|Born||March 1, 1700
Usseaux (then in France, now Italy)
|Died||October 14, 1780
|Allegiance||Kingdom of France|
|Years of service||1718-1780|
|Rank||Lieutenant-général des armées du roi|
|Battles/wars||War of the Austrian Succession,
Seven Years' War
Pierre-Joseph Bourcet (1 March 1700 – 14 October 1780) was a French tactician, general, chief of staff, mapmaker and military educator. He was the son of Daniel-André Bourcet and of Marie-Magdeleine Legier.
At 18 years old, he began serving under his father, a captain in the French armies in the Alps. He completed his training, studying maths, and became a gunner before entering the infantry and finally the engineers. With the support of M. d'Asfeld, he joined the engineers corps in 1729. A long military career followed, ending at the rank of lieutenant-général des armées du roi, in 1762, the highest rank in the ancien régime military. At the start of his career, he was a protégé of the maréchal de Maillebois, accompanying him on a secret reconnaissance mission to France's Alpine frontier. He was chief engineer at Mont-Dauphin, from c. 1742, succeeding M. de Pène, whose daughter Marie-Anne de Pène he married.
He acted as a French chief of staff during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War. In 1752, he accompanied M. de Paulmy in his tour of inspection of the Alps He was director of the fortifications at Dauphiné from 1756 (appointed 1 June 1756) to 1777. At the end of 1759, he was made king's chief commissioner and charged with fixing the borders between France and Piedmont, a mission concluded by treaty on 24 March 1760. Under the direction of the minister of war, Choiseul, in 1764 he established a staff-officer training school at Grenoble (it disappeared in 1771), where he taught on mountain warfare.
An expert in mountain warfare, military engineering and fortifications, he devised the French invasion of Piedmont that led up to the Battle of Madonna dell'Olmo. He advocated officer training , a permanent staff corps and organised dispersion (having a large army march in separate columns along parallel roads, thus allowing them to be rapidly concentrated for attack or defence and to form three columns within each column and thus deploy onto the battlefield faster ). He devised the strategic concept of "a plan with branches" (keeping the enemy confused as to your destination, so he had to split his forces to defend more than one place at once).
He died at Meylan without issue in 1780 - his heart is buried at the church of Notre-Dame du Laus.
- Principes de la guerre de montagne, only published in 1888.
- Mémoires militaires sur les frontières de la France, du Piémont et de la Savoie depuis l'embouchure du Var jusqu'au lac de Genève, Berlin, 1802, in-8° et Paris et Strasbourg, Levrault frères, An X, in-8°
- Voyage d'inspection de la frontière des Alpes en 1752 par le Marquis de Paulmy, by Henry Duhamel, see pp. 10-13 of the preface. This work publishes several mémoires by Bourcet.