General Mathieu comte Dumas, 1753-1837

General Mathieu comte Dumas (1753-1837) was a French general who survived the early years of the Revolution and went on to serve Napoleon as quartermaster and Intendant-Général of the Grande Armée, before writing a nineteen volume history of the fighting between 1798 and 1807.

Dumas was born into an aristocratic family in Montpellier in 1753. He joined the army in 1773 and served as an ADC to General Rochambeau during the French intervention in the American War of Independence. After the end of that war he spent some time in the eastern Mediterranean but was back in France at the start of the French Revolution.

During the Revolution Dumas was a liberal. In 1791 he escorted Louis XVI back to Paris from Varennes after his failed attempt to escape from France. In 1792 he was elected President of the Legislative Assembly, but as the revolution became increasingly radical and violent Dumas was forced to go into temporary exile on three separate occasions. He was finally able to return safely after Napoleon's coup of Brumaire of 1799.

On his return Dumas returned to the army. In 1800 he was given the task of organised an Army of Reserve at Dijon. In 1805 he was promoted to general of division and served as Napoleon's quartermaster during the Austerlitz campaign.

The next stage of his career was tied to that of Joseph Bonaparte. He served as his Minister of War in Naples, then accompanied Joseph to Spain. In November 1808 he became assistance quartermaster-general for the French armies in Spain. Soon after taking up this post the Spanish defeated a French army at Baylen, and in the aftermath Joseph abandoned Madrid and retreated to the Ebro. Dumas had the difficult task of bringing this news to Napoleon. He worked with Napoleon's staff during the Emperor's one campaign in Spain.

In 1809 he served as assistant chief of staff during Napoleon's campaign on the Danube. He was ennobled as a comte in 1810.

In 1812 he was appointed as Intendant-Général for the Grande Armée during the invasion of Russia, giving him the almost impossible task of providing food and supplies for the massive army as it moved ever-further east into Russia. French plans for this campaign were on a much larger scale than for any earlier war, but still proved inadequate. At Borodino Dumas was one of the officers who wanted Napoleon to commit the Guard. Late in the campaign ill health forced Dumas to return home and he was replaced by Count Daru, who also held the post during the German campaign of 1813.

Dumas was captured during the fighting in 1813. After the first restoration he took service with the Bourbons, but after Napoleon returned from exile Joseph convinced him to switch sides. Dumas was given the task of raising a new National Guard.

He returned after the second restoration, and was soon back at work. Between 1818 and 1822 he served on the Council of State. He took part in the Revolution of 1830, when Charles X was overthrown and replaced by his cousin Louis Philippe, who ruled as a constitutional monarch. Dumas returned to the Council of State and in 1831 was made a peer of France.

Dumas was also a successful historian. In 1800 he began work on a history of the military operations since 1798. This eventually turned into a nineteen volume history of the fighting between 1798 and 1807 and was published as the Précis des Evénements militaries between 1818 and 1826. He also translated Napier's History of the War in the Peninsula into French. 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 June 2014), General Mathieu comte Dumas, 1753-1837 ,

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