The Siege of Toulon, 1793

At Toulon, writes Stephen Usherwood, the Royal Navy first became deeply involved in the affairs of the French Revolution.

Who were the besiegers? Who the besieged? The battle for Toulon in the autumn of 1793 was the climax to a civil war; and the inhabitants of Toulon were as divided and confused by the propaganda of political parties and the bloodthirstiness of Marat as the rest of their countrymen. They had endured four years of steadily increasing chaos, culminating in the execution of Louis XVI in January, the triumph of the Jacobins over the Girondins in Paris early in June, and the beginning of the Reign of Terror in July.

For a year, France had also been at war with a coalition of foreign powers; and Toulon, the most important naval port and arsenal in France, had been in the hands of a self-chosen body of republicans and proletarians.

To gain power they had murdered the officials appointed to govern the town when the former provinces were divided into departments; but they had left a royalist Admiral, the Comte de Trogoff, in command of the arsenal and some 30 ships of 74 guns or more, a third of the entire French navy.

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