Jean Baptiste Jourdan 1762-1833
Making Military Conscription
Count Jourdan was a
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, Lieutenant-Colonel au 2e Bataillon de
la Haute-Vienne en 1792
Oil on canvas begun by Julie
Volpeliere and finished by Horace Vernet
Jourdan's Contributions to His Country
Administratively speaking, Jourdan's main contribution was
his military conscription law of September 5, 1798, also
In combat, Jourdan won his most
important victory on June 26, 1794, at the
Battle of Fleurus, a
battle in the
War of the First Coalition.
The Early Years
Jourdan was born on April 29, 1762, at Limoges, in
the southeast of France.
At the time, France was ruled by
King Louis XV.
Today, you can reach Limoges by
traveling 4 car hours south from Paris. The city is the
capital of the Haute-Vienne département (so called
after the Vienne River) and of the Limousin région.
Here is Limoges on a 1762 map:
Map of France
1601-1766: Limoges / Paris
Click to enlarge.
Jourdan's father was a surgeon.
From 1778 to 1784 Jourdan was a soldier in the French army.
recover from illness, he retired from military service, went
back to Limoges and became a draper.
French Revolution broke out in 1789, and
Jourdan was very much for it.
He enlisted with the army
That same year, he was made captain.
In October 1791, he was made lieutenant colonel of
the 2nd Battalion of Haute-Vienne, a battalion of
volunteers (see image at the top of the page).
France declared war on Austria
on April 20, 1792, thus starting the
French Revolutionary Wars.
In this war, Jourdan fought in the
Battle of Jemappes,
located in today's Belgium, on
November 6, 1792 — French victory.
He then fought in the
Battle of Neerwinden,
also located in today's Belgium, on
March 18, 1793 — Austrian victory.
On September 22, 1793, Jourdan
succeeded General Jean Nicolas
Houchard as commander of the Army of the North.
Houchard himself was on his way to the
Leading his troops together with
Lazare Carnot, Jourdan was
successful against the Austrians
Battle of Wattignies,
located in northern France, on
October 15-16, 1793.
On March 19, 1794, Jourdan was
made commander of the Army
of the Moselle, succeeding
General Lazare Hoche,
who was arrested three days later.
In April 1794, Jourdan and his
army joined General Charles
Pichegru, and his Army of the North
and invaded together the Austrian
Netherlands (approx. today's Belgium and
Map of the
Austrian Netherlands Around 1792
Click to enlarge.
On June 3, 1794, Jourdan was made commander of the
Army of the Sambre and Meuse. This Army combined
the former left wing of the
Army of the Moselle,
the former right wing of the
Army of the North,
and the entire Army of the
On June 26, 1794, Jourdan won
Battle of Fleurus,
which is located just north of Charleroi, or one car hour
south of Brussels.
As a result of Jourdan's victory, the
Austrians retreated and left Belgium to the French.
Jourdan engaged in less successful campaigns east of the Rhine
On September 3,
1796, the Austrians defeated Jourdan and his men at the
Battle of Würzburg,
located one car hour southeast from Frankfurt, after which he quit the army and returned to
In March 1797, Jourdan's home département
Haute-Vienne, elected him deputy to the
Conseil des Cinq-Cents.
Council of Five Hundred proposed laws that, in
turn, were approved or vetoed by the
Council of Ancients (Conseil des Anciens).
The Jourdan-Delbrel Law of
September 5, 1798, named
after the two men who proposed this law,
Jean Baptiste Jourdan
and Pierre Delbrel, was
a conscription law for military service.
Previously depending on
volunteers, the country now changed its approach.
Tout Français est soldat et se doit à la
défense de sa patrie.
Every Frenchman is a soldier,
and the defense of his country is his duty.
At the beginning of the
Revolutionary Wars, France recruited soldiers by calling on
volunteers. Very soon, there were not enough volunteers.
On August 23, 1793, a levée en masse,
a mass conscription, was decreed, drafting all bachelors and
widowers without children who were aged 18 to 25 at that
time. This mobilized more than
Check this event in the timeline of
the French Revolutionary Wars.
But this mass conscription was not renewed.
War of the First
Coalition was officially over on October 17, 1797, France had only around
365,000 soldiers, while danger persisted.
On January 12, 1798, Jourdan
proposed a permanent law for compulsory military service, that
would draft all men age 18
to 24, or in peace times age 21 to 24. Military service
would last 4 to 6 years.
Delbrel, deputy of the Tarn-et-Garonne
département, made some amendments, and on September 5, 1798,
the Jourdan-Delbrel Law was accepted:
All French men aged 20 to 25 must be
registered with the recruitment board of the army.
In times of peace,
military service lasts 5 years, married men are
exempt, and not all men that are registered
might be called upon.
To fight insubordination and
desertion, all men 20 to 25 must carry a passport in which
their military situation is
This law didn't mention the duration of service during times
As was the case with the levée en masse in
1793, the mandatory conscription introduced by the
Jourdan-Delbrel Law gave cause to uprisings in western
France, and revived counterrevolutionary
Back to the life of Jean
General of the
Château de Versailles
Revolutionary Wars Continue
War of the Second Coalition
begun on November 29, 1798.
Jourdan rejoined the army. He suffered defeat against the Austrians at the
Battle of Stokach at
Liptingen near Lake Constance, on March 25, 1799.
On November 9-10, 1799, the
of 18-19 Brumaire replaced the
Jourdan was against this coup,
but eventually rallied to
Napoleon Bonaparte, who,
made Jourdan and 17 other fellows maréchal d'Empire.
A maréchal de France, or
Marshal of France, is the highest honored military officer
of the State. It is not a rank, it
is a dignity.
The words marshal and
maréchal derive from the Frankish Latin mariscaluis,
which in turn puts together mare (horse) and
scaluis (servant). Thus, the original meaning of the
word marshal was that of a stable officer, horse
groom, horse servant, or horse tender.
The first known maréchal de
france appears in the 12th century. His name was
Henri I Clément, chosen as such by
Philippe Auguste in 1185 (this
Philip II, who reigned 1179-1223).
Some sources say that Clement
was the second marshal, appointed as such in 1190, and that
the first one was Pierre,
marshal from 1185-1190. Take your pick.
Originally only awarded to one
officer at a time, the maréchal was only second to the
connétable, or constable.
Under Saint Louis (
who ruled France from 1226-1270, two maréchaux
de france served at the same time.
In 1627, under
Louis XIII, who was
King of France from 1610-1643, the connétable, or
constable, was abolished, making the maréchal the
most honored person in the army.
The number of marshals increased
to 20 under
who reigned 1643-1715.
France had around 15 marshals at the end
In 1793, the
the maréchal de France.
Napoleon brought them
back as maréchaux d'Empire, or marshals of the
The Marshals of
On May 19, 1804, Napoleon awarded 18 outstanding military officers for their
Four of them,
Serurier, were awarded
honorary, because they were retired officers and now senators.
all 18 men listed alphabetically:
Pierre Augereau (1757-1816)
Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte,
aka Charles XIV of Sweden (1763-1844)
Louis Alexandre Berthier
Jean-Baptiste Bessières (1768-1813)
Guillaume Brune (1763-1815)
Louis Nicolas Davout
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan (1762-1833)
François Christophe Kellermann (1735-1820)
Jean Lannes (1769-1809)
François Joseph Lefebvre (1755-1820)
André Masséna (1758-1817)
Adrien Jeannot de Moncey (1754-1842)
Adolphe Édouard Casimir Joseph Mortier
Catherine Dominique de Pérignon
Jean Philibert Sérurier (1742-1819)
Jean de Dieu Soult (1769-1851)
After 1804, Napoleon decorated a few
more officers by making them marshals.
What Tops a
Exceptionally, a king elevated a marshal above all other marshals. This was the case in
King Louis XV made
Claude Louis Hector de Villars
maréchal général de France.
Similarly, in 1847,
King Louis-Philippe made
Jean de Dieu Soult, who had been made marshal by Napoleon, maréchal général de France.
from 1850 Until Today
Napoleon III, who ruled
France 1850-1870, awarded this honor
to 19 officers, among them:
Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860)
Jerome was the youngest brother
of Napoleon I Bonaparte and the
uncle of Napoleon III
Edme Patrice Maurice de
After the debacle of the
Franco-Prussian War, it
took a while for the French military to become popular
The dignity of maréchal de France
was awarded again in 1916. General Joseph Jacques Césaire
Joffre, commander in chief of the French armies in
I, received this elevation on his day of
After Joffre, the following
generals were made marshals:
General Ferdinand Foch
commander in chief of the Allied armies in World War I
General Philippe Pétain
commander in chief of the French Armies in World War I
Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey
Joseph Simon Gallieni (1849-1916),
Marie Émile Fayolle
Louis Félix François Franchet
And after the
Alphonse Pierre Juin
Jean de Lattre de
Tassigny (1889-1952), posthumously
Jacques Philippe Leclerc
Pierre Koenig (1898-1970),
The official insignia of the
maréchal de France are the bâton de
maréchal, covered with velvet and adorned with lilies, bees,
or stars, as was the case with General Ferdinand Foch's marshal's baton, see below.
Baton, Awarded in 1918
Musée de l'Armée, Paris
The inscription on the baton
reads, Terror belli, decus pacis, in other words, Terror in war,
honor in peace.
Today, the dignity of marshal
can only be granted to a general who has been victorious
during times of war.
The French marshal has 7 silver stars.
Although now a marshal, Jourdan
did receive no commissions of significance.
In 1806, Jourdan followed
Napoleon's elder brother, to
Naples. Joseph became King of Naples, Jourdan was made
Governor of Naples.
In 1808, he went with Joseph
Bonaparte to Spain, where Joseph was made King of Spain. That very year the
Peninsular War broke
1814 Spain & Portugal
Taking part in this war, on June
21, 1813, Jourdan fought alongside Joseph Bonaparte in the
Battle of Vitoria (Vittoria),
which was a disaster for France. And not only for France in
general, but also for Jourdan personally, who was dismissed from command because of his
failure to control his troops at that very battle.
Jourdan swallowed hard and, in
1814, switched loyalties from Napoleon to
Louis, in turn, much appreciated
it. He made Jourdan a count in 1816 and a peer in 1819.
July Revolution of
Louis Philippe appointed
a short period ministre des Affaires etrangeres, or
On August 11, 1830, Jourdan was appointed
gouverneur des Invalides, a position he kept until his death.
Jourdan died at Paris on
November 23, 1833.
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Napoleon About Jourdan
Here is a triple quote for you:
In 1851, Charles
Mullié, University of Lille, quoted in his book Biographie des
célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 à 1850,
vol.2, page 99, the historian Emmanuel de Las Cases,
who sat down with Napoleon while on St.
Helena, and published his 18-months-long interview entitled Mémorial de
Sainte-Hélène in 1823.
Apparently, this is what Napoleon had to say
En voilà un, en parlant de Jourdan, que
j'ai fort maltraité assurément. Rien de plus naturel sans doute que de
penser qu'il eût dû m'en vouloir beaucoup.
Eh bien! j'ai appris avec un vrai
plaisir, qu'après ma chute, il est demeuré constamment bien : Il a montré là
cette élévation d'âme qui honore et classe les gens.
Du reste, c'est un vrai patriote :
c'est une réponse à bien des choses.
In other words:
I certainly used that man very ill. It
is likely that he was very furious at me.
I have learned with pleasure that since my fall he invariably acted in the
best manner. He has thus afforded an example of that praiseworthy elevation
of mind which distinguishes men one from another.
Other than that, he is a true patriot :
and that is the answer to many things that have been said of him.