Marshal Nicholas Soult

One of Wellington's Opponents in the Peninsular War

SOULT (soolt), Nicholas Jean de Dieu, Marshal of France, born at Saint-Amans-la-Bastide, France, March 29, 1769; died Nov. 26, 1851. He was the son of a notary in his native town and in 1785 enlisted as a private in the military service, rising to the rank of general in 1799. After serving on the frontier of France and Germany in the latter year, he was assigned to a division under General Massena in Switzerland and Italy. Napoleon made him a consular guard in 1802 and promoted him to the rank of Marshal of France in 1804. His eminent service in the Battle of Austerlitz caused him to be created Duke of Dalmatia, in 1807, and soon after he pursued the retreating British in Spain, conquered Portugal, and won many victories over Sir John Moore and Wellington. On Nov. 12, 1809, he won the noted victory of Ocana, and the following year reduced all of Andalusia except Cadiz. He was obliged to retreat from Andalusia after Wellington’s victory at Salamanca, when a disagreement with Joseph Bonaparte caused him to be recalled from Spain. Napoleon soon after reinstated him and made him commander of the fourth corps of the grand army, thus commanding the center at Bautzen and Lutzen. He was soon after sent to the south of France to repair the losses resulting from the defeat of Vittoria, but was obliged to surrender at Toulouse in 1814.

Soult declared himself a royalist after the first abdication of Napoleon and was made minister of war. When Napoleon returned from Elba, in 1815, Soult again became a Bonapartist and served as major general in the campaign of Waterloo. The royalists banished him after the fall of Napoleon, but he was recalled in 1819; and the following year made Marshal of France. He supported Louis Philippe after the Revolution of 1830, served as minister of war from 1830 to 1834, and in 1838 was ambassador to London for the coronation of Queen Victoria. From 1840 to 1844 he again served as minister of war, and retired from public service in 1847 with the title of marshal general. He wrote his “Memoirs” shortly before his death, and a part of the work was published by his son, Napoleon Hector Soult.

Great Military Commanders of the Napoleonic Wars