The representative-in-mission was growing more and more infuriated by the day. He had already done away with the pretense of trials but the number of “écume Nantais” being found kept climbing. All the jails were overflowing. He couldn’t hold or feed them all.
Jean-Baptiste Carrier had already been through this in Normandy and had had enough of it. There was no getting through to these backward country people who were no smarter than the bottom of his foot. So his Legion of Marat labored from sunset to sunrise each night guillotining or shooting groups of rebels from the Loire delta. They were growing as fatigued and impatient as he was.
He spoke out loud as he paced the sentry walk of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, “They need some reward for their hard work ... some entertainment.” He looked out over the early morning mists of where the Erdre and Sèvre tributaries converged upon the Loire and came up with an idea.
“And what these filthy Nantes scum need are baths ...”
On the evening of 24 Frimaire, year II, which was still whispered in parts of Nantes as December 14th, 1793, drunken guards at the Bouffay prison began carrying out their orders. They boisterously strolled through the cells, plucking prisoners at random. Men and women. Children.
“Time for your bath! You’re going to be re-baptized tonight!”
They were herded through the city and down to the port where they were loaded into skinny wooden barges. A priest and a nun were stripped naked and bound together before being tossed inside, “and it’ll be a Republican Marriage for the two of you!”
The barges were then towed into the middle of the river and sunk.
In four months, the Noyades de Nantes claimed over four thousand victims.