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Charles François Dupérier (1739-1823)

Born in Cambrai, Flanders, on 26 January 1739, Charles François Dupérier Dumouriez was the son of a poet and war commissioner, Anne-François Dupérier Dumouriez. After receiving a preliminary education from his father, Dumouriez spent three years in attendance at the college of Louis-le-Grand, where he studied classics. At the age of eighteen, Dumouriez entered the army and served as a war commissioner in Hanover. His bravery led him to be promoted to the rank of captain in 1761. Dumouriez fought against the Prussians in the Seven Years’ War, in which he was injured and taken prisoner. He was awarded the Cross of St. Louis in 1763 at the end of the war and retired with a pension. 

During the pre-Revolutionary years, Dumouriez served on a number of secret diplomatic missions for the Crown. One of these was the post of minister of information in Corsica from 1768–1769. The duc de Choiseul, the minster for foreign affairs, sent him to Madrid, Lisbon, and later to Poland during the early 1770s in an effort to defend the Poles against Russian aggression. While in Poland, he established a Polish militia. Upon his return to Paris, he was sent clandestinely to Hamburg to raise an army for the purpose of intervening in Sweden. 

Dumouriez was imprisoned in the Bastille for six months, charged with embezzling funds during these secret missions. He spent his time in prison writing. With the accession of Louis XVI to the throne in 1774, he was released from prison. He married his cousin, Mademoiselle Marguerite de Broissy in the same year, but the marriage proved to be unsuccessful because of his infidelities. His wife sought refuge by entering a convent. 

During the decade from 1778 to 1788, he served as commandant of Cherbourg. By the eve of the Revolution he had reached the rank of major general. The Revolution offered the ambitious and adventuresome soldier a world of new opportunities. Dumouriez used the Revolution to further his own aspirations rather than to promote its principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. On the surface, he appeared to be a supporter of the new regime, joining the Jacobin Club of Paris in 1790. Initially, he attached himself to the more moderate Revolutionaries, the Monarchiens, led by the comte de Mirabeau, a prominent Third Estate deputy from Aix-en-Provence who favored a constitutional monarchy in which the king would possess an absolute veto.With the death of Mirabeau in April 1791 and the radicalization of the Revolution with the king’s flight and capture at Varennes, Dumouriez began to associate with a more radical group, the deputies from the Gironde region of France, who would later become known as the political faction of the Girondins. 

Генерал Дюмурье получает ключи от магистрата Брюсселя 14 ноября - 1792 - Dumouriez est recu a la porte de Bruxelles par les magistrats comme un liberateur; 14 novembre 1792. Paris, musee du Louvre.
Сражение при Жемаппе (6.11.1792) Bataille de Jemmapes, by Horace Vernet, 1834, Versailles
Дюмурье при взятии крепости Бреды 23.02.1793 Dumouriez besieges Breda
Французские войска входят в Бреду 26.02.1793 French troops enter Breda, by J. Bemme after a drawing by Dirk Langendijk
Английская карикатура 'Завтрак Дюмурье в якобинском клубе' Dumourier dining in State at St Jame's, on the 15th of May 1793

In common with the Girondins, Dumouriez supported war against Austria; however, whereas the Girondins were in favor of war to consolidate the Revolution, Dumouriez wanted war to strengthen the monarchy. The Girondin faction, led by the deputy Jacques-Pierre Brissot, was the dominant faction during the winter of 1791 to 1792, and through their support Dumouriez was appointed minister of foreign affairs on 15 March 1792. This portfolio lasted for three months.With the demise of the Girondin ministry in June 1792—the king dismissed the ministers because he did not support their policies concerning the émigrés and refractory priests—Dumouriez replaced Joseph Servan de Gerbey as minister of war. He remained in this post only for a few days and then resigned to join the Army of the North led by Nicolas, baron Luckner. At this time, the war was not gong well for the French. The invading Allies had captured Longwy and marched on to Verdun, and the Duke of Brunswick, leading the Prussian forces, now began his march on Paris. The monarchy had fallen on 10 August 1792, and the marquis de Lafayette, one of the leading generals, had defected to the Austrians. At this time, Dumouriez was appointed commander of the Army of the North. He joined François Kellermann (the Elder), commander of the Army of the Center and forced the Prussians to retreat at Valmy on 20 September. This battle marked a turning point for the French Army and was its first victory since war had been declared on 20 April.

On 6 November, Dumouriez led the Revolutionary forces to another victory at Jemappes, the Austrians’ winter quarters, located in the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). Dumouriez’s intention was to invade Belgium and create a separate state with himself at its head. With the victory at Jemappes, most of the province had been conquered. The Austrians retreated, leaving some 4,500 men killed or wounded. The French took 1,500 prisoners but lost some 2,000 men. Dumouriez received a hero’s welcome from the people when he returned to Paris. However, he was not so popular with the Jacobins, who were now in power, their government being known as the Convention. 

He then invaded Holland on 26 February 1793, but the French were forced to retreat into Belgium, where they were defeated by the Austrians at the battles of Neerwinden (18 March) and Louvain (21 March). Dumouriez entered into secret negotiations with the Austrians, who agreed not to pursue his army as long as he would march on Paris, overthrow the government, and restore the monarchy. He would become regent for Louis XVII, the dauphin. Unfortunately for Dumouriez, the Convention became suspicious of his plans and sent the minister of war, Pierre de Riel Beurnonville, and four deputies to his headquarters. Dumouriez arrested the minister and his aides, but his army rebelled, and on 5 April he defected to the Austrians. His treason helped precipitate the purge of the Girondin faction and their allies from the Convention throughout the summer of 1793. 

Dumouriez wandered throughout Europe during the next few years. Eventually he settled in England, where he worked for a time as an adviser to the British government and received a small pension for his work. However, no one would take him seriously. With the Restoration of the monarchy in France in 1814, Louis XVIII proscribed his return to native soil. He died at Turville Park, Buckinghamshire, on 4 March 1823. In addition to his memoirs in three volumes, Dumouriez authored many political pamphlets.

Leigh Whaley

References and further reading

Chuquet, Arthur. 1914. Dumouriez. Paris: Hachette. 

Henry, Isabel. 2002. Dumouriez: Général de la Révolution (1739–1823); Biographie. Paris: L’Harmattan. 

Perrin, Jean-Pierre. 1989. Valmy, 1er victoire de la Nation. Paris: Grancher. 

Rose, John Holland. 1909. Dumouriez and the Defence of England against Napoleon. London and New York: Lane.


From: The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

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