General Jean-Baptiste-Juvenal, comte Corbineau, 1776-1846

General Jean-Baptiste-Juvenal, comte Corbineau, 1776-1846, was a French general who served extensively during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, but who is best known for a lucky discovery that helped the remnants of the Grande Armée escape across the Berezina.

Corbineau's military career began during the Revolutionary Wars. Under Napoleon he fought in Poland in 1807, was made a baron in 1808, fought in Spain from 1808-11 and was promoted to general of brigade in 1812.

During the 1812 invasion of Russia he commanded a cavalry brigade in Oudinot's II Corps. During the retreat from Moscow Corbineau was ordered north by General Wrede (commander of VI Corps). Eventually Corbineau asked to see Wrede's authorization for this move, and when none could be produced he took his brigade back south in an attempt to find Oudinot.

This came at just the right moment for the Grande Armée, which was approaching a potential trap at the River Berezina. The existing bridges over the river had been destroyed, and the army's scouts couldn't find any suitable fords. Corbineau was approaching the river from the opposite side. His brigade included a force of Polish lancers, who were able to question the local peasants and on 23 November his men discovered the existence of an unknown ford at Studianka. Corbineau was able to cross the river and rejoin Oudinot, where he reported his discovery. This gave the French a chance to escape. Napoleon was able to trick the Russian forces on the western bank of the river that he intended to cross elsewhere. As the Russians moved away the French rushed to Studianka and built two bridges across the ford. Corbineau's men led the attack across the ford and cleared away the few Cossacks remaining in the area before the bridge work began. This allowed the remnants of the army to escape from the Russian trap.

After saving the army Corbineau was promoted to General of Division. In 1813 he became an imperial ADC. He fought at the battle of Brienne (29 January 1814), where he helped save Napoleon from a force of Cossacks.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 May 2014), General Jean-Baptiste-Juvenal, comte Corbineau, 1776-1846 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_corbineau.html

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