General François Gédéon Bailly de MonthionTalented staff officer and understudy to Marshal Berthier
Born: January 27, 1776
Place of Birth: Saint-Denis, La Réunion, France
Died: September 7, 1850
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: BAILLY DE MONTON on the west pillar
The son of an officer of the infantry regiment of Condé, François-Gédéon Bailly de Monthion first joined the army in 1793 at the young age of seventeen as a sous-lieutenant in the 74th Infantry. He served in the Army of the Moselle and later the Army of the North. Bailly de Monthion saw action before long, fighting at Saint-Wendel, the forest of Mormal, and the defense of Maubeuge. However, that September he was suspended as a noble and thrown in prison. A little over a month later Bailly de Monthion was released and he became an aide-de-camp to General Turreau in the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. Next he followed that general to the Army of the West, where he served at Noirmoutier and Tiffauges. In May of 1794 Bailly de Monthion accompanied Turreau to the island Belle-Isle-en-Mer. 1795 saw him promoted to lieutenant in January and then to capitaine in October. The next year Bailly de Monthion joined the Army of the Sambre and Meuse and then in 1797 he again became an aide-de-camp to General Turreau. Over the following years he served in the Army of Mainz, the Army of Switzerland, and the Army of the Danube, and he took part in the defense of Kehl. In 1800 Bailly de Monthion was posted to the Army of Italy and he fought at Suse and Sant'Ambrosio. Late that June he was promoted to chef d'escadrons and attached to Berthier's staff, beginning an association that would last for years.
During the years of peace that followed, Bailly de Monthion served as chief of staff for a few different divisions. When war broke out in 1805, he served on the staff of the Grande Armée under Marshal Berthier, and he fought at Memmingen, Ulm, Hollabrunn, and the Battle of Austerlitz. Next Bailly de Monthion was sent on missions to Baden, Hesse, and Wurtemberg and he received the award of being named a Knight of the Order of Merit of Bavaria. He continued to serve on the staff of the Grande Armée throughout 1806, though during this time he served under Pannetier. That December he served at Nasielsk and Golymin , and then the following February he served at Hoff and the Battle of Eylau. At this point his skills were fully recognized and he officially became an aide to Berthier. Bailly de Monthion went on to serve at Heilsberg and Friedland that June and then he served as Governor of Tilsit.
In 1808 Bailly de Monthion was named to the staff in Spain and he was sent on a mission to the King of Spain, Charles IV. That May he was promoted to général de brigade and then in June he fought at Vitoria . In September Bailly de Monthion fought at Bilbao where he was forced to abandon the city after a fight. In 1809 he was named a Baron of the Empire and he became Berthier's chief of staff for the Danube campaign. Over the course of the campaign Bailly de Monthion served at Eckmühl, Aspern-Essling , and Wagram . A month after the Battle of Wagram he was named a Count of the Empire and later he received more awards including the Grand Cross of the Order of Hesse and becoming a Commander of the Military Order of Wurtemberg. In 1810 Bailly de Monthion was given a task of inspecting the divisions destined to serve in Spain and in 1811 he took command of the depots of Basses-Pyrénées.
For the campaign against Russia of 1812, Bailly de Monthion became deputy chief of staff of the Grande Armée, serving under Marshal Berthier as usual. He served at Smolensk and Borodino before taking part in the retreat and serving at Maloyaroslavetz and the Berezina. That December Bailly de Monthion was promoted to général de division and then he replaced Berthier as chief of staff after Napoleon's departure. Bailly de Monthion started 1813 continuing as chief of staff to Prince Eugene and the army in Germany. After Marshal Berthier returned, Bailly de Monthion became deputy chief of staff again, and he served at Lützen, Bautzen, and Wurschen in May. He served throughout the campaigns that year and then during the defense of France of 1814.
In 1815 when Napoleon escaped from Elba for the Hundred Days, Bailly de Monthion rallied to him and since Berthier was unavailable, Bailly de Monthion was named chief of staff of the Army of the North. Since he had served as Berthier's understudy this was probably a wise choice, but Napoleon later appointed Marshal Soult as chief of staff and Bailly de Monthion as his deputy. Given the poor staff work of the campaign that June, this demotion for Bailly de Monthion probably contributed to the many communication errors during the campaign. Nevertheless, Bailly de Monthion served under Soult and fought at the Battle of Waterloo where he was wounded. Afterwards he was put on non-activity by the returning Bourbons.
Updated April 2019
© Nathan D. Jensen