Supplementary Appendix: Jean-Baptiste Dubois Crancé

Jean-Baptiste Dubois de Crancé [*]

1. Parents and Childhood
2. Jean-Baptist and the Beginning of the French Revolution
3. Jean-Baptiste and the Siege of Mainz
4. Jean-Baptiste and the First Cavalry Regiment
5. Summary of Military Career

1. Parents and Childhood

Jean-Baptiste Dubois-Crancé’s parents, Claude-Germain Dubois de Crancé (1729–77), a regimental cavalry captain wounded during the Seven Years War, and Marie Eléonore Ervoil d’Oyré (22 May 1736–29 March 1821), married on 20 Auguste 1763 in Sedan, France. The couple had two children, a daughter and Jean-Baptiste, the latter born on 12 December 1773 in Sedan [on the River Meuse, ca. 200 km northeast of Paris near the border with Luxembourg].

Although Jean-Baptiste’s father attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, poor health forced him to resign his commission and retire. In 1776 he suffered paralysis on the right side of his body and in 1777 received a pension of 1200 livres but died before the year was out and before drawing any of the pension. Jean-Baptiste was four years old at the time.

In 1778 Jean-Baptiste’s mother, assisted by her brother, Captain d’Oyré, obtained a pension of 300 livres, and in 1779 remarried, her second husband being Jean-Baptiste Charles Aubert Dugodal, director of the the king’s farms in Charleville. [1]


It was Jean-Baptiste’s paternal uncle, Edmond-Louis-Alexis Dubois de Crancé, his father’s brother, who became his legal guardian. It was this uncle who later became the deputy bailiwick in Vitry-le-François in the General Estates in 1789, convention representative of Ardennes in 1792, a member of the Committee of Public Safety in 1793 and again in 1794, and Minister of War under the Directory in 1799.

Jean-Baptiste spent his childhood in the Ardennes region. He spent time in Charleville, where his mother had remarried and his three aunts lived in the convent of Saint Sépulcre (Anne-Remiette, Marie-Jeanne, Anne), and where he attended the former Jesuit College Saint Rémy, which his father and uncles had similarly attended. He also spent time in the neighboring village of Warcq [Warque], and on the estate Grange aux Bois there, whose lord had been his cousin (and godparent) Jean-Baptiste Coulon and where his father had purchased a chateau estate known as Praëlle, where his mother liked to spend time and where she moved permanently after the death of her second husband and spent the rest of her life. [2]


2. Jean-Baptist and the Beginning of the French Revolution

On 1 May 1789, Jean-Baptiste, fifteen and one-half years old, joined the Chamborant hussar regiment just before the opening of the Estates General at Versailles on 5 May 1789, where his uncle Edmond would be seated. Jean-Baptist left this regiment on 1 July 1790 as a noncommissioned officer and with the recommendations of his superior, Colonel de Gottesheim, who noted that Jean-Baptiste had distinguished himself by his zeal and sustained efforts to complete all his responsibilities.

On 1 September 1790, not quite seventeen years old, he was elected captain of the infantry of the village of Warcq. On 15 September, as a second lieutenant, he entered the 89th Infantry Regiment, where he would eventually attain the rank of lieutenant on 28 May 1792.

Jean-Baptiste served in the Army of the North when revolutionary France entered the war against Austria and the European coalition. He was appointed aide de camp of General Isidore de Lynch on 22 July 1792, who had participated in the American War of Independence with Jena-Baptiste’s uncle Francois Ignace Ervoil d’Oyré. On 20 September 1792, Jean-Baptiste, now eighteen years old, served at the side of General Lynch, who was commanding the first line of infantry charged with defending the mill at Valmy against the Prussians. [3]


The commandant Kellermann later wrote that General Lynch had distinguished himself during this battle “in a brilliant fashion while guiding his troops with such admirable composure and confident encouragement during a firefight of more than twelve hours.” With respect to Jean-Baptiste, General Lynch himself wrote in a report that “he served throughout the campaign with intelligence, and will now become aide de camp to his uncle d’Oyré, head of the fortifications at Metz.”

3. Jean-Baptiste and the Siege of Mainz

During the autumn of 1792, d’Oyré, who had been promoted to the rank of field marshal while at Metz, received an order to proceed to Mainz [French: Mayence]. Jean-Baptiste, who had become his aide de camp after the campaign at Valmy, accompanied him. [4]


It was in this German town, which French troops under General Adam Philippe de Custine had taken in October 1792, that Jean-Baptiste made the acquaintance of the young widow Caroline Böhmer in early 1793 at a ball, with whom he then had a liaison. The daughter of a professor at the university Göttingen, friend of the naturalist Georg Forster, one of the initiators of the Jacobin Republic of Mainz who was advocating for the annexation of territories on the left bank of the Rhine to France, Caroline was later intimately connected with the German Romantic movement and later married Wilhelm Schlegel.

In March 1793, just as the coalition armies were preparing to blockade the town, d’Oyré was named governor and commandant of the town of Mainz, which would be subject to siege beginning in early April 1793. On 20 April 1793, the Commissars of the National Convention Reubell and Merlin de Thionville promoted Jean-Baptiste to Captain Aide de Camp. On 25 April 1793 he was commended with a citation for having “distinguished himself by stopping a company of enemy Hussars who were attempting to retake a piece of artillery.”

After the capitulation of Mainz in July 1793, General d’Oyré and his general staff, including, of course, Jean-Baptiste, were imprisoned at Erfurt as hostages to serve as security against a loan to cover the costs of evacuating the hospitals in Mainz. [5]


Caroline, too, was arrested and imprisoned for her connections with the republican partisans in Mainz and for her liaison with a French officer during the siege [ed. note: the liaison with Dubois-Crancé never became known publicly, and Caroline herself had already left Mainz long before the siege]. On 3 November 1793, she gave birth to Jean-Baptiste’s son, Jean-Baptiste still being imprisoned at Erfurt at the time. The child, to whom Caroline had given the name Wilhelm Julius Krantz, died at an extremely young age on 30 April 1795. [6]

Both d’Oyré and Jean-Baptiste returned to France after being released on 1 March 1794. While the general rejoined his family in Sedan, Jean-Baptiste arrived back home at his mother’s residence in Warcq on 13 June 1794, where his return was noted in the minutes of the town council’s meeting. A warrant for their arrest had been issued by the National Convention on 28 July 1793 after the capitulation of Mainz, and both were now unemployed and unsalaried. On 5 December 1794, Jean-Baptiste’s paternal uncle Edmond Dubois-Crancé was reelected to the Committee of Public Safety and summoned the two to Paris, managing then to secure their back salary. On 13 December 1794, Jean-Baptiste was confirmed at the rank of captain and assigned to the First Cavalry Regiment. He had just turned twenty-one.

General d’Oyré, sorely tested by the episode in Mainz, retired to the Chateau de Flize in the Ardennes and was pensioned in 1796. He died at Warcq on 5 July 1799 while visiting his sister or to whose residence he had moved after falling ill.

4. Jean-Baptiste and the First Cavalry Regiment

In February 1795, Jean-Baptiste fought anew in Germany at Kempen, northwest of Düsseldorf, at the head of the first company of the First Cavalry Regiment. On 1 June 1799, his regiment took the village of Hennef on the Sieg River, and on 4 June 1799 participated in the Battle of Altenkirchen (Altenkirch below) against the Austrians. [7]




That same evening, he was promoted to provisional squadron leader on the field of battle by General Kleber. On 4 October 1796, having not yet received any official confirmation of this promotion, he wrote to the minister of war from the headquarters of the Army of the Sambre et Meuse at Mulhouse: “I was the first on the list and now see myself excluded without knowing the precise reason.” General Lefebvre expedited his petition as follows:

I have the honor of forwarding to you a petition from the conciliar administration of the First Cavalry Regiment concerning the citizen [Dubois-]Crancé, a squadron leader in that same regiment. The military talents of this officer and his distinguished comportment over the course of this war persuade me that you will favorably view this petition and retain for this regiment one of its best leaders.

General Beurnonville, who had been present at Valmy and who had himself been minister of war in 1793, signed a report that read as follows:

I am unable to say anything more to you in his favor, Citizen Minister, other than that he enjoys the general esteem of the army and that he is essential to the discipline and maintenance of this excellent regiment that he leads in so distinguished a fashion, and that it would be a real loss were it deprived of this excellent officer, whom I thus urge you to keep.

On 26 October 1796 Jean-Baptiste was dismissed because of an arrest warrant from the Directory, which accused him of “having accepted money from various mayors on the right bank of the Rhine River in exchange for not destroying munitions intended for the Austrians.” Jean-Baptiste demanded an investigation, which disclosed that he had been the victim of calumny, and on 17 November 1796 he was reinstated in his regiment and confirmed at the rank of squadron leader by a decree of the Directory issued on 16 December 1796.

In May 1797, Brigade General Richepance wrote concerning Jean-Baptiste in the control registry of officers in the First Cavalry Regiment: “Good officer, likely to be subject to promotions.” In March 1798, Division General Harville, inspector general of cavalry troops, wrote in his report: “Squadron Leader Dubois-Crancé has been quite active in this war; he has intelligence and the skills one cannot but acquire from such experience. He is courageous, sober, but he does not have administrative skills.”

In September 1798, on the occasion of a new inspection review, this same general observed that “Squadron Leader Crancé has considerable drive and zeal; he has, moreover, also perfected his administrative skills since the last review.”

In late 1798, Jean-Baptiste’s regiment met up with the Army of the Rhine under the command of General Jourdan. On 11 March 1799, while the army was engaged near Ostrach, north of Lake Constance, Jean-Baptiste was wounded. On 25 March, his regiment took the village of Emmingen, though that same evening Jourdan ordered his army to retreat to the Rhine. [8]


On 21 Auguste 1799, Jean-Baptiste, not yet twenty-six years old, was promoted to the rank of brigade leader, that is, colonel of the First Cavalry Regiment. On 10 September 1799, having received official notice of his nomination, he wrote to the minister of war from Vieux-Brisach: [9]


Citizen Minister, I received with gratitude the new attestation of confidence with which the Directory has chosen to honor me, and if complete devotion to one’s duty and to the Republic suffices, then I dare to believe that I have merited the promotion to brigade leader, news of which I am honored to report to you having received.

During the spring of 1800, the First Cavalry Regiment attached to the Richepance Division crossed the Rhine at Kehl and moved as the advance guard toward Offenburg. On 25 April 1800, Jean-Baptiste was killed by a saber thrust while charging at the head of his troops. [10]


Here a map showing the complicated and militarily challenging system of branches of the Rhine River between Strasbourg and Kehl (Johann Thomas Kraus, Befestigungsanlagen von Straßburg und Kehl; darunter Gesamtansicht von Straßburg (Strasbourg, ville ancienne [Augsburg 1741]):


Here the bombardment of Kehl itself in 1793, during an earlier period of the wars associated with the French Revolution; the Strasbourg cathedral can be seen across the Rhine River in the distance (Alfred Touchemolin, Bombardement de Kehl (12 septembre 1793) [Paris 1895]; Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg; Bibliothèque nationale de France; representative illustrations from 1803: Taschenbuch für Geschichte und Unterhaltung auf das Jahr 1803; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



The career of Jean-Baptiste Dubois-Crancé, whose family background and education had prepared him to become, like his father and uncles, a solid officer of the ancien regime in the service of the monarchy, thus ultimately unfolded exclusively within the setting of the history of the French Revolution. Having begun in May of 1789, contemporaneous with the opening of the Estates General, it was brutally interrupted at the dawn of the nineteenth century just after the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, Year VIII [9 November 1799], which concluded the revolutionary cycle.

5. Summary of Military Career

1 May 1790 — Volunteer in the Chamborant Hussars regiment
1 September 1790 — Calvary captain in the National Guard of War
15 September 1791 — Second lieutenant in the 89th Infantry Regiment
28 May 1792 — Attained rank of lieutenant
22 July 1792 — Aide de camp to General Isidore de Lynch
31 December 1792 — Aide de camp to General Francois Ignace Ervoil de Oyré (d’Oyré; Doyré) (uncle [brother of the mother] of Jean-Baptiste Dubois-Crancé)
20 April 1793 — Appointed provisional captain by the representatives of the citizens of Mainz
13 December 1794 — Confirmed as captain and assigned to the First Calvary Regiment
4 June 1796 — Appointed cavalry major on the field of battle by General Jean-Baptiste Kleber
26 October 1796 — Dismissed by the Directory
17 November 1796 — Reinstated
16 December 1796 — Confirmed at the rank of squadron leader
21 Auguste 1799 — Brigade leader of the First Cavalry Regiment
25 April 1800 — Killed in action after crossing the Rhine River at Kehl and advancing toward Offenburg

Military Campaign Assignments

1792 — Army of the North
1793, 1794 — Army of the Vosges and siege of Mainz
1795, 1796 — Army of the Rhine
1797 — Army of the Sambre and Meuse
1798, 1799, 1800 — Army of the Rhine


[*] Based on Jean-Pierre Husson, Jean-Baptiste Dubois-Crancé et “La Levée”: Itinéraire d’un jeune officier ardennais dans la tourmente révolutionnaire, ed. Centre Régional de Documentation Pédagogique (CRDP) de Champagne-Ardenne (Reims: Selbstverlag, 1989). Copy courtesy of Martin Reulecke. Back.

[1] Carte de la Champagne Septentrionale contenant les départements de l’Aisne et des Ardennes divisé en leurs districts et autres limitrophes suivant les Decrets de l’Assemblée Nationale (Paris 1790); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans. Back.

[2] Here an illustration of the village of Warque in 1779 viewed from the road leading to Charleville. Savart, Vue du village de Warque ville sous Jules Cesar à 1/2 l. de Mezieres, prise sur la route de Charleville (1779); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie. Back.

[3] Legrand, ingénieur, Bataille de Valmi le 20 septembre 1792 entre les troupes de la rép[ubli]que franc[ai]se et celles de l’armée prussienne; les français commandés par le général d’armée Kellermann, les Prussiens par le Général Brunswick en présence du Roi de Prusse (1802); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans. Back.

[4] Aaron Arrowsmith and Jean-Nicolas Buache, France (Paris 1804); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans. Back.

[5] Mainz here spelled Mentz. Thomas Kitchen, Germany (n.p., n.d.). Back.

[6] Here a map showing the locations of Erfurt, on the left, where Jean-Baptiste was imprisoned; Lucca (Lucka), on the right, where Caroline was in hiding and where she gave birth to their child; and Weimar and Jena, center left, which would play such a key role in Caroline’s life later. A New Map of the Circle of Upper Saxony; with the Duchy of Silesia and Lusatia, from the Latest Authorities 1801, from John Cary, Cary’s New Universal Atlas (London 1808). Back.

[7] Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel (Gotha 1907), nos. 12, 17; Map of the Empire of Germany including all the states comprehended under that name with the Kingdom of Prussia, &c. (London 1782). Back.

[8] Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel (Gotha 1907), no. 26. Back.

[9] Franz Ludwig Güssefeld, Neue und vollstaendige Post-Carte Durch ganz Deutschland (n.p. 1804); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans; Lake Constance (Bodensee) at bottom right. Back.

[10] Karte von dem Grossherzogthum Baden bearbeitet auf dem Karten Bureau des Gr. Generalquartiermeisterstabs (Karlsruhe 1843); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott