Marshal Jean Mathieu Philibert, comte Sérurier, 1742-1819

Marshal Jean Mathiue Philibert Sérurier (1742-1819) was an aristocratic general and survivor of the ancien regime who supported the French Revolution (and survived the experience), before playing an important part in both Napoleon's first victorious campaign in Italy in 1796-7 and his rise to power in 1799.

Sérurier fought in the Seven Years War, and rose slowly through the ranks, only becoming a colonel in 1792. When the Revolution began he was in command of a regiment on Corsica, before being moved to Perpignan, when he helped to put down local Royalists. In a move typical of the times he was then accused of being a royalist himself, and was only saved by the personal intervention of Paul Barras. Sérurier was then promoted, and in 1794 became a général de division in the Army of Italy. In that role he took part in the battle of Loano, a French victory that gave them control over much of the Italian Riviera, and paved the way for Napoleon.

Sérurier commanded a division throughout Napoleon's campaign in Italy in 1796-7. At the start of the campaign in April 1796 his division was ordered to advance up the Tanaro valley from Ormea, to the south west of Napoleon's main force. He thus missed the early battles of the campaign, but played a major part in the battle of Mondovi (19-21 April 1796). On the first day of the battle (19 April) his attack across the Corsaglia River was repulsed by the Piedmontese, but on the night of 20-21 April they attempted to retreat back through Mondovi. Sérurier's division played an important part in the French pursuit that followed and which effectively knocked Piedmont out of the war. Two days later the Piedmontese asked for an armistice, and after a further limited advance agreed to the Armistice of Cherasco (28 April 1796).

This left Napoleon free to turn east to deal with the Austrians. Sérurier's division fought at Borghetto (30 May 1796). Sérurier was then given command of the force besieging Mantua. He thus missed most of the battles that resulted from Austrian attempts to lift the siege. At the start of August 1796 his troops were ordered away from Mantua to help defeat one of these relief efforts, but Sérurier himself was too ill to accompany them, and thus missed the battles of Lonato (3 August 1796) and Castiglione (5 August 1796).

Sérurier did take part in the campaign that defeated the final Austria relief effort, in January 1797, commanding the force that defeated General Provera at La Favorita on 16 January 1797. He then returned to Mantua, where on 2 February he accepted the surrender of the city. Sérurier played a part in Napoleon's advance into Austria, winning a victory at Gradisca on 23 March 1797. Ill health then forced him to retire.

He returned to the army in Italy between August 1798 and April 1799. Early in the War of the Second Coalition he was forced to surrender to Field Marshal Suvorov during the Austro-Russian campaign that forced the French out of northern Italy (battle of Cassano).

Sérurier was soon paroled and returned to France, where he played a part on the coup of Brumaire that brought Napoleon to power. His reward was a position in the Senate, of which he became vice president in 1802. In 1804 he was also made governor of the Invalides.

In May 1804 Sérurier was rewarded for his earlier service (and role in the coup) by being made a Marshal of the Empire, one of a small number who were no longer active soldiers. He retained his post at the Invalides until the second Bourbon restoration after the battle of Waterloo, retaining it after both the first Bourbon restoration and Napoleon's brief return.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 January 2009), Marshal Jean Mathieu Philibert, comte Sérurier, 1742-1819 ,

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