Jean-Charles Pichegru

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Jean-Charles Pichegru
AduC 188 Pichegru (J.C., 1761-1804).JPG
Commander-in-Chief, Army of the Rhine
Born16 February 1761 (1761-02-16)
Arbois or Les Planches-près-Arbois
Died5 April 1804 (1804-04-06) (aged 43)
Paris
AllegianceRoyal Standard of the King of France.svg  Kingdom of France
Flag of France (1790-1794).svg  Kingdom of the French
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  French First Republic
Years of service1783–1797
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars

Jean-Charles Pichegru (16 February 1761 – 5 April 1804) was a distinguished French general of the Revolutionary Wars. Under his command, French troops overran Belgium and the Netherlands before fighting on the Rhine front. His royalist positions led to his loss of power and imprisonment in Cayenne, French Guiana during the Coup of 18 Fructidor in 1797. After escaping into exile in London and joining the staff of Alexander Korsakov, he returned to France and planned the Pichegru Conspiracy to remove Napoleon from power, which led to his arrest and death. Despite his defection, his surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

French Revolutionary Wars series of conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Contents

Early life and career

Pichegru was born in a peasant family at Arbois (or, according to Charles Nodier, at Les Planches-près-Arbois, near Lons-le-Saulnier), in the then Franche-Comté (now in the Jura department of France). The friars of Arbois were entrusted with his education, and sent him to the military school of Brienne-le-Château. There, he taught mathematics, and among his pupils was the young Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1783, he entered the 1st regiment of artillery, where he rapidly rose to the rank of adjutant-second lieutenant, and briefly served in the American Revolutionary War.

Arbois Commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Arbois is a commune in the Jura department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in eastern France. The Cuisance River passes through the town, which has some pretty streets lined with ancient houses. The town centres on an arcaded central square where one can sample the local wines.

Charles Nodier French author

Jean Charles Emmanuel Nodier was an influential French author and librarian who introduced a younger generation of Romanticists to the conte fantastique, gothic literature, and vampire tales. His dream related writings influenced the later works of Gérard de Nerval.

Les Planches-près-Arbois Commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Les Planches-près-Arbois is a commune in the Jura department in Franche-Comté in eastern France.

When the Revolution erupted in 1789, he became leader of the Jacobin Club in Besançon, and, when a regiment of volunteers of the départment of the Gard marched through the city, he was elected lieutenant colonel.

Besançon Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Besançon is the capital of the department of Doubs in the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. The city is located in Eastern France, close to the Jura Mountains and the border with Switzerland.

Gard Department of France in Occitanie

Gard is a department in Southern France, located in the Occitanie region. It had a population of 742,006 as of 2016; its prefeture is Nîmes. The department is named after the Gardon River; the Occitan name of the river, Gard, has been replacing the French name in recent decades, both administratively and among French speakers.

Lieutenant colonel (pronounced Lef-ten-ent Kernel or Loo-ten-ent Kernel ) is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies, most marine forces and some air forces of the world, above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence. Sometimes, the term, 'half-colonel' is used in casual conversation in the British Army. A lieutenant colonel is typically in charge of a battalion or regiment in the army.

Rhine front

The fine condition of his regiment was noticed in the French Revolutionary Army section of the Rhine, and his organizing ability got him appointed in the headquarters, and then promoted général de brigade.

French Revolutionary Army

The French Revolutionary Army was the French force that fought the French Revolutionary Wars from 1792 to 1802. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary fervour, their poor equipment and their great numbers. Although they experienced early disastrous defeats, the revolutionary armies successfully expelled foreign forces from French soil and then overran many neighboring countries, establishing client republics. Leading generals included Jourdan, Bonaparte, Masséna and Moreau.

In 1793, Lazare Carnot and Louis de Saint-Just were sent to find roturier (non-aristocratic) generals who could prove successful (see: Campaigns of 1793 in the French Revolutionary Wars ). Carnot discovered Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, and Saint-Just discovered Louis Lazare Hoche and Pichegru. At first, Pichegru was appointed général de division and commander of the Division of the Upper Rhine.

Lazare Carnot French political, engineering and mathematical figure

Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Count Carnot was a French mathematician, physicist and politician. He was known as the Organizer of Victory in the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars.

French nobility privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790

The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were abolished for good. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.

The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1792, with new powers entering the First Coalition after the execution of King Louis XVI. Spain and Portugal entered the coalition in January 1793, and on 1 February France declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands.

Appointed commander-in-chief of the Army of the Rhine, Pichegru attacked the Coalition army of Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser in the Battle of Haguenau in 1793. Over a period of weeks the Coalition Forces were driven back step by step in bitter fighting. The intervention of the Army of the Moselle under Hoche at the Battle of Froeschwiller in late December finally caused Wurmser to abandon Alsace. For the Second Battle of Wissembourg, Pichegru was placed under the command of Hoche, who proved to be a difficult superior. Nevertheless, the French again won the battle, compelling Wurmser to retreat to the east bank of the Rhine and the Prussian army to withdraw toward Mainz.

Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser austrian marshall

Dagobert Sigismund, Count von Wurmser was an Austrian field marshal during the French Revolutionary Wars. Although he fought in the Seven Years' War, the War of the Bavarian Succession, and mounted several successful campaigns in the Rhineland in the initial years of the French Revolutionary Wars, he is probably most remembered for his unsuccessful operations against Napoleon Bonaparte during the 1796 campaign in Italy.

The Battle of Haguenau saw a Republican French army commanded by Jean-Charles Pichegru mount a persistent offensive against a Coalition army under Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser during the War of the First Coalition. In late November, Wurmser pulled back from his defenses behind the Zorn River and assumed a new position along the Moder River at Haguenau. After continuous fighting, Wurmser finally withdrew to the Lauter River after his western flank was turned in the Battle of Froeschwiller on 22 December. Haguenau is a city in Bas-Rhin department of France, located 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of Strasbourg.

War of the First Coalition 1790s war to contain Revolutionary France

The War of the First Coalition is the traditional name of the wars that several European powers fought between 1792 and 1797 against the French First Republic. Despite the collective strength of these nations compared with France, they were not really allied and fought without much apparent coordination or agreement. Each power had its eye on a different part of France it wanted to appropriate after a French defeat, which never occurred.

Northern front

In December 1793, Hoche was arrested, probably owing to his colleague's denunciations, and Pichegru became commander-in-chief of the Army of the Rhine and Moselle. He was summoned to succeed Jourdan in the Army of the North in February 1794, subsequently fighting three major campaigns within the year. The forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Dutch Republic and Habsburg Austria held a strong position along the Sambre to the North Sea.

After attempting to break the Austrian centre, Pichegru suddenly turned their right, and defeated the Count of Clerfayt at Cassel, Menin and Courtrai, while his subordinate, Joseph Souham, defeated Prince Josias of Coburg in the battle of Tourcoing in May 1794. After a lull, during which Pichegru feigned a siege of Ypres, he again attacked Clerfayt, and defeated him at Roeselare and Hooglede, while Jourdan, commanding the newly named Army of Sambre-et-Meuse, withstood Austrian attacks in the battle of Fleurus (27 June 1794), which eventually led to Allied evacuation of the Low Countries.

Temperature during the winter campaign in The Netherlands 1794/1795 Pichegru temp.gif
Temperature during the winter campaign in The Netherlands 1794/1795

Pichegru began his second campaign by crossing the Meuse on 18 October, and, after taking Nijmegen, drove the Austrians beyond the Rhine. The Anglo-Hanoverian army withdrew behind the Waal. Then, while Pichegru's troops prepared to go into winter quarters, the Convention ordered the Army of the North to mount a winter campaign. On 27 December two brigades crossed the Meuse on the ice, and stormed the Bommelerwaard. On 10 January Pichegru's army crossed the ice of the Waal between Zaltbommel and Nijmegen, then, on 13 January, entered Utrecht, which surrendered on the 16th. The Anglo-Hanoverian army retreated behind the IJssel and then withdrew to Hanover and Bremen. Pichegru, who had successfully penetrated the frozen Hollandic Water Line, arrived in Amsterdam on 20 January, after the Batavian Revolution had taken place. The French occupied the rest of the Dutch Republic in the next month.

This major victory was marked by unique episodes, such as the Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder by French hussars, and exceptional discipline of the French battalions in Amsterdam, who, although faced with the opportunity of plundering the richest city in Europe, showed self-restraint.

Thermidor and Directory

Although a former associate of Saint-Just, Pichegru offered his services to the Thermidorian Reaction, and, after having received the title of Sauveur de la Patrie ("Saviour of the Fatherland") from the National Convention, subdued the sans-culottes of Paris, when they rose in insurrection against the Convention on 12 Germinal (1 April).

Pichegru then took command of the armies of the North, the Sambre-and-Meuse, and the Rhine, and, crossing the Rhine in force, took Mannheim in May 1795.

Going over to the Royalists

Although he had become a hero of the Revolution, he allowed his colleague Jourdan to be defeated, betrayed all his plans to the enemy, and took part in organizing a conspiracy for the return and crowning of Louis XVIII as King of France. The plans were suspected, and, when he offered his resignation to the Directory in October 1795, it was promptly accepted (much to his surprise). He retired in disgrace, but secured his election to the Council of Five Hundred in May 1797 as a leader of the Royalists.

Coup attempts and death

"The Death of Pichegru" (painting by Georges Moreau de Tours, 1891). Pichegru par Moreau de Tours.jpg
"The Death of Pichegru" (painting by Georges Moreau de Tours, 1891).

Pichegru planned a coup d'état during the Coup of 18 Fructidor , but he was arrested and with fourteen others was deported to Cayenne, French Guiana in 1797. He and seven others escaped and fled to Paramaribo. The gouverneur De Friderici allowed them to get on board a ship to the United States. Shortly thereafter, he went to London where he joined thousands of Frenchmen who had left France in a mass movement in an effort to save themselves from the violence of the French Revolution. There, he served on General Aleksandr Rimsky-Korsakov's staff in the campaign of 1799. He went to Paris in August 1803 with Georges Cadoudal to head a royalist uprising against the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. Betrayed by a friend, Pichegru was arrested on 28 February 1804, and was later found strangled in prison. The government reported that he had committed suicide, but the report was widely thought to be false. [1] [2]


Pichegru was buried in the cimetière Sainte-Catherine, a Paris cemetery with its entrance in the former rue de Fer, and which was closed in 1824.

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References

  1. Scott, Sir Walter (1827). The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French. 2. New York: J. & J. Harper. pp. 49–50.
  2. "Pichegru".

Sources