Michel Ney

(le Brave des Braves)


Michel Ney was a military commander during the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. Nicknamed “the bravest of the brave” by Napoleon, Ney earned the title through his courageous actions and unwavering devotion for his country.

Michel was born French in a predominately German province, and as a result he took quickly to both languages. After graduating from school, Ney went on to become a notary, and later, an overseer of mines and forges. He was unsatisfied with the life of a civil servant, however, and in 1787 he enlisted in the Colonel-General Hussar Regiment of the French Army. Ney quickly rose in rank, and during the Revolutionary Wars he served in France as well as on the German and Swiss fronts. During the Napoleonic Wars, Ney continued to serve with distinction, and he was named one of eighteen Marshals of the French Empire. He assumed command of the VI Corps of the main army and defeated the Austrians before invading the Tyrol and taking Innsbruck He was made Duke of Elchingen and went on to fight in Spain before being dispatched to Portugal. Returning to France, Ney was given command of a new regiment, the III Corps, and he led his men onto Russian soil before being wounded in the neck during a battle. Following the failed invasion and retreat from Russia, Ney was separated from the main army but managed to rejoin it, earning the title of Prince of Moskowa for the deed. He continued to fight at Weisenfels, Lutzen, and Leipzig, receiving two more injuries in 1813. Finally, as the French empire began to collapse in 1814, Ney pressed Napoleon to abdicate the throne. The emperor was soon exiled, and Michel was given a position of prestige under the new king, Louis XVIII. When Napoleon later returned to France, Ney attempted to stop his march on Paris, but he could not resist the charisma of his former leader. He rejoined the Napoleonic Army and fought alongside them at the disastrous Battle at Waterloo, where his poor tactics did nothing to assist Bonaparte’s men. Napoleon was defeated and again exiled, this time to Elba.

After Napoleon’s downfall, Ney’s situation turned grim. Once a celebrated war hero, the commander met his end on the sixth of December when he was condemned and executed by firing squad as an example to Napoleon’s supporters. He was buried in Paris at Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

Key events during the life of Michel Ney:

Enlisted in the Colonel-General Hussar Regiment
Wounded at the Seige of Mainz
Commanded French troops in Switzerland
Achieved status of Marshal of the Empire
Invaded the Tyrol
Named Duke of Elchingen
Wounded during the Russian invasion
Fought at Lutzen and Leipzig, was wounded twice
Demanded Napoleon's abdication; was promoted by new king Louis XVIII
Joined with Napoleon during the Hundred Days campaign
Led the cavalry during the disastrous Battle of Waterloo
Executed by firing squad

Image Links

Michel Ney, Marshal of France
Michel Ney, Marshal of France
 in Back Matter
Marshal Ney returning the Captured Colors
Marshal Ney returning the Captured Colors
 in Back Matter

Short Biography
Napoleon Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
Andreas Hofer Patriot of the Austrian Tyrol who held Austria for the Hapsburgs against Napoleon's allies.
Josephine Beauharnais Aristocratic wife of Napoloeon Bonaparte.
Marshal Blucher Prussian Field Marshall who opposed Napoleon at Leipzig and Waterloo. (At age 72!)