General Jean François BerruyerCommander who ordered the drums beat to drown out Louis XVI's voice at Louis' execution and who later served in the Vendée
Born: January 6, 1738
Place of Birth: Lyon, Rhône, France
Legion of Honor: Knight
Died: April 17, 1804
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: BERRUYER on the west pillar
The son of a merchant, Jean François Berruyer enlisted in the regiment of Talaru in 1751. He was promoted to sergeant in 1756 and he took part in the Seven Years War. That year Berruyer served at the siege of Port-Mahon and then the following year he began serving in Germany. In 1758 he fought at the Battle of Soest where he received seven wounds. In September of 1759 Berruyer was dismissed from the army and then less than two years later in February of 1761 he joined the volunteers of Soubise as a dragoon. During the fighting of 1761, he received five wounds, and then during the retreat of Ziegenham he was wounded by three sabre blows. In 1762 Berruyer was commissioned as a lieutenant but then in 1763 he was discharged from the army. Only a few months later he rejoined the army and then in 1767 he was promoted to capitaine. From 1768 to 1769 Berruyer served in Corsica and then ten years later in 1779 he was named a Knight of Saint Louis. In 1783 he was appointed a major and then in 1787 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
After the advent of the French Revolution, Berruyer was named colonel of the 8th Chasseurs à Cheval in November of 1791. In February of 1792 he joined the 1st Carabiniers and in May he was promoted to maréchal de camp. Berruyer next joined the Army of the Center and in September he was promoted to lieutenant general and named commander of the 17th military division and the camps of Paris and Meaux. The next month he was named commander of the Army of the Interior in Paris. Berruyer commanded the troops of the National Guard in Paris at the execution of King Louis XVI. As Louis XVI was being led to his execution, he began to speak to the people, but Berruyer ordered the troops to beat the drum roll to drown out Louis' voice.1 Two months later Berruyer was sent to the Vendée to combat the insurrection as commander-in-chief of the Army of the Coasts of La Rochelle. He won at Chemillé in April but was then called back to the National Convention to account for the defeat of General Leigonyer. Berruyer resumed his command at the end of May and then in June he was suspended from his command. Nevertheless, he fought at Saumur where he was dangerously wounded. Berruyer next returned to Paris where he was arrested and eventually released in February of 1794.
In January of 1795 Berruyer was retired from the military, but he returned to activity that September and he was employed with the Army of the Interior. In October as a royalist mob threatened to overthrow the National Convention, Berruyer took command of the Battalion of Patriots of 93 and helped defend the Convention while General Bonaparte dispersed the mob with grapeshot. Berruyer was next employed at Versailles as inspector of the cavalry and cavalry depots. In April of 1796 he became inspector general of cavalry for the Army of the Alps and the Army of Italy. Berruyer served as commander of Les Invalides in 1797, and then in 1798 he served in Switzerland and in 1799 he served in Italy. In 1801 he was appointed governor of Les Invalides and in 1803 he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
- Ron Harper, Fighting the French Revolution: The Great Vendée Rising of 1793, (Philadelphia: Pen & Sword Military, 2019), 1.
- Divry, Arnauld. Les noms gravés sur l'Arc de Triomphe. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2017.
- Harper, Ron. Fighting the French Revolution: The Great Vendée Rising of 1793. Philadelphia: Pen & Sword Military, 2019.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated September 2019
© Nathan D. Jensen