François Etienne Kellermann, 1770-1835

General François Etienne Kellermann (1770-1835) was the son of Marshal Kellermann, the victor of Valmy, and was a very distinguished cavalry general in his own right, playing a major part in the French victory at Marengo.

The younger Kellermann was born in 1770. He was commissioned in the pre-Revolutionary army in 1785, and served as one of his father's aides-de-camp.

Kellermann took part in Napoleon's first Italian campaign of 1796-97, joining his staff in the summer of 1796 along with 10,000 reinforcements from his father's Army of the Alps.

In May 1797 he was give command of a cavalry brigade.

He played a major role at the battle of Marengo (14 June 1800). General Desaix's fresh infantry began the process, and Kellermann's cavalry charged just as the infantry reached bayonet distance. Kellermann's men hit General Zach's much larger column and broke the Austrian force, taking several thousand prisoners. Between them Desaix and Kellermann saved Napoleon from a probable defeat, but Desaix was killed at the start of the counterattack.

In the aftermath of Marengo he was regarded as a great cavalry leader. He and Marshal Ney were responsible for the introduction of steel helmets as part of the cavalry uniform.

Kellermann commanded a cavalry division at Austerlitz, where he was wounded.

He recovered in time to command the cavalry during Junot's invasion of Portugal in 1807. After Junot's defeat at the hands of Wellington, Kellermann helped negotiate the Convention of Cintra, a very generous peace deal that caused a scandal in Britain. Kellermann made the suggestion that the French be evacuated in British ships, one of the most controversial terms of the treaty.  He then signed the cease-fire for the French on 22 August.

Kellermann remained in Spain. In 1809 he was pursuing a retreating Spanish army under the Duque del Parque. Although Kellermann only had 3,000 cavalry to face a balanced Spanish force 18,000 strong, he decided to risk an attack when he caught up with Parque near Alba de Tormes (28 November 1809). The French cavalry attack broke the Spanish lines, and inflicted a very heavy defeat on Parque, who lost 3,000 dead and wounded and 3,000 deserters.

During his time in Spain Kellermann gained a reputation as the greediest of Napoleon's generals, sending huge amounts of stolen goods back to France. Although Kellermann never believed that his role at Marengo was fully acknowledged, it did protect him from any consequences of his looting.

He remained in Spain until May 1811 when ill health forced him to return home.

War of Liberation 1813 - Spring Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 -
Spring Campaign

Ill health meant that Kellermann missed the disastrous invasion of Russia. He returned for the 1813 campaign, where he commanded a division in III Cavalry Corps. He fought at the battle of Lützen (2 May 1813) and was wounded twice during the battle of Bautzen, and as a result of his wounds missed the battle of Leipzig.

After Napoleon's first abdication Kellermann chose to remain in the army, and was made Chavalier de St. Louis by the Bourbons. He was Inspector of the Army when Napoleon returned, and was sent to intercept him. Kellermann's troops refused to act against the Emperor, and instead joined him. He retired to his estates, but was then recalled to command III Cavalry Corps.

This was the largest force Kellermann ever commanded, and he handled it well. He fought at the battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815), a drawn battle. He fought at Waterloo, where he was let down by Ney's poor use of the cavalry, which made a series of futile attacks on Allied infantry in squares. Kellermann took part in the fighting himself and was wounded.

After Napoleon's second abdication Kellermann returned to Bourbon service. He succeeded his father as Duc de Valmy, and entered the Chamber of Peers. He retired to his estates where he used some of his looted wealth to build a church.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 December 2015), François Etienne Kellermann, 1770-1835 ,

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