Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans

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Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans

Marshal Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans, 1st Comte Exelmans (13 November 1775 – 22 June 1852) was a distinguished French soldier of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, as well as a political figure of the following period.

His name is inscribed on the southern pillar of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Early career[edit]

Born at Bar-le-Duc, Exelmans entered the army at 16, volunteering into the 3rd battalion of the French Revolutionary Army of the Meuse (1791). He became a lieutenant in 1797, and in 1798 was aide-de-camp to general Jean Baptiste Eblé, and in the following year to Jean-Baptiste Broussier.[1]

In his first campaign in the Italian Peninsula he greatly distinguished himself; and in April 1799 he was rewarded for his services by the rank of captain of dragoons. In the same year he took part with honor in the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples and was again promoted, and in 1801 he became aide-de-camp to Joachim Murat.[1]

Aide to Murat[edit]

Exelmans in at the action of Wertingen

During the First French Empire, he accompanied Murat in the campaigns against the Third and Fourth Coalitions (in the Austrian Empire, Prussia, and Poland, 1805–1807). At the passage of the Danube, and in the action of Wertingen, he specially distinguished himself; he was made colonel for the valour which he displayed in the battle of Austerlitz, and Brigadier-General for his conduct in the battle of Eylau (1807).[1]

Peninsular War, captivity and Naples[edit]

In 1808 during the Peninsular War Exelmans accompanied Joachim Murat to Spain. In June he was sent to join Marshal Bon-Adrien Jeannot de Moncey and his army which was on its way to attack Valencia.[1] He was ostensibly to lead Moncey's vanguard but his real purpose was to made sure the old marshal acted aggressively. At this time the Spanish countryside rose in rebellion and he was captured by partisans and taken to Valencia.[2] He was handed over to the British and conveyed to England as a prisoner. On regaining his liberty in 1811 he went to Naples, where Murat, who reigned as King, appointed him grand-master of horse.[1]

Russian Campaign[edit]

Exelmans, rejoined the French army on the eve of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and on the field of Borodino won the rank of Général de Division. In the retreat from Moscow, his steadfast courage was conspicuously manifested on several occasions.[1]


Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans by Charles-Philippe Larivière

In 1813 he was made a Grand-Officer of the Légion d'honneur, for services in the Sixth Coalition campaign of Saxony and Silesia, and in 1814 he was noted for his role in the Six Days Campaign.[1]

Waterloo Campaign[edit]

When the initial Bourbon Restoration occurred, Exelmans retained his position in the army. In January 1815 he was tried on an accusation of having treasonable relations with Murat, but was acquitted.[1]

On Napoleon's return from Elba in the Hundred Days, Exelmans was made a Peer of France, and placed him in command of the II Cavalry Corps, consisting of Major General Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz' 9th Cavalry Division and Major General Louis Pierre Aimé Chastel's 10th Cavalry Division. during the Waterloo Campaign. On 16 June 1815 the corps was involved in the Battle of Ligny and two days later it fought at the Battle of Wavre.[1] In the closing operations around Paris, he won great distinction on 1 July at the Battle of Rocquencourt where units under his command destroyed a Prussian hussar brigade under the command of Colonel Eston von Sohr.[1]

Restoration, July Monarchy, and Second Republic[edit]

After the final Bourbon Restoration he denounced, in the House of Peers, the execution of Marshal Ney as an "abominable assassination";[1] thereafter, he lived in exile in the Southern Netherlands and Nassau for some years, until 1819, when he was recalled to France.[1]

In 1828 he was appointed inspector-general of cavalry; and after the July Revolution of 1830, he received from King Louis-Philippe the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur, and was reinstated as a Peer of France.[1]

At the Revolution of 1848 Exelmans was one of the supporters of Louis Napoléon; in recognition of his long and brilliant military career, he was raised to the dignity of a Marshal of France in 1851. His death was the result of a fall from his horse.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Chisholm 1911, p. 64.
  2. ^ Oman 2010, p. 133.



Further reading[edit]