Louis Alexandre Berthier: Wikis

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Louis Alexandre Berthier, Marshal of France.

Louis Alexandre Berthier, 1st Duc de Wagram, 1st Duc de Valengin, 1st Sovereign Prince de Neuchâtel (February 20, 1753 Versailles – June 1, 1815 Bamberg), marshal of France, Vice-Constable of France beginning in 1808, and Chief of Staff under Napoleon.

Contents

Early life

Alexandre was born at Versailles to Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Baptiste Berthier (1721 – 1804), an officer in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and first wife (married in 1746) Marie Françoise L'Huillier de La Serre. He was the oldest of five children, with the three brothers also serving in the French Army, two becoming generals during the Napoleonic Wars.[1]

Military career

As a boy he was instructed in the military art by his father, an officer of the Corps de genie (Engineer Corps), and at the age of seventeen he entered the army, serving successively in the staff, the engineers and the prince de Lambesq's dragoons. In 1780 he went to North America with Rochambeau, and on his return, having attained the rank of colonel, he was employed in various staff posts and in a military mission to Prussia. During the Revolution, as Chief of Staff of the Versailles National Guard, he protected the aunts of Louis XVI from popular violence, and aided their escape (1791).

In the war of 1792 he was at once made Chief of Staff to Marshal Lückner, and he bore a distinguished part in the Argonne campaign of Dumouriez and Kellermann. He served with great credit in the Vendéan War of 1793-95, and was in the next year made a general of division and chief of staff (Major-Général) to the army of Italy, which Bonaparte had recently been appointed to command. His power of work, accuracy and quick comprehension, combined with his long and varied experience and his complete mastery of detail, made him the ideal chief of staff to a great soldier; and in this capacity he was Napoleon's most valued assistant for the rest of his career.

Marshal Berthier was Napoleon’s Chief of Staff from the start of his first Italian campaign in 1796 until his first abdication in 1814. The operational efficiency of the Grande Armée owed much to his considerable administrative and organizational skills.

He accompanied Napoleon throughout the brilliant campaign of 1796, and was left in charge of the army after the Treaty of Campo Formio. He was in this post in 1798 when he entered Italy, invaded the Vatican, organized the Roman republic, and took the pope Pius VI as prisoner back to Valence (France) where, after a journey of torturous suffering, the pope, a helpless prisoner under Berthier's supervision, died, dealing a major blow to the Vatican's political power which, however did not prove as ephemeral as that of the First Empire. After this he joined his chief in Egypt, serving there until Napoleon's return. He assisted in the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire, afterwards becoming minister of war for a time. In the campaign of Marengo he was the nominal head of the Army of Reserve, but the first consul accompanied the army and Berthier acted in reality, as always, as Chief of Staff to Napoleon. At the close of the campaign he was employed in civil and diplomatic business. This included a mission to Spain in August, 1800, which resulted in the retrocession of Louisiana to France by the Treaty of San Ildefonso, October 1, 1800, and led to the Louisiana Purchase.

Bust of Louis-Alexandre Berthier in the Chateau de Blois

When Napoleon became emperor, Berthier was at once made a marshal of the empire. He took part in the campaigns of Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland, and was created duke of Valengin in 1806, sovereign prince of Neuchâtel in the same year and vice-constable of the empire in 1807. In 1808 he served in the Peninsular War, and in 1809 in the Austrian War, after which he was given the title of prince of Wagram. He was with Napoleon in Russia in 1812, Germany in 1813, and France in 1814, fulfilling, till the fall of the empire, the functions of "major-general" of the Grande Armée.

Following Napoleon's first abdication, Berthier retired to his 600 acre (2.4 km²) estate, and resumed his hobbies of falconry and sculpture. He made peace with Louis XVIII in 1814, and accompanied the king in his solemn entry into Paris. During Napoleon's captivity in Elba, Berthier, whom he informed of his projects, was much perplexed as to his future course, and, being unwilling to commit him, fell under the suspicion both of his old leader and of Louis XVIII. On Napoleon's return he withdrew to Bamberg, where he later died.

The manner of his death is uncertain; according to some accounts he was assassinated by members of a secret society, others say that, maddened by the sight of Prussian troops marching to invade France, he threw himself from his window and was killed. Berthier was not a great commander. When he was in temporary command in 1809, the French army in Bavaria underwent a series of reverses. Whatever merit as a general he may have possessed was completely overshadowed by the genius of his emperor, be he is nevertheless renowned for being able to understand and carry out the emperor's directions to the minutest detail.

Marriage and family

On 9 March 1808 Berthier married Duchess Maria Elisabeth Franziska in Bavaria (Landshut, 5 May 1784 – Paris, 1 June 1849), only daughter of Duke Wilhelm in Bavaria, a distant cousin of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. They had one son and two daughters:

  • Napoleon-Alexandre (11 September 1810 – 10 February 1887)
  • Caroline-Josephine (22 August 1812 – 1905)
  • Marie-Anne (19 February 1816 – 23 July 1878)

References

  1. ^ Watson, p.13

Sources

  • Watson, S.J., By Command of the Emperor: A Life of Marshal Berthier, The Bodley Head, London, 1957

External links

Suggested Reading

  • Bukhari, Emir Napoleon's Marshals Osprey Publishing, 1979, ISBN 0850453054.
  • Chandler, David Napoleon's Marshals Macmillan Pub Co, 1987, ISBN 0029059305.
  • Connelly, Owen, Blundering to Glory: Napoleon's Military Campaigns SR Books, 1999, ISBN 0842027807.
  • Elting, John R. Swords around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997, ISBN 0029095018.
  • Haythornthwaite, Philip Napoleon's Commanders (2): c.1809-15 Osprey Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1841763454.
  • Hittle, James Donald ‘‘the Military Staff: Its History and Development Military Service Publishing, 1952.
  • Macdonell, A. G. Napoleon and His Marshals Prion, 1997, ISBN 1853752223.
  • Pawly, Ronald Napoleon's Imperial Headquarters (1): Organization and Personnel Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 184176793X.
  • Pawly, Ronald Napoleon's Imperial Headquarters (2): On campaign Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1841767948.
  • Watson, S.J. By Command of the Emperor: A Life of Marshal Berthier. Ken Trotman Ltd, ISBN 094687946X.
Political offices
Preceded by
Edmond Louis Alexis Dubois-Crancé
Minister of War
11 November 1799 - 2 April 1800
Succeeded by
Lazare Carnot
Preceded by
Lazare Carnot
Minister of War
8 October 1800 - 19 August 1807
Succeeded by
Henri Clarke, duc de Feltre
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick William III
Prince of Neuchâtel
1806 — 1814
Succeeded by
Frederick William III
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LOUIS ALEXANDRE BERTHIER, prince of Neuchatel (1753-1815), marshal of France and chief of the staff under Napoleon I., was born at Versailles on the 20th of February 1 7 53. As a boy he was instructed in the military art by his father, an officer of the Corps de genie, and at the age of seventeen he entered the army, serving successively in the staff, the engineers and the prince de Lambesq's dragoons. In 1780 he went to North America with Rochambeau, and on his return, having attained the rank of colonel, he was employed in various staff posts and in a military mission to Prussia. During the Revolution, as chief of staff of the Versailles national guard, he protected the aunts of Louis XVI. from popular violence, and aided their escape (1791). In the war of 1792 he was at once made chief of staff to Marshal Liickner, and he bore a distinguished part in the Argonne campaign of Dumouriez and Kellermann. He served with great credit in the Vendean War of 1 793-95, and was in the next year made a general of division and chief of staff (Major-General) to the army of Italy, which Bonaparte had recently been appointed to command. His power of work, accuracy and quick comprehension, combined with his long and varied experience and his complete mastery of detail, made him the ideal chief of staff to a great soldier; and in this capacity he was Napoleon's most valued assistant for the rest of his career. He accompanied Napoleon throughout the brilliant campaign of 1796, and was left in charge of the army after the peace of Campo Formio. In this post he organized the Roman republic (1798), after which he joined his chief in Egypt, serving there until Napoleon's return. He assisted in the coup d'etat of 18th Brumaire, afterwards becoming minister of war for a time. In the campaign of Marengo he was the nominal head of the Army of Reserve, but the first consul accompanied the army and Berthier acted in reality, as always, as chief of staff to Napoleon. At the close of the campaign he was employed in civil and diplomatic business. When Napoleon became emperor, Berthier was at once made a marshal of the empire. He took part in the campaigns of Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland, and was created duke of Valengin in 1806, sovereign prince of Neuchatel in the same year and vice-constable of the empire in 1807. In 1808 he served in the Peninsula, and in 1809 in the Austrian War, after which he was given the title of prince of Wagram. Berthier married a niece of the king of Bavaria. He was with Napoleon in Russia in 1812, Germany in 1813, and France in 1814, fulfilling, till the fall of the empire, the functions of "major-general" of the Grande Armee. He abandoned Napoleon to make his peace with Louis XVIII. in 1814, and accompanied the king in his solemn entry into Paris. During Napoleon's captivity in Elba, Berthier, whom he informed of his projects, was much perplexed as to his future course, and, being unwilling to commit himself, fell under the suspicion both of his old leader and of Louis XVIII. On Napoleon's return he withdrew to Bamberg, where he died on the 1st of June 1815. The manner of his death is uncertain; according to some accounts he was assassinated by members of a secret society, others say that, maddened by the sight of Russian troops marching to invade France, he threw himself from his window and was killed. Berthier was not a great commander. When he was in temporary command in 1809 the French army in Bavaria underwent a series of reverses. Whatever merit as a general he may have possessed was completely overshadowed by the genius of his master. But his title to fame is that he understood and carried out that master's directions to the minutest detail.


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