The Huguenots in France
by Samuel Smiles
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The pastors who succeeded Neff had the same difficulties to encounter, and there were few to be found who could brave them. The want of proper domestic accommodation for the pastors was also felt to be a great hindrance. Accordingly, one of the first things to which the Rev. Mr. Freemantle directed his attention, when he entered upon his noble work of supplying the spiritual destitution of the French Vaudois, was to take steps not only to supply the poor people with more commodious temples, but also to provide dwelling-houses for the pastors. And in the course of a few years, helped by friends in England, he has been enabled really to accomplish a very great deal. The extensive parish of Neff is now divided into five sub-parishes—that of Fressinieres, which includes Palons, Violins, and Dormilhouse, provided with three temples, a parsonage, and schools; Arvieux, with the hamlets of Brunissard (where worship was formerly conducted in a stable) and La Chalp, provided with two temples, a parsonage, and schools; San Veran, with Fongillarde and Pierre Grosse, provided with three temples, a parsonage, and a school; St. Laurent du Cros and Champsaur, in the valley of the Drac, provided with a temple, school, &c., principally through the liberality of Lord Monson; and Guillestre and Vars, provided with two temples, a parsonage, and a girls' school. A temple, with a residence for a pastor, has also of late years been provided at Briancon, with a meeting-place also at the village of Villeneuve.

Such are the agencies now at work in the district of the High Alps, helped on by a few zealous workers in England and abroad. While the object of the pastors, in the words of Mr. Freemantle, is "not to regard themselves as missionaries to proselytize Roman Catholics, but as ministers residing among their own people, whose faith, and love, and holiness they have to promote," they also endeavour to institute measures with the object of improving the social and domestic condition of the Vaudois. Thus, in one district—that of St. Laurent du Cros—a banque de prevoyance, or savings-bank, has been established; and though it was at first regarded with suspicion, it has gradually made its way and proved of great value, being made use of by the indigent Roman Catholics as well as Protestant families of the district. Such efforts and such agencies as these cannot fail to be followed by blessings, and to be greatly instrumental for good.

Our last night in France was spent in the miserable little town of Abries, situated immediately at the foot of the Alpine ridge which separates France from Italy. On reaching the principal hotel, or rather auberge, we found every bed taken; but a peep into the dark and dirty kitchen, which forms the entrance-hall of the place, made us almost glad that there was no room for us in that inn. We turned out into the wet streets to find a better; but though we succeeded in finding beds in a poor house in a back lane, little can be said in their praise. We were, however, supplied with a tolerable dinner, and contrived to pass the night in rest, and to start refreshed early on the following morning on our way to the Vaudois valleys of Piedmont.



The village of Abries is situated close to the Alpine ridge, the summit of which marks the boundary between France and Italy. On the other side lie the valleys of Piedmont, in which the French Vaudois were accustomed to take refuge when persecution ravaged their own valleys, passing by the mountain-road we were now about to travel, as far as La Tour, in the valley of the Pelice.

Although there are occasional villages along the route, there is no good resting-place for travellers short of La Tour, some twenty-six miles distant from Abries; and as it was necessary that we should walk the distance, the greater part of the road being merely a track, scarcely practicable for mules, we were up betimes in the morning, and on our way. The sun had scarcely risen above the horizon. The mist was still hanging along the mountain-sides, and the stillness of the scene was only broken by the murmur of the Guil running in its rocky bed below. Passing through the hamlet of Monta, where the French douane has its last frontier station, we began the ascent; and soon, as the sun rose and the mists cleared away, we saw the profile of the mountain up which we were climbing cast boldly upon the range behind us on the further side of the valley. A little beyond the ravine of the Combe de la Croix, along the summit of which the road winds, we reached the last house within the French frontier—a hospice, not very inviting in appearance, for the accommodation of travellers. A little further is the Col, and passing a stone block carved with the fleur-de-lis and cross of Savoy, we crossed the frontier of France and entered Italy.

On turning a shoulder of the mountain, we looked down upon the head of the valley of the Pelice, a grand and savage scene. The majestic, snow-capped Monte Viso towers up on the right, at the head of the valley, amidst an assemblage of other great mountain masses. From its foot seems to steal the river Pelice, now a quiet rivulet, though in winter a raging torrent. Right in front, lower down the valley, is the rocky defile of Mirabouc, a singularly savage gorge, seemingly rent asunder by some tremendous convulsion of nature; beyond and over which extends the valley of the Pelice, expanding into that of the Po, and in the remote distance the plains of Piedmont; while immediately beneath our feet, as it were, but far below, lies a considerable breadth of green pasture, the Bergerie of Pra, enclosed on all sides by the mountains over which we look.

The descent from the Col down into the Pra is very difficult, in some places almost precipitous—far more abrupt than on the French side, where the incline up to the summit is comparatively easy.

The zigzag descends from one rock to another, along the face of a shelving slope, by a succession of notches (from which the footpath is not inappropriately termed La Coche) affording a very insecure footing for the few mules which occasionally cross the pass. Dr. Gilly crossed here from La Tour with Mrs. Gilly in 1829, when about to visit the French valleys; but he found the path so difficult and dangerous, that the lady had to walk nearly the whole way.

As we descended the mountain almost by a succession of leaps, we overtook M. Gariod, deputy judge of Gap, engaged in botanizing among the rocks; and he informed us that among the rarer specimens he had collected in the course of his journey on the summit were the Polygonum alpinum and Silene vallesia, above Monta; the Leucanthemum alpinum, near the Hospice; the Linaria alpina and Cirsium spinosissimus on the Col; while the Lloydia serotina, Arabis alpina, Phyteuma hemisphericum, and Rhododendrum ferrugineum, were found all over the face of the rocky descent to the Pra.

At the foot of the Coche we arrived at the first house in Italy, the little auberge of the Pra, a great resort of sportsmen, who come to hunt the chamois in the adjoining mountains during the season. Here is also the usual customs station, with a few officers of the Italian douane, to watch the passage of merchandise across the frontier.

The road from hence to la Tour is along the river Pelice, which is kept in sight nearly the whole way. A little below the Pra, where it enters the defile of Mirabouc, the path merely follows what is the bed of the torrent in winter. The descent is down ledges and notches, from rock to rock, with rugged precipices overhanging the ravine for nearly a mile. At its narrowest part stand the ruins of the ancient fort of Mirabouc, built against the steep escarpments of the mountain, which, in ancient times, completely commanded and closed the defile against the passage of an enemy from that quarter. And difficult though the Col de la Croix is for the passage of an army, it has on more than one occasion been passed by French detachments in their invasion of Italy.

It is not until we reach Bobi, or Bobbio, several miles lower down the Pelice, that we at last feel we are in Italy. Here the valley opens out, the scenery is soft and inviting, the fields are well tilled, the vegetation is rich, and the clusters of chestnut-trees in magnificent foliage. We now begin to see the striking difference between the French and the Italian valleys. The former are precipitous and sterile, constant falls of slaty rock blocking up the defiles; while here the mountains lay aside their savage aspects, and are softened down into picturesquely wooded hills, green pastures, and fertile fields stretching along the river-sides, yielding a rich territory for the plough.

Yet, beautiful and peaceful though this valley of the Pelice now appears, there is scarcely a spot in it but has been consecrated by the blood of martyrs to the cause of liberty and religion. In the rugged defile of the Mirabouc, which we have just passed, is the site of a battle fought between the Piedmontese troops and the Vaudois peasants, at a place called the Pian-del-Mort, where the persecuted, turning upon the persecutors, drove them back, and made good their retreat to their mountain fastnesses. Bobi itself was the scene of many deadly struggles. A little above the village, on a rocky plateau, are the remains of an ancient fort, near the hamlet of Sibaud, where the Vaudois performed one of their bravest exploits under Henri Arnaud, after their "Glorious Return" from exile,—near which, on a stone still pointed out, they swore fidelity to each other, and that they would die to the last man rather than abandon their country and their religion.

Near Bobi is still to be seen a remarkable illustration of English interest long ago felt in the people of these valleys. This is the long embankment or breakwater, built by a grant from Oliver Cromwell, for the purpose of protecting the village against the inundations of the Pelice, by one of which it was nearly destroyed in the time of the Protectorate. It seems strange indeed that England should then have stretched out its hand so far, to help a people so poor and uninfluential as the Vaudois; but their sufferings had excited the sympathies of all Europe, and of Protestant England in particular, which not only sent them sympathy, but substantial succour. Cromwell also, through the influence of Cardinal Mazarin, compelled the Duke of Savoy to suspend for a time the persecution of his subjects,—though shortly after the Protector's death it waxed hotter than ever.

All down the valley of the Pelice, we come upon village after village—La Piante, Villar, and Cabriol—which have been the scenes sometimes of heroic combats, and sometimes of treacherous massacres. Yet all the cruelty of Grand Dukes and Popes during centuries did not avail in turning the people of the valley from their faith. For they continue to worship after the same primitive forms as they did a thousand years ago; and in the principal villages and hamlets, though Romanism has long been supported by the power of the State and the patronage of the Church, the Protestant Vaudois continue to constitute the majority of the population.

Rising up on the left of the road, between Villar and La Tour, are seen the bold and almost perpendicular rocks of Castelluzzo, terminating in the tower-like summit which has given to them their name. On the face of these rocks is one of the caverns in which the Vaudois were accustomed to hide their women and children when they themselves were forced to take the field. When Dr. Gilly first endeavoured to discover this famous cavern in 1829, he could not find any one who could guide him to it. Tradition said it was half way down the perpendicular face of the rock, and it was known to be very difficult to reach; but the doctor could not find any traces of it. Determined, however, not to be baffled, he made a second attempt a month later, and succeeded. He had to descend some fifty feet from the top of the cliff by a rope ladder, until a platform of rock was reached, from which the cavern was entered. It was found to consist of an irregular, rugged, sloping gallery in the face of the rock, of considerable extent, roofed in by a projecting crag. It is quite open to the south, but on all other sides it is secure; and it can only be entered from above. Such were the places to which the people of the valleys were driven for shelter in the dark days so happily passed away.

One of the best indications of the improved regime that now prevails, shortly presented itself in the handsome Vaudois church, situated at the western entrance of the town of La Tour, near to which is the college for the education of Vaudois pastors, together with residences for the clergy and professors. The founding of this establishment, as well as of the hospital for the poor and infirm Vaudois, is in a great measure due to the energetic zeal of the Dr. Gilly so often quoted above, whose writings on behalf of the faithful but destitute Protestants of the Piedmontese valleys, about forty years since, awakened an interest in their behalf in England, as well as in foreign countries, which has not yet subsided.

More enthusiastic, if possible, even than Dr. Gilly, was the late General Beckwith, who followed up, with extraordinary energy, the work which the other had so well begun. The general was an old Peninsular veteran, who had followed the late Duke of Wellington through most of his campaigns, and lost a leg while serving under him at the battle of Waterloo. Hence the designation of him by a Roman Catholic bishop in an article published by him in one of the Italian journals, as "the adventurer with the wooden leg."

The general's attention was first attracted to the subject of the Vaudois in the following curiously accidental way. Being a regular visitor at Apsley House, he called on the Duke one morning, and, finding him engaged, he strolled into the library to spend an idle half-hour among the books. The first he took up was Dr. Gilly's "Narrative," and what he read excited so lively an interest in his mind that he went direct to his bookseller and ordered all the publications relative to the Vaudois Church that could be procured.

The general's zeal being thus fired, he set out shortly after on a visit to the Piedmontese valleys. He returned to them again and again, and at length settled at La Tour, where he devoted the remainder of his life and a large portion of his fortune to the service of the Vaudois Church and people. He organized a movement for the erection of schools, of which not fewer than one hundred and twenty were provided mainly through his instrumentality in different parts of the valleys, besides restoring and enlarging the college at La Tour, erecting the present commodious dwellings for the professors, providing a superior school for the education of pastors' daughters, and contributing towards the erection of churches wherever churches were needed.

The general was so zealous a missionary, so eager for the propagation of the Gospel, that some of his friends asked him why he did not preach to the people. "No," said he; "men have their special gifts, and mine is a brick-and-mortar gift." The general was satisfied to go on as he had begun, helping to build schools, colleges, and churches for the Vaudois, wherever most needed. His crowning work was the erection of the grand block of buildings on the Viale del Re at Turin, which not only includes a handsome and commodious Vaudois church, but an English church, and a Vaudois hospital and schools, erected at a cost of about fourteen thousand pounds, principally at the cost of the general himself, generously aided by Mr. Brewin and other English contributors.

Nor were the people ungrateful to their benefactor. "Let the name of General Beckwith be blessed by all who pass this way," says an inscription placed upon one of the many schools opened through his efforts and generosity; and the whole country responds to the sentiment.

To return to La Tour. The style of the buildings at its western end—the church, college, residences, and adjoining cottages, with their pretty gardens in front, designed, as they have been, by English architects—give one the idea of the best part of an English town. But this disappears as you enter the town itself, and proceed through the principal street, which is long, narrow, and thoroughly Italian. The situation of the town is exceedingly fine, at the foot of the Vandalin Mountain, near the confluence of the river Angrogna with the Pelice. The surrounding scenery is charming; and from the high grounds, north and south of the town, extensive views may be had in all directions—especially up the valley of the Pelice, and eastward over the plains of Piedmont—the whole country being, as it were, embroidered with vineyards, corn-fields, and meadows, here and there shaded with groves and thickets, spread over a surface varied by hills, and knolls, and undulating slopes.

The size, importance, industry, and central situation of La Tour have always caused it to be regarded as the capital of the valleys. One-half of the Vaudois population occupies the valley of the Pelice and the lateral valley of Angrogna; the remainder, more widely scattered, occupying the valleys of Perouse and Pragela, and the lateral valley of St. Martin—the entire number of the Protestant population in the several valleys amounting to about twenty thousand.

Although, as we have already said, there is scarcely a hamlet in the valleys but has been made famous by the resistance of its inhabitants in past times to the combined tyranny of the Popes of Rome and the Dukes of Savoy, perhaps the most interesting events of all have occurred in the neighbourhood of La Tour, but more especially in the valley of Angrogna, at whose entrance it stands.

The wonder is, that a scattered community of half-armed peasantry, without resources, without magazines, without fortresses, should have been able for any length of time to resist large bodies of regular troops—Italian, French, Spanish, and even Irish!—led by the most experienced commanders of the day, and abundantly supplied with arms, cannon, ammunition, and stores of all kinds. All that the people had on their side—and it compensated for much—was a good cause, great bravery, and a perfect knowledge of the country in which, and for which, they fought.

Though the Vaudois had no walled towns, their district was a natural fortress, every foot of which was known to them—every pass, every defile, every barricade, and every defensible position. Resistance in the open country, they knew, would be fatal to them. Accordingly, whenever assailed by their persecutors, they fled to their mountain strongholds, and there waited the attack of the enemy.

One of the strongest of such places—the Thermopylae of the Vaudois—was the valley of Angrogna, up which the inhabitants of La Tour were accustomed to retreat on any sudden invasion by the army of Savoy. The valley is one of exquisite beauty, presenting a combination of mingled picturesqueness and sublimity, the like of which is rarely to be seen. It is hemmed in by mountains, in some places rounded and majestic, in others jagged and abrupt. The sides of the valley are in many places finely wooded, while in others well-tilled fields, pastures, and vineyards slope down to the river-side. Orchards are succeeded by pine-woods, and these again by farms and gardens. Sometimes a little cascade leaps from a rock on its way to the valley below; and little is heard around, save the rippling of water, and the occasional lowing of cattle in the pastures, mingled with the music of their bells.

Shortly after entering the valley, we passed the scene of several terrible struggles between the Vaudois and their persecutors. One of the most famous spots is the plateau of Rochemalan, where the heights of St. John abut upon the mountains of Angrogna. It was shortly after the fulmination of a bull of extermination against the Vaudois by Pope Innocent VIII., in 1486, that an army of eighteen thousand regular French and Piedmontese troops, accompanied by a horde of brigands to whom the remission of sins was promised on condition of their helping to slay the heretics, encircled the valleys and proceeded to assail the Vaudois in their fastnesses. The Papal legate, Albert Catanee, Archdeacon of Cremona, had his head-quarters at Pignerol, from whence he superintended the execution of the Pope's orders. First, he sent preaching monks up the valleys to attempt the conversion of the Vaudois before attacking them with arms. But the peasantry refused to be converted, and fled to their strongholds in the mountains.

Then Catanee took the field at the head of his army, advancing upon Angrogna. He extended his lines so as to enclose the entire body of heretics, with the object of cutting them off to a man. The Vaudois, however, defended themselves resolutely, though armed only with pikes, swords, and bows and arrows, and everywhere beat back the assailants. The severest struggle occurred at Rochemalan, which the crusaders attacked with great courage. But the Vaudois had the advantage of the higher ground, and, encouraged by the cries and prayers of the women, children, and old men whom they were defending, they impetuously rushed forward and drove the Papal troops downhill in disorder, pursuing them into the very plain.

The next day the Papalini renewed the attack, ascending by the bottom of the valley, instead of by the plateau on which they had been defeated. But one of those dense mists, so common in the Alps, having settled down upon the valley, the troops became confused, broken up, and entangled in difficult paths; and in this state, marching apprehensively, they were fallen upon by the Vaudois and again completely defeated. Many of the soldiers slid over the rocks and were drowned in the torrent,—the chasm into which the captain of the detachment (Saquet de Planghere) fell, being still known as Toumpi de Saquet, or Saquet's Hole.

The resistance of the mountaineers at other points, in the valleys of Pragela and St. Martin, having been almost equally successful, Catanee withdrew the Papal army in disgust, and marched it back into France, to wreak his vengeance on the defenceless Vaudois of the Val Louise, in the manner described in a preceding chapter.

Less than a century later, a like attempt was made to force the entrance to the valley of Angrogna, by an army of Italians and Spaniards, under the command of the Count de la Trinite. A proclamation had been published, and put up in the villages of Angrogna, to the effect that all would be destroyed by fire and sword who did not forthwith return to the Church of Rome. And as the peasantry did not return, on the 2nd November, 1560, the Count advanced at the head of his army to extirpate the heretics. The Vaudois were provided with the rudest sort of weapons; many of them had only slings and cross-bows. But they felt strong in the goodness of their cause, and prepared to defend themselves to the death.

As the Count's army advanced, the Vaudois retired until they reached the high ground near Rochemalan, where they took their stand. The enemy followed, and halted in the valley beneath, lighting their bivouac fires, and intending to pass the night there. Before darkness fell, however, an accidental circumstance led to an engagement. A Vaudois boy, who had got hold of a drum, began beating it in a ravine close by. The soldiers, thinking a hostile troop had arrived, sprang up in disorder and seized their arms. The Vaudois, on their part, seeing the movement, and imagining that an attack was about to be made on them, rushed forward to repel it. The soldiers, surprised and confused, for the most part threw away their arms, and fled down the valley. Irritated by this disgraceful retreat of some twelve hundred soldiers before two hundred peasants, the Count advanced a second time, and was again, repulsed by the little band of heroes, who charged his troops with loud shouts of "Viva Jesu Christo!" driving the invaders in confusion down the valley.

It may be mentioned that the object of the Savoy general, in making this attack, was to force the valley, and capture the strong position of the Pra du Tour, the celebrated stronghold of the Vaudois, from whence we shall afterwards find them, again driven back, baffled and defeated.

A hundred years passed, and still the Vaudois remained unconverted and unexterminated. The Marquis of Pianesse now advanced upon Angrogna—always with the same object, "ad extirpandos hereticos," in obedience to the order of the Propaganda. On this occasion not only Italian and Spanish but Irish troops were engaged in a combined effort to exterminate the Vaudois. The Irish were known as "the assassins" by the people of the valleys, because of their almost exceptional ferocity; and the hatred they excited by their outrages on women and children was so great, that on the assault and capture of St. Legont by the Vaudois peasantry, an Irish regiment surprised in barracks was completely destroyed.

A combined attack was made on Angrogna on the 15th of June, 1655. On that day four separate bodies of troops advanced up the heights from different directions, thereby enclosing the little Vaudois army of three hundred men assembled there, and led by the heroic Javanel. This leader first threw himself upon the head of the column which advanced from Rocheplate, and drove it downhill. Then he drew off his little body towards Rochemalan, when he suddenly found himself opposed by the two bodies which had come up from St. John and La Tour. Retiring before them, he next found himself face to face with the fourth detachment, which had come up from Pramol. With the quick instinct of military genius, Javanel threw himself upon it before the beaten Rocheplate detachment were able to rally and assail him in flank; and he succeeded in cutting the Pramol force in two and passing through it, rushing up to the summit of the hill, on which he posted himself. And there he stood at bay.

This hill is precipitous on one side, but of comparatively easy ascent on the side up which the little band of heroes had ascended. At the foot of the slope the four detachments, three thousand against three hundred, drew up and attacked him; but firing from a distance, their aim was not very deadly. For five hours Javanel resisted them as he best could, and then, seeing signs of impatience and hesitation in the enemy's ranks, he called out to his men, "Forward, my friends!" and they rushed downhill like an avalanche. The three thousand men recoiled, broke, and fled before the three hundred; and Javanel returned victorious to his entrenchments before Angrogna.

Yet, again, some eight years later, in 1663, was this neighbourhood the scene of another contest, and again was Javanel the hero. On this occasion, the Marquis de Fleury led the troops of the Duke of Savoy, whose object, as before, was to advance up the valley, and assail the Vaudois stronghold of Pra du Tour; and again the peasantry resisted them successfully, and drove them back into the plains. Javanel then went to rejoin a party of the men whom he had posted at the "Gates of Angrogna" to defend the pass up the valley; and again he fell upon the enemy engaged in attempting to force a passage there, and defeated them with heavy loss.

Such are among the exciting events which have occurred in this one locality in connection with the Vaudois struggle for country and liberty.

Let us now proceed up the valley of Angrogna, towards the famous stronghold of the Pra du Tour, the object of those repeated attacks of the enemy in the neighbourhood of Rochemalan. As we advance, the mountains gradually close in upon the valley, leaving a comparatively small width of pasture land by the river-side. At the hamlet of Serre the carriage road ends; and from thence the valley grows narrower, the mountains which enclose it become more rugged and abrupt, until there is room enough only for a footpath along a rocky ledge, and the torrent running in its deep bed alongside. This continues for a considerable distance, the path in some places being overhung by precipices, or encroached upon by rocks and boulders fallen from the heights, until at length we emerge from the defile, and find ourselves in a comparatively open space, the famous Pra du Tour; the defile we have passed, alongside the torrent and overhung by the rocks, being known as the Barricade.

The Pra du Tour, or Meadow of the Tower, is a little amphitheatre surrounded by rugged and almost inaccessible mountains, situated at the head of the valley of Angrogna. The steep slopes bring down into this deep dell the headwaters of the torrent, which escape among the rocks down the defile we have just ascended. The path up the defile forms the only approach to the Pra from the valley, but it is so narrow, tortuous, and difficult, that the labours of only a few men in blocking up the pathway with rocks and stones that lie ready at hand, might at any time so barricade the approach as to render it impracticable. The extremely secluded position of the place, its natural strength and inaccessibility, and its proximity to the principal Vaudois towns and villages, caused it to be regarded from the earliest times as their principal refuge. It was their fastness, their fortress, and often their home. It was more—it was their school and college; for in the depths of the Pra du Tour the pastors, or barbas,[107] educated young men for the ministry, and provided for the religious instruction of the Vaudois population.

[Footnote 107: Barba—a title of respect; in the Vaudois dialect literally signifying an uncle.]

It was the importance of the Pra du Tour as a stronghold that rendered it so often the object of attack through the valley of Angrogna. When the hostile troops of Savoy advanced upon La Tour, the inhabitants of the neighbouring valleys at once fled to the Pra, into which they drove their cattle, and carried what provisions they could; there constructing mills, ovens, houses, and all that was requisite for subsistence, as in a fort. The men capable of bearing arms stood on their guard to defend the passes of the Vachere and Roussine, at the extreme heads of the valley, as well as the defile of the Barricade, while other bodies, stationed lower down, below the Barricade, prepared to resist the troops seeking to force an entrance up the valley; and hence the repeated battles in the neighbourhood of Rochemalan above described.

On the occasion of the defeat of the Count de la Trinite by the little Vaudois band near the village of Angrogna, in November, 1560, the general drew off, and waited the arrival of reinforcements. A large body of Spanish veterans having joined him, in the course of the following spring he again proceeded up the valley, determined, if possible, to force the Barricade—the royal forces now numbering some seven thousand men, all disciplined troops. The peasants, finding their first position no longer tenable in the face of such numbers, abandoned Angrogna and the lower villages, and retired, with the whole population, to the Pra du Tour. The Count followed them with his main army, at the same time directing two other bodies of troops to advance upon the place round by the mountains, one by the heights of the Vachere, and another by Les Fourests. The defenders of the Pra would thus be assailed from three sides at once, their forces divided, and victory rendered certain.

But the Count did not calculate upon the desperate bravery of the defenders. All three bodies were beaten back in succession. For four days the Count made every effort to force the defile, and failed. Two colonels, eight captains, and four hundred men fell in these desperate assaults, without gaining an inch of ground. On the fifth day a combined attack was made with the reserve, composed of Spanish companies, but this, too, failed; and the troops, when ordered to return to the charge, refused to obey. The Count, who commanded, is said to have wept as he sat on a rock and looked upon so many of his dead—the soldiers themselves exclaiming, "God fights for these people, and we do them wrong!"

About a hundred years later, the Marquis de Pianesse, who, like the Count de la Trinite, had been defeated at Rochemalan, made a similar attempt to surprise the Vaudois stronghold, with a like result. The peasants were commanded on this occasion by John Leger, the pastor and historian. Those who were unarmed hurled rocks and stones on the assailants from the heights; and the troops being thus thrown into confusion, the Vaudois rushed from behind their ramparts, and drove them in a state of total rout down the valley.

On entering the Pra du Tour, one of the most prominent objects that meets the eye is the Roman Catholic chapel recently erected there, though the few inhabitants of the district are still almost entirely Protestant. The Roman Catholic Church has, however, now done what the Roman Catholic armies failed to do—established itself in the midst of the Vaudois stronghold, though by no means in the hearts of the people.

Desirous of ascertaining, if possible, the site of the ancient college, we proceeded up the Pra, and hailed a young woman whom we observed crossing the rustic bridge over the Pele, one of the mountain rivulets running into the torrent of Angrogna. Inquiring of her as to the site of the college, she told us we had already passed it, and led us back to the place—up the rocky side of the hill leading to the Vachere—past the cottage where she herself lived, and pointed to the site: "There," she said, "is where the ancient college of the Vaudois stood." The old building has, however, long since been removed, the present structure being merely part of a small farmsteading. Higher up the steep hill-side, on successive ledges of rock, are the ruins of various buildings, some of which may have been dwellings, and one, larger than the rest, on a broader plateau, with an elder-tree growing in the centre, may possibly have been the temple.

From the higher shelves on this mountain-side the view is extremely wild and grand. The acclivities which surround the head of the Pra seem as if battlemented walls; the mountain opposite throws its sombre shadow over the ravine in which the torrent runs; whilst, down the valley, rock seems piled on rock, and mountain on mountain. All is perfectly still, and the silence is only audible by the occasional tinkling of a sheep-bell, or the humming of a bee in search of flowers on the mountain-side. So peaceful and quiet is the place, that it is difficult to believe it could ever have been the scene of such deadly strife, and rung with the shouts of men thirsting for each other's blood.

After lingering about the place until the sun was far on his way towards the horizon, we returned, by the road we had come, the valley seeming more beautiful than ever under the glow of evening, and arrived at our destination about dusk, to find the fireflies darting about the streets of La Tour.

The next day saw us at Turin, and our summer excursion at an end. Mr. Milsom, who had so pleasantly accompanied me through the valleys, had been summoned to attend the death-bed of a friend at Antibes, and he set out on the journey forthwith. While still there, he received a telegram intimating the death of his daughter at Allevard, near Grenoble, and he arrived only in time to attend her funeral. Two months later, he lost another dear daughter; shortly after, his mother-in-law died; and in the following December he himself died suddenly of heart disease, and followed them to the grave.

One could not but conceive a hearty liking for Edward Milsom—he was such a thoroughly good man. He was a native of London, but spent the greater part of his life at Lyons, in France, where he long since settled and married. He there carried on a large business as a silk merchant, but was always ready to give a portion of his time and money to help forward any good work. He was an "ancien," or elder, of the Evangelical church at Lyons, originally founded by Adolphe Monod, to whom he was also related by marriage.

Some years since he was very much interested by the perusal of Pastor Bost's account of his visit to the scene of Felix Neff's labours in the High Alps. He felt touched by the simple, faithful character of the people, and keenly sympathised with their destitute condition. "Here," said he, "is a field in which I may possibly be of some use." And he at once went to their help. He visited the district of Fressinieres, including the hamlet of Dormilhouse, as well as the more distant villages of Arvieux and Sans Veran, up the vale of Queyras; and nearly every year thereafter he devoted a certain portion of his time in visiting the poorer congregations of the district, giving them such help and succour as lay in his power.

His repeated visits made him well known to the people of the valleys, who valued him as a friend, if they did not even love him as a brother. His visits were also greatly esteemed by the pastors, who stood much in need of encouragement and help. He cheered the wavering, strengthened the feeble-hearted, and stimulated all to renewed life and action. Wherever he went, a light seemed to shine in his path; and when he departed, he was followed by many blessings.

In one place he would arrange for the opening of a new place of worship; in another, for the opening of a boys' school; in a third, for the industrial employment of girls; and wherever there was any little heartburning or jealousy to be allayed, he would set himself to remove it. His admirable tact, his unfailing temper, and excellent good sense, rendered him a wise counsellor and a most successful conciliator.

The last time Mr. Milsom visited England, towards the end of 1869, he was occupied, as usual, in collecting subscriptions for the poor Vaudois of the High Alps. Now that the good "merchant missionary" has rested from his labours, they will indeed feel the loss of their friend. Who is to assume his mantle?




What is known as The Glorious Return, or re-entry of the exiled Vaudois in 1689 to resume possession of the valleys from which they had been banished, will always stand out as one of the most remarkable events in history.

If ever a people fairly established their right to live in their own country, and to worship God after their own methods, the Vaudois had surely done so. They had held conscientiously and consistently to their religion for nearly five hundred years, during which they laboured under many disabilities and suffered much persecution. But the successive Dukes of Savoy were no better satisfied with them as subjects than before. They could not brook that any part of their people should be of a different form of religion from that professed by themselves; and they continued, at the instance of successive popes, to let slip the dogs of war upon the valleys, in the hopes of eventually compelling the Vaudois to "come in" and make their peace with the Church.

The result of these invasions was almost uniform. At the first sudden inroad of the troops, the people, taken by surprise, usually took to flight; on which their dwellings were burnt and their fields laid waste. But when they had time to rally and collect their forces, the almost invariable result was that the Piedmontese were driven out of the valleys again with ignominy and loss. The Duke's invasion of 1655 was, however, attended with greater success than usual. His armies occupied the greater part of the valleys, though the Vaudois still held out, and made occasional successful sallies from their mountain fastnesses. At length, the Protestants of the Swiss Confederation, taking compassion on their co-religionists in Piedmont, sent ambassadors to the Duke of Savoy at Turin to intercede for their relief; and the result was the amnesty granted to them in that year under the title of the "Patents of Grace." The terms were very hard, but they were agreed to. The Vaudois were to be permitted to re-occupy their valleys, conditional on their rebuilding all the Catholic churches which had been destroyed, paying to the Duke an indemnity of fifty thousand francs, and ceding to him the richest lands in the valley of Luzerna—the last relics of their fortunes being thus taken from them to remunerate the barbarity of their persecutors.

It was also stipulated by this treaty, that the pastors of the Vaudois churches were to be natives of the district only, and that they were to be at liberty to administer religious instruction in their own manner in all the Vaudois parishes, excepting that of St. John, near La Tour, where their worship was interdicted. The only persons excepted from the terms of the amnesty were Javanel, the heroic old captain, and Jean Leger, the pastor-historian, the most prominent leaders of the Vaudois in the recent war, both of whom were declared to be banished the ducal dominions.

Under this treaty the Vaudois enjoyed peace for about thirty years, during which they restored the cultivation of the valleys, rebuilt the villages, and were acknowledged to be among the most loyal, peaceable, and industrious of the subjects of Savoy.

There were, however, certain parts of the valleys to which the amnesty granted by the Duke did not apply. Thus, it did not apply to the valleys of Perouse and Pragela, which did not then form part of the dominions of Savoy, but were included within the French frontier. It was out of this circumstance that a difficulty arose with the French monarch, which issued in the revival of the persecution in the valleys, the banishment of the Vaudois into Switzerland, and their eventual "Glorious Return" in the manner we are about briefly to narrate.

When Louis XIV. of France revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and interdicted all Protestant worship throughout his dominions, the law of course applied to the valleys of Perouse and Pragela as to the other parts of France. The Vaudois pastors were banished, and the people were forbidden to profess any other religion than that prescribed by the King, under penalty of confiscation of their goods, imprisonment, or banishment. The Vaudois who desired to avoid these penalties while they still remained staunch to their faith, did what so many Frenchmen then did—they fled across the frontier and took refuge in foreign lands. Some of the inhabitants of the French valleys went northward into Switzerland, while others passed across the mountains towards the south, and took refuge in the valley of the Pelice, where the Vaudois religion continued to be tolerated under the terms of the amnesty above referred to, which had been granted by the Duke of Savoy.

The French king, when he found his Huguenot subjects flying in all directions rather than remain in France and be "converted" to Roman Catholicism, next tried to block up the various avenues of escape, and to prevent the rulers of the adjoining countries from giving the fugitives asylum. Great was his displeasure when he heard of the flight of the Vaudois of Perouse and Pragela into the adjoining valleys. He directed the French ambassador at Turin to call upon the Duke of Savoy, and require him to prevent their settlement within his dominions. At the same time, he called upon the Duke to take steps to compel the conversion of his people from the pretended reformed faith, and offered the aid of his troops to enforce their submission, "at whatever cost."

The Duke was irritated at the manner in which he was approached. Louis XIV. was treating him as a vassal of France rather than as an independent sovereign. But he felt himself to be weak, and comparatively powerless to resent the insult. So he first temporised, then vacillated, and being again pressed by the French king, he eventually yielded. The amnesty was declared to be at an end, and the Vaudois were ordered forthwith to become members of the Church of Rome. An edict was issued on the 31st of January, 1686, forbidding the exercise by the Vaudois of their religion, abolishing their ancient privileges, and ordering the demolition of all their places of worship. Pastors and schoolmasters who refused to be converted were ordered to quit the country within fifteen days, on pain of death and confiscation of their goods. All refugee Protestants from France were ordered to leave under the same penalty. All children born of Protestant parents were to be compulsorily educated as Roman Catholics. This barbarous measure was merely a repetition by the Duke of Savoy in Piedmont of what his master Louis XIV. had already done in France.

The Vaudois expostulated with their sovereign, but in vain. They petitioned, but there was no reply. They requested the interposition of the Swiss Government as before, but the Duke took no notice of their memorial. The question of resistance was then discussed; but the people were without leaders. Javanel was living in banishment at Geneva—old and worn out, and unable to lead them. Besides, the Vaudois, before taking up arms, wished to exhaust every means of conciliation. Ambassadors next came from Switzerland, who urged them to submit to the clemency of the Duke, and suggested that they should petition him for permission to leave the country! The Vaudois were stupefied by the proposal. They were thus asked, without a contest, to submit to all the ignominy and punishment of defeat, and to terminate their very existence as a people! The ambassadors represented that resistance to the combined armies of Savoy, France, and Spain, without leaders, and with less than three thousand combatants, was little short of madness.

Nevertheless, a number of the Vaudois determined not to leave their valleys without an attempt to hold them, as they had so often successfully done before. The united armies of France and Savoy then advanced upon the valleys, and arrangements were made for a general attack upon the Vaudois position on Easter Monday, 1686, at break of day,—the Duke of Savoy assailing the valley of Luzerna, while Catinat, commander of the French troops, advanced on St. Martin. Catinat made the first attack on the village of St. Germain, and was beaten back with heavy loss after six hours' fighting. Henry Arnaud, the Huguenot pastor from Die in Dauphiny, of which he was a native, particularly distinguished himself by his bravery in this affair, and from that time began to be regarded as one of the most promising of the Vaudois leaders.

Catinat renewed the attack on the following day with the assistance of fresh troops; and he eventually succeeded in overcoming the resistance of the handful of men who opposed him, and sweeping the valley of St. Martin. Men, women, and children were indiscriminately put to the sword. In some of the parishes no resistance was offered, the inhabitants submitting to the Duke's proclamation; but whether they submitted or not, made no difference in their treatment, which was barbarous in all cases.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Savoy's army advanced from the vale of Luzerna upon the celebrated heights of Angrogna, and assailed the Vaudois assembled there at all points. The resistance lasted for an entire day, and when night fell, both forces slept on the ground upon which they had fought, kindling their bivouac fires on both sides. On the following day the attack was renewed, and again the battle raged until night. Then Don Gabriel of Savoy, who was in command, resolved to employ the means which Catinat had found so successful: he sent forward messengers to inform the Vaudois that their brethren of the Val St. Martin had laid down their arms and been pardoned, inviting them to follow their example. The result of further parley was, that on the express promise of his Royal Highness that they should receive pardon, and that neither their persons nor those of their wives or children should be touched, the credulous Vaudois, still hoping for fair treatment, laid down their arms, and permitted the ducal troops to take possession of their entrenchments!

The same treacherous strategy proved equally successful against the defenders of the Pra du Tour. After beating back their assailants and firmly holding their ground for an entire day, they were told of the surrender of their compatriots, promised a full pardon, and assured of life and liberty, on condition of immediately ceasing further hostilities. They accordingly consented to lay down their arms, and the impregnable fastness of the Pra du Tour, which had never been taken by force, thus fell before falsehood and perfidy. "The defenders of this ancient sanctuary of the Church," says Dr. Huston, "were loaded with irons; their children were carried off and scattered through the Roman Catholic districts; their wives and daughters were violated, massacred, or made captives. As for those that still remained, all whom the enemy could seize became a prey devoted to carnage, spoliation, fire, excesses which cannot be told, and outrages which it would be impossible to describe."[108]

[Footnote 108: Huston's "Israel of the Alps," translated by Montgomery; Glasgow, 1857; vol. i. p. 446.]

"All the valleys are now exterminated," wrote a French officer to his friends; "the people are all killed, hanged, or massacred." The Duke, Victor Amadeus, issued a decree, declaring the Vaudois to be guilty of high treason, and confiscating all their property. Arnaud says as many as eleven thousand persons were killed, or perished in prison, or died of want, in consequence of this horrible Easter festival of blood. Six thousand were taken prisoners, and the greater number of these died in gaol of hunger and disease. When the prisons were opened, and the wretched survivors were ordered to quit the country, forbidden to return to it on pain of death, only about two thousand six hundred contrived to struggle across the frontier into Switzerland.

And thus at last the Vaudois Church seemed utterly uprooted and destroyed. What the Dukes of Savoy had so often attempted in vain was now accomplished. A second St. Bartholomew had been achieved, and Rome rang with Te Deums in praise of the final dispersion of the Vaudois. The Pope sent to Victor Amadeus II. a special brief, congratulating him on the extirpation of heresy in his dominions; and Piedmontese and Savoyards, good Catholics, were presented with the lands from which the Vaudois had been driven. Those of them who remained in the country "unconverted" were as so many scattered fugitives in the mountains—sheep wandering about without a shepherd. Some of the Vaudois, for the sake of their families and homes, pretended conversion; but these are admitted to have been comparatively few in number. In short, the "Israel of the Alps" seemed to be no more, and its people utterly and for ever dispersed. Pierre Allix, the Huguenot refugee pastor in England, in his "History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont," dedicated to William III., regarded the Vaudois Church as obliterated—"their present desolation seeming so universal, that the world looks upon them no otherwise than as irrecoverably lost, and finally destroyed."

Three years passed. The expelled Vaudois reached Switzerland in greatly reduced numbers, many women and children having perished on their mountain journey. The inhabitants of Geneva received them with great hospitality, clothing and feeding them until they were able to proceed on their way northward. Some went into Brandenburg, some into Holland, while others settled to various branches of industry in different parts of Switzerland. Many of them, however, experienced great difficulty in obtaining a settlement. Those who had entered the Palatinate were driven thence by war, and those who had entered Wurtemburg were expelled by the Grand Duke, who feared incurring the ire of Louis XIV. by giving them shelter and protection. Hence many little bands of the Vaudois refugees long continued to wander along the valley of the Rhine, unable to find rest for their weary feet. There were others trying to earn, a precarious living in Geneva and Lausanne, and along the shores of Lake Leman. Some of these were men who had fought under Javanel in his heroic combats with the Piedmontese; and they thought with bitter grief of the manner in which they had fallen into the trap of Catinat and the Duke of Savoy, and abandoned their country almost without a struggle.

Then it was that the thought occurred to them whether they might not yet strike a blow for the recovery of their valleys! The idea seemed chimerical in the extreme. A few hundred destitute men, however valiant, to think of recovering a country defended by the combined armies of France and Savoy! Javanel, the old Vaudois hero, disabled by age and wounds, was still alive—an exile at Geneva—and he was consulted on the subject. Javanel embraced the project with, enthusiasm; and the invasion of the valleys was resolved upon! A more daring, and apparently more desperate enterprise, was never planned.

Who was to be their leader? Javanel himself was disabled. Though his mind was clear, and his patriotic ardour unquenched, his body was weak; and all that he could do was to encourage and advise. But he found a noble substitute in Henry Arnaud, the Huguenot refugee, who had already distinguished himself in his resistance to the troops of Savoy. And Arnaud was now ready to offer up his life for the recovery of the valleys.

The enterprise was kept as secret as possible, yet not so close as to prevent the authorities of Berne obtaining some inkling of their intentions. Three confidential messengers were first dispatched to the valleys to ascertain the disposition of the population, and more particularly to examine the best route by which an invasion might be made. On their return with the necessary information, the plan was settled by Javanel, as it was to be carried out by Arnaud. In the meantime, the magistrates of Geneva, having obtained information as to the intended movement, desirous of averting the hostility of France and Savoy, required Javanel to leave their city, and he at once retired to Ouchy, a little farther up the lake.

The greatest difficulty experienced by the Vaudois in carrying out their enterprise was the want of means. They were poor, destitute refugees, without arms, ammunition, or money to buy them. To obtain the requisite means, Arnaud made a journey into Holland, for the purpose of communicating the intended project to William of Orange. William entered cordially into the proposed plan, recommended Arnaud to several Huguenot officers, who afterwards took part in the expedition, supplied him with assistance in money, and encouraged him to carry out the design. Several private persons in Holland—amongst others the post-master-general at Leyden—also largely contributed to the enterprise.

At length all was ready. The men who intended to take part in the expedition came together from various quarters. Some came from Brandenburg, others from Bavaria and distant parts of Switzerland; and among those who joined them was a body of French Huguenots, willing to share in their dangers and their glory. One of their number, Captain Turrel, like Arnaud, a native of Die in Dauphiny, was even elected as the general of the expedition. Their rendez-vous was in the forest of Prangins, near Nyon, on the north bank of the Lake of Geneva; and there, on the night of the 16th of August, 1689, they met in the hollow recesses of the wood. Fifteen boats had been got together, and lay off the shore. After a fervent prayer by the pastor-general Arnaud, imploring a blessing upon the enterprise, as many of the men as could embark got into the boats. As the lake is there at its narrowest, they soon rowed across to the other side, near the town of Yvoire, and disembarked on the shore of Savoy. Arnaud had posted sentinels in all directions, and the little body waited the arrival of the remainder of their comrades from the opposite shore. They had all crossed the lake by two o'clock in the morning; and about eight hundred men, divided into nineteen companies,[109] each provided with its captain, were now ready to march.

[Footnote 109: Of the nineteen companies three were composed of the Vaudois of Angrogna; those of Bobi and St. John furnished two each; and those of La Tour, Villar, Prarustin, Prali, Macel, St. Germain, and Pramol, furnished one each. The remaining six companies were composed of French Huguenot refugees from Dauphiny and Languedoc under their respective officers. Besides these, there were different smaller parties who constituted a volunteer company. The entire force of about eight hundred men was marshalled in three divisions—vanguard, main body, and rearguard—and this arrangement was strictly observed in the order of march.]

At the very commencement, however, they met with a misfortune. One of the pastors, having gone to seek a guide in the village near at hand, was seized as a prisoner by the local authorities, and carried off. On this, the Vaudois, seeing that they were treated as enemies, sent a party to summon Yvoire to open its gates, and it obeyed. The lord of the manor and the receiver of taxes were taken as hostages, and made to accompany the troop until they reached the next commune, when they were set at liberty, and replaced by other hostages.

When it became known that the little army of Vaudois had set out on their march, troops were dispatched from all quarters to intercept them and cut them off; and it was believed that their destruction was inevitable. "What possible chance is there," asked the Historic Mercury of the day, "of this small body of men penetrating to their native country through the masses of French and Piedmontese troops accumulating from all sides, without being crushed and exterminated?" "It is impossible," wrote the Leyden Gazette, "notwithstanding whatever precautions they may take, that the Vaudois can extricate themselves without certain death, and the Court of Savoy may therefore regard itself safe so far as they are concerned."

No sooner had the boats left the shore at Nyon for the further side of the lake than the young seigneur of Prangins, who had been watching their movements, rode off at full speed to inform the French resident at Geneva of the departure of the Vaudois; and orders were at once dispatched to Lyons for a strong body of cavalry to march immediately towards Savoy to cut them off. But the Vaudois had well matured their plans, and took care to keep out of reach of the advancing enemy. Their route at first lay up the valleys towards the mountains, whose crests they followed, from glacier to glacier, in places almost inaccessible to regular troops, and thus they eluded the combined forces of France and Savoy, which, vainly endeavoured to bar their passage.

The first day's march led them into the valley of the Arve, by the Col de Voirons, from which they took their last view of the peaceful Lake of Geneva; thence they proceeded by the pyramidal mountain called the Mole to the little town of Viu, where they rested for two hours, starting again by moonlight, and passing through St. Joire, where the magistrates brought out a great cask of wine, and placed it in the middle of the street for their refreshment. The little army, however, did not halt there, but marched on to the bare hill of Carman, where, after solemn prayer, they encamped about midnight, sleeping on the bare ground. Next day found them in front of the small walled town of Cluse, in the rocky gorge of the Arve. The authorities shut the gates, on which the Vaudois threatened to storm the place, when the gates were opened, and they marched through the town, the inhabitants standing under arms along both sides of the street. Here the Vaudois purchased a store of food and wine, which they duly paid for.

They then proceeded on to Sallanches, where resistance was threatened. They found a body of men posted on the wooden bridge which there separated the village of St. Martin from Sallanches; but rushing forward, the defenders of the bridge fled, and the little army passed over and proceeded to range themselves in order of battle over against the town, which was defended by six hundred troops. The Vaudois having threatened to burn the town, and kill the hostages whom they had taken on the slightest show of resistance, the threat had its effect, and they were permitted to pass without further opposition, encamping for the night at a little village about a league further on. And thus closed the second day's march.

The third day they passed over the mountains of Lez Pras and Haute Luce, seven thousand feet above the sea-level, a long and fatiguing march. At one place the guide lost his way, and rain fell heavily, soaking the men to the skin. They spent a wretched night in some empty stables at the hamlet of St. Nicholas de Verose; and started earlier than usual on the following morning, addressing themselves to the formidable work of climbing the Col Bonhomme, which they passed with the snow up to their knees. They were now upon the crest of the Alps, looking down upon the valley of the Isere, into which they next descended. They traversed the valley without resistance, passing through St. Germain and Scez, turning aside at the last-mentioned place up the valley of Tignes, thereby avoiding the French troops lying in wait for them in the neighbourhood of Moutiers, lower down the valley of the Isere. Later in the evening they reached Laval, at the foot of Mont Iseran; and here Arnaud, for the first time during eight days, snatched a few hours' sleep on a bed in the village.

The sixth day saw the little army climbing the steep slopes of Mont Iseran, where the shepherds gave them milk and wished them God-speed; but they warned them that a body of troops lay in their way at Mont Cenis. On they went—over the mountain, and along the crest of the chain, until they saw Bonneval in the valley beneath them, and there they descended, passing on to Bessant in the valley of the Arc, where they encamped for the night.

Next day they marched on Mont Cenis, which they ascended. As they were crossing the mountain a strange incident occurred. The Vaudois saw before them a large convoy of mules loaded with baggage. And shortly after there came up the carriage and equipage of some grand personage. It proved to be Cardinal Ranuzzi, on his way to Rome to take part in the election of Pope Alexander VIII. The Vaudois seized the mules carrying the baggage, which contained important documents compromising Louis XIV. with Victor Amadeus; and it is said that in consequence of their loss, the Cardinal, who himself aspired to the tiara, afterwards died of chagrin, crying in his last moments, "My papers! oh, my papers!"

The passage of the Great and Little Cenis was effected with great difficulty. The snow lay thick on the ground, though it was the month of August, and the travellers descended the mountain of Tourliers by a precipice rather than a road. When night fell, they were still scattered on the mountain, and lay down to snatch a brief sleep, overcome with hunger and fatigue. Next morning they gathered together again, and descended into the sterile valley of the Gaillon, and shortly after proceeded to ascend the mountain opposite.

They were now close upon the large towns. Susa lay a little to the east, and Exilles was directly in their way. The garrison of the latter place came out to meet them, and from the crest of the mountain rolled large stones and flung grenades down upon the invaders. Here the Vaudois lost some men and prisoners, and finding the further ascent impracticable, they retreated into the valley from which they had come, and again ascended the steep slope of Tourliers in order to turn the heights on which the French troops were posted. At last, after great fatigue and peril, unable to proceed further, they gained the crest of the mountain, and sounded their clarions to summon the scattered body.

After a halt of two hours they proceeded along the ridge, and perceived through the mist a body of soldiers marching along with drums beating; it was the garrison of Exilles. The Vaudois were recognised and followed by the soldiers at a distance. Proceeding a little further, they came in sight of the long valley of the Doire, and looking down into it, not far from the bridge of Salabertrans, they discerned some thirty-six bivouac fires burning on the plain, indicating the presence of a large force. These were their enemies—a well-appointed army of some two thousand five hundred men—whom they were at last to meet in battle. Nothing discouraged, they descended into the valley, and the advanced guard shortly came in contact with the enemy's outposts. Firing between them went on for an hour and a half, and then night fell.

The Vaudois leaders held a council to determine what they should do; and the result was, that an immediate attack was resolved upon, in three bodies. The principal attack was made on the bridge, the passage of which was defended by a strong body of French soldiers, under the command of Colonel de Larrey. On the advance of the Vaudois in the darkness, they were summoned to stand, but continued to advance, when the enemy fired a volley on them, killing three men. Then the Vaudois brigade rushed to the bridge, but seeing a strong body on the other side preparing to fire again, Arnaud called upon his men to lie down, and the volley went over their heads. Then Turrel, the Vaudois captain, calling out "Forward! the bridge is won!" the Vaudois jumped to their feet and rushed on. The two wings at the same time concentrated their fire on the defenders, who broke and retired, and the bridge was won. But at the further side, where the French were in overpowering numbers, they refused to give way, and poured down their fire on their assailants. The Vaudois boldly pressed on. They burst through the French, force, cutting it in two; and fresh men pouring over, the battle was soon won. The French, commander was especially chagrined at having been beaten by a parcel of cowherds. "Is it possible," he exclaimed, "that I have lost both the battle and my honour?"

The rising moon showed the ground strewed with about seven hundred dead; the Vaudois having lost only twenty-two killed and eight wounded. The victors filled their pouches with ammunition picked up on the field, took possession of as many arms and as much provisions as they could carry, and placing the remainder in a heap over some barrels of powder, they affixed a lighted match and withdrew. A tremendous explosion shook the mountains, and echoed along the valley, and the remains of the French camp were blown to atoms. The Vaudois then proceeded at once to climb the mountain of Sci, which had to be crossed in order to enter the valley of Pragelas.

It was early on a Sabbath morning, the ninth day of their march, that the Vaudois reached the crest of the mountain overlooking Fenestrelles, and saw spread out before them the beloved country which they had come to win. They halted for the stragglers, and when these had come up, Arnaud made them kneel down and thank God for permitting them again to see their native land; himself offering up an eloquent prayer, which cheered and strengthened them for further effort. And then they descended into the valley of Pragelas, passing the river Clusone, and halting to rest at the little village of La Traverse. They were now close to the Vaudois strongholds, and in a country every foot of which was familiar to most of them. But their danger was by no means over; for the valleys were swarming with dragoons and foot-soldiers; and when they had shaken off those of France, they had still to encounter the troops of Savoy.

Late in the afternoon the little army again set out for the valley of St. Martin, passing the night in the mountain hamlet of Jussand, the highest on the Col du Pis. Next day they descended the Col near Seras, and first came in contact with the troops of Savoy; but these having taken to flight, no collision occurred; and on the following day the Vaudois arrived, without further molestation, at the famous Balsille.

This celebrated stronghold is situated in front of the narrow defile of Macel, which leads into the valley of St. Martin. It is a rampart of rock, standing at the entrance to the pass, and is of such natural strength, that but little art was needed to make it secure against any force that could be brought against it. There is only one approach to it from the valley of St. Martin, which is very difficult; a portion of the way being in a deep wooded gorge, where a few men could easily arrest the progress of an army. The rock itself consists of three natural stages or terraces, the highest part rising steep as a wall, being surmounted by a natural platform. The mountain was well supplied with water, which gushed forth in several places. Caverns had been hollowed out in the sides of the rocks, which served as hiding-places during the persecutions which so often ravaged the valleys; and these were now available for storehouses and barracks.

The place was, indeed, so intimately identified with the past sufferings and triumphs of the Vaudois, and it was, besides, so centrally situated, and so secure, that they came to regard its possession as essential to the success of their enterprise. The aged Javanel, who drew up the plan of the invasion before the eight hundred set out on their march, attached the greatest importance to its early occupation. "Spare no labour nor pains," he said, in the memorandum of directions which he drew up, "in fortifying this post, which will be your most secure fortress. Do not quit it unless in the utmost extremity.... You will, of course, be told that you cannot hold it always, and that rather than not succeed in their object, all France and Italy will gather together against you.... But were it the whole world, and only yourselves against all, fear ye the Almighty alone, who is your protection."

On the arrival of the Vaudois at the Balsille, they discerned a small body of troops advancing towards them by the Col du Pis, higher up the valley. They proved to be Piedmontese, forty-six in number, sent to occupy the pass. They were surrounded, disarmed, and put to death, and their arms were hid away amongst the rocks. No quarter was given on either side during this war; the Vaudois had no prisons in which to place their captives; and they themselves, when taken, were treated not as soldiers, but as bandits, being instantly hung on the nearest trees. The Vaudois did not, however, yet take up their permanent position at the Balsille, being desirous of rousing the valleys towards the south. The day following, accordingly, they marched to Pralis, in the valley of the Germanasca, when, for the first time since their exile, they celebrated Divine worship in one of the temples of their ancestors.

They were now on their way towards the valley of the Pelice, to reach which it was necessary that they should pass over the Col Julian. An army of three thousand Piedmontese barred their way, but nothing daunted by the great disparity of force, the Vaudois, divided into three bodies, as at Salabertrans, mounted to the assault. As they advanced, the Piedmontese cried, "Come on, ye devil's Barbets, there are more than three thousand of us, and we occupy all the posts!" In less than half an hour the whole of the posts were carried, the pass was cleared, and the Piedmontese fled down the further side of the mountain, leaving all their stores behind them. On the following day the Vaudois reached Bobi, drove out the new settlers, and resumed possession of the lands of the commune. Thus, after the lapse of only fourteen days, this little band of heroes had marched from the shores of the Lake of Geneva, by difficult mountain-passes, through bands of hostile troops, which they had defeated in two severe fights, and at length reached the very centre of the Vaudois valleys, and entered into possession of the "Promised Land."

They resolved to celebrate their return to the country of their fathers by an act of solemn worship on the Sabbath following. The whole body assembled on the hill of Silaoud, commanding an extensive prospect of the valley, and with their arms piled, and resting under the shade of the chestnut-trees which crown the hill, they listened to an eloquent sermon from the pastor Montoux, who preached to them standing on a platform, consisting of a door resting upon two rocks, after which they chanted the 74th Psalm, to the clash of arms. They then proceeded to enter into a solemn covenant with each other, renewing the ancient oath of union of the valleys, and swearing never to rest from their enterprise, even if they should be reduced to only three or four in number, until they had "re-established in the valleys the kingdom of the Gospel." Shortly after, they proceeded to divide themselves into two bodies, for the purpose of occupying simultaneously, as recommended by Javanel, the two valleys of the Pelice and St. Martin.

But the trials and sufferings they had already endured were as nothing compared with those they were now about to experience. Armies concentrated on them from all points. They were pressed by the French on the north and west, and by the Piedmontese on the south and east. Encouraged by their success at Bobi, the Vaudois rashly attacked Villar, lower down the valley, and were repulsed with loss. From thence they retired up the valley of Rora, and laid it waste; the enemy, in like manner, destroying the town of Bobi and laying waste the neighbourhood.

The war now became one of reprisals and mutual devastation, the two parties seeking to deprive each other of shelter and the means of subsistence. The Vaudois could only obtain food by capturing the enemy's convoys, levying contributions from the plains, and making incursions into Dauphiny. The enterprise on which they had entered seemed to become more hopeless from day to day. This handful of men, half famished and clothed in rags, had now arrayed against them twenty-two thousand French and Sardinians, provided with all the munitions of war. That they should have been able to stand against them for two whole months, now fighting in one place, and perhaps the next day some twenty miles across the mountains in another, with almost invariable success, seems little short of a miracle. But flesh and blood could not endure such toil and privations much longer. No wonder that the faint-hearted began to despair. Turrel, the military commander, seeing no chance of a prosperous issue, withdrew across the French frontier, followed by the greater number of the Vaudois from Dauphiny;[110] and there remained only the Italian Vaudois, still unconquered in spirit, under the leadership of their pastor-general Arnaud, who never appeared greater than in times of difficulty and danger.

[Footnote 110: The greater number of them, including Turrel, were taken prisoners and shot, or sent to the galleys, where they died. This last was the fate of Turrel.]

With his diminished forces, and the increasing numbers of the enemy, Arnaud found it impossible to hold both the valleys, as intended; besides, winter was approaching, and the men must think of shelter and provisions during that season, if resistance was to be prolonged. It was accordingly determined to concentrate their little force upon the Balsille, and all haste was made to reach that stronghold without further delay. Their knowledge of the mountain heights and passes enabled them to evade their enemies, who were watching for them along the valleys, and they passed from the heights of Rodoret to the summit of the Balsille by night, before it was known that they were in the neighbourhood. They immediately set to work to throw up entrenchments and erect barricades, so as to render the place as secure as possible. Foraging parties were sent out for provisions, to lay in for the winter, and they returned laden with corn from the valley of Pragelas. At the little hamlet of Balsille they repaired the mill, and set it a-going, the rivulet which flowed down from the mountain supplying abundance of water-power.

It was at the end of October that the little band of heroes took possession of the Balsille, and they held it firmly all through the winter. For more than six months they beat back every force that was sent against them. The first attack was made by the Marquis d'Ombrailles at the head of a French detachment; but though the enemy reached the village of Balsille, they were compelled to retire, partly by the bullets of the defenders, and partly by the snow, which was falling heavily. The Marquis de Parelles next advanced, and summoned the Vaudois to surrender; but in vain. "Our storms are still louder than your cannon," replied Arnaud, "and yet our rocks are not shaken." Winter having set in, the besiegers refrained for a time from further attacks, but strictly guarded all the passes leading to the fortress; while the garrison, availing themselves of their knowledge of the locality, made frequent sorties into the adjoining valleys, as well as into those of Dauphiny, for the purpose of collecting provisions, in which they were usually successful.

When the fine weather arrived, suitable for a mountain campaign, the French general, Catinat, assembled a strong force, and marched into the valley, determined to make short work of this little nest of bandits on the Balsille. On Sunday morning, the 30th of April, 1690, while Arnaud was preaching to his flock, the sentinels on the look-out discovered the enemy's forces swarming up the valley. Soon other bodies were seen approaching by the Col du Pis and the Col du Clapier, while a French regiment, supported by the Savoyard militia, climbed Mont Guinevert, and cut off all retreat in that quarter. In short, the Balsille was completely invested.

A general assault was made on the position on the 2nd of May, under the direction of General Catinat in person. Three French regiments, supported by a regiment of dragoons, opened the attack in front; Colonel de Parat, who commanded the leading regiment, saying to his soldiers as they advanced, "My friends, we must sleep to-night in that barrack," pointing to the rude Vaudois fort on the summit of the Balsille. They advanced with great bravery; but the barricade could not be surmounted, while they were assailed by a perfect storm of bullets from the defenders, securely posted above.

Catinat next ordered the troops stationed on the Guinevert to advance from that direction, so as to carry the position from behind. But the assailants found unexpected intrenchments in their way, from behind which the Vaudois maintained a heavy fire, that eventually drove them back, their retreat being accelerated by a shower of stones and a blinding fall of snow and hail. In the meantime, the attack on the bastion in front continued, and the Vaudois, seeing the French troops falling back in disorder, made a vigorous sortie, and destroyed the whole remaining force, excepting fifteen men, who fled, bare-headed and without arms, and carried to the camp the news of their total defeat.

A Savoyard officer thus briefly described the issue of the disastrous affair in a letter to a friend: "I have only time to tell you that the French have failed in their attack on the Balsille, and they have been obliged to retire after having lost one hundred and fifty soldiers, three captains, besides subalterns and wounded, including a colonel and a lieutenant-colonel who have been made prisoners, with the two sergeants who remained behind to help them. The lieutenant-colonel was surprised at finding in the fort some nineteen or twenty officers in gold and silver lace, who treated him as a prisoner of war and very humanely, even allowing him to go in search of the surgeon-major of his regiment for the purpose of bringing him into the place, and doing all that was necessary."

Catinat did not choose again to renew the attack in person, or to endanger his reputation by a further defeat at the hands of men whom he had described as a nest of paltry bandits, but entrusted the direction of further operations to the Marquis de Feuquieres, who had his laurels still to win, while Catinat had his to lose. The Balsille was again completely invested by the 12th of May, according to the scheme of operations prepared by Catinat, and the Marquis received by anticipation the title of "Conqueror of the Barbets." The entire mountain was surrounded, all the passes were strongly guarded, guns were planted in positions which commanded the Vaudois fort, more particularly on the Guinevert; and the capture or extermination of the Vaudois was now regarded as a matter of certainty. The attacking army was divided into five corps. Each soldier was accompanied by a pioneer carrying a fascine, in order to form a cover against the Vaudois bullets as they advanced.

Several days elapsed before all the preliminaries for the grand attack were completed, and then the Marquis ordered a white flag to be hoisted, and a messenger was sent forward, inviting a parley with the defenders of the Balsille. The envoy was asked what he wanted. "Your immediate surrender!" was the reply. "You shall each of you receive five hundred louis d'or, and good passports for your retirement to a foreign country; but if you resist, you will be infallibly destroyed." "That is as the Lord shall will," replied the Vaudois messenger.

The defenders refused to capitulate on any terms. The Marquis himself then wrote to the Vaudois, offering them terms on the above basis, but threatening, in case of refusal, that every man of them would be hung. Arnaud's reply was heroic. "We are not subjects," he said, "of the King of France; and that monarch not being master of this country, we can enter into no treaty with his servants. We are in the heritage which our fathers have left to us, and we hope, with the help of the God of armies, to live and die in it, even though there may remain only ten of us to defend it." That same night the Vaudois made a vigorous sortie, and killed a number of the besiegers: this was their final answer to the summons to surrender.

On the 14th of May the battery on Mont Guinevert was opened, and the enemy's cannon began to play upon the little fort and bastions, which, being only of dry stones, were soon dismantled. The assault was then made simultaneously on three sides; and after a stout resistance, the Vaudois retired from their lower intrenchments, and retreated to those on the higher ledges of the mountain. They continued their resistance until night, and then, taking counsel together, and feeling that the place was no longer defensible in the face of so overpowering a force, commanded, as it was, at the same time by the cannon on the adjoining heights, they determined to evacuate the Balsille, after holding it for a period of nearly seven months.

A thick mist having risen up from the valley, the Vaudois set out, late at night, under the guidance of Captain Poulat, a native of the district, who well knew the paths in the mountains. They climbed up on to the heights above, over icy slopes, passing across gaping crevices and along almost perpendicular rocks, admitting of their passage only in single file, sometimes dragging themselves along on their bellies, clinging to the rocks or to the tufts of grass, occasionally resting and praying, but never despairing. At length they succeeded, after a long detour of the mountain crests, in gaining the northern slope of Guinevert. Here they came upon and surprised the enemy's outpost, which fled towards the main body; and the Vaudois passed on, panting and half dead with fatigue. When the morning broke, and the French proceeded to penetrate the last redoubt on the Balsille, lo, it was empty! The defenders had abandoned it, and they could scarcely believe their eyes when they saw the dangerous mountain escarpment by which they had escaped in the night. Looking across the valley, far off, they saw the fugitives, thrown into relief by the snow amidst which they marched, like a line of ants, apparently making for the mass of the central Alps.

For three days they wandered from place to place, gradually moving southwards, their object now being to take up their position at the Pra du Tour, the ancient fortress of the Barbas in the valley of Angrogna. Before, however, they could reach this stronghold, and while they were still at Pramol in the valley of Perosa, news of the most unexpected kind reached them, which opened up the prospect of their deliverance. The news was no other than this—Savoy had declared war against France!

A rupture between the two powers had for some time been imminent. Louis XIV. had become more and more exacting in his demands on the Duke of Savoy, until the latter felt himself in a position of oppressive vassalage. Louis had even intimated his intention of occupying Verrua and the citadel of Turin; and the Duke, having previously ascertained through his cousin, Prince Eugene, the willingness of the Emperor of Austria, pressed by William of Orange, to assist him in opposing the pretensions of France, he at length took up his stand and declared war against Louis.

The Vaudois were now a power in the state, and both parties alike appealed to them for help, promising them great favours. But the Vaudois, notwithstanding the treachery and cruelty of successive Dukes of Savoy, were true to their native prince. They pledged themselves to hold the valleys and defend the mountain passes against France.

In the first engagements which took place between the French and the Piedmontese, the latter were overpowered, and the Duke became a fugitive. Where did he find refuge? In the valleys of the Vaudois, in a secluded spot in the village of Rora, behind the Pelice, he found a safe asylum amidst the people whose fathers he had hunted, proscribed, and condemned to death.

But the tide of war turned, and the French were eventually driven out of Piedmont. Many of the Vaudois, who had settled in Brandenburg, Holland, and Switzerland, returned and settled in the valleys; and though the Dukes of Savoy, with their accustomed treachery, more than once allowed persecution to recommence, their descendants continue to enjoy the land, and to worship after the manner of their fathers down to the present day.

The Vaudois long laboured under disabilities, and continued to be deprived of many social and civil rights. But they patiently bided their time; and the time at length arrived. In 1848 their emancipation was one of the great questions of North Italy. It was taken up and advocated by the most advanced minds of Piedmont. The petition to Charles Albert in their favour was in a few days covered with the names of its greatest patriots, including those of Balbo, Cavour, and D'Azeglio. Their emancipation was at length granted, and the Vaudois now enjoy the same rights and liberties as the other subjects of Victor Emanuel.

Nor is the Vaudois Church any longer confined to the valleys, but it has become extended of late years all over Italy—to Milan, Florence, Brescia, Verona, Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, Palermo, Cataneo, Venice, and even to Rome itself. In most of these places there are day-schools and Sunday-schools, besides churches. The new church at Venice, held in the Cavagnis palace, seems to have proved especially successful, the Sunday services being regularly attended by from three to four hundred persons; while the day-schools in connection with the churches at Turin, Leghorn, Naples, and Cataneo have proved very successful.

Thus, in the course of a few years, thirty-three Vaudois churches and stations, with about an equal number of schools, have been established in various parts of Italy. The missionaries report that the greatest difficulties they have to encounter arise from the incredulity and indifference which are the natural heritage of the Romish Church; but that, nevertheless, the work makes satisfactory progress—the good seed is being planted, and will yet bring forth its increase in God's due time.

Finally, it cannot but be acknowledged that the people of the valleys, in so tenaciously and conscientiously adhering to their faith, through good and through evil, during so many hundred years, have set a glorious example to Piedmont, and have possibly been in no small degree instrumental in establishing the reign of right and of liberty in Italy.


Aiguesmortes, Huguenot prison at, 193, 273, 300. Albigenses, 75. Anabaptists of Munster, 282-3. Anduze, visit to, 125. Angrogna, valley of, 481; fighting in, 481-86, 498. Arnaud, Henry, 215, 512; leads back the Vaudois, 503-15; defends the Balsille, 515-19. Athlone, siege of, 349-50, 355-8.

Balsille, the, 510; defence of, 515-19; given up, 519. Baridon, Etienne, 442-3. Barillon, M. de, 323, 330-1. Baville on the Protestants of Languedoc, 77, 86; occupies the Cevennes, 87; at Pont-de-Montvert, 92. Beauval, Basnage de, 364. Beauvau, Prince de, 273-4. Beckwith, General, 478. Berwick, Duke of, 310-11, 333, 351. Bibles, destruction and scarcity of, 215-16. Boileau, General, 351-2. Bonnafoux repulsed by Camisards, 142. Book-burning, 215, 235-6. Bordeille, Raphael, 318. Bourg d'Oisans, 409-10. Boyne, battle of the, 341-7. Briancon, 414-16. Briset, Lieut., death of, 335. Broglie, Count, 143-4, 148; superseded, 149. Brousson, Claude, 30; advocate for Protestant church at Nismes, 31; meeting in house of, 34; petition by, 35; escape from Nismes, 42; at Lausanne, 43, 46; at Berlin, 44; in the Cevennes, 50-2, 54; reward offered for, 56; at Nismes, 57; preaching of, 58-9; to Lausanne, England, and Holland, 61-2; at Sedan, 64; through France, 66-7; portraiture of, 68 (note); to Nismes again, 69; taken, tried, and executed, 70-3. Browne, Col. Lyde, 380. Brueys on fanaticism in Languedoc, 91. Bull of Clement XI. against Camisards, 160.

Caillemotte, Col., 339; death of, 345, 348. Calas, Jean, 257; executed, 258; case taken up by Voltaire, 259-62; reversal of judgment on, 262-3. Calvinism and race, 100 (note). Calvinists, French and Scotch, compared, 100. Cambon, Col., 357. Camisards, the origin of name, 107; led by Laporte, 109; organization of, 112-13; encounter troops, 113-14, 117; war-song of, 115; organized by Roland, 123-4; successes of, 134-40, 142, 146-50; spread of insurrection of, 138-9; measures against, 139, 146-7; defeat of, at Vagnas, 150; defeat of, near Pompignan, 152; success of, at Martinargues, 162-4; bull against, 160; success at Salindres, 164-5; defeated near Nismes, 168-9; reverses of, 170-1; success at Font-morte, 176-7; defeated at Pont-de-Montvert, and end of insurrection, 187-9. Camisards, White, 160-1. Carrickfergus, siege of, 335. Castanet, Andre, 111, 113, 118, 123, 189. Cavalier, John, joins insurgents, 108, 111; family of, 121; to Geneva, 121; to the Cevennes, 122; portrait of, 124; in Lower Languedoc, 133; defeats Royalists, 134-5; takes Chateau Servas, 136-7; repulses Bonnafoux, 142; at Nismes, 144-5; successes of, 148; winter campaign, 148-9; at Vagnas, 150-1, 153; betrayed at Tower of Belliot, 156-8; at Martinargues, 162-4; at Rosni, 169; his cave magazines, 170-1; his interview with Lalande, 173-6; attempts peace, 177; his interviews with Villars, 177-83; deserted by followers, 183-5; to England, and subsequent career, 186. Caves in the Cevennes, 125, 127-9; at La Tour, 477. Cazenove, Raoul de, 321, 367. Cevennes, the, persecutions in, 39, 52-3, 85; secret meetings in, 54, 84-8; executions in, 59, 67-8; description of, 79-82; arming of the people, 85-6; occupied by troops, 88; prophetic mania in, 88; encounter at Pont-de-Montvert, 92; outbreak against Du Chayla, 96-7; map of, 98; Protestants of, compared with Covenanters, 100-1; organization in, 123-5; caves in, 125, 127-9; visit to, 125-9; present inhabitants of, 129, 131-2; devastation of, 154-5. Champ Domergue, battle at, 114. Charlemont, capture of, 339. Chateau Queyras, 467. Chaumont, 271. Chayla, Du, 93-4, 97. Chenevix, 15 (note). Choiseul, Duc de, 268. Claris, 237. Colognac, execution of, 59. Comiers, 407. Conderc, Salomon, 119, 123. "Conversions," rapid, 289. Converts, 19-23, 38-9. Cook, Captain, last voyage round the world, 371; cruel death, 371. Court profligacy, 275 (note). Court, Antoine, 206-17; organizes school for preachers, 224; marriage of, 231; retires to Switzerland, 232; results of his work, 233-4; in Languedoc, 239. Covenanters compared with Protestants of the Cevennes, 100-2. Cromwell, 391-2, 476.

D'Aguesseau's opinion of Protestants of Languedoc, 76-7. Dauphiny, map of, 382; aspect of, 383-4. Delada, Mdlle. de, 295. Denbeck, Abbe of, 322-3. Denese, Rotolf de la, 364. Desert, assemblies in the, 83-8, 218-23. Desparves, M., 297. Dormilhouse, 438, 443-54. Dortial, 238. Douglas, Lieut.-General, 349-51, 355. Dragonnades, 36-7, 42, 54-5, 288; horrors of, 291. Drogheda, surrender of, 349. Dumas, death of, 52. Dundalk, Schomberg's army at, 337-8. Durand, Pierre, 236.

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