Nothing could be more complete than the success of the Vendeans, not only in the town of Laval, but also outside the gate; nor could any error be more fatal than that committed by the republican General, Lechelle. Previous to this day he had never been worsted since he had been sent from Paris with orders to exterminate the Vendeans; he had driven them from Chatillon, their own chosen position in the centre of their own territory across the Loire; and he had rashly conceived that he had only to show himself before Laval again, to scare them from their resting-place, and scatter them farther from their own homes. He had marched his army up to Laval early on the morning of the fight; and his best men, the redoubtable Mayencais, indignant at the treatment which a few of their brethren had received from Denot’s followers on the previous day, marched boldly into the town, conceiving that they had only to show themselves to take possession of it. The result has been told. One half of these veteran troops fell in the streets of Laval—many of the remainder were taken alive; a few only escaped to consummate their disgrace by flying towards Antrames at their quickest speed, spreading panic among the republican troops who had not yet come up close to the town.
The news of defeat soon communicated itself; and the whole army, before long, was flying to Antrames. The unfortunate Lechelle himself had been one of the first to leave the town, and had made no attempt to stop his men until he had entered Antrames. Nor did he long remain there: as the straggling fugitives came up, they told how close and fast upon their track the victorious brigands were coming; and that the conduct of the peasants now was not what it had been when the war commenced, when they were fighting in their own country, and near their own homes. Then they had spared the conquered, then they had shed no blood, except in the heat of battle; now they spared none; they had learnt a bloody lesson from their enemies, and massacred, without pity, the wretches who fell into their hands. Antrames was not a place of any strength; it could not be defended against the Vendeans; and Lechelle had hardly drawn his breath in the town, before he again left it, on the road to Chateau-Gonthier.
Henri and Denot were among the first of the pursuers; indeed, of so desultory a nature was the battle, that the contest was still continued near the gate of the town, while they were far on their road towards Antrames. They passed almost in a gallop through that place, and did not stop until they found themselves, towards evening, close to the bridge, leading into Chateau-Gonthier. Here they perceived that Lechelle had made some little attempt to defend his position. He had drawn out two cannons to the head of the bridge; had stayed the course of a few fugitives, with whom he attempted to defend the entrance into the town; and had again taken upon himself the duties of a General.