First CampaignBattle of
Jemmappes Appointed ColonelArrival at LilleDumouriez's
TreacheryEvents at LilleInterrogation End of the
THE Revolution made giant strides; war seemed imminent, and
I was recalled to my regiment. Hostilities broke out at the beginning of 1792.
Beurnonville received a command, and took me as his aide-de-camp.
There had been considerable emigration among the officers of
the army, and particularly among those of my regiment. Efforts were made to
induce me to go, too ; but I was married, and very much attached to my wife,
who was near her confinement. These were surely good reasons! Besides, I cared
nothing about politics.
The campaign opened, and its first start was not fortunate;
there was no feelings of camaraderie and a great deal of insubordination.
General Dumouriez came to take command of the northern frontier; his
headquarters were at the camp at Maulde, then under the orders of General
Beurnonville. He gave me several commissions, which I carried out
satisfactorily, and wished to keep me near him, with the rank of Captain.
Beurnonville, seeing that it was for my interest, strongly urged me to accept.
Gratitude and friendship compelled me to refuse, and I resisted, but ended by
submitting to reiterated pressure, the more readily that he and I should still
continue in the same corps d'armée.
I will enter here into no details of the events of the war,
even so far as they concerned me personally; they have passed into the domain
of history, and to do so I should have to write memoirs, which is not at all my
intention. Perhaps I will collect them some day, if I can find time and my
papers; but now I have too much to do, and my career has been too full to admit
of my undertaking such a lengthy task.
Some months later, General Dumouriez received orders to join
the Army of the Ardennes. He took up his quarters at Grandpre, then at St.
Menehould, called VALMY, or Camp de la Lune. The Prussians attacked him there ;
he resisted ; the enemy retired. I was not forgotten amid the numerous
promotions that took place. I was made Lieutenant - Colonel, now called Chef
de bataillon. General Dumouriez left orders with Beurnonville, who was
Lieutenant-General, to lead a body to the assistance of Lille, and went himself
to Paris to devise the ulterior plan of action. I followed him thither.
After a short stay, we rejoined the army assembled under the
ramparts of Valenciennes. The plan decided upon in Paris was to invade Belgium.
For the execution of this enterprise the Commander-in-chief caused
reconnaissances to be made all along the frontier, and his aides-de camp were
sent to the principal points of attack, in order to report upon the strength of
the troops opposed to him. He was to decide from these reports where to
concentrate his troops and commence the main attack. He sent me to Lille. I
accompanied the reconnoitring party sent to Tournai, and commanded by General
Our men were now to meet an enemy for the first time face to
face, upon his own ground. We were not to provoke a pitched battle; our chief
object was to gauge the strength of the enemy by the resistance opposed to us.
We were very superior to them, besides which a strong reserve, following us at
a distance, had orders to support our movements, or to cover us in case of a
repulse. This was the last part played by this troop, commanded by Lieutenant-
General la Bourdonnaie in person, he bore the title of General-commanding, but
was subordinate to Dumouriez, who was a ' General of the Army ' (General
d'armée), a rank corresponding to that of Marshal, which title had been
abolished, though such as already bore it were allowed to keep it.
At the first shot, our reconnoitring party broke and fled to
Lille, carrying with them the panic that had seized them. However, the enemy
did not deploy more than twelve hundred men of all arms and two pieces of
cannon, and I am confident that they had no more at that particular spot.
Vainly did we try to stop our runaways; but the enemy did not advance much, and
the reserve, on being brought up, made a good stand.
I reported the event, which was absolutely the second Pas de
Baisieux on the frontier, [An allusion to the rout of April 29, 1792, after
which the fugitives, hurrying from Baisieux to Lille, massacred their General,
Theobald Dillon.]. The Generals were kind enough to quote the efforts I had
made to carry out the mission with which I was charged, as well as my demeanour
during the skirmish, and, in truth, I was able to render some services upon
this occasion. The receipt of complete intelligence satisfied us that the
enemy's forces, commanded by Duke Albert of Saxe Teschen, were drawn up before
us in an entrenched camp upon the heights of Mons and Berlaimont, covering the
latter town, and General Dumouriez resolved upon giving battle.
After all our preparations were made, the army advanced and
took up a position, parallel to that of the entrenched camp. Orders were given
along the lines for a general attack at noon on the following day. Every watch
was set by that of the General in command. Feints were to be made upon the
principal points on the frontier, and at the same time. It was somewhat late
for a battle, but the plan had been regulated by the march of General
d'Harville, who was bringing 10,000 men from the camp at Maubeuge, and was to
turn Duke Albert's left wing.
A discharge from the twelve-pounder battery announced the
hour of noon. The army advanced upon the enemy, and opened the attack with
plenty of determination [Battle of Jemmappes, November 6. 1792]. The firing
became very brisk, and the resistance obstinate. Obstacles such as
entrenchments, epaulments, abattis, and chevaux de frise, favoured the defence;
they were trouble some, but not insurmountable. However, our lines began to
reel, and even to fall back. Dumouriez was at hand with a remedy; but General
d'Harville, who was to support our right and turn the enemy's left, did not
arrive, notwithstanding repeated orders to him to hasten his march. Our left
did not advance ; the General went to discover the reason, and recognised the
difficulty of forcing the Austrians' right. Our advanced guard, commanded by
Beurnonville, on the right of the line, had just been repulsed; a second charge
had produced no better result. Our centre was stationary, and losing many men.
The Duc de Chartres, who was commanding it, received orders to try to pierce
that of the enemy, or so to fix their attention as to prevent them from
withdrawing any men, while, with a few fresh troops, whom he would himself
command, Dumouriez would make another effort on his right.
I had just informed him that the head of General
d'Harville's column had appeared at last, but that he would require some hours
and a little rest before he could execute the movement required of him, in
order to turn the enemy's left from the formidable position it occupied.
Dumouriez left me with the Duc de Chartres, who desired me to bring him a
regiment of dragoons left in reserve. While this regiment was coming up, we saw
Dumouriez and Beurnonville rush forward at the head of the advanced guard, and,
after a feeble resistance on the part of the Austrians, we saw our men crowning
the heights. This rapid and decisive attack, coupled with the advance of
D'Harville on our extreme right, appeared to decide the enemy to retreat, as
they did not wish to expose themselves to having the road to Brussels closed
against them, an operation which was clearly indicated by the movement of this
body. The Duc de Chartres, as soon as he perceived the progress and success of
the advanced guard, ordered his troops to charge. The positions so long
defended were overcome, and I myself led the regiment of dragoons at a gallop
to the heights, where they still found some work to do ; but we only entered
Mons the next day, after the Austrians had evacuated it.
During the battle, Beurnonville received orders summoning
him to take command of the Army of the Moselle. Dumouriez, who had appointed
him Lieutenant-General, and hoped to keep him with his army, was displeased at
this arrangement, and I was very vexed at it. However, there was nothing for it
but to obey, and Beurnonville took leave of us, promising not to forget me.
The army continued its march, skirmishing as it went, and
took up winter quarters on the Meuse and the Roër, instead of pushing on
to the Rhine. Dumouriez started for Paris, permitting me to accompany him. He
only remained there long enough to plan the invasion of Holland, and prolonged
While Dumouriez was subduing the fortresses on the Dutch
frontier, the army left on the Roër and Meuse was surprised in its
cantonments, and sought to rally on the hitherward side of Liège.
Dumouriez received orders to hasten there. All officers on leave were ordered
to join, and I was preparing for my departure, when I learned that Beurnonville
had arrived in Paris, and had been appointed War Minister. I went to see and
take my leave of him, but he retained me, and a few days later presented me
with an appointment as Colonel of the Picardy regiment. Two important
promotions in six months surely ought to have satisfied the most boundless
ambition ! I had no right to expect such a rapid rise) and was consequently the
proudest and happiest man in the world. I could only hope, supposing that there
had been any favouritism or any friendship on the part of Beurnonville, that
the regiment I was about to command would not find me unworthy of such a rank,
especially as it was one of those that I had supported during our reconnoitring
expedition near Tournai.
We soon had news of the loss of the battle of Neerwinde, and
of Dumouriez's retreat. His enemies declared that treason had been at work ;
from that moment he was lost, and the important services he had rendered in
Champagne, Flanders, and Belgium were forgotten. Such is the fate of men who
serve revolutions ! Mine only hung by a thread.
Scarcely had I crossed our frontier when I met bands of
fugitives returning to France, and screaming national songs at the top of their
voices. I reached Brussels, where I found the staff not yet recovered from the
confusion consequent upon the loss of the battle. No one knew whither the
troops had betaken themselves, especially the Picardy regiment. Dumouriez was
covering the army, or what remained of it, with the rear-guard, which was on
its way back from Louvain, so I waited for him. Some hours later I was told
that an officer had come from my regiment for orders; I sent it into temporary
quarters in the neighbourhood of Tournai.
I saw Dumouriez on his arrival. He reproached me, as he had
previously done Beurnonville, with having abandoned him. I answered that the
friendship of the latter for me had caused him to reward and encourage some
small efforts on my part, and that no doubt, under more fortunate
circumstances, he (Dumouriez) would have obtained an appointment for me. I
added that I was not abandoning him, as my regiment formed a part of his army.
This reasoning soothed him. He talked over our unlucky position with me,
begging me to hasten to my post, and desiring me to do my utmost to keep my
regiment together, and to preserve it from the bad influences caused by the
disorder into which everything had been thrown. I embraced him, and departed;
each of us had tears in his eyes. Little did we think that this was our last
I reached my quarters, and made myself known, to the
indignation of a Lieutenant-Colonel, who exclaimed to all who would listen to
him that the most outrageous injustice had been done him by the appointment of
a superior officer. He asked for leave, which I granted him, and he never
As our retrograde movement continued, we did not stop till
we were once more on our own territory. General Miaczinski's brigade, to which
I belonged, came to Orchies. I was struck by the half-heartedness of the enemy,
who never attacked us.
A few days later, while at dinner, a corporal of my regiment
came to tell me that the War Minister was changing horses at the post-house,
and desired to see me immediately. Surprised at this unexpected arrival, I went
to him. After embracing me, he presented me to four Commissioners from the
Convention, who questioned me as to our retreat. I was unable to give them much
information, as I had only arrived a few days previously, a statement which was
confirmed by the Minister. They were in a hurry to go on and fulfil their
mission, the object of which was not disclosed to me. I questioned
Beurnonville, but he also was discreet; he recommended me, however, to hold my
regiment in readiness, as he would review it on his return from the
headquarters at Boues de St. Amand.
Next morning Miaczinski sent for me. I found him in great
spirits. His room was full of officers, one of whom was reading aloud to the
General a despatch that had just arrived. I gathered simply that the War
Minister and the Commissioners had been seized and taken to Tournai. Miaczinski
ordered me to have my regiment under arms, adding that he would shortly send me
further instructions. In a few minutes an aide-de-camp brought me verbal
instructions to take command of the camp, to set the troops in motion, and
march upon Lille, whither the General would precede me. I sent forward my
quarter-masters, and we followed. A halt being necessary, I stopped at Pont-a-
Marcq. Fresh orders from the General desired me to hasten my advance, and we
started again. On the road, some of my officers informed me of what had
happened at St. Amand; our General had made no secret of it, and it had
gradually leaked out to the regiment. They tried to discover what I thought ;
my answer was simply that we had to obey orders without troubling ourselves
about future events.
The head of the column had just reached the Faubourg des
Malades (a suburb of Lille), when I received a note from Miaczinski ordering me
to stop wherever this note reached me, to provide refreshment for my men, and
not to leave them. They had just reached the glacis of the fortress. I ordered
them to face about, according to the regulations, and pile their arms. No
victuals ! I sent to Lille for some. The gates and barriers were shut, and the
drawbridges raised. This circumstance led me to the conclusion that something
very unusual was taking place in the town, seeing that the gates of a fortified
town are not shut, except for form's sake, on the arrival of a fresh garrison.
The proximity of the enemy could not account for it, for we on the glacis were
a goodly number of defenders. While I was discussing this strange reception
with some of my officers, I was informed that a municipal official wished to
see me. I went to him, and found him in considerable agitation. He told me that
the council, assembled at the town-hall, wished to see me. I answered by
showing him the note from the General, in which I was ordered not to leave my
troops; that I presumed that the object of this municipal invitation was to
concert measures for food and quarters; that the General was there as well as
my quartermasters, that they should address themselves to him; that I only held
the command in his absence; that I would send a Captain in my place, who would
bring me back his orders.
Our disasters, which extended the whole length of our
frontiers, and especially in the north, were all laid at the door of the
leaders, and the policy of the day was rather to sacrifice them than to accuse
the number of cowards who had brought them into such straits. That is why
Dumouriez was declared a traitor to his country. A decree of accusation had
just been issued against him. The four Commissioners whom I have mentioned were
sent to carry it out at head-quarters, and to bring Dumouriez to the bar of the
Convention. Beurnonville was ordered to reorganize the army, of which he was to
take command. Dumouriez, however, had been warned, and had taken such measures
that, after an excited discussion with these gentlemen, he had caused them to
be arrested and carried to Tournai. Here they were handed over to the enemy,
with whom he had made a secret treaty whereby he was to be supported in his
march upon Paris to upset the Convention.
After this coup d'etat, trusting too implicitly upon
the affection of his army, he divided it into several columns, which were to
march upon the capital from different quarters, and, wishing at the same time
to secure the northern strongholds, he ordered Miaczinski to take possession of
them. The latter, who had a cause of complaint against the Commissioners, who
had treated him very abruptly at Orchies on the preceding evening, because a
detachment that was to escort them was not ready at the moment they wished to
start, was enchanted at the prospect of having his revenge. He imparted his
orders and all that had happened to those who were about him, and one of these,
St. Georges, his friend, accompanied by the courier who had brought Dumouriez's
orders to Miaczinski, started immediately for Lille and warned the authorities
of the danger threatening their town, and all the others in the department.
Such were the reasons that had decided them to shut their gates. Poor
Miaczinski, urged by a double desire to avenge himself and to lose no time in
executing his orders, hastened thither, and thus rushed blindly on his ruin. He
was to have had an interview with the general officer in command of the place,
but the latter, warned by the information of St. Georges, hastened to join the
civil authorities, who promptly took all the measures rendered necessary by the
difficult circumstances in which they were placed.
While awaiting the return of the Captain whom I had
despatched into the town, I learned the details of all that had happened at St.
Amand, and the orders that had been given in consequence. My officer returned
without any instructions for me. Night was coming on. The men, who had heard
something of what was going on, put various interpretations upon the news, but
I paid no heed to them. I was, however, in the utmost anxiety as to my position
and that of my men, who were loudly complaining that they had a worse reception
from their fellow countrymen than they would have had from foreigners. They
were ravenously hungry. This state of affairs could only end in a crisis, when
they cried to us from the walls that the troops were to march to the Faubourg
de la Madeleine, where we should find rations, tents, victuals, etc.; but that
we must go round the glacis, as the gates were not allowed to be opened.
The men accordingly started, marching in a disorderly
manner, which I could see from some distance off, but for which I could not
account, until I came close up to them, when I discovered the reason. It was
impossible to bring this multitude into order, so I contented myself with
accompanying them. On reaching the gate of the Faubourg de F'ives, we found the
barrier of the glacis closed. We summoned them to open it, but our demand was
refused. A voice from within the gate added that the Colonel of the Picardy
regiment was to come at once to the assembled council. My grenadiers mutinied,
and replied in the negative, adding that if their Colonel went they would go
too. This was refused. I had nothing to reproach myself with. I at once
determined upon going alone. The soldiers then raised very alarming cries,
declaring, among other things, that these had killed their poor Capet
(Louis XVI.), and so on. They also began to shout, ' Long live the King !' I
addressed them with severity, threatening them and pretending that I could
recognise individual voices, which frightened them; and I then extracted from
them a promise to remain quiet until my return. The barrier was opened for me,
but I was not even allowed to take with me a servant to hold my horse.
On passing under the gateway I was surrounded by about
thirty men. The officer in charge said to me:
' Colonel, don't be afraid.'
' I have never been afraid of an enemy,' was my answer ; '
why should I fear Frenchmen ?'
I put several questions to him, but could get no
' I entered the great vestibule of the town-hall. All the
authorities were assembled. The meeting was public, and a considerable number
of inhabitants were present ; profound silence reigned.
The president interrogated me. His first question was as to
my Christian name and surname, rank, etc. I answered him.
' Are you in command of the troops on the glacis of the
' Yes, in the absence of General Miaczinski, who must be
I looked round for him, but failed to see him.
' By whose orders have you come ?'
' By those of the General I have named.'
'Can you show us his order?'
' It was given by word of mouth. We were in camp. The
General sent for me as the senior Colonel, and ordered me to put my men under
arms. I obeyed, and immediately afterwards an aide-de-camp came and told me, on
behalf of the General, to march my troops forward to this town, whither he
would precede me.'
' Did he tell you the reason for this movement ?'
' What did you think ?'
' That, having entered this territory, provision was to be
made to safeguard the different places, and that we were intended to defend
' What do your men say ?'
'I Cannot conceal from you that they are discontented. The
grief caused by their reverses, the privations they have endured during the
retreat, their fatigues, needs, devotion, all tended to make them anticipate
help from their fellow- citizens ; but, instead, they meet only distrust. They
are saying very unfitting things, and I have had considerable difficulty in
appeasing them. In order to calm them I said that in all probability you
desired to concert with me as to the best means of satisfying their pressing
wants, and that I would not delay in bringing them good news. Unless such be
the case, I cannot answer for any disorders or excesses which they will most
I called upon the officer who had come with me, and who had
witnessed my efforts to calm the irritation of the men who had put their trust
in me. He endorsed all that I had just said, and even went beyond it.
The president, who at first had addressed me very severely,
seemed much appeased by my speech, and, when the officer had concluded his
report, said to me:
' Colonel, return to your post; keep order among your men.
Lead them to the camp of La Madeleine ; you will there find provision for all
your needs. Orders have been given that nothing should be left unprovided.'
I saluted the assembly and returned to the Faubourg de
'Well, my friends' I said to the soldiers on my arrival, ' I
knew that it was simply to discuss your needs.'
They all began to cry, ' Long live the Republic !' Such is
the inconstancy of the multitude.
' Forward !' I cried ; ' we shall soon find plenty.'
But what was my disappointment and theirs ! On reaching the
place we found nothing. I sent to the town, and an answer was returned from the
ramparts that it was too late that night, but that it should be attended to in
the morning. On receiving this answer, I could no longer control my men. They
broke away and dispersed, so much so that not a single soldier was left to
guard the flag of the regiment, which I myself had to carry to the inn where I
I passed a wretched night, thinking over all the disorder
that might be brought about by such a state of things. Fortunately, there was
less of it than might have been expected ; but the town authorities were very
much to blame hunger has no ears.
Early next morning I caused the assembly to be sounded, and
a few hours later I had gathered together nearly all my men. I was again
summoned into the town, but this time I went with less anxiety. Fearing a fresh
outbreak during my absence, I ordered that the men should remain under arms.
The meeting at the town-hall was less crowded, but I quickly
perceived that the feeling was less friendly than it had been the previous
night when I left the town. However, I was soon reassured by the advent of my
friend Dupont [It was this General Dupont who afterwards capitulated at Baylen,
and became War Minister at the first Restoration.], Adjutant-General, an old
comrade in the Maillebois regiment, charged by the authorities to settle with
me all military details. We decided upon provisional cantonments until all that
was necessary for a camp should be distributed.