General François-Joseph KirgenerGénéral de division of engineers who was killed alongside General Duroc at Bautzen
Born: October 8, 1766
Place of Birth: Paris, Paris, France
Died: May 22, 1813
Cause of Death: Killed in action
Place of Death: Bautzen, Germany
Arc de Triomphe: KIRGENER on the east pillar
A professor of mathematics before the Revolution, François Joseph Kirgener joined the army in 1793 as a lieutenant of engineers. Placed in the Army of the North, he was promoted to captain in November but then arrested in December. After being transported to Arras, he was released in late April of 1794. Rejoining the army, Captain Kirgener served in the combat of Grand Reng, the crossing of the Sambre, and the siege of Charleroi. He was next sent to the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, and took part in the sieges of Landrecies, Quesnoy, and Maestricht.
In October of 1794 Kirgener joined the Army of the Coasts of Brest, and then that December was promoted to chef de bataillon. The next July his right arm was broken by a shot during the fighting at Quiberon. He was authorized to return to Paris to recover and participate in courses at the École Polytechnique. Next Kirgener was sent to Anvers in March of 1796, and then Landau in August before joining the Army of Ireland. In March of 1797 Kirgener rejoined the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, and then the next month served during the crossing of the Rhine and subsequent battle at Neuwied. He took part in the blockade of Ehrenbreistein and was then stationed at Besançon.
In July of 1798, Kirgener was designated to take part in the second expedition to Ireland under General Hardy. That September he embarked on the vessel Le Hoche, but was taken prisoner during the naval combat of October 12th against the English. Kirgener was released on parole in December, and then in May returned to Besançon as the chief engineer there.
Kirgener was next employed in the Army of the Reserve in March of 1800. After marching over the Alps, he took part in the attack on Fort Bard before fighting at Montebello and Marengo. After a brief stint at Milan, he then returned to Besançon and was promoted to chef de brigade.
As war broke out in 1805, Kirgener took command of the engineers of Marshal Lannes' V Corps. Throughout the campaign, he contributed to the crossings of the Rhine and Danube and fought at Linz, Saint-Poelten, Hollabrunn, and finally Austerlitz. In recognition of his services, he was promoted to général de brigade on Christmas Day of 1805.
In 1806 General Kirgener returned to the army in September and then in October assumed command of the park of engineers. He fought at Jena and Golymin , and then in 1807 at Eylau. Next he took part in the siege of Graudenz and then became deputy commander of engineers and chief of staff at the Siege of Danzig . Rewards followed, in 1807 Kirgener became a Commander of the Legion of Honor and in 1808 he became Inspector of Engineers and a Baron of the Empire.
General Kirgener was next sent to Spain, where he served in VII Corps under Gouvion St. Cyr. He took part in the fighting at Cardeheu, Molins del Rey, and Valls. His time in Spain was short, he joined the army in Austria and took command of the engineers of the Imperial Guard on June 1st, 1809. That August he was allowed on leave, and on September 30th he married Mademoiselle Guéhéneuc, the daughter of a Senator. This marriage made him a brother-in-law to Marshal Lannes' widow and Colonel Guéhéneuc, an aide to Napoleon. Kirgener had little time to rest though, as he was sent to the Army of the North to command the engineers against the English landing on the isle of Walcheren.
In the intervening years, General Kirgener was employed in the Netherlands to strengthen defenses at Helder and the isle of Texel. In 1812, he joined the army on the Russian campaign. In March of 1813, he was promoted to général de division. Taking part in the campaigns that spring, Kirgener was with Napoleon, Caulaincourt, and Duroc at Bautzen when they rode through some smoke drifting over the battlefield. A cannonball flew by and struck a tree, then bounced and instantly killed Kirgener before ricocheting off him and mortally wounding General Duroc.1
- Louis Constant Wairy, Memoirs of Constant: First Valet de Chambre of the Emperor, On the Private Life of Napoleon, His Family, and His Court, trans. Elizabeth G. Martin, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895), 75.
Updated prior to 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen