Infernal columns

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Infernal columns
Part of the War in the Vendée
Date 21 January – May 1794
Location Military Vendée
Result Indecisive
France Republicans Kingdom of France Vendéens
Commanders and leaders
Louis Marie Turreau
Nicolas Haxo
François de Charette
Henri de La Rochejaquelein
Nicolas Stofflet
Bernard de Marigny
Sapinaud de La Rairie
65,000 men
Casualties and losses
20,000 to 40,000 dead

The infernal columns (Fr., "colonnes infernales") were operations led by the French revolutionary general Louis Marie Turreau in the War in the Vendee, after the setback of the virée de Galerne. Following the passage on 1 August 1793 and 1 October 1793 by the National Convention of laws aimed at exterminating the local population in the area south of the Loire River, (the so-called Vendée), 12 army columns were set up and sent through the Vendée to exterminate the local royalist population: men, women and children. It has been estimated that from 16 000 to 40 000 inhabitants were killed during the first quarter of 1794.

The employment and actions of these "infernal columns" continues to be a subject of heated debate, both in France and abroad. French historian Reynald Secher has gone so far as to characterise their operations as a "Franco-French genocide," while Claude Langlois of the Institute of History of the French Revolution has derided Secher's claims as "quasi-mythological." The debate has become highly politicized.

Other uses

The term 'infernal column' has also been used for a similar movement in the Voulet-Chanoine Mission.