William Corbet

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For other people named William Corbet, see William Corbet (disambiguation).

William Corbet (17 August 1779 – 12 August 1842) was an Irish soldier. He was born in Ballythomas, County Cork. In 1798, as a member of the United Irishmen, he was expelled from Trinity College Dublin with Robert Emmet and others for treasonable activities, and went instead to Paris. In September of the same year, he joined a French military force under Napper Tandy with the rank of Captain and sailed from Dunkirk with arms and ammunition for Ireland. The expedition had to turn back following the defeat of General Humbert and arriving in Hamburg they were handed over to the British authorities and taken to Ireland, where they were imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail.

Corbet escaped in 1803 and returned to France. He was appointed professor of English at the military college of St Cyr. Later that year he became a Captain in the Irish Legion. Following the death of his brother Thomas (who was also in the Legion) in a duel with another officer, he was transferred to the 70th Regiment of the line, where he served in Massena's expedition to Portugal, and distinguished himself in the retreat from Torres Vedras and the battle of Sabugal. After the battle of Salamanca he was appointed chef de bataillon of the 47th regiment and served until 1813 when he was summoned to Germany to join the staff of Marshal Marmont. He served at the battles of Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden and others and was made a commander of the Legion of Honour. In December 1814, he was naturalised as a French citizen. In 1815, after the abdication of Napoleon he was promoted to colonel and chief of staff to General d'Aumont at Caen.

In the period of the Bourbon Restoration, his friendship with the opposition leader, General Foy, placed him under some suspicion, but in 1828 he was selected by Marshal Maison to accompany him on and expedition against Ibrahim Pasha in Morea, Greece. He acted to suppress anarchy and defeated local tribesmen who had assaulted the French garrisons. As a result of his evident abilities as a soldier and administrator he was appointed a member of the Order of Saint Louis and of the Greek Order of the Redeemer of Greece, and promoted to the rank of General.

In 1831 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief to the French forces in Greece. He returned to France the following year, where he was commander in the region of Calvados and died at Saint Denis in 1842.

The Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth based the main theme of her novel Ormond on Corbet's 1803 escape from Kilmainham.

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