Gustave Paul Cluseret

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Gustave Paul Cluseret
Gustave Paul Cluseret (U.S.).jpg
General Gustave Paul Cluseret, during the American Civil War
Born (1823-06-13)June 13, 1823
Suresnes, France
Died 1900 (aged 76–77)
Allegiance Second French Republic
Second French Empire
United States of America
Service/branch French Army
Union Army
Years of service 1843 - 1860 (France)
1861 - 1863 (USA)
Rank Captain (France)
Brigadier General (USA)
Battles/wars American Civil War

Gustave Paul Cluseret (13 June 1823 – 1900) was a French soldier and politician who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


Cluseret was born in Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine. He was commissioned in the French Army in 1843, and was an officer in the garde mobile during the revolution of 1848. He took part in several expeditions in Algeria, served in the Crimean War, joined Giuseppe Garibaldi's volunteers in 1860, and in 1861 resigned his commission to take part in the Civil War in America. He served under Fremont and McClellan, and rose to the rank of brigadier general, but resigned in March 1863. Then, joining a band of Irish adventurers, he went secretly to Ireland, and participated in the Fenian insurrection (1866–67). He escaped arrest on the collapse of the movement, but was condemned to death in his absence.

He arrived in London just after the Reform League's Hyde Park demonstration in 1867. He met a dozen members of the Reform League, including John Bedford Leno, in a private room of the "White Horse" in Rathbone Place. He proposed that they create civil war in England and offered the service of two thousand sworn members of the Fenian body, and that he would act as their leader. John Bedford Leno was the first to reply and denounced the proposal, stating that it would surely lead to their "discomfiture and transportation", and added that the government would surely hear of the plot. During subsequent speeches Leno noticed that only a matchboard partition divided the room they occupied with another adjoining room, and that voices could be heard the other side. Leno declared his intention to leave at once; the others agreed and the room was soon cleared. The next day the meeting was fully reported in The Times, although Leno's speech had been attributed to George Odgers, who had in fact been the only person to support Cluserat's proposal. John Bedford Leno was fully satisfied with the success the Reform League had met and, being opposed to unnecessary violence, bitterly opposed the interference of Cluseret, as did most of the other members of the Reform League. Cluseret's "call to arms" was rejected and he left England for Paris to start his War of the Commune.

On his return to France he proclaimed himself a Socialist, opposed militarism, and became a member of the Association Internationale des travailleurs, a cosmopolitan Socialist organization, known as the "Internationale." On the proclamation of the Third Republic in 1871 he set to work to organize the social revolution, first at Lyon and afterwards at Marseilles. His energy, his oratorical gifts, and his military experience gave him great influence among the working classes. On the news of the Communard rising of 18 March 1871 he hastened to Paris, and on the April 16 was elected a member of the commune. Disagreements with the other leaders of the Commune led to his arrest on the May 1, on a false charge of betraying the cause. On May 24 the occupation of Paris by the Versailles troops restored him to liberty, and he succeeded in escaping from France. He did not return to the country till 1884. In 1888 and 1889 he was returned as a deputy to the chamber by Toulon. He died in 1900. Cluseret published his Mémoires (of the Commune) at Paris in 1887-1888.

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Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • The Aftermath with Autobiography of the Author (John Bedford Leno published By Reeves & Turner, London 1892)