Marmont, Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de, Duke of Ragusa


1822 LS of the controversial Marshal, his name once a French household word meaning “to betray”, as in betraying Napoleon


Type: Letter
Description:  (1774-1852) French general and nobleman, rose to Marshal of the Empire (last living Napoleonic Marshal), awarded title Duke of Ragusa. In the Peninsular War, succeeded the disgraced Massena in command of the French army in northern Spain, lost decisively at Salamanca. One of the most controversial marshals created under the Empire, perhaps the most educated of them, one of the few to write on the art of war, a talented strategist who understood the art of command and the movement of troops.

Son of an ex-army officer, a minor noble, he adopted Revolutionary principles. He went to Dijon to learn mathematics before entering the artillery and made the acquaintance of Napoleon Bonaparte, renewed after obtaining his commission when serving in Toulon. Marmont became General Bonaparte’s ADC, accompanied him to Italy and Egypt, won distinction and promotion to general of brigade. He returned to Europe with Bonaparte 1799 , present at 18th Brumaire coup, organized the artillery for the expedition to Italy, which he led with great effect at Marengo, at once made general of division. In 1801, he became inspector-general of artillery, and in 1804, Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, but omitted from list of officers made marshals. In 1805, he got command of a corps and served well at Ulm. He took Dalmatia with his army and occupied the Republic of Ragusa. For the next 5 years, he was military and civil governor of Dalmatia, made Duke of Ragusa 1808.

In the War of the Fifth Coalition, defeated an Austrian force in the May 1809 Dalmatian Campaign, captured the opposing commander. Breaking out of Dalmatia, reached Ljubljana (Laibach) in early June. After he defeated Gyulai’s corps at Graz, Napoleon summoned XI Corps to Vienna and he fought at Wagram July5-6. In the pursuit of Archduke Charles, his corps was in a compromised position, rescued only by Napoleon’s arrival with heavy reinforcements. Napoleon made him Marshal of France somewhat reluctantly. Of the 3 Marshals created after Wagram, French soldiers said: “Macdonald is France’s choice, Oudinot is the army’s choice, Marmont is friendship’s choice.”

Named Governor-General of the Empire’s Illyrian provinces (western Balkans), in July 1810, Marmont was hastily summoned to succeed Massena in command of the army in northern Spain. Despite the British army’s presence, his relief of Ciudad Rodrigo was a great feat. However, maneuvering before the Battle of Salamanca was unsuccessful as Wellington ordered his cavalry to charge Marmont’s unsuspecting left flank, greatly defeating the French. Marmont and his deputy commander, Comte Bonet, were both struck by shrapnel early in the battle, Marmont gravely wounded, and command passed to Bertrand Clauzel. In April 1813, Napoleon again gave Marmont command of a corps which he led at Lutzen, Bautzen, and Dresden. He then fought in the 1814 great defensive campaign until the last battle before Paris. His forces fought a fighting retreat back to Essonne, inflicting high casualties on the enemy. Marmont then sought to halt the pointless prolonging of a war which France would assuredly lose. He contacted the Allies and reached a secret agreement with them. As the Allies closed on Montmartre, Marshals Marmont, Mortier and Moncey marched to a position where they were quickly surrounded by Allied troops and surrendered their forces. 

Marmont stayed loyal to Louis XVIII during the Hundred Days and after Waterloo, voted for Marshal Ney’s execution. He was made a Peer of France and a major-general of the Royal Guard, and, in 1820, a Knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit and a Grand Officer of the Order of St. Louis. He was major-general of the Guard  in July 1830 during the Revolution, ordered to put down opposition with a strong hand. While opposed to Court policy, he tried to do his duty, giving up the attempt to suppress the Revolution when his troops were outmatched. He accompanied the King into exile and lost his marshalate. His hope to return to France was never gratified and he wandered Europe, settling finally in Vienna, well received by the Austrian government. Strangely, he was made tutor to the Duke of Reichstadt, the young man once for a few weeks styled Napoleon II. Despite his long friendship with Napoleon, by this time the verb “raguser” (derived from his title, the Duke of Ragusa), was a household word in France that meant “to betray”. 30 years later when an old man living in Venice, children would point and say: “There goes the man who betrayed Napoleon”. In his last years, Marmont spent much time working on his memoirs, published in 14 volumes 1837-1856.

8 x 6 LS in French as Marshal, Duke of Ragusa, Paris, March 10 1822, to Baron ?, sends a letter (not present) the Duke has sent to the Minister of War and seeks his help for a Mr. Borus and his son, possibly a commission for the son. Dockets in other hands at top, and the letter a challenge to translate beyond the gist. The Duke does add a line to the close adding his sentiments. With small engraving of Marmont in uniform for framing.

Condition: Very good, mount remnants on verso of engraving.

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