General Jean-Baptiste Cervoni
Born: August 29, 1765
Place of Birth: Soveria, Corsica, France
Died: April 22, 1809
Cause of Death: Killed in action
Place of Death: Eckmühl, Germany
Arc de Triomphe: CERVONI on the east pillar
A lawyer by trade, Jean-Baptiste Cervoni first gained some military experience when he enlisted in the royal regiment of Corsica in 1783. Three years later he left the army to embark on his career as a lawyer, but with the onset of the Revolution he returned to the military. By 1790 he had risen to become chief of one of the divisions of Corsica and commanded the corresponding National Guard. Serving as a sous-lieutenant in the 22nd Cavalry in late 1792, Cervoni was assigned to the the Army of the Alps and in early 1793 he became an aide-de-camp to General Joseph Casabianca. In June of 1793 he was wounded in right leg, and in September he worked as a military agent for the representatives Gasparin and Saliceti. That October Cervoni was promoted to chef de bataillon, and a month later he joined the forces at the Siege of Toulon . While fighting at Toulon, he distinguished himself trying to take an English redoubt, but he was wounded in the thigh and right arm.
After Toulon was taken, Cervoni was appointed a chef de brigade under General Masséna and less than a month later he received another promotion, this time to général de brigade. Now serving with the Army of Italy, in April of 1794 Cervoni took part in the expedition to Oneglia and later that September he fought at Cairo. By November of 1795 he had joined Laharpe's division and he took part in the fighting at Loano . After switching between units for a short period of time, he returned to command a brigade in Laharpe's division again.
In the spring of 1796 General Bonaparte took command of the Army of Italy and began planning his offensive. The Austrian General Bealieu attacked Cervoni and his men at Voltri on the 10th of April and drove them out. A few days later Cervoni took part in the fighting at the Battle of Dego , and afterwards he was named commander of Savona. At the end of April Cervoni was attached to the headquarters of the Army of Italy, and then on May 10th he participated in the famous Battle of Lodi , storming the bridge alongside his fellow officers. Cervoni next traveled to Parma to negotiate, and upon his return he resumed a command in the Army of Italy. That August Cervoni served at the Battle of Castiglione and he was next ordered to organize a legion of Lombardy, which he took command of in October. In November he led his men into action at the Battle of Arcola and then in December he was appointed to commander of Verona. He returned to the front to fight at the Battle of Rivoli in January of 1797.
Seven months later in August of 1797, Cervoni rejoined Masséna's division as commander of the 1st Brigade of Light Infantry, and the next month he was reassigned to command the 7th Brigade of Sérurier's 4th Division. Assigned to the Army of England at the start of the next year, he was promoted to général de division in February and then in March he was assigned to command the advance guard of the Army of Italy. Administrative appointments followed, with Cervoni commanding various military divisions, then in February of 1799 he was appointed commander-in-chief at Brussels. Cervoni rejoined the Army of Italy in July of 1799, and then as hostilities ceased he was appointed to administrative military posts in Corsica, including Bastia.
During the years of peace that followed, Cervoni commanded the 8th military division. In June of 1804 he received the honor of becoming a Commander of the Legion of Honor, but he remained in administration service instead of serving on campaign. In April of 1809 he finally returned to active campaigning, serving as the chief of staff of II Corps under Marshal Lannes. Barely more than a week into the campaign, at the Battle of Eckmühl a cannonball flew straight into his head, killing him instantly.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
- Cervoni's divisional commander Masséna
- Cervoni's divisional commander Laharpe
- Cervoni's corps commander Lannes
Updated January 2017
© Nathan D. Jensen