Claude-Victor Perrin, known as Victor, Duc de Bellune, Marshal (1807)
(Born La Marche, Vosges,1764 - Died Paris, 1841)
One of the most brilliant military men serving Napoleon. He fought on all fronts, intervening at two strategic moments: at Marengo (June 14, 1800) and on the banks of the Berezina river (November 17, 1812).
At seventeen, Victor was drummer-boy in an artillery regiment in Grenoble. After settling in Valence, where he married and opened a shop, he left home. The Déclaration de la patrie en danger (1792) led him to the border with the Third Batallion of the Drôme. He was rapidly promoted batallion chief. At the siege of Toulon (September - December 1795) he was noticed when he attained the Faron Mountain entrenchments with only 800 men while managing to hold the site against 6,000 of the enemy. He was then named brigadier general.
In the Army of the East Pyrenees, then in the Army of Italy, Victor also worked wonders. General Scherer wasted no time in giving him the command of the advance guard. In the spring of 1796, Victor was cited before Bonaparte among the brave soldiers who had distinguished themselves in past battles. He was victorious at Peschiera, Provera, La Favorite, Rome, Faenza and Forli and returned to France after the Treaty of Campo Formio was signed.
He received the Nantes command but asked to be transferred to the Army of England. He wrote to the Directory: "Remaining in the interior while the Republican guns will be making themselves heard on the Thames is a function I cannot carry out." He did however return to Italy in 1799. Heading a division of the reserve army, he occupied the first line at the Battle of Marengo, and was largely responsible for its successful outcome. He was rewarded for his exploit with a sabre of honor.
Victor was named captain general in Louisiana (1803), then ambassador plenipotentiary to Denmark (1805). In 1806, he returned to his true vocation during the Prussian campaign, joining the Grande Armée as chief of staff for the 5th corps. The following year, the Emperor gave him the command of the 10th corps, which had just been created. After the Battle of Friedland (1807), Napoleon gave him the title of marshal. Victor also received the governorship of Prussia. He was made Duc de Bellune in 1808.
In Spain, he won a major victory at Medellin. When Napoleon left the front to go fight the Austrians, he delegated power to Victor, who joined King Joseph's army.
During the Russian Campaign, he was at the head of the 9th corps of the Grande Armée, with which he organized a heroic defense against the enemy on the banks of the Berezina. Thanks to his resistance, the entire army was able to cross the river in November 1812. He was also the main architect of the Dresden victory (1813).
Victor distinguished himself for the last time during the 1814 campaign by, liberating the village of Brienne by bayonet. After the abdication of Napoleon, Victor offered his services to Louis XVIII, who gave him a command and made him a Peer of France.