General Sylvain-Charles ValéeArtillery commander known for his participation in numerous sieges in the Spanish Peninsula
Born: December 17, 1773
Place of Birth: Brienne, Aube, France
Legion of Honor: Grand Cross
Imperial Nobility: Count
Died: August 15, 1846
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: VALEE on the west pillar
A career officer, Sylvain-Charles Valée first entered the artillery school of Châlons in September of 1792 as a sous-lieutenant. The next year he left the school as a lieutenant assigned to the 1st Foot Artillery, and in 1794 he served with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse. Valée received a promotion to capitaine in the 3rd Horse Artillery in 1795, and then in 1796 he served at the crossing of the Rhine at Neuwied and later he served at Wurzburg. In 1799 he joined the Army of the Rhine, and the following year he served at Engen before taking command of the artillery of Decaen's division and then fighting at Hohenlinden.
During the peace that followed, Valée was promoted to chef d'escadrons in the 5th Horse Artillery in 1802 and then in 1803 he was sent to the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean. When war broke out in 1805, Valée served as inspector general of the train of the artillery reserve. In this position he participated at Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805 and then at Jena in 1806. In November of 1806 Valée replaced Senarmont as chief of staff of artillery of the Grande Armée, and two months later he was promoted to colonel. The following month he took command of the 1st Foot Artillery and led them through the remainder of the campaign that year.
In 1808 Colonel Valée was sent to the Army of Spain where he became director of the siege artillery park to serve under Marshal Lannes at the siege of Saragossa. In 1809 he received a promotion to général de brigade and took command of the artillery of III Corps under General Suchet. The following year Valée served at a number of sieges, including Lérida, Mequinenza, and Tortosa. That year he was also named commander of the artillery school of Douai, though he remained in Spain despite this appointment. 1811 was another busy year for Valée, he was named a Baron of the Empire and général de division and he served at the siege of Tarragona. At the end of the year he took part in the siege of Valencia and then in 1812 he served at the siege of Peniscola. As the French continued to struggle in Spain, Valée prepared Catalonia and Valencia for defense. When the French were finally forced out of the Spanish Peninsula, Valée successfully brought back to France the artillery park instead of losing the guns and equipment. For this achievement, he was named a Count of the Empire.
After Napoleon's abdication, the Bourbons continued to employ General Valée at Strasbourg. Nevertheless he rallied to Napoleon in 1815 when Napoleon resumed power for the Hundred Days. Valée was named deputy commander of the artillery reserve at Vincennes and he also commanded the artillery defending Paris in June. After Napoleon's second abdication, Valée did not incur the wrath of the Bourbons, instead being appointed to a committee to reorganize the artillery. He continued to lead a successful military career, eventually being sent to Algeria and being appointed a Marshal of France in 1837.
Updated September 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen