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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

Josef Antoni, Prince Poniatowski, Marshal (1813)

(Born Vienna, 1763 - Died Leipzig, 1813)


The only foreign marshal. Partisan of the reconstitution of Poland, partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Prince Poniatowski, nephew to King Stanislaw II Augustus of Poland, was a dragoon colonel in the Austrian army. In 1789, he joined the reorganized Polish army as a major general in 1789. Defeated by the Russians (1792), he was forced into exile.

After Napoleon's victory at Jena and Auerstädt (October 14, 1806), prince Poniatowski received a division command. He distinguished himself namely at Dantzig and Friedland, and was thus named Minister of War of the provisional government, and in 1808, commander-in-chief of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (created on July 22, 1807).

The prince got the Polish army back on its feet, therefore worrying Austria and Prussia. On the order of the Emperor, who removed Poniatowski's prestigious elements to form a regiment of Household cavalry for his Imperial Guard, part of the Polish army went to fight in Galicia.

Poniatowski withstood the Austrian attack on Warsaw (April 1809) and reconquered parts of former Poland by beating the Austrians at Gora and at Grochow. As a reward, Napoleon presented him with the grand-aigle de la Légion d'Honneur, a saber of honor and a lancer's shako. Poland, however, was still not rebuilt.

The prince remained faithful to Napoleon, and continued in his post as minister of War. He created engineering and artillery schools and organized the fortification of several garrisons. In April 1810, he was in Paris for the wedding of Napoleon and Marie-Louise.

In 1812, at the head of the 5th corps during the Russian campaign, he showed his worth at the Battle of the Moskowa. Poniatowski was the only foreigner to receive a marshal's baton from the hands of Napoleon (October 16, 1813). But several days later, covering the retreat of Leipzig, he drowned in the Elster River.

by Artea


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