General Jean-François Cornu de La PoypeGeneral who served in a variety of theaters during the Revolution and defended Wittemberg in 1813
Born: May 31, 1758
Place of Birth: Lyon, Rhône, France
Legion of Honor: Grand Officer
Imperial Nobility: Baron
Died: January 27, 1851
Place of Death: Vaux, France
Arc de Triomphe: LAPOYPE on the south pillar
A career soldier of noble birth, Jean-François Cornu de La Poype first joined the army in 1777 in the French Guard. Three years later he was commissioned as a sous-lieutenant and then four years after that in 1784 he was promoted to lieutenant. La Poype resigned from the military in 1787, only to return after the onset of the Revolution when in October of 1791 he was elected a lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Battalion of Volunteers of Seine-et-Oise. The next year La Poype was named colonel of the 104th Regiment and he was given command of the camp of Soissons. He went on to distinguish himself at the camp of Maulde and then in September he was promoted to maréchal de camp. Next La Poype served in the camp near Paris and the Army of the Interior until he was sent to the Army of Italy to serve under General Biron. In February of 1793 La Poype was appointed chief of staff of the Army of Italy and two months later he received a promotion to général de division. During the summer of 1793 he commanded the forces assembled between Fréjus and the mouth of the Var and he also found time to marry the sister of a member of the National Convention named Fréron.
In August of 1793 General La Poype was relieved of command by his superior General Brunet, however the representatives of the people with the army then formed a separate division and ordered him to Toulon. La Poype led his men to Marseille and then to Toulon where they took part in the Siege of Toulon under General Dugommier. During the siege he and his men seized Mont Faron and afterwards he was named commander at Toulon. La Poype remained at Toulon until August of 1795 when he was named commander of Lyon, but he only remained in that position for a few months before he was relieved of command and left unemployed.
General La Poype finally returned to the army in September of 1797 by order of the Directory and he was sent to the Army of the Rhine. In March of 1798 he took command of the 2nd Division of the Army of Mainz and then in June of that year he was sent to the Army of Italy. Once in Italy he took command of the troops in Liguria and then in January of 1799 he was named commander of Piedmont and governor of Genoa. For the campaign in Italy of 1799, La Poype took command of a division and served under General Moreau and that August he served at the Battle of Novi . He returned to France in January of 1800 and was then sent to the Army of the Rhine in February. La Poype next served under General Moncey in Switzerland and with Moncey he was sent to join the Army of the Reserve. They crossed the Saint-Gothard pass in late May and then in early June he entered Bellinzona, Côme, and Milan. Next La Poype was ordered to cover Pavia and he served under Duhesme and then took the citadel of Tortona. Finally he took command of a new division under Moncey and laid siege to Mantua.
During the years of peace that followed, La Poype remained employed in Italy and then was given command of the 12th military division. In 1802 he was sent to Saint-Domingue, finally arriving in March of 1803. Once La Poype had arrived, he was given command of a division and he served there until the French evacuation in November of 1803. Trying to break out past the British, he was with Rochambeau and taken prisoner at Cap Français and then transported to Jamaica and later Portsmouth.
La Poype was finally allowed to return to France on parole a few years later in June of 1806. In 1807 he took command of the 21st military division at Bourges, and then in 1811 he was officially exchanged with a British prisoner and released from parole. In 1812 La Poype was named a Baron of the Empire and then in 1813 he was named governor of Wittemberg. La Poype organized the defense of that city and was besieged in April of 1813 but he successfully repulsed attacks. After the French victory at the Battle of Lutzen in May the siege was lifted. He remained in command at Wittemberg throughout 1813, and he was again besieged after the French loss at the Battle of Leipzig in October. La Poype was finally forced to surrender Wittemberg in January of 1813, and despite the terms of his surrender, he was taken prisoner and transported to Prussia.
La Poype was released from Prussia and returned to France in June of 1814 and the restored Bourbons named him a Knight of Saint Louis. In January of 1815 he was named commander at Agen, and then after Napoleon returned from exile for the Hundred Days, La Poype was named governor of Lille and organized the National Guard there. After Napoleon's second abdication and the second Bourbon Restoration, La Poype retired from the military and eventually embarked on a career in politics.
Updated June 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen