General Pierre François Xavier BoyerVersatile officer who frequently served as a chief of staff to notable commanders
Born: September 7, 1772
Place of Birth: Belfort, Territoire de Belfort, France
Died: July 11, 1851
Place of Death: Lardy, France
Arc de Triomphe: BOYER on the north pillar
Joining the army after the onset of the Revolution, Pierre François Xavier Boyer volunteered to join the 4th Battalion of Côte-d'Or in January of 1792. Serving with this unit for the next year, he was commissioned as a sous-lieutenant in May of 1793. Four months after that, Boyer was promoted to capitaine in the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Mont Terrible and he also became an aide-de-camp to General Scherer. In August of 1794 Boyer had a temporary scare when he was briefly imprisoned, but he was released shortly thereafter and then promoted to chef de bataillon in September. The next year he was sent to the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and after peace was achieved with Spain he went on to the Army of Italy.
In March of 1796, as a young General Bonaparte took command of the Army of Italy, Boyer was named chief of staff of Laharpe's division. Boyer took part in the campaign of 1796 throughout Italy, serving at Dego in April and then joining the general staff of the Army of Italy in June. That December he joined Augereau's division and temporarily took command of a demi-brigade. After the victory at Rivoli , Boyer was promoted to chef de brigade and appointed chief of staff to Augereau's division. That March he fulfilled the same role under General Guieu and then in October he was appointed chief of staff to General Kilmaine.
In 1798 Boyer was initially designated for the Army of England but then he was attached to Kléber's division in the Army of the Orient. Setting sail with the army, he took part in the action on Malta in June. Next Boyer was selected to serve in the general staff of the Army of the Orient. That July he served during the fighting at Chebreiss and then in December he was sent to Fayoum. Boyer took part in the expedition to Syria and returned with the army when that expedition failed. After Napoleon left the army to return to France, Boyer continued to serve in Egypt and he was sent in pursuit of Murad Bey. His next notable action came in March of 1801 when he fought at the Battle of Canope where he was wounded in the left foot. About a week after that battle Boyer received a promotion to général de brigade, however he became associated with a group of officers disgruntled by General Menou's leadership or lack thereof. Boyer was with Generals Reynier and Damas when Menou ordered their arrest by General Destaing, and Boyer was also taken into custody. He was sent back to France on the ship Lodi with Reynier, and once back in France he was temporarily put on non-activity. However, Boyer escaped the dispute relatively unscathed, for Reynier would go on to kill Destaing in a duel while Damas was disgraced for a number of years.
In October of 1801 General Boyer was sent to Brest to prepare to be sent to Saint-Domingue. He set sail with the army and upon their arrival at Saint-Domingue in 1802 he was given command of Cap-Haïtien. That September Boyer joined Boudet's division, and then when General Dugua died of yellow fever in October Boyer was appointed his replacement as chief of staff of the Army of Saint-Domingue. In April of 1803, the commander-in-chief General Rochambeau ordered Boyer to return to France on a special mission to meet with First Consul Bonaparte. Boyer set sail on the frigate Franchise but his ship was captured enroute by the British in May. Boyer was taken along to England as a prisoner of war and he was later returned to France on parole before he was officially exchanged for Lord Elgin in 1806.1 In July of 1806 General Boyer was put at the disposition of the Minister of War. His next notable appointment came in 1809 when he was named chief of staff to Marshal Kellermann. Boyer helped to capture a corps of partisans who were threatening the city of Marburg that summer.
Next Boyer was appointed chief of staff to VIII Corps and then he was sent to the Army of Spain to serve as chief of staff. In April of 1810 Boyer was appointed chief of staff to the Army of Portugal, and then in June of 1811 he took command of the 1st Brigade of Foy's division. Boyer next took command of a unit of dragoons, and in February of 1812 he officially took over the dragoon division formerly commanded by Montbrun who had returned to France to take part in the campaign against Russia. Boyer was named a Baron of the Empire that May and he then served at the Battle of Salamanca in July. In May of 1813 Boyer again became the chief of staff of the Army of Portugal and then in June he served at the Battle of Vitoria . A month later he was appointed deputy chief of staff to the Army of the Pyrenees under the overall command of Marshal Soult. That October Boyer took command of the 9th Infantry Division and he led them into battle on the right wing at the combat on the Bidassoa. In December he led his men into action at the Battle of Saint-Pierre-d'Irube.
For the defense of France of 1814, Boyer was ordered to lead his division to reinforce the Army of Champagne. He left the Army of the Pyrenees in January and then joined Marshal Oudinot's VII Corps in February. After receiving a promotion to général de division that same month, he fought at Méry-sur-Seine in February and then at Lâon and Arcis-sur-Aube in March. After Napoleon's abdication in April, the restored Bourbons rewarded Boyer by making him a Knight of Saint Louis but they also put him on non-activity. When Napoleon resumed power in 1815 for the Hundred Days, Boyer rallied to him and was given command of the département of Mont Blanc. After Napoleon's second abdication, Boyer was temporarily proscribed but his proscription was revoked and he was only put on non-activity.
In 1824 Boyer obtained permission to leave the service of France and serve the pasha of Egypt, Muhammad Ali. After serving in Egypt for a few years, Boyer eventually showed up back in French political circles after the July Revolution of 1830 brought Louis-Philippe to power. After that change in government, he resumed his career in the French army.
- The Annual Register For the Year 1807, (London, Harding and Wright and W. Wilson, 1809), 530.
Updated June 2019
© Nathan D. Jensen