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Jean-Baptiste Comte Jourdan, Marshal of France, 1762-1833

Jean-Baptiste Comte Jourdan, Marshal of France, 1762-1833


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Jean-Baptiste Comte Jourdan, Marshal of France, 1762-1833

Jourdan had one of the longest careers of any of Napoleon's Marshals, having served under Lafayette during the American War of Independence and then fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars, and on into the Napoleonic wars, surviving those to serve as governor of Les Invalides and Minister for Foreign Affairs under King Louis-Philippe. He became a Marshal in 1804 when he was appointed the commander of the Armee d'Italie which he commanded until September 1805. He became governor of Naples the following year and in 1808 became Chief of Staff to the Armee d'Espagne. He saw action at the battles of Talavera and Almonacid in 1809 returning to France in the October of that year. He returned to Spain in 1811 to become governor of Madrid and in 1812 fought at the battles of Salamanca and Vittoria while serving King Joseph as his Chief of staff. He was recalled to France in 1812 and retired in 1813 but this was not to last long. He was recalled to command the 14th and 15th Military divisions in 1814 but when the Bourbons retuned to power he quickly switched his allegiance back to the monarch and was made a Chevalier de Saint-Louis and commander of the 15th military division. After Waterloo he once again rallied to the monarchy and presided over the council of War that sentenced Marshall Ney to death. Despite his long record he was a timid commander more suited to the defensive warfare of a previous age than Napoleonic Warfare, Napoleon recognised this also and never gave Jourdan command of anything except secondary posts.

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List of Marshals of France

Marshal of France (French: Maréchal de France, plural Maréchaux de France) is a French military distinction, rather than a military rank, that is awarded to generals for exceptional achievements. The title has been awarded since 1185, though briefly abolished (1793–1804) and for a period dormant (1870–1916). It was one of the Great Officers of the Crown of France during the Ancien Régime and Bourbon Restoration, and one of the Grand Dignitaries of the Empire during the First French Empire (when the title was Marshal of the Empire, not Marshal of France).

A Marshal of France displays seven stars on each shoulder strap. A marshal also receives a baton: a blue cylinder with stars, formerly fleurs-de-lis during the monarchy and eagles during the First French Empire. The baton bears the Latin inscription of Terror belli, decus pacis, which means "terror in war, ornament in peace".

Between the end of the 16th century and the middle of the 19th century, six Marshals of France were given the even more exalted rank of Marshal General of France: Biron, Lesdiguières, Turenne, Villars, Saxe, and Soult.


Jean-Baptiste, Count Jourdan

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Jean-Baptiste, Count Jourdan, (born April 29, 1762, Limoges, Fr.—died Nov. 23, 1833, Paris), military commander remembered as the sponsor of conscription during the French Revolutionary regime and as one of Napoleon’s marshals of the empire.

After being a soldier in King Louis XVI’s army and serving in the West Indies (1778–84), Jourdan retired and became a draper in Limoges. He supported the Revolution, however and, having been elected lieutenant colonel of volunteers in 1791, he rose to general of a division (1793). After successes against the Austrians, he was made commander of the Army of the Moselle in March 1794. Executing Lazare Carnot’s new strategy of concentrating troops and artillery at points of attack, he marched westward to the Sambre River and, on June 26, won so decisive a victory at Fleurus, in Hainaut, that Austrian resistance west of the Meuse River collapsed. By October, his army was occupying all of Belgium.

Jourdan’s campaigns east of the Rhine River (1795 and 1796) were less successful and, in 1797, he was elected to sit as deputy for Haute-Vienne in the council of Five Hundred. He was there responsible for the legalization of mass conscription (Sept. 5, 1798). His subsequent military career was largely unsuccessful, though in 1804 Napoleon appointed him a marshal. He was at last dismissed from command because of his failure to control his troops at the Battle of Vitoria (June 1813).


Main portrait


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"Marshal Jourdan". Nineteenth century etching.
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"Marshal Jourdan". Nineteenth century French school.
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"General Jourdan". Nineteenth century etching.
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"Jean-Baptiste, Count Jourdan, French Marshal" by Eugène Charpentier (Paris 1811 - Paris 1890), after Joseph Marie Vien (Montpellier 1716 - Paris 1809).

1762: Jean-Baptiste Jourdan: Napoleon’s Marshal who Fought in America

Napoleon’s Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan was born on this day. He was about seven years older than Napoleon therefore, he was among the more experienced military commanders of the French Empire. Indeed, it is interesting that Jourdan became a general before Bonaparte did. Specifically, Jourdan was promoted to the rank of general in the French army in May 1793, and Napoleon only in December during same year.

However, the most interesting period of Jourdan’s life was the one before the French Revolution even started. Namely, Jordan joined the French army when he was only 15 years old. Of course, it was the royal army of Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Already the following year, young Jourdan crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the head of French troops, and found himself on the battlefields of the American War of Independence. In that war, the French were the allies of the Americans against Britain and its king, George III.

In America, young Jourdan participated in the siege of the city of Savannah in the state of Georgia. It was then the southernmost of the thirteen states because Florida was not yet a part of the United States. The city of Savannah was held by the British, and combined American and French forces besieged it in the attempt to conquer it. During the ensuing bloody battle, even the famous Casimir Pulaski, a Pole who is considered “Father of the American Cavalry”, was killed.

The American-French forces failed to take the city, and the British continued to hold it for a few more years. Jourdan was transferred to the French forces in the Caribbean. There he contracted an illness (possibly malaria) that troubled him for the rest of his life.


Bible Encyclopedias

Count (1762-1833), marshal of France, was born at Limoges on the 29th of April 1762, and in his boyhood was apprenticed to a silk merchant of Lyons. In 1776 he enlisted in a French regiment to serve in the American War of Independence, and after being invalided in 1784 he married and set up in business at Limoges. At the outbreak of the revolutionary wars he volunteered, and as a subaltern took part in the first campaigns in the north of France. His rise was even more rapid than that of Hoche and Marceau. By 1793 he had become a general of division, and was selected by Carnot to succeed Houchard as commander-in-chief of the Army of the North and on the 15th-16th of October 1793 he won the brilliant and important victory of Wattignies (see French Revolutionary Wars). Soon afterwards he became a "suspect," the moderation of his political opinions and his misgivings as to the future conduct of the war being equally distasteful to the truculent and enthusiastic Committee of Public Safety. Warned in time by his friend Carnot and by Barere, he avoided arrest and resumed his business as a silk-mercer in Limoges. He was soon reinstated, and early in 1794 was appointed commander-in-chief of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse. After repeated attempts to force the passage of the Sambre had failed and several severe general actions had been fought without result, Jourdan and his army were discouraged, but Carnot and the civil commissioners urged the general, even with threats, to a last effort, and this time he was successful not only in crossing the Sambre but in winning a brilliant victory at Fleurus (June 26, 1794), the consequence of which was the extension of the French sphere of influence to the Rhine, on which river he waged an indecisive campaign in 1795.

In 1796 his army formed the left wing of the advance into Bavaria. The whole of the French forces were ordered to advance on Vienna, Jourdan on the extreme left and Moreau in the centre by the Danube valley, Bonaparte on the right by Italy and Styria. The campaign began brilliantly, the Austrians under the Archduke Charles being driven back by Moreau and Jourdan almost to the Austrian frontier. But the archduke, slipping away from Moreau, threw his whole weight on Jourdan, who was defeated at Amberg and Wiirzburg, and forced over the Rhine after a severe rearguard action, which cost the life of Marceau. Moreau had to fall back in turn, and, apart from Bonaparte's marvellous campaign in Italy, the operations of the year were disastrous. The chief cause of failure was the vicious plan of campaign imposed upon the generals by their government. Jourdan was nevertheless made the scapegoat of the government's mistakes and was not employed for two years. In those years he became prominent as a politician and above all as the framer of the famous conscription law of 1798. When the war was renewed in 1799 Jourdan was placed at the head of the army on the Rhine, but again underwent defeat at the hands of the archduke Charles at Stockach (March 25), and, disappointed and broken in health, handed over the command to Massena. He at once resumed his political duties, and was a prominent opponent of the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire, after which he was expelled from the Council of the Five Hundred. Soon, however, he became formally reconciled to the new regime, and accepted from Napoleon fresh military and civil employment. In 1800 he became inspector-general of cavalry and infantry and representative of French interests in the Cisalpine Republic, and in 1804 he was made a marshal of France. He remained in the new kingdom of Italy until 1806, when Joseph Bonaparte, whom his brother made king of Naples in that year, selected Jourdan as his military adviser. He followed Joseph into Spain in the same capacity in 1808. But Joseph's throne had to be maintained by the French army, and throughout the Peninsular War the other marshals, who depended directly upon Napoleon, paid little heed either to Joseph or to Jourdan. After the battle of Vitoria he held no important command up to the fall of the Empire. Jourdan gave in his adhesion to the restoration government of 1814, and though he rejoined Napoleon in the Hundred Days and commanded a minor army, he submitted to the Bourbons again after Waterloo. He refused, however, to be a member of the court which tried Marshal Ney. He was made a count, a peer of France (1819), and governor of Grenoble (1816). In politics he was a prominent opponent of the royalist reactionaries and supported the revolution of 1830. After this event he held the portfolio of foreign affairs for a few days, and then became governor of the Invalides, where his last years were spent. Marshal Jourdan died on the 23rd of November 1833, and was buried in the Invalides.

He wrote Operations de l'armee du Danube (1799) Memoires pour servir a l'histoire sur la campagne de 1796 (1819) and unpublished personal memoirs.


Early career

Born at Limoges, France into a surgeon’s family, he enlisted in the French royal army in early 1778 when he was not quite sixteen. Assigned to the Regiment of Auxerrois, he participated in the ill-fated assault at the Siege of Savannah on 9 October 1779 during the American War of Independence. After service in the West Indies, he returned home in 1782 sick with a fever. Bouts of illness (possibly malaria) troubled him for the rest of his life. In 1784 he was discharged from the army and set up a haberdashery business in Limoges. He married a dressmaker in 1788 and the couple had five daughters.Glover-Chandler, p 158


Jourdan, Jean Baptiste

Jean Baptiste Jourdan (zhäN bätēst´ zhōōrdäN´) , 1762�, marshal of France. He fought in the American Revolution, and in the French Revolutionary Wars he commanded the Army of the North to Wattignies (1793), won a decisive victory at Fleurus (1794), and led the army of Sambre-et-Meuse into Cologne (1794). He sponsored the law of general conscription (1798) that bore his name. Although initially opposed to the coup of 18 Brumaire (1799), he served Napoleon as ambassador to the Cisalpine Republic (1801) and was made councilor of state (1802) and marshal of France (1804). After Napoleon's fall, he rallied to the Bourbons, who later made him a peer.

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Jean Baptiste, Count Jourdan - Encyclopedia

JEAN BAPTISTE JOURDAN, Count (1762-1833), marshal of France, was born at Limoges on the 29th of April 1762, and in his boyhood was apprenticed to a silk merchant of Lyons. In 1776 he enlisted in a French regiment to serve in the American War of Independence, and after being invalided in 1784 he married and set up in business at Limoges. At the outbreak of the revolutionary wars he volunteered, and as a subaltern took part in the first campaigns in the north of France. His rise was even more rapid than that of Hoche and Marceau. By 1793 he had become a general of division, and was selected by Carnot to succeed Houchard as commander-in-chief of the Army of the North and on the 15th-16th of October 1793 he won the brilliant and important victory of Wattignies (see French Revolutionary Wars). Soon afterwards he became a "suspect," the moderation of his political opinions and his misgivings as to the future conduct of the war being equally distasteful to the truculent and enthusiastic Committee of Public Safety. Warned in time by his friend Carnot and by Barere, he avoided arrest and resumed his business as a silk-mercer in Limoges. He was soon reinstated, and early in 1794 was appointed commander-in-chief of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse. After repeated attempts to force the passage of the Sambre had failed and several severe general actions had been fought without result, Jourdan and his army were discouraged, but Carnot and the civil commissioners urged the general, even with threats, to a last effort, and this time he was successful not only in crossing the Sambre but in winning a brilliant victory at Fleurus (June 26, 1794), the consequence of which was the extension of the French sphere of influence to the Rhine, on which river he waged an indecisive campaign in 1795.

In 1796 his army formed the left wing of the advance into Bavaria. The whole of the French forces were ordered to advance on Vienna, Jourdan on the extreme left and Moreau in the centre by the Danube valley, Bonaparte on the right by Italy and Styria. The campaign began brilliantly, the Austrians under the Archduke Charles being driven back by Moreau and Jourdan almost to the Austrian frontier. But the archduke, slipping away from Moreau, threw his whole weight on Jourdan, who was defeated at Amberg and Wiirzburg, and forced over the Rhine after a severe rearguard action, which cost the life of Marceau. Moreau had to fall back in turn, and, apart from Bonaparte's marvellous campaign in Italy, the operations of the year were disastrous. The chief cause of failure was the vicious plan of campaign imposed upon the generals by their government. Jourdan was nevertheless made the scapegoat of the government's mistakes and was not employed for two years. In those years he became prominent as a politician and above all as the framer of the famous conscription law of 1798. When the war was renewed in 1799 Jourdan was placed at the head of the army on the Rhine, but again underwent defeat at the hands of the archduke Charles at Stockach (March 25), and, disappointed and broken in health, handed over the command to Massena. He at once resumed his political duties, and was a prominent opponent of the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire, after which he was expelled from the Council of the Five Hundred. Soon, however, he became formally reconciled to the new regime, and accepted from Napoleon fresh military and civil employment. In 1800 he became inspector-general of cavalry and infantry and representative of French interests in the Cisalpine Republic, and in 1804 he was made a marshal of France. He remained in the new kingdom of Italy until 1806, when Joseph Bonaparte, whom his brother made king of Naples in that year, selected Jourdan as his military adviser. He followed Joseph into Spain in the same capacity in 1808. But Joseph's throne had to be maintained by the French army, and throughout the Peninsular War the other marshals, who depended directly upon Napoleon, paid little heed either to Joseph or to Jourdan. After the battle of Vitoria he held no important command up to the fall of the Empire. Jourdan gave in his adhesion to the restoration government of 1814, and though he rejoined Napoleon in the Hundred Days and commanded a minor army, he submitted to the Bourbons again after Waterloo. He refused, however, to be a member of the court which tried Marshal Ney. He was made a count, a peer of France (1819), and governor of Grenoble (1816). In politics he was a prominent opponent of the royalist reactionaries and supported the revolution of 1830. After this event he held the portfolio of foreign affairs for a few days, and then became governor of the Invalides, where his last years were spent. Marshal Jourdan died on the 23rd of November 1833, and was buried in the Invalides.

He wrote Operations de l'armee du Danube (1799) Memoires pour servir a l'histoire sur la campagne de 1796 (1819) and unpublished personal memoirs.


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