François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers
François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers (1 March 1769 – 21 September 1796) was a French general of the Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...


Early life

Desgraviers was born at Chartres
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France. It is located southwest of Paris.-Geography:Chartres is built on the left bank of the Eure River, on a hill crowned by its famous cathedral, the spires of which are a landmark in the surrounding country...

, Eure-et-Loir. His father served as a legal officer, and Marceau received an education for a legal career, but at the age of sixteen he enlisted in the regiment of Savoy-Carignan. Whilst on furlough
In the United States a furlough is a temporary unpaid leave of some employees due to special needs of a company, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole...

 in Paris, Marceau joined in the storming of the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

 on 14 July 1789 – after that event he took his discharge from the regular army and returned to Chartres, but the opposition of his family soon compelled him to seek new military employment. He became a drill instructor
Drill instructor
A drill instructor is a non-commissioned officer or Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in the armed forces or police forces with specific duties that vary by country. In the U.S. armed forces, they are assigned the duty of indoctrinating new recruits entering the military into the customs and...

 and later a Captain in the Eure-et-Loir
Eure-et-Loir is a French department, named after the Eure and Loir rivers.-History:Eure-et-Loir is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790 pursuant to the Act of December 22, 1789...

 départemental regiment of the National Guard
National Guard (France)
The National Guard was the name given at the time of the French Revolution to the militias formed in each city, in imitation of the National Guard created in Paris. It was a military force separate from the regular army...


In March 1792, Marceau was elected Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 of one of the French Revolutionary Army
French Revolutionary Army
The French Revolutionary Army is the term used to refer to the military of France during the period between the fall of the ancien regime under Louis XVI in 1792 and the formation of the First French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary...

A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s of the Eure-et-Loir. He took part in the defence of Verdun
Verdun is a city in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Verdun is the biggest city in Meuse, although the capital of the department is the slightly smaller city of Bar-le-Duc.- History :...

 in 1792, and it was his troop that was ordered to bear the proposals of capitulation to the Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n camp. The defenders' lack of morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

 provoked the anger of the revolutionary authorities, and Marceau was fortunate to find re-employment as a Captain in the regular service. However, early in 1793, he along with other officers under suspicion were arrested and spent some time in prison.


On his release, Marceau hurried to take part in the defence of Saumur
Saumur is a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France.The historic town is located between the Loire and Thouet rivers, and is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur itself, Chinon, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc...

 against the Vendéean Royalists, distinguishing himself at Saumur on 10 June 1793 by rescuing the representative Pierre Bourbotte from the hands of the insurgents. The National Convention
National Convention
During the French Revolution, the National Convention or Convention, in France, comprised the constitutional and legislative assembly which sat from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795 . It held executive power in France during the first years of the French First Republic...

 voted him the thanks of the country and he received rapid promotion. His conduct at Chantonnay
Chantonnay is a commune in the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region in western France.-Geography:The Lay River flows southwestward through the commune and forms part of its eastern and southern borders.-References:*...

 (5 September 1793) won him the provisional rank of Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

. On 17 October, he bore a great part in the victory of Cholet
Cholet is a commune of western France in the Maine-et-Loire department. It was the capital of military Vendée.-Geography:Cholet stands on an eminence on the right bank of the Moine, which used to be crossed by a bridge from the fifteenth century...

, and on began his friendship with Jean Baptiste Kléber
Jean Baptiste Kléber
Jean Baptiste Kléber was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. His military career started in Habsburg service, but his plebeian ancestry hindered his opportunities...

 while on the field of battle.

Kléber was made a général de division
Général is the French word for General.In France, Army generals are named after the type of unit they command. In ascending order there are two ranks :* Général de brigade : Brigade General.* Général de division : Divisional General....

, and Marceau confirmed as a Brigadier General. Marceau in turn became a général de division on 10 November; then succeeded to the commander-in-chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 ad interim
Ad interim
The Latin phrase ad interim literally means "in the time between" denotes the meaning of "in the meantime", "for an intervening time" or "temporarily" in the English language...

, and, with Kléber, won important victories near Le Mans
Le Mans
Le Mans is a city in France, located on the Sarthe River. Traditionally the capital of the province of Maine, it is now the capital of the Sarthe department and the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Le Mans. Le Mans is a part of the Pays de la Loire region.Its inhabitants are called Manceaux...

 (12–13 December) and Savenay
Savenay is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France and the Pays de la Loire region. Located on the Sillon de Bretagne , north of the Loire, its landscape is characterized by the hillside overlooking the marshes of the Loire...

 (23 December 1793).

Love affairs

In the wake of Le Mans, Marceau had rescued and protected a young Royalist
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 lady, Angélique des Mesliers, with whom it has been supposed Marceau fell in love – however, even his help could not save her from the guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...


He and Kléber themselves were saved from arrest and execution only by the intervention of Bourbotte. Around this time Marceau became engaged to Agathe Leprêtre de Châteaugiron, but the marriage was prevented by his constant military employment, his broken health and the opposition of both Auguste-Félicité Le Prestre de Châteaugiron and Marceau's devoted half-sister Emira, wife of the Republican
French First Republic
The French First Republic was founded on 22 September 1792, by the newly established National Convention. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First French Empire in 1804 under Napoleon I...

 politician Antoine Joseph Sergent.

Battles of 1795–1796

After spending the winter of 1793–1794 in Paris, Marceau accepted a command in the army under Jean-Baptiste Jourdan
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Comte Jourdan , enlisted as a private in the French royal army and rose to command armies during the French Revolutionary Wars. Emperor Napoleon I of France named him a Marshal of France in 1804 and he also fought in the Napoleonic Wars. After 1815, he became reconciled...

 alongside Kléber and took part in the various battles near Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

. During the battle of Fleurus
Battle of Fleurus (1794)
In the Battle of Fleurus on 26 June 1794, the army of the First French Republic under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan faced the Coalition Army commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg in the most decisive battle of the Flanders Campaign in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars...

 on 26 June 1794 he had a horse shot from under him. He distinguished himself at Jülich
Jülich is a town in the district of Düren, in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Jülich is well known as location of a world-famous research centre, the Forschungszentrum Jülich and as shortwave transmission site of Deutsche Welle...

, at Aldenhoven
Battle of Aldenhoven (1794)
The Battle of Aldenhoven, a French victory, was fought on 2 October 1794. The French general, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, opposed an Austrian army under General Clairfayt. The battle took place near the town of Aldenhoven, twenty kilometres northeast of Aachen, in present-day Germany.-References:...

 and at Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

, where he stormed the enemy lines on 23 October.

He took part in the 1795
French Revolutionary Wars: Campaigns of 1795
The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1794 between Revolutionary France and the First coalition.The year opened with French forces in the process of attacking the Dutch Republic in the middle of winter. The Dutch people rallied to the French call and started the Batavian revolution. City...

-1796 campaign
French Revolutionary Wars: Campaigns of 1796
The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1795, with the French in an increasingly strong position as members of the First Coalition made separate peaces. Austria and Great Britain were the main remaining members of the coalition...

 with the armies of the Sambre
The Sambre is a river in northern France and Wallonia, southern Belgium, left tributary of the Meuse River. The ancient Romans called the river Sabis.-Course:...

 and Meuse, fighting on the Rhine and the Lahn
The Lahn River is a -long, right tributary of the Rhine River in Germany. Its course passes through the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia , Hesse , and Rhineland-Palatinate ....

 and distinguishing himself alongside Kléber near Neuwied
Neuwied is a town in the north of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, capital of the District of Neuwied. Neuwied lies on the right bank of the Rhine, 12 km northwest of Koblenz, on the railway from Frankfurt am Main to Cologne...

 and Sulzbach
Nassau, Germany
Nassau is a town located in the German Land of Rhineland-Palatinate. It lies in the Lahn River valley between the cities of Bad Ems and Limburg an der Lahn. Nassau is the seat of the Verbandsgemeinde of Nassau. The town is on the German-Dutch holiday road, the Orange Route...



In 1796, Jourdan and Jean Victor Marie Moreau
Jean Victor Marie Moreau
Jean Victor Marie Moreau was a French general who helped Napoleon Bonaparte to power, but later became a rival and was banished to the United States.- Early life :Moreau was born at Morlaix in Brittany...

's invasion of Germany
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 ended in disaster and Marceau's men covered Jourdan's retreat over the Rhine. Marceau fought in the desperate actions on the Lahn (16–18 September 1796) until at Altenkirchen
Altenkirchen is a town in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, capital of the district of Altenkirchen. It is located approx. 40 km east of Bonn and 40 km north of Koblenz. Altenkirchen is the seat of the Verbandsgemeinde Altenkirchen.-References:...

 on 19 September, he received a mortal wound. He died two days later, aged only twenty-seven.

The Austrians
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

 competed with Marceau's own countrymen to honour to the dead general. His body was burned and the ashes placed under a pyramid in Koblenz designed by Kléber. They were transferred to the Panthéon
Panthéon, Paris
The Panthéon is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens...

 in 1889.

Marceau was immortalized in Byron
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS , commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was a British poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement...

's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron. It was published between 1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to "Ianthe". The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks...


By Coblentz, on a rise of gentle ground,
There is a small and simple pyramid,
Crowning the summit of the verdant mound;
Beneath its base are heroes' ashes hid,
Our enemy's – but let not that forbid
Honour to Marceau! o'er whose early tomb
Tears, big tears, gush'd from the rough soldier's lid,
Lamenting and yet envying such a doom,
Falling for France, whose rights he battled to resume.


Brief, brave, and glorious was his young career, —
His mourners were two hosts, his friends and foes;
And fitly may the stranger lingering here
Pray for his gallant spirit's bright repose;
For he was Freedom's champion, one of those,
The few in number, who had not o'erstept
The charter to chastise which she bestows
On such as wield her weapons; he had kept
The whiteness of his soul, and thus men o'er him wept.
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