was the prelude of what is called the “Great War” in England and the “Épopée” in France. Before going further it is necessary to summarize the special features of the French army—in leadership, discipline, tactics, organization and movement—which made these campaigns the archetype of modern warfare.
At the outbreak of the Revolution the French army, like other armies in Europe, was a “voluntary” long-service army, augmented to some extent in war by drafts of militia.
The French army, 1792-1796. One of the first problems that the Constituent Assembly took upon itself to solve was the nationalization of this strictly royal and professional force, and as early as October 1789 the word “Conscription” was heard in its debates. But it was decreed nevertheless that free enlistment alone befitted a free people, and the regular army was left unaltered in form. However, a National Guard came into existence side by side with it, and the history of French army organization in the next few years is the history of the fusion of these two elements. The first step, as regards the regular army, was the abolition of proprietary rights, the serial numbering of regiments throughout the Army, and the disbandment of the Maison du roi. The next was the promotion of deserving soldiers to fill the numerous vacancies caused by the emigration. Along with these, however, there came to the surface many incompetent leaders, favourites in the political clubs of Paris, &c., and the old strict discipline became impossible owing to the frequent intervention of the civil authorities in matters affecting it, the denunciation of generals, and especially the wild words and wild behaviour of “Volunteer” (embodied national guard) battalions.
When war came, it was soon found that the regulars had fallen too low in numbers and that the national guard demanded too high