CLERFAYT (or Clairfayt), FRANCOIS SEBASTIEN CHARLES JOSEPH DE CROIX, Count of (1733-1798), Austrian field marshal, entered the Austrian army in 1753. In the Seven Years' War he greatly distinguished himself, earning rapid promotion, and receiving the decoration of the order of Maria Theresa. At the conclusion of the peace, though still under thirty, he was already a colonel. During the outbreak of the Netherlands in 1787, he was, as a Walloon by birth, subjected to great pressure to induce him to abandon Joseph II., but he resisted all overtures, and in the following year went to the Turkish war in the rank of lieutenant field marshal. In an independent command Clerfayt achieved great success, defeating the Turks at Mehadia and Calafat. In 1792, as one of the most distinguished of the emperor's generals, he received the command of the Austrian contingent in the duke of Brunswick's army, and at Croix-sous-Bois his corps inflicted a reverse on the troops of the French revolution. In the Netherlands, to which quarter he was transferred after Jemappes, he opened the campaign of 1793 with the victory of Aldenhoven and the relief of Maestricht, and on March 18th mainly brought about the complete defeat of Dumouriez at Neerwinden. Later in the year, however, his victorious career was checked by the reverse at Wattignies, and in 1794 he was unsuccessful in West Flanders against Pichegru. In the course of the campaign Clerfayt succeeded the duke of Saxe-Coburg in the supreme command, but was quite unable to make head against the French, and had to recross the Rhine. In 1795, now field marshal, he commanded on the middle Rhine against Jourdan, and this time the fortune of war changed. Jourdan was beaten at Höchst and Mainz brilliantly relieved. But the field marshal's action in concluding an armistice with the French not being approved by Thugut, he resigned the command, and became a member of the Aulic Council in Vienna. He died in 1798. A brave and skilful soldier, Clerfayt perhaps achieved more than any other Austrian commander (except the archduke Charles) in the hopeless struggle of small dynastic armies against a "nation in arms."
See von Vivenot, Thugut, Clerfayt, und Würmser (Vienna, 1869).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)