General François Jean Baptiste Quesnel du Torpt
Born: January 18, 1765
Place of Birth: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines, France
Died: April 8, 1819
Place of Death: Avranches, France
Arc de Triomphe: QUESNEL on the west pillar
The son of a naval artillery officer, François Jean Baptiste Quesnel du Torpt first enlisted in the infantry regiment of Poitou in 1782. After the onset of the French Revolution, he received a commission as a sous-lieutenant in September of 1791, a promotion to lieutenant in April of 1792, and then a promotion to capitaine in May of 1792. Quesnel served with the Army of the Ardennes in late 1792 and then in May of 1793 he was wounded in combat, promoted to chef de bataillon, and sent to the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. Only four months later he received a promotion to chef de brigade. At the end of 1793 Quesnel was named chief of staff of Pérignon's division and he was promoted to général de brigade by the representatives of the people with the army. Shortly thereafter he took command of the cavalry and then in May of 1794 he commanded a brigade of cavalry at the Battle of Boulou. That November Quesnel served as deputy commander of the cavalry at the Battle of Montagne Noire , serving under Dugua. He next went on to distinguish himself at the action of Fort Figuières, command the cavalry under Augereau, and serve at the Siege of Roses.
Quesnel was next sent to the Army of the Coasts of the Cherbourg to serve as commander of the département of Manche. In 1796 he passed to the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean and that September he married Aimée Françoise Brice de Logerot de Beaumont, a noble. Quesnel was then employed at Mans in the 22nd military division as commander of the département of Sarthe. September of 1797 saw royalists in Paris exiled during the coup of 18 Fructidor, and then In October Quesnel was removed from command due to suspicions that he had royalist sympathies. For a time Quesnel served with the 13th military division and for a time he was unemployed. In February of 1799 he returned to active duty as part of the Army of Italy. He served in Grenier's division and in May he was wounded by grapeshot to the left forearm at Bassignano. The next month Quesnel fought at San-Giuliano and then in December he went on leave to recover. He returned to the Army of Italy in June of 1800 and he remained in Italy after peace was signed. In 1801 Quesnel was employed in the Cisalpine Republic and in 1803 he joined the troops formed at Faenza.
In February of 1805 Quesnel was promoted to général de division and that November he was sent to the Army of the North. In 1806 he took command of the 9th military division where he remained until 1808 when he joined the Army of Portugal. In March of 1808 Quesnel was named governor of Oporto and he was given command of all Spanish troops in the province of Entre Douro e Minho. When the French began to assert control over Spain, the Spanish troops serving under Quesnel took him prisoner and handed him over to the British. Quesnel was delivered to Corunna where he was imprisoned in a pontoon boat. After the French won the Battle of Corunna in January of 1809, Quesnel was liberated from prison. He next became Marshal Soult's chief of staff and governor of Oporto again.
In July of 1809 Quesnel was called to the Army of Germany where he took command of a light cavalry division attached to IV Corps. In 1810 he served in the Army of Brabant and later he took command of the 11th military division at Bordeaux. At the end of the year Quesnel was named a Baron of the Empire and then in February of 1811 he was sent back to Spain where he commanded a division at Puigcerdà in Catalonia. In May he served under Baraguey d'Hilliers at the combat of Figuières and then he joined the Siege of Figuières. Later Quesnel returned to Puigcerdà and then in February of 1812 he was named commander of Cerdagne.
In 1813 Quesnel was sent to Italy and that August he took command of the 1st Division of the Army of Italy. In September he seized the chateau of Feistritz and then he served in the corps of the right at Laibach. Two months later in November Quesnel distinguished himself at Caldiero, and then in December he began serving under General Verdier. He continued to serve in Italy and he fought at the Battle of the Mincio in 1814. Quesnel returned to France after the Bourbon Restoration. He was initially treated well by the Bourbons, becoming a Knight of Saint Louis and a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, but he was then put on non-activity. When Napoleon resumed power in 1815 for the Hundred Days, Quesnel rallied to Napoleon and was sent to command a cavalry division in the Army of the Alps commanded by Marshal Suchet. Quesnel retired after the Second Restoration.
- Divry, Arnauld. Les Noms Gravés sur l'Arc de Triomphe. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2017.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated May 2019
© Nathan D. Jensen