General Jean-Gérard BonnaireOfficer in Davout's III Corps who served in Spain and suffered reprisals after the Hundred Days
Born: December 11, 1769
Place of Birth: Prouvais, Aisne, France
Legion of Honor: Officer
Imperial Nobility: Baron
Died: November 16, 1816
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: BONNAIRE on the north pillar
Like many others during the Revolution, Jean-Gérard Bonnaire first joined the army by volunteering in 1792 when he joined the 6th Battalion of Paris. In 1793 he served in the Army of the North and then in the Vendée, and that August he received a promotion to sous-lieutenant. The next year Bonnaire was sent to the Army of the Western Pyrenees where he earned a promotion to lieutenant. In 1796 he was assigned to the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean and the next year he was promoted to capitaine. 1798 saw Bonnaire sent to the Army of Italy where he would serve for the next few years.
In 1802 Bonnaire was appointed an aide-de-camp to General Valentin and two years later he joined the staff of the camp of Bruges under Davout. When war broke out in 1805, he continued to serve in Davout's staff and he fought at Austerlitz where he was wounded by a shot to the left foot. Bonnaire's next notable moment in his career came in March of 1807 when he was promoted to chef de bataillon in the staff of Friant's division. In 1808 he left his staff assignment to serve in the 33rd Ligne. Bonnaire served during the campaign against Austria in 1809, and that June he was promoted to colonel. He joined the 4th Division of III Corps and after the Battle of Wagram he was recognized as an Officer of the Legion of Honor.
In 1810 Bonnaire was sent to Spain to serve in Claparède's division and while there he won a victory at the bridge of Albado. The next year Bonnaire was made a Baron of the Empire and given command of the 103rd Ligne. In 1813 he fought at the pass of Maya in Spain where he was wounded by a shot to the left thigh. At the end of the year, Bonnaire was promoted to général de brigade.
After Napoleon's abdication in 1814, General Bonnaire was put on non-activity but also named a Knight of Saint Louis. When Napoleon escaped from exile to resume power for the Hundred Days, he gave Bonnaire command of the city of Condé-sur-Escaut. After the loss of the Battle of Waterloo, Bonnaire refused to open the gates of the city to royalist representatives, and some of his soldiers fired upon the representatives. For this action, Bonnaire and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Mietton were arrested in October and thrown in prison. His aide-de-camp was condemned to die and shot by firing squad, while Bonnaire was stripped of his rank and awards and sentenced to deportation and exile. Falling into despair, Bonnaire died in prison before his sentence could be carried out.
Updated October 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen