1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kellermann, François Christophe de
KELLERMANN, FRANÇOIS CHRISTOPHE DE (1735–1820), duke of Valmy and marshal of France, came of a Saxon family, long settled in Strassburg and ennobled, and was born there on the 28th of May 1735. He entered the French army as a volunteer, and served in the Seven Years’ War and in Louis XV.’s Polish expedition of 1771, on returning from which he was made a lieutenant-colonel. He became brigadier in 1784, and in the following year maréchal-de-camp. In 1789 Kellermann enthusiastically embraced the cause of the Revolution, and in 1791 became general of the army in Alsace. In April 1792 he was made a lieutenant-general, and in August of the same year there came to him the opportunity of his lifetime. He rose to the occasion, and his victory of Valmy (see French Revolutionary Wars) over the Prussians, in Goethe’s words, “opened a new era in the history of the world.” Transferred to the army on the Moselle, Kellermann was accused by General Custine of neglecting to support his operations on the Rhine; but he was acquitted at the bar of the Convention in Paris, and placed at the head of the army of the Alps and of Italy, in which position he showed himself a careful commander and excellent administrator. Shortly afterwards he received instructions to reduce Lyons, then in revolt against the Convention, but shortly after the surrender he was imprisoned in Paris for thirteen months. Once more honourably acquitted, he was reinstated in his command, and did good service in maintaining the south-eastern border against the Austrians until his army was merged into that of General Bonaparte in Italy. He was then sixty-two years of age, still physically equal to his work, but the young generals who had come to the front in these two years represented the new spirit and the new art of war, and Kellermann’s active career came to an end. But the hero of Valmy was never forgotten. When Napoleon came to power Kellermann was named successively senator (1800), honorary marshal of France (1803), and duke of Valmy (1808). He was frequently employed in the administration of the army, the control of the line of communications, and the command of reserve troops, and his long and wide experience made him one of Napoleon’s most valuable assistants. In 1814 he voted for the deposition of the emperor and became a peer under the royal government. After the “Hundred Days” he sat in the Chamber of Peers and voted with the Liberals. He died at Paris on the 23rd of September 1820.
See J. G. P. de Salve, Fragments historiques sur M. le maréchal de Kellermann (Paris, 1807), and De Botidoux, Esquisse de la carrière militaire de F. C. Kellermann, duc de Valmy (Paris, 1817).
His son, François Étienne de Kellermann, duke of Valmy (1770–1835), French cavalry general, was born at Metz and served for a short time in his father’s regiment of Hussars previous to entering the diplomatic service in 1791. In 1793 he again joined the army, serving chiefly under his father’s command in the Alps, and rising in 1796 to the rank of chef de brigade. In the latter part of Bonaparte’s celebrated Italian campaign of 1796–97 the younger Kellermann attracted the future emperor’s notice by his brilliant conduct at the forcing of the Tagliamento. He was made general of brigade at once, and continued in Italy after the peace of Campo Formio, being employed successively in the armies of Rome and Naples under Macdonald and Championnet. In the campaign of 1800 he commanded a cavalry brigade under the First Consul, and at Marengo (q.v.) he initiated and carried out one of the most famous cavalry charges of history, which, with Desaix’s infantry attack, regained the lost battle and decided the issue of the war. He was promoted general of division at once, but as early as the evening of the battle he resented what he thought to be an attempt to belittle his exploit. A heated controversy followed as to the influence of Kellermann’s charge on the course of the battle, and in this controversy he displayed neither tact nor forbearance. However, his merits were too great for his career to be ruined either by his conduct in the dispute or by the frequent scandals, and even by the frauds, of his private life. Unlike his father’s, his title to fame did not rest on one fortunate opportunity. Though not the most famous, he was perhaps the ablest of all Napoleon’s cavalry leaders, and distinguished himself at Austerlitz (q.v.), in Portugal under Junot (on this occasion as a skilful diplomatist), at the brilliant cavalry combat of Tormes (Nov. 28, 1809), and on many other occasions in the Peninsular War. His rapacity was more than ever notorious in Spain, yet Napoleon met his unconvincing excuses with the words, “General, whenever your name is brought before me, I think of nothing but Marengo.” He was on sick leave during the Russian expedition of 1812, but in 1813 and 1814 his skill and leading were as conspicuous as ever. He retained his rank under the first Restoration, but joined Napoleon during the Hundred Days, and commanded a cavalry corps in the Waterloo campaign. At Quatre Bras he personally led his squadrons in the famous cavalry charge, and almost lost his life in the mêlée, and at Waterloo he was again wounded. He was disgraced at the second Restoration, and, on succeeding to his father’s title and seat in the Chamber of Peers in 1820, at once took up and maintained till the fall of Charles X. in 1830 an attitude of determined opposition to the Bourbons. He died on the 2nd of June 1835.
His son François Christophe Edmond de Kellermann, duke of Valmy (1802–1868), was a distinguished statesman, political historian, and diplomatist under the July Monarchy.