previous next

Jomini and his career.

Major-General Halleck has recently published the first English translation of General Jomini's Life of Napoleon, the most thoroughly military record of the career of the Emperor ever written. General Anthony Henry Jomini was born in the small village of Pavano, Switzerland, on the 6th of March, 1779, and died during the last year at the advanced age of eighty-four years. His family was of Italian origin, but had for several centuries resided in the Canton of Vand. He received such an education as the schools of Switzerland could afford, and, having an ambition for a military career, he entered at an early age the school of the Prince of Wertemburg at Montheliard. He afterwards went to Paris, where he was for a time engaged in commercial pursuits, still devoted to military pursuits, at one time on the staff of Kellen, and afterwards in the office of the Secretary of War. In 1805 he received an appointment on the staff of Marshal Ney, with whom he passed through the campaigns of Cim, Jena, Eylau, and Spain, and was promoted to the rank of chief of staff for services in the field.

In these campaigns he acquired a brilliant reputation as a staff officer and a strategist, but his success made him enemies, among whom was Berthier, the major-general and chief of staff of the Immoral army. After the capitulation of Dupont Baylen, in 1808, Napoleon determined to direct person the military operations in Spain, and Jomin was assigned to duty on the staff of Berthier; but rather than serve under one who had always been his enemy, be tendered his resignation, intending then to enter the service of the Emperor of Russia. But Napoleon refused to allow him to leave the service, and placed him on special duty in Paris, to enable him to write the history of the campaigns in Italy. When the war of 1812, between France and Russia, broke out, Jomini, not wishing to fight against the Emperor Alexander, who had offered him a high position in the Russian army, asked the pacific position of governor of a province, and was assigned to the governorship of Wilma. He was afterwards sent to replace General Barbanegre in the government of Smolensk, and rendered most valuable assistance to Napoleon in the retreat from Moscow, especially in the passage of the Baresina, at which place he was ordered to select, in conjunction with General Eble, the points for placing the bridges.

He suffered terribly in his retreat, and several times nearly perished. Jomini and General Negro, of the artillery, were the only officers who received the honor of being called to Paris to assist the Emperor in the organization of a new army. He obeyed, but after his arrival in Paris was for three months unable to leave his bed.

He rejoined the army on the day of the battle of Lutzen, and was appointed by Napoleon chief of Ney's staff. He soon distinguished himself, and was recommended by Ney for promotion to the grade of general of division, but Berthier interfered, and instead of rewarding his services, charged him with incapacity, and ordered him under arrest. This was more than Jomini could bear; he left the French army, repaired to the headquarters of the Emperor of Russia, and was received into his service. His conduct, after joining the Allies, was every way honorable, and he refused to answer questions put by the King of Prussia concerning the number and position of the French troops. Napoleon, in his memoirs dedicated at St. Helena, has cleared Jomini from the accusation that he conveyed to the Allies the plans of the Emperor, and has given the only excuse there is for his desertion of the French--that he had great injustice to complain of and at he was not a Frenchman he had no love of country to restrain him.

During the campaign of 1813, Jomini rendered valuable services to the Allies, and when their armies reached the Rhine, advised against the invasion of France. When the Allied Powers entered France, Jomini, on his urgent solicitations, was permitted to return to Switzerland, and, through the influence of Russia, aided in saving it from the intended conquest and subjugation by Austria.

When the Allies again entered Paris, in 1815 Jomini accompanied the Emperor Alexander, and so warmly — though ineffectually — opposed the execution of Marshal Ney that it was proposed to strike his name from the list of Russian generals. After the peace he accompanied the Emperor to Russia, and was promoted to the rank of general-in-chief — a rank next to that of marshal, which no one can hold who has not gained a battle. He successively received the grand cross of St. Anna, St. Waldimir and St. Alexander; assisted the Emperor at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1818, and at the Congress of Verona, in 1828; was made president of a committee for organizing the military academy; and was afterwards charged with preparing plans for fortifying and defending the frontiers of the empire.

On the accession of Nicholas to the throne, he was appointed aide-de-camp general, and charged with directing the military education of the Imperial heir.

General Jomini's first published work is his "Treatise on Grand Military Operations, " which appeared in 1804, and is considered the most important of his works. In 1811 he began the publication of his "Critical and Military History of the Revolution," which was not completed until 1824.--It is a strictly scientific work, in fifteen volumes, with four atlases. In 1827 he published anonymously the "Life of Napoleon, " which General Halleck has translated. The work is written as though it was Napoleon himself speaking, and the author represents him as arrived in the Elysian Fields, and relating to the assembled heroes — Alexander, Casser, Frederick, and the lesser lights,--the story of his wonderful career. It is said that Jomini originally intended to make it a more complete history of the wars of the Empire as a continuation of the history of the revolution.

General Halleck tells a curious story, which shows Jomini's remarkable knowledge of military strategy, or what the French call strategic intuition.

Having been summoned to the Imperial headquarters at Mayence, at the beginning of the campaign of Jens, Napoleon said to him, "I am delighted that the first book which demonstrates the true principles of war has appeared in my reign.--No work like years is taught in our military schools. We are going to fight Prussians. I have called you near me because you have written on the campaigns of Frederick the Great because he knew his army, and have studied the theatre of the war. "A Journal asked for four days to get his horses and equipage from the headquarters of Marshal Ney, and ended that he would join his Majesty at Ramberg. "Why at Ramberg!" said the Emperor. "Who told you that I am going to Ramberg?" "The may of many sire," "There are a hundred roads on that map," said Napoleon. "Yes, sire; but it is probable that your Majesty will make against the left of the Prussians the same measure which made at Donaworth against the right of and by Saint Bernard

"Very well," said Napoleon. " Go to , but don't say a word about it; no one should know that I am going to Ramberg."

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Anthony Henry Jomini (13)
Napoleon (11)
Ney (5)
Halleck (3)
Berthier (3)
Paris (1)
Nicholas (1)
Negro (1)
Eble (1)
Dupont (1)
Barbanegre (1)
Alexander (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1828 AD (1)
1827 AD (1)
1824 AD (1)
1818 AD (1)
1815 AD (1)
1813 AD (1)
1812 AD (1)
1811 AD (1)
1808 AD (1)
1805 AD (1)
1804 AD (1)
March 6th, 1779 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: