General Claude-Étienne Michel (3 October 1772 – 18 June 1815), an officer in Napoleon's army, was second in command of the Chasseur Division of the Guard and commander of its Brigade of Middle Guard. He may be the officer who uttered the words often attributed to Pierre Cambronne "La Garde meurt et ne se rend pas" "The Guard dies, and does not surrender".
War of the Revolution
He enlisted in the 38th battalion of volunteers from the Jura department on 1 October 1791, Sergeant Major of the 15th month, Lieutenant March 4, 1792, he became a lieutenant and captain on 22 August and 6 October in the 96th Regiment of Infantry, which in turn formed the 147th, 49th Half-Brigade and 24th Regiment of the line.
He was deployed on the cordon on the borders of Switzerland in 1792; he was taken prisoner by the Prussians, March 5, 1793 at Remderkerm (Army of the Rhine). Exchanged on 3 Messidor year III, he rejoined his regiment, and reported at the vanguard of the army of Sambre and Meuse.
Appointed Chief of Battalion, on 9 Vendemiaire year IV, he went to Corsica, and became part of the expedition to Ireland and the Gallo-Batavian army.
On 10 Vendemiaire year VI, (2 October 1799), he fought, the Anglo-Russians, at the village of Schoorldam (in the north of Holland), maintained there throughout the day despite the efforts of the enemy, and was wounded at the end of the action. He was taken by the English, 6 vendemiaire Year VII, he was again exchanged, the next 15 Frimaire. On 10 Vendemiaire year VIII, at the Battle of Egmond aan Zee, he has the right arm broken by a gunshot.
At the battle of Nuremberg, 27 Frimaire year IX, he led at the head of his battalion of 400 men, against a column of 4,000 Austrians, taking a large number of prisoners. He received during the action a shot in the left arm.
Consulate and Empire
Promoted Major of the 40th regiment of the line on 30 Brumaire Year XII, and on the 4th of Germinal, a member of the Legion of Honor, his services at the battle of Austerlitz earned him, on 6 Nivose year XIV, the rank of colonel and his admission, as a Major in the 1st regiment of grenadiers of the Old Guard, on 1 May 1806.
He was promoted Colonel of the regiment, on February 16, 1807, in recognition of his conduct at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt and Battle of Eylau; he fought at the Battle of Friedland, and left for Spain after the Treaty of Tilsit.
He was recalled to the army in 1809, he attended the battles Battle of Eckmühl, Battle of Aspern-Essling and Battle of Wagram. He was appointed Brigadier General June 24, 1811, he made the campaigns of 1812, 1813 and 1814, in Russia, Saxony and France.
In 1813, the Emperor decorated him with the Cross of Commander of the Legion of Honor on April 6, and Iron Crown August 16, and appoints him, November 20, Major General.
In 1814, February 3, at Maisons Blanches, he hunted the vanguard commanded by the Prince of Lichtenstein. The next day, supported by the dragoons of General André Briche, he surprised the allies at St. Theobald, and despite the greater numbers available to them, pushed them to St. Parres les Vaudes. On February 11, at the Battle of Montmirail, his arm was shattered by a shot, he remained at the head of his division and contributes greatly to the success of this day.
He was still bedridden as a result of this injury, when the Allied armies entered into Paris. At the noise of war, the General forgot his wound and reappeared, his arm in a sling, the head of his troops, March 30 before the walls of the capital.
Responsible for seizing the village of Pantin, defended by an army division of Wittgenstein. His efforts, however, had stopped the march of the enemy.
Louis XVIII named him a Knight of St. Louis August 20, 1814, and colonel in the Royal Guard.
The Emperor, on his return from Elba, created him Count of the Empire, and as commander of northern division of the Old Guard. At the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, Michel rushed the enemy's forces and attacked, beyond La Haye Sainte up onto the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean. This attack, which caused heavy losses in the ranks, was fatal to General Michel. His body was not recovered and is buried with his comrades on the battle field. His name is engraved on column 10 of the northern pillar of the Arc de Triomphe.
- The retort to a request to surrender may have been "La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas!" ("The Guard dies, it does not surrender!") or the response may have been the more earthy "Merde!". Letters published in The Times in June 1932 record that they may have been said by General Michel. The Guard dies, it does not surrender. Cambronne surrenders, he does not die
- D.H. Parry (c. 1900) Battle of the nineteenth century, Vol 1 Cassell and Company: London. Waterloo
- « Claude-Étienne Michel », in Charles Mullié, Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 à 1850, 1852 (French Wikisource)