Napoleonic ScotOn the 17th November 1765, a child was born to a Scottish refugee in Sedan, Ardennes, France. That child was Étienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald. He became a Marshal of France and 1st duc de Taranto. His father, Neil MacEachen (sometimes spelled as MacEachern, but MacDonald nontheless), found it advatangeous to be unavailable to the Hanoverian authorities in Britain after his cousin Flora told all (there were many who took similar precautions). This cousin Flora (surnamed MacDonald) was she who escorted Charles Edward Stewart from Benbecula to Skye in 1746.
OK, that's the name explained, on with our tale.
In 1785, at the age of 20, he joined the Irish legion raised to support the revolutionary party in the Dutch Republic against the Kingdom of Prussia. After it was disbanded, he received a commission in the regiment of Dillon. At the start of the French Revolution, the regiment of Dillon remained loyal to the King, except for MacDonald, who was in love with a Mlle Jacob, whose father was an enthusiastic revolutionary. After his first marriage (he was either brave or daft, he married four times), he was appointed aide-de-camp to General Charles François Dumouriez. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Jemappes, and was promoted colonel in 1793.
He refused to desert to the Austrians with Dumouriez, and as a reward was made general of brigade, and appointed to command the leading brigade in Pichegru's invasion of the Netherlands. His knowledge of the country proved useful, and he was instrumental in the capture of the Dutch fleet by French hussars. Yes. Really. Hussars.
There are many sources which refer to this event at the end of the French advance into the "United Provinces" (the Netherlands) in the winter of 1794-5. This was apparently a particularly severe winter, with a large chunk of the Dutch fleet, being icebound near the village of den Helder (at the tip of the peninsula between the North Sea and the Zuiderzee), was defeated and captured by French cavalry and horse artillery. A number of 19th Century authors such as Adolphe Thiers Lacretelle, François Auguste Marie Mignet, Antoine Henri Jomini, and Sir Archibald Alison record this occurence.
In 1797, he served first in the army of the Rhine and later in that of Italy. When he reached Italy, the treaty of Campo Formio had been signed, and Bonaparte had returned to France; but, under the direction of Berthier, MacDonald occupied Rome, of which he was made governor, and then in conjunction with Championnet he defeated General Mack, and took the Kingdom of Naples, which became known as the Parthenopaean Republic.
When Suvorov invaded northern Italy, and was undoing the conquests of Bonaparte, MacDonald moved northwards. With 36,000 men he attacked Suvorov's 22,000 men at the Trebbia. After three days' fighting, receiving no help from Moreau, being defeated, he withdrew to Genoa.
In 1800, he received command of the army in the Helvetic Republic, maintaining communications between the armies of Germany and of Italy. He carried out his orders, and in the winter of 1800-1801, he was ordered to march over the Splügen Pass at the head of the Army of the Grisons. This achievement is described by Mathieu Dumas, his chief of staff, and is as noteworthy as Bonaparte's passage of the St Bernard before the Battle of Marengo, although MacDonald did not fight a battle.
On his return to Paris, MacDonald married the widow of General Joubert, and was appointed French ambassador to Denmark. Returning in 1805, he was associated with Moreau and thus incurred the dislike of Napoleon, who did not include him in his first creation of marshals.
In Scotland, there is a semi-well known legend that MacDonald was the only Marshal of France who was banned (by Napoleon) from fighting the British. This ban was based on the somewhat daft idea that, if MacDonald heard the sound of the pipes, which he would have, this may have had an unfortunate effect on his command ability. This is, needless to say unfounded. MacDonald spent the 1810 and 1811 campaigning seasons in Spain where it would have been difficult not to face British troops.
Serving throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, MacDonald led major formations in the 1809 campaign against Austria, in Spain (1810–1811), Russia (1812), Germany (1813), and in France (1814).
Macdonald was unique in that he was the only marshal to win his baton on the battlefield (at Wagram). Napoleon made him a Marshal of France on the field of battle, and soon after created him duke of Taranto in the Kingdom of Naples. As the Duke of Taranto, he committed a heraldic pun (is that worse than a verbal one?) when he took for his arms, those of MacDonald of Clanranald with the addition of a spiders leg.
In 1810, MacDonald served in Spain and in 1812, he commanded the left wing of the Grande Armée for the invasion of Russia. In 1813, after participating in the battles of Lützen and Bautzen, he was ordered to invade Silesia, where Blücher defeated him with great loss at Katzbach. At the Battle of Nations in 1813, his force was pushed out at Liebertwolkwitz by Johann von Klenau's IV Corps (Austrian); on a counter attack, his troops took the village back. Later that day, Klenau foiled his attempt to flank the Austrian main army, commanded by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg. After the Battle of Leipzig, he was ordered to cover the evacuation of Leipzig with Prince Poniatowski. After the blowing up of the last bridge over the river, he managed to swim the Elster, but Poniatowski drowned. During the defensive campaign of 1814, MacDonald again distinguished himself. He was one of the marshals sent by Napoleon to take the notice of his abdication to Paris. When all were deserting Napoleon, MacDonald remained faithful to the crown. Napoleon ordered him to give his adherence to the new régime, he did, and he was presented with the sabre of Murad Bey for his fidelity.
At the Restoration, he was made a peer of France and knight grand cross of the royal order of St. Louis; he remained faithful to the new order during the Hundred Days. In 1815, he became chancellor of the Legion of Honour, a post he held till 1831.
The link below takes you to a PDF of the report in the New York Times of Marshal MacDonalds visit to Scotland in 1825.
Fantastic! talk aboot living through interestin times.
Chookie yir oot doin yirsel.
Another great Napoleonic Scot was Thomas Cochrane (14 December 1775 – 31 October 1860),born in Lanarkshire. He was probably Scotland's greatest sailor. You will have read of his early expoits in the early Hornblower novels (CS Forester) , Jack Aubrey Novels (Patrick O'Brian, Mr Midshipman Easy (Captain Marryat) & even Sharpe & the Devil (Brenard Cornwell)
Napolean named him the "loup de la mer" He was feared by both the French & Spanish Navies.
After the Napoleonic wars he fought for the liberation of Chile, Peru & Brazil
It is interesting to note that the Chilean sail training ship is the Esmeralda named after a large man of war captured by Cocharane (see Hornblower & the Sutherland I think.It was certainly a 1951 film starring Gregory Peck). The flagship of the Chilean navy is named the "Almirante Cochrane"
For much more detail see
He is a fascinating character. In the days of flogging he never had anyone flogged.
When he took vommand of the HMS Imperieuse a captured French Frigate he did not have to resort to Press gangs he had a full complement of volunteers in a very short period of time. He was renowned for getting prizemoney & the humane treatment of his crew.
He was unfortunately a typical Jock bloody minded & insubordinate as well as being a brilliant seaman & tactician. This held back his career. He also served a gaol sentence on trumped up fraud charges. He is buried in Westminster Abbey
see also COCHRANE by Robert Harvey and other books about this little known Scot. He had enemies in the "establishment" that tried to downplay his achievements.
Incidentally It was his Uncle that burned down Washington & the White House in 1812 war. He was about to burn down the Washington Post Newspaper Office when he was approached by a number of ladies who implored him not to as the fire may spread to their houses. He relented but destroyed every upper & lower case "C" so that the editor couldnt write bad things about him.
WOOPS sorry that was Sir George Cockburn that did that one of Unkys subordinates!!!