Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns


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Marshal Suchet and the Siege of Valencia
French and Allied Officers

By Dominique Contant, Robert Ouvrard, and Jonathan Cooper

Suchet: Louis-Gabriel Suchet, Duke of Albufera, Marshal of France, Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor, Peer of France (1770-1826).

Son of a silk-maker, and given a good education, Suchet initially entered the family business, working in manufacturing. With the Revolution he enlisted in the National Guard of Lyon (1791), then became a soldier in a free company, a lieutenant and then a captain. Lieutenant-Colonel with the Volunteers of Ardeche (September 1793), he was present at the Siege of Toulon. Assigned to the Army of Italy (1794), he served under Bonaparte (1796). He was at Arcole and Rivoli, twice wounded, and finished the campaign as a Colonel. Chief of Staff to Brune in Switzerland (1798), he was then again assigned to Italy, as a Brigadier General. Named Lieutenant General and Chief of Staff to Joubert (1799), he took command of the army after the latter's death at Novi. Cut off from the army of Masséna, Suchet withdrew to the Var, but retook Genoa a few days after Marengo.

Inspector General of the Infantry (1801), division commander under Soult, and again in V Corps under Lannes, he shown at Austerlitz for which he was named a Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor. In 1806, he was at Saalfeld, Jena and Pultusk. The next year, he was in Silesia, and was made a Count of the Empire in 1808.

Sent to Spain, he was the only senior general to obtain repeated successes and the only Marshal who won his title in that theater. He won an impressive series of actions in command of the Army of Aragon: taking Saragossa, Lerida, Tortose, Tarragona and Mont-Serrat, with victories at Sagonte and Valencia from which came his title, "Duke of Albufera". Governor of Catalonia in 1812, with strict discipline and intolerance of pillage and exactions, he maintained his authority over the region.

The disaster of Vitoria (1813) obliged Suchet to quit Valencia, and he displaced to Barcelona, from where he sent reinforcements to the Emperor in Germany. At the end of the year, he was at Gérone, where he received Ferdinand VII, but was again the victor at Moulins del Rey in January of 1814. Suchet defended the frontier in the Eastern Pyrenees until the fall of the Empire. Retained during the Restoration, he was named a Peer of France and Commander of the Military Division at Caen. During the Hundred Days, Suchet rejoined Napoleon, who conferred on him command of the Army of the Alps, with which Suchet invaded Savoy. By the time of the second abdication, he was at the gates of Geneva. Suchet negotiated capably with the Allies, avoiding the occupation of Lyon, and then retired to his château at Saint-Joseph, near Marseille. Expelled from the Chamber of Peers, Suchet regained his title in 1819. He died on the 3rd of January in 1826.

Berthier: Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Sovereign Prince of Neuchâtel, Prince de Wagram, Marshal of France, Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor, Grand Huntsman, Vice Constable of the Empire (1753-1815)

Berthier received an excellent education as a student Geographical Engineer. Named an officer of the King, he was in America with Rochambeau and was promoted to Colonel before the Revolution. Distituted as a noble, he rejoined the army in 1795, as a Brigadier General. He was in Italy in 1796, as a Lieutenant General and Chief of Staff to Bonaparte, to whom he remained loyal through 1814. Berthier excelled at Lodi and Rivoli and was charged with delivering the peace treaty of Campo Formino to the Directory. Named commander of the Army of Italy, he was recalled very soon after by Bonaparte who wanted to retain Berthier in the headquarters. Berthier followed Bonaparte to the Channel coast with the Army of England and then to Egypt. He was at The Pyramids, in Syria, at Aboukir and returned to France with Bonaparte. After 18 Brumaire, Berthier was named Minister of War. He participated in the second Italian campaign (1800) and the victory at Marengo. Marshal of the Empire in the first selection, he was awarded the Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor the next year and promoted to the unique rank of Major General of the Grand Army. He was present at Austerlitz and Friedland. He was honored further as Grand Huntsman, Vice Constable of the Empire and Sovereign Prince of Neuchâtel. He took command of the Army of Germany for a short period in 1809, but proved incapable of managing his troops. Upon the arrival of the Emperor, Berthier retook his place as Chief of Staff. Made Prince of Wagram after that battle, he married, under pressure from Napoléon, a princess of Bavaria, Marie Elisabeth.

He planned the Russian campaign and departed yet another time with the Emperor as Major General of the Grand Army. He was at Smolensk, La Moskowa and Moscow. After the retreat, Napoléon left Murat in command, and Berthier then quit the army and returned to Paris. He made the campaigns of Germany and France and followed the Emperor until Fontainebleau. He joined those who abandoned the Emperor, and, upon Napoleon's return from Elba, he accompanied Louis XVIII to Gand, but then retired to Bamberg and the château of the Prince of Bavaria, his father-in-law. Erased from the roll of Marshals, Berthier was placed under house arrest by the Allies, to prevent his rejoining the Emperor. He died on the 1st of June, in a fall from a window of the château. It still remains unknown whether his fall was an accident, a suicide or an assassination.

Marmont: Auguste-Frédéric-Louis Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, Marshal of France (1774-1852).

A graduate of the Artillery School at Châlons-sur-Marne in 1790 and a Lieutenant Colonel in 1792, Marmont met Bonaparte at the Siege of Toulon and became his aide-de-camp in 1794. He served in Italy (1796), then on the Rhine under the orders of Desaix. Upon Bonaparte's appointment to command the Army of the Interior, Marmont was immediately called to join him, and participated in the expedition to Egypt (1798).

Promoted to Colonel in the artillery, but remaining still an aide-de-camp to Bonaparte, he was made a Brigadier General at Malta after having captured the colors of the Knights of Saint John at Acre. He was at The Pyramids and, commanding the fleet at Alexandria, repulsed the British fleet on 3 February 1799. After 18 Brumaire, he became a Counsellor of State, and then followed Bonaparte to Italy. Distinguished at Marengo at the head of the artillery, he was promoted to Lieutenant General in September 1800. Chief Inspector of the Artillery (1802), commander of the camp at Utrecht in Holland and named Colonel-General of Light Horse and Hussars (1805), he was nonetheless excluded from the first selection of marshals.

At the head of II Corps of the Grand Army (1805), Marmont contributed to the victory at Ulm, but was not present at Austerlitz. Commanding General and Governor of Dalmatia (1806), he was charged with the region's pacification and development. He forced the Russian fleet to lift the siege of Ragusa, for which he received the title of duke of that city in 1808. In 1809, opposed the Austrians in the north, and earned victories at Gôspich and Fiume and Graz, shown as the commander of the Reserves at Wagram and was the victor at Znaim. He was named a Marshal on 12 July.

Named Governor of the Illyrian Provinces, he was then sent to Portugal in 1811 to replace. He broke the siege at Ciudad Rodrigo, invaded Portugal and pursued Wellington to Castelo-Branco, from where he had to retire. He was defeated at Les Arapiles, where he was wounded. Marmont did not regain a command until the beginning of 1813. Commanding VI Corps of the Grand Army in Saxony (1813), he was at Lützen, Dresden and lead the left wing at Leipzig. 

Commanding VI Corps of the Army of Champagne (1814), he was at Brienne, La Rothière, Champaubert, Vauchamps, and Montmirail, but was defeated at Laon. He surrendered Paris (30 March), even though it was defensible. His defection followed upon the abdication of Napoléon. Marmont was named a Peer of France by Louis XVIII, who he followed to Gand during the Hundred Days. Marmont voted for "death" at the trial of Marshal Ney. Minister of State and member of the High Council for War, he was charged with quelling the Revolution of 1830. Its success terminated Marmont's career. He spent the last years of his life trying to justify it - and died 22 July 1852 at Venise. 

Reille: Honoré-Charles Reille, General (1775-1860).

Reille had advanced to join Suchet from Navarre, where he was serving as Governor.

Harispe: Jean-Isidore Harispe, General (1768-1855).

Wounded at Jena, Brigadier General in 1807, and wounded again at Friedland, Harispe served in Spain from 1808 through 1814. He was promoted Lieutenant General in 1810, and, under Suchet, commanded the Second Division of III Corps (7th, 116th and 44th Regiments of the French Line and the 3rd Regiment of the Vistula Legion). He survived the fall of the Empire to be named a Marshal of France in 1851, under Napoléon III.

Robert: Louis-Benoit, Baron Robert, General (1772-1831).

Robert was born at Menerbes (Vaucluse) on 7 March 1772, and there he also died, on 16 June 1831. Made a captain in the 13th Battalion of Federes on 3 August 1792, he served with the Army of the Moselle from 1792 to 1793 and then the Army of the North from 1793 to 1795. By amalgamation, he passed to the 71st Half-Brigade of the French Line on 4 April 1794. He served with the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse for 1795 to 1797, transferring to the 92nd Half-Brigade on 20 February 1796. He was with the Army of Germany at the end of 1797, and then the Army of Italy in 1799 and 1800, where he was wounded in the head by gunfire before Verona on 26 March 1799. He served with the Army of the West in 1800 and 1801, and the Corps of Observation of the Gironde in 1801. He was in Batavia under Victor in 1803 and at the camp of Utrecht under Marmont in 1804 to 1805 and then with the Army of the North under Prince Louis Bonaparte in October 1805, passing to II Corps of the Grand Army in 1806 to 1807. He was promoted to Major in the 70th Regiment of the French Line on 30 May 1807. He served under Darmagnac at the surprise capture of Pampeluna on 16 February 1808, and continued his service in Spain through 1814. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on the staff of his regiment on 27 June 1808. At the Siege of Saragossa under Verdier, he received a gunshot wound to the left leg on 5 August. Promoted to Colonel of the 117th Regiment of the French Line on 28 October, he came under the orders of Suchet. He was the victor at Barbastro and Alcarras and joined the Siege of Lerida in April 1810, where he was distinguished in the action on 23 April. He was at the sieges of Tortose and Balaguer, defended the camp at Perello on 3 March 1811 and was created a Baron of the Empire on 10 April. He served before Tarragona from 3 May to 28 June and was promoted to Brigadier General on 6 July 1811. Attached to the Army of Aragon on 1 September, he served at Sagonte on 25 October and commanded a brigade at the Siege of Valencia (in Musnier's 1st Division - composed of the 114th Regiment of the French Line and the 1st Regiment of the Vistula Legion), being named Governor of the City after its capture, where he remained until February 1812. Commandant of the Legion of Honor on 16 March 1812, he commanded a division under Suchet from October, serving at the combat of Castalla on 13 June 1813. Robert was then named commandant of the garrison at Tortose on 17 July 1812. He did not evacuate that city until May 1814, in accordance with the peace treaty. He was named by Suchet as commander of the 3rd Division of the Army of the South and commandant of the Department of the Eastern Pyrenees on 4 June 1814. He was confirmed in his departmental command by a royal order of 19 September 1814 and made a Chevalier of Saint-Louis on 13 August 1814, maintaining this post until his replacement on 1 September 1815. Placed in non-activity at the beginning of 1816, he was recalled as Inspector of Infantry for the Army Headquarters at the end of 1818 and was employed in the same role for the 8th and 9th Military Divisions from June of 1819 through the end of that year. Without assignment thereafter, Robert was permitted to retire effective 1 January 1825 and he returned to his birthplace to live out the remainder of his years.

Bugeaud: Thomas-Robert Bugeaud de la Piconnerie, Major (Limoges 1784-Paris 1849).

After Austerlitz, where he fought as a simple corporal, Bugeard was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 64th Regiment of the French line. He served in the campaigns of Prussia and Poland, being wounded at Pultusk. He was with the Army of Aragon until 1814 under Suchet, who remarked upon his courage. Bugeaud was distinguished in the action at Orgal, where he routed a British regiment and for which Suchet named him a Lieutenant Colonel in the 14th Regiment of the French Line. But his greatest fame would come later in life: the conquest of Algeria in 1835. By his death in 1849, the corporal who shone under the sun of Austerlitz nearly a half century before had risen to become a Marshal of France and the Duke of Isly.

Boussard: André-Joseph Boussart, General (1758-1813).

Broussard served for seven years in the Austrian army before entering the French service, where he rose to the rank of Brigadier General by 1801. He was often wounded. He received three saber cuts on 21 April 1796, was wounded again at Alexandria on 2 July 1798 and shot twice at Canope on 21 March 1801. In December of 1806, at Pultusk, he was again shot and had his horse killed beneath him. He was shot yet again at Ostralenka on 16 February 1807. Sent to Spain, he was shot in the chest at Lerida, in April of 1810. In total, he received 23 wounds and had 12 horses killed beneath him. Under Suchet at Valencia, where he was as well gravely wounded, he commanded the Cavalry Division (composed of the French 4th Hussars, 24th Dragoons and 13th Cuirassiers and the Italian Napoleon Dragoons).

Musnier: Louis Musnier de la Converserie, General (1766-1837).

Musnier served at Marengo under Boudet and was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1805. He served in Spain from 1808 to 1813, becoming a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1810. He commanded Suchet's 1st Division at Valencia, composed of Robert's Brigade (114th Regiment of the French Line and the 1st Regiment of the Vistula Legion) and Ficatier's Brigade (121st Regiment of the French Line and the 2nd Regiment of the Vistula Legion). He defended Lyon in 1814.

Balathier: Eloi-Charles Balathier de Bragelonne, General (1771-1830).

Balathier served in Spain from 1810 to 1812, notably at the Siege of Valencia. He would die, diagnosed as insane, in 1830.

Palombini: Italian General.

Under Suchet, Palombini commanded the Italian Division, composed of Saint Paul's Brigade (5th and 6th Regiments of the Italian Line) and Balathier's Brigade (2nd Italian Light Infantry Regiment and 4th Regiment of the Italian Line).

Habert: Pierre-Joseph Habert, General (1773-1825).

He served in Austria, Prussian and Poland from 1805 to 1807, and in Spain from 1808 to 1813, commanding the rear guard at the time of Suchet's retreat from the Peninsula. He was named Governor of Barcelona, which he did not surrender until after peace was concluded. At Valencia, he commanded Suchet's 3rd Division, composed of Montmarie's Brigade (5th and 16th Regiments of the French Line) and Bronikowski's Brigade (117th Regiment of the French Line).

Darmagnac: Jean-Barthélémy-Claude-Toussaint Darmagnac, General (1766-1855).

Darmagnac was in Spain from 1808 to 1813, where he was employed in several locations as a Provincial Governor.

Pépé: Guglielmo Pépé, Neapolitan Colonel (1783-1855).

Promoted later to General, he wrote interesting memoirs of his career.

Delort: Jacques-Antoine-Adrien Delort, Général (1773-1846).

A National Guardsman at the age of 16 in 1789, he died a Lieutenant General, aide-de-camp to the King and a Peer of France. Major of the 9th Dragoon Regiment, his conduct at Austerlitz gave him command of the 24th Dragoons, at the head of which he covered himself with glory in Spain (Molins del Rey, Vich, Valls, Sagonte). Brigadier General in 1811, he held provisional command of the cavalary of the Army of Aragon through 1813. He beat O'Donell at Castella, and charged the pass at Ordal. Recalled to France, Delort charged again at Montereau then, as a Lieutenant General, he commanded the 3rd Division of Reserve Cavalry at Waterloo.

Pannetier: Claude-Marie-Joseph Pannetier, Count of Valdotte, General (1769-1843).

Created a Count of the Empire in 1808, at Valencia he commanded the 1st Brigade in Reille's 1st Division (composed of the 10th and 81st Regiments of the French Line).

Montmarie: Aimé-Sulpice-Victor Pelletie, Baron of Montmarie, General (1772-1813).

He served in Spain with the Army of the Center before departing for service in Russia. Wounded at Le Moskowa and again at Wachau, he died on the field at Leipzig, from the effects of his prior wound.

Saint-Cyr-Nugues: Saint-Cyr, Baron Nugues, General (1774-1842).

He had followed Suchet from the camp at Boulogne, serving in various staff positions. He entered Spain with Suchet in 1808.

Caffarelli: Marie-François-Auguste, Count Caffarelli, General (1766-1849).

Lord Blayney met Caffarelli in January 1811, when he was serving as the Commandant of Vittoria.

Montbrun: Louis-Pierre, Count Montbrun, General (1770-1812).

Montbrun was the commander of the cavalry of the Army of Portugal from April 1810. He was detached from that army to support Suchet in Aragon in late 1811. He left the Peninsula to join the Russian campaign, under Murat. While out on reconnaissance early on the morning of 7 September 1812, he was struck by a stray canon shot prior to the start of the battle of Le Moskowa. He died a few hours later.

See also this short Biography of General Montbrun

Lafosse: Jacques-Mathurin Lafosse, General (1757-1824).

He served in Spain from February 1808 to February 1813.

Colonel Meyer: Bernard Meyer de Shauensee, Colonel (1777-1860).

Swiss by birth, he served under Suchet in Spain from 1808 to 1814 and was Suchet's senior aide-de-camp at Valencia.

Spanish Judge Don José Maria Manescau: Judge for Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court of Valencia.

In July 1808, one month after the massacre of French nationals in Valencia by a frenzied mob, he presided at the trials of those principally responsible. Baltasar Calbo and 60 of his accomplices (and not "600" as was incorrectly reported in the document reproduced above) were condemned to death, some being executed and the others deported to the Balearic Islands. Some months later the records of these proceedings were printed and posted throughout the kingdom of Valencia.

Suchet thus did not take any action against these criminals, who had already been judged and punished, and for which he had reason three years later to praise the rectitude of Judge Manescau.

This information has been kindly provided to us by Sr. José Luis Arcon, Staff Historian at the Military and Historical Museum of Valencia, to whom we extend our most sincere thanks.

 

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