Jean Victor Marie Moreau
Jean Victor Marie Moreau (14 February 1763 – 2 September 1813) was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 general who helped Napoleon Bonaparte to power, but later became a rival and was banished to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Early life

Moreau was born at Morlaix
Morlaix is a commune in the Finistère department of Brittany in northwestern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.-Leisure and tourism:...

 in Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

. His father was a successful lawyer, and instead of allowing Moreau to enter the army, as he attempted to do, insisted on Moreau studying law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 at the University of Rennes
University of Rennes 1
The University of Rennes 1 is one of the two main universities in the city of Rennes, France. It is under the Academy of Rennes. It specializes in science, technology, law, economy, management and philosophy. The University of Rennes 1 has been in existence since 1969, but its heritage stems back...

. Young Moreau showed no inclination for law, but reveled in the freedom of student life. Instead of taking his degree, he continued to live with the students as their hero and leader, and formed them into a sort of army, which he commanded as their provost. When 1789 came, he commanded the students in the daily affrays which took place at Rennes
Rennes is a city in the east of Brittany in northwestern France. Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany, as well as the Ille-et-Vilaine department.-History:...

 between the young noblesse and the populace.

Early military experience

In 1791 Moreau was elected a lieutenant colonel of the volunteers of Ille-et-Vilaine
Ille-et-Vilaine is a department of France, located in the region of Brittany in the northwest of the country.- History :Ille-et-Vilaine is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

. With them he served under Charles François Dumouriez
Charles François Dumouriez
Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. He shared the victory at Valmy with General François Christophe Kellermann, but later deserted the Revolutionary Army and became a royalist intriguer during the reign of Napoleon.-Early life:Dumouriez...

, and in 1793 the good order of his battalion, and his own martial character and republican principles, secured his promotion as general of brigade. Lazare Carnot
Lazare Carnot
Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Comte Carnot , the Organizer of Victory in the French Revolutionary Wars, was a French politician, engineer, and mathematician.-Education and early life:...

 promoted Moreau to be general of division early in 1794, and gave him command of the right wing of the army under Charles Pichegru
Charles Pichegru
Jean-Charles Pichegru was a French general and political figure of the French Revolution and Revolutionary Wars.-Early life and career:...

, in Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...


A distinguished retreat

The Battle of Tourcoing (1794)
Battle of Tourcoing (1794)
The Battle of Tourcoing was fought near the town of Tourcoing, just north of Lille in northeastern France on 18 May 1794 and resulted in the victory of the French under Major-Generals Joseph Souham and Jean Moreau over the British under the Duke of York and the Austrians under General the Prince of...

 established Moreau's military fame, and in 1795 he was given the command of the Army of the Rhine-and-Moselle, with which he crossed the Rhine and advanced into Germany. He was at first completely successful and won several victories and penetrated to the Isar
The Isar is a river in Tyrol, Austria and Bavaria, Germany. Its source is in the Karwendel range of the Alps in Tyrol; it enters Germany near Mittenwald, and flows through Bad Tölz, Munich, and Landshut before reaching the Danube near Deggendorf. At 295 km in length, it is the fourth largest river...

, but at last had to retreat before the Archduke Charles of Austria. However, the skill he displayed in conducting his retreat—which was considered a model for such operations—greatly enhanced his own reputation, the more so as he managed to bring back with him more than 5000 prisoners.


In 1797, he again, after prolonged difficulties caused by want of funds and material, crossed the Rhine, but his operations were checked by the conclusion of the preliminaries of Peace of Leoben between Bonaparte and the Austrians. It was at this time he found a traitorous correspondence between his old comrade and commander Charles Pichegru
Charles Pichegru
Jean-Charles Pichegru was a French general and political figure of the French Revolution and Revolutionary Wars.-Early life and career:...

 and the émigré Prince de Condé
Louis Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Condé
Louis Joseph de Bourbon was Prince of Condé from 1740 to his death. A member of the House of Bourbon, he held the prestigious rank of Prince du Sang.-Biography:...

. He had already appeared as Pichegru's defender against imputations of disloyalty, and now he foolishly concealed his discovery, with the result that he has ever since been suspected of at least partial complicity. Too late to clear himself, he sent the correspondence to Paris and issued a proclamation to the army denouncing Pichegru as a traitor.

Moreau was dismissed, and only re-employed in 1799, when the absence of Bonaparte and the victorious advance of the Russian commander Aleksandr Suvorov made it necessary to have some tried and experienced general in Italy. He commanded the Army of Italy (France)
Army of Italy (France)
The Army of Italy was a Field army of the French Army stationed on the Italian border and used for operations in Italy itself. Though it existed in some form in the 16th century through to the present, it is best known for its role during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic...

, with little success, for a short time before being appointed to the Army of the Rhine, and remained with Barthelemy Catherine Joubert
Barthélemy Catherine Joubert
Barthélemy Catherine Joubert was a French general. He joined the royal French army in 1784 and rose rapidly in rank during the French Revolutionary Wars. Napoleon Bonaparte recognized his talents and gave him increased responsibilities...

, his successor in Italy, till the battle of Novi had been fought and lost. Joubert fell in the battle, and Moreau then conducted the retreat of the army to Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

, where he handed over the command to Jean Étienne Championnet
Jean Étienne Championnet
Jean Étienne Vachier, called Championnet , French general, enlisted in the army at an early age and served in the Great Siege of Gibraltar....

. When Bonaparte returned from Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, he found Moreau at Paris, greatly dissatisfied with the French Directory government
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 both as a general and as a republican, and obtained his assistance in the coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

of 18 Brumaire
18 Brumaire
The coup of 18 Brumaire was the coup d'état by which General Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the French Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate...

, when Moreau commanded the force which confined two of the directors in the Luxembourg Palace
Luxembourg Palace
The Luxembourg Palace in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Luxembourg Garden , is the seat of the French Senate.The formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and provided with large basins of water where children sail model...


In reward, Napoleon again gave him command of the Army of the Rhine, with which he forced back the Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

ns from the Rhine to the Isar
The Isar is a river in Tyrol, Austria and Bavaria, Germany. Its source is in the Karwendel range of the Alps in Tyrol; it enters Germany near Mittenwald, and flows through Bad Tölz, Munich, and Landshut before reaching the Danube near Deggendorf. At 295 km in length, it is the fourth largest river...

. On his return to Paris he married Mlle Hullot, a Creole
Creole peoples
The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings...

 woman and friend of Joséphine de Beauharnais
Joséphine de Beauharnais
Joséphine de Beauharnais was the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte, and thus the first Empress of the French. Her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais had been guillotined during the Reign of Terror, and she had been imprisoned in the Carmes prison until her release five days after Alexandre's...

, an ambitious woman who gained a complete ascendancy over him. After spending a few weeks with the army in Germany and winning the celebrated battle of Hohenlinden (3 December 1800), he settled down to enjoy the fortune he had acquired during his campaigns. His wife collected around her all who were discontented with the aggrandisement of Napoleon. This "Club Moreau" annoyed Napoleon, and encouraged the Royalists, but Moreau, though not unwilling to become a military dictator to restore the republic, would be no party to an intrigue for the restoration of Louis XVIII
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

. All this was well known to Napoleon, who seized the conspirators.

Moreau's condemnation was procured only by great pressure being brought to bear by Bonaparte on the judges; and after it was pronounced the First Consul treated him with a pretense of leniency, commuting a sentence of imprisonment to one of banishment. In 1804, Moreau passed through Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and embarked for America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Exile in the United States

Moreau arrived with his wife in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in December. He was received with enthusiasm in this country, but refusing all offers of service he traveled for some time through the country and settled in 1806 in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, where he bought a villa near the Delaware River
Delaware River
The Delaware River is a major river on the Atlantic coast of the United States.A Dutch expedition led by Henry Hudson in 1609 first mapped the river. The river was christened the South River in the New Netherland colony that followed, in contrast to the North River, as the Hudson River was then...

, a few miles from Trenton
Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton is the capital of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913...

. He lived there till 1813, dividing his time between fishing, hunting, and social intercourse. His abode was the refuge of all political exiles, and representatives of foreign powers tried to induce him to raise his sword against Napoleon. At the outbreak of the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

, Moreau was offered by President Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 the command of the U. S. troops. Moreau was willing to accept, but the news of the destruction of the Grande Armée
La Grande Armée
The Grande Armée first entered the annals of history when, in 1805, Napoleon I renamed the army that he had assembled on the French coast of the English Channel for the proposed invasion of Britain...

 in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 decided him to return to Europe.

Advisor to Napoleon's opponents and death

Moreau, probably at the instigation of his wife, returned to Europe and began to negotiate with an old friend from the circle of republican intriguers: the former Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, now Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden (later king Charles XIV of Sweden). Charles John and Tsar Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

 were now together with the Prussians and the Austrians leading an army against Napoleon. Moreau, who wished to see Napoleon defeated and a republican government installed, gave advice to the Swedish and Russian leaders about how best to defeat France. Moreau was mortally wounded in the Battle of Dresden
Battle of Dresden
The Battle of Dresden was fought on 26–27 August 1813 around Dresden, Germany, resulting in a French victory under Napoleon I against forces of the Sixth Coalition of Austrians, Russians and Prussians under Field Marshal Schwartzenberg. However, Napoleon's victory was not as complete as it could...

 on 27 August 1813, while talking to the tsar; and died on September 2 in Louny
Louny is a town in the Ústí nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic. It is situated on the River Ohře.-History:The city was founded in the 12th century . The Church of St Peter stands on the site of the original fort...

. He was buried in the Catholic Church of St. Catherine
Catholic Church of St. Catherine
The Catholic Church of St. Catherine in St. Petersburg is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Russia. It is part of the Archdiocese of Moscow headed by H.E. Msgr. Paolo Pezzi. It is located on the Nevsky Prospekt.- Construction :...

 in St. Petersburg. His wife received a pension from the tsar, and was given the rank of Marshal of France
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...

 by Louis XVIII
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

, but his countrymen spoke of his "defection" and compared him to Dumouriez and Pichegru.

Last words

Moreau's fame as a general stands very high, though he was far from possessing Napoleon's transcendent gifts. His combinations were skillful and elaborate, and he kept calm under pressure. Moreau was a sincere republican, though his own father was 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...

d in the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

. His final words, "Soyez tranquilles, messieurs; c'est mon sort," ("Be calm, gentlemen; this is my fate") suggest that he did not regret being removed from his equivocal position as a general in arms against his own country.
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