General Jean Pierre Joseph Bruyère
Born: June 22, 1772
Place of Birth: Sommières, Gard, France
Died: June 5, 1813
Cause of Death: Mortally wounded
Place of Death: Reichenbach, Germany
Arc de Triomphe: BRUYERE on the east pillar
Originally intending to follow his father's career path as a surgeon, Jean Pierre Joseph Bruguière, called Bruyère, initially began studying his father's trade in 1786 at the hospital in Bastia. However, in 1793 he enlisted in the army and by 1794 he was serving as a chasseur in the 15th Demi-Brigade. For the next six years Bruyère would serve with the Army of Italy, where for a time his father served as chief surgeon. In February of 1795 Bruyère received a promotion to sous-lieutenant, and two months later he received another promotion to lieutenant.
March of 1797 brought Lieutenant Bruyère better opportunities when he became an aide-de-camp to General Berthier. That same month, he distinguished himself at Klagenfurth, and five months later he received a promotion to capitaine. In November of 1798, due to Berthier serving in the campaign to Egypt, Bruyère became an aide-de-camp to General Joubert. A few months later he joined the 6th Hussars, but when Joubert took command of the Army of Italy later that year he returned to Joubert's side as an aide-de-camp. After Joubert's untimely death at the Battle of Novi in August of 1799, Bruyère returned to the 6th Hussars.
In 1800, with Berthier having returned to France with Napoleon, Bruyère again became an aide-de-camp to Berthier. He therefore served with the Army of the Reserve, fighting at Cremona. That June at the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon sent Bruyère to find Desaix with his famous orders to return if at all possible. On his way to find Desaix, Bruyère ran into Savary who had been sent by Desaix to find out what all that thunder in the distance was about. Bruyère and Savary told each other where to find their respective commanders, and Desaix returned in time to save the day for the French at Marengo but at the cost of his own life. Two months later Bruyère received a promotion to chef d'escadrons.
During the years of peace that followed, Bruyère fulfilled various tasks while continuing to serve as an aide-de-camp to Berthier. In 1805 he was promoted to colonel of the 23rd Chasseurs à Cheval and then sent to the Army of Italy. As part of General Espagne's division, Bruyère fought at Vicenza in November where he was wounded by a shot to the right thigh. With Prussia clamoring for war in 1806, Bruyère returned to Berthier's side as an aide again and once the campaign began he distinguished himself at the Battle of Jena. In recognition of his abilities, at the end of the year he was promoted to général de brigade and given command of the 3rd Brigade of Lasalle's division. Serving in Poland, at the Battle of Eylau Bruyère and his men charged and destroyed a column of 6000 Russians, but he was bruised on the right arm by a ball during the charge. Later that month he fought at Braunsberg, and when the campaign resumed later that year he fought at Guttstadt in June.
Awards followed in 1808 for Bruyère when he was made a Baron of the Empire, a Knight of the Iron Crown, and given the Grand Cross of the Order of Hesse-Darmstadt. After serving in various positions with the cavalry of the Army of Germany, he took command of a brigade of light cavalry in Montbrun's division for the Danube campaign of 1809 against Austria. Just a few days before the Battle of Aspern-Essling Bruyère was transferred to Lasalle's division, and he fought with them at Aspern-Essling. The next month he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor, and then in July at the Battle of Wagram he took command of Marulaz's division after Marulaz was wounded. Leading Marulaz's division, Bruyère also received two wounds when he was shot in the right thigh and the left shoulder. Nevertheless, he continued to command, and four days later he and his men fought at Schongraben. Bruyère's efforts did not go unnoticed, and within a week he had received a promotion to général de division. At the end of August, he was granted leave to return to France to recover from his wounds.
For the next few years, General Bruyère commanded a division in the Army of Germany. In 1810 he found time to marry Joséphine-Thérèse, called Virginie, the second daughter of General César Berthier, brother of the marshal. For the Russian campaign of 1812 Bruyère took command of the 1st Division of Light Cavalry of Nansouty's I Cavalry Corps. With this division he fought at Ostrowno, Smolensk , and Borodino. Surviving the retreat from Russia, in February of 1813 Bruyère again commanded a division of the I Cavalry Corps, now under the leadership of General Latour-Maubourg. Leading from the front, in May he fought at Bautzen and Wurschen. The next day Bruyère was present at Reichenbach when a ball carried off both his legs at the thigh. He survived for two weeks before succumbing to his wounds.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated January 2018
© Nathan D. Jensen