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Emmanuel, marquis de Grouchy

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Emmanuel, Marquis de Grouchy, Marshal of France

Emmanuel, marquis de Grouchy (October 23, 1766 - May 29, 1847), marshal of France, was born in Paris.

He entered the French artillery in 1779, transferred to the cavalry in 1782, and to the Gardes du corps in 1786. In spite of his aristocratic birth and his connections with the court, he was a convinced supporter of the principles of the Revolution, and had in consequence to leave the Guards. About the time of the outbreak of war in 1792 he became colonel of a cavalry regiment, and soon afterwards, as a maréchal de camp, he was sent to serve on the south-eastern frontier. In 1793 he distinguished himself in La Vende, and was promoted general of division. Grouchy was shortly afterwards deprived of his rank as being of noble birth, but in 1795 he was again placed on the active list. He served on the staff of the Army of Ireland (1796-1797), and took a conspicuous part in the Irish expedition. In 1798 he administered the civil and military government of Piedmont at the time of the abdication of the king of Sardinia, and in 1799 he distinguished himself greatly as a divisional commander in the campaign against the Austrians and Russians.

In covering the retreat of the French after the defeat of Novi, Grouchy received fourteen wounds and was taken prisoner. On his release he returned to France. In spite of his having protested against the coup d'état of the 18th of Brumaire he was at once re-employed by the First Consul, and distinguished himself again at Hohenlinden. It was not long before he accepted the new régime in France, and from 1801 onwards he was employed by Napoleon in military and political positions of importance. He served in Austria in 1805, in Prussia in 1806, Poland in 1807, Spain in 1808, and commanded the cavalry of the Army of Italy in 1809 in the Viceroy Eugène's advance to Vienna.

In 1812 he was made commander of one of the four cavalry corps of the Grand Armée, and during the retreat from Moscow Napoleon appointed him to command the escort squadron, which was composed entirely of picked officers. His almost continuous service with the cavalry led Napoleon to decline in 1813 to place Grouchy at the head of an army corps, and Grouchy thereupon retired to France.

In 1814, however, he hastened to take part in the defensive campaign in France, and he was severely wounded at Craonne. At the Restoration he was deprived of the post of colonel-general of chasseurs a cheval and retired. In 1815, he joined Napoleon on his return from Elba, and was made marshal and peer of France. In the campaign of Waterloo he commanded the reserve cavalry of the army, and after Ligny he was appointed to command the right wing to pursue the Prussians.

The march on Wavre, its influence on the result of the campaign, and the controversy to which Grouchy's conduct on the day of Waterloo has given rise, are dealt at length in nearly every work on the campaign of 1815. Here it is only necessary to say that on the 17th Grouchy was unable to close with the Prussians, and on the 18th, though urged to march towards the sound of the guns of Waterloo, he permitted himself, from whatever cause, to be held up by a Prussian rearguard while the Prussians and English united to crush Napoleon. On the 19th Grouchy won a smart victory over the Prussians at Wavre, but it was then too late. So far as resistance was possible after the great disaster, Grouchy made it. He gathered up the wrecks of Napoleon's army and retired, swiftly and unbroken, to Paris, where, after interposing his reorganized forces between the enemy and the capital, he resigned his command into the hands of Marshal Davout.

The rest of his life was spent in defending himself. An attempt to have him condemned to death by a court-martial failed, but he was exiled and lived in America till amnestied in 1821. On his return to France he was reinstated as general, but not as marshal nor as peer of France. For many years thereafter he was equally an object of aversion to the court party, as a member of their own caste who had followed the Revolution and Napoleon, and to his comrades of the Grand Armée as the supposed betrayer of Napoleon. In 1830 Louis Philippe gave him back the marshal's baton and restored him to the Chamber of Peers. He died at Saint-Étienne on the 29th of May 1847.

See Marquis de Grouchy, Mémoires du maréchal Marquis de Grouchy (Paris, 1873-1874); General Marquis de Grouchy, Le Général Grouchy en Irlande (Paris, 1866), and Le Maréchal Grouchy du 16 au 18 juin, 1815 (Paris, 1864); Appel a l'histoire sur les faites de baile droite de l'armée française (Paris, nd.); Svre Justice sur les faits du 28 juni au 3 juillet, 1815 (Paris, 1866); and the literature of the Waterloo campaign.

Marshal Grouchy himself wrote the following:

  • Observations sur la relation de la campagne de 1815 par le général de Gourgaud (Philadelphia and Paris, 1818)
  • Refutation de quelques articles des mémoires de M. le Duc de Rovigo (Paris, 1829)
  • Fragments Historiques Relatifs a la Campagne de 1815 et a la Bataille de Waterloo (Paris, 1829-1830, in reply to Barthélemy and Mory, and to Marshal Gérard)
  • Reclamation du marchal de Grouchy (Paris, 1834)
  • Plainte contre le general Baron Berthezkne (Berthezhne, formerly a divisional commander under Gérard, stated in reply to this defence that he had no intention of accusing Grouchy of ill faith).

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