World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Éloi Laurent Despeaux

Article Id: WHEBN0046252821
Reproduction Date:

Title: Éloi Laurent Despeaux  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Battle of Gosselies, Battle of Erquelinnes, Siege of Ypres (1794), Battle of Grandreng, 1761 births
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Éloi Laurent Despeaux

Éloi Laurent Despeaux
Born 14 October 1761 (1761-10-14)
Malassine near Beauvais, France
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 95)
Paris, France
Allegiance France
Service/branch Infantry
Years of service 1776–1815
Rank General of Division
Awards Légion d'Honneur, KC 1805, OC 1814,
CC 1821, GO 1853, GC 1856
Order of Saint-Louis, Chevalier 1814
Order of the Sword
Other work Baron, 1819

Éloi Laurent Despeaux (14 October 1761 – 23 October 1856) commanded a combat infantry division during the French Revolution. He joined the French Royal Army in 1776 and became a non-commissioned officer by 1791 when he reentered civilian life. The following year he joined a volunteer battalion and fought at Jemappes. He was badly wounded at Famars in May 1793 and was appointed general of brigade in the Army of the North in September that year. After being wounded again he was promoted general of division in March 1794.

After commanding a division at Grandreng and Erquelinnes in May 1794, he was transferred to another division which he led in operations around Ypres in June. During the winter of 1794 he participated in the invasion of the Dutch Republic. After garrison duty in Holland he commanded interior posts in France during the Napoleonic Wars. The exception came in 1809 when he led a reserve infantry division. He lived long enough to be awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'Honneur in 1856 in the reign of Napoleon III before dying a few months later at the age of 95.


  • Early career 1
  • French Revolution 2
  • Empire 3
  • Later career 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7

Early career

Despeaux was born on 14 October 1761 at Malassine.[1] This hamlet was located near Beauvais in the Oise department.[2] His father Laurent Despeaux was a woodcutter who married Marguerite Petit, his second wife, on 25 November 1759.[3] Despeaux enlisted in the Flandre Infantry Regiment on 2 November 1776 at the age of 15. He was promoted corporal on 15 June 1780 and sergeant on 20 May 1784.[1] He was at the Palace of Versailles when the mob came for King Louis XVI of France.[4]

French Revolution

Despeaux took a leave of absence from his regiment in August 1791 before emerging as adjutant-major in the 9th Battalion of the Nord National Guard on 25 October 1792.[1] Another source stated that he was not appointed adjutant-major until after the Battle of Jemappes, [4] a French victory on 6 November 1792.[5] A 1793 order of battle for the Army of the North listed the 9th Nord Battalion, but the month and day were not given.[6] The French were defeated by the Coalition in the Battle of Famars on 23 May 1793.[7] After greatly distinguishing himself and suffering a serious wound, he received a battlefield promotion to chef de bataillon (major).[4] However, a second source stated that he became commanding officer of the 9th Nord on 28 April 1793.[1] He was promoted to general of brigade on 3 September of the same year.[8] He was sent on a mission along the Sambre River in the course of which he was wounded again. Soon after,[4] he was elevated to the rank of general of division on 19 March 1794.[8]

Bust of a clean-shaven square-faced man in a coat with epaulettes on the shoulders.
Jacques Desjardin

At the beginning of May 1794, Despeaux's 7,042-man division was at Limont-Fontaine guarding the Sambre between Berlaimont and Maubeuge.[9] The French plan was to form the right wing of the Army of the North under Jacques Desjardin and the Army of the Ardennes under Louis Charbonnier into a 60,000-strong army and send it toward Mons. Unfortunately, the overall commander Jean-Charles Pichegru neglected to appoint a single commander of the army and the generals were hampered by two of the most arrogant representatives on mission in Louis Antoine de Saint-Just and Philippe-François-Joseph Le Bas. The results were not happy and the army suffered three defeats between 11 May and 3 June. [10] Despeaux's division was joined to the divisions of Desjardin (14,075 men), Jacques Fromentin (15,719 men) and François Muller (6,815 men) of the Army of the North and Philippe Joseph Jacob's 19,000-man division of the Army of the Ardennes.[11] In Despeaux's division the regular troops consisted of the 1st Battalions of the 17th and 25th Line Infantry Demi-brigades, 127 horsemen of the 6th Cavalry and 83 gunners from the 3rd and 6th Artillery. His volunteer battalions were the 1st Loiret, 1st Hainaut Chasseurs, 3rd Meurthe, 4th and 9th Nord and 6th Pas-de-Calais. All infantry battalions numbered between 783 and 919 soldiers.[12]

Muller assumed command of Desjardin's division while his own division remained as the Maubeuge garrison.[13] On the morning of 10 May 1794 the French army launched its offensive in seven columns with Despeaux's division on the far left marching towards Hantes.[14] After serious fighting near Merbes-le-Château on the 12th, the Coalition forces abandoned the entrenched camp at Hantes and Despeaux's troops camped near Solre-le-Sambre.[15] On 13 May 1794, Franz Wenzel, Graf von Kaunitz-Rietberg and his Coalition army defeated the French in the Battle of Grandreng.[16] Despeaux was in a second line behind Muller's division which attacked Grand-Reng while Fromentin advanced on Croix-lez-Rouveroy to their right. Though the French cannons bogged down in the mud, the infantry of Muller and Despeaux were able to seize a few outlying redoubts while subjected to intense artillery fire and slashing cavalry attacks.[17] The battle raged until the early evening when Kaunitz assembled a mounted force under Michael von Kienmayer and hurled it at the French. This cavalry charge decided the battle and caused the French withdraw south of the Sambre.[18] Charbonnier's Army of the Ardennes failed to intervene while Desjardin's 35,000 troops futilely rushed at Kaunitz's 22,000 men behind entrenchments. One French general later wrote, "We were children in the art of war".[19]

The French recrossed the Sambre on 20 May 1794, with Despeaux's division again taking position in a second line behind Fromentin and Muller, facing west. This time Jean Adam Mayer's division of the Army of the Ardennes was posted on the right flank near

  • Bowden, Scotty; Tarbox, Charlie (1980). Armies on the Danube 1809. Arlington, Texas: Empire Games Press. 
  • Broughton, Tony (2006). "Generals Who Served in the French Army during the Period: 1789-1814, De Das de L'Aulne to De Winter". The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  • (French) "DESPEAUX Eloi, général baron (1761-1856)". Association des Amis et Passionnés du Père-Lachaise. 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  • (French) Dupuis, Victor (1907). "Les operations militaires sur la Sambre en 1794". Paris: Librarie Militaire R. Chapelot et Cie. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  • (French) "Le Général Éloi Despeaux". Le Neuville Garnier. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  • (French) Mullié, Charles (1852). Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 a 1850. Paris. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dupuis 1907, p. 118.
  2. ^ a b c Association du Père-Lachaise 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Le Neuville Garnier.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mullié 1852, section D.
  5. ^ Smith 1998, p. 30.
  6. ^ Smith 1998, p. 39.
  7. ^ Smith 1998, p. 46.
  8. ^ a b c Broughton 2006.
  9. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 80.
  10. ^ Phipps 2011, pp. 145–146.
  11. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 84.
  12. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 106.
  13. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 103.
  14. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 113.
  15. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 128.
  16. ^ Smith 1998, p. 79.
  17. ^ Dupuis 1907, pp. 133–134.
  18. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 138.
  19. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 144.
  20. ^ Dupuis 1907, pp. 158–159.
  21. ^ Dupuis 1907, pp. 161–162.
  22. ^ Dupuis 1907, p. 160.
  23. ^ Smith 1998, p. 81.
  24. ^ Phipps 2011, pp. 312–313.
  25. ^ Phipps 2011, p. 317.
  26. ^ Phipps 2011, pp. 318–319.
  27. ^ Phipps 2011, p. 320.
  28. ^ Smith 1998, p. 69.
  29. ^ Phipps 2011, p. 324.
  30. ^ Smith 1998, p. 97.
  31. ^ Bowden & Tarbox 1980, pp. 159–160.


  • (French) (LH/755/3). Paris: LEONORE 

See also

After the First Restoration Despeaux was placed in command of Metz and made a Chevalier of the Order of Saint-Louis. On 25 March 1815 he was appointed governor of Le Quesnoy. After the Second Restoration he was put on the inactive list. After a brief stint of active service for two tours of inspection, he was retired from military service.[4] The king made Despeaux a baron on 11 June 1819 and named him a Commander of the Légion d'Honneur on 1 March 1821.[3] He was also awarded the Swedish Order of the Sword.[2] Despeaux was named Grand Officer of the Légion d'Honneur on 22 August 1853 and awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'Honneur on 7 February 1856.[3] He died on 23 October 1856.[8] He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in the 15th Division along Chemin de Gramont.[2]

Later career

On 24 April 1805 Despeaux was made a member of the Légion d'Honneur.[4] During the War of the Fifth Coalition in 1809, a Reserve Corps was assembled under Marshal François Christophe de Kellermann with its headquarters at Frankfurt. There were four divisions, the 1st under Olivier Macoux Rivaud de la Raffinière, 2nd under Despeaux, 3rd under Joseph Lagrange and Reserve under Marc Antoine de Beaumont. Despeaux commanded six provisional infantry battalions divided into two brigades, a total of 2,520 soldiers.[31] He was appointed to division command on 8 May 1809. He was assigned to Jean-Andoche Junot's corps but when that general departed, Despeaux assumed command for a time. He spent several days in the fortress during the Siege of Flushing in the Walcheren Campaign. On 20 September 1809 he was assigned to command the 20th Military Division at Périgueux.[4] During the remaining years of the First French Empire he served in various interior posts.[1] He was named Officer of the Légion d'Honneur on 21 January 1814.[4]


[4].Dijon named him to command the 18th Military Division at French Directory In 1798 the [3] In 1797 he was governor of Flanders.[1] Despeaux was first appointed to command

On 26 June 1794, the French right wing under Jean-Baptiste Jourdan beat the Coalition army at the Battle of Fleurus.[25] By 1 July, Pichegru's army occupied Bruges and on the 10th took Brussels. The next day, the armies of Pichegru and Jordan linked hands.[26] The two armies soon diverged, with Pichegru following the British and Dutch northward while Jourdan turned eastward in pursuit of the Austrians. Pichegru's army occupied Antwerp on 27 July.[27] An order of battle for the Army of the North on 1 September showed Despeaux leading the 4th Division with Salme as the only brigadier. The units included three battalions each of the 38th and 131st Line Infantry Demi-brigades, 3rd Battalion of Tirailleurs, 5th Battalion of Chasseurs, four squadrons of the 19th Cavalry and two squadrons of the 13th Chasseurs à Cheval.[28] On this date the 4th Division numbered 5,432 infantry and 647 cavalry with 283 gunners serving 16 cannons and two howitzers.[29] The fortress of Grave fell to the division on 29 December, but by that time Salme seems to have been in command.[30]

Despeaux assumed command of a division from the left wing of the Army of the North. Assailed on both left and right wings, the Coalition armies allowed the French to seize the initiative. On 1 June 1794, Jean Victor Marie Moreau's division began the Siege of Ypres. The besieging troops were covered by Joseph Souham's division which was supported by the divisions of Pierre Antoine Michaud on the left and Despeaux on the right. The three covering divisions fought an action at Roeselare on 10 June, driving back a Coalition corps led by François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt. On 13 June Clerfayt launched a surprise attack on Despeaux's division, routing Philippe Joseph Malbrancq's brigade and pushing Jean-Baptiste Salme's brigade back toward Menen (Menin). However, Jacques MacDonald's brigade of Souham's division held off repeated attacks at Hooglede. After six hours, Jan Willem de Winter's brigade came up on MacDonald's left while Salme's rallied brigade moved forward on MacDonald's right. At this, Clerfayt's worn out soldiers withdrew. Ypres surrendered to the French on 18 June.[24]

Black and white print of a man with a prominent widow's peak. He wears a dark military coat with lace on the lapels.
Jean-Charles Pichegru

[23], inflicting heavy casualties and capturing 32 artillery pieces.Battle of Erquelinnes On the 24th Kaunitz beat the French again in the [22].Anne Charles Basset Montaigu On 22 May Despeaux was replaced in command of his division by [21]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.