Louis Lazare Hoche
|Born||24 June 1768|
|Died||19 September 1797 (age 29)|
Wetzlar, Holy Roman Empire
|Years of service||1784–1797|
|Rank||Général de division|
|Commands held|| Armée de la Moselle |
Armée des côtes de Brest
Armée des côtes de Cherbourg
Armée de Sambre-et-Meuse
|Battles/wars|| French Revolutionary Wars |
War in the Vendée
|Awards||Names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe|
|Other work||Minister of War|
Louis Lazare Hoche (24 June 1768 – 19 September 1797) was a French soldier who rose to be general of the Revolutionary army. He won a victory over Royalist forces in Brittany. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3. Richard Holmes says he was "quick-thinking, stern, and ruthless...a general of real talent whose early death was a loss to France."A famous statement of general Hoche: "Facta, non verba" ("facs, no words")
Born to poor parents near Versailles, he enlisted at sixteen as a private soldier in the Gardes Françaises . He spent his entire leisure in earning extra pay by civil work, his object being to provide himself with books, and this love of study, which was combined with a strong sense of duty and personal courage, soon led to his promotion.
When the Gardes françaises disbanded in 1789 he had reached the rank of corporal, and thereafter he served in various line regiments up to the time of his receiving a commission in 1792. In the defence of Thionville in that year Hoche earned further promotion, and he served with credit in the operations of 1792–1793 on the northern frontier of France, including serving as aide-de-camp to General le Veneur. When Charles Dumouriez deserted to the Austrians, Hoche, along with le Veneur and others, fell under suspicion of treason. However, after being kept under arrest and unemployed for some months, he took part in the defence of Dunkirk, and in the same year (1793) he was promoted successively chef de brigade , général de brigade, and général de division. In October 1793 he was provisionally appointed to command the Army of the Moselle, and within a few weeks he was in the field at the head of his army in Lorraine. He lost his first battle at Kaiserslautern during 28–30 November 1793 against the Prussians, but even in the midst of the Reign of Terror the Committee of Public Safety retained Hoche in his command. In their eyes, pertinacity and fiery energy outweighed everything else, and Hoche soon showed that he possessed these qualities.
On 22 December 1793 he won the Battle of Froeschwiller, and the representatives of the National Convention with his army at once added the Army of the Rhine to his sphere of command. In the Second Battle of Wissembourg on 26 December 1793, the French drove Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser's Austrian army from Alsace. Hoche pursued his success, sweeping the enemy before him to the middle Rhine in four days. He then put his troops into winter quarters.
Before the following campaign opened, he married Anne Adelaide Dechaux at Thionville (11 March 1794). But ten days later he was suddenly arrested, charges of treason having been proferred by Charles Pichegru, the displaced commander of the Army of the Rhine, and by his friends. Hoche escaped execution, but was imprisoned in Paris until the fall of Maximilien Robespierre.
Shortly after his release he was appointed to command against the Vendéans (21 August 1794). He completed the work of his predecessors in a few months by the Treaty of La Jaunaye (15 February 1795), but soon afterward the war was renewed by the Royalists. Hoche showed himself equal to the crisis and inflicted a crushing blow on the Royalist cause by defeating and capturing de Sombreuil's expedition at Quiberon and Penthièvre (16–21 July 1795). Thereafter, by means of mobile columns (which he kept under good discipline), he succeeded before the summer of 1796 in pacifying the whole of the west, which had for more than three years been the scene of a pitiless civil war.
Following this, Hoche was appointed to organise and command the Ireland Expedition, of troops sent to assist the United Irishmen in their rebellion against British rule. A tempest, however, separated Hoche from the expedition, and after various adventures the whole fleet returned to Brest without having effected its purpose.
Hoche was at once transferred to the Rhine frontier, where he defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Neuwied in April 1797, though operations were soon afterwards brought to an end by the Preliminaries of Leoben.
Later in 1797 Hoche was minister of war for a short period, but in this position he was surrounded by obscure political intrigues, and, finding himself the dupe of Paul Barras and technically guilty of violating the constitution, he quickly laid down his office, returning to his command on the Rhine frontier. It was his denunciation during that time that had led to Kléber's removal from command. The compromising letter was found by Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz in Hoche's papers.
Hoche's health grew rapidly worse, and he died at Wetzlar on 19 September 1797 of consumption (tuberculosis). The belief spread that he had been poisoned, but the suspicion seems to have had no foundation. He first was buried next to his friend François Marceau in a fort at Koblenz on the Rhine. In 1919, the French Rhine army buried his mortal remains into the 1797-built Monument General Hoche in Weißenthurm near Neuwied, where he had started his last campaign against the Austrians.
He is commemorated by a statue in Place Hoche, a gardened square not far from the main entrance to the Palace of Versailles, and another in the Panthéon. Another statue, the last major work by Jules Dalou, is in Quiberon, Brittany. In Les Invalides where Napoleon's tomb is enshrined, there is also a memorial to Hoche. A station on the Paris Metro is also called 'Hoche'.
Hoche's motto was Res non-verba, which is Latin for "Deeds, not words".
The Battle of Neuwied saw Lazare Hoche lead part of the French Army of Sambre-et-Meuse against Franz von Werneck's Austrian army. The French attack surprised their enemies and broke through their lines. Aside from 1,000 men killed and wounded, Austrian losses included at least 3,000 prisoners, 24 artillery pieces, 60 vehicles, and five colors. For their part, the French lost 2,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. The losses were in vain because Napoleon Bonaparte signed the Preliminaries of Leoben with Austria the same day. The armistice halted the fighting so that both sides could negotiate a peace. The action occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.
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Jacques Charles René Delaunay
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Moselle |
31 October 1793 – 18 March 1794
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg |
1 September 1794 – 30 April 1795
Jean-Baptiste Annibal Aubert du Bayet
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of Brest |
10 November 1794 – 10 September 1795
Gabriel Venance Rey
Jean Baptiste Camille Canclaux
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of the West |
11 September – 17 December 1795
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean |
5 January – 22 September 1796
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of Ireland|
1 November – 23 December 1796
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of Ireland|
19 January – 9 February 1797
Jean Victor Marie Moreau
| Commander-in-chief of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse |
9 February – 18 September 1797
François Joseph Lefebvre
Claude Louis Petiet
| French minister of War |
15 July 1797 – 22 July 1797
Barthélemy Louis Joseph Schérer