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Marceau-Desgraviers, Francois Severin

MARCEAU-DESGRAVIERS, FRANCOIS SEVERIN (1760- 1796), French general, was born at Chartres on the 1st of March 1769. His father was a law officer, and he was educated for a legal career, but at the age of sixteen he enlisted in the regiment of Savoy-Carignan. Whilst on furlough in Paris Marceau joined in the attack on the Bastille (July 14, 1789); after that event he took his discharge from the regular army and returned to Chartres, but the embarrassments of his family soon compelled him to seek fresh military enployment. He became drill instructor, and afterwards captain in the departmental (Eure-et-Loire) regiment of the National Guard. Early in March 1792 he was elected lieutenant-colonel of one of the battalions of the Eure-et-Loire; he took part in the defence of Verdun in 1792, and it fell to his lot to bear the proposals of capitulation to the Prussian camp. The spiritless conduct of the defenders excited the wrath of the revolutionary authorities, and Marceau was fortunate in escaping arrest and finding re-employment as a captain in the regular service. Early in 1793 he became with other officers " suspect, " and was for some time imprisoned. On his release he hurried to take part in the defence of Saumur against the Vendean royalists, and distinguished himself at the combat of Saumur (June 10, 1793) by gallantly rescuing the representative Bourbotte from the hands of the insurgents. The Convention voted him the thanks of the country, and thenceforward his rise was rapid. His conduct at Chantonnay (Sept. 5) won him the provisional rank of general of brigade. On the i?th of October he bore a great part in the victory of Cholet, and on the field of this battle began his friendship with Kleber. For the victory of Cholet Kleber was made general of division and Marceau confirmed as general of brigade. Their advice was of the greatest value to the generals in command, and the military talents of each were the complement of the other's. Marceau, who became general of division (Nov. 10), succeeded to the chief command ad interim, and with his friend won important victories near Le Mans (Dec. 12-13) an d Savenay (Dec. 23). After the battle of Le Mans, Marceau rescued and protected a young Royalist lady, Angelique des Mesliers. It is often supposed that he was in love with his prisoner; but the help even of the Commander-in-chief did not avail to save her from the guillotine (Jan. 22, 1794). Marceau had already retired from the war, exhausted by the fatigues of the campaign, and he and Kleber were saved from arrest and execution only by the intervention of Bourbotte. Marceau became affianced about this time to Agathe Lepre'tre de Chateaugiron, but his constant military employment, his broken health, and the opposition of the comte de Chateaugiron on the one hand and of Marceau's devoted half-sister " Emira," wife of the Republican politician Sergent, on the other, prevented the realization of his hopes. After spending the winter of 1793-1794 in Paris he took a command in the army under Jourdan, in which Kleber also served. He took part in the various battles about Charleroi, and at the final victory of Fleurus (June 26, 1794) he had a horse shot under him. He distinguished himself again at Julich and at Aldenhoven, and stormed the lines of Coblenz on the 23rd of October. With the Army of the Sambre and Meuse he took his share in the campaign of 1795 on the Rhine and the Lahn, distinguishing himself particularly with Kleber in the fighting about Neuwied on the 18th and igth of October, and at Sulzbach on the 17th of December. In the campaign of 1796 the famous invasion of Germany by the armies of Jourdan and Moreau ended in disaster, and Marceau's men covered Jourdan's retreat over the Rhine. He fought the desperate actions on the Lahn (Sept. 16 and 18), and at Altenkirchen on the igth received a mortal wound, of which he died on the 2ist, at the early age of twenty-seven. The Austrians vied with his own countrymen in doing honour to the dead general. His body was burned, and his ashes, which at the time were placed under a pyramid designed by Kleber, were transferred in 1889 to the Pantheon at Paris.

See Maze, Le General Marceau (1889) ; Parfait, Le General Marceau (1892); and T. C. Johnson, Marceau (London, 1896).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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