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The Napoleon Series > Military Information > Battles and Campaigns

Research Subjects: Biographies

The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
#3 General Francois-Etienne Kellermann

By Terry J. Senior


General Kellermann

General Francois-Etienne Kellermann

General Francois-Etienne Kellermann, the son of le Marechal and first duc de Valmy, was an outstanding leader with a record to match both Montbrun and LaSalle. He also possessed other skills such as diplomacy, and was very well educated and a talented linguist. He displayed these talents to good effect, first in America when he went as assistant to Chevalier Ternan and then in Portugal in August 1808 when putting together the terms of the Convention of Cintra.

This was considered heavily weighted in favour of the French and due in large part to Kellermann's negotiating skills. It also resulted in the three senior English commanders Wellesley, Burrard and Dalrymple all being recalled to London to give an explanation of their actions. The Convention, signed by both Kellermann for the French and Wellesley for the English, each being considered of equal rank, stated that in exchange for a cessation of hostilities and evacuation of Portugal, the French would receive free transport in English vessels, to a port of their choice for their men, horses, baggage, artillery and other equipment, which also included a certain amount of plunder.

Kellermann too, had the ability to read situations as they were developing, on the battlefield and to take appropriate action. Like Montbrun and LaSalle, he also possessed the necessary skills to control massed cavalry in the field. Somewhat less dynamic, but perhaps more calculating, he also lacked the charisma of the Florensac born Montbrun and the Alsatian LaSalle.

He had a very short, nonetheless difficult and worrying period during late 1793 when both he and his father were arrested and imprisoned, his father being thrown in the infamous l'Abbaye. The charges against him however, were flimsy and he was soon given his liberty, as was also his father.

He acquired the title duc de Valmy after his father died in September 1820. His was one of the longest active service careers under Napoleon and really began when he led the decisive charge at Marengo in June 1800, that having been made possible by the actions of the diminutive and much lamented General Louis-Charles-Antoine Desaix.

At Waterloo in June 1815, Kellermann commanded the 3rd Cavalry Corps consisting of the 11e and 12e Cavalry Divisions, comprising the 2e 3e, 8e, and 11e cuirassiers, 2e and 7e Dragons and 1er and 2e Carabinier Regiments having Generals Samuel baron l'Heritier and the veteran Nicolas-Francois vicomte Roussel d'Hurbal as his subordinate divisional commanders. Roussel-d'Hurbal had a strange active service record. Although born in Neufchataux (Vosges) in September 1763, he had enlisted in the Austrian army in 1782. He had fought against France at Aldenhoven in March 1793, and had become Colonel of the Regiment de Cuirassiers de Maurice de Lichtenstein and had been decorated as Chevalier de l'Ordre Militaire de Marie-Therese in October 1805. He received still more honours from the Austrians, for his good conduct at Essling and it wasn't until July 1811 that he entered the service of France as a General-de-Brigade. He thereafter gave good service to France but his career requires more research.



Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002


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