Jean Lannes

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Jean Lannes
Julie Volpeliere (d'apres Gerard) - Le marechal Lannes (1769-1809), 1834.jpg
Marshal Lannes by Julie Volpelière, 1834
(after François Gérard)
Nickname(s) Roland of the Grande Armée
Born(1769-04-10)10 April 1769
Lectoure, Kingdom of France
Died31 May 1809(1809-05-31) (aged 40)
Ebersdorf, Austrian Empire
Buried
AllegianceRoyal Standard of the King of France.svg  Kingdom of France
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  French First Republic
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  First French Empire
Years of service1792–1809
Rank General of Division
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars,
Napoleonic Wars
Awards Marshal of the Empire,
Légion d'honneur (Grand Cross),
Name inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe,
Titular Prince of Siewierz and Duke of Montebello
Relations Gustave Olivier Lannes de Montebello (son)

Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello , Prince de Siewierz (10 April 1769 – 31 May 1809), was a Marshal of the Empire. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant". A personal friend of the emperor, he was allowed to address him with the familiar "tu", as opposed to the formal "vous".

Duc de Montebello

Duke of Montebello was a title created by the French Emperor Napoleon I in 1808 as a victory title for Jean Lannes, one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Lannes commanded the advance guard in the crossing of the Alps in 1800 and was instrumental in winning the Battle of Montebello.

Duchy of Siewierz former country

The Duchy of Siewierz was a Silesian duchy with its capital in Siewierz. The area was part of the original Duchy of Silesia established after the death of Duke Bolesław III Wrymouth in 1138 during the times of the fragmentation of Poland.

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

Early life

Lannes' birth house in Lectoure Lectoure-maisonLannes.jpg
Lannes' birth house in Lectoure
Sous-Lieutenant Lannes of the 2nd battalion of the Gers in 1792 Jean lannes.jpg
Sous-Lieutenant Lannes of the 2nd battalion of the Gers in 1792

Lannes was born in the small town of Lectoure, in the Gers department in the south of France. He was the son of a Gascon small landowner and merchant, Jeannet Lannes (1733–1812, son of Jean Lannes (d. 1746), a farmer, and wife Jeanne Pomiès (d. 1770) and paternal grandson of Pierre Lane and wife Bernarde Escossio, both died in 1721), and wife Cécile Fouraignan (1741–1799, daughter of Bernard Fouraignan and wife Jeanne Marguerite Laconstère), and he was apprenticed in his teens to a dyer. He had little education, but his great strength and proficiency in many sports caused him in 1792 to be elected sergeant-major of the battalion of volunteers of Gers, which he had joined on the breaking out of war between Spain and the French republic. He served under general Marbot through the campaigns in the Pyrenees in 1793 and 1794, and rose by distinguished conduct to the rank of chef de brigade. However, in 1795, on the reform of the army introduced by the Thermidorians, he was dismissed from his rank. [1]

Lectoure Commune in Occitanie, France

Lectoure is a commune in the Gers department in the Occitanie region in southwestern France.

Gers Department of France

The Gers is a department in the Occitanie region in the southwest of France named after the Gers River.

Dye colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied

A dye is a coloured substance that chemically bonds to the substrate to which it is being applied, this distinguishes dyes from pigments which do not chemically bind to the material they colour. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and may require a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber.

Campaigns of Italy and Egypt

Lannes at the battle of Bassano (1796) Lannes a Bassano.jpg
Lannes at the battle of Bassano (1796)

He re-enlisted as a simple volunteer in the French Armée d'Italie, and in its campaign of 1796, he again fought his way up to high rank, being eventually made a general of brigade by orders of Napoleon. He was distinguished in every battle. At the Battle of Bassano, he captured two enemy flags with his own hands [2] and was wounded in the Battle of the Bridge of Arcole while aiding Bonaparte to escape the Austrian advance. He was chosen by Bonaparte to accompany him to Egypt as commander in one of Kléber's brigades, in which capacity he greatly distinguished himself, especially on the retreat from Syria. He was wounded at the Battle of Abukir. He went back to France with Bonaparte, and assisted him in his 1799 coup. After Bonaparte's takeover and appointment as Consul of France, Lannes was promoted to the ranks of general of division and commandant of the consular guard. Back with the Armée d'Italie, Lannes commanded the advanced guard in the crossing of the Alps in 1800, was instrumental in winning the Battle of Montebello, from which he afterwards took his title, and bore the brunt of the Battle of Marengo. [1]

Battle of Bassano battle

The Battle of Bassano was fought on 8 September 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, in the territory of the Republic of Venice, between a French army under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces led by Count Dagobert von Wurmser. The engagement occurred during the second Austrian attempt to raise the Siege of Mantua. It was a French victory, however it was the last battle in Napoleon's perfect military career as two months later he would be defeated at the Second Battle of Bassano, ending his victorious streak. The Austrians abandoned their artillery and baggage, losing supplies, cannons, and battle standards to the French.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

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.

Service to the Empire

Jean Lannes' victory at the battle of Saalfeld (1806) Desmoulins - Victoire du marechal Lannes sur les troupes prussiennes a Saalfeld sur la Saale en Thuringe.jpg
Jean Lannes' victory at the battle of Saalfeld (1806)

In 1801, Napoleon sent him as ambassador to Portugal. Opinions differ as to his merits in this capacity; Napoleon never made such use of him again. Lannes purchased the seventeenth-century Château de Maisons, near Paris, in 1804 and had one of its state apartments redecorated for a visit from Napoleon.

Château de Maisons château located in a northwestern suburb of Paris

The Château de Maisons, designed by François Mansart from 1630 to 1651, is a prime example of French baroque architecture and a reference point in the history of French architecture. The château is located in Maisons-Laffitte, a northwestern suburb of Paris, in the department of Yvelines, Île-de-France.

On the establishment of the empire, he was created a Marshal of France (1804) and commanded once more the advanced guard of a great French army in the campaign of Austerlitz. At Austerlitz, he had the left of the Grande Armée. In the 1806-07 campaign, he was at his best, commanding his corps with the greatest credit in the march through the Thuringian Forest, the action of Saalfeld (which is studied as a model today at the French Staff College) and the Battle of Jena. His leadership of the advanced guard at Friedland was even more prominent. [1]

Battle of Austerlitz A battle of the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of the most important and decisive engagements of the Napoleonic Wars. In what is widely regarded as the greatest victory achieved by Napoleon, the Grande Armée of France defeated a larger Russian and Austrian army led by Emperor Alexander I and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. The battle occurred near the town of Austerlitz in the Austrian Empire. Austerlitz brought the War of the Third Coalition to a rapid end, with the Treaty of Pressburg signed by the Austrians later in the month. The battle is often cited as a tactical masterpiece, in the same league as other historic engagements like Cannae or Gaugamela.

The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.

Thuringia State in Germany

Thuringia, officially the Free State of Thuringia, is a state of Germany.

In 1807, Napoleon recreated the duchy of Siewierz (Sievers), and he granted it to Lannes after Prussia was forced to cede all her acquisitions from the 2nd and 3rd partitions of Poland.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Partitions of Poland Forced partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years. The partitions were conducted by Habsburg Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which divided up the Commonwealth lands among themselves progressively in the process of territorial seizures and annexations.

After this, Lannes was to be tested as a commander-in-chief, for Napoleon took him to Spain in 1808 and gave him a detached wing of the army, with which he won a victory over Castaños at Tudela on 22 November. In January 1809, he was sent to attempt the capture of Saragossa, and by 21 February, after one of the most stubborn defences in history, he was in possession of the place. He said, "this damned Bonaparte is going to get us all killed" after his last campaign in Spain. In 1808, Napoleon created him duc de Montebello, and in 1809, for the last time, gave him command of the advanced guard. He took part in the engagements around Eckmühl and the advance on Vienna. With his corps, he led the French army across the Danube and bore the brunt, with Masséna, of the terrible battle of Aspern-Essling. On 22 May 1809, he received a mortal wound. His eldest son was made a peer of France by Louis XVIII. [1]

Death

Death of Marshal Lannes at Essling (1809) Lannes mortally wounded at Essling (E. Boutigny).jpg
Death of Marshal Lannes at Essling (1809)

On 22 May 1809, during a lull in the second day of the Battle of Aspern-Essling, Marshal Lannes went and sat down at the edge of a ditch, his hand over his eyes and his legs crossed. As he sat there, plunged in gloomy meditation on having seen his friend, General de Brigade Pouzet, decapitated mid-conversation by a cannonball, a second cannonball fired from a gun at Enzersdorf ricocheted and struck him just where his legs crossed. The knee-pan of one was smashed, and the back sinews of the other torn. The Marshal said, "I am wounded; it's nothing much; give me your hand to help me up." He tried to rise, but could not. He was carried to the tête de pont, where the chief surgeons proceeded to dress his wound. One of the marshal's legs was amputated within two minutes by Dominique Jean Larrey. He bore the operation with great courage; it was hardly over when Napoleon came up and, kneeling beside the stretcher, wept as he embraced the marshal. On 23 May, he was transported by boat to the finest house in Kaiserebersdorf. Eight days later, he succumbed to his wounds at daybreak on 31 May. Lannes was initially buried in Les Invalides, Paris, but in 1810, he was exhumed and reinterred in the Panthéon national after a grandiose ceremony.

Family

He married twice, in Perpignan, 19 March 1795 to Paulette Méric, whom he divorced because of infidelity in 1800, after she had given birth to an illegitimate son while he was campaigning in Egypt:

He married secondly at Dornes on 16 September 1800 to Louise Antoinette, Comtesse de Guéhéneuc (Paris, 26 February 1782 – Paris, 3 July 1856), by whom he had five children:

one who succeeded in his titles and three others who used the courtesy title of Baron. One of his direct descendants, Philippe Lannes de Montebello, was until 2008 the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Assessment

Tomb of Lannes in the Pantheon, Paris Tombeau de Lannes.jpg
Tomb of Lannes in the Panthéon, Paris

Lannes ranks with Louis Nicolas Davout and André Masséna as the ablest of all of Napoleon's marshals. He was continually employed in tasks requiring the utmost resolution and daring, and more especially when the emperor's combinations depended upon the vigour and self-sacrifice of a detachment or fraction of the army. It was thus with Lannes at Friedland and at Aspern as it was with Davout at Austerlitz and Auerstädt, and Napoleon's estimate of his subordinates' capacities can almost exactly be judged by the frequency with which he used them to prepare the way for his own shattering blow. Dependable generals with the usual military virtue, or careful and exact troop leaders like Soult and Macdonald, are kept under Napoleon's own hand for the final assault which he himself launched; the long hours of preparatory fighting against odds of two to one, which alone made the final blow possible, he entrusted only to men of extraordinary courage and high capacity for command. In his own words, he found Lannes a pygmy, and left him a giant. Lannes's place in his affections was never filled. [1]

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Chisholm 1911.
  2. Dunn-Pattison, p. 120.

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