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Napoleon's Marshals

Napoleon's Marshals

Napoleon's Marshals

Marshal of France was the highest military rank in France before the revolution. After the revolution it was abolished as an elitest rank, but in 1804 Napoleon reinstated it as part of his attempts to rebuild a system of honours in France. Napoleon appointed twenty six marshals between 1804 and 1815.

Name

Lived

Notes and titles

Date appointed

Pierre Francois Charles Augereau

1757-1816

Duc de Castiglione

Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte

1763-1844

Later King Charles XIV of Sweden

Louis-Alexandre Berthier

1753-1815

Prince de Neuchatel, suicide or murdered?

Jean Baptiste Bessieres

1763-1813

Duc D’Istrie, Killed in battle

Guillaume Marie Anne Brune

1763-1815

Murdered by a loyalist mob

Louis Nicolas Davout

1770-1823

Prince de Eckmuhl, Duc d’Auerstadt

Laurent Gouvion St.Cyr

1764-1830

Later Marquis de St.Cyr

Emmanuel Marquis de Grouchy

1766-1847

Marquis

Jean Baptiste Jourdan

1762-1833

Francois Etienne Christophe Kellerman

1735-1820

Duc de Valmy

Jean Lannes

1769-1809

Killed in battle

Francois Joseph Lefebvre

1755-1820

Duc de Danzig

Jacques Etienne Joseph Macdonald

1765-1840

Duc de Tarente

Auguste Frederic Viesse de Marmont

1774-1852

Duc de Raguse

Andre Massena

1758-1817

Prince d’Essling Duc de Rivoli

Bon Adrien Jannot de Moncey

1754-1842

Duc de Conegliano

Adolphe Edouard Mortier

1768-1835

Duc de Trevise

Joachim Murat

1767-1815

King of Naples, Grand Duke of Berg, death by firing squad

Michel Ney

1769-1815

Prince de la Moskowa, Duc D’Elchingen, death by firing squad

Nicholas Charles Oudinot

1767-1847

Duc de Reggio

Catherine Dominique Perignon

1754-1818

Later Marquis de Perignon

Josef Anton Prince Poniatowski

1763-1813

Drowned in battle

Jean Mathieu Serurier

1742-1819

Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult

1769-1851

Duc de Dalmatie

Louis Gabriel Suchet

1770-1826

Duc d’Albufera

Claude Victor

1764-1841

Duc de Bellune

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Napoleon's Marshals, Emir Bukhari. A good book but starting to look a bit dated now although the information is accurate and it is nicely illustrated with colour pictures of all the famous marshals in uniform.

Includes a brief service record of all of the main Marshals but is lacking on any great detail [SEE MORE]



Napoleonic Marshals of France

In May of 1804 Napoleon established the French Empire and with it he brought back the title of Marshal of France, also known as Marshal of the Empire at this time. Abolished by the National Convention in 1793, the title of Marshal of France was officially a civilian appointment but reserved for experienced generals. It was an honor to become a marshal and the marshals received higher pay and privileges. Napoleon wished to gain legitimacy in the eyes of Europe since other nations had the rank of field marshal, and he wished to reward and ensure the loyalty of the generals to his empire.

The first appointment of 18 marshals was made up of generals who had distinguished themselves during the French Revolution. Berthier, Augereau, Masséna, Sérurier, Murat, Lannes, and Bessières had all served under Napoleon in Italy. The other generals came from different armies during the French Revolution, as Napoleon intended to unite different loyalties and factions within the military and reward more than just those who had served with him in Italy. For example, Jourdan, Mortier, Ney, and Lefebvre all had experience with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, and many went on to serve with the Army of the Rhine. Many of the marshals were notable and unique compared to other generals for various characteristics of their personalities and careers. Masséna is often considered the best independent commander, though in later years he did not show as much genius as he had earlier in his career, and he was a notorious looter and womanizer. Berthier was utterly hopeless as an independent commander, but as chief of staff to Napoleon, no one else could compare to him with sorting out details and ensuring everyone had their correct orders. Murat was the most flamboyant of the marshals and he could lead a cavalry charge like no other, but strategy and administration were of no interest to him. The most surprising appointment was Davout, for he had not held a major command and many other successful generals had been passed by. Some wondered if Davout's ascension came about due to his marriage to General Leclerc's sister, since the deceased General Leclerc had married Pauline Bonaparte. Others surmised that Davout, as the protégé of the fallen Desaix, was perhaps selected in recognition of Desaix's services. Or perhaps Napoleon was able to discern some of the talent of Davout before others recognized his skills.

Marmont and Junot considered themselves friends of Napoleon from his earliest days and were disappointed to not be selected as marshals. Marmont would receive his marshal's baton in 1809 after the Battle of Wagram while Junot would fail to earn his in Portugal in 1807 and 1808. Victor had served well under Napoleon in Italy yet he was passed by while friends from the Army of Italy were selected. Victor had to wait until 1807 when he received his marshal's baton after the Battle of Friedland. Macdonald had commanded armies during the French Revolution but he was disgraced due to his support for Moreau at Moreau's trial, not to mention his outspoken criticism of others. Macdonald, however, was offered an opportunity at redemption in 1809 with the Army of Italy commanded by Napoleon's stepson, the inexperienced Eugene de Beauharnais. Macdonald displayed his skill and was awarded his baton in 1809 alongside Marmont and Oudinot. Gouvion St. Cyr had greatly distinguished himself during the Wars of the French Revolution yet he refused to sign a proclamation in support of the empire and he was therefore disgraced and passed by. His pride further hampered his progress as he had a history of resigning his command when angered. Nevertheless, he was finally named a marshal in 1812.

And what of the other talented commanders to gain fame during the French Revolution? Pichegru had killed himself in prison and Dumouriez was in exile and considered a traitor. Moreau was disgraced due to his association with Pichegru and because his house became a place of discontent against Napoleon. Napoleon stated that Moreau would have been a marshal if not for Moreau's wife's ambitions and the intrigues that arose from Moreau's wife and the Moreau club. 1 Lecourbe was disgraced due to association with Moreau. Vandamme had quite the fighting reputation but probably missed his opportunity due to his disagreeable and abrasive attitude. Marceau, Hoche, Joubert, Championnet, Kléber, Desaix, Lanusse, Richepanse, and Leclerc had died. Leclerc, married to Pauline Bonaparte, would almost certainly have been a marshal had he lived, for Murat as brother-in-law to Napoleon was appointed a marshal and Bernadotte as brother-in-law to Joseph Bonaparte was appointed a marshal. Ignoring the politics surrounding Joubert, had he lived he would have very likely been a marshal as he was a distinguished general in the Army of Italy and had greatly contributed to the victory at Rivoli. Desaix was one of the great commanders and was loyal to Napoleon, not to mention he saved the day at Marengo, so he would almost certainly have been a marshal. Hoche is often considered the second best general to arise during the French Revolution after Napoleon Bonaparte, so if he had lived and was willing to support the empire instead of a republic, he would have become a marshal. Given he and Napoleon worked together for the coup of 18 Fructidor to exile the royalists, it's possible he would have welcomed a military leader in charge of the nation. Lanusse is another likely candidate had he lived, as on Saint Helena Napoleon said that Lanusse "possessed the sacred fire". 2

What about those generals who survived the French Revolutionary Wars only to be killed in battle before their careers reached their peak? Chandler cites historian Marcel Dupont that Napoleon told General Saint-Hilaire in April of 1809, "Well, you have earned your marshal's baton and you shall have it." Chandler goes on, "Before the coveted insignia could arrive from Paris, St. Hilaire would be dead. " 3 It seems unlikely that Napoleon actually said this as it is not recorded in a number of sources that Saint-Hilaire would become a marshal. Furthermore, as an example Poniatowski was named a marshal on the spot, there was no delay to becoming a marshal, and it shouldn't have taken more than six weeks to receive something of such importance from Paris. Regardless, Saint-Hilaire was a distinguished general and he may have become a marshal had he lived.

If Napoleon had remained in power, who might he have named a marshal in later years? On Saint Helena, Napoleon was asked by Dr. O'Meara who was the ablest of his generals and Napoleon replied, "That is difficult to say, but it seems to me it may have been Suchet. Once it was Masséna, but eventually one had to consider him as virtually dead. Suchet, Clauzel, and Gérard were the best French generals in my opinion." 4 Suchet was already a marshal, and both Clauzel and Gérard would become marshals during the reign of Louis Philippe. At another time on Saint Helena, Napoleon said to Las Casas, "The generals who seemed destined to rise to future distinction were Gérard, Clauzel, Foy, Lamarque, et cetera. These were my new marshals." 5 Did Napoleon literally say "et cetera", or did Las Casas not write down all the names? It would have been very interesting to know who else Napoleon thought had the talent to be marshals. Reille is a likely candidate as he commanded wings of the armies in Spain and a corps in Belgium and Mouton is another candidate as he also commanded a corps in Belgium. Neither had failures in their record and both eventually became Marshals of France during Louis Philippe's reign.

Regardless of what ifs, Napoleon appointed the following 26 generals as Marshals of the Empire between 1804 and 1815:


Who was Napoleon's best Marshal?

So Napoleon had 26 Marshals, who were by his account the very best France had to offer in terms of generals, there has been a lot of debates about who was his best marshal, so in your opinion SB who was the greatest of Napoleon's Marshals?

I will give my choice in the topic and say that Louis-Gabriel Suchet - Wikipedia, while he never fought a battle that's as remembered as Austerlitz or one like that, he was an amazing general who managed to defeat forces stronger than him and who also was a genius who invented many of the principles of anti guerilla warfare that are even studied today, he also was a halfway decent person who understood that the only way for France to win in Spain was to be a humane ruler and win the love of the population for King Joseph.

Also if anyone wants to see the full list heres the Wiki article on Marshal of the Empire - Wikipedia.

Eliar

Kickass general and went on to become King of Sweden and basically rule over the Baltic till his death of old age.

Locki

Aspiring Jaeger Pilot

Refused to wear a blindfold at his execution and insisted on giving one final order as a loyal son of France: " Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her . Soldiers, fire! "​

Duncan_Idaho

Ash Nazg

Refused to wear a blindfold at his execution and insisted on giving one final order as a loyal son of France: " Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her . Soldiers, fire! "​

Ney has a good case for bravest but definitely not best p

Massena, Lannes, and Davout are often cited as the best, IIRC

Raunchel

Adult Human Female

Murat, obviously. I mean, have you seen his outfits?

But more seriously, there were a few really good ones, but I would probably go for Lannes. He was seriously capable and his loss really hurt Napoleon.

PsihoKekec

Footman of the apocalypse

Kensai

我们都是中国人

Refused to wear a blindfold at his execution and insisted on giving one final order as a loyal son of France: " Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her . Soldiers, fire! "​

A very brave man, but not the cleverest. Certainly not within the first rank of Napoleon's Marshals.

I'd also vote for Bernadotte. Aside from his battlefield achievements, he reigned wisely and well in Sweden, bringing peace and stability to a fractured society - and was so deeply respected that his family still holds the throne today.

(I might be biased, because I copy-edited a book on the royal palaces of Sweden a couple of years ago, and Bernadotte features heavily in it.)

Locki

Aspiring Jaeger Pilot

A very brave man, but not the cleverest. Certainly not within the first rank of Napoleon's Marshals.

I'd also vote for Bernadotte. Aside from his battlefield achievements, he reigned wisely and well in Sweden, bringing peace and stability to a fractured society - and was so deeply respected that his family still holds the throne today.

(I might be biased, because I copy-edited a book on the royal palaces of Sweden a couple of years ago, and Bernadotte features heavily in it.)

But Bernadotte was a traitor to his Emperor!

The really interesting philosophical question in this post is what constitutes "greatness". IMO it is not always the same as the "best."

If I were Napoleon and had to choose between a more skillful and even "wise" general like Bernadotte or a brave and loyal lieutenant like Ney I think I'd go for Ney.

Ney is the man who refused to be classified as Prussian at his trial to escape the firing squad. He remained stubbornly French to the very last second of life. Bernadotte was a skillful general and even a humanist (stopped the looting of Swedish cities) but in the end when someone offered him a payrise he hightailed out of there and transferred his loyalties and considerable talents to Sweden.

Every time I read a bit further into Napolean you come to the realisation Greatness begets greatness. His Marshals are some of the most remarkable men in history. Just an amazing period of history.

NealCaffrey

Watch White Collar.

Well I deliberately tried to not say what was greatness as it is really interesting for the different ways one can define greatness, for example I say that Suchet was the best marshal because he was great at everything and helped Napoleon on something he couldn't do by himself and also because he was a decent person.

But if one had to say what is greatness you could have it be, how good were they as generals carrying out Napoleon's orders and by their own command, how decent were they at politics and ruling and if you want, how decent of a human being were they.

Raunchel

Adult Human Female

A very brave man, but not the cleverest. Certainly not within the first rank of Napoleon's Marshals.

I'd also vote for Bernadotte. Aside from his battlefield achievements, he reigned wisely and well in Sweden, bringing peace and stability to a fractured society - and was so deeply respected that his family still holds the throne today.

(I might be biased, because I copy-edited a book on the royal palaces of Sweden a couple of years ago, and Bernadotte features heavily in it.)

Pochepiller2

I'm not sure I can pinpoint the best, but right out of top of my head I can think of:

Feric1999

Ben Who Devours

I will write when I am able

Ney was hilarious and will forever be My Guy, but you can't in good conscience call him the best. The man was a death-seeking hooligan who allegedly tried to hack up a cannon with his sword because he'd forgotten that Spiking was a thing.

I'd say Davout probably takes it.

Let see what the Emperor had to say about his marshals:

Augereau: It is a long time since the Marshal was truly a solider. Augereau's courage and outstanding virtues certainly elevated him above the crowd, but honours titles and money plunge him back into it. The conqueror of Castiglione could have left a cherished name to France, but she well recall the memory of the deserter of Lyons.

Bernadotte: I cannot say that Bernadotte betrayed me. He had become a sort of Swede, but he never promised or declared any intention to stay true. I can therefore accuse him of ingratitude, but not treason.

Berthier: I have been betrayed by Berthier, a true gosling whom I had made into a kind of eagle. There was not in the world a better Chief of Staff that is where his true talent lay, for was not capable of commanding a hundred men.

Bessieres: If I had had Bessieres at Waterloo, my Guard would have brought me victory.

Brune: Brune was justly proclaimed the saviour of the Batavian republic. The Romans would have awarded him the honour of a triumph. By saving Holland he also saved France from Invasion.

Davout: Davout will have his place in history because of Auerstadt. He also performed well at Eylau. But, urged on at Wagram, he was the cause of the loss of a possible battle the previous day. He also made mistakes at Borodino.

Saint-Cyr: My mistake to have employed Saint-Cyr, was that he never exposed himself to fire, made no visits, and left his comrades to be beaten.

Grouchy: Marshal Grouchy with thirty thousand men and a hundred cannons, solved the apparently undiscoverable secret of being on the morning of the 18th of June, 1815, neither on the battlefield nor at Wavre. his conduct was as unforeseeable as if his army, had undergone an earth quake and been swallowed up.

Jourdan: I certainly used that man very ill nothing would be more natural than that he should think he owned me little. Ah Well! I have have learned with Great pleasure that since my fall he has acted very well. H e has thus afforded ab example of that praiseworthy elevation of mind which distinguishes one man from another. Jourdan is a true patriot, and that is the answer to many thing that have been said of him.

Kellerman: I think that I was probably the boldest general who ever lived but I would not have dared to take a post there (the ridge topped by a windmill at Valmy).

Lannes: In the case of Lannes, his courage in the first place carried him further than his spirit but each day his spirit rose to the occasion, and restored the balance. He had truly become a superior being by the time he perished. I found a pigmy, but I lost a giant.

Lefebvre: He was truly brave man. who's only thought was to fight better. He had no fear of death. He possessed the sacred fire.

MacDonald: He was a reliable man, good to command between fifteen thousand and twenty thousand men. Brave, but slow and lazy. MacDonald and others like him were good when they knew where they were and under my orders further away it was a different matter.

Massena: Massena was once a very superior man, who, by a very special dispensation possessed that greatly desired coolness in the heat of an action. He became alive when surrounded by danger. Massena, who was endowed with rare courage and such remarkable tenacity also had a talent that increased the greater the danger. When defeated he was always ready to begin agin if he was in fact the victor.

Marmont: The ungrateful fellow. Marmont will be much unhappier than I. Many others were worse than he, who did not have the sense of shame that he felt. vanity was his undoing, an excess of folly.

Moncey: Moncey was an honest man.

Mortier: The three best of my generals were Davout, Soult and Bessieres. Mortier was the most feeble.

Murat: I cannot conceive how such a brave man could be so lax. He was only brave when confronted by the enemy, and then he was perhaps the bravest man in the world. but if he was placed in council he was a poltroon without judgement and was quite incapable of making a decision. Murat's character, however was nobler than Ney's, for he was generous and frank.

Ney: Ney only got what he deserved. I regret him as a man very precious on the battlefield, but he was too immoral, too stupid to be able to succeed. He was good for a command of ten thousand men but beyond that he was out of his depth.

Oudinot: He was a brave man, but not too bright. He let himself be dominated by his wife of good family. I should not have made either Marmont or Oudinot Marshals. We needed to win a war.

Poniatowski: He was a man of noble character, brimming over with honour and bravery. I intended to make him King of Poland had I succeeded in Russia.

Serurier: Serurier retained all the characteristics and severity of an infantry major: an honest man, with integrity and reliability, but unfortunate as a general.

Soult: I should have made a great example and had Soult shot. He was the greatest pillager of them all. Both him and Talleyrand put money before everything else they wanted a royal suite and money, always money.

Suchet: It is difficult to say who was the most able of my generals, but it seems to me it may have been Suchet once upon a time it was Massena, but eventually one had to consider him as virtually dead. Suchet, Clausel and Gerard were the best generals in my opinion.

Victor: Victor was better than you might think at the passage of the Berezina he commanded his corps very well indeed.


One Last Bid For Victory

Napoleon refused to concede the effort and ordered Ney to capture La Haye Sainte, which the defenders, primarily soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the King’s German Legion, had held throughout the day. The French surrounded the farmhouse and managed to capture the key position. Ney pleaded for reinforcements to exploit this significant gain, but Napoleon refused. Finally aware that the oncoming Prussians posed a great threat to his right flank and rear, Napoleon did send troops to bolster those sectors. At the same time, Wellington exerted great command presence, encouraging his soldiers and repositioning units to buttress his imperiled line while more Prussian troops came up to strengthen his left flank.

As Napoleon surveyed the battlefield, he realized that events were rapidly slipping from his control. One last bid for victory lay with his finest troops – the Old Guard – and he sent them forward.


Bullet Point # 23 – Did Napoleon’s Marshals betray him at Fontainebleau, in 1814?

Each “Bullet Point” will confront a question related to the First Empire. My remarks are designed to form the basis for debate and, I hope, research.

(Thierry Lentz, March 2019, translation Rory Maclean)

Napoleon signing his abdication at Fontainebleau on 4 April 1814
Painting by François Bouchot (1843), Palais de Versailles.

On 4 and 6 April 1814, at Fontainebleau, the marshals Ney, Lefebvre, Macdonald and Moncey put pressure on Napoleon to agree to abdicate. The reasons they gave? Continuing the fight risked leading to greater misfortunes, indeed a civil war, and at the same time Paris had fallen, and the Senate had voted for the Emperor to be deposed. Napoleon threatened his subordinates, bidding them to “summon the army”. Ney is said to have retorted: “The army will not march!” And to Napoleon’s threat, “the army will obey me!”, Ney (so the story goes) threatened back: ‘the army will obey its commanders”. The result of this face-off (which was probably less violent than the legend would have us believe) was that Napoleon drew up a declaration in which he consented to abdicate. This episode is called “the betrayal of the marshals”. These men were undoubtedly thinking about their own futures in demanding his abdication, but we cannot deny their military insight, nor their understanding of the political situation, nor even a certain regard for French national interests. On the other hand, when Marshal Marmont defected with his army corps (on 5 April), he very probably hastened the Emperor’s fall. And since his title was Duc de Raguse, the French language coined a new verb “raguser”, in other words “to do a Duc de Raguse” or simply “to betray”.


Books about Napoleon's marshals.

I recently bought the biography on Ney called "Bravest of the Brave.". I did not really find a lot on the other marshals though, or Ney for that matter. Are there any other books you guys know of? I would be interested to read more about them. Namely Bernadotte, Murat, Davout, Lannes and Massena. Like I said my search did not really lead to much, a few books here and there that were not available anymore. I feel like there has to be more out there.

I recently picked up a book "The French MacDonald", the "Journey of a Marshal of Napoleon in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in 1825". Translated by Jean-Didier Hache, pub. The Islands Book Trust.

It goes into his origins, his father was from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides and accompanied the Young Pretender from there to Skye, hence the song "Over the sea to Skye". He later left with the prince for France where he spent his remaining years as a soldier.

The book is mostly about the Marshal's private life but includes his part in the rise of Napoleon, though the main theme is the journey to Scotland to find relations and meet notables such as Sir Walter Scott.

Other than that, I have a copy of a book edited by David Chandler which contains every Marshal of Napoleon but not a very extensive description, "Napoleon's Marshals", 1987. It may be still available second-hand.


Did Napoleon’s Favourite Marshal End His Days As An American High School Teacher?

“I AM NEY OF FRANCE!” Those were reportedly the last words of an obscure 77-year-old North Carolina schoolmaster whose death in 1846 touched off a mystery that has consumed historians for more than a century and a half.

Was the deceased Peter Stuart Ney more than just a mild-mannered head master who had taught in and around Rowan County, North Carolina for more than 20 years? Was he also Michel Ney, “bravest of the brave,” field marshal to Napoleon, the Duke of Elchingen and veteran of countless battles?

The life story of France’s Marshal Ney reads like something out of a Bernard Cornwell novel. The son of a barrel maker who rose from the ranks as a trooper in the French hussars to eventually lead Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Ney was a bona fide war hero — wounded in battle, captured, released, decorated and later promoted to general.

Nicknamed Ginger for his flowing red hair, he was famous for riding to Napoleon’s rescue at the 1807 Battle of Eylau and for taking on the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War. Although eventually earning the title of duke, Ney won the undying respect of even the lowliest foot soldiers when he personally shouldered a musket and fought in the rear guard during the disastrous winter retreat from Moscow in 1812. In fact, Ney is remembered as the last Frenchman to leave Russian soil. Captured after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the marshal was eventually tried by the new French regime for treason, found guilty and condemned to death.

But was this hero of Napoleonic France really shot by a firing squad on Dec. 7, 1815 or was the execution faked, as some have suggested? Official history reports that Ney was buried in Paris at Père Lachaise Cemetery. But following his death, stories spread like wildfire about a plot hatched by those allied to the exiled emperor to save Ney.

According to the rumours, the firing squad actually shot blanks and the marshal (aware of the scheme) fooled onlookers by bursting blood packs concealed in his shirt. Supposedly, no customary final head-shot was delivered after the musket volley, further fuelling the conspiracy theorists. A body double was placed in the casket, many maintained, while Ney was actually spirited out of France by agents loyal to Bonaparte.

The following year, history records the sudden appearance of one “Peter Stuart Ney” in Charleston, South Carolina. The redheaded immigrant matched the marshal’s physical description. For the next few years, the middle-aged Ney moved about the southern U.S., never staying in the same town for too long, perhaps moving on when suspicions of his true identity heated up.

Eventually, Ney settled in Rowan County, North Carolina, where he became a well-liked and (by most accounts) tireless schoolteacher. According to his former students, Ney would parade and inspect them each morning, much like a field marshal might. He constantly pushed them to better themselves and had a tendency to challenge spirited and disruptive pupils to playful duels with wooden sticks. He even wrote a math textbook and once carved a replica of the globe into a pumpkin in an effort to teach his students world geography.

According the story, there were those who suspected that this mild-mannered teacher might just be the famed veteran of the wars in Europe. They pointed to the fact that Marshal Ney’s father had been named Peter and his mother’s maiden name was Stuart — a strange coincidence. And upon learning of the death of the former emperor in 1821, Ney reportedly drove a knife into his own neck in a fit of grief almost killing himself.

Some have guessed that the people of Rowan County knew full well the true identity of the hero in their midst and went to great lengths to cover for him. In his final hours, Ney reportedly told those at his bedside that he was in fact the famous marshal. His gravestone, which still stands today in Cleveland, North Carolina, reads “A native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte.”

In the decades following his death, historians have tried to settle the mystery once and for all. Disappointingly, samples of the two Neys’ handwriting have failed to show similarities and the two occasions that his body was exhumed, in 1887 and again in 1936, no conclusive proof emerged. To this day, the true identity of Peter Stuart Ney remains one of the most intriguing mysteries of North Carolina.


Napoleon's Marshals - History

Introduction To The Marshalate

'Old men forget yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantage

What feats he did that day.'

'Their service was hard. Their names are remembered.'

'The man in the ranks is not a model of wisdom in every respect, but he is a mighty shrewd judge of his own commanding officer no lying bulletin can throw dust in his eyes, no advertising swashbuckler can pass as a hero. The court-martial which sits round a bivouac fire may be very informal, but it has an 'instinct for reality.' I pin my faith to the judgment of the Grognards of the Old Guard. They spoke of him as 'l'Homme.''

-Unknown

The Great Wars exploded across Europe in 1792, Revolutionary France marching against all Europe to the stirring sounds of La Marseillaise and the Chant du Depart. The tramp of marching feet of eager volunteers and sullen regulars moving to the eastern and northern marches to fight the armies of the kings resounded on the streets of Paris and other French cities. La Patrie was definitely in danger, men flocked to the colors, thinking of la gloire and not realizing they were embarking on an adventure that wouldn't end for over twenty-three years, if they survived death and crippling wounds, disease, and privation.

In those serried ranks to the sound of those terrible drums marched twenty-six men, sergeants, junior officers, and new volunteers who would quite literally find a marshal's baton in the knapsack. Noblemen, former enlisted men from the old Royal Army, yardbird privates, soldiers of fortune, revolutionary zealots, sons of farmers, millers, and brewers, they all earned their epaulets under fire, learned their violent trade, and became, somewhere along the way, superb leaders of men.

To the sound of the beckoning guns, which would rumble from Lisbon to Moscow, marched grim, somewhat humorless soldiers who would become some of the most famous commanders in history. Some of them would gain their batons the old fashioned way, they earned them through military merit others were awarded the blue and gold baton of a Marshal of the Empire by their Emperor because they belonged to factions within the army and France that had to be reconciled to Napoleon's rule. These men still possessed considerable martial skills. There were also those who developed into masters of the military art, some with skills to match their Emperor. Massena, Davout, Suchet, St. Cyr, Soult, and Lannes were very capable generals and corps commanders, and were talented independent commanders. Others, such as Victor, Mortier, and Bessieres generally reached their level of competence at the corps level. Others needed to be aimed like a projectile, yet they, too, did their duty and added to the prestige and traditions.

Three would die on the battlefield, a few, turned sour and disillusioned, would betray their country and their Emperor, others would later mutiny in the dark days of 1814 and force Napoleon's abdication, but others would be noted for their loyalty, steadfastness, and selflessness in their long and honorable service. In them burned the true sacre feu, the sacred fire, the deep desire to win or perish.

The amassed talent of these soldiers, along with those of the other generals of the Republic and Empire would be the stuff legends are made of, and legend many would become, as well as their accomplishments. Incredibly tough, inured to hardship, often wounded, they returned to the sound of the guns year after year, repeatedly defeating the armies raised to meet them until the odds, even for them, became too long.

They and their comrades were arguably the best collection of military talent to ever serve one man. Additionally, there were few commanders in history who were better served by their subordinates. In the long road all soldiers eventually take to the muttering guns, to see the owl and hear the elephant, theirs may well have been the longest, and only the toughest, hardest of them succeeded.

Publisher's Note: The menu below links to the biographies of the Marshals. They come from the CD-Rom: Napoleon, Europe and the Empire by Infogrames. Many thanks to Infogrames and Artea for making this text freely available by not putting any copyright on it. If you are really interested in Napoleon then you must get this CD-Rom, it is one of the best works on Napoleon I have ever seen. Look for it on the Infogrames homepage.


Shortly after Ney’s death, a French veteran appeared in America called Peter Stuart Ney. This school teacher had a red complexion (Ney was known as “le Rougeaud”, “red faced”) and was supposedly good with a sword. One version states that the Duke of Wellington orchestrated his escape as they were supposedly both freemasons.

Although it seems unlikely, other officers of Napoleon did end up in America, such as Charles Lallemand. Ultimately, as with any conspiracy theory, we shall likely never know.


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