Honoré Théodore Maxime Gazan de la Peyrière


Honoré Théodore Maxime Gazan de la Peyrière

Honoré Théodore Maxime Gazan de la Peyrière (October 29, 1765April 9, 1845) was a French general who fought under Napoleon.

Early life and French Revolutionary Wars

He was born in the small town of Grasse, France. His lawyer father sent him to College of Sorèze where he received military training and eventually joined the French Royal Life Guards in 1786. Afterwards he also joined the Freemasons.

Upon the eruption of the French Revolution, Gazan returned to Grasse and joined the national guard. In 1790 he became a captain and in 1791 a lieutenant colonel of the local volunteer battalion of the Var. In 1792 he was sent to the 27th regiment as a captain and went with it to the Rhine upon the declaration of war with Austria. The regiment first served as garrison troops in Strasbourg but joined the battle in December near Wissembourg.

In May 1794 Gazan became a battalion commander of the new 54th demi-brigade and was promoted to brigade colonel on July 11. He led his troops to victory against the Prussians at Trippstadt.

In 1796 he took part in many battles in southern Germany. On July 4 he routed the enemy in Kuppenheim by ordering his drummers to beat a charge which fooled Prussians to think they were facing superior odds. Gazan was wounded on November 22, 1796 and taken to Strasbourg where he married Marie Madeleine Reiss. He would often take his wife to his campaigns.

On April 4, 1799 Gazan was promoted to brigade commander and his superior and friend André Masséna transferred him to the Army of Danube where he faced Austrian and Russian forces. On September 27, Gazan repulsed Russian outposts at the Limmat river and pursued the enemy to the defenses of Zürich. He was promoted to division commander and continued a campaign against Allied troops in Switzerland.

ervice during the Napoleonic Wars

Dürrenstein and Jena

When Napoleon declared himself the First Consul, he assigned Masséna and Gazan to hold the fortress in Genoa. Gazan arrived in Italy in March 1800 and fought in the Austrian siege of Genoa until Masséna capitulated on June 4. Gazan, who had been wounded in the head on May 2, took his troops to Lozano and joined General Suchet. He was put in command of a division in the Army of Italy and fought in a victorious battle in Pozzolo against the Austrians on December 25.

Gazan returned home but soon received a new assignment as commander of a sub-division in northern Italy where he stayed until the declaration of the First French Empire in 1804. In 1805 he was assigned as a division commander of Napoleon's Grande Armée in Lille in preparation for the invasion of England until the idea was abandoned.

In August 1805 Gazan found himself in command of a division that encircled Austrians in Ulm. On November 11 his division was the advance guard in the march against Kutuzov's army under Marshal Mortier but became isolated at Dürenstein. Gazan fought desperately and lost 40% of his troops until he was relieved in the evening. He received the Officer's Grand Cross and his division was sent to Vienna to recuperate. When Austria sued for peace, Gazan's division was sent to Würzburg in Bavaria where they remained until Prussia declared war again in October 1806.

Gazan's division fought in the battle of Jena-Auerstedt on October 14. At Ostrolenka on February 16, Gazan's troops took three guns and Russian colours. Otherwise his troops stayed in their winter quarters. After the new peace treaty, Gazan's troops were sent to Silesia where they ended up mistreating the local population. Gazan was invited to restore order and he was created Count de la Peyriére.

pain

In October 1808 Gazan's 5th Corps went to Spain with Lannes and arrived at Saragossa in December. Saragossa was under siege and defended by Spanish under José Palafox. Gazan's general Lannes ordered an offensive on January 22, 1809 and Gazan's troops joined the effort to capture the city street by street. Palafox surrendered on February 20. The 5th Corps occupied northern Aragon.

In November, Gazan was sent to invade Andalusia and set to guard the valleys of Extremadurain July. In September he fought against Spanish general La Romana. In January 1811 he crossed the Sierra Morena to support Marshal Soult in the siege of Badajoz to guard supply lines. On January 25 he defeated Spanish general Ballesteros in Villanueva de los Castillejos. He also fought in Albuera on May 16, 1811. He was wounded and returned to Seville as a chief of staff. In February 1813 Gazan replaced Soult as commander of the army of the South.

After the major offensive by the Duke of Wellington, Gazan's Army of the South held the first line on the heighs of Puebla. On June 21 General Hill and Morillo attacked his forces in the Battle of Vitoria and he decided to withdraw and abandon all his artillery. His movement created a gap in French line which lead to loss of 4,000 men. Retreat turned into a rout and the Allies captured the supply convoy and took many prisoners, including Gazan's wife and children who later managed to rejoin him.

When Soult took command of the new Army of the Pyrenees, Gazan became the chief of staff until Napoleon's abdication.

Later life

During the Hundred Days, Gazan hesitated but eventually joined Napoleon. He did not receive a field command. Louis XVIII forced him to retirement in Grasse where he unsuccessfully dabbled in politics. After the 1830 revolution, he was made a peer and received a command of a military division in Marseille. He retired in June 1832 due to ill health.

Gazan de la Peyriére died in Grasse on April 9, 1845.

References

* Natalia Griffon de Pleineville: "General Gazan de la Peyriere" ("History Today", April 2003)


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