General Édouard-Jean-Baptiste MilhaudMember of National Convention who voted for the death of the king and later became a cavalry general
Born: July 10, 1766
Place of Birth: Arpajon, Cantal, France
Died: March 21, 1833
Place of Death: Aurillac, France
Arc de Triomphe: MILHAUD on the west pillar
The son of a farmer, Edouard-Jean-Baptiste Milhaud was rumored to have served with the engineers of the navy before the Revolution. After the onset of the Revolution, Milhaud joined the army as a sous-lieutenant of infantry. In 1791 Milhaud attempted to get elected to the Legislative Assembly but was defeated, and the next year he joined the National Guard of Arpajon. In September of 1792 he ran for election again and this time was successful, joining the National Convention and allying himself with the Montagnards. Milhaud was made a member of the military committee and he participated in the trial of Louis XVI, voting for death. Continuing to be active in politics, when Milhaud's friend and notable revolutionary Marat came under political attack by other members of the Convention, Milhaud came to his defense.
At the end of April of 1793, Milhaud was sent on a mission to the Army of the Ardennes. While there he was named a capitaine in the 14th Chasseurs à Cheval, but in June he was recalled to the Convention. The next month he was sent on a mission to the Army of the Rhine where he was named a chef d'escadrons in the 20th Chasseurs à Cheval. That November he was again recalled to Paris, and then in December he was sent out on mission again, this time to the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. Continually zealous in his support of the Revolution, at this time Milhaud christened himself "Cumin" after the name of his birthday on the new Republican calendar. A variety of other revolutionaries serving with the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees followed suit.1 Milhaud did not return to Paris as quickly this time, eventually returning to the Convention eight months later in August of 1794. Once back, he tried unsuccessfully to save his colleague Jean-Baptiste Carrier who was receiving a number of political attacks and eventually executed.
Milhaud next resigned from the Convention and rejoined the army, going to the Army of Italy as the chef de brigade of the 5th Dragoons. Serving throughout the campaign in Italy in 1796, he fought at Primolano and Bassano and was then wounded in the head at Saint-Michel.
In 1799 when Napoleon prepared to take power, Milhaud lent his assistance and during the coup of 18 Brumaire he commanded the troops at the Luxembourg Palace. Following this, he was made chief of staff to General Murat and later promoted to général de brigade. Milhaud joined the Army of the Reserve for the campaign in Italy in 1800, but he missed the Battle of Marengo due to being detached from the main army. Next he served in Kellermann's division, and then in 1801 he joined Monnier's division in the Army of the South and became commander at Mantua. For the next few years, Milhaud served in Italy.
In the summer of 1805 Milhaud was employed in the camp of Boulogne and during the campaign that fall he took command of a brigade of light cavalry attached to the 2nd Dragoon Division. That November he seized Linz and Enns, and then in December he fought at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1806 Milhaud again commanded a brigade of light cavalry and he took part in the campaign against Prussia. That October he fought at Boitzenburg and then took the surrender of 6000 Prussians at Pasewalk. In December Milhaud fought at Golymin and a few days later he was promoted to général de division and given command of the 3rd Dragoon Division. In February of 1807 he led his men into action at Ziegelhoff and then Eylau. When the campaign resumed in the summer, Milhaud took part in the attack on Koenigsberg, and after the campaign completed he and his division were sent to Hanover.
In 1808 General Milhaud was made a Count of the Empire and his division was sent to Spain where they joined the IV Corps of the Army of Spain. The next year they saw plenty of action, fighting at Ciudad Real, Talavera , and Ocaña . In 1810 Milhaud continued to lead his division, winning at Antequera and serving at Rio Almanzor. In the meantime he was also made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. Marshal Soult authorized Milhaud to return to France in 1811, and Milhaud joined the Grande Armée for the campaign against Russia of 1812. During that campaign served on the general staff.
During the campaigns of 1813 in Germany, Milhaud resumed an active cavalry command, fulfilling various positions before finally commanding the 6th Dragoon Division of Pajol's V Cavalry Corps. He won a brilliant cavalry combat at Zeitz in October, and then he served at the Battle of Leipzig and Hanau. When General Pajol was wounded, Milhaud took command of the V Cavalry Corps. Placed under Marshal Victor, he led his men to victory at Saint-Croix that December. In the months to follow, General Milhaud and his men defended France and fought at Brienne, La Rothière, Mormant, La Ferté-sur-Aube, Troyes, and Saint-Dizier.
After Napoleon's abdication in 1814, Milhaud was made the inspector general of cavalry for the 14th military division and a Knight of Saint Louis. However, when the Bourbons realized his political activities during the Revolution, they forcibly retired him. When Napoleon returned from exile in 1815 and resumed power for the Hundred Days, Milhaud rallied to him but also let the Duke of Bourbon escape. Milhaud took command of the IV Cavalry Corps for the campaign in Belgium, fighting at the Battle of Ligny and then the Battle of Waterloo.
After Napoleon's second abdication, Milhaud quickly proclaimed support for Louis XVIII, but this act seriously undermined Marshal Davout's negotiations to protect the army and France. The returning royalists used Milhaud's statements as proof that Davout did not have the support of the entire army.2 Milhaud was soon removed from service and proscribed, ordered to leave France immediately for having voted for the execution of Louis XVI during the Revolution. Milhaud personally appealed to Louis XVIII for mercy and his request was granted, probably due to his sabotage of Davout's negotiations. He was allowed to stay in France but retired.
- Edward Ryan, Napoleon's Shield and Guardian: The Unconquerable General Daumesnil, (London: Greenhill Books, 2003), 20.
- John R. Elting, Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armée, (USA: Da Capo Press, 1997), 659-660.
Updated June 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen