Léonard Charner

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Léonard Victor Joseph Charner
Vice-Amiral Charner.jpg
Léonard Victor Joseph Charner.
Born 1797
Died 1869
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French Navy
Rank Amiral
Battles/wars Second Opium War
Siege of Saigon
Colonization of Cochinchina

Léonard Victor Joseph Charner (1797, Saint-Brieuc, Côtes-d'Armor – 1869) was an Admiral of the French Navy.

Retour des Cendres[edit]

He was the vice-captain of the ship La Belle Poule that brought back in France the remains of Napoleon I in 1840, during the Retour des Cendres.

War of Crimea[edit]

He participated in the Crimean War, mainly in the battle for Sebastopol.

Far East[edit]

In 1843, Captain Charner was part of the fleet sent to the Pacific Ocean by the French Foreign Minister François Guizot under Admiral Jean-Baptiste Cécille and together with the diplomat Lagrene.[1] The move responded to the successes of the British in China in 1842, and France hoped to counterbalance these successes by accessing China from the south.

In 1860, Charner was commander of the French naval forces in the Far East.[2] He was involved in the Second Opium War in China until its end in 1861.

War in Vietnam[edit]

As soon as the war ended, Charner left for Vietnam in January 1861 with his naval squadron and a force of 3,000 troops to support French troops encircled in Saigon.[3] On February 11, 1861,[4] he relieved the Siege of Saigon, thereby continuing the endeavour of Admiral Rigault de Genouilly, and permitting the establishment of the first French territories in Vietnam.[5] The French Navy Minister Chasseloup-Laubat wrote to Charner: "We wish to draw commerce to Saigon (...) What we want is a sort of suzerainty or sovereignty with free trade accessible to all".[6]

After three weeks of combat, ending with the Battle of Kỳ Hòa, Charner managed to relieve the Saigon garrison.[7][8] These efforts allowed the French to capture three provinces of Cochinchina.[2]

Charner was replaced by Admiral Bonard in November 1861, who managed to obtain the recognition of the French conquests by Emperor Tự Đức in 1862,[2] with the June 1862 Treaty of Saigon.

Several French Navy ships have been named after him, such as the French cruiser Amiral Charner or the Bougainville-class colonial sloop ("aviso colonial") Amiral Charner (1933) which fought at the Battle of Koh Chang in the 1941 Franco-Thai War.

Later career[edit]

Charner was made Senator in 1862 and an Admiral of France on 15 November 1864. He is buried in his hometown of Saint-Brieuc.


  1. ^ The Last Emperors of Vietnam by Oscar Chapuis p.5
  2. ^ a b c Superpowers Defeated by Douglas A. Borer p.23
  3. ^ A history of South-east Asia - Page 560 by Daniel George Edward Hall: "The China war ended in January 1861, and at once Admiral Charner, with a strong naval squadron and 3000 troops, left for Saigon"
  4. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 224. 
  5. ^ Vietnam; a Political History - Page 86 by Joseph Buttinger
  6. ^ Imperialism in Southeast Asia by Nicholas Tarling p.220
  7. ^ The Making of Modern South-East Asia: economic and social change - Page 448 by D. J. M. Tate "Charner relieved the Saigon garrison after a three-week struggle which culminated in the battle of Chi Hoa."
  8. ^ Randier, p.380