Chouans, a name given to the royalist peasantry of Brittany and Lower Maine, in France, who, following the example of the Vendeans, rose in arms against the revolutionary government as early as 1791, and who often, under the pretence of waging war in the king's behalf, infested the roads, pillaged villages, and committed all sorts of depredations. The name was ultimately extended to all the insurgents in western France. The rebellion in Lower Maine had been prepared by a number of contraband salt makers, among whom four brothers, named Cottereau, were conspicuous. The taciturnity of their grandfather had given him the nickname of Chat-huant (screech-owl), or Chouan according to the Bas Breton dialect. This nickname had been transmitted to the grandsons, who were usually called the " brothers Chouan." Jean, the eldest and boldest of the four, had once been sentenced to death, and, having through the entreaties of his mother obtained his pardon from Louis XVI., had become an ardent royalist. His earliest companions were a lame beggar surnamed Jamie d'Argent (Silver Leg), Tristan l'Hermite, Taillefer, Coque-reau, and a few others.

Their first encampment was established in an excavation in the woods of Misdon; and they began to appear in villages where revolutionary opinions prevailed, against detachments of troops and national guards. The Chouannerie, as these warlike bands were soon called, was not limited to a single province; from Lower Maine it extended through Brittany, where it gained a strong foothold, and thence eventually to Normandy. The Chouans received powerful accessions from the ranks of the peasants, driven to rebellion by heavy taxes, by persecution of their religion, or by fear of being enrolled in the army. The first serious outbreak in Brittany (Feb. 13, 1791) was occasioned by the attempted removal of the bishop of Vannes, who had refused to take the civil oath; the peasants of Sarzeau came forward to protect him, but were fired upon by troops of the line and national guards. Thenceforward Brittany was divided into two camps, the adherents and the opponents of the government. The military organization of the Chouans was gradually perfected, and they soon numbered no less than 100,000 volunteers, who were subsequently distributed into five distinct corps; but for the sake of efficiency they generally moved in bands of 25, 50, and sometimes 100 men, acting independently, but according to a common direction.

In 1793, under the name of the Little Vendee, the Chouans joined the great royalist army. On this occasion it was proposed to invest one of the royalist generals with the command of the Chouans, but the reply was: "We have come with Jean Chouan, we know no one but him; we obey him through friendship; he must be our leader; if not, we will depart." Consequently Cottereau reassumed the command of his forces, which he kept until July 28, 1794, when he was killed in an encounter with republican troops. Tactics and regular evolutions were not in accordance with the instincts and habits of these partisan bands. Consequently, after the heavy loss experienced by the royalist army near Le Mans, and especially after their bloody defeat at Savenay, Dec. 27, 1794, the Chouans returned to their haunts, and resumed their guerilla warfare. Detachments of troops were overtaken or slaughtered, stage coaches were arrested on the highway, receivers of public money were carried off and tortured, and the chiefs were powerless to prevent these excesses. On the death of Cot-tereau, Jambe d' Argent had become one of their leaders; but the most popular was Georges Cadoudal, who had then taken up his abode in Lower Brittany, and waged unrelenting war against the republican troops.

Some attempted to bring about a pacification by a treaty concluded at La Mabilais; but this was rejected by Cadoudal and other influential Chouans. Even the disaster of Quiberon, July 16, 1795, was unable to shake their power. The loss of that disaster had fallen on the emigres and the English, while the royalist peasantry had suffered little. They not only kept in arms, but their chiefs tried to reenforce their organization and to bring about insurrection in several other provinces of France. Their efforts were in some measure successful, and would have been completely so if any prince of the Bourbon family had dared to land in Brittany and put himself at the head of the movement. The count d'Artois indeed cruised off the coast of France for a few days in August, 1795, and this alone was sufficient to give a new impulse to royalist ardor; but the disappointment caused by his sudden departure crushed the hopes of the most zealous. Some chiefs and several bands still persisted, but the great army of the Chouans dwindled away, disgusted at serving princes by whom they were sacrificed. The most obstinate joined the emigres in several conspiracies.

Cadoudal was arrested and executed in 1804, and the Chouannerie may be said to have died with him.