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La Loire, la guerre et les hommes

Jean-Pierre Bois


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1Roman Peace, Gallic wars : traces of the Caesarean conquest in the Loire Valley (Maine-et-Loire)

2Maxime Mortreau

3The Loire was not always the peaceful river of commerce and trade of Antiquity, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Although navigable and crossed by few bridges it remained a natural – and even an ethnic and cultural – barrier. The outbreak of Caesar’s war of conquest touched a prosperous pre-urban Gaul, of which major roads are now being discovered. Made easier by contacts with Roman merchants and relations with Gaulish people neighbouring the Provincia, the impact of the Roman influence can be measured with the help of amphora and the rare military objects discovered in the loci mentioned in the Gallic War, the only written testimony left by the conqueror. In fact, the chronology of the legion numerous deployments, as well as the proof of their stationing, remain difficult to establish. The unhappy episode of the Andes’tribe chief Dumnacus shows that the Roman conquest exacerbated existing tensions between groups of local inhabitants nearby over the control of trade. The case of Angers illustrates an atypical town set back from the river Loire with a Gaulish settlement which existed before the Legio VII took up winter quarters in 57-56 BC and which rebelled five years later after the Legio’s departure. For strategic and economic reasons, the area became the capital of the settlement area in a show of remarkable power continuity in the Loire Valley.

4The bridges on the river Loire during the Gallo-Roman period

5Annie Dumont

6Since 2003, some under water archaelogical exploration and probing in the channels of the river Loire have led to the discovery, between Candes Saint-Martin at the confluence with the river Vienne, and Avrilly, south of Digoin, of five new Gallo-Roman bridges and an embankment work dating back to the end of the Gallic wars. These additions to the corpus tend to demonstrate that the bridges were fairly frequents features in the Northern part of Gaul, and not only along the main routes. These discoveries also shed a new light on our conceptions of bridges, as they bring new information on the techniques of building.

7The siege of La Roche-aux-Moines in 1214

8Monique Clavreul, Louis Barrault, Denis Mercier

9In 1214, Savennières made its entry in history with an event important for both England and France : the flight of King John at La Roche-aux-Moines, only a few days before the battles of Bouvines, abandoned by his barons at the arrival of the army of Prince Louis of France, Philippe Augustes’s son. La Roche-aux-Moines, situated on the main communication and transport line of the Angevin state, near Angers and the rivers Maine and Loire confluence, is a key geographical and strategic place, where a powerful fortress was built between 1206 and 1212. The works is attribued to Guillaume des Roches, seneschal of Anjou. The two battles of La Roche-aux-Moines and Bouvines are in separable historical facts of similar importance for the strengthening of Philippe Augustes’s power.

10The defence of the Maine (13th-15th centuries)

11François Comte

12The Maine is an area particularly difficult to defend. The old Gallo-Roman surrounding wall ot the City of Angers, which dominates the crossing work and the harbour was the main part of the urban protection until the 13th century. The highwall of the City with its Iron gate opening up on the harbour and the surrounding wall of “bourg d’Angers” (10th century) are partly preserved when the castle and the surrounding wall are set up from 1230. The Chapelière gate is even restored to be used as front work of the bridge. The river stream is reduced by stakes. On the right bank is attested a system of highwalls on arches ending with a tower. Several defend lines are installed, one of them will be fortified in the 15th century. Beyond the redan made by surrouding wall upstream to avoid flooding islands and meadows, chains are completing the system before the end of the 14th century. The “comptes de la cloison” keep in the municipal archives allowed to know the maintenance of the surrounding wall and the construction of all the new works of the 15th century particulary the “bouleverds” which are two big artillery towers to defend the City’s entrance by the river. Apart from several engravings of whom Sanfront around 1589, there is only the tower of the High Chain also named of English left of all the major defend system took down in the 19th century.

13The role of the fortified castles in the Loire valley at the end of 16th and beginning of the 17th century

14Bertrand Boquien

15During the Middle Ages many castles were built directly on the banks of the river Loire, in a position which allowed them to control the traffic of men and goods. Between Les Ponts-de-Cé, close to Angers, and Nantes, some of these castles kept a strategic role for a long time later. They played an important part in the eventful history at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. Frome 1589 to 1698, the rebellious League of the Duke of Mercœur, governor of the Brittany, had consequences in the neighbouring Maine and Anjou as well. The assassination ok king Henri IV in 1610 opens a troubled period of ceaseless agitation stirred by the “Grands”. In theory, the old fortifications were made obsolete by the constant improvement of artillery. But these out-of-date defenses were still of some use, partly because the assailants lacked proper equipment, as we shall examine in the case of Rochefort and Ancenis castles. The methodical dismantlement of some of these fortresses shows that they were still efficient.

16The battle of the Tourelles, 7th of May 1429

17Olivier Bouzy

18Orléans, besieged by the English since October 1428, was on the brink of capitulation when Joan of Arc entered the town on the 29th of April 1429. In order to break the siege, the French decided to nibble at the English positions by taking advantage of the communication problems between the several “bastilles” (little bastions) wich surrounded the town. By storming stronger and stronger positions and taking advantage of the arrival of a new French army gave her the superiority in numbers, Joan of Arc managed to re-motivate her men, whose spirit had been tampered after the defeat in the “battle of the herrings” in the previous month of February. More and more confident in their strength and in their leader, the French managed to push back the English army further.

19The river Loire bargemen, king’s sailors during the war of independance, the extension of the class system to the riversides parishes, the case of Orléans, 1778-1783, from the National Archives sources

20Patrick Villiers

21It is too oft forgotten that the American war of Independence was won by the French Navy which, with 60 ships of the line and the help of the Spanish Navy, was able not only to hold its own but to defeat the Royal Navy, 110 ships strong. Two facts explain this success : the top quality of both the French ships and of their crew. Using an old edict of Pontchartrain, fallen into oblivion since 1711, Louis XVI’s Secretaries of State for the navy and the colonies, Sartine and then Castries, enrolled the bargemen of the rivers Garonne, Seine and Loire. Some documents in the Archives nationales contain information about this enrolment, especially for the river Loire. The case of the Orléans bargemen is of special interest and can probably be extented to the whole of the river Loire. The river was submitted to the class system and divided into departments : Nevers, Orléans, Tours, Saumur, Île Bouchard, Angers, Ingrandes and Nantes. How many men were inscribed, how many eligible, how many recruited, and where the were sent : this is what we study in this communication.

22The People’s Representatives in mission and the river Loire (1793-1795)

23Michel Biard

24In 1793, the river Loire is a key strategic line for the Republican armies with the beginning of the uprising in Vendée. Although thee armies were devoted to coastal defence against a foreign enemy (the coastal armies of Cherbourg, Brest and La Rochelle), one of them is now concerned with the home troubles, as the sudden and spectacular increase of the number of people’s representatives sent in this area illustrate. Significant of this mission, the coastal army of La Rochelle is renamed “the army of the West”. on the 1st of October 1793. Two centuries later, the river Loire is still perceived through some representations linked to the “Vendée” : the river is the major obstacle containing the “rebels” on the South bank, in the area known as the “military Vendée” ; the river crossed during the expedition called “la virée de Galerne”, and which only the valid survivors managed to cross on the return, leaving the wounded and prisoners on the other side ; the sinister image of the “revolutionary torrent” swallowing the “brigands” executed on Carriers’s orders. This communication intends to get out of these traditional images, to suggest a reflection on the logic presiding to the mission imparted to the people’s representatives sent to the banks of the river Loire.

25The river Loire and the war in Vendée, 1793

26Claude Petitfrère

27What part played the river Loire in the “Great War” in Vendée ? The river is not au real political frontier. In March 1793, both sides of the river were affected by same rebellions, but on the Southern side, in the absence of regular troops, the movement developed into a mass upheaval, whilst on the Northern side the strong garrisons stationed in the towns managed to crush the revolt, and in these part developed a form of guerilla warfare, the “Chouannerie”. The river Loire was not a military frontier either. Taking advantage of the absence of a river police, the insurgents crossed the river several times unhampered, threatening or even halting the free traffic. After taking Saumur, on the 9th of June, the bulk of the Catholic and Royal army itself managed to cross twice the river without difficulty ; first in its victorious advance towards Nantes, and then during the hopeless expedition towards the Norman coast, the “virée de Galerne”. If the river Loire had any significance in the memory of the war in Vendée, it is as a symbol of a dual strategic failure : the June and October attempts to spread the rebellion to Brittany, Maine or even Normandy, and also the final December failure, when the hope get back to the homeland turned into a nightmare, followed by a massive repression, starting with the collective drowning in the river, in Nantes and the Ponts-de-Cé.

28Crossing the river Loire : “The Vendée could do everything, except this stride...”

29Jacques Boislève

30October 1793 : the “Vendée” rebellion crosses the river Loire. After the defeat on Cholet on the 17th of October, the army of Vendée is pushed back on th banks of the river Loire, followed by thousands of pmen, women and children. The “Great Clash” of Cholet, the race to the river Loire, the crossing the river at Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, the start of the “virée de Galerne” on other bank, where the disarrayed army of Vendée ventures into chouan territory : these dark hours, although brightened by the pardon of Bonchamps, reprieving the republican prisoners, had a tremendous impact. This communication relates these events through the testimony of two eye witnesses and the cross-interpretation of the numerous historians and writers who have studied them.

31The river Loire : a frontier and a pacification zone

32Anne Rolland-Boulestreau

33After the passage of Turreau’s “infernal columns”, the Convention assembly and the Committee of Public Safety appoint general Vimeux with the mission of ending the civil war. Some of this subordinate officers are sent by boat down the river Loire to meet the scattered troops of Vendéens who are still fighting along the river banks. The river Loire becomes a meeting line, and sometimes even petty pacification treaties are signed on th spot. This aspect of the war in Vendée has been largely overlooked to this day : the river Loire as the last possible contact with the rebels of Vendée. Based mainly on the military archives of Vincennes, this communication is an attempt to study the process of pacification, eighteen months after the start of the war in Vendée.

34Tours and the river Loire : a dazzling view for the Prussian officers (1870-1871)

35Francine Fellrath-Bacart

36The 1870-1871 war in Touraine sheds new light on the franco-prussian conflict in Touraine and particularly on a cohabitation imposed upon the French population by the occupying army in the area. Our sources, which have hitherto never been translated into French, consist of memoirs, diaries, accounts written by eyewitnesses and also letters, all of which enable the readers to discover invaluable facts, and re-establish some truths about the Prussian field officers, most of whom behaved in a courteous, kind way towards the people in Touraine, without denying the acts of violence perpetrated by the Prussian soldiers in the countryside. Two chapters of the book are devoted to the enthusiastic feelings, indeed, the real passion experienced by the Prussian officers, General Hartmann among others, for our province, notably, its beautiful landscapes, its châteaux, the river Loire and, last but not least, the beautiful city of Tours and its amiable inhabitants. All in all, the book gives the readers a well-balanced view upon a war which has been somewhat neglected, even forgotten, in our region so far.

37Loire Arsenal, from the 17th to the 20th century

38Philippe Cayla

39The “Loire arsenal” dwell at the confluence of three technical spatio-temporal practicalities rather independent between them until mid 17th century and which will merge in the course of the 18th century : a Loire marine, the tool of a true technical and commercial “geographic marine system”, draining the basin at of the seasons’rate ; a rural and proto-industrial economy of the basin reaching the modern level of organisation of the ironworks and the factory, then the production level of plants in the industrial revolution ; a naval arrangement of maritime arsenals and civil shipyard, harbours and merchant and war fleets, organising the atlantic coastline from Rochefort to Brest, going by Lorient, the Loire estuary and Nantes. These three functional entities articulate and are developping with a synergetic action within a large relational aggregate including the fluvial basin of the Loire and the peripherical districts (Maine, Burgundy…), its maritime downstream and its atlantic front. We intend to bring some enlightenment and data for this time, of which the Loire navigation, continental medium of the supply, which allowed the convergence of the productions of the Loire basin towards the atlantic arsenals. A break occurred during the years 1850-1880, that of the industrial revolution in the Loire basin, which breaks the marine geo-system of the Loire. However, the revolution of the French industrial map will result in a shifting of the supplies for the arsenals towards North and East, at the expense of the Loire basin of which the industrial centres will decline a lot and then etiolate after WW1, and in conclusion partly vanish during the second half of the 20th century.

40This shift to an industrial economy of naval supply on a national scale is visible today with the geographic scope of the DCNS (Direction des Constructions Navales Systèmes et Services) enterprise for which the Loire basin is well represented from Indret to Imphy. The today patrimonial heritages, ironworks in Guérigny, Cosnes… museums and Loire ports, arsenal, holds and rope factories, museums in Rochefort, Brest, Lorient, are showing these old functionalites of production and their formerly structured space.

41Loire and its basin in the strategy of naval armament of France, 18th and 19th centuries

42David Plouviez

43Building a navy requires large quantities of raw materials (timber, hemp, iron…) and French Atlantic dockyards had to build efficient supply networks to meet their needs. This paper (communication) aims to show the specific role of the Loire and its tributaries in the politics of military shipbuilding. Throughout the 18th century, the basin of the Loire is sought for its raw materials while many factories to manufacture metals or sails are based. In addition, the basin of the Loire been building warehouses in strategic locations of the river, showing that the administration of the navy appropriates territory. All these elements allow to affirm that the Loire is a warrior axis.

44From the Maine at the Ocean. The supply of wood for the navy in the Ponant arsenals. An area, a freight, a type of transport (17th-18th centuries)

45Florent Godelaine

46From the second half of 17th century, Colbert launches a plan of reconstitution for the French royal navy. During nearly 150 years, the Loire provinces, the progressively the more and more distants areas, considered as “satellites”, participate to the provision of the Ponant (western) dockyards. The maritime administrators of the Ponan dockyards import the raw material from the province of Maine since the end of the 17th century. They are able to use dense river net centred on the rivers Sarthe and Loir, which are the main arteries down which the wood for shipbuilding flows. The specific techniques of this type of river transport require the intervention of professionals. Heavily loaded and facing numerous obstacles, the barges carrying the rough timber, operated by merchant bargemen, are the only possible type of transport capable to cope with the growing demand from the Seventeenth to the beginning of the 19th century.

47The Loire Valley faced by the American threat (1917-1926)

48Alain Jacobzone

49The Loire’s valley has been used after april 1917 by the american forces as an essential way to convey military assistance. For this purpose, they built huge camps where they could concentrated or fix any necessary matériel. A whitness who could observe one of those camp being constructed near Saumur described american methods : he couldn’t prevent expressing how disturb he was to see the ligerian landscape so easily devastated ; a first indication, to him, of France’s decay.

50Nantes and the army, 19th-21th centuries

51Jean-Pierre Bois

52During the 18th century, Nantes awakes to its maritime and trading vocation, which turn it into an oipen gate on the Atlantic and has an impact on its relationship with the army. From the 19th century on, it becomes a garrison town, where the army enjoy some degree of popularity, with ten 64th and then the prestigious 65th foot regiment. The army also contributes tin the town development, especially with the building of barracks, which become then centre of new urbanised areas. Following the crucial time of the first World War, the life of the city is dominated by the veterans, then Nantes plays an important part in the Resistance movement during the second World War, and is rewarded with the official title of “Compagnon de la Libération”. After 1945, the ties between Nantes and the army loosen : the new fighting grounds for the troops are in the colonies and in foreign territories, and in 1996 ends the national military service. Finally, in 2010, the last garrison leaves the town, without any serious attempt from the local authorities to keep it.

© Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2013

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