Sapinaud was greatly disturbed by the outbreak of the Revolution and particularly the increasingly radical and anti-clerical course it was taking. When the Vendée counterrevolution broke out in March of 1793 he willing joined the royalist ranks. Although he did not have such extensive military experience as some, he had more than others and the counterrevolutionaries were desperate for leadership. It is often forgotten (probably intentionally) that the uprising in the Vendée was a spontaneous act of popular rebellion against the Revolution, it was not something organized by aristocrats. It was the common people who rose up and then demanded that their local nobles and people with military experience take leadership. Initially, Sapinaud served under his uncle, Charles Sapinaud de La Verrie who was part of the “Catholic and Royal Army of the Center” under General Charles de Royrand in the eastern Vendée. When his uncle was killed on July 25, 1793 at the battle of Chantonnay Sapinaud succeeded to command his division. A couple months later Sapinaud led his men in the Virée de Galerne campaign through Brittany and Normandy. Overall, the campaign was a disaster for the royalists and the counterrevolutionary army was routed at the battle of Le mans on December 13, 1793 in the course of which Sapinaud was separated from his men and lost. However, he made it back to the Vendée and, like most, was as determined as ever to try again.
|Battle of Le Mans|
All of this is added to the brutal truth that the war was not going well for the royalists, for numerous reasons. They were isolated, outnumbered, lacking weapons, lacking in training and discipline and everything else one would expect from an army of peasant soldiers who would often have to leave the army and go home to look after their farms. Finally on February 17, 1795 Charette and Sapinaud sign the Treaty of La Jaunaye with the republicans, putting into effect a cessation of hostilities by which terms the property of the counterrevolutionaries and their freedom of worship was guaranteed. Although far from ideal, the fact that the republicans agreed to the terms that they did shows how successful the counterrevolutionaries had been. Nonetheless, not everyone would agree as many, understandably, refused to come to terms with the republic under any circumstances (particularly after the “infernal columns” had butchered tens of thousands of people). Scattered fighting broke out anew a few months later and Sapinaud was quick to rejoin the fight on October 3, 1795.
Napoleon, not wishing to waste resources diverting men to suppressing royalists in France, lays out peace terms. They cannot have the king back of course, but he was willing to respect their rights, their freedom of religion and exempt them from conscription so that they will not be forced to fight for a cause they do not believe in. Sapinaud decided that it would be wiser to come to terms with Napoleon and he accepts the proposal, signing on to the agreement on January 18, 1800. He watches as a spectator while Napoleon launched his grand campaign of conquest across the continent only to ultimately be defeated by the combined forces of the great powers. To his great joy, after Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the Bourbon monarchy was restored. In appreciation for his service with the counterrevolutionary army, King Louis XVIII commissions Sapinaud a lieutenant general in the revived royal army. When Napoleon returned from exile and restored himself (briefly) to power as Emperor, Sapinaud again took to the field in rebellion in favor of the King in 1815.