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Jean Baptiste Camille Canclaux

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Jean Baptiste Camille Canclaux

Jean Baptiste Camille de Canclaux
Born 2 August 1740
Died 27 December 1817(1817-12-27) (aged 77)
Allegiance  Kingdom of France
 Kingdom of the French
 French First Republic
 First French Empire
Kingdom of France
Years of service 1756–1795
Rank Général de division
Commands held Armée des côtes de Brest
Armée de l'Ouest
Battles/wars Seven Years' War
French Revolutionary Wars
Vendée (Nantes, Tiffauges, Quiberon)
Awards Knight of Saint-Louis
Other work Ministre plénipotentiaire to the court of Naples (1796-1797)
Senator (1800-1814)
Comte d'Empire (1808-1815)
Peer of France (1815)

Jean Baptiste Camille de Canclaux (2 August 1740, in Paris - 27 December 1817, in Paris) was a French general during the French Revolution, a commander in chief, and a pair de France.


Military career

Ancien Régime

He entered the École de cavalerie de Besançon, then served as a volunteer in the régiment de Fumel-cavalerie (1756), and was promoted to cornette (1757). In the course of the Seven Years' War, he was involved in the Hanover campaign, rising to captain in 1760 and was demobbed at the peace.

Immediately re-entering the régiment de Conti-dragons, he taught the theory of major cavalry manoeuvres at the École de Besançon and published a book on tactics : Instruction à l'usage du régiment de dragons Conti. He rose to major (1768), mestre de camp (1773) with the rank of colonel, brigadier (1 January 1784) and was promoted to maréchal de camp on 10 March 1788, all the while remaining the commander of his regiment. He was made a knight of Saint Louis in 1773.

French Revolution

In 1790, he was one of the generals charged with verifying the regimental accounts and gathering their grievances. He was sent into Brittany in 1791 and 1792 to appease insurrection movements that had just broken out there, and to repress those that had not yet broken out. He brought himself to note by moderation and conciliatory spirit, winning a brilliant success near Quimper on 8 July.

On 7 September 1792 he was made lieutenant général and commander of the 13e division militaire, and was put in charge of embarking at Brest the troops intended for Saint-Domingue.

Made lieutenant-général at the end of 1793, the National Convention put him in command of the armée de l'Ouest. With scarcely 12,000 men, he successfully defended Nantes on 29 June, after several fierce and deadly clashes repulsing an attack by a Vendéen army of 50,000 Vendéens under Jacques Cathelineau. Victorious again at the battle of Montaigu (against Charette, who he would defeat again at Mortagne-sur-Sèvre), he was defeated at the battle of Tiffauges and suspended from his command. Despite a subsequent success at Saint-Symphorien, he was then demobbed on 29 September. He then retired to one of his estates, at the Château du Saussay (Essonne), but was recalled after the revolution of 9 thermidor year II (1794) and again made supreme commander of the armée de l'Ouest. He seconded Lazare Hoche to this armée around the time of the counter-revolutionary invasion of France in 1795, sending him for some of the reinforcements he needed. Hoche replaced him in command later in 1795, and Canclaux retired from the army.

Administrative career

Sent to the Army of Italy), at the end of that year he was made ministre plénipotentiaire to the court of Naples, a role he held until 1797.

In 1799, he was recalled to state service as a member of the military committee established after the Directory. After the coup of 18 brumaire, he adhered to Napoleon's party, and as during the Consulate Napoleon put him in command of the 14e division militaire, at Caen, where he and general Hédouville were charged with pacifying Normandy.

In 1800, he became inspector-general of the cavalry of the 2e armée de réserve, and on 22 October 1804 (30 vendémiaire year XIII), he was appointed to the Sénat conservateur.

En 1806 and 1807, he was commander of the gardes nationaux of Seine-Inférieure and the Somme. In 1808 he was made a comte d'Empire.

In December 1813, he was extraordinary-commissioner in Ille-et-Vilaine.

In 1814, he voted in the Senate in favour of deposing Napoleon.

Restoration and the Hundred Days

Made a pair de France on the Restoration, Napoleon kept him as such during the Hundred Days but Canclaux refused to support him, though this did not prevent him being struck from the list of peers by the royal ordinance of 24 July 1815.

On 10 August 1815, he again became a pair de France and voted in favour of the death of Ney.

His name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe (west side)


  • "Jean Baptiste Camille Canclaux", in Charles Mullié, Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 à 1850, 1852
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