Moreau, Jean Victor
army napoleon rhine paris military
MOREAU, JEAN VICTOR (1763-1813), the greatest general of the French republic after Napoleon and Hoche, was born at Morlaix in Brittany in 1763. His father was an " avoeat " in good practice, and instead of allowing him to enter the army, as he wished, insisted on his studying law at the university of Rennes. Young Moreau showed no inclination for law, but revelled in the freedom of a student's life. Instead of taking his degree he continued to live with the students as their hero and leader. In that capacity he became a person of political importance, and in the troubles of 1787 formed the law students into a sort of army, which he commanded as their provost. In 1789 he became yet more important, and commanded the students in the daily affrays which took place at Rennes between the young noblesse, who protested against the mode of election to the states-general, and the populace. Though he had hardly weight enough to be chosen a deputy, he was elected one of the committee of correspondence with the deputies at Paris. He was thus able to follow the course of events in the early days of the Revolution, and was early impressed with the conviction that BO compromise with the court was possible, and a republic the only resource. These opinions estranged him from his father, who belonged to the party of Breton independence and preferred Brittany to France. At last, in 1792, at the call for volunteers he organized a battalion, and was at once elected its commandant. With it he served under Dumouriez, and in 1793 the good order of his battalion, and his own martial character and republican principles secured his promotion as general of brigade. Carnot, who had an eye for the true qualities of a general, promoted him to be general of division in 1794, and gave him command of the right wing of the army which, under Pichegru, was destined to drive the English and Austrians out of Flanders by separating the Austrians from the English. This Nvi ng was then to cover the occupation of Holland by the main army under Pichegru. These operations established his military fame, and in 1795 he was given the command of the army of the Rhine and the Moselle, with which he crossed the Rhine and advanced into Germany. He was at first completely successful, and won several victories, but at last had to execute before the archduke Charles a retreat which only increased his fame, as he managed to bring back with him more than 5000 prisoners. In 1797 he again crossed the Rhine, but his operations were checked by the conclusion of the preliminaries of Leoben between Bonaparte and the Austrians. It was at this time he found out the traitorous correspondence between his old comrade and commander Pichegru and the prince de Conde, which he foolishly concealed, and naturally has ever since been suspected of at least partial complicity. After Fructidor the Directory ceased to employ his service, until the absence of Bonaparte and the advance of Suwaroff made it necessary to have some great general in Italy. Yet it was only as chief of the staff that he served under Scherer and Joubert, and led back the French army after the latter's death at Novi. When Bonaparte returned from Egypt he found Moreau at Paris, greatly dissatisfied with the Directory both as a general and as a republican, and obtained his assistance in the coup d'etat of Brumaire, when Moreau commanded the force which occupied the Luxembourg. In reward, the first consul again gave him command of the army of the Rhine, with which he fought his last great campaign, that of Hohenlinden, when his success was due rather to the splendid military qualities of his generals and their troops, and his own tactical genius, than to any inspiration of victory. On his return to Paris he married Mdlle. llullot, an ambitious woman, who gained a complete ascendency over him, and with the enormous fortune acquired during his campaigns he purchased a luxurious hotel in Paris and also Barras's country-seat of Grosbois. His wife exercised an evil influence over him, and collected around her all who were discontented with the aggrandizement of Napoleon. This "club Moreau" frightened Napoleon, and encouraged the royalists ; but Moreau, though not unwilling to become a military dictator to restore the republic, would not intrigue for the restoration of Louis XVIII. All this was well known to Napoleon, who seized the conspirators. Moreau he treated with real leniency, and permitted to retire first to Spain, and then to America. Here the general lived in great content for seven years, when his wife, who could not allow him to rest, made him enter into negotiations with Bernadotte, his old comrade, who was now crown-prince of Sweden. At his suggestion Moreau entered the service of the czar Alexander ; and with Bernadotte Ise planned the campaign of 1813. Fortunately for his fame as a patriot he did not live to invade France, but was mortally wounded while talking to the czar at the battle of Dresden on 27th August 1813, and died on 2d September. His wife received a pension from the czar, and was given the rank of marechale by Louis XVIII.
Moreau's fame as a general stands very high, and from his marvellous coolness in conducting retreats he has been called the general of retreats. His combinations were splendid, and his temper always unruffled when most closely pressed ; but he lacked the sudden spirit of seizing a victory which distinguished Napoleon in his early campaigns. Moreau was a sincere republican, though his own father was guillotined in the Terror ; and the army of the Rhine was the hotbed of republicanism, as that of Italy was the great support of a military tyranny. As a man, he was little given to personal ambition till his marriage, and would probably not only have served Napoleon well but moderated his tendency to absolutism by his very existence, had not his wife ruined any such hope by involving him in intrigues. He was fortunate in the moment of his death, though he would have been more so had he died in America. I-h seems by his final Lords, " Soyez tranquilles, messieurs ; c'est mon sort," not to have .regretted being removed from his equivocal position as a general in arms against his country.
The literature on Moreau is copious, the best book being C. Joehmus, General Moreau - Aliriss einer Geschiehte seines Lebess and seiner Feldziige, Berlin, 1814. A more ordinary work is A. de Beauchamp, Vie politique, snilitaire, at privil (116 General Moreau, translated by Philippart, London, 1814 ; and there is a curious tract on his death in Russian, translated into English under the title Some Details concerning General Moreau and his Last Moments, by Paul Svinin, London, 1814. (II. M. S.)