General LamarliereMacdonald appointed
Adjutant-GeneralExecution of LamarliereSkirmishes at Linselles and
ComminesEntry into LilleA Warlike
CommissionerDenunciationA Loyal FriendA Broken
ReedExtension of CommandGeneral PichegruBelgium and
HollandBattle of HoogledeOn the Waal.
MEANWHILE, all the movements ordered by Dumouriez had been
paralyzed. He himself ran great dangers, and was compelled, to save his head,
to throw himself into the arms of the enemy, with whom, according to the
admission made by himself in his memoirs, he had been treating secretly.
General Dampierre, who succeeded him, sent General
Lamarliere to take command of Lille and of the northern frontier. Immediately
upon his arrival someone prejudiced him against the Picardy Colonel, whose name
he did not even know. He was ' suspected' [Persons supposed not to he
thoroughgoing revolutionists were commonly known as '
suspects.'Translator.]. The General sent for the Colonel, and when I
appeared, great was his surprise. He had not forgotten the Pas de Baisieux,
where he had noticed me ; and without further explanation said to me :
' Return to your post ; I will vindicate you.'
This magnanimity touched me. He himself became shortly
afterwards ' suspected,' and fell a victim, although innocent.
More Commissioners came to Lille from the Convention. They
were also biased, as General Lamarliere had been, against me. One of them had
served as Captain in my regiment, and had but recently left it. He was an
intimate friend of the Lieutenant-Colonel who was so vexed when I arrived to
take over the command. This man chanced to be in Lille, profiting by the leave
I had given him. He also took advantage of his friendship with the Commissioner
to try to have me removed as a ' suspect,' owing to my having been aide-de-camp
to Beurnonville and Dumouriez, the former of whom had also become ' suspected '
since his arrest.
My conduct underwent severe inquiry. Poor General Lamarliere
justified it, adding that I had ceased to be aide- de-camp some four or five
months previously. As they could not injure me on that score, they proposed to
appoint me Adjutant-General (now called Staff-Colonel), a rank corresponding to
that which I already held. My good friend Lamarliere spoke to me about it,
pointed out the danger of a refusal, and, regarding mere objections as
equivalent to consent, announced my acceptance, without my leave, to the
Commissioners. The deed of appointment was then and there drawn up, for they
had plenary powers, and worded in very complimentary terms, based upon my
excellent conduct, my patriotism, etc.
Possessed of this document, I went straight to the General,
and, while thanking him for his kindness, declared that I could not take
advantage of it; that in the eyes of the army it would appear that I was
incapable of commanding a regiment ; that my susceptibilities were wounded, my
honour compromised, and that I would rather be deprived of my command
altogether; that he, whose own feelings were of the keenest and most
honourable, could, better than anyone else, feel for my position; that I
already owed so much to him that I should be glad to increase my debt by
another service, and, as I saw that he did not insist, I added :
'Besides, it will be just as much to the interest of the
Commissioners as to mine to let this affair go no further, seeing that the
dullest individual will easily understand that they are acting in private and
not public interests' (they had appointed the Lieutenant-Colonel to succeed
me). ' Moreover, this officer is unpopular with the regiment ; he is
narrow-minded and ill-tempered.'
I ended by saying that, if they thought I should make a good
Adjutant-General, I considered that I could render more service at the head of
' By the way,' I exclaimed, ' why should they not give him
the title they have conferred upon me ? He wants to be Colonel. Well and good,
his ambition would be gratified.'
This idea had not occurred to Lamarliere. It seemed to
strike him, and he said :
' Give me the letter containing the orders, and your
commission. I will take them to the Commissioners, and beg them to make the
exchange you propose.'
' No, certainly not. I cannot part with them. They are much
too flattering, and, besides, they are my justification.'
The Commissioners could find no serious objection to the
plan proposed by the General. It was adopted, and I was left in peace.
I occupied myself seriously, with ardour and activity, in
exercising and drilling my regiment, and in accustoming it to warfare by
marches and reconnaissances on the frontier. The enemy occupied the adjacent
woods, and I sometimes obtained some little successes in skirmishing. Other
corps followed my example, and we thus accustomed our men to see and face the
enemy. I forgot to say that my regiment had been divided. I had but one
battalion; the second was with the Army of the Moselle, and the Commissioners
had appointed a Colonel to it. All communications ceased between us as soon as
our accounts were settled.
Another Captain belonging to the regiment, named Beru, who
was away on leave, returned to Lille, he was also an intimate friend of the
Commissioner, and was by him made General-of-Brigade, and had command, under
Lamarliere, of the troops collected in our camp. Thus I saw one of my
subordinates put over my head ; however, I made the best of it, and set the
example of obedience.
The new General came to the camp with some prejudices
against me. A straightforward explanation ensued ; he was honest, and we became
and remained friends. Shortly afterwards General Lamarliere was deprived of his
command, arrested, and taken before the revolutionary tribunal, to which he
soon fell a victim. I regretted him deeply. My superior Captain succeeded him
with the rank of General- of-Division, and I was appointed General-of-Brigade.
This came upon me like a thunderbolt, as, although for
several months past I had performed the duties of the office, I had not had the
responsibilities attaching to the rank. I represented that I was youthful and
inexperienced, but they would not listen. I had to bow to their decision under
pain of being treated as a ' suspect,' and arrested. I resigned myself
accordingly. My Captain, now General of- Division, who had also made some
representations on his own account, was not listened to either, so we agreed to
help each other.
I was charged with the command of the frontier from Menin to
Armentieres, and my quarters were fixed at Lannoy, if I remember rightly, for I
have no map at hand.
Partial and simultaneous attacks were made almost daily
during August at Linselles, Commines, Blaton, Pont-Rouge, etc., and almost
invariably terminated in our favour, which gained me some reputation. These
attacks were but the prelude to a real onslaught, which the enemy at last made,
advancing with a large body of troops against my lines. Linselles, Commines,
and Blaton were all carried at once. The General-of-Division and I consulted
together. He sent me some reinforcements, raised his camp at La Madeleine,
marched upon Linselles and Jupon, Commines and Blaton. Having made all my
dispositions, I charged the enemy with the bayonet. They retreated ; we pursued
eagerly. We regained possession of the two places, and our success was crowned
by a large number of killed, wounded, and prisoners. We got ten pieces of
cannon, all the ammunition, baggage, etc. Affairs went otherwise at Linselles,
where we lost the same number of guns. My poor General was in despair. He came
to see me, and I consoled him as best I could; and before he left me we learned
that the enemy had retired from Linselles, which comforted him.
We entered Lille in triumph with our captures, so as to
dissipate the bad impression caused by the reverses at Linselles. Everyone
hailed us as victors, my troops who had taken part were intoxicated, and, to
say the truth, I enjoyed the moment as much as anyone, though as modestly as I
could. My name appeared honourably mentioned in the official despatches, and
this caused me to be regarded as an important person, and roused jealousy and
enmity against me.
After these events I daily harassed the enemy, but they had
caused so much vexation to the General-of-Division that he asked permission to
retire, which was granted.
The four Commissioners, to my great bliss, had been recalled
or sent elsewhere; they were replaced by another, who, having heard of my
success at Commines, and other partial successes, wished for my personal
acquaintance. I went to Lille, where he received me with civility, returning my
visit a few days later; the outposts thought he was making an inspection. In
this interview he expressed to me his desire to be present at a little brush
with the enemy. I undertook that he should see one, and promised to let him
know the day, hour, and place at which it should occur.
The enemy had replaced by fresh troops those which had been
lately worsted, and among the newcomers was a regiment commanded by the Duke of
York. Their men swaggered considerably, and gave themselves great airs, and I
determined to give them a lesson. Having made my preparations and taken all
precautions, I sent word to the Commissioner, who arrived in hot haste towards
the end of the brush. He saw the rout of the enemy, and a good many prisoners
taken, after we had killed and wounded a considerable number. He heard balls
and bullets whistle past him, and was beside himself with joy. I asked leave to
quote his name in my report; he himself drew one up in which he praised me, and
was not too modest about his own share. Finally, when the action was over, and
my troops were recalled, he complimented them, gave me the kiss of fraternity,
and said aloud that I might count upon him till death. Such protection was by
no means to be despised during those horrible times of revolutionary crises,
and I thought myself safe from all anxieties, whatever denunciations might be
brought against me from any quarter.
I have said that the General-of-Division had retired: while
awaiting the appointment of his successor, the General in command at Lille held
his place. The successor came at last. He was General Souham, who struck up a
friendship with me which still endures. Feeling quite easy about the point
where I commanded, he turned his attention to the others, and left me a free
hand. Security was reestablished upon part of the frontier, and I was
determined to see that it was respected.
It was then that the good idea occurred of amalgamating all
the volunteer battalions, whether of old or new formation, with the regulars,
putting two of the former to one of the latter, and I was charged to carry out
the operation; but such confusion reigned that nobody seemed to know where
these battalions were quartered, because, as it transpired, if they did not
like the place where they had been sent, or if it did not suit them, they moved
on somewhere else without giving any notice, so that I was ordered to travel
through all the neighbouring departments, in order to send in as many
battalions as possible to Lille.
While these events were in progress, two new Commissioners
Extraordinary arrived, with greatly extended powers. I had been denounced to
them; their first act was intended to be my disgrace, arrest, and eventual
arraignment before the revolutionary tribunal at Arras, from. which no one ever
I admit that I had made a terrible enemy of a republican and
superlatively revolutionary General by laughing at him for cowardice in a
skirmish at Menin. He had become the butt and laughing-stock of the troops,
even of those who shared his opinions. It was he, moreover, who had denounced
and ruined poor General Lamarliere; but Divine justice allowed him to perish
eventually by the same means.
Another enemy whom I strongly suspected was a former and
very bad comedian, now a General commanding a revolutionary army, who used a
seal engraved with a guillotine, but who nevertheless simulated some friendship
for me. His functions, however, and his intimacy with the other, left me no
doubt, and I received a warning. I despised these men too much to pay the least
attention ; I was wrong, and too self-confident, for in those terrible times a
clear conscience, upright conduct, without blot or blemish, were no guarantees;
they only excited jealousy by making others ashamed.
General Souham fought loyally and generously against the
accusations, denunciations, etc., and succeeded in staving off the execution of
the warrant against me until the return of the Commissioners, who were to go to
Dunkirk in order to see and hear me. I was in ignorance of all that was being
plotted against me, and was quite comfortable in my quarters, when the General
sent for me and told me of all that had happened. He then added :
' Look here, you are done for; therefore consider what steps
you had better take, and decide quickly, for you are going to be suspended from
He then advised me to put myself out of the reach of the
warrant, the execution of which was only postponed. The Commissioners, in
granting the delay, had imperatively demanded that my command should be taken
from me, and that Lille should be my temporary prison. Therefore it was open to
me to go abroad. But if I did, what should I do ? What would become of me ? I
should have found numerous enemies among the emigrants, who never forgave those
who refused to join them in 1791.
I then had recourse to the papers given to me when I was
appointed Adjutant-General, and which I had kept.
'They will be no use to you,' said Souham. 'The very men who
signed them are now "suspects" themselves.'
' There is my friend the warlike Commissioner,' said I. ' I
will go and see him.'
' He !' replied Souham. ' Why, he was present at the
discussion. I called upon him to speak up for you, but he was silent.'
' Never mind,' I answered; ' maybe he was intimidated by
the presence of his colleagues and superiors. I should like to try him, and
perhaps inspire him with a little pluck, if he wants it.'
' Go and try,' was the answer, ' and then come back to me.'
I departed in search of my friend.
' Look here! you know that I have fallen into disgrace, and
I have come to ask your help. I thought that my conduct and services would save
me, but I learn that damaging suspicions have been sown broadcast by enemies
who remain in shadow, concealed like those whom we are fighting every day.'
' Indeed !' he replied. ' Do you wish me to speak quite
openly to you ? I tell you you are not a republican, and I neither can nor will
mix myself up with you.'
' But,' I answered, ' I have not changed, as far as I know,
since the day when we met on the frontier at the skirmish at Commines; and on
that occasion you assured me publicly'
' I remember what you mean,' he said roughly, interrupting
me ; ' but times are changed,' and thereupon he turned on his heel.
I returned directly to Souham and related this conversation
to him. He implored me to take some steps for my safety.
' They are already taken,' I said. ' I will be, if
necessary, one of the thousand victims sacrificed daily. I shall remain.' '
But have you thought it over carefully and weighed all the
I was right in acting as I did. The Commissioners
Extraordinary were recalled to Paris from Dunkirk, and I was sent back to my
post and forgotten.
I continued to maintain respect for the frontier under my
command, which was considerably extended. In it was included all the territory
between Armentieres and the sea, and my headquarters were moved to Cassel.
Although I was only General-of-Brigade, I had eleven of the same rank under my
control, and about forty thousand men scattered over this long frontier-line,
which vastly increased my responsibility.
I had made representations with a view to being relieved,
for, notwithstanding this force, scattered as it was, we were weak everywhere.
A promise had been given me that I should be replaced by the first
General-of-Division who should arrive, and I experienced great satisfaction
when he was at length announced to me. I was to have returned to my former
quarters, but my destination was altered, and this change of plans was coloured
by a representation as to the necessity of retrieving some checks that one of
my comrades had received. As a matter of fact, this comrade had started in his
military career with the rank of General, and his troops had no confidence in
him. I took his place, and my command extended from Menin to Tournai.
About this time serious thoughts arose as to the
advisability of assembling the whole army and taking the offensive. For this
purpose a new Commander-in-chief [General Pichegru] came down, accompanied by
two Commissioners Extraordinary. A decree had just been published ordering all
' nobles ' to move thirty leagues from the frontiers, to quit the army and
Paris. Under these circumstances I ought to have retired. I had furnished the
headquarters staff with all the information in my possession upon the frontier,
the enemy, their strength, positions, weapons, etc. My services and conduct had
also been mentioned with praise, and the Commander- in-chief begged the
Commissioners to retain me, and exempt me from this measure. They desired me to
come to them, and informed me that, by virtue of their plenary powers, they
required my services. I answered that I wished nothing better, and that they
might count upon my zeal and my efforts, but that they should give me a written
commission. I added that, should we have the misfortune to meet with reverses,
I should assuredly be accused of treachery, and of having remained with the
army in order to secure its defeat, notwithstanding the decree of expulsion.
Despite my arguments, they refused to satisfy me, whereupon I said:
' Very well, then. I shall send in my resignation.'
' If you leave the army, we will have you arrested and
brought to trial.'
I had no choice but to submit, so I remained where I was, in
spite of the twofold odds against me.
Success alone could ensure my position and save me. After
various ups and downs, Victory at length declared herself for us. I took the
most important share in the engagements at Lannoy, Roubaix, Tourcoing; at the
battle of Hooglede, where I was alone in command ; at the capture of Ypres,
Menin, Courtrai, Ostend, Ghent; at the passage of the Scheldt, and of the canal
at Mechlin; then at the taking of Antwerp; at the battles of Tumhout and Boxtel
, at the capture of Bois-le-Duc, which the Dutch did me the honour of
attributing to me because I had been in their service and garrisoned there,
though in truth I did nothing but cover the besiegers; and finally at the
passage of the Meuse and the taking of Nimeguen.
The Waal stopped us. We took up quarters for the winter,
which promised to be very severe. Mine were temporarily at Kronenburg. While
there I received, most unexpectedly, and, above all, without wishing for or
desiring it, my commission as General-of-Division, and my quarters were shifted