Nicolas Ernault des Bruslys

Last updated
Nicolas Ernault des Bruslys
Born August 7, 1757
Died September 25, 1809(1809-09-25) (aged 52)
Saint-Denis, Réunion
Allegiance Flag of France.svg France
Service/branch Flag of France.svg French Army
Years of service 1780 1809
Rank French Army Général de Brigade

siege of Namur
Siege of Maastricht

Raid on Saint Paul
Awards Legion of Honour

Nicolas Jean Ernault de Rignac des Bruslys (7 August 1757, Brive-la-Gaillarde – 25 September 1809, Saint-Denis, Réunion [1] ) was a French general, later governor of Île Bonaparte (now Réunion).

Brive-la-Gaillarde Subprefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Brive-la-Gaillarde is a commune of France. It is a sub-prefecture of the Corrèze department. It has around 50,000 inhabitants, while the population of the urban area was 89,260 in 1999.

Saint-Denis, Réunion Prefecture and commune in Réunion, France

Saint-Denis is the préfecture of the French overseas region and department of Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. It is located at the island's northernmost point, close to the mouth of the Rivière Saint-Denis.

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.



Early career

Des Bruslys joined the École des Mineurs in Verdun on 28 September 1774. The school was closed the next year, and he joined the elite gardes du corps du roi, in the Noailles company. He received a commission of second lieutenant at the 3rd Artillery regiment on 4 July 1780.

Verdun Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Verdun is a small city in the Meuse department in Grand Est in northeastern France. It is an arrondissement of the department.

In 1781, des Bruslys took part in an attempt at invading India. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 1 September 1783, and to captain of the Colonial troops on 7 Mai 1786. He took part in a diplomatic mission to Persia before returning to France in 1787.

From 27 January 1788, he served as aid to the inspector of the artillery. In September, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. On 14 September, he distinguished himself at Croix-aux-Bois, reforming disbanded battalions and disengaging four battalions which were threatened to be surrounded. On the next day, he saved the supplies of his army which were being attacked by three squadrons.

On 8 October 1789, he was promoted to Adjudant-général-colonel, and took part in the siege of Namur, personally leading the capture of the fort of Vilatte. On 26 November, he was wounded by a shrapnel at the right arm.

Revolutionary wars

From 26 January 1793, he directed siege works at Maastricht, where he was wounded by a cannonball at the right leg on 27 February 1794.

Maastricht City and municipality in Limburg, Netherlands

Maastricht is a city and a municipality in the southeast of the Netherlands. It is the capital and largest city of the province of Limburg. Maastricht is located on both sides of the Meuse, at the point where the Jeker joins it. It is adjacent to the border with Belgium.

On 7 August 1794, des Bruslys was promoted to acting Général de brigade, and served as de facto chief of staff of the armies of the North, of Belgium and of Ardennes. His rank was confirmed on 13 May, but revoked on 10 August, and arrested shortly thereafter on suspicion raised by the defection of his brothers, in 1791. He was released at the Thermidorian Reaction, on 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794). On 22 Thermidor (9 August), he was again arrested as former head of staff of Custine. He was freed on 19 Frimaire an III (9 December 1794) and affected to the West Army.

Thermidorian Reaction event in 1794 in which Robespierre was denounced by the National Convention as a tyrant, leading to his (and his 21 associates’) arrest and beheading; named after the month Thermidor of the French Republican calendar in which the event took place

The Thermidorian Reaction was a counter revolution which took place in France on 9 Thermidor of the Year II. On this day, the French politician Maximilien Robespierre was denounced by members of the National Convention as "a tyrant", leading to Robespierre and twenty-one associates including Louis Antoine de Saint-Just being arrested that night and beheaded on the following day.

Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine French general

Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine was a French general. As a young officer in the Bourbon Royal army, he served in the Seven Years' War. In the American Revolutionary War he joined Rochambeau's Expédition Particulière supporting the American colonists. Following the successful Virginia campaign and the Battle of Yorktown, he returned to France and rejoined his unit in the Royal Army.

Des Bruslys was soon called back to Paris, and defended the Convention nationale during the Prairial uprising.

On 26 Germinal (15 April 1795), he was sent to the Army of the North. From 25 pluviôse an V (13 February 1797), he was in charge of defending the coast.

On 28 Messidor an VI (16 July 1798), he was sent to the Army of England, which he quit to take back his previous position on 21 nivôse an VII (10 January 1799). He was affected to the Army of the Rhine on 26 frimaire an VIII (17 December 1799), where he distinguished himself at Fribourg and Biberach an der Riß. He served under Jean Victor Marie Moreau at Ulm, and defended St. Gotthard Pass.

In Vendémiaire an X (October 1801), he took command of the Souham division, before being put at the disposal of the Ministry of the Navy. On 25 Nivôse (15 January 1802), he was sent to Rochefort, embarked aboard the frigate Thêmis, and sailed to Île de France (now Mauritius), under François-Louis Magallon. He married there.

When Magallon was sent back to France, Decaen made his governor of Réunion. On 4 germinal an XII (25 March 1804), he received the Legion of Honour, and on 13 juillet 1808, he was promoted to Général de division.

Raid on Saint Paul and suicide

Decaen had thought that the British would attempt a raid at Saint Paul. Des Brulys both did not share the conviction, and was reluctant to weaken the defences of Saint-Denis, thinking that his forces did not allow him to effectively defend the entire coastline. [2]

The British did attack at Saint Paul, on 21 September 1809. Unable to hold their position, the French retreated near the gunpowder store. Corbett himself showed up with an ultimatum threatening to set the entire city on fire, should the French attack. [3] [4]

On the next day, Des Bruslys led his force of 50 soldiers and 800 militiamen of the National Guard to counter the British, and found himself facing a 900-man strong expeditionary force already settled in Saint Paul. Des Bruslys hesitated between a direct assault and a defence line to contain the British. In the evening, he retreated to Saint-Denis in order to organise its defence against a potential invasion, leaving captain Saint-Michel to negotiate with the British.

On 23, a capitulation act was written at Saint Paul, which des Bruslys refused to sign. At the same time, General Soleille threatened him with the decree of 14 pluviôse An II, which made "cowardice on the battlefield" punishable by the death penalty, should he not order an assault. Wanting neither to surrender, nor to order an assault which he deemed would end in a needless bloodbath, he redacted a note stating:

Des Bruslys then attempted to kill himself with his sabre, but failed. He then tried to blow his head off by detonating two sacks of gunpowder tied to his neck, but the powder failed to explode properly, which left him severely burned. He eventually took his life by slitting his carotid with his razor.

His widow obtained a 1000-franc pension in 1811.

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  1. Generals Who Served in the French Army during the Period 1789 - 1814: De Das de L'Aulne to De Winter
  2. Les gouverneurs de l'ile de la Réunion
  3. Septembre 1809 : Le suicide du gouverneur Des Bruslys
  4. L’ île Bonaparte tombe aux mains des Anglais
  5. Je ne veux pas être traître à mon pays; je ne veux pas sacrifier des habitants à la défense inutile de cette île ouverte. D'après les effets que j'entrevois de la haine ou de l'ambition de quelques individus tenant à une secte révolutionnaire, la mort m'attend sur l'échafaud... Je préfère me la donner. Je recommande à la Providence et aux âmes sensibles ma femme et mes enfants.