General Bernard-Georges-François FrèreA pharmacist turned general who served on a variety of campaigns
Born: January 8, 1764
Place of Birth: Montréal, Aude, France
Legion of Honor: Commander
Imperial Nobility: Count
Died: February 16, 1826
Place of Death: Montréal, France
Arc de Triomphe: FRERE on the south pillar
Originally a pharmacist in Carcassonne, Bernard-Georges-François Frère volunteered to join the 1st Battalion of Aude in 1791. Elected a capitaine, he and his unit were sent to the Army of the South and later the Army of the Western Pyrenees. In May of 1793, Frère was promoted to chef de battalion and then in January of 1794 he was sent to the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and promoted to chef de brigade by the representatives of the people. However, his promotion was not confirmed by the Ministry of War, and therefore he remained with the rank of chef de bataillon. That May Frére went on to fight at the action of the camp of Boulou under General Pérignon.
After peace was obtained between Spain and France in 1795, in 1796 Frère was assigned to the Army of Italy. Serving on General Bonaparte's famous Italian campaign of 1796, Frère served in the 4th Demi-Brigade of the Line. That September he fought at the redoubts of Serra and at Bassano where he was wounded, but he received a promotion to chef de brigade of the 4th of the Line on the battlefield.
In 1798 Frère was designated for the Army of England and that April he was ordered to recapture the Îles Saint-Marcouf but was unsuccessful. The next year he joined the Army of Holland and then the Army of the Rhine, and then at the beginning of January of 1800 he took command of the infantry of the Consular Guard. In 1802 Frère was promoted to général de brigade in command of the Grenadiers of the Consular Guard and then in 1803 he took command of the 1st Brigade of Montrichard's division in Holland. In 1804 Frère was recognized as a Commander of the Legion of Honor.
When war broke out in 1805, General Frère took command of a brigade of Drouet's division in Marshal Bernadotte's I Corps. He served throughout the campaign that year and fought at the Battle of Austerlitz in December. Frère remained in Bernadotte's division for the campaign of 1806 against Prussia, and therefore he did not see action until November of 1806 at Lubeck. When General Rivaud was injured by a fall from a horse in late January of 1807, Frère took command of his division as interim commander. That March he returned to a brigade command in I Corps, and then in June he served at Spanden.
In 1808 Frère was promoted to général de division and sent to Spain. Initially he served as commander of Aranda, but after General Malher's unfortunate death in an accident, Frère took command of the 3rd Division of Dupont's corps. That June he seized Ségovie and then in July he served under Marshal Moncey before Valencia. In September of 1808 Frère fell ill and he was replaced by General Grandjean, and then two months later he returned to duty when he was named commander at Vitoria. However, he did not remain there for long, instead being recalled to the staff, and in December he briefly took command of the province of Toledo.
In January of 1809 Frère took on a new role as chief of staff to Marshal Lannes at the Siege of Saragossa. Afterwards, he was named a Count of the Empire and then recalled to Germany to serve in the army there. During the Danube campaign of 1809, Frère served at the Battle of Aspern-Essling , and that June he took command of the 2nd Division of II Corps. He fought at the Battle of Wagram in July and was wounded there, and afterwards he was authorized to return to France.
In 1810 General Frère was sent back to Spain to command a division in the Army of Catalonia. At the end of the year he took part in the siege of Tortose under General Suchet, and then in 1811 he served at the siege of Tarragone. In 1812 Frére obtained a leave for reasons of health and he was sent to command the 13th military division at Rennes, where he remained for the next few years.
After Napoleon's abdication in 1814 and subsequent return in 1815, Frère was placed in charge of the 16th military division at Lille for the duration of the Hundred Days. Afterwards he was put on non-activity.
Updated June 2015
© Nathan D. Jensen