Cathelineau’s men soon followed, as did also Cathelineau himself; the last man who leapt into the trenches was de Lescure; but he also got safely through them—not above twenty-five or thirty of those who had forced their way into the camp, fell; but above three hundred of those who had only attempted it, were left dead or wounded in the trenches. And now the retreat commenced, and Cathelineau found it impossible to accomplish it with anything like order; the three leaders endeavoured to make the men conceive that they had been entirely successful in all which it had been thought desirable to accomplish, but they had seen too much bloodshed to be deceived—they were completely dismayed and disheartened, and returned back towards Montreuil, almost quicker than they had come.
The men had brought ‘Marie Jeanne’ with them; but in the species of attack which they had made, the cannon was not of the slightest use; it had not been once discharged. A great effort was now made to take it back with them, but the attempt was unsuccessful: they had not dragged it above five hundred yards, when they heard that the republicans were following them; and then, as every man was obliged to think of himself, poor ‘Marie Jeanne’ was left to her fate.
It was soon evident to Cathelineau and de Lescure, that they were pursued; but the night was dark, and they calculated that M. d’Elbee’s men would be drawn up at the waggons; it was more than probable that they would then be able, not only to stop the pursuit, but to avenge themselves on their pursuers. What then was their surprise on reaching the waggons, to find them utterly deserted—there was not a single man with them.
This was a great aggravation to the misery of their predicament. They had no resource but to fly on to Montreuil, which was still above two leagues distant from them; and should the republican troops persevere in the pursuit, their loss upon the road would be terrific. The darkness was their only friend, and on they went towards Montreuil.
The republican soldiers were stopped by the waggons and cannons; it was then as dark as a night in June ever is; it was well known also that the Republic had no friends in Montreull; the troops had been driven from the place by M. de Lescure, on his road to Doue, and the royalists would be able to make a very strong stand in the streets of the town; the pursuit was, therefore, given up, and the blues returned to the camp at Varin, with all the artillery and the baggage belonging to the royalists.
M. d’Elbee remained all the while in his position by the river; he heard the firing—he also heard the confused noise of the retreat, but he felt that it was impossible for him, at that hour of night, to take any steps without knowing what had been done, or what he had better do: at about four in the morning, he learnt exactly what had occurred, and then he rejoined Cathelineau at Montreuil.