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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

Jean-Baptiste, count Jourdan, Marshal (1804)

(Born Limoges, 1762 - Died Paris, 1833)


Victor at Fleurus in 1794. During the Consulate and the Empire, despite the fact he has promoted him to marshal, Napoleon does not hold him in high enough esteem to give him high command posts.

Son of a surgeon, Jourdan enlists in the King's armies, in 1778, at the age of 16 and fights in America. When he returns to France, he is ill and declared unfit for service. He sets up a haberdasher's shop. When the Revolution breaks out, he is elected captain of chasseurs because of his liberal ideas and his military past. He climbs the rungs of the hierarchy and distinguishes himself in Belgium in 1792. On July 30, 1793, he is promoted to major general and shortly thereafter put in command of the Army of the North.

On October 16 and 17, he wins the battle of Wattignies. Suspected for having opposed the Committee of Public Safety's plans, he is dismissed, but soon called back and put at the head of the Army of the Mosel on March 9, 1794. After taking Dinant and Charleroi, he wins the decisive battle of Fleurus on June 26, 1794, at the head of various corps which will become the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse.

He defeats the Austrians on June 4, 1796, in Altenkirchen. In 1796, defeated on the other side of the Rhine, he is replaced by Hoche.

Elected to the Council of the Five Hundred in 1797, he has the law on the draft, which bears his name, voted on March 5, 1798. In October 1798, he is put in command of the Army of the Danube and defeats the Austrians at Stockach (March 26, 1799). But he is forced to fall back and is replaced by general Masséna. He leaves the army on April 3, 1799.

In October 1799, as a neo-Jacobin and a member of the Council of the Five Hundred, he starts out by opposing the 18-Brumaire coup d'état. However, he soon rallies to Bonaparte. The First Consul, eager to surround himself with heroes of the Revolution, names him ambassador to Piedmont on July 21, 1800. He becomes a senior member of the Conseil d'Etat in 1802, then a senator and finally, a marshal in 1804. But Napoleon does not give him senior posts, except for the Army of Italy in 1805.

Jourdan follows Joseph Bonaparte to Naples, as governor of the city in 1806, then to Spain. He is promoted to deputy chief of staff of the Spanish army. He takes part in the 1808 and 1809 Spanish campaigns. He is in command of the French armies at the battle of Vitoria (June 21, 1813).

Back in France, he remains in semi-disgrace. Yet Napoleon gives him the title of Peer of France during the Hundred Days and puts him in command of the Army of the Rhine.

During the Restoration, Jourdan rallies to Louis XVIII, who gives him the title of count, then to Louis-Philippe, who appoints him provisional Foreign Affairs commissioner, then Governor of the Invalides. He dies in Paris in 1833.

By Artea


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