General Jean-François Leval
Born: April 18, 1762
Place of Birth: Paris, Paris, France
Died: August 7, 1834
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: LEVAL on the north pillar
Jean-François Leval first enlisted in 1779 and then saw combat when he served during the American Revolutionary War. Taking part in the siege of Pensacola in 1781, Leval had his right ankle badly wounded. Three years later he left the army and became a goldsmith in Paris, where he would remain until the Revolution.
As the Revolution got underway, Leval joined the National Guard of Paris in July of 1789 and then at the end of the year he was promoted to sous-lieutenant. A year later he was promoted to lieutenant and then in 1791 Leval was elected a capitaine in the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Paris. Sent to the frontiers, in 1792 Leval became a lieutenant colonel of the 1st Battalion of Grenadiers of Paris and then led them into action at Jemappes . The following year Leval was fighting at the siege of Maestricht when he was wounded in the right leg. A promotion to chef de brigade followed, and Leval went on to fight at Tirlemont and then Neerwinden where he was wounded by a shot to the left foot.
Leval was next employed in the Army of the Ardennes where he was promoted to général de brigade in October of 1793. After taking part in the rescue of Maubeuge, he led reinforcements to the Army of the Moselle. Leval then took a command in Lefebvre's division and fought at Fleurus in June of 1794. Now with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, his next major battles came in 1796 when he fought at Altenkirchen, Uckerath, and Giessen.
In 1799 General Leval was serving in Lefebvre's division when he fought at Pfullendorf and Stockach in March. That May he took command of the 2nd Brigade of Legrand's division, then in July he was promoted to général de division and employed in the Army of the Rhine. The following year Leval seized Schellenberg and then took command of the 4th Division under Sainte-Suzanne. Ordered to cover Landau, he seized the chateau of Harburg but was then relieved of command in September due to accusations that he embezzled funds during his time at Mainz.
General Leval returned to the army in 1801 and then in 1803 was given command of the 5th military division at Strasbourg. While there, he organized the expedition that went to Ettenheim and arrested the Duke of Enghien in 1804.
During the summer of 1806, General Leval was given command of the 2nd Division of IV Corps in place of General Vandamme. He led this division into battle at Jena, and afterwards fought at Lübeck and became governor of Thorn. Leval continued to lead his division into battle, fighting in February of 1807 at Bergfried and Eylau where he was wounded. Carra St. Cyr replaced him at the end of the month, and Leval was then sent back to Thorn to become governor again.
In 1808 Leval took command of the 14th military division before being sent to Spain to command the 2nd Division of IV Corps. Once in Spain, he fought at Durango, Guenes, and Valmaceda that year and was then made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. In 1809 Leval's unit was detached to serve under Marshal Victor, and that March he fought at Mezza d'Ibor and Medellin . Next he was put under Sebastiani's command, and he fought at Talavera , Almonacid, and Ocaña , where he was again wounded. Leval returned to Victor's command and served during the Siege of Cadiz, at one point helping to rescue the pontoon La Vieille Castille. Still serving in Spain, in 1811 Leval fought at Chiclana and then took command of IV Corps, eventually winning at Guadiaro and Saint-Roch before laying siege to Tarifa. Forced to life the siege in January of 1812, Leval then took command of a division of the Army of the South under Marshal Soult. Leval continued to serve throughout 1813 and finished the year fighting at Saint-Pierre-d'Irube in December.
Called back to France in 1814, Leval traveled to Provins and took command of the 7th Division of VII Corps that February. Immediately launching into action, he fought at Champaubert and Vauchamps . That March Leval served at Bar-sur-Aube, delivered Cormeron, was wounded at Arcis-sur-Aube, and served at Saint-Dizier.
After Napoleon's abdication, the returning Bourbons put Leval on non-activity. When Napoleon escaped from Elba for the Hundred Days, Leval rallied to him and was made governor of Dunkirk. After Napoleon's second abdication, a lieutenant of police at Dunkirk arrested Leval. Once released, Leval immediately retired from the military in September of 1815.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated June 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen