August 10, 2016

We Are Marshals

Of the four generals discussed so far, three reached the highest point in the Napoleonic military cosmos, Marshal of the Empire (Rapp was around Napoleon from the beginning, but never made the top rank).  Only 26 men were made Marshal during Napoleon's reign, and never more than 20 at time.  A pretty exclusive club, although when complimented on his promotion Masséna scoffed and said "there are fourteen of us."

I know what you're going to ask:  was there a hat?

Oh, yes there was, with a white plume.  AND a baton.  AND Napoleon had top artists design the uniforms, and They. Were. Awesome.

Wikipedia's interesting article on Napoleonic Marshals says that three of them - Lannes (whom we have met), Davout, and Suchet, "were virtually never defeated in pitched battle, despite fighting in dozens of engagements."

All right, I'll bite.  Who were Davout and Suchet?

Louis-Nicolas d'Avout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt, 1st Prince of Eckmühl (Wikipedia)

  • Napoleon said:  At one point in 1800 Bourrienne was surprised at Napoleon's extensive conversation with Davout. "How could you talk so long with a man whom you have always called a stupid fellow?"−−"Ah! but I did not know him well enough before. He is a better man, I assure you, than he is thought; and you will come over to my opinion."
  • Nickname: THE IRON MARSHAL (has to be all caps)
  • Where he came from:  Our only nobleman!  Davout was born at Annoux (Yonne), the son of Jean-François d'Avout...  He was educated at a military academy in Auxerre, before transferring to the École Militaire in Paris on 29 September 1785.... On the outbreak of the French Revolution, he embraced its principles. He was chef de bataillon in a volunteer corps in the campaign of 1792, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Neerwinden the following spring. He had just been promoted to general of brigade when he was removed from the active list because of his noble birth...  Napoleon, who had great confidence in his abilities finally promoted him to general de division and arranged his marriage to his sister Pauline's sister-in-law Aimée Leclerc, thus making him part of Napoleon's extended family, and gave him a command in the consular guard. 
  • That time when:  At Auerstedt (1806) his 28,000 drove the main Prussian army of 63,000 from the field.  (And that Blücher guy was hardly ever heard from again.)
  • Died:  Paris, 1823.

Louis-Gabriel Suchet, Duc d'Albuféra (Wikipedia)

  • Napoleon said:  On St. Helena Napoleon was asked who the best French general was, and he replied "this is difficult to say [because early on Suchet had been a political opponent], but it seems to me that it is Suchet..."
  • Nickname:  Mr. Suchet, apparently
  • Where he came from:  He was the son of a silk manufacturer at Lyon, where he was born, originally intended to follow his father's business; but having in 1792 served as volunteer in the cavalry of the national guard at Lyon, he manifested military abilities which secured his rapid promotion. As chef de bataillon he was present at the Siege of Toulon in 1793, where he took General O'Hara prisoner.
  • That time when:  He subjugated Spain.
  • Memoirs:  Here
  • Fun Fact:  The chicken dish poularde à la d'Albuféra is named after him.
  • Died:  1826, in a castle, natural causes.


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

Wasn't D'Avout, also known as 'The Beast'?

August 10, 2016 at 5:52 PM  

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