Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin Marbot (August 18, 1782 – November 16, 1854) was a French General, famous for his Memoirs depicting the Napoleonic age of warfare. He belongs to a family that has distinguished itself particularly in the career of arms, giving France three Generals in less than 50 years. His elder brother, Antoine Adolphe Marcelin Marbot, was also a military man of some note.
Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin
Marbot as colonel commander of the 7th Hussar Regiment in 1815
|Born||18 August 1782|
|Died||16 November 1854 72) (aged|
|Years of service||1799–1848|
|Battles/wars||French Revolutionary Wars |
|Awards||Order of the Legion of Honour |
Order of Saint Louis
Order of Leopold
Order of the Oak Crown
|Relations||Jean-Antoine Marbot, Divisional general |
Antoine Adolphe Marcelin Marbot, Brigadier general
François Certain de Canrobert, Marshal of France
Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin Marbot, known as Marcellin Marbot, was born into a family of military nobility in Altillac, in the ancient province of Quercy in southwestern France. He was the younger son of General Jean-Antoine Marbot, former aide-de-camp to Lieutenant-Général de Schomberg, inspector general of the cavalry within the Military household of the king of France.
After studying at the Sorèze Military College (1793–1798), he joined the 1st Hussards Regiment as a volunteer on 3 September 1799. He served under General Jean-Mathieu Seras, who promoted him to the rank of Sergeant on 1 December 1799. In the same month, he was promoted again to the rank of Second lieutenant in recognition of his courage on 31 December 1799. He fought with the Army of Italy and took part in the Battle of Marengo and the Siege of Genoa, during which his father, General Jean-Antoine Marbot died.
He became aide-de-camp to Marshal Pierre Augereau, commanding the VII corps of the Grande Armée during the war against the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire, between 1806 and 1807. He was promoted to the rank of Captain on 3 January 1807 and took part in the Battle of Eylau the following month, during the course of which he nearly lost his life. After this he served with great distinction in the Peninsular War under Marshals Jean Lannes and André Masséna, and showed himself to be a dashing leader of light cavalry in the Russian campaign of 1812.
He was promoted to the rank of Colonel on 15 November 1812 and took part in the German campaign of the following year as the commander of a cavalry regiment. On the morning of the first day of the Battle of Leipzig, Marbot nearly changed the course of the entire war when his regiment came close to capturing the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I and the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, as they had strayed from their escort. After a slow recovery from the wounds he had received at the battles of Leipzig and Hanau, he took part in the Battle of Waterloo alongside Emperor Napoleon I during the Hundred Days.
After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, he was exiled during the first years of the Bourbon Restoration and only returned to France in 1819.
During the July Monarchy, his intimacy with King Louis Philippe I and his son, Prince Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans secured him important military positions. He was promoted to the rank of Maréchal de camp (Brigadier general), and in this rank he was present at the Siege of Antwerp in 1832.
From 1835 to 1840 he served in various Algerian expeditions, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Général (Divisional general) in 1836. In 1845 he was made a member of the Chamber of Peers. Three years later, at the fall of King Louis Philippe I, he retired into private life.
His father, General Jean-Antoine Marbot, had four sons, only two whom survived: Antoine Adolphe Marcelin, the elder, Maréchal de camp (Brigadier general) during the July Monarchy, and Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin, the younger. Through his mother, he was the cousin of François Certain de Canrobert, Marshal of France during the Second French Empire.
On 5 November 1811, he married Angélique Marie Caroline Personne-Desbrières (1790–1873), and by this alliance became the owner of the Château du Rancy in Bonneuil-sur-Marne. They had two sons:
- Adolphe Charles Alfred, known as Alfred (1812–1865): Master of Requests to the State Council, uniformologist and painter
- Charles Nicolas Marcellin, known as Charles (1820–1882): Whose daughter Marguerite first published her grandfather's famous Memoirs
He received the following decorations:
- National Order of the Legion of Honour:
Knight (1808) Officer (1813)
- Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis:
- Royal Order of the Legion of Honour:
Commander (1831) Grand Officer (1836)
- Order of the Oak Crown:
Grand Cross (1832)
- Order of Leopold:
Grand Officer (1842)
Wounds and injuries
Marbot received several serious injuries during his long career:
- A bayonet stab to the left arm, received while he was left stunned by the "wind" of a cannonball that had just flown through his bicorn hat, at the Battle of Eylau: 8 February 1807
- A sword slash to the forehead at Ágreda: 1 November 1808
- A gunshot through the upper body at the Siege of Zaragoza: 9 February 1809
- A gunshot to the right thigh at the Battle of Essling: 22 May 1809
- A gunshot to the left wrist at the Battle of Znaim: 12 July 1809
- A sword slash to the face and a sword stab to the belly at the Battle of Casal Novo: 14 March 1811
- A gunshot to the left shoulder at the Battle of Klyastitsy: 31 July 1812
- A lance stab to the right knee at Plieščanicy: 4 December 1812
- An arrow hit to the right thigh (fired by Russia's Bashkir horse archers) at the Battle of Leipzig: 18 October 1813
- A lance stab to the chest at the Battle of Waterloo: 18 June 1815
- A gunshot to the left knee at Médéa during the Algerian expedition: 12 May 1840
In exile after Battle of Waterloo, Marbot returned to France in 1819 and wrote two books:
- Critical remarks on the work of Lieutenant-Général Rogniat, entitled: Considerations on the art of war (1820)
- About the necessity to increase the military forces of France; means of achieving this in the most cost-effective way possible (1825)
The first publication was a reply to General Joseph Rogniat’s treatise on war, in which Marbot effectively contrasted the human factor in war with Rogniat’s pure theory. The second presented his recommendations for the future development of the French Armed Forces.
In the evening, the Emperor handed me Marbot's book, [...] and said: "That is the best book I have read for four years. It is the one that has given me the greatest amount of pleasure. [...] He has expressed some things better than I did, he was more familiar with them because, on the whole, he was more of a Corps commander than I. [...] Throughout the book he never refers to 'the Emperor'. He wanted the King of France (Louis XVIII) to give him an appointment with the rank of Colonel; that is quite obvious. He uses 'Emperor' once, so as not to look as though he were afraid to do so, or to appear cowardly, and another time he uses 'Napoleon'. He mentions Masséna and Augereau frequently, and he has described the Battle of Essling better than I could have done it myself [...]. I should have liked to show Marbot my appreciation by sending him a ring. If I ever return to active life, I will have him attached to me as an aide-de-camp [...].
This publication earned Marbot the distinction of being remembered in Napoleon's will:
To Colonel Marbot, one hundred thousand francs. I recommend him to continue to write in defense of the glory of the French armies, and to confound their calumniators and apostates.
His fame rests chiefly on the Memoirs of his life and campaigns, the Memoirs of General Baron de Marbot, which were written for his children and published posthumously in Paris, in 1891. An English translation by Arthur John Butler was published in London, in 1892.
As with a number of other historical figures, Marbot figures prominently in the Riverworld cycle of science-fiction novels by Philip José Farmer. Marbot is first featured as the commander of Marines on Sam Clemens' riverboat, the Not for Hire. After the destruction of that boat and the death of its captain, Marbot joins the group led by famed English explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton and accompanies him on the journey to the head of the River. Accompanied by his lover, the English author Aphra Behn, Marbot reaches the Tower at the head of the River, only to die in combat when androids based on characters from Alice Through the Looking-Glass attack the guests during a Lewis Carroll-themed party.
In Ronald Frederick Delderfield's novel To Serve Them All My Days. David, the main protagonist, gets comfort from Marbot's Memoirs during his time in the trenches, and again on the death of his wife and daughter in a road accident.
- Marbot, Marcellin. (1905) The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army. (Butler, Arthur J. trans.) Chap. 1.
- Marbot, Marcellin. (1905) The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army. (Butler, Arthur J. trans.) Chap. 11.
- Marbot, Marcellin. (1905) The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army. (Butler, Arthur J. trans.) 639-641.
- "Remarques critiques sur l'ouvrage de M. le lieutenant-général Rogniat, intitulé: Considérations sur l'art de la guerre". Google Books.
- "De la nécessité d'augmenter les forces militaires de la France; moyen de le faire au meilleur marché possible". Google Books.
- Napoleon at St Helena, Memoirs of General Bertrand, January to May 1821, Translated by Frances Hume, London 1953.
- Napoleon's Will and Testamemt, 15 April 1821, Longwood, Island of St. Helena.
- "Review of Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot, 3 vols., 1891". The Quarterly Journal. 174: 95–126. January 1892.
- The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army, translated from the French by Arthur John Butler. 1892; 2 vols.
- Works by Marcellin Marbot at Project Gutenberg
- The Memoirs of General Baron de Marbot at Project Gutenberg
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