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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont, Duc de Raguse, Marshal (1809)

(Born Châtillon-sur-Seine (Côte-d'Or), 1774 - Died Venice, 1852)


On April 5, 1814, the defection of his army corps opened up the road to Fontainebleau to the Allies. The verb "raguser" meaning "to betray" stems from his title "Duc de Raguse."

Marmont, member of a family of minor nobility, left the Châlons military school as artillery officer in 1792. During the siege of Toulon, he was noticed by Bonaparte, with whom he became friendly. Bonaparte made him one of his aides-decamp in 1796 in the Italian campaign. In 1798, Marmont accompanied him to Egypt, where he became brigadier general after the storming of Malta. He followed his leader to Paris to take part in the 18-Brumaire.

At Marengo, on June 14, 1800, he led the artillery. As a reward, he was named major general at age 26. However, he was absent from the list of marshals in May 1804. This did not prevent him from fighting fiercely at Ulm (October 20, 1805). In July 1806, he became governor general of Dalmatia. Marmont enlarged the duchy with Ragusa, which he captured from the Russians in 1807. In 1809, he commanded the Army of Dalmatia which joined the Army of Italy under the command of Prince Eugene. He fought in the battles in Italy and in Croatia, including the battle at Znaïm on July 10 and 11, 1809. Bonaparte then awarded him a marshal's baton on July 12, and named him Duc de Raguse.

During the next two years, Marmont stayed off the battlefields to serve as governor of the Illyrian Provinces. In 1811, he succeeded Masséna as commander of the Army of Portugal. After some success, his disagreements with Soult, as well as Wellington's military skill led to defeat on July 22, 1812 at the Battle of Salamanca, where he was severly wounded in the arm.

In 1813, having recovered from his injury, he took part in the German campaign, commanding the 6th corps and fighting in the Battle of Lützen (May 2, 1813) and Bautzen (May 20 and 21, 1813). During the second phase of the campagin, Marmont fought at Dresden (August 26 and 27, 1813) and was also present at the Battle of Leipzig.

During the French campaign, he fought at Brienne and at Champaubert (February 10), and at Montmirail (February 17, 1814) but was defeated at Laon (March 9-10, 1814), which earned him Napoleon's reproaches. He withdrew to Paris with his divisions. He took part in the defense of the capital, but capitulated on March 30. Marmont received an Allied envoy during the night of April 3 and signed the surrender of his troops, who were defending the road to Fontainebleau, where the Emperor was stationed. Caulaincourt came to find him and together they went to the Tsar with the Emperor's first abdication. In his absence, Souham received a letter from the Emperor summoning them to Fontainebleau. Panicked, he preferred to give over to the enemy the corps defending the palace road, rather than confront Napoleon, whom he supposed to be aware of the surrender. This series of events made the Tsar decide to demand an unconditional abdication from the Emperor. Napoleon would never forgive his marshal for his defection. When he learned of it, he murmured, "Marmont gave me the final blow." Louis XVIII made Marmont peer of France.

Exiled in 1830 with Charles X, Marmont, whose name was hereafter disparaged by the Bonapartists, traveled throughout Europe. He spent some time in Vienna, where he became tutor to the duc de Reichstadt, Napoleon's son. He occupied his final days writing his Mémoires in which he attempted to justify himself.

By Artea


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