No rest was allowed to the Vendean chiefs after reaching Chatillon from Durbelliere. The rapid advance of the republican troops made them think it expedient to try the chance of battle with them at once. They had consequently led out their patriot bands as far as Cholet, and had there, after a murderous conflict, been grievously worsted. No men could have fought better than did the Vendean peasants, for now they had joined some degree of discipline and method to their accustomed valour; but the number of their enemies was too great for them, and they consisted of the best soldiers of whom France could boast. The Vendeans, moreover, could not choose their own battle-field. They could not fight as they had been accustomed to do, from behind hedges, and with every advantage of locality on their side. They had thrown themselves on the veteran troops, who had signalized themselves at Valmy and Mayence, with a courage that amounted to desperation, but which, as it had not purchased victory, exposed them to fearful carnage. D’Elbe, who acted as Commander-in-Chief, fell early in the day. Bonchamps, whose military skill was superior to that of any of the Vendeans; was mortally wounded, and before the battle was lost, de Lescure—the brave de Lescure, whom they all so loved, so nearly worshipped—was struck down and carried from the field.
There was an immense degree of superstition mixed up with the religious fervour of the singular people who were now fighting for their liberty; and many of them sincerely believed that de Lescure was invulnerable, and that they were secure from any fatal reverse as long as he was with them. This faith was now destroyed; and when the rumour spread along their lines that he had been killed, they threw down their arms, and refused to return to the charge. It was in vain that Henri Larochejaquelin and the young Chevalier tried to encourage them; that they assured them that de Lescure was still living, and exposed their own persons in the thickest of the enemy’s fire. It was soon too evident that the battle was lost, and that all that valour and skill could do, was to change the flight into a retreat.