Lazare Hoche

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Louis Lazare Hoche
Lazare Hoche, 1801.jpg
Born24 June 1768
Versailles, France
Died19 September 1797 (age 29)
Wetzlar, Holy Roman Empire
Allegiance Kingdom of France
Flag of France (1790-1794).svg Kingdom of France
Flag of France.svg French Republic
Years of service1784–1797
RankGénéral de division
Commands heldArmée de la Moselle
Armée des côtes de Brest
Armée des côtes de Cherbourg
Armée de Sambre-et-Meuse
Battles/warsFrench Revolutionary Wars
Expédition d'Irlande
War in the Vendée
AwardsNames inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe
Other workMinister of War
SignatureSignatur Lazare Hoche.PNG

Louis Lazare Hoche ([lwi la.zaʁ ɔʃ]; 24 June 1768 – 19 September 1797) was a French soldier who served during the French Revolutionary Wars and rose to become a general of the Revolutionary Army. He won a victory over Royalist forces in Brittany. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3. Richard Holmes says he was "quick-thinking, stern, and ruthless... a general of real talent whose early death was a loss to France."[1] A famous statement by general Hoche: "Facta, non verba" ("acts, no words")[2]

Early life[edit]

Hoche was born on 24 June 1768 in the village of Montreuil, today part of Versailles, to Louis Hoche, a stable servant of the king and former soldier, and Anne Merlière. He was baptized one day later at the Versailles Cathedral.[3] His mother died when he was two years old, and Hoche was mostly raised by an aunt, a fruit-seller in Montreuil, and was educated by the Abbé Merlière, his maternal uncle, parish priest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, who arranged for Hoche to become a choirboy at his church.[4]

In 1782, Hoche began working as aide in the royal stables, but soon left in order to join the army. He entered the Gardes françaises regiment as a fusilier in October 1784, although he originally intended to serve with the colonial troops in the East Indies.[4] He was promoted to grenadier in November 1785 then to corporal in May 1789, just before the outbreak of the French Revolution.[3]

Revolutionary army career[edit]

Hoche in 1792 by David

After the Gardes françaises regiment was disbanded at the beginning of the Revolution, Hoche entered the new National Guard in September 1789. During the October Days protests he was among the Guardsmen, under the command of La Fayette, who escorted King Louis XVI and his family out of the Palace of Versailles.[3] He thereafter he served in various line regiments up to the time of his receiving a commission in 1792. In the defence of Thionville in that year Hoche earned further promotion, and he served with credit in the operations of 1792–1793 on the northern frontier of France, including as aide-de-camp to General Veneur.

When Charles Dumouriez deserted to the Austrians, Hoche, along with le Veneur and others, fell under suspicion of treason. However, after being kept under arrest and unemployed for some months, he took part in the defence of Dunkirk, and in the same year (1793) he was promoted successively chef de brigade, général de brigade, and général de division. In October 1793 he was provisionally appointed to command the Army of the Moselle, and within a few weeks he was in the field at the head of his army in Lorraine. He lost his first battle at Kaiserslautern during 28–30 November 1793 against the Prussians, but even in the midst of the Reign of Terror the Committee of Public Safety retained Hoche in his command. In their eyes, pertinacity and fiery energy outweighed everything else, and Hoche soon showed that he possessed these qualities.

On 22 December 1793 he won the Battle of Froeschwiller, and the representatives of the National Convention with his army at once added the Army of the Rhine to his sphere of command. In the Second Battle of Wissembourg on 26 December 1793, the French drove Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser's Austrian army from Alsace. Hoche pursued his success, sweeping the enemy before him to the middle Rhine in four days. He then put his troops into winter quarters.


Before the following campaign opened, he married Anne Adelaide Dechaux at Thionville (11 March 1794). But ten days later he was suddenly arrested, charges of treason having been proferred by Charles Pichegru, the displaced commander of the Army of the Rhine, and by his friends. Hoche escaped execution, but was imprisoned in Paris until the fall of Maximilien Robespierre.

War in the Vendée[edit]

Shortly after his release he was appointed to command against the Vendéans (21 August 1794). He completed the work of his predecessors in a few months by the Treaty of La Jaunaye (15 February 1795), but soon afterward the war was renewed by the Royalists. Hoche showed himself equal to the crisis and inflicted a crushing blow on the Royalist cause by defeating and capturing de Sombreuil's expedition at Quiberon and Penthièvre (16–21 July 1795). Thereafter, by means of mobile columns (which he kept under good discipline), he succeeded before the summer of 1796 in pacifying the whole of the west, which had for more than three years been the scene of a pitiless civil war.

Ireland and Austria[edit]

In End of the Irish Invasion; — or — the Destruction of the French Armada (1797), James Gillray caricatured the failure of Hoche's Irish expedition.

Following this, Hoche was appointed to organise and command the Ireland Expedition, of troops sent to assist the United Irishmen in a rebellion against British rule. In December 1796 a tempest in Bantry Bay separated Hoche from the expedition, and after various adventures the whole fleet returned to Brest without having effected its purpose.

With the United Irish leader, Theobald Wolf Tone, who was to have landed with him in Ireland, Hoche reflected critically on the violent course of the Revolution. Tone, "heartily glad" to find Hoche of "a humane temperament", wrote in his memoirs:[5]

Hoche mentioned, also, that great mischief had been done to the principles of liberty and additional difficulties thrown in the way of the French Revolution, by the quantity of blood spilled: "for", he added, "if you guillotine a man, you get rid of an individual, it is true, but then you make all his friends and connections enemies for ever of the government".

On his return, Hoche was at once transferred to the Rhine frontier, where he defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Neuwied in April 1797, though operations were soon afterwards brought to an end by the Preliminaries of Leoben.

Later career and death[edit]

Monument General Hoche in Weißenthurm

Later in 1797 Hoche was minister of war for a short period, but in this position he was surrounded by obscure political intrigues, and, finding himself the dupe of Paul Barras and technically guilty of violating the constitution, he quickly laid down his office, returning to his command on the Rhine frontier. It was his denunciation during that time that had led to Kléber's removal from command. The compromising letter was found by Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz in Hoche's papers.[6][7]

Hoche's health grew rapidly worse, and he died at Wetzlar on 19 September 1797 of consumption (tuberculosis). The belief spread that he had been poisoned, but the suspicion seems to have had no foundation. He first was buried next to his friend François Marceau in a fort at Koblenz on the Rhine. In 1919, the French Rhine army buried his mortal remains into the 1797-built Monument General Hoche in Weißenthurm near Neuwied, where he had started his last campaign against the Austrians.


Statue of Hoche commemorating his victory in Quiberon, by Jules Dalou, 1902

He is commemorated by a statue in Place Hoche, a gardened square not far from the main entrance to the Palace of Versailles, and another in the Panthéon. Another statue, the last major work by Jules Dalou, is in Quiberon, Brittany. In Les Invalides where Napoleon's tomb is enshrined, there is also a memorial to Hoche. A station on the Paris Metro is also called 'Hoche'.

Hoche's motto was Res non-verba, which is Latin for "Deeds, not words".

In popular culture[edit]

  • Brown, Leah Marie, Silence in the Mist: A Novel of the French Revolution, Eternal Press, 2011


  1. ^ Richard Holmes, ed. The Oxford companion to military history (2001) p 411.
  2. ^ D.J.A. Westerhuis (1957) Prisma Latijns Citatenboek
  3. ^ a b c Charavay, Étienne (1894). Lazare Hoche: notice sommaire (in French). Impr. Maretheux.
  4. ^ a b Bonnechose, Émile de (1867). Lazare Hoche (in French). Paris: Hachette.
  5. ^ Mansergh, Martin (2003). The Legacy of History. Cork: Mercier Press. p. 127. ISBN 9781856353892.
  6. ^ Librairie R. Roger et F. Chernoviz, Feuilles d'Histoire du XVII au XX Siècle, Tome 6, Paris 1911, p. 332
  7. ^ Lubert d' Héricourt: La Vie du Général Kléber, Paris 1801, p.122


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Jacques Charles René Delaunay
Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Moselle
31 October 1793 – 18 March 1794
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Pierre Vialle
Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg
1 September 1794 – 30 April 1795
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of Brest
10 November 1794 – 10 September 1795
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander-in-chief of the Army of the West
11 September – 17 December 1795
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New organization
Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean
5 January – 22 September 1796
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New organization
Commander-in-chief of the Army of Ireland
1 November – 23 December 1796
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander-in-chief of the Army of Ireland
19 January – 9 February 1797
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander-in-chief of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse
9 February – 18 September 1797
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by French minister of War
15 July 1797 – 22 July 1797
Succeeded by