General Pierre-Hugues-Victoire MerleGénéral de division best known for his service in Spain
Born: August 26, 1766
Place of Birth: Montreuil-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France
Died: December 5, 1830
Place of Death: Lambesc, France
Arc de Triomphe: MERLE on the west pillar
A career soldier, Pierre-Huges-Victoire Merle first enlisted in the infantry regiment of Foix at age 14 in 1781. A few months later he was dismissed for not being old enough, but he rejoined the army two years later. Once the Revolution was underway, opportunities for promotion increased, and in June of 1792 he received a promotion to sous-lieutenant and then four months later to lieutenant. Merle initially served with the Army of the Pyrenees and then the Army of the Western Pyrenees when the former was split up.
In the summer of 1793 Merle was elected a captain of cannoniers. In 1794 he was given a battalion of artillery at Bayonne, then promoted to général de brigade and given command of Fort Socoa. In August he took command of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division, and then in November fought at Bergara. In 1795 Merle bounced between brigades and served in the Army of the West, then at the beginning of 1796 joined the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean. Later that year he was sent to the Army of the Alps, and afterwards to the 8th military division.
In the year 1800, Merle was initially employed in the 17th military division but then in late May joined the Army of the Reserve. That July he joined Boudet's division in the Army of Italy, and the next year took command of the 27th military division. Merle transferred to the camp of Saint-Omer in 1803.
With war breaking out in 1805, Merle served with Legrand's division. After taking part in the fighting at Austerlitz that December, he was promoted to général de division on Christmas Eve. In March of 1806 he became chief of staff to Marshal Soult's IV Corps, and then in September took command at Braunau.
Merle was sent to Spain in 1808, initially taking command of the 1st Division in Marshal Bessières corps. In June he seized Valladolid, Lantueno, and Santander, and then in July fought at Medina del Rioseco. Rewards followed with Merle being named a Baron of the Empire and Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. Next Merle took command of the 2nd Division and fought at Logrono in October. 1809 started off contentious, with Merle fighting at Prieros and Lugo in the first week and then later at Corunna . That March he was wounded in the fighting at Oporto. In 1810 Merle received command of the 1st Division of Reynier's II Corps, and in September was badly wounded at Busaco by grapeshot to the arm. The next year he fought at Fuentes de Onoro in May.
Merle returned to France and then joined the campaign to Russia in 1812, taking command of the 9th Division under Oudinot's II Corps. He fought at Polotsk in October, and a few days after the battle temporarily took command of the corps for a few weeks.
Merle would not actively fight again. In August of 1813 he took command of the 25th military division and became governor of Maestricht. After Napoleon's abdication in 1814, Merle became inspector general of gendarmerie and a Knight of Saint Louis. With Napoleon's return in 1815 for the Hundred Days, Merle was given command of a division in the Corps of Observation of the Var. A year later he retired.
Updated prior to 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen