1702 – Beginning of the Camisard Uprising in the Cévennes
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The campaign lasted from July to December 1702
Since 1681, Louis XIV had allowed dragonnades in Protestant regions where dragoons were billeted (lodged and boarded) in the home of Protestants to induce them to convert to the Catholic religion.
In 1685, by the Edict of Fontainebleau, Louis XIV had revoked the Edict of Nantes (1598) who had allowed freedom of conscience to individuals and many specific concessions to the Protestants. By this new edict, the king not only voided the Edict of Nantes but also ordered the destruction of Protestant churches and the closing of Protestant schools. Attendance to mass became mandatory and, after three unjustified absences, one was declared rebellious and sent to the galleys.
Between 210,000 and 900,000 Protestants left France between 1681 and 1701.
However, there was still a Protestant population in the Cévennes, a mountainous region south-central France. Its pastors took shelter in isolated farms in the mountains. Protestants who resisted were arrested and deported to America or sent to the galleys.
Gradually, the populations of the Cévennes lost their pastors who were arrested and executed or deported. They were replaced by less educated “prophets”.
The revolt was initially fuelled by a “religious revival” led by inspired “prophets” such as Abraham Mazel.
In 1702, Protestant peasants of the Cévennes, designated as Camisards because of their black smocks, rebelled against persecutions and the practice of dragonnades.
Description of Events
The revolt started in the hamlet of Vieljouves in the Upper-Cévennes when, on 22 July 1702, Abraham Mazel received a “divine inspiration” enjoining him to free a group Protestants recently arrested and tortured by François Langlade, Abbé du Chayla, at Pont-de-Montvert.
On 24 July, a small party of 60 Camisards armed with sabres and scythes and led by Abraham Mazel and and Esprit Séguier presented themselves at Pont-de-Montvert, requesting the liberation of the prisoners. They were first told to wait but then a gunshot wounded one of them. They broke the door of the abbot's house down, freed the prisoners, set fire to the house and killed the Abbot of Chayla.
In the following days, parties of Camisards led by their “prophets” set fire to catholic churches, killed two priests and forced many others to flee. A Catholic family was murdered at the Castle of Devèze.
In early August, Esprit Séguier, who had been captured, was sentenced to death and executed at Pont-de-Monvert
Lieutenant-General Victor-Maurice de Broglie, commanding in Languedoc, ordered Captain Poul to quench the rebellion.
On 11 September, the Camisards under Gédéon Laporte clashed with regular troops at Champ-Domergue and were forced to retire on Saint-Frezal-de-Ventalon.
On 22 October, another engagement took place at Télémac where Gédéon Laporte was killed. His head and those of some companions were exhibited at Barre-des-Cévennes, Anduze, Saint-Hippolyte and Montpellier.
After the death of Gédéon Laporte, the Steward of Languedoc, Nicolas de Lamoignon de Basville estimated that the rebellion had been quenched. However, two new Camisard leaders appeared: the 22 years old Pierre Laporte (aka Roland) and the 21 years old Jean Cavalier.
On 24 December, 70 Camisards under the command of Jean Cavalier defeated 700 regulars from the garrison of Alès at the Mas de Cauvi.
This was just the beginning of a rebellion that would soon monopolized some 20,000 men of the Royal Army.
History of Protestantism in Languedoc
Museum of Protestantism – The progress of the war 1702-1704
- English Edition – Camisard
- French Edition