Andre Massena

Andre Massena

Marshal of France, Duke of Rivoli, Prince of Esling, participant in the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
Date of Birth: 06.05.1756
Country: France

Biography of André Massena

André Massena was a Marshal of France, Duke of Rivoli, Prince of Essling, and a participant in the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. He was born to a well-off shopkeeper and in 1771, he joined a trading ship as a young sailor. In August 1775, he enlisted in the Royal Italian Regiment and was considered one of the best non-commissioned officers in the regiment. In September 1784, he was promoted to the rank of adjutant non-commissioned officer.

In 1789, Massena went on a long leave, got married, and started his own business. According to some reports, he was involved in smuggling during this time. In September 1791, he joined the National Guard and became the senior adjutant of the 2nd battalion of volunteers from the Var department. On August 1, 1792, he was elected as the 1st lieutenant colonel. From August 1793, he commanded a brigade. From 1792 to 1798, he fought in Italy, Loano, Montenotte, Dego, Lodi, Lonato, Caldiero, Arcole, San Michele, Rivoli, and La Favorita. The actions of Massena's troops during the siege of Toulon played a significant role in Napoleon Bonaparte's success in 1793. On August 22, 1793, he was promoted to brigade general, and on December 20, 1793, he became a division general for his actions in Toulon.

From April 29, 1799, Massena was the commander of the Danube-Helvetic Army. In September 1799, he defeated the Russian corps under General Rimsky-Korsakov in Switzerland. Shortly after the coup of the 18th Brumaire on November 23, 1799, he was recalled from Switzerland and appointed as the commander of the Italian (Ligurian) Army, which reached a strength of 40,000 in January 1800. Unfortunately, after detaching troops under Generals Soult and Suchet from his army, Massena suffered a defeat against General Melas' army in April 1800. He was forced to retreat and found himself in a very difficult situation, with only 15,000 soldiers remaining for active operations. The condition and morale of the army were extremely poor due to the serious abuses and theft by the commissaries. Under pressure from the enemy, Massena surrendered Savona and fought his way to Genoa with 18,000 soldiers, where he was surrounded by General Ott's corps at the end of April. The heroic defense of Genoa diverted significant enemy forces and gave Napoleon great freedom of action in Italy. From December 28, 1805, he commanded the Neapolitan Army. On July 1, 1806, after a five-month siege, he achieved the surrender of the fortress of Gaeta in the Kingdom of Naples. He then led the suppression of the uprising in Calabria. In November 1806, he captured the leader of the rebellion, Fra Diavolo, and executed him. In February 1807, he captured the last defiant cities of Reggio and Scylla. From February 24, 1807, he commanded the 5th Corps of the Grand Army. In February-March 1807, his corps operated on the relatively quiet Warsaw front. "I must simply command an observation corps, in the rear of the Grand Army," he said to the Emperor. On February 23, 1809, under Massena's command, an observation corps (from April 11, 1809, the 4th Corps of the German Army) was created in the Rhine Army, consisting of four infantry and one light cavalry divisions. On May 2, 1809, he expelled General Hiller's corps from Ebersberg, losing about 3,000 soldiers. His actions in the Battle of Aspern on May 22, 1809, once again proved that Massena was one of Napoleon's best and bravest commanders. All his adjutants were killed or wounded, and his horse was also killed. Despite enormous losses, Massena held his positions and withdrew only upon receiving the emperor's orders. He brilliantly proved himself at Wagram. On April 17, 1810, against his will, he was sent to the Iberian Peninsula and appointed as the commander of an army (about 60,000 soldiers) intended to occupy Portugal. In addition, he was supposed to be joined by the troops of Drouet d'Erlon (about 20,000 soldiers) and parts of the Young Guard (about 20,000 soldiers). Wellington had about 30,000 English and 40,000 Portuguese troops. After besieging Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, Massena entered Viseu on September 19 and attacked Wellington's positions at Bussaco on September 27 but failed to dislodge him. After Wellington withdrew to the Torres Vedras line, Massena pursued him but did not dare to storm the fortifications. It was clear that an assault on the position had no chance of success. Furthermore, Massena's army suffered greatly from disease and lack of provisions, and his subordinate generals (including Marshal Ney) openly refused to obey his orders. He waited for reinforcements promised to him until November 13, after which he led his completely exhausted army to Santarem. On March 6, 1811, he began his retreat to the Spanish border and left Portuguese territory on April 8. He attacked the enemy at Fuente de Onoro on May 3, but failed to defeat them. On May 10, he was replaced by Marshal Marmont. After returning to France, Massena never commanded large formations again and on April 16, 1813, he was appointed as the commander of the secondary 8th military district. After Napoleon's return to France, Massena issued orders to apprehend the "enemy". However, on June 2, 1815, he was granted the title of Peer of France by Napoleon and on June 22, he was appointed as the commander of the National Guard of Paris. After the Second Restoration, he fell seriously ill and was discharged from service. He died of tuberculosis. "He was exceptionally noble and magnificent amidst the fire and chaos of battle," Napoleon said of him. He was buried at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Materials from the book "Zalessky K.A. Napoleonic Wars 1799-1815. Biographical Encyclopedic Dictionary," Moscow, 2003, were used.