Jean-Baptiste Bessières, 1st Duc d' Istria (6 August 1768 – 1 May 1813) was a Marshal of France of the Napoleonic Era. His younger brother, Bertrand, followed in his footsteps and eventually became a divisional general. Their cousin, Géraud-Pierre-Henri-Julien, also served Napoleon I as a diplomat and Imperial official.
|Born||6 August 1768|
|Died||1 May 1813 (aged 44)|
|Allegiance|| First French Empire 1804-1813|
French First Republic 1792-1804
Kingdom of France 1791-1792
Army of the Pyrenees
Army of the Moselle
|Years of service||1791–1813|
|Rank||General of Division|
|Battles/wars||French Revolutionary Wars,|
|Awards||Marshal of France,|
Légion d'honneur (Grand Eagle),
Order of the Iron Crown (Commander),
Name inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe,
Order of the Crown (Württemberg) (Knight),
Duke of Istria,
Military Order of St. Henry (Grand Cross),
Order of Christ (Portugal) (Knight)
|Relations||Bertrand Bessières (brother),|
Julien Bessières (cousin)
Bessières was born in Prayssac near Cahors in southern France. He served for a short time in the Constitutional Guard of Louis XVI and as a non-commissioned officer took part in the war against Spain.
In the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and in the Army of the Moselle he repeatedly distinguished himself for valour, and in 1796, as captain, he served in Napoleon Bonaparte's Italian campaign. At Rovereto his conduct brought him to his chief's notice, and after the Battle of Rivoli he was sent to France to deliver the captured colours to the Directory. Hastening back to the front, he accompanied Napoleon in the invasion of Styria in command of the Guides, who formed the nucleus of the later Consular and Imperial Guards.
Returning to Europe with Napoleon, he was present at Marengo (1800) as second-in-command of the Consular Guard. General Jean Lannes, commanding a corps at Marengo, felt he didn't support his faltering troops sufficiently and a long running feud arose between them. At the close of the battle, Bessières led a successful cavalry charge with the Guard Cavalry though its effect on the battle was not as decisive as Napoleon pretended. It was General François Étienne de Kellermann´s cavalry charge that won the battle for Marengo but Napoleon gave the credit largely to his own Guard Cavalry.
Promoted to general of division in 1802, he was subsequently promoted to Marshal of France in 1804, a wholly undeserved distinction based on his loyalty and friendship with Napoleon. Auguste de Marmont, a future Marshal, said that if Bessières can be made a Marshal, then everyone can be one. He was also made colonel-general of the Guard Cavalry and would command them in all future campaigns where he proved a very able cavalry commander.
In 1805 he received the Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honour, and in 1809 was entitled Duke of Istria, or duc d'Istrie. It was a duché grand-fief, a rare, nominal, but hereditary honor (extinguished in 1856) in Napoleon's own Kingdom of Italy.
With the outbreak of the Peninsular War, Marshal Bessières had his first opportunity of an independent command. He did well against the Spaniards, scoring a crushing victory in the Battle of Medina del Rio Seco (1808), but proved slow and hesitant in command of a large all-arms forces. Bessières was thus soon recalled to lead the Guard Cavalry during Napoleon´s invasion of Spain, a task more befitting his talents.
As war erupted in 1809 against Austria, he was again with the Grande Armée in the Danube valley as a cavalry leader, a position in which he excelled. At Essling, he led the cavalry in the centre and did a fine job holding it against superior numbers, but once again fell foul of Marshal Lannes. Lannes again felt that Bessières was not providing sufficient support to his faltering troops and ordered him to charge home instead of malingering. Bessières then challenged Lannes to a duel. Marshal André Massena intervened and prevented the duel between two marshals in front of their troops.
At the subsequent Battle of Wagram, Bessières once again led the cavalry reserve and had a horse killed under him which caused consternation amongst the Guard. Napoleon congratulated him on making his Guard cry but also chided him for not netting more prisoners because he lost his horse.
Replacing Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte in the command of the Army of the North a little later in the same year, the newly created Duke of Istria successfully opposed the British Walcheren expedition. In 1811, he was sent back to Spain again to lead the Army of the North. He mostly fought counter-insurgency operations and proved a difficult and touchy colleague to his fellow army commanders, especially Marshal Masséna who was in dire need of support after his failed invasion of Portugal in 1810-1811. He was recalled in some disgrace and once again reverted to his habitual Guard Cavalry post.
For the Russian campaign in 1812, he commanded the enlarged Guard Cavalry. Hardly engaged at the Battle of Borodino, he destroyed his reputation with the rest of the army when he advised Napoleon not to use his Guard for a decisive breakthrough. Although this left the Imperial Guard intact for future battles, it prevented a decisive victory which might have successfully ended the Russian campaign.
Three days after the opening of the campaign, while reconnoitering the defile of Poserna-Rippach, Bessières was killed by a cannonball which ricocheted off a wall and hit him in the chest.  He died instantly. Napoleon deeply felt the loss of one of his truest friends while the remaining Marshals considered it a good death for a soldier.
After his death, Bessières was found to be heavily in debt after spending his fortune on his mistress. Napoleon oversaw his inheritance, settled most of his debts, and looked out for the future of his children. His eldest son Napoléon Bessières was made a member of the Chamber of Peers by Louis XVIII.
As a commander, Bessières proved out of his depth when leading armies. His background as the commander of Napoleon's headquarters Guard, the Guides of the Army of Italy, deprived him of the wide experience more deserving Marshals had earned before assuming high command. Like Murat, he was however an excellent cavalry commander and he also proved an able administrator of the Guard. His few attempts at independent command were not a success however and Napoleon thereafter preferred using Bessières as a leader of cavalry.
Bessières was not of high birth but he adopted the manners and looks of a gentleman as befitting Napoleon's closest Guard commander. He typically wore the uniform of Napoleon´s old Guides of the Army of Italy with Marshal´s distinctions and wore his hair long with white powder in Ancien Régime style, even when the latter went out of fashion. He was known to be well mannered and kind and generous to subordinates but very touchy about his privileges and position.
Events from the year 1768 in France1813 in France
Events from the year 1813 in France.Army of the Eastern Pyrenees
The Army of the Eastern Pyrenees (Armée des Pyrénées Orientales) was one of the French Revolutionary armies. It fought against the Kingdom of Spain in Rousillon, the Cerdanya and Catalonia during the War of the Pyrenees. This army and the Army of the Western Pyrenees were formed by splitting the original Army of the Pyrenees at the end of April 1793 soon after the war started. Shortly after the Peace of Basel on 22 July 1795, the fighting ended and the army was dissolved on 12 October that same year. Many of its units and generals were transferred to join the Army of Italy and fought under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796.
In the first dismal months of fighting, the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees was beaten at Mas Deu and Bellegarde and forced back under the walls of Perpignan. Then the French repelled two Spanish attacks at Perpignan and Peyrestortes. Though the army was defeated again at Truillas and in other actions, the Spanish invaders withdrew to the Tech River in late 1793. Throughout the year the representatives on mission had enormous powers and used them to interfere with the military effort and to arrest officers that they deemed unpatriotic or unsuccessful. In 1794, the army's fortunes improved when Jacques François Dugommier took command. The army drove the Spanish army from France soil at Boulou and recaptured the Fort de Bellegarde and Collioure. After establishing itself on Spanish territory, the army won a decisive victory at the Battle of the Black Mountain in November during which Dugommier was killed. His replacement, Dominique Catherine de Pérignon soon captured the Sant Ferran fortress and the port of Roses. After these events the front became static and the last notable action was a Spanish victory at Bascara in June.
The war took a severe toll on the commanders of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. Aside from Dugommier's death in battle, three were executed by the guillotine and another died of disease. Five officers from the army later became Marshals of France under Napoleon. These were Pérignon, Pierre Augereau, Claude Perrin Victor, Jean Lannes and Jean-Baptiste Bessières.Battle of Cabezón
The Battle of Cabezón was an engagement early in the Peninsular War on 12 June 1808 between a small Spanish militia force (grandiloquently styled the "Army of Castile"), based in Valladolid, and a detachment of Marshal Bessières' French Army Corps under General Lasalle.
The battle took place when General Cuesta's small army, scraped together almost from scratch to defend Old Castile, deployed itself at the bridge over the Pisuerga at Cabezón, just 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) outside Valladolid, to bar the road from Burgos against oncoming French divisions. Rather than dig in on the opposite bank of the river, Cuesta, swept along by the enthusiasm of his men, rushed his troops across the bridge against almost double his number, with predictable results: Lasalle's veteran cavalry trampled Cuesta's raw recruits with ease and marched on to Valladolid.Battle of Cogorderos
The Battle of Cogorderos took place at Cogorderos, in the Province of León, Castile-León, on 23 June 1811, between a French force under Brigadier General Jean-André Valletaux and a Spanish force commanded by General Francisco Taboada y Gil during the Peninsular War. After seven hours of battle, the French were defeated and retreated to León. Despite the victory, Taboada, threatened by the bulk of General Jean Pierre François Bonet's army, retired to Astorga. However, Bonet and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières decided against sending more troops to Extremadura, which favored the advance of Wellington in the south.Battle of Czarnowo
The Battle of Czarnowo on the night of 23–24 December 1806 saw troops of the First French Empire under the eye of Emperor Napoleon I launch an evening assault crossing of the Wkra River against Lieutenant General Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy's defending Russian Empire forces. The attackers, part of Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout's III Corps, succeeded in crossing the Wkra at its mouth and pressed eastward to the village of Czarnowo. After an all-night struggle, the Russian commander withdrew his troops to the east, ending this War of the Fourth Coalition action. Czarnowo is located on the north bank of the Narew River 33 kilometres (21 mi) north-northwest of Warsaw, Poland.
Several other actions occurred during the same week. On the 23rd, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières defeated a probe by Prussian troops at Bieżuń. On 24 December, an action occurred at Kołoząb and Sochocin where Marshal Pierre Augereau's VII Corps attempted to cross the Wkra. The French managed to secure a foothold on the east bank, forcing Major General Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly's Russian defenders to retreat. On Christmas Day, part of Marshal Michel Ney's VI Corps drove the Prussians from Soldau (Działdowo), forcing them to retreat north toward Königsberg. The Russians, however, were full of fight and two sharp battles occurred on 26 December.Battle of Medina de Rioseco
The Battle of Medina de Rioseco, also known as the Battle of Moclín, was fought during the Peninsular War on 14 July 1808 when a combined body of Spanish militia and regulars moved to rupture the French line of communications to Madrid. General Joaquín Blake's Army of Galicia, under joint command with General Gregorio de la Cuesta, was routed by Marshal Bessières after a badly coordinated but stubborn fight against the French corps north of Valladolid.
Bessières exploited the poor coordination between Blake and Cuesta to defeat the Spaniards in detail, with Blake being ejected from a low ridge while Cuesta sat to the rear, and Cuesta failing to recapture the ridge with his own troops. The Army of Galicia was the only formation capable of threatening the French advance into Old Castile—Cuesta's command having been destroyed earlier at Cabezón—and its destruction marked a serious blow to Spain's national uprising.
But in the event, Medina de Rioseco proved to be the solitary French triumph in an invasion of Spain that ultimately failed to seize the country's major cities or to pacify its rebellious provinces, and which met outright disaster at Bailén, forcing French forces—Bessières' victorious corps included—to fly over the Ebro in retreat. A fresh campaign, conducted by Napoleon himself with the bulk of the Grande Armée, would be needed to redress the situation.Battle of Neumarkt-Sankt Veit
The Battle of Neumarkt-Sankt Veit on 24 April 1809 saw a Franco-Bavarian force led by Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières face an Austrian Empire army commanded by Johann von Hiller. Hiller's numerically superior force won a victory over the Allied troops, forcing Bessières to retreat to the west. Neumarkt-Sankt Veit is located ten kilometers north of Mühldorf and 33 kilometers southeast of Landshut in Bavaria.
On 10 April 1809, Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen's surprise invasion of the Kingdom of Bavaria put the Grande Armée of Emperor Napoleon I of France at a disadvantage. On 19 April, Charles failed to take advantage of his opportunities and Napoleon struck back with savage force against the Austrian left wing under Hiller. After battles on 20 and 21 April, Hiller's troops were driven into a headlong retreat to the southeast.
Having temporarily disposed of Hiller, Napoleon turned north with his main army against Archduke Charles. On 22 and 23 April, the Franco-Germans defeated Charles' army and forced it to withdraw to the north bank of the Danube. Meanwhile, Napoleon sent Bessières to pursue the Austrian left wing with minor forces. Not knowing that Charles had been defeated, Hiller turned back upon his pursuer, defeating Bessières near Neumarkt-Sankt Veit. Once he found that he was alone on the south bank facing Napoleon's main army, Hiller retreated rapidly to the east in the direction of Vienna.Bertrand Bessières
Bertrand Bessières, 1st Baron Bessières (b. 6 January 1773 in Prayssac; † 15 November 1855 in Chantilly), was a French general of the Napoleonic Wars. He was the younger brother of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières.
After serving with a good record in Italy, in Egypt and at Hohenlinden, Bertrand Bessières had a command in the Grande Armée, fought at Austerlitz and was subsequently promoted to brigadier general. In 1808 was sent to Spain, where he commanded a division in Catalonia and played a notable part at the action of Molins de Rey near Barcelona.
Disagreements with his superior, General Duhesme, led to his resignation, but he subsequently served with Napoleon in all the later campaigns of the empire and was wounded at Borodino and Leipzig.
His last public act was his defence of the unfortunate Marshal Ney. Placed on the retired list by the restored Bourbons, he spent the rest of his long life in retirement.Bessières
Bessières can refer to:
Jean-Baptiste Bessières, French marshal, duke of Istria (1768-1813)
his younger brother, Bertrand, Baron Bessieres (1773-1855)II Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)
II Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée) was a French military formation during the Napoleonic Wars. It was first formed in December 1806, but only enjoyed a brief existence under Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières. The II Cavalry Corps was reconstituted for the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and commanded by General of Division Louis-Pierre Montbrun who was killed in battle, as was his successor a few hours later. In the War of the Sixth Coalition, General of Division Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta led the corps in 1813. General of Division Antoine-Louis Decrest de Saint-Germain directed the corps in 1814. During the Hundred Days, Napoleon raised the corps again and entrusted it to General of Division Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans.II Corps (Grande Armée)
The II Corps of the Grande Armée was a military unit that existed during the Napoleonic Wars.Julien Bessières
Henri Géraud Julien, Chevalier Bessières et de l'Empire (30 July 1777, Gramat, Lot – 30 July 1840, Paris) was a French scientist and diplomat. He was a cousin of marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières and Bertrand Bessières.List of Légion d'honneur recipients by name (B)
The following is a list of some notable Légion d'honneur recipients by name. The Légion d'honneur is the highest order of France. A complete, chronological list of the members of the Legion of Honour nominated from the very first ceremony in 1803 to now does not exist. The number is estimated at one million including about 3,000 Grand Cross.
John Tremayne Babington
Amitabh Bachchan - India
Josephine Baker (1906–1975), American-French dancer, singer
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna – India
James Arthur Baldwin (1924–1987), African-American writer & defender of human rights
Benjamin Ball (physician)
Basile Baltus de Pouilly, (1766–1845) General, French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars
Raffaello de Banfield
Jean-François Barbier (1754–1828) General, French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars
John J. Barceló III - American Law Professor
Van T. Barfoot
Karno Barkah - Indonesian aviation pioneer
Michael Barker Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics
Myron G. Barlow (1873–1937) American painter. Awarded Légion d'honneur 1932 in recognition of his achievement as a painter.
Denis Gabriel Barois (1922–) Délégué au Conseil supérieur des Français de l'étranger (Mexique)
Jeanne Julia Bartet
Marcus "Stub" Bartusek - USA, World War II, 106th Infantry Division (United States), 424th Regiment
Dame Shirley Bassey (b. 1937) U.K. Singer
Jean Ambroise Baston de Lariboisière, (1759–1812), General, French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars
Jean Baubérot (b. 1941), French historian and sociologist
Pierre-Dominique Bazaine (1786–1838) French Mathematician and Engineer
Pierre-Dominique (Adolphe) Bazaine (1809–1893) French Railway Engineer
François Achille Bazaine (1811–1888) Marshal of France
George Albert Bazaine-Hayter (1843–1914) French General
Reginald R. Belknap (1871–1959), United States Navy rear admiral
Alexander Graham Bell
Sir Francis Dillon Bell New Zealand Statesman
Guillermo B. Belt (1906–1989), Cuban diplomat
Arnaud Beltrame (2018), Gendarme Colonel, Gendarmerie National (Award and promotion both Posthumous).
Claude Bernard, physiologist, founding father of modern physiology and endocrinology
Tom Bernard - Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics
Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
Pier Luigi Bersani
Roberte Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough
Ramón Emeterio Betances (1827–1898), Puerto Rican medical doctor, political leader and diplomat
Jacques Claude Beugnot
Kenneth W. Bilby, American businessman and author
Maria Ilva Biolcati Italian singer and actress
Sir Robert Bird, 2nd Baronet
George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood
Harry Gore Bishop
Monique de Bissy
Henri Biva (1848–1929) French painter. Awarded Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur, 1900
George G. Blackburn
Alice Guy-Blaché, cinema pioneer
Tasker H. Bliss
Albina du Boisrouvray
Jorge Luis Borges
Georges Ernest Boulanger
Paul-Émile Boutigny, painter of military subjects
Frank Henry Bowater
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee Vice President At-Large of The Washington Post
Jean Branger Captain, 8th infantry regiment; by Imperial order: Chevalier of légion d´honneur by decree on 26 December 1852.
Lloyd Samuel Breadner
Théophile Marie Brébant
Francis Charles Bridgeman Bridgeman
Francis Charles Bridgeman Bridgeman
Louis Brière de l'Isle General, Troupes de marine
Donald F. Breitenberg USA World War II, 101st Airborne
Louis de Broglie
Robert S. Brookings
Albert Bros, Escaped pow and member of the Resistance
John Nicholas Brown II, Philanthropist
Josip Broz Tito, Leader of Yugoslavia
John Bruce-Lockhart (Scotland, Great War)
Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné
Charles F. Bruns
Jean-Eugène Buland, French painter
Omar Bundy, American general
Richard Burrows, Chairman of British American Tobacco
Richard E. Byrd - American admiral and explorer
Myles ByrneList of Marshals of the First French Empire
Marshal of the Empire (Fr. Maréchal d'Empire) was a civil dignity during the First French Empire. It was created by Sénatus-consulte on 18 May 1804 and to a large extent resurrected the formerly abolished title of Marshal of France. According to the Sénatus-consulte, a Marshal was a grand officer of the Empire, entitled to a high-standing position at the Court and to the presidency of an electoral college.Marshal of the Empire
Marshal of the Empire (French: Maréchal d'Empire) was a civil dignity during the First French Empire. It was created by Sénatus-consulte on 18 May 1804 and to a large extent resurrected the formerly abolished title of Marshal of France. According to the Sénatus-consulte, a Marshal was a grand officer of the Empire, entitled to a high-standing position at the Court and to the presidency of an electoral college.
Although in theory reserved "to the most distinguished generals", in practice Emperor Napoleon I granted the title according to his own wishes and convictions and made at least a few controversial choices. Although not a military rank, a Marshal displayed four silver stars, while the top military rank, General of Division, displayed three stars. Furthermore, the Marshalate quickly became the prestigious sign of the supreme military attainment and it became customary that the most significant commands be given to a Marshal. Each Marshal held his own coat of arms, was entitled to special honours and several of them held top functions within the army. They wore distinctive uniforms and were entitled to carry a cylinder-shaped baton, which was a symbol of their authority.
Throughout his 1804–1815 reign, Napoleon appointed a total of 26 Marshals, although their number never exceeded 20 at any one moment. The initial list of 1804 included 14 names of active generals and four names of retired generals, who were given the "honorary" title of Marshal. Six other promotions ensued, with eight other generals elevated to the Marshalate. The title often ensured a highly privileged social status – four Marshals were created Counts of the Empire and 17 received either the title of Duke or Prince. With two exceptions – Jean-Baptiste Bessières and Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier – the Marshals led a sumptuous lifestyle and left behind significant, at times immense, fortunes. Several of them received significant annuities; in addition, a few received financial endowments from the Emperor, with two of them – Louis-Alexandre Berthier and André Masséna – receiving more than one million Francs each. Two Marshals – Joachim Murat and Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte – went on to become Kings, with the latter being the direct ancestor of the current Swedish Royal Family. A single commander, Louis-Vincent-Joseph Le Blond de Saint-Hilaire, was publicly named as a Marshal-to-be by Napoleon, but he died of battle wounds before the next promotions were made.Most of the Marshals held significant commands during the Napoleonic Wars, winning some of the most brilliant victories of the entire Napoleonic Wars. Three of them – Jean Lannes, Louis-Nicolas Davout and Louis-Gabriel Suchet were virtually never defeated in pitched battle, despite fighting in dozens of engagements. While they were not normally expected to lead from the front, they often exposed themselves to great dangers on the battlefields of Europe; three Marshals – Jean Lannes, Jean-Baptiste Bessières and Józef Poniatowski – were killed in action or died as a result of battle wounds. During his five years as a Marshal of the Empire (1809–1814), Nicolas-Charles Oudinot received seven of a total of 27 battle wounds suffered throughout his career, but went on to live to the then venerable age of 80. Often formidable when serving under the direct command of Napoleon, the Marshals proved to be less effective when having to cooperate, in the Emperor's absence. Some repeatedly acted in ill-faith when placed under the command of another Marshal, with conflicts sometimes leading to fatal military consequences. After Napoleon's downfall, most of them swore allegiance to the Bourbon Restoration and several went on to hold significant commands and positions. The boulevards of the marshals in Paris are a collection of thoroughfares that encircle the city near its outermost margins. Most bear the name of marshals who served under Napoleon I.Napoléon Bessières
Napoléon Bessières, 2nd Duke of Istrie (2 August 1802, Paris - 21 July 1856, Arnouville-les-Gonesse) was a French politician.Prayssac
Prayssac (French pronunciation: [pʁeˈsak]) is a commune in the Lot department in south-western France.Reserve Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)
The Reserve Cavalry Corps or Cavalry Reserve of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that existed during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1805, Emperor Napoleon appointed Marshal Joachim Murat to command all the cavalry divisions that were not directly attached to the Army Corps. During the Ulm Campaign, Murat led his horsemen in successfully hunting down many Austrian Empire units that escaped the Capitulation of Ulm. Murat's horsemen fought at Austerlitz in December 1805. Under Murat, the Cavalry Reserve played a prominent role in the destruction of the Kingdom of Prussia's armies after the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt in 1806. Five dragoon divisions of the corps were employed in the Peninsular War starting in 1808 and placed under the overall command of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières. The Cavalry Reserve was reassembled in 1809 to fight Austria with Bessières still in command. In 1812 the Reserve Cavalry Corps was split up into the I, II, III, and IV Cavalry Corps for the French invasion of Russia.