Research Subjects: Biographies

Address given by M. Dondeau at the Funeral of General Mocquery, who died at Ervy (Aube) on 5 January 1853.

Information provided by: Ian H. Hill


General Alexandre Mocquery

It is to no ordinary man that we pay our last respects, but to one of the most distinguished men of our city, a military celebrity, the loss of whom must be deeply felt throughout the entire nation.

Allow me to tell you the story of his illustrious life – there can be no finer eulogy of him, it is the valuable lesson, and those who come after him could find no subject more worthy of emulation.

General Mocquery, as you know was our compatriot; he was born in Eaux-Puiseau county, to parents of little standing but respectable, when the turmoil of the revolution was just beginning.  Two of his brothers had already gone into military service ahead of him, at this critical time when the danger threatening the motherland rallied all patriots to her defence. In a few years his eldest brother had won for himself a high position in the Army by his brilliant courage and tactical skill. It was then that he thought of his young brother still living at home and he had the happy idea of giving him the benefit of an education, the very advantage which he had missed out on himself and had not been able to overcome on the battlefields. Thus thanks to his brother; Alexandre entered the Fontainbleau Military School in 1806. The following year he passed out as a sub-Lieutenant in the First Regiment of the Rank.

From then on his future was assured – you will see how he strode ahead in his career with his fine intelligence the seeds of education soon bore fruit.

That same year, 1807, he was promoted to Lieutenant, in 1808 he became a Captain and, gentlemen, it was by a brilliant action that he achieved this advancement. – The young Lieutenant, leading 45 brave men, carried out a difficult retreat in the most skilful manner, pursued and harried for more than 4 kilometres by an enemy cavalry corps of more than 400men. Thus, on the battlefield itself he was decorated by the hand of his General-in-Chief, the Duke of Raguse, who nominated him Captain, and his name was proclaimed in the army order of the day.

It was thus that Alexandre Mocquery rose through the ranks, Captain at 22 years old, he was nominated Chief of Battalion at 24; in 1813 during the Hundred Days he was entrusted with a difficult command in the Cotes-du-Nord, a hard task which he accomplished with honour and skill.

The collapse of the Empire interrupted his military career for several years.

It was then that he returned to live amongst us, and set about getting to know, appreciate and love his dear wife, who is so unhappy today. After a few years devoted to the joys of family life he decided to return to active service. A man of his integrity could not in fact remain idle and useless.  – also in 1823 he was re-appointed Chief of Battalion in one of our Regiments of the Ranks. He held this post until 1830, when he was rewarded for his services with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Finally in 1832 he was promoted to Colonel of the 58th. It was in this post that he had the good fortune to take part in the siege of Anvers.

I say ‘good fortune’ because it was there that, by his brilliant conduct, he merited the high esteem of the Duke of Orleans, that unhappy prince whose loss was so sadly felt by France. Certainly it is more than likely that if it had not been for that catastrophe, General Mocquery would have reached the highest state office much earlier. Fate had decided otherwise, deprived of his patron, the General however could succeed by his own merit, which never let him down. Soon he was called to serve his country in the African War. The General began there in the most cruel circumstances, a fatal posting that of  Fondouk was entrusted to him. There, there were no brilliant feats of arms to accomplish, no glory to be won, but instead an invisible death, slow and implacable, spread mercilessly throughout his fine regiment.

All around him his brave soldiers were decimated by fever, more than 1200 of them died still holding their guns. Oh, he certainly suffered during the nine months that duty impelled him to spend in this cruel position. It was there that, at the end of his strength and resources, he wrote to the Governor of Algeria threatening that if he was not recalled and replaced by a certain date, he would set fire to the powder magazines and bury himself under the ruins of his camp with the 300 sick men who still survived, rather than run the risk of being entrenched. I hasten to tell you, gentlemen, that he was recalled in time and the General did not have to carry out his final sacrifice. He left Fondouk a hero, but it was there perhaps that he contracted the cruel disease which has just caused his death. His promotion to Camp Marshall helped him to forget his ill luck.

What more can I tell you, Gentlemen? General Mocquery served his country well, right up to the end of his military career. Successively given command in the Ain department and then in the Basses-Alpes, he was given the important position of Commander at Toulon in the first year of the Republic. It was while in this position that he had to organise unexpectedly the embarkation of our troops to Italy and thus prepare for the conquest of Rome. Others received glory, honour and promotion for their fine feats of arms; as for our poor friend he only had boredom and all sorts of administrative worries along with an excessive load of work for 30 days and 30 nights. A little while later he received an order to take a temporary command of the military division at Marseilles. It was there that, already suffering from the overwork at Toulon, seriously ill, obliged to accept retirement. The end of his military career.

What can I add to this account, gentlemen? During this time he lived amongst us, you have been able to see him an example of all the personal virtues. As a father, a husband, as a citizen, he was all that, he was a soldier, always dignified and noble. He was one of those naturally superior people who cannot deviate from the path of honour.

Not long afterwards on the occasion of the proclamation of the Empire, you saw him happy and proud to be dressed again in his gorgeous uniform that by a recent decree he had been authorised to wear. This unexpected favour seemed to put new life into him; his health appeared to improve; we all congratulated him on the happy future that lay before him. Alas! We had not allowed for the fickleness of fate. In only a few hours our raised hopes were dashed to the ground. All we can do now is humbly accept the fatal seizure which has just stopped his noble heart. May all our regrets accompany him into his grave and may he be an example to our young fellow citizens.

Farewell, General, all your friends, and I would like to say, all those who have known you will never forget you.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2004.


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