DEATH OF MARSHAL EXCELMANS.
On Wednesday, the 21st of July, Marshal Excehnanns was proceeding on horseback to the house of the Princess Mathilde, who is at present residing at Bretcuil. He was accompanied by his son, M. Maurice Excehnanns, and attended by a servant. When about 300 paces from the bridge of Sevres he, all of a sudden, fell from his horse to the ground. It is not known whether his horse started aside as a carriage passed, or some other sudden and forward movement which he could not sufficiently control, owing to the fact of his hands being long affected with gout, occasioned the accident. His son and the servant dismounted at once, and raised him from the ground. He was senseless. He was carried to a public house hard by, and laid on a bed, and the occupants zealously rendered every assistance in their power, lavishing on the veteran warrior all the attention his condition required. In the mean time surgical aid was sought for in all directions. Five medical men were soon at the bedside of the Marshal ; an attempt was made to bleed him. The blood flowed but slowly, and he still lay without sense or motion. The body was examined, but it presented no wound, no hurt; and even though his features showed at each moment a marked change, nothing was at first discovered to prove the existence of a mortal injury. His head was. then more carefully examined, and it was found that the skull was fractured. He breathed his last at two o'clock next morning. The Times gives the following interesting particulars of the Marshal's life:—
"The deplorable accident which has terminated the life of Marshal Excelmans deprives the French army of almost the last of that illustrious generation of soldiers who won their first laurels under the eyes of the Emperor Napoleon, and held the rank of General in the divisions of the Imperial army. Whatever others may bave had to say or unsay on the events which have restored a member, of the- Bonaparte family to supreme power in France, General^ Excelmans had.a right to act upon his well known and.■■tindeviating fidelity to the Imperial cause. He was the officer whofirst ralliedhis division after the battle of Waterloo, and. it was he who marched upon Paris, and checked the advance of the Prussians by the brilliant skirmish at Versailles, which was the last incident- of the war. During the Restoration no man was more suspected or persecuted than Excelmans. .He was tried on. one occasion by court-martial, on suspicion of keeping up a treasonable correspondence with Murat, who was still King of Naples at that time,.this charge being only supported by a letter of civility, which was seized by" the French police in the private papers of Lord Oxford, as he was passing through France. He was subsequently banished from France altogether, without trial and resided for some time in the Grand Duchy of Nassau. Even after he had permission to return to' his native country, and was raised to the.dignity of a Peer of France by Louis Philippe, he did not hold the high rnilitarytapppintments or receive the first military honours to which.he was eminently entitled by the length and brilliancy of his services; It remained for the nephew of the Emperor to confer the staff of a Marshal of France on this venerable but vigorous survivor of the Imperial armies ; and accordingly the first nomination to this high honour which Louis Napoleon had it in his power to bestow was very properly given to General Excelmans. His commission as a Geneial of Division bore date the Bth of September, 1812; and General Harispe is his only surviving senior officer of that rank in the whole army. " Marshal Excelmans was born on the 13th of November, 1775, at Bar-le-Duc, in that martial province of France which Louis Napoleon had just traversed. He joined the array vervyoung, and distinguished himself in the 3rd battalion of the Meuse under the orders of General Oudinot in 1709. Shortly afterwards he was attached to the person of Murat as his aide-de-camp, and their intimacy continued almost uninterruptedly until the close of Joachim Murat's adventurous and ill-starred career. At the opening of the campaign of Austerlitz he displayed extraordinary bravery at the affair of Wertingen, previous, to the capitulation of UJm. The Austrians were at dinner in a hamlet in advance of Wertingpn when theadvanceof the French wasannounced. They sprang on their horses and rallied their men, whose fire checked the advance of the enemy. At this moment Excelmans, then a
mere captain of Dragoons, galloped up; and his share in the honours of that day is thus recorded by the historian of the Empire:'—"He dismounted, with 200 dragoons who had volunteered, and, dashing forward with their carbines in hand, they cleared the spot of those who occupied it. Fresh detachments of dragoons came up in the mean time ; the Austrians were pressed closer and closer; they were followed into Wertingen by the French, who passed through the town, and found themselves before a rising ground, with nine Austrian battalions formed into one square, not extended, but close and deep, and with artillery and cavalry on the wings. The gallant Excelmans, without a moment's delay, charged the square, and in the shock had his horse killed under him. Colonel Meaupetit was killed by his side. Notwithstanding the vigour of the attack, tiie compact mass remained unbroken. At length Murat made his appearance with his masses of cavalry, and Lannes with the Grenadiers of Oudinot. Murat charged the enemy with his squadrons ; and Lannes led his grenadiers on the border of a wood in the distance to cutoff the retreat of the Austrians. 2000 prisoners 3 several pieces of cannon, and some flags were captured. Lannes and Murat, who had seen Excelmans actually on the point of the enemy's bayonets, commissioned him to convey to Napoleon the news of the first success obtained, and the flags taken from the enemy. The Emperor received at Donauwirth the young and brilliant officer, promoted him in the Legion of Honour, and delivered to him the insignia in the presence of the whole of the staff, in order to give greater distinction to the first recompense merited in this war."
He fought his way to the rank of General of Brigade on the field of Eylau, and shortly afterwards was sent with Murat to Spain, where he was employed in the nefarious plot of Bayonne, and conveyed the royal family of Spain out of their dominions, not without some difficulty in covering their ignominious retreat. Had he not been taken prisoner shortly afterwards, and detained for three years in England, General Excelmans would probably have risen earlier to the highest rank in the army. But he was exchanged in 1811, soon enough to serve in the campaign of Russia, and obtained the rank of Lieutenant-General* as we have said, in September, 1812, on the day after the battle of Moscow. In. this capacity he served with ability in the campaigns of Saxony and Silesia in the following years ; especially, distinguished himself in the campaign of 1814, during which he was placed, at the head of the Cavalry of the Imperial Guard. He also commanded the 2nd division of cavalry at Waterloo, and, as Napoleon attached the greatest importance to the tact and intelligence, as well as bravery, of those officers whom he especially selected for that arm, a higher compliment could not have been paid to the abilities of General Excelmans. After the loss of the battle lie was:almost the only officer in command of the scattered legions of. France who appears to have, retained his judgment and to have, done his duty. He marched towards Paris to support the resistance of the capital, if any was made: but, finding that the war was over, he retired to ClermontFerront and sent in his submission to the Kin?.
His active life may thus he said to have terminated before he was 40 years of age, and another generation of men sprang up to wear the favours of the.court and.the honours of the army. But the election of Louis Napoleon found him still in a vigorous old age. He was appointed Chancellor of the Legion of Honour by the Prince in August, 1849 ; and on the 2nd and 3rd of December last, when the Champs Elysees and the Boulevards were lined with troops to crush with.irresistable force the resistance of Paris and the liberties of France, Marshal Excelmans was actively engaged in securing to the Government the . "support of the army.
He was ..as a. man one of the best of those who followed in the train of Napoleon's fortunes, for he was without inordinate ambition, without ostentation, and without avarice. He was fondly attached to his nearest domestic connections, and it was impossible to see his tall war-beaten form, slightly bent with age, or to watch his resolute countenance, without recognizing the stamp of a soldier .and a gentleman; There is something peculiarly melancholy in the abrupt termination of such a career by the stumble of a horse on a summer's evening ride from Sevres to Breteuil; yet it is still more remarkable how
many of the companions in arms of Napoleon who escaped in early life the perils of innumerable battles, have died at last by mote vulvar accidents. "' &
It is probable that the vacancy thus created in the list of Marshals of France will give additional force to the claims to those to whose military support Louis Napoleon is so deeply indebted. It was, however, already contemplated that the names of the new Marshals would he declared on the 15th of August, and this event will render their promotion more easy and natural, for there are now but four French^ Marshals in existence, of whom Jerome Bonaparte is one, and two more are disqualified for service by old age. The political proscription has swept away the most prominent and worthy candidates for these appointments, and as time aceustonis men to any caprices of fortune, we shall probably see General St. Arnaiul and General Castellane in the highest rank of the French army."
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DEATH OF MARSHAL EXCELMANS., Lyttelton Times, Volume II, Issue 102, 18 December 1852
DEATH OF MARSHAL EXCELMANS. Lyttelton Times, Volume II, Issue 102, 18 December 1852
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