General Jacques Louis François de TillyCavalry general with a long career with the French army from 1761 to 1815
Born: February 2, 1749
Place of Birth: Vernon, Eure, France
Died: January 10, 1822
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: TILLY on the north pillar
The son of an army captain, Jacques Louis François de Tilly enlisted in the regiment of Soissonnais in 1761. He served in Germany in 1761 and 1762 and then left the army in 1767 to join the gendarmerie. In 1781 Tilly was named sous-lieutenant at the garrison of Aunis and he served a the Siege of Port-Mahon. The next year he served at the Siege of Gibraltar. Tilly joined the Brittany Infantry Regiment in 1786 and he was promoted to capitaine in 1788.
After the onset of the Revolution, in 1790 Tilly was recognized as a Knight of Saint Louis. In May of 1792 he joined the 6th Cavalry. The next month Tilly became a lieutenant colonel in the 14th Dragoons and only four months later he became the regiment's colonel. He then rejoined the 6th Dragoons and in February of 1793 he commanded the reserve of the expedition to Holland. Tilly was named commander at Geertruidenberg and then in April he was promoted to général de brigade in the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg. He went on to command at Cherbourg, Le Havre, and Manche and then in December of 1793 he was promoted to général de division. Tilly took command of a division available to the commander of the Army of the West and he fought the Chouans at the Battle of Le Mans. However, in February of 1794 he was suspended and in March he was relieved of duty. That November Tilly was authorized to retire.
Only a few months later Tilly returned to the army in January of 1795 when he joined the Army of the Coasts of Brest. Two months later he took command of a division of the Army of the Sambre and Meuse under General Kléber. That December Tilly was employed in the Army of the North and then in January of 1796 he took command of the départements of Belgium. In August of 1796 he was named chief of staff of the Army of the North but then relieved for illegality, but he returned to the position only a few weeks later in September. Next Tilly was sent to serve as chief of staff of the Army of the Sambre and Meuse. In 1798 he was sent to Holland first to serve as the inspector general of French cavalry, then temporarily as commander-in-chief of the French troops, and then as deputy commander. In January of 1800 Tilly became chief of staff of the Army of the West and then that October he became interim commander. He quit that command in May of 1801 and then in 1802 he was employed in the 10th military division and he served as inspector general of infantry.
In 1803 Tilly took command of a cavalry division at the camp of Compiègne under General Ney. That December he and his division moved to the camp of Montreuil under Ney. In 1805 when the Grande Armée marched east to confront the Third Coalition, Tilly led the cavalry division of Ney's VI Corps. After the end of the campaign that December, he took command of I Corps' cavalry division. As part of I Corps, in 1806 he served at Halle in October and Lubeck in November and then in 1807 he served at Mohrungen in January. After the conclusion of the campaign, he returned to France in July.
In 1808 Tilly's daughter Anne Charlotte Virginie Calixte married his aide-de-camp Bonnemains and he was sent to serve with the general staff of the Army of Spain. That December he was named commander of the province of Segovia and then in 1809 he was recognized as a Knight of the Empire. In 1811 Tilly joined the Army of the South in Spain and then in July he took command of the cavalry of the Army of Andalucia. He then rejoined the Army of the South and in 1812 he was named inspector general of cavalry and governor of Xérès. Tilly was named a Baron of the Empire that April and then in 1813 he took command of the 1st Dragoon Division of the Army of the South. He served under General Reille at the Battle of Vitoria in June and then he returned to France in July where he served as inspector general of cavalry.
After Napoleon's abdication and the Bourbon Restoration in 1814, Tilly was ordered to organize the cavalry in Nord. He was also named a count and a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. During the Hundred Days of 1815, he was elected deputy of Calvados to the Chamber of Representatives. That June he took part in the defense of Paris and he then retired in September.
Updated August 2017
© Nathan D. Jensen