Chapter 21: Persecutions of the French Protestants in the South of France, During the Years 1814 and 1820 (2/9)
The citizens who came to the promenades for air and refreshment from the close and dirty streets were chased with shouts of Vive le Roi, as if those shouts were to justify every excess. If Protestants referred to the charter, they were directly assured it would be of no use to them, and that they had only been managed to be more effectually destroyed. Persons of rank were heard to say in the public streets, “All the Huguenots must be killed; this time their children must be killed, that none of the accursed race may remain.”
Still, it is true, they were not murdered, but cruelly treated; Protestant children could no longer mix in the sports of Catholics, and were not even permitted to appear without their parents. At dark their families shut themselves up in their apartments; but even then stones were thrown against their windows. When they arose in the morning it was not uncommon to find gibbets drawn on their doors or walls; and in the streets the Catholics held cords already soaped before their eyes, and pointed out the instruments by which they hoped and designed to exterminate them. Small gallows or models were handed about, and a man who lived opposite to one of the pastors, exhibited one of these models in his window, and made signs sufficiently intelligible when the minister passed. A figure representing a Protestant preacher was also hung up on a public cross-way, and the most atrocious songs were sung under his window.
Towards the conclusion of the carnival, a plan had even been formed to make a caricature of the four ministers of the place, and burn them in effigy; but this was prevented by the mayor of Nismes, a Protestant. A dreadful song presented to the prefect, in the country dialect, with a false translation, was printed by his approval, and had a great run before he saw the extent of the error into which he had been betrayed. The sixty-third regiment of the line was publicly censured and insulted, for having, according to order, protected Protestants. In fact, the Protestants seemed to be as sheep destined for the slaughter.
The Catholic Arms at Beaucaire
In May, 1815, a federative association, similar to that of Lyons, Grenoble, Paris, Avignon, and Montpelier, was desired by many persons at Nismes; but this federation terminated here after an ephemeral and illusory existence of fourteen days. In the meanwhile a large party of Catholic zealots were in arms at Beaucaire, and who soon pushed their patrols so near the walls of Nismes, “so as to alarm the inhabitants.” These Catholics applied to the English off Marseilles for assistance, and obtained the grant of one thousand muskets, ten thousand cartouches, etc. General Gilly, however, was soon sent against these partizans, who prevented them from coming to extremes by granting them an armistice; and yet when Louis XVIII had returned to Paris, after the expiration of Napoleon’s reign of a hundred days, and peace and party spirit seemed to have been subdued, even at Nismes, bands from Beaucaire joined Trestaillon in this city, to glut the vengeance they had so long premeditated. General Gilly had left the department several days: the troops of the line left behind had taken the white cockade, and waited further orders, whilst the new commissioners had only to proclaim the cessation of hostilities and the complete establishment of the king’s authority. In vain, no commissioners appeared, no dispatches arrived to calm and regulate the public mind; but towards evening the advanced guard of the banditti, to the amount of several hundreds, entered the city, undesired but unopposed.
As they marched without order or discipline, covered with clothes or rags of all colors, decorated with cockades, not white, but white and green, armed with muskets, sabers, forks, pistols and reaping hooks, intoxicated with wine, and stained with the blood of the Protestants whom they had murdered on their route, they presented a most hideous and appalling spectacle. In the open place in the front of the barracks, this banditti was joined by the city armed mob, headed by Jaques Dupont, commonly called Trestaillon. To save the effusion of blood, this garrison of about five hundred men consented to capitulate, and marched out sad and defenseless; but when about fifty had passed, the rabble commenced a tremendous fire on their confiding and unprotected victims; nearly all were killed or wounded, and but very few could re-enter the yard before the garrison gates were again closed. These were again forced in an instant, and all were massacred who could not climb over roofs, or leap into the adjoining gardens. In a word, death met them in every place and in every shape, and this Catholic massacre rivaled in cruelty and surpassed in treachery the crimes of the September assassins of Paris, and the Jacobinical butcheries of Lyons and Avignon. It was marked not only by the fervor of the Revolution but by the subtlety of the league, and will long remain a blot upon the history of the second restoration.