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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JEAN BAPTISTE DROUET D'ERLON, Count (1765-1844), marshal of France, was born at Reims on the 29th of July 1765. He entered the army as a private soldier in 1782, was discharged after five years' service, re-entered it in 1792, and rose rapidly to the rank of an officer. From 1794 to 1796 he was aide-de-camp to General Lefebvre. He did good service in the campaigns of the revolutionary wars and in 1799 attained the rank of general of brigade. In the campaign of that year he was engaged in the Swiss operations under Massena. In 1800 he fought under Moreau at Hohenlinden. As a general of division he took part in Napoleon's campaigns of 1805 and 1806, and rendered excellent service at Jena. He was next engaged under Lefebvre in the siege of Danzig and negotiated the terms of surrender; after this he rejoined the field army and fought at Friedland (1807), receiving a severe wound. After this battle he was made grand officer of the Legion of Honour, was created Count d'Erlon and received a pension. For the next six years d'Erlon was almost continuously engaged as commander of an army corps in the Peninsular War, in which he added greatly to his reputation as a capable general. At the pass of Maya in the Pyrenees he inflicted a defeat upon Lord Hill's troops, and in the subsequent battles of the 1814 campaign he distinguished himself further. After the first Restoration he was named commander of the 16th military division, but he was soon arrested for conspiring with the Orleans party, to which he was secretly devoted. He escaped, however, and gave in his adhesion to Napoleon, who had returned from Elba. The emperor made him a peer of France, and gave him command of the I. army corps, which formed part of the Army of the North. In the Waterloo campaign d'Erlon's corps formed part of Ney's command on the 16th of June, but, in consequence of an extraordinary series of misunderstandings, took part neither at Ligny nor at Quatre Bras (see Waterloo Campaign). He was not, however, held to account by Napoleon, and as the latter's practice in such matters was severe to the verge of injustice, it may be presumed that the failure was not due to d'Erlon.

He was in command of the right wing of the French army throughout the great battle of the 18th of June, and fought in the closing operations around Paris. At the second Restoration d'Erlon fled into Germany, only returning to France after the amnesty of 1825. He was not restored to the service until the accession of Louis Philippe, in whose interests he had engaged in several plots and intrigues. As commander of the 12th military division (Nantes), he suppressed the legitimist agitation in his district and caused the arrest of the duchess of Berry (1832). His last active service was in Algeria, of which country he was made governor-general in 1834 at the age of seventy. He returned to France after two years, and was made marshal of France shortly before his death at Paris on the 25th of January 1844.


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