Jean-de-Dieu Soult

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Jean-de-Dieu Soult

Soult2.jpg
Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia
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
17 November 1830 18 July 1834
Prime Minister Jacques Laffitte
Casimir Perier
Preceded by Étienne Maurice Gérard
Succeeded byÉtienne Maurice Gérard
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
Branch/service Land Army
Years of service1785–1815
Rank
Unit Infantry Royal Regiment
Army of Sambre-et-Meuse
Army of Helvetia
110th Infantry Regiment
Battles/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.

Marshal General of France, originally "Marshal General of the King's camps and armies", was a title given to signify that the recipient had authority over all of the French armies, in the days when a Marshal of France usually governed only one army. This dignity was bestowed only on Marshals of France, usually when the dignity of Constable of France was unavailable or, after 1626, suppressed.

Dalmatia Historical region of Croatia

Dalmatia is one of the four historical regions of Croatia, alongside Croatia proper, Slavonia, and Istria.

Marshal of the Empire military rank

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.

Contents

Soult's intrigues 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]

Andalusia Autonomous community of Spain

Andalusia is an autonomous community in southern Spain. It is the most populous, and the second largest autonomous community in the country. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a "historical nationality". The territory is divided into eight provinces: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville. Its capital is the city of Seville.

Early life

Soult was born at Saint-Amans-la-Bastide (now called Saint-Amans-Soult, near Castres, in the Tarn departement) 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.

Saint-Amans-Soult Commune in Occitanie, France

Saint-Amans-Soult is a commune in the Tarn department in southern France.

Castres Subprefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Castres is a commune, and arrondissement capital in the Tarn department and Occitanie region in southern France. It lies in the former French province of Languedoc.

Tarn (department) Department of France

Tarn is a French department located in the Occitanie region in the southwest of France named after the Tarn river. Its prefecture and largest city is Albi.

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 infantry.

The Revolutionary Wars

Portrait of Jean-de-Dieu Soult (1800s) Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult.jpg
Portrait of Jean-de-Dieu Soult (1800s)

Soult's superior education ensured his promotion to the rank of sergeant after six years' service, and in July 1791 he became instructor to the first battalion of volunteers of the Bas-Rhin. He was serving in this battalion in 1792. By 1794, he 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.

Bas-Rhin Department of France

Bas-Rhin is a department in Alsace which is a part of the Grand Est super-region of France. The name means "Lower Rhine", however, geographically speaking it belongs to the Upper Rhine region. It is the more populous and densely populated of the two departments of the traditional Alsace region, with 1,121,407 inhabitants in 2016. The prefecture and the General Council are based in Strasbourg. The INSEE and Post Code is 67.

Battle of Fleurus (1794) battle in 1794

The Battle of Fleurus, on 26 June 1794, was an engagement between the army of the First French Republic, under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan and the Coalition Army, commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg, in the most significant battle of the Flanders Campaign in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars. Both sides had forces in the area of around 80,000 men but the French were able to concentrate their troops and defeat the First Coalition. The Allied defeat led to the permanent loss of the Austrian Netherlands and to the destruction of the Dutch Republic. The battle marked a turning point for the French army, which remained ascendant for the rest of the War of the First Coalition. The French use of the reconnaissance balloon l'Entreprenant was the first military use of an aircraft that influenced the result of a battle.

For the next five years Soult was employed in Germany under Jourdan, Moreau, Kléber and Lefebvre, and in 1799 he was promoted 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 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. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Monte Cretto on 13 April 1800.

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan Marshal of France

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Comte Jourdan, enlisted as a private in the French royal army and rose to command armies during the French Revolutionary Wars. Emperor Napoleon I of France named him a Marshal of France in 1804 and he also fought in the Napoleonic Wars. After 1815, he became reconciled to the Bourbon Restoration. He was one of the most successful commanders of the French Revolutionary Army.

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.

Jean-Baptiste Kléber French general

Jean-Baptiste Kléber was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. His military career started in Habsburg service, but his plebeian ancestry hindered his opportunities. Eventually, he volunteered for the French Army in 1792 and quickly rose through the ranks.

Marshal of the Empire

The victory of Marengo restored his freedom, and Soult received the command of the southern part of the kingdom of Naples. In 1802 he was appointed 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 Napoléon Bonaparte, Soult had the wisdom to show his devotion to the ruling power. In consequence he was appointed in August 1803 as the commander-in-chief of the Camp of Boulogne, and in May 1804 he was made one of the first 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.

Battle of Marengo battle

The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy. Near the end of the day, the French overcame Gen. Michael von Melas's surprise attack, driving the Austrians out of Italy and consolidating Napoleon's political position in Paris as First Consul of France in the wake of his coup d’état the previous November.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Camp of Boulogne

The Boulogne camp may designate two military camps around Boulogne-sur-Mer in France.

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 Peace of Tilsit, he returned to France and in 1808 was anointed by Napoléon first 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 Napoléon had reserved for himself. In the following year, Soult was appointed to the command of the II Corps of the army with which Napoléon 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, at which Moore was killed, the Duke of Dalmatia failed to prevent British forces escaping by sea.

The 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 Oporto, but was isolated by General Silveira's strategy of contention. Busying himself with the political settlement of his conquests in the 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 created Duke of Wellington), making a painful and almost disastrous retreat over the mountains, pursued by Beresford and Silveira. After the Battle of Talavera (1809) he was made chief-of-staff of the French troops in Spain with extended powers, and on 19 November 1809, won a great victory at the Battle of Ocana.

A corps commander during the campaigns of 1805-1807, Soult is best known for the prominent part he played in the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal. Rouillard and Demare-Jean-de-Dieu Soult.jpg
A corps commander during the campaigns of 1805–1807, Soult is best known for the prominent part he played in the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal.

In 1810 he invaded Andalusia, which he quickly overran. However, because he then turned to seize Seville, the capture of Cádiz eluded him. He said, "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 he 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 very bloody Battle of Albuera on 16 May.

In 1812, after Wellington's great victory of Salamanca, Soult was obliged to evacuate Andalusia. In the subsequent Siege of Burgos campaign, Soult 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 Lord Wellington despite an 80,000 to 65,000 superiority of 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 Joseph I of Spain) with whom, as with the other marshals, he had always disagreed.

In Germany and defending southern France

In March 1813 Soult assumed the command of 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 of 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 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 the first abdication of Napoléon (1814), he declared himself a Royalist, received the Order of St. Louis, and acted as minister of war from 3 December 1814 to 11 March 1815. When Napoléon 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 Marshall Ney, the other senior commander, and because, in spite of his experience as a soldier, Soult lacked his predecessor Marshal Berthier's administrative skills. The most glaring instance of this was his written order, according to Napoleon's instructions, to Marshal Grouchy to position his force on the British army's left flank, to prevent reinforcement by their Prussian allies. Cornwell decries the wording of Soult's order as "almost impenetrable nonsense", and Grouchy misinterpreted the order and instead marched 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

At the Second Restoration (1815) he was exiled, but in 1819 he was recalled and in 1820 again made a Marshal of France. He once more tried to show himself 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 Field Marshal The 1st 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, the aged Marshal General the Duke of Dalmatia 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 – his performance in the closing months of the Peninsular War is the finest proof of his 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 Spanish and British 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 Napoléon's chief-of-staff in the Waterloo campaign.

Private life

On 26 April 1796 Soult married Johanna Louise Elisabeth Berg (1771-1852), the daughter of German 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.

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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
3 December 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