The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
General Edouard-Jean-Baptiste Milhaud was born at Arpajon in the Cantal, on the 10 July 1766 (Six) or 18 November (Reverend) and was the youngest child of the family. He was the son of a farmer and in the early years of the Revolution was something of a political hothead. He was an activist and got himself elected as a Depute du Cantal a la Convention from the autumn of 1792 to late 1795. He was educated at Aurillac College and was an extremely talented young man. For some years he then resided in Paris. He is thought to have taken part in the storming of the Bastille and voted for the death of Louis XVI with no right of appeal. Before casting his vote, he should have consulted his electorate, but he did not do so. He had made himself into a regicide, which was to have serious consequences for him much later. He was a Representative of the People, one of nine such men under which, he was endowed with power to arrest and try suspects. In these dangerous times he was therefore a man to be feared.
He married for the first time on 9 July 1794, to a pretty girl from Perpignan, Marianne Lignieres who was born in 1775 and was the daughter of a wealthy grocer.
Milhaud was small in stature but well proportioned although he possessed no outstanding physical strength. He was an expert horseman and always seemed to have a fierce determined facial expression and was a committed revolutionary
His military career really got started when he joined the 14e Chasseurs-a-Cheval with the rank of capitaine on 9 May 1793. He became Chef-de-Brigade of the 5e Regiment du Dragons in January 1796 and joined l'Armee d'Italie where he remained until the end of 1797.
It was during this period that his first child, a girl, Therese-Rose-Francoise was born. His second child, a son, Edouard-Andre-Scipion followed on 6 January 1800.
He was with l'Armee d'Angleterre during 1798 and 1799 and served as Commandant at the Palais du Luxembourg during the 18e Brumaire and followed this by being appointed Chef d'Etat Major to General Joachim Murat at Saint Cloud in November of 1799. On 5 January 1800, he was promoted to General-de-Brigade.
In October 1805, he was given a brigade comprising the 16e and 22e Chasseurs-a-Cheval in General Frederic-Henri Walther's 2e Division des Dragons. His regimental commanders were Colonel Antoine-Jean-Auguste-Henri Durosnel and Colonel Marie- Victor-Nicolas de Latour Maubourg.
He was present at Austerlitz, where his squadrons harried the Austrian Artillery who were seeking to damage the French occupying the plateau of the Pratzen Heights.
On 1 January 1806, he was appointed to succeed the wounded General Pierre Margaron in command of the Cavalerie Legere in Soult's IV Corps where his command comprised the 8e Regiment des Hussards under Colonel Jean-Baptiste Deban de Laborde together with the 11e and 26e Chasseurs-a-Cheval under Colonel Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas Jacquinot and Colonel Alexandre-Elisabeth-Michel Digeon respectively.
In September, he took over a brigade made up of 1er Hussards under Colonel Rouvillois – this officer has not so far been traced and research continues – and the 13e Chasseurs-a-Cheval under the 37 year old Colonel, Jean-Baptiste Demengeot.
Milhaud was promoted to General-de-Division and on the same day, 30 December 1806, took command of the 3e Division des Dragons which consisted of six regiments, the 5e, 8e, 9e, 12e, 16e and 23e succeeding the General Marc-Antoine Bonin de la Boniniere Beaumont. It was during 1806 that Napoleon congratulated Milhaud on both his service record and the overall turnout of his command.
He was present at Eylau then, on the 16 February 1807 Milhaud's command was surprised by a marauding, relatively small band of Cossacks who inflicted considerable damage and casualties, before being driven off. Milhaud was furious with his regiments' performance and complained to Murat that they had disgraced themselves and that he was ashamed to be associated with them. They subsequently went into winter quarters, during which time Milhaud had them drilled day and night.
In March of 1808, Milhaud was decorated as Comte de l'Empire and awarded a pension of 30,000 francs drawn on the reserves of Westphalia. During this period he also bought himself an apartment in the exclusive Quai Voltaire, a very fashionable district of the Paris
On 7 September, his division joined l'Armee d'Espagne where his four Regiments des Dragons and an artillery company were attached to le Marechal Soult's IV Corps. Here Milhaud met with more success, inflicting a series of defeats over the Spanish, under the command of 49 year old General Joachim Blake, who was a soldier of Irish descent.
Milhaud was also a strong disciplinarian and punished severely those who stepped out of line. He would even execute those found guilty of rape, theft, arson, and other serious crimes.
One of his finest achievements during this period was the defeat of the guerrilla chief who went under the name "Empecinado". He had a fearsome reputation and was guilty of many atrocities committed against the French invaders. One of the most chilling executions was that of General Jean-Gaspard-Pascal Rene. The 40 year old infantry commander was sent to rejoin his Corps in Andalucia when he fell into the hands of a band of guerrillas who tossed him alive into a barrel of boiling oil. Not that we can put this one down to "Empecinado", but it does serve to illustrate what manner of atrocities the Spanish were capable of. The research into the death of General Rene continues in an attempt to establish who was behind this barbaric act.
In June 1812, Milhaud became Commandant de la 25e Division Militaire at Wesel in Germany. He took part in the Russian Campaign of the same year, but held no specific command – he became, for a short period, Military Commandant in Moscow under le Marechal Mortier.
Following Pajol's terrible wounds suffered at Wachau, command of the 5e Corps des Cavalerie was handed to Milhaud on 11 November. Under Marshal Victor, he was present at Sainte Croix, Saint Dizier, Brienne, la Rothiere, Mormant, Troyes, and Saint Dizier again.
He was made Chevalier de Saint Louis, just one of 56 of Napoleon's senior commanders to be so honoured by the returning Bourbon Monarch. He then acquired by auction, a substantial property at Saint Maure Defarse on 28 September 1814, for 100,000 francs.
It was about this time that he felt some discomfort as he was denounced as a regicide having been implicated in the death of Louis XVI, but le duc de Berry spoke out on his behalf.
The Emperor approached Milhaud and placed him in command of the 4e Corps de Cavalerie which totalled some 2,800 sabres and comprised eight cuirassier regiments and two batteries of artillerie-a-cheval, with a total of twelve guns. During the Campaign of 1815, Generals Dubois, Travers, Delort, Farine du Creux as well as Milhaud himself, were all wounded. In addition Milhaud's Chef d'Etat Major, Colonel Victor-Frederic Baron Chasseriau was among those killed.
Most commentators suggest that it was Ney who lost his head and ordered the cavalry to charge. Milhaud, Delort and General Guyot of the Grenadiers-a-Cheval were among those who were opposed to the order but could do nothing about it.
After peace had been restored, Milhaud found that there was considerable pressure on him to retire, and worse, his pensions severely cut by over 75 per cent. He was to be removed from Legion d'Honneur and an act was passed that regicides were to be exiled and their assets confiscated. He fell on hard times and had to sell his large property at Saint Maur in favour of a smaller residence.
In February 1817, his daughter Therese-Rose-Francoise married General Antoine Baron Aymard (1773-1861) who had previously served with Milhaud.
In June 1821, Milhaud's wife from whom he had lived apart for several years died at her home in Perpignan and in December 1824, the General re-married to a widow called Louise Admirat
The highly controversial but talented soldier died at Aurillac on the 8 January 1833, at the age of 66.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002
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