Gouvion Saint-Cyr, Laurent de, Marshal of France


1818 MsDS as Minister of War during the Bourbon Restoration, advising the Marquis de Rilly of an appointment


Type:  Letter
Description: (1764-1830)  Commander in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, rose to Marshal of the Empire and Marquis.

Born Laurent Gouvier in Toul, he adopted “Saint-Cyr” after his mother who abandoned him at an early age. In 1792 he was chosen a captain in a volunteer battalion and in 2 years rose to major, brigadier general, and major general.

He commanded the center division of Moreau’s army in the 1796 Rhine Campaign, aided the retreat from Bavaria to the Rhine. In 1798 he succeeded Masséna commanding the Army of Italy, and in 1799 led the left wing of Jourdan’s army fighting in Germany; when Jourdan was succeeded by Masséna, he joined Moreau’s army in Italy, distinguishing himself after the defeat of Novi. Moreau disliked Saint-Cyr for his righteousness and incorruptibility.

In 1800, when Moreau was given command of the Army of the Rhine, Gouvion Saint-Cyr became his principal lieutenant, and on 9 May was victorious at Biberach. Not on good terms with Moreau, he retired to France after the initial operations of the campaign. In 1801 he went to Spain to command the army intended for the invasion of Portugal and was named Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. When a peace treaty was concluded with Portugal, he succeeded Lucien Bonaparte as Ambassador at Madrid.

His refusal to sign the proclamation of congratulation for declaring the birth of the Empire resulted in his not being included in the 1st list of Marshals.  In 1803 he was appointed to command a corps in Italy, in 1805 he served with distinction under Masséna, and in 1806 was engaged in southern Italy. When he returned to Paris to protest his treatment in Naples, Napoleon sent him back on pain of death. He took part in the 1807 campaigns in Prussia and Poland and in 1808 was made a Count. He led a corps in Catalonia but not wishing to comply with certain orders from Paris, resigned his command and remained in disgrace till 1811.

Still a major general, on the opening of the Russian campaign, Saint-Cyr got command of VI Corps, and on 18 August 1812 won a victory over the Russians at Polotsk, for which he was made a Marshal. The Russians burned everything as they retreated towards Moscow, and had just burned nearby Smolensk. Just before the victory at Polotsk on the banks of the Daugava River, Marshal Oudinot was wounded and Saint-Cyr assumed his command. In Oct. 1812 he was driven out of Polotsk,  severely wounded during the general retreat. Saint-Cyr distinguished himself at Dresden (26–27 Aug. 1813) and in its defense against the Allies after Leipzig, capitulating 11 November, when Napoleon had retreated to the Rhine. In 1813, his relation with the Emperor warmed, Napoleon commenting that Saint-Cyr had no match in all of the marshalate and was the equal of Napoleon himself in defense.

Created a Peer of France on the Bourbon Restoration, in July 1815 was appointed War Minister, resigning the following November. As Minister he tried to assist friend and fellow Marshal Michel Ney by providing him a jury of 4 other Marshals, but was disgraced when Marshal Moncey refused to sit in it. Appointed Marine Minister June 1817, returned as War Minister Sept. 1817-Nov. 1819. As War Minister he began reforms to make the army a national rather than a dynastic force, made efforts to safeguard rights of veteran soldiers of the Empire, organized the General Staff, and revised the code of military law and pension regulations. He was made a Marquis 1817.

12 ¼ x 8 LS “Gouvion StCy” in French as Minister of War, Paris, ? 27, 1818, to the Marquis de Rilly (1771-1832), lieutenant colonel of the Royal Corps, Headquarters informing him of his appointment as chief of staff 9th Military Division. He is ordered to return without delay to Montpellier send notice of his departure. His nomination has been communicated to the lieutenant general commanding the 9th Division to whom he will pfesent his letter of service.

Condition: Very good, small hole at left center not affecting content, some acid-free fold separation repairs

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