CHAPTER XI. FROM THE 1ST PRAIRIAL (20TH OF MAY, 1795) TO THE 4TH BRUMAIRE (26TH OF OCTOBER), YEAR IV., THE CLOSE OF THE CONVENTION

The exterior prosperity of the revolution chiefly contributed to the fall of the dictatorial government and of the Jacobin party. The increasing victories of the republic to which they had very greatly contributed by their vigorous measures, and by their enthusiasm, rendered their power superfluous. The committee of public safety, by crushing with its strong and formidable hand the interior of France, had developed resources, organized armies, found generals and guided them to victories which ultimately secured the triumph of the revolution in the face of Europe. A prosperous position no longer required the same efforts; its mission was accomplished, the peculiar province of such a dictatorship being to save a country and a cause, and to perish by the very safety it has secured. Internal events have prevented our rapidly describing the impulse which the committee of public safety gave to the armies after the 31st of May, and the results which it obtained from it.

The levy en masse that took place in the summer of 1793, formed the troops of the Mountain. The leaders of that party soon selected from the secondary ranks generals belonging to the Mountain to replace the Girondist generals. Those generals were Jourdan, Pichegru, Hoche, Moreau, Westermann, Dugommier, Marceau, Joubert, Kleber, etc. Carnot, by his admission to the committee of public safety, became minister of war and commander-in-chief of all the republican armies. Instead of scattered bodies, acting without concert upon isolated points, he proceeded with strong masses, concentrated on one object. He commenced the practice of a great plan of warfare, which he tried with decided success at Watignies, in his capacity of commissioner of the convention. This important victory, at which he assisted in person, drove the allied generals, Clairfait and the prince of Coburg, behind the Sambre, and raised the siege of Maubeuge. During the winter of 1793 and 1794 the two armies continued in presence of each other without undertaking anything.

At the opening of the campaign, they each conceived a plan of invasion. The Austrian army advanced upon the towns on the Somme, Peronne, Saint- Quentin, Arras, and threatened Paris, while the French army again projected the conquest of Belgium. The plan of the committee of public safety was combined in a very different way to the vague design of the coalition. Pichegru, at the head of fifty thousand men of the army of the north, entered Flanders, resting on the sea and the Scheldt. On his right, Moreau advanced with twenty thousand men upon Menin and Courtrai. General Souham, with thirty thousand men, remained under Lille, to sustain the extreme right of the invading army against the Austrians; while Jourdan, with the army of the Moselle, directed his course towards Charleroi by Arlon and Dinan, to join the army of the north.

The Austrians, attacked in Flanders, and threatened with a surprise in the rear by Jourdan, soon abandoned their positions on the Somme. Clairfait and the duke of York allowed themselves to be beaten at Courtrai and Hooglede by the army of Pichegru; Coburg at Fleurus by that of Jourdan, who had just taken Charleroi. The two victorious generals rapidly completed the invasion of the Netherlands. The Anglo-Dutch army fell back on Antwerp, and from thence upon Breda, and from Breda to Bois-le-Duc, receiving continual checks. It crossed the Waal, and fell back upon Holland. The Austrians endeavoured with the same want of success, to cover Brussels and Maestricht: they were pursued and beaten by the army of Jourdan, which since its union had taken the name of the army of the Sambre et Meuse, and which did not leave them behind the Roer, as Dumouriez had done, but drove them beyond the Rhine. Jourdan made himself master of Cologne and Bonn, and communicated by his left with the right of the army of the Moselle, which had advanced into the country of Luxembourg, and which, conjointly with him, occupied Coblentz. A general and concerted movement of all the French armies had taken place, all of them marching towards the Rhenish frontier. At the time of the defeats, the lines of Weissenburg had been forced. The committee of public safety employed in the army of the Rhine the expeditious measures peculiar to its policy. The commissioners, Saint-Just and Lebas, gave the chief command to Hoche, made terror and victory the order of the day; and generals Brunswick and Wurmser were very soon driven from Haguenau on the lines of the Lauter, and not being able even to maintain that position, passed the Rhine at Philipsburg. Spire and Worms were retaken. The republican troops, everywhere victorious, occupied Belgium, that part of Holland situated on the left of the Meuse, and all the towns on the Rhine, except Mayence and Mannheim, which were closely beset.

The army of the Alps did not make much progress in this campaign. It tried to invade Piedmont, but failed. On the Spanish frontier, the war had commenced under ill auspices: the two armies of the eastern and western Pyrenees, few in number and badly disciplined, were constantly beaten; one had retired under Perpignan, the other under Bayonne. The committee of public safety turned its attention and efforts but tardily on this point, which was not the most dangerous for it. But as soon as it had introduced its system, generals, and organization into the two armies, the appearance of things changed. Dugommier, after repeated successes, drove the Spaniards from the French territory, and entered the peninsula by Catalonia. Moncey also invaded it by the valley of Bastan, the other opening of the Pyrenees, and became master of San Sebastian and Fontarabia. The coalition was everywhere conquered, and some of the confederated powers began to repent of their over-confident adhesion.