Charles Leclerc (general)

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Charles Leclerc
General CHARLES-EMMANUEL LECLERC (1772-1802).jpg
Charles Leclerc by François-Joseph Kinson (1771–1839)
Born17 March 1772 (1772-03-17)
Pontoise, France
DiedNovember 2, 1802(1802-11-02) (aged 30)
Tortuga, Haiti
AllegianceFlag of France (1790-1794).svg Kingdom of France
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  French First Republic
Service/branch French Army
Years of service1791–1802
Rank Général de division
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars
Saint-Domingue expedition

Charles Victoire Emmanuel Leclerc (17 March 1772 – 2 November 1802) was a French Army general who served under Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolution. He was husband to Pauline Bonaparte, sister to Napoleon. In 1801, he was sent to Saint-Domingue (Haiti), where an expeditionary force under his command captured and deported the Haitian leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, as part of an unsuccessful attempt to reassert imperial control over the Saint-Domingue government. Leclerc died of yellow fever during the failed expedition.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Pauline Bonaparte French politician

Pauline Bonaparte was an Italian noblewoman, the first sovereign Duchess of Guastalla in Italy, an imperial French Princess and the Princess consort of Sulmona and Rossano. She was the sixth child of Letizia Ramolino and Carlo Buonaparte, Corsica's representative to the court of King Louis XVI of France. Her elder brother, Napoleon, was the first Emperor of the French. She married Charles Leclerc, a French general, a union ended by his death in 1802. Later, she married Camillo Borghese, 6th Prince of Sulmona. Her only child, Dermide Leclerc, born from her first marriage, died in childhood. She was the only Bonaparte sibling to visit Napoleon in exile on his principality, Elba.

Saint-Domingue Former French colony on the isle of Hispaniola

Saint-Domingue was a French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, in what is now Haiti.

Contents

Biography

To 1801

Leclerc started his military career in 1791 during the French Revolution as one of the army volunteers of Seine-et-Oise and passed through the ranks of sous-lieutenant in the 12th Cavalry, then aide-de-camp to general Lapoype. He was made a captain and divisional chief of staff during the siege of Toulon, at which he first allied himself to Napoleon Bonaparte. Following the revolutionary success there, he campaigned along the Rhine. He began serving under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Alpine and Italian campaigns, fighting at Castiglione della Pescaia and Rivoli and rising to général de brigade in 1797. He was then charged with announcing to the French Directory the signature of the peace preliminaries at Leoben. Pauline Bonaparte was at this time receiving a large number of suitors, thus pressing her brother Napoleon Bonaparte to have her married off. On Leclerc's return, he accepted Bonaparte's offer of Pauline's hand in marriage and they married in 1797, having one child, Dermide, and occupying the Château de Montgobert.

Seine-et-Oise former French department (1790-1968)

Seine-et-Oise was a département of France encompassing the western, northern, and southern parts of the metropolitan area of Paris. Its préfecture (capital) was Versailles and its official number was 78. Seine-et-Oise was abolished in 1968 as part of the reorganization of the départements of the Paris metropolitan area.

Jean François Cornu de La Poype was a French military leader. He was born in Lyon, to a noble, military family.

Siege of Toulon siege

The Siege of Toulon was a military operation by Republican forces against a Royalist rebellion in the southern French city of Toulon.

He became chef d'état-major to generals Berthier and Brune and served in the second unsuccessful French Army military expedition to Ireland led by Jean Joseph Amable Humbert in 1798. On Bonaparte's return from the Egyptian expedition in 1798, he made Leclerc a général de division and sent him to the armée du Rhin under Moreau. At this rank Leclerc was able to participate in the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire (in November 1799) that made his brother-in-law Napoleon First Consul of France – supported by Murat, he ordered the grenadiers to march into the room of the Council of Five Hundred. He was next noted for his participation in the Rhine campaign and the battle of Hohenlinden, receiving the supreme command of the 17th, 18th and 19th military divisions. He then passed from that post to being commander-in-chief of an army corps that Napoleon meant to send to Portugal to force it to renounce its alliance with England, though that expedition never took place.

Louis-Alexandre Berthier Marshal and Vice-Constable of France

Louis-Alexandre Berthier, 1st Prince of Wagram, Sovereign Prince of Neuchâtel, was a French Marshal and Vice-Constable of the Empire, and Chief of Staff under Napoleon.

Jean Joseph Amable Humbert French general

General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert was a French soldier, a participant in the French Revolution, who led a failed invasion of Ireland to assist Irish patriots in 1798. Born in the townland of La Coâre Saint-Nabord, outside Remiremont Vosges, he was a sergeant in the National Guard of Lyon. He rapidly advanced through the ranks to become brigadier general on 9 April 1794 and fought in the Western campaigns before being allocated to the Army of the Rhine.

Jean Victor Marie Moreau Marshal of France

Jean Victor Marie Moreau was a French general who helped Napoleon Bonaparte to power, but later became a rival and was banished to the United States.

Saint-Domingue

In 1791, black slaves in the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue had risen up against their French owners in the Haitian Revolution, which was contemporaneous with the French Revolution. In August 1793, the French Republican commissioner Léger-Félicité Sonthonax officially abolished slavery on Saint-Domingue, as part of an effort to recruit rebel slaves to the side of the new French Republic. The prominent rebel leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, himself a former slave, joined the French Republican side shortly afterwards. By 1801, L'Ouverture had consolidated his rule over the entire island of Hispaniola, including the colony of Saint-Domingue. In July 1801, L'Ouverture promulgated a new constitution for the colony that appointed himself governor for life, while simultaneously reaffirming the colony's position as "part of the French empire." [1]

Haitian Revolution slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue

The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign nation of Haiti. It began on 22 August 1791, and ended in 1804 with the former colony's independence. It involved blacks, mulattoes, French, Spanish, and British participants—with the ex-slave Toussaint L'Ouverture emerging as Haiti's most charismatic hero. It was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former captives. It is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of racism in the Atlantic World.

Léger-Félicité Sonthonax French abolitionist

Léger-Félicité Sonthonax was a French abolitionist and Jacobin before joining the Girondist party, which emerged in 1791. During the French Revolution, he controlled 7,000 French troops in Saint-Domingue during part of the Haitian Revolution. His official title was Civil Commissioner. From September 1792 to December 1795, he was the de facto ruler of Saint-Domingue's non-slave populace. Within a year of his appointment, his powers were considerably expanded by the Committee of Public Safety. He was recalled in 1795 largely due to the resurgence of conservative politics in France. Sonthonax believed that Saint-Domingue's whites were royalists or separatists, so he attacked the military power of the white settlers and by doing so alienated the colonial settlers from their government. Many gens de couleur asserted that they could form the military backbone of Saint-Domingue if they were given rights, but Sonthonax rejected this view as outdated in the wake of the August 1791 slave uprising. He believed that Saint-Domingue would need ex-slave soldiers among the ranks of the colonial army if it was to survive. On August 1793, he proclaimed freedom for all slaves in the north province. His critics allege that he was forced into ending slavery in order to maintain his own power.

Hispaniola island in the Caribbean

Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean island group known as the Greater Antilles. It is the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba, and the most populous island in the Caribbean; it is also the eleventh most populous island in the world.

Upon receiving the news in October 1801, Napoleon interpreted L'Ouverture's new constitution as an unacceptable offense to French imperial authority, and subsequently appointed Leclerc commander of a military expedition to reconquer Saint-Domingue. [2] [3] In his initial instructions, Bonaparte directed Leclerc to disarm L'Ouverture's black-controlled government and deport his military officers to France, while maintaining the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue. Bonaparte also announced intentions to reinstate slavery in neighboring Spanish Santo Domingo, which L'Ouverture had recently occupied. [4]

Captaincy General of Santo Domingo Spanish 1493-1821 possession in the Caribbean

Santo Domingo, officially Captaincy General of Santo Domingo or alternatively Kingdom of Santo Domingo was the first colony established in the New World under Spain. The island was named "La Española" (Hispaniola) by Christopher Columbus. In 1511, the courts of the colony were placed under the jurisdiction of the Real Audiencia of Santo Domingo. French buccaneers took over part of the west coast in 1625 and French settlers arrived soon thereafter. After decades of conflicts Spain finally ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France in the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, thus establishing the basis for the later national divisions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Leclerc set off from Brest in December 1801 and landed at Cap-Français in February 1802, with other warships and a total of 40,000 troops (including reinforcements, upwards to 80,000 troops were sent to Saint-Domingue during Leclerc's campaign), publicly repeating Bonaparte's promise that "all of the people of Saint-Domingue are French" and forever free. L'Ouverture's harsh discipline had made him numerous enemies and Leclerc played off the ambitions of L'Ouverture's younger key officers and competitors against each other, promising that they would maintain their ranks in the French Army and thus bringing them to abandon L'Ouverture. The French won several victories and regained control in three months after severe fighting, with L'Ouverture forced to negotiate an honorable surrender and to retire to tend his plantations under house-arrest. However, Napoleon had given secret instructions to Leclerc to arrest L'Ouverture, and so Leclerc seized L'Ouverture – during a meeting – for deportation to France, where he died while imprisoned at Fort-de-Joux in the Jura mountains in 1803.

Brest, France Subprefecture and commune in Brittany, France

Brest is a city in the Finistère département in Brittany. Located in a sheltered bay not far from the western tip of the peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon. The city is located on the western edge of continental Europe. With 142,722 inhabitants in a 2007 census, Brest is at the centre of Western Brittany's largest metropolitan area, ranking third behind only Nantes and Rennes in the whole of historic Brittany, and the 19th most populous city in France; moreover, Brest provides services to the one million inhabitants of Western Brittany. Although Brest is by far the largest city in Finistère, the préfecture of the department is the much smaller Quimper.

Cap-Haïtien Commune in Nord, Haiti

Cap-Haïtien often referred to as Le Cap or Au Cap, is a commune of about 190,000 people on the north coast of Haiti and capital of the department of Nord. Previously named, Cap‑Français and Cap‑Henri, it was historically nicknamed the Paris of the Antilles, because of its wealth and sophistication, expressed through its architecture and artistic life. It was an important city during the colonial period, serving as the capital of the French Colony of Saint-Domingue from the city's formal foundation in 1711 until 1770 when the capital was moved to Port-au-Prince. After the Haitian Revolution, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Northern Haiti under King Henri Christophe until 1820.

Despite his superiors' warnings, Leclerc did not consolidate his victory by disarming L'Ouverture's old officers. After a brief period in which he incorporated many of L'Ouverture's officers into his own forces, Leclerc began suffering mass defections of troops over the latter half of 1802. Those troops, along with the black and Creole population of the colony, rose up in response to news that slavery had been reestablished on Guadeloupe. The prospect of a similar restoration on Saint-Domingue swung the tide inexorably against French hopes for reimposing control, as Leclerc began executing suspected conspirators en masse.

By October 1802, Leclerc wrote to Bonaparte advocating for a war of extermination, declaring that "We must destroy all the blacks of the mountains – men and women – and spare only children under 12 years of age. We must destroy half of those in the plains and must not leave a single colored person in the colony who has worn an epaulette." In that letter to Bonaparte, Leclerc also lamented his assignment, declaring "My soul is withered, and no joyful thought can ever make forget these hideous scenes." [5] In the meantime, more black and mulatto army officers had defected, including Jean Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion and Henri Christophe. After Christophe massacred several hundred Polish soldiers at Port-de-Paix following his defection, Leclerc ordered the arrest of all remaining black colonial troops in Le Cap, and executed 1000 of them by tying sacks of flour to their neck and pushing them off the side of ships. [6]

Death

In November 1802, Leclerc died of yellow fever, which had already decimated his invasion force. His wife Pauline returned to Europe, where she later married the Italian nobleman Camillo Borghese. Leclerc was succeeded in command by General Rochambeau, whose brutal racial warfare drove more leaders back to the rebel armies. On 18 November 1803, François Capois defeated Rochambeau's forces in the Battle of Vertières. Dessalines proclaimed the independence of Haïti and its new name on 1 January 1804. In the meantime Leclerc's body had been transported to France by his widow and buried on one of his estates.

Memorials

Statue of Leclerc at Pontoise Statue leclerc.JPG
Statue of Leclerc at Pontoise

A statue at Pontoise shows him in Napoleonic uniform, his scabbard touching the earth. It was put up by marshal Davout and his second wife Louise-Aimée-Julie (Leclerc's sister) at the top of a staircase built in 1869 by François Lemot. Around 3m high, the statue is on a square stone pedestal inscribed with information on him in gold majuscule letters. It adjoins the south side of city's cathedral. There is also a statue of him by Jean Guillaume Moitte in the Pantheon de Paris.

Footnotes

  1. DUBOIS, Laurent; Dubois, Laurent (2009-06-30). Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 243–245. ISBN   9780674034365.
  2. Philippe R. Girard, "Liberte, Egalite, Esclavage : French Revolutionary Ideals and the Failure of the Leclerc Expedition to Saint-Domingue," French Colonial History, Volume 6, 2005, pp. 55–77 doi : 10.1353/fch.2005.0007
  3. DUBOIS, Laurent; Dubois, Laurent (2009-06-30). Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 253–254. ISBN   9780674034365.
  4. DUBOIS, Laurent; Dubois, Laurent (2009-06-30). Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 256–260. ISBN   9780674034365.
  5. DUBOIS, Laurent; Dubois, Laurent (2009-06-30). Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Harvard University Press. p. 292. ISBN   9780674034365.
  6. DUBOIS, Laurent; Dubois, Laurent (2009-06-30). Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 288–289. ISBN   9780674034365.

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