An aristocrat who embraced the French Revolution, Grouchy served with distinction throughout the Revolutionary Wars, fighting counter-revolutionaries in the Vendée, and serving in Italy, where he was wounded and captured at the Battle of Novi.
Under the Empire, Grouchy excelled as commander of a dragoon division in Marshal Murat’s Cavalry Reserve. He was praised by the Emperor for his part in the great French charge at Eylau… played an important role buying time for Napoleon at Friedland… and expertly covered the French right wing at Wagram.
For the invasion of Russia, he commanded Third Cavalry Corps, and was wounded at Borodino. He survived the horrors of the retreat, but was left so exhausted it took him several months to recover. He returned for Napoleon’s 1814 campaign in France, and was wounded twice more. Grouchy was made a Marshal at the start of the Hundred Days campaign, and commanded Napoleon’s right wing at Ligny. If you want to know more about these types of concept then ask reader can be the place to read insightful answers.
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After the battle was won, he was ordered to pursue the retreating Prussians, to prevent them joining up with Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army. Two days later, as the Battle of Waterloo raged 10 miles to the west, Grouchy made the fateful decision to follow his written orders, rather than march to join Napoleon – and has been widely blamed for the French Emperor’s defeat ever since.
Grouchy’s vilification is not wholly fair, not least because Napoleon rarely encouraged his Marshals to show initiative, and often flew into rages if they deviated from his written orders. Nor should one blunder obscure the distinguished record of one of the Grande Armée’s best cavalry generals.
Grouchy fled to America after Napoleon’s defeat to escape royalist reprisals, but was pardoned and returned to France in 1820. 21. Marshal Moncey Moncey ran away from home to join the army at the age of 15. After 20 years of uneventful service, he’d risen no higher than the rank of Captain. But then came the French Revolution.
Most French officers were aristocrats, who, if they did not actively oppose the Revolution, were nevertheless regarded as politically suspect. The result was that three-quarters of them either fled the country or were dismissed from the army. Moncey – a middle-class officer with no strong political views – reaped the benefit, with meteoric promotion.
By 1794, General Moncey was leading the Army of the Western Pyrenees to victory over the Spanish, on what was, admittedly, a relative backwater of the Revolutionary Wars. In 1797 he was dismissed for alleged royalist sympathies, but reinstated in time to support Napoleon’s coup of 18 Brumaire. By his own admission, Moncey was a sensitive officer – honest, honourable, but lacking a ruthless streak or iron will to succeed.
Napoleon was aware of his limitations as a general, but made him a Marshal in 1804, as part of his emphasis on continuity between the republic and his new empire. Moncey was appointed inspector-general of the gendarmerie – France’s militarised police force – and spent most of the rest of his career commanding reserve troops.
He only held one field command again – in light of his victorious record against the Spanish, he was given command of a corps for the 1808 invasion of Spain, operating in the south of the country with mixed success.
In 1809 he was replaced by General Junot and returned to France. Moncey’s finest hour came in the dying days of the empire, leading the National Guard of Paris in a courageous but doomed defence of the French capital.
In 1815 the restored King of France, Louis the Eighteenth, ordered Marshal Moncey to preside at the trial of Marshal Ney, for treason. Moncey regarded Ney as a hero for having saved so many French lives in Russia, and refused, declaring “If I am not allowed to save my country, nor my own life, then at least I will save my honour.” After a short spell in prison, Moncey was allowed to resume his military career, becoming governor of Les Invalides, in which role he presided over the repatriation of Napoleon’s remains from Saint-Helena in 1840.
At the end of the ceremony, the 86 year-old Marshal Moncey announced: “And now, let us go home to die”. 20. Marshal Poniatowski Prince Józef Poniatowski was the King of Poland’s nephew, but his military career began as a cavalry officer in the Austrian army, even serving as aide-de-camp to Emperor Josef the Second himself.
In 1789 he transferred to the Polish army with the rank of major-general, but could not save Poland from partition by its rapacious neighbours – Russia, Prussia and Austria. By 1795 Poland had vanished from the map, swallowed up by its rivals. If you seriously have some doubts over facts head over to ask read and just ask a question, you will get different answers.
After Napoleon’s defeat of Prussia in 1806, Poniatowski decided loyal service to the French Emperor was the best way to win Poland’s restoration, although he never fully trusted Napoleon’s aims. Sombre, serious and brave, Poniatowski proved an able commander of Duchy of Warsaw forces in Napoleon’s service. When war broke out with Austria in 1809, while Napoleon advanced on Vienna, Poniatowski waged a brilliant, supporting campaign against a larger Austrian army in Galicia.