Marshal Dominique-Catherine, marquis de Perignon, 1734-1818

Marshal Dominique-Catherine, marquis de Pérignon (1734-1818) combined military and political careers, with his main military achievements coming against Spain during the War of the First Coalition.

Pérignon was born into a landowning family in the south-west of France in 1754. He joined the Royal Army in 1780. In July 1789, after the revolution, he joined the National Guard. In September 1791 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly, but he resigned from the assembly in May 1792 to join the Legion of the Pyrenees. He served with the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees.

This was the start of the most successful phase of his military career. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel within four months of joining the Legion, to general of brigade on 18 September 1793 and to general of division three months later.

Perignon commanded a division in the French victory at Peyrestortes (17 September 1793), which forced the Spanish back from the River Tet. He then fought in the defeat at Truillas (22 September 1793), where he was so close to the fighting that he suffered a bayonet wound in the thigh.

Early in the war the Spanish had advanced into France, but they were soon driven back to the border. On 30 April 1794 Pérignon's division seized key Spanish fieldworks, just before the French victory at the battle of Le Boulou (1 May 1794), helping to force the Spanish back across the frontier. He then besieged Bellegarde, where the 20,000 strong garrison soon surrendered. At the battle of La Junquera (7 June 1794) he forced back the Spanish centre.

On 17 November General Dugommier, commander of the Army of the Eastern Pyrennes, was killed at Muga during the battles of Figueras (17-26 November 1794). The representative of the Committee of Public Safety appointed Pérignon as commander of the army. He continued with Dugommier's plan, and forced the Spanish to retreat. His triumph was completed when the strong fortress at Figueras fell without a shot being fired on 26 November 1794.

This allowed him to move onto Rosas, where the outer defences fell on 31 January 1795 and the city itself on 3 February. Pérignon was less successful on the Fluvia (April-May 1795), and despite his earlier successes was replaced in command by General Barthelemy Schérer on 30 May 1795. Soon afterwards France and Spain made peace and the fighting on the Pyrenees front ended.

On 15 September 1795 Pérignon was made commander in chief of the Army of Brittany. On 16 October he was elected to the Council of Five Hundred as the deputy for Haute-Garonne. On 23 October he was given responsibility for more coastal forces, but on 26 November he was made ambassador to Spain, so never took up his expanded coastal command.

During his time in Spain he helped to negotiate the treaty of San Ildefonso (19 April 1796). This saw Spain ally with France and join the war against Britain. This forced the British to evacuate Corsica and temporarily withdraw its fleet from the Mediterranean. His time in Spain ended in December 1797 and he briefly went into retirement.

On 4 October 1798 Pérignon was sent to the French Army of Italy. In 1799 he was given command of the poorly equipped French troops in Liguria. He then took command of the left wing of General Joubert's army in the Apennines. The French decided to advance north from the mountains to try and raise the siege of Mantua. The French soon found themselves badly outnumbered, and suffered a heavy defeat at Novi on 15 August, where Joubert was killed. Pérignon commanded part of the army during the treat from Novi, but he was wounded and captured during the retreat.

Pérignon was released in 1800 and on 5 January 1801 made commander of the 10th Military District at Toulouse. In 12 April he was elected as a senator, but on 18 November he retired for a second time.

On 11 September 1802 he came out of retirement to serve as commissioner-extraordinary with the task of agreeing the definitive border between France and Spain in the Pyrenees. On 27 October he became vice president of the Senate.

In May 1804 Pérignon was amongst the first batch of new Napoleonic Marshals, receiving the title for his performance in the Pyrenees in the 1790s and his diplomatic efforts. By now his active military career was over - he had after all entered his seventies - but he remained an active diplomat and politician.

On 18 September 1806 he was made governor of Parma and Placentia. In 1808 he was made a Count of the Empire in Napoleon's new peerage. On 23 July 1808 he became governor of Naples and commander of the French troops in the Kingdom of Naples, under the overall authority of Marshal Murat, king of Naples. He eventually fell out with Murat in 1811 and was removed from his post, before Napoleon insisted that he be reinstalled. He returned for the third time on 27 March 1813.

Pérignon accepted the Bourbon restoration. On 22 April 1814 he was made commissioner-extraordinary in the 1st Military District. Later in 1814 he was made a Peer of France. In 1815 he was briefly commander of the 10th Military District in Toulouse. He refused to serve Napoleon after his return from exile, and as a result was struck off the list of Marshals.

After Napoleon's second abdication Pérignon served on the Court of Peers that condemned Marshal Ney to death. On 14 July 1816 his title of Marshal was restored. He was created a marquis on 31 August 1816 and served as governor of the 1st Military District.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 September 2016), Marshal Dominique-Catherine, marquis de Perignon, 1734-1818 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_perignon.html

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