General Edouard-Jean-Baptists, comte Milhaud (1766-1833)

General Edouard-Jean-Baptists, comte Milhaud (1766-1833) was a French cavalry general best known for commanding a cuirassier corps at Waterloo.

Milhaud began his career as a radical revolutionary. The son of a farmer, he was a member of the National Guard and of the Convention. He was a friend and ally of Marat, an opponent of the Girondins, and voted in favour of the execution of Louis XVI in 1793. He also served as a representative of the Convention with the Army.

In 1795 he left the Convention and used his political influence to get a commission in the army. He proved to be a skilful cavalry general, although his career continued to benefit from his political decisions. In October 1799 he took part on the military coup of Brumaire, when the Directory was replaced by the Consulate, with Napoleon as First Consul. In January 1800 he was rewarded for his part in the coup with promotion to général de brigade.

During Napoleon's 1800 campaign in Italy Milhaud commanded a dragoon brigade, but he missed the crucial battle of Marengo.

In 1805 he commanded a light cavalry brigade at Austerlitz (War of the Third Coalition).

He commanded the same light cavalry brigade at the start of the War of the Fourth Coalition. During the early stages of Napoleon's advance his brigade took part in the French victory at Schleiz (9 October 1806), which helped put the Prussians off balance, and then in the battle of Jena (14 October 1806), one of two battles on the same day that saw the Prussian army destroyed. On 29 October, during the pursuit of the defeated Prussians he took the surrender of 4,000 Prussian cavalrymen at Pasewalk, despite only have 700 men himself.

Milhaud was promoted to général de division in December 1806, just in time to receive command of the 3rd Dragoon Division at the costly drawn battle of Eylau (8 February 1807). His division fought on the French right during the battle and took part in the massive cavalry charge that helped save the French position.

In March 1808 Milhaud was made a comte in Napoleon's new Imperial Aristocracy.

His next spell of active service came in Spain, during the Peninsular War. He took part in Marshall Victor's campaign in Estremadura in March 1809. He commanded the 2nd Dragoon Division at the Battle of Talavera (27-28 July 1809), Wellington's first major victory over the French on Spanish soil. Milhaud's division fought on the French left, facing the Spanish wing of Wellington's army, nearest to the town of Talavera. Wellington was soon forced to retreat as the French concentrated against him, leaving the French free to turn on the Spanish armies. Milhaud's division took part in the battle of Almonacid (11 August 1809), a victory over the Army of La Mancha. Later in the year he defended the town of Ocana (combat of Ocana 11 November 1809) and then took part in the battle of Ocana (19 November 1809), where it took part in the attack that drove the Spanish cavalry off the field and then hit the Spanish infantry in the side. The battle ended as a crushing French victory.

Early in 1810 he took part in General Sebastiani's invasion of Granada and Malaga, and played a part in the victory at Alcala la Real (28 January 1810). Milhaud won one battle as an independent commander in Spain. In the early winter of 1810 a Spanish army under General Blake threatened the Spanish position in Granada. The main French commander in the area, General Sebastiani, was forced to abandon an invasion of Murcia to secure his control of Granada, and Blake led 9,000 men into eastern Granada. Milhaud was in the area, in command of 1,300 cavalry. He also took command of the 2,000 strong infantry garrison of Baza, Blake's next target. On 4 November the two armies clashed at Baza. Blake had allowed his army to become dangerously stretched out, and Milhaud was able to defeat his leading division, taking 1,000 prisoners. He wasn't strong enough to attack the rest of Blake's army, but he had forced the Spanish to abandon the advance into Granada.

In 1812 he served on the staff during the invasion of Russia.

In 1813 he returned to the cavalry. After General Pajol was wounded he took command of his cavalry corps. He commanded II Cavalry Corps at the Battle of Hanau (30-31 October 1813), a French victory during the retreat from Leipzig.

During the First Restoration Milhaud entered the service of the Bourbons, but had to retire after his early revolutionary record was discovered.

Milhaud rallied to Napoleon in 1815. He was given command of IV Cavalry Corps (Cuirassiers) in the Waterloo campaign. He fought at the battle of Ligny (16 June 1815), Napoleon's last battlefield victory, and at Waterloo, where his corps took part in the famous but unsuccessful massed cavalry attacks. On the evening before the battle of Waterloo Napoleon sent Milhaud's cavalry forward to make sure that Wellington had decided to stand his ground and wasn't retreating. When Ney decided to launch his cavalry assault, it was one of Milhaud's brigades that was sent in first. After Milhaud's men had been repulsed Ney fed in more and more cavalry, but without success.

After the second Bourbon restoration Milhaud attempted to return to their service, but this time his services weren't accepted, and he was nearly banished as a regicide. He was finally allowed to rejoin the army after the 1830 revolution, but retired on grounds of ill health in 1831 and died two years later.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 August 2015), General Edouard-Jean-Baptists, comte Milhaud (1766-1833) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_milhaud.html

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