Marshal Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (1763-1815)

Marshal Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (1763-1815) served under Napoleon early in the future Emperor's career, and was one of first group of Napoleonic Marshals, despite a fairly unimpressive career. His most impressive achievement was the defeat of the Duke of York's expedition to Holland in 1799.

Brune was born at Brives-la-Gaillarde in the department of Corrèze. He was the son of a lawyer, and moved to Paris to study to become a lawyer before the Revolution.  He soon built up gambling debts and abandoned his studies, instead becoming a printer and unsuccessful writer.

He was a dedicated supporter of the Revolution, and a friend of Danton. He served as a captain in the National Guard, and was then promoted to high command because of his revolutionary contacts. He joined the 2nd battalion of volunteers of Seine-et-Oise in 1789, and was appointed adjutant-major on 18 October 1791. He helped defeat a group of Royalist rebels at Oacy-sur-Eure in 1792. He was soon promoted to general of brigade and commanded a brigade at the battle of Hondschoote (8 September 1793). He also spent some time as commandant of Bordeaux, where he imposed his own 'terror'.

A key moment in his career came in 1795, when he served under Napoleon during the events of 13th Vendemiaire, when Napoleon used some artillery to disperse a Paris mob protesting against a new constitution.

In 1796 Brune served in the army of Italy, initially commanded a brigade in Masséna's division. He fought at the battle of Arcola, the battle of Rivoli (14 January 1797), St. Michael (20 March 1797) and in the fighting around Feltre (March 1797), and was promoted to General of Division.

In 1798 Brune commanded the French Army of Helvetia that occupied Switzerland. He reached Berne in March 1798, and the money seized there was used to fund Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. Geneva was annexed to France and a new Helvetic Republic was set up, under French control until 1813.

He commanded the Army of Italy during Napoleon's Egyptian campaign (1798-99).

In 1799 he commanded the French army that opposed the unsuccessful Anglo-French expedition to northern Holland (including the Army of Batavia). He successfully defended Amsterdam against the expedition, which was commanded by the Duke of York. The Allies landed in August, were defeated at Bergen (19 September 1799) where Brune was outnumbered but fighting on the defensive, victorious at a second battle at Bergen (2 October 1799), defeated again at Castricum (6 October 1799) and were soon evacuated by sea.

He served in the Vendée. In 1800 he fought in Italy, taking part in General Moreau's general offensive. He forced his way across the Mincio (although nearly lost a division during the river crossing. He then defeated the Austrian general Bellegarde at Pozzole and Valeggio (also known as the battle of Monzambano), 25-26 December 1800, where Davout's cavalry broke the Austrian centre. He reached Verona on 2 January 1801, crossed the Piave, and fought a number of further skirmishes before the armistice of Treviso ended the fighting (16 January 1801). Meanwhile Moreau's victory at Hohenlinden and his advance on Vienna convinced the Austrians to seek peace, and the war was ended by the Treaty of Luneville (9 February 1801).

Brune then served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1802-1804, although he didn't perform well in that post.

Brune was created a marshal in the first creation in 1804.

In 1807 he was appointed Governor-General of the Hanseatic Towns, the French commander in northern Germany. He was still a fervent Republic, and he was soon dismissed from this post because of probably unfounded doubts about his trustworthiness. He also gained a reputation for corruption, and Napoleon described him as 'an undaunted robber'.

Brune didn't return to the Army until the Hundred Days of 1815. He was given command of the Army of the Var, with the task of defending southern France against the Austrians.

After Napoleon's second abdication Brune attempted to return to Paris, but he was murdered by a Royalist mob at Avignon on 2 August 1815, who believed he had been responsible for the Avignon Terror early in the revolution.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 December 2015), Marshal Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (1763-1815) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_brune.html

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