The history of the first camisards
Our view on this war
Any event can be perceived and reported in several ways. This truism applies to any event or series of events. To the benefit of this plurality of possible looks and perceptions, we expect to recognize two significant times in the Camisard War.
A first stage, of short life, took place exclusively in the Upper Cévennes, in the Bougès Massif. These events only cover a few days. They take place in a restricted area. Nevertheless, these skirmishes, symbolically and emblematically, will take up a place disproportionate to the facts themselves. Memory is often capricious or unfair, whether collective or individual.
The second stage of the Camisard War will be much more important in life (2 years), number of combatants and importance of fighting. However, it will mark the memory less than the beginning of the revolt: the case known as the Pont de Montvert affair. We therefore decided to distinguish these two stages in the Camisard War and to mainly devote ourselves to the former.
This choice has a double purpose. First, we do not want to tell or to embrace everything. We have no intention of encyclopedism. In fact, we want to limit us to the beginning of this war, which is of interest for our local history, by elsewhere the most emblematic time of the conflict. This is where the first events of what will become a war will unfold and it is here that the camisard leaders appear.
Everything started on and around the Bougès
Thirty years passed between the start of active persecution against the Protestants and the outbreak of the Camisard War: years of humiliation, of suffering and persecution.
We are in 1702. The straw that broke the camel this is the prisoners held and questioned by the abbot of Chayla in Pont de Monvert, pending their further destinations: probable execution of their guide Peter Massip, prison and galley to others.
On July 22, at the fair of Magdelaine in Barre des Cevennes where people meet, a strong current of discontent manifests itself against the abbot of Chayla.
The same evening, an illegal meeting is held somewhere between Le Bosc and St Julien d’Arpaon.
One talks about the prisoners, but nothing is decided.
On the same night a small group, the main protagonists of these events, meets in Vieljouves (above Le Rouve). There, Abraham Mazel receives inspiration from God. He says: "The Spirit came upon me in a way so terrible that it caused unrest throughout my body, carrying fear and terror in those who were watching me." God then prescribed to gather the brothers and go free the prisoners at the Pont de Montvert. It should be noted that, with rare exceptions, the camisards act only upon a divine revelation.
Sunday 23 July will be used to mobilize those who will release prisoners.
On July 24, they meet on top of the Bougès in a place said "les treis Faus" or three beeches. They are with some fifty guns, axes and scythes.
The same evening, about ten o'clock, they enter the Pont de Montvert singing a psalm. They demand the release of prisoners. This is their only claim. Not getting it, they liberate the prisoners by force. Then the abbot of Chayla will find death. The Camisard War begins.
Note the three moments of this epic :
At Vieljouves, above Le Rouve, on the occasion of a small congregation, Abraham Mazel receives from God the order to free the prisoners held at the Pont de Montvert.
In the Trois Fayards on top of the Bougès, is the appointment of those having mission of liberating the prisoners.
The inaugural event of the War takes place at the Pont de Montvert.
The three places that inaugurated the Camisard War are on the Bougès or at its feet (Pont de Montvert).
The first Camisards are all from the Bougès
The first six camisard leaders, certainly not the most prestigious, but the first are from the Bougès.
Abraham Mazel, most noted of this period, is from Falguières near St Jean du Gard. His birthplace is now a research center devoted to the resistance and to victims of the modern world. But his mother comes from around Grizac on the north side of the Bougès.
The Couderc are from Vieljouves and La Roche, two hamlets above Le Rouve. These are Solomon, his brother David, preacher, arrested and imprisoned by the abbot of Chayla, and his cousin Jacques.
Esprit Séguier from Majestavols, commune of Cassagnas.
David Mazauric from Mijavols, commune of St Julien d'Arpaon.
Jean Rampon from the Pont de Montvert.
Speaking of the Bougès Antoine Court wrote: "It is in these areas that appeared the first Dissatisfied."
And Robert Poujol, speaking of these early camisard leaders: "If we draw a circle around the top of the Bougès, we see that they are domiciled within less than six kilometers from the summit."
In summary, the beginning of the Camisard War is today the most emblematic. The beginning of this conflict is well circumscribed around the Bougès massif as much by the events that compose it, than by those who are its main actors.
The early history of this war essentially coincides with a specific geographic area to which we want to restore all its noble past and that we want to render to the conscience of the Cevennes today.