Jean-de-Dieu Soult

Last updated


Jean-de-Dieu Soult

Soult2.jpg
Portrait by George Peter Healy
10th Prime Minister of France
In office
29 October 1840 18 September 1847
Monarch Louis Philippe I
Preceded by Adolphe Thiers
Succeeded by François Guizot
In office
12 May 1839 1 March 1840
MonarchLouis Philippe I
Preceded by Louis-Mathieu Molé
Succeeded byAdolphe Thiers
In office
11 October 1832 18 July 1834
MonarchLouis Philippe I
Preceded by Casimir Perier
Succeeded by Étienne Maurice Gérard
Minister of War
In office
29 October 1840 10 November 1845
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded by Amédée Despans-Cubières
Succeeded by Alexandre Moline de Saint-Yon
In office
17 November 1830 18 July 1834
Prime Minister Jacques Laffitte
Casimir Perier
Preceded by Étienne Maurice Gérard
Succeeded byÉtienne Maurice Gérard
In office
26 November 1814 11 March 1815
Preceded by Pierre Dupont de l'Étang
Succeeded by Henri Clarke
Personal details
Born(1769-03-29)29 March 1769
Saint-Amans-la-Bastide, France
Died26 November 1851(1851-11-26) (aged 82)
Saint-Amans-la-Bastide, Tarn, France
Political party Independent
Spouse(s)
Jeanne-Louise-Elisabeth Berg
(m. 1796;died 1851)
Children2
Profession Military officer
Military service
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  First French Republic
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  First French Empire
Flag of the Kingdom of France (1814-1830).svg  Bourbon Restoration
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg  July Monarchy
Branch/service Army
Years of service1785–1815
Rank Marshal of the Empire
UnitInfantry Royal Regiment
Army of Sambre-et-Meuse
Army of Helvetia
110th Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars

Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult, [1] [2] 1st Duke of Dalmatia , (French:  [ʒɑ̃dədjø sult] ; 29 March 1769 – 26 November 1851) was a French general and statesman, named Marshal of the Empire in 1804 and often called Marshal Soult. Soult was one of only six officers in French history to receive the distinction of Marshal General of France. The Duke also served three times as President of the Council of Ministers, or Prime Minister of France.

Contents

Soult's intrigues in the Peninsular War while occupying Portugal earned him the nickname, "King Nicolas", and while he was Napoleon's military governor of Andalusia, Soult looted 1.5 million francs worth of art. [3] One historian called him "a plunderer in the world class." [4] He was defeated in his last offensives in Spain in the Battle of the Pyrenees (Sorauren) and by Freire's Spaniards at San Marcial. Soult was eventually pursued out of Spain and onto French soil, where he was maneuvered out of several positions at Nivelle, Nive, and Orthez, before the Battle of Toulouse.

Early life

Soult was born in Saint-Amans-la-Bastide (now called Saint-Amans-Soult, near Castres, in the Tarn department) and named after John of God. He was the son of a country notary named Jean Soult (1726–1779) by his marriage to Brigitte de Grenier. His paternal grandparents were Jean Soult (1698–1772) and Jeanne de Calvet, while his maternal grandparents were Pierre François de Grenier de Lapierre and Marie de Robert. His younger brother Pierre also became a French general.

Military career

Well-educated, Soult originally intended to become a lawyer, but his father's death when he was still a boy made it necessary for him to seek employment, and in 1785 he enlisted as a private in the French Army.

Revolutionary Wars

Soult's superior education ensured his promotion to the rank of sergeant after six years of service, and in July 1791 he became instructor to the first battalion of volunteers of the Bas-Rhin. By 1794, Soult was adjutant-general (with the rank of chef de brigade). After the Battle of Fleurus of 1794, in which he distinguished himself for coolness, he was promoted to brigadier general by the representatives on mission.

For the next five years, Soult was employed in Germany under Generals Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, Jean Victor Marie Moreau, Jean-Baptiste Kléber and François Lefebvre, and in 1799 he was promoted to general of division and ordered to proceed to Switzerland. It was at this time that he laid the foundations of his military fame; he particularly distinguished himself in General André Masséna's great Swiss campaign, and especially at the Battle of Linth River, fought on the same day that Masséna won the Second Battle of Zurich. He accompanied Masséna to Genoa, and acted as his principal lieutenant throughout the protracted siege of that city, during which he operated with a separate force outside the city walls. Soult was wounded and taken prisoner at Monte Cretto on 13 April 1800.

Marshal of the Empire

The victory at Marengo restored his freedom, and Soult received the command of the southern part of the Kingdom of Naples. In 1802, he was appointed as one of the four generals commanding the consular guard. Though he was one of those generals who had served under Moreau, and who therefore, as a rule, disliked Napoleon Bonaparte, Soult had the wisdom to show his devotion to the ruling power. In consequence, he was appointed, in August 1803, as commander-in-chief of the Camp of Boulogne, and in May 1804 he was made one of the first eighteen Marshals of the Empire. He commanded a corps in the advance on Ulm, and at Austerlitz he led the decisive attack on the Allied centre.

Portrait of Soult in the 1800s. A corps commander during the campaigns of 1805-1807, Soult is best known for his prominent role in the Peninsular War. Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult.jpg
Portrait of Soult in the 1800s. A corps commander during the campaigns of 1805–1807, Soult is best known for his prominent role in the Peninsular War.

Soult played a great part in many of the famous battles of the Grande Armée , including the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 and the Battle of Jena in 1806. However, he was not present at the Battle of Friedland because on that same day he was conquering Königsberg. After the conclusion of the Treaties of Tilsit, he returned to France and in 1808 was anointed by Napoleon as 1st Duke of Dalmatia (French: Duc de Dalmatie). The awarding of this honour greatly displeased him, for he felt that his title should have been Duke of Austerlitz, a title which Napoleon had reserved for himself. In the following year, Soult was appointed as commander of the II Corps with which Napoleon intended to conquer Spain. After winning the Battle of Gamonal, Soult was detailed by the emperor to pursue Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore's British army. At the Battle of Coruña, in which Moore was killed, Soult failed to prevent British forces escaping by sea.

Peninsular War

Soult at the First Battle of Porto LargeBattleofOportobyBeaume.jpg
Soult at the First Battle of Porto

For the next four years, Soult remained in Spain engaged in the Peninsular War. In 1809, he invaded Portugal and took Porto, but was isolated by General Francisco da Silveira's strategy of contention. Busying himself with the political settlement of his conquests in French interests and, as he hoped, for his own ultimate benefit as a possible candidate for the Portuguese throne, he attracted the hatred of Republican officers in his army. Unable to move, he was eventually driven from Portugal in the Second Battle of Porto by Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later made Duke of Wellington), making a painful and almost disastrous retreat over the mountains, pursued by General William Beresford and Silveira. After the Battle of Talavera, Soult was made chief of staff of French forces in Spain with extended powers, and on 19 November 1809, won a great victory at the Battle of Ocana.

In 1810, he invaded Andalusia, which he quickly overran. However, because he then turned to seize Seville, the capture of Cádiz eluded him, saying, "Give me Seville and I will answer for Cádiz." [5] This led to the prolonged and futile Siege of Cadiz, a strategic disaster for the French. In 1811, Soult marched north into Extremadura and took Badajoz. When the Anglo-Portuguese army laid siege to the city, he marched to its rescue and fought and nearly won the famous and bloody Battle of Albuera on 16 May.

In 1812, after Wellington's great victory at Salamanca, Soult was obliged to evacuate Andalusia. In the subsequent Siege of Burgos, he was able to drive Wellington's Anglo-allied Army back to Salamanca. There, the Duke of Dalmatia, as Soult was now known, failed to attack Wellington despite superiority in numbers, and the British Army retired to the Portuguese frontier. [6] Soon after, he was recalled from Spain at the request of Joseph Bonaparte (who had been installed by his brother as King of Spain) with whom, as with the other marshals, he had always disagreed.

In Germany and defending southern France

In March 1813, Soult assumed command of the IV Corps of the Grande Armée and commanded the centre at Lützen and Bautzen, but he was soon sent, with unlimited powers, to the South of France to repair the damage done by the defeat at Vitoria. It is to Soult's credit that he was able to reorganise the demoralised French forces.

His last offensives into Spain were turned back by Wellington in the Battle of the Pyrenees (Sorauren) and by General Manuel Freire's Spaniards at San Marcial. Pursued onto French soil, Soult was maneuvered out of several positions at Nivelle, Nive, and Orthez, before suffering what was technically a defeat at Wellington's hands at the Battle of Toulouse. He nevertheless inflicted severe casualties on Wellington and was able to stop him from trapping the French forces.

Waterloo campaign

After Napoleon's first abdication in 1814, Soult declared himself a royalist, received the Order of Saint Louis, and acted as Minister of War from 26 November 1814 to 11 March 1815. When Napoleon returned from Elba, Soult at once declared himself a Bonapartist, was made a peer of France, and acted as chief of staff to the emperor during the Waterloo campaign, in which role he distinguished himself far less than he had done as commander of an over-matched army.

In his book, Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles , Bernard Cornwell summarizes the opinions of several historians that Soult's presence in the Army of the North was one of several factors contributing to Napoleon's defeat, because of the animosity between him and Marshal Michel Ney, the other senior commander, and because, in spite of his experience as a soldier, Soult lacked his predecessor Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier's administrative skills. The most glaring instance of this was his written order, according to Napoleon's instructions, to Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy to position his force on the British Army's left flank in order to prevent reinforcement by the Prussians. Cornwell decries the wording of Soult's order as "almost impenetrable nonsense", and Grouchy misinterpreted the order, instead marching against the Prussian rearguard at Wavre.

Political career

Caricature of the Duke of Dalmatia by Honore Daumier, 1832 Daumier-Dieu Soult.jpg
Caricature of the Duke of Dalmatia by Honoré Daumier, 1832

Following the Second Bourbon Restoration in 1815, Soult went into exile in Germany, but in 1819 he was recalled and in 1820 again made a Marshal of France. He once more tried to show himself as a fervent royalist and was made a peer in 1827. After the revolution of 1830 he declared himself a partisan of Louis Philippe, who welcomed his support and revived for him the title of Marshal General of France, previously held only by Turenne, Claude Louis Hector de Villars, and Maurice de Saxe.

Soult served as Minister of War from 1830 to 1834, as President of the Council of Ministers (or Prime Minister) from 1832 to 1834, as ambassador extraordinary to London for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 – where his former enemy, the Duke of Wellington, reputedly caught him by the arm and exclaimed "I have you at last!" —, again as Prime Minister from 1839 to 1840 and 1840 to 1847, and again as Minister of War from 1840 to 1844. In 1848, when Louis Philippe was overthrown, Soult once again declared himself a republican. He died at his castle of Soult-Berg, near his birthplace.

Works

Soult published a memoir justifying his adherence to Napoleon during the Hundred Days, and his notes and journals were arranged by his son Napoleon Hector, who published the first part (Mémoires du maréchal-général Soult) in 1854. Le Noble's Mémoires sur les operations des Français en Galicie are supposed to have been written from Soult's papers.

Military capability

Although often found wanting tactically – even some of his own aides questioned his inability to amend a plan to take into account altered circumstances on the battlefield – Soult's performance in the closing months of the Peninsular War is often regarded as proof of his fine talents as a general. Repeatedly defeated in these campaigns by the Allies under Wellington, it was the case that many of his soldiers were raw conscripts while the Allies could count greater numbers of veterans among their ranks. Soult was a skillful military strategist. An example was his drive to cut off Wellington's British army from Portugal after Talavera, which nearly succeeded. Though repeatedly defeated by Wellington in 1813–1814, he conducted a clever defence against him.

Soult's armies were usually well readied before going into battle. After Vitoria, he reorganized the demoralized French forces of Joseph Bonaparte into a formidable army in a remarkably short time. An exception to this good logistical record was launching the Battle of the Pyrenees offensive when his soldiers only had four days' rations.

Tactically, Soult planned his battles well, but often left too much to his subordinates. Wellington said that "Soult never seemed to know how to handle troops after a battle had begun". [7] An example of this was at the Battle of Albuera, where he brilliantly turned Beresford's flank to open the battle, yet when he found himself facing unexpected opposition from British and Spanish troops, he allowed his generals to adopt a clumsy attack formation and was beaten. [8] Another example of his strengths and weaknesses can be seen at the Battle of the Nive. Soult recognized Wellington's strategic dilemma and took advantage by launching surprise attacks on both wings of the Anglo-Allied Army. But French tactical execution was poor and the British general managed to fend off Soult's blows. Sloppy staff work marred his tenure as Napoleon's chief of staff in the Waterloo campaign.

Personal life

On 26 April 1796, Soult married Johanna Louise Elisabeth Berg (1771–1852), the daughter of Johann Abraham Berg (1730–1786) by his marriage to Wilhelmine Mumm in Solingen. [9] She died at the Château de Soult-Berg on 22 March 1852. The couple had three children:

Footnotes

  1. Although many sources give Soult's first name as Nicolas, that does not appear on his birth certificate: "Le prénom de Soult n'est PAS Nicolas", from Soult, Maréchal d'Empire et homme d'État by Nicole Gotteri (édition de la Manufacture). See page 20: "Il est donc parfaitement clair que le Maréchal Soult se prénommait Jean de Dieu. L'indu ajout de "Nicolas" n'est que le résultat des calomnies déclenchées à la suite de la campagne du Portugal [...]". Kaga- (d) 29 December 2011 at 13:26 (CET)
  2. R. Hayman, Soult — Napoleon's Maligned Marshal (London: 1990), opposite p. 96
  3. Chandler-Griffith, p. 469.
  4. Glover, p. 39.
  5. Glover, p. 118.
  6. Glover, p. 218.
  7. The Quarterly Review, Volume 257, 1931, p.362.
  8. Chandler-Griffith, p. 468.
  9. Fuesers, Axel (2005). Napoleons Marschall Soult und Louise Berg. Goettingen (Germany): Wallstein. ISBN   3-89244-897-3.

Related Research Articles

Peninsular War War by Spain, Portugal and Britain against Napoleons France (1807–1814)

The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict fought by Bourbon Spain and Portugal, assisted by Great Britain, against the invading and occupying forces of the First French Empire for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 after Napoleonic France took over Spain, previously its ally, and installed Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.

Auguste de Marmont French general, nobleman and Marshal of the Empire

Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont was a French general and nobleman who rose to the rank of Marshal of the Empire and was awarded the title Duke of Ragusa. In the Peninsular War Marmont succeeded the disgraced Andre Masséna in the command of the French army in northern Spain, but lost decisively at the Battle of Salamanca.

Battle of Albuera 1811 battle in the Peninsular War

The Battle of Albuera was a battle during the Peninsular War. A mixed British, Spanish and Portuguese corps engaged elements of the French Armée du Midi at the small Spanish village of Albuera, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of the frontier fortress-town of Badajoz, Spain.

Battle of Toulouse (1814) 1814 battle, part of the War of the Sixth Coalition

The Battle of Toulouse was one of the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition. Having pushed the demoralised and disintegrating French Imperial armies out of Spain in a difficult campaign the previous autumn, the Allied British-Portuguese and Spanish army under the Duke of Wellington pursued the war into southern France in the spring of 1814.

William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford British soldier and politician

General William Carr Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford, 1st Marquis of Campo Maior, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and politician. A general in the British Army and a Marshal in the Portuguese Army, he fought alongside The Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War and held the office of Master-General of the Ordnance in 1828 in Wellington's first ministry.

Maximilien Sébastien Foy French military leader, statesman and writer

Maximilien Sébastien Foy was a French military leader, statesman and writer.

Battle of the Pyrenees (1813)

The Battle of the Pyrenees was a large-scale offensive launched on 25 July 1813 by Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult from the Pyrénées region on Emperor Napoleon’s order, in the hope of relieving French garrisons under siege at Pamplona and San Sebastián. After initial success the offensive ground to a halt in face of increased allied resistance under the command of Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington. Soult abandoned the offensive on 30 July and headed toward France, having failed to relieve either garrison.

Battle of Orthez

The Battle of Orthez saw the Anglo-Portuguese Army under Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington attack an Imperial French army led by Marshal Nicolas Soult in southern France. The outnumbered French repelled several Allied assaults on their right flank, but their center and left flank were overcome and Soult was compelled to retreat. At first the withdrawal was conducted in good order, but it eventually ended in a scramble for safety and many French soldiers became prisoners. The engagement occurred near the end of the Peninsular War.

The Battles of the Nive were fought towards the end of the Peninsular War. Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese and Spanish army defeated Marshal Nicolas Soult's French army in a series of battles near the city of Bayonne.

First Battle of Porto battle

In the First Battle of Porto the French under Marshal Soult defeated the Portuguese, under General Parreiras, outside the city of Porto during the Peninsular War. Soult followed up his success by storming the city.

Siege of Cádiz 1810s siege in Spain by the French

The Siege of Cádiz was a siege of the large Spanish naval base of Cádiz by a French army from 5 February 1810 to 24 August 1812 during the Peninsular War. Following the occupation of Seville, Cádiz became the Spanish seat of power, and was targeted by 70,000 French troops under the command of the Marshals Claude Victor and Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult for one of the most important sieges of the war. Defending the city were 2,000 Spanish troops who, as the siege progressed, received aid from 10,000 Spanish reinforcements as well as British and Portuguese troops.

Marshal of the Empire French military title

Marshal of the Empire was a civil dignity during the First French Empire. It was created by Sénatus-consulte on 18 May 1804 and to a large extent resurrected the formerly abolished title of Marshal of France. According to the Sénatus-consulte, a Marshal was a grand officer of the Empire, entitled to a high-standing position at the Court and to the presidency of an electoral college.

Battle of the Gebora 1811 battle between Spain and France

The Battle of the Gebora was a battle of the Peninsular War between Spanish and French armies. It took place on 19 February 1811, northwest of Badajoz, Spain, where an outnumbered French force routed and nearly destroyed the Spanish Army of Extremadura.

Siege of Burgos siege

At the Siege of Burgos, from 19 September to 21 October 1812, the Anglo-Portuguese Army led by General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington tried to capture the castle of Burgos from its French garrison under the command of General of Brigade Jean-Louis Dubreton. The French repulsed every attempt to seize the fortress, resulting in one of Wellington's rare withdrawals, as he went on to defeat the army sent to flank him at the Lines of Torres Vedras, pursued them and then returned to complete the siege of Burgos and capture the city. The siege took place during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Burgos is located about 210 kilometres (130 mi) north of Madrid.

Battle of the Bidassoa

In the Battle of the Bidasoa on 7 October 1813 the Allied army of Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington wrested a foothold on French soil from Nicolas Soult's French army. The Allied troops overran the French lines behind the Bidassoa River on the coast and along the Pyrenees crest between the Bidasoa and La Rhune (Larrun). The nearest towns to the fighting are Irun on the lower Bidassoa and Bera on the middle Bidasoa. The battle occurred during the Peninsular War, part of the wider Napoleonic Wars.

Battle of Bayonne

The Battle of Bayonne of 14 April 1814 was a sortie by General Thouvenot's French garrison of Bayonne during the siege of that city conducted by Allied forces under Lieutenant General John Hope. The battle was the last of the Peninsular War and occurred as news of Napoleon's abdication was beginning to reach the opposing forces.

The Battle of Garris or Battle of Saint-Palais saw an Allied force under the direct command of General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess Wellington attack General of Division Jean Harispe's French division. The French defenders were driven back into the town of Saint-Palais in confusion. Because of this minor victory, the Allies were able to secure a crossing over the Bidouze River during this clash from the final stages of the Peninsular War.

Battle of Alcantara (1809)

The Battle of Alcantara saw an Imperial French division led by Marshal Claude Perrin Victor attack a Portuguese detachment under Colonel William Mayne. After a three hours skirmish, the French stormed across the Alcántara Bridge and forced the Portuguese to retreat. The clash happened during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Alcántara, Spain is situated on the Tagus river near the Portuguese border, 285 kilometres (177 mi) west-southwest of Madrid.

Campaign in south-west France (1814)

The campaign in south-west France in late 1813 and early 1814 was the final campaign of the Peninsular War. An allied army of British, Portuguese and Spanish soldiers under the command of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington fought a string of battles against French forces under the command of Marshal Jean de Dieu Soult, from the Iberian Peninsula across the Pyrenees and into south-west France ending with the capture of Toulouse and the besieging of Bayonne.

Orthez 1814 order of battle

The Battle of Orthez saw the Anglo-Portuguese Army commanded by Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington attack a Imperial French army under Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult. Soult's army was posted on a ridge to the north of the town of Orthez in southern France and in the town itself. For over two hours the outnumbered French repulsed repeated Allied assaults on their right flank, forcing Wellington to order a general assault. After a struggle, the Allies overcame the French defenses and Soult was compelled to order a retreat. At first, the French divisions withdrew in good order, but as they approached the bridge over the Luy de Béarn at Sault-de-Navailles, many soldiers began to panic. The next day Soult decided that his army was too demoralized to resist more attacks and continued his retreat. Allied casualties were about 2,200 while the French lost about 4,000 killed, wounded and captured. The battle was fought near the end of the Peninsular War.

References

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Casimir Pierre Perier
Prime Minister of France
11 October 1832 – 18 July 1834
Succeeded by
Comte Gérard
Preceded by
Comte Molé
Prime Minister of France
12 May 1839 – 1 March 1840
Succeeded by
Adolphe Thiers
Preceded by
Adolphe Thiers
Prime Minister of France
29 October 1840 – 19 September 1847
Succeeded by
François Guizot
Preceded by
Pierre-Antoine, comte Dupont de l'Étang
French minister of War
26 November 1814 – 11 March 1815
Succeeded by
Henri Clarke, Duke of Feltre
Preceded by
Étienne Maurice Gérard
French minister of War
17 November 1830 – 18 July 1834
Succeeded by
Étienne Maurice Gérard
Preceded by
Amédée Louis Despans-Cubières
French minister of War
29 October 1840 – 10 November 1845
Succeeded by
Alexandre Pierre Chevalier Moline de Saint-Yon
French nobility
Preceded by
Title created
Duke of Dalmatia
1808 – 1851
Succeeded by
Napoléon-Hector Soult