Napoleons command base, step three, Maréchal Soult

16 Aug
Napoleons command base, step three, Maréchal Soult

So now we are starting to reach the  top brass for the Napoleon base or precisely Maréchal Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult, the first Duke of Dalmatia.

Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult

Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult
[painting by Louis Henri de Rudder]

He was born on the 29th of March 1769 at Saint-Arnans-la-Bastide. He enjoyed a good education and wanted to become a lawyer like his father who was a notary, but had to enlist as a private in the French Infantry after his father’s death in 1785.
His superior education ensured his promotion to the rank of Sergeant after six years service, and in July 1791 he became instructor to the first battalion of volunteers of the Bas-Rhin. He served with his battalion in 1792. By 1794 he was adjutant-general with the rank of Chef de Brigade. After the Battle of Fleurus  in 1794, in which he greatly distinguished himself for coolness, he was promoted to General de Brigade. The next five years saw him employed in Germany. In 1799 he was promoted General de Division and ordered to proceed to Switzerland. He distinguished himself in Masséna’s great Swiss campaign, and especially at the Second Battle of Zürich. He accompanied Masséna to Genoa, and acted as his principal lieutenant throughout the protracted siege of that city, during which he operated with a detached force without the walls. After many successful actions he was wounded and taken prisoner at Monte Cretto on 13 April 1800. But the campaign had laid the foundations for his military fame. After the victory of Marengo restored his freedom he received the command of the southern part of the Kingdom of Naples, and in 1802 he was appointed one of the four Generals commanding the Consular Guard. During this time he showed great devotion towards Napoleon and in August 1803 was appointed to the command-in-chief of the camp of Boulogne. In May 1804 he was made one of the first Maréchals of the Empire. He commanded a Corps in the advance on Ulm, and at Austerlitz he led the decisive attack on the allied centre. As Corps Commander he participated in the Battle of Jena in 1806 and attacked Königsberg on the day of the Battle of Friedland. After the conclusion of the Peace of Tilsit, he returned to France and was created 1st Duke of Dalmatia in 1808. He was never entirely happy with this, since he felt entitled to the title of Duke of Austerlitz, which Napoleon had taken for himself. In 1809 Soult was appointed to the command of the II Corps of the army with which Napoleon intended to conquer Spain, and after winning the Battle of Gamonal he was detailed by the Emperor to pursue Sir John Moore’s British army. At the Battle of Corunna, in which the British general was killed, he was defeated and the British escaped by sea.

For the next four years Soult remained in the Peninsular.  In 1809, he invaded Portugal and took Oporto. Isolated he tried his best to consolidate what he had, most likely in hopes of being made King of Portugal. This never happened and only gained him the hatred of Republican officers in his army. He was eventually driven from Portugal in the Second Battle of Porto and had to retreat over the mountains.. After the Battle of Talavera  in 1809 he was made chief-of-staff of the French troops in Spain with extended powers, and on 19 November 1809, won a great victory at the Battle of Ocana. In 1810 he invaded Andalusia, which he speedily reduced. He ignored Cadiz to take Seville, but had to lay siege to the former, which proved a strategic disaster. In 1811 he marched north into Extremadura and took Badajoz. When the Anglo-Portuguese army laid siege to the city he marched to its rescue, and fought and nearly won the famous and very bloody Battle of Albuera on 16 May. After the British victory of Salamanca, he was forced to evacuate Andalusia. In the subsequent Siege of Burgos campaign, Soult was able to drive Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army back to Salamanca. There, Soult failed to attack despite superiority of numbers, and the British army was able to retired to the Portuguese frontier. After constant disagreements with King Joseph Bonaparte he was recalled from Spain. Some sources say at his own request, others at the request of King Joseph.

In March 1813 he assumed the command of IV Corps of the Grande Armée and commanded the centre at Lützen and Bautzen. At Großgörschen he took over command of the Guard Infantry. Inspite all this or maybe even because of it, he was sent to the South of France to repair the damage done by the great defeat of Vitoria, which he did to good effect. His last offensives into Spain were turned back and he was maneuvered out of several positions at Nivelle, Nive, and Orthez, before the Battle of Toulouse, where he withdrew after giving the British greater losses than he got. Upon hearing of Napoleons abdication, he agreed on an armistice with Wellington.

After Napoleons abdication he declared himself a royalist and became Governor of the 13. Division and later Minister of War. He took his leave when Napoleon returned to power and retired to a farm near Saint-Cloud. Only after the emperor had demanded his return did he declare for Napoleon and became his chief of staff during the campaign to follow. He even took over command when Napoleon left the Army at Laon.

At the Second Restoration he was exiled and lived in Düsseldorf, Germany. But in 1819 he was recalled and in 1820 again made a Marshal of France. He once more tried to show himself a fervent Royalist and was made a peer in 1827. After the revolution of 1830 he made out that he was a partisan of Louis Philippe, who welcomed his support and revived for him the title of Marshal-General. He served as minister of war from 1830 to 1834, as Prime Minister from 1832 to 1834, as ambassador extraordinary to London for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, again as Prime Minister from 1839 to 1840 and 1840 to 1847, and again as minister of war from 1840 to 1844. In 1848, when Louis Philippe was overthrown, the aged Marshal-General the Duc de Dalmatie again declared himself a republican. He died at his castle of Soultberg, near his birthplace.

Now his uniform did not give me too many problems, since he was a Maréchal. I left the top of is bicorne without gold fringe since the Perry had not sculpted it and honestly, I never liked that anyway. Although he was already 46 at the time of Waterloo, I went for reddish brown hair, just like you see on most paintings. All Waterloo paintings I could find show him on a dark horse. I was in no mood for a black one and did not want another chestnut since the Mameluke Ali is already riding one. So I went for a dark brown one.

Maréchal Soult

Maréchal Soult

All in all I really enjoyed painting him. I really like the combination of the red shabraque with the dark blue and white uniform and the huge amounts of NMM gold. The weather meant that it was a bit slow going though. We had temperatures well into the 30´s°C with a humidity of less than 20%. So the paint would go dry almost instantly and the brush had to be cleaned after almost every stroke… no pleasure with all the fine detail that needed to be done. Oddly enough, when done I realised that the smallest brush I had used on this mini had been a size “0”.

Up next is Napoleon Bonaparte himself. Not sure when he will be done though. Most of the next few days is  booked out with non-painting stuff, so do not expect him before monday, unless I get to finish him today.


8 responses to “Napoleons command base, step three, Maréchal Soult

  1. The Angry Lurker

    August 16, 2012 at 09:20

    Again great painting but also a great read!


    • Burkhard

      August 16, 2012 at 09:31

      Thank you, Fran!

      I felt one could not do without the background info on him. He is not one of the names that instantly comes to mind, but if you look at it he had quiet an illustrious carrer!


  2. Rodger

    August 16, 2012 at 12:47

    Excellent post and a wonderful looking figure. Fantastic work.


  3. Rosbif

    August 16, 2012 at 14:00

    Soult’s one of my favourite marshals; I’ve got his portrait on a t-shirt. A great biography is Soult: Napoleon’s Maligned Marshal by Peter Hayman.

    You’ve done another great job in trying circumstances; it almost sounds like you’re having an Australian summer!


    • Burkhard

      August 17, 2012 at 00:22

      I think it is funny… when one would be asked to name great French Napoleonic Maréchals, his name would not be the first to cross the mind, but if you look at his bio, he was quiet a character. And I have read some scolars that are actually wondering if things might not have gone a lot better if he had not been chief of staff, but held Neys command during the 100 days.
      And I often thin this might not have been entirely wrong. I can not see him countermarching d´Erlon or initiating such a large cavalry attack without proper support.

      I will definately look into the Hayman book!

      And I think I deserved the hot weather on Wednesday for pulling your leg over the Australian weather earlier! 😉


  4. Rob

    August 17, 2012 at 02:59

    You’ve been mentioning the NMM combinations lately. What paint combinations do you use for cloth of gold and silver?



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