General Jean Nicolas Curély

Jean Nicolas Curély
Cavalry commander who fought throughout the French Revolution and distinguished himself in multiple campaigns during the empire

Born: May 26, 1774

Place of Birth: Avillers, Meuse, France

Died: November 19, 1827

Place of Death: Jaulny, France

Arc de Triomphe: CURELI on the north pillar


The son of a laborer, Jean Nicolas Curély enlisted in the 7th Hussars at Pont-à-Mousson in April of 1793. Serving with the Army of the Rhine, he took part in the relief of Landau. In 1795 Curély served at the blockade of Mainz and the Battle of Pfrimm and in 1796 he served at the Battle of Neresheim . In 1797 he fought at Ettenheim, the defense of Kehl, and Diershiem. The next year Curély served at Fraubrunnen and Stanz and then he joined the Army of Switzerland. 1799 was a year of action for Curély as he served at the combats of Coire and Feldkirch in March, on the Albis in June, at the Battle of Zürich in September, and at Diessenhofen in October. In 1800 he served under Lecourbe and that May he served at Engen, Messkirch, Memmingen, and Bregenz. In July Curély fought at Feldkirch and in December he served at the combat of Neubeuern and then the combat of Salzbourg where he was wounded by a ball that broke his sheath and bruised his hip.

For the years of peace that followed Curély served in garrison at Beançon and at Deux-Ponts before moving to the camp of Bruges. In 1805 he served with the Grande Armée and he distinguished himself by charging 500 enemies with only 20 hussars near Afflentz. In January of 1806 Curély was finally commissioned as a sous-lieutenant in 7th Hussars in Lasalle's brigade and in March he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor. He served on the campaign against Prussia that October and during that campaign he entered Leipzig, distinguished himself at Zehdenick, and distinguished himself at Prenzlow. Curély fought at the Battle of Eylau in February of 1807 and the following month he was promoted to lieutenant. That June he was wounded by a shot at Guttstadt and he served at the Battle of Heilsberg.

Curély was promoted to capitaine in November of 1808 and in 1809 he joined the army in Germany. After the Austrians attacked Bavaria and started the war, in April Curély was named an aide-de-camp of General Colbert and he served at the Battle of Eckmühl. Next someone was needed to reach the French-Allied army in Italy to deliver communications and Curély was selected for this important task. He made his way through enemy territory and successfully made it to the Army of Italy in June. Now serving as part of the Army of Italy, he fought at Karako where he was wounded by a saber blow to the left arm and another to the cheek. On June 14th Curély distinguished himself at the Battle of Raab . Once the armies had linked up, he took part in the fighting in the evening before the main day of the Battle of Wagram and he was wounded by a ball to knee. After the successful conclusion of the campaign, Curély was promoted to chef d'escadrons in the 20th Chasseurs à Cheval.

In 1810 Curély served in garrison at Nantes and then in February of 1811 he and his squadron were sent to Catalonia in Spain. That April he distinguished himself at the combat of Puycerda and then in December he distinguished himself at Llinas. In January of 1812 Curély charged the enemy at Altafulla and then in March he and his squadron left to return to France. Curély was ordered to join the army for the Russian campaign, but the army had already set out by the time his squadron was ready. In August he caught up to his regiment in Russia near Polotsk and he was attached to Corbineau's brigade. That October Curély fought at the second Battle of Polotsk . Rejoining the main contingents of the army, he helped capture Borisow and its critical bridge over the Berezina River only for the city to be taken back by the Russians. Afterwards Curély served at the Battle of the Berezina and then in December he served at Smorgoni. Once out of Russia, he led the survivors of the 20th Chasseurs à Cheval back to Culm.

In March of 1813 Curély and his men joined Roussel d'Hurbal's division at Magdeburg and in May they served at the Battle of Bautzen. That August he was promoted to colonel of the 10th Hussars and he joined Beurmann's brigade in III Corps. Curély immediately saw action, fighting the next day at Liegnitz where he was wounded by multiple blows from lances and sabers. On August 25th he fell from his horse but his men rescued him. The following day Curély covered the retreat at Katzbach. In October he continued to fight, serving at Dessau, Wachau, and Leipzig .

For the defense of France of 1814, Curély joined Picquet's brigade. He won at Manheulles in January and then served at La Rothière in February. Next Curély fought at the bridge of Guillotière before Troyes and then at Montmirail . The following day he distinguished himself with a decisive charge at Château-Thierry and he was promoted to général de brigade on the battlefield. In March Curély served at the combat of Lizy-sur-Ourcq before he was attached to the headquarters. He next assisted at the Battle of Craonne and then he took command of the 11th Cavalry Brigade in Roussel d'Hurbal's division to lead them into action at Laon. Curély went on to command at Compiègne and take command of the 2nd Brigade of Berckheim's division. On March 20th he led some of the cavalry of the Imperial Guard in a charge at Méry-sur-Seine. The next day he rejoined the headquarters and then on March 26th he assisted at the combat of Saint-Dizier. Shortly before Napoleon's abdication Curély took command of a brigade of dragoons of Roussel d'Hurbal's division.

After the Bourbon Restoration, Curély was put on non-activity and he retired to his home at Jaulny. When Napoleon resumed power in 1815 for the Hundred Days, Curély returned to service. However, he only joined the army on the 17th of June and then the next day he assisted at the Battle of Waterloo. During the retreat that followed, Curély was given command of a brigade of cuirassiers in Roussel d'Hurbal's division. On June 27th he cut his way through the Prussians at Senlis, opening a gap in the middle of their forces and allowing some of the French army to continue its retreat to Paris. When the army was later ordered south of the Loire, Curély followed the orders and he was later put on non-activity. He retired to his home and dedicated the remainder of his life to his family.


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Updated October 2019

© Nathan D. Jensen