André Masséna

French Marshal

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André Masséna

Portrait of Masséna made c. 1853 after an 1814 original by Antoine-Jean Gros
Nickname(s) l’Enfant chéri de la Victoire
Born (1758-05-06)6 May 1758
Nice, Kingdom of Sardinia
Died 4 April 1817(1817-04-04) (aged 58)
Paris, France
Allegiance  Kingdom of France
 Kingdom of the French
 First French Republic
 First French Empire
Service/branch Army
Rank Marshal of the Empire
Battles/wars .mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}@media all and (max-width:500px){.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{width:auto!important;clear:none!important;float:none!important}}

See battles
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Awards Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honour
Grand Dignitary of Order of the Iron Crown
Knight of the Order of Saint Hubert
Grand Cordon of the House Order of Fidelity
Commander of the Order of Saint Louis[1]
Selected battles


Paris Death on 4 April 1817 Masséna is 58 years old

Torres Vedras
Lines of Torres Vedras November 1810 Masséna is 52 years old

Battle of Aspern-Essling from 21 to 22 May 1809 Masséna is 51 years old

Second Battle of Zurich from 25 to 26 September 1799 Masséna is 41 years old

Battle of Arcole from 15 to 17 November 1796 Masséna is 38 years old

Battle of Loano on 23 November 1795 Masséna is 37 years old

Nice Birth on 6 May 1758


André Masséna, Prince of Essling, Duke of Rivoli (born Andrea Massena; 6 May 1758 – 4 April 1817), was a French military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.[2] He was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon I. He was nicknamed l’Enfant chéri de la Victoire (the Dear Child of Victory).[3] He is often considered as one of the greatest generals of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Although many of Napoleon’s generals were trained at the finest French and European military academies, Masséna was among those who achieved greatness without the benefit of formal education. While those of noble rank acquired their education and promotions as a matter of privilege, Masséna rose from humble origins to such prominence that Napoleon referred to him as “the greatest name of my military empire”.[2]

In addition to his battlefield successes, Masséna’s leadership aided the careers of many. A majority of the French marshals of the time served under his command at some point.[4]

He was given the title Prince of Essling in 1809. Masséna however would go on to have a terrible performance during the Peninsular War in defeat, hampering the French war efforts in Iberia. After suffering crushing defeats at the battles of Sabugal and Fuentes de Oñoro, Napoleon sacked and replaced Masséna with Marshal Auguste de Marmont, and Masséna did not serve the French military again, instead becoming the local commander at Marseille, ending his military career in disgrace and obscurity.

Early life[edit]

André Masséna was born in Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, on 6 May 1758. He was the son of shopkeeper Jules Masséna (Giulio Massena), who became a wine merchant, and his wife Marguerite Fabre. André’s father died in 1764, and after his mother remarried, he was sent to live with his father’s relatives.

At the age of thirteen, Masséna became a cabin boy aboard a merchant ship. He sailed in the Mediterranean Sea and on two extended voyages to French Guiana. In 1775, after four years at sea, he returned to Nice and enlisted in the French Royal Army as a private in the Royal Italian Regiment. By the time he left the service in 1789, Masséna had risen to the rank of warrant officer, the highest rank a non-nobleman could achieve. On 10 August that year, he married Anne Marie Rosalie Lamare, daughter of a surgeon in Antibes; they lived together in her home town. After a brief stint as a smuggler in Northern Italy, he rejoined the army in 1791 and was made an officer, rising to the rank of colonel by 1792.

Revolutionary Wars[edit]

Masséna as a general of the French Revolutionary Army, 1796
Masséna at the Second Battle of Zurich

When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out in April 1792, Masséna and his battalion were deployed to Piedmont along the Italian border. Masséna prepared his battalion for battle in the hope that it would be incorporated into the regular army. That October, a month after the occupation of Nice, the battalion was one of four volunteer battalions that became part of the French Armée d’Italie.

Masséna distinguished himself in battle and was quickly promoted, attaining the rank of général de brigade (brigadier general) in August 1793 and général de division (divisional general) that December. He was prominent in every campaign on the Italian Riviera over the next two years, including the attack on Saorgio in 1794 and the Battle of Loano in 1795. When Napoleon Bonaparte took command in March 1796, Masséna was commanding the two divisions of the army’s advance guard.

During the campaign in Italy from 1796 to 1797, Masséna became one of Bonaparte’s most important subordinates. He played a significant role in the battles of Montenotte and Dego in the spring, and took a leading role at the battles of Lonato, Castiglione, Bassano, Caldiero and Arcola in the summer and fall, as well as the Battle of Rivoli and the fall of Mantua that winter.

When an Austrian relief army was sent to aid Mantua in January 1797, the French forces were overrun near Rivoli, while other enemy columns advanced on Verona and Mantua. At 5:00 P.M. on 13 January, Masséna was ordered to march from Verona to Rivoli, fifteen miles away. Following a forced night march across the snow-covered roads, the first of his troops reached the battlefield at 6:00 A.M. Bonaparte deployed them on the left flank when the battle began. They were shifted to strengthen the sagging center and then deployed to crush an Austrian flanking maneuver. Masséna’s troops played a decisive role in the victory. The next day, with very little rest, Masséna and his troops marched 39 miles in 24 hours to intercept a second Austrian army advancing to relieve Mantua. At La Favorita, he closed the pincer on the Austrian army, forcing their surrender. In the space of five days, Masséna’s division played a major role in an operation that left over 35,000 Austrian soldiers either dead or captured. Two weeks later, the 30,000-man garrison at Mantua surrendered. With his final victory complete, Napoleon praised Masséna with the name l’enfant chéri de la victoire. The president of the Directory in Paris, Jean-François Rewbell, was also congratulatory: “The Executive Directory congratulates you, citizen general, for the new success that you have obtained against the enemies of the Republic. The brave division that you command has covered itself with glory in the three consecutive days that forced Mantua to capitulate, and the Directory is obliged to regard you among the most capable and useful generals of the Republic.”[5]

In 1799, Masséna was granted an important command in Switzerland, replacing General Charles Edward Jennings. As Russian reinforcements marched to support the Austrian armies in Italy and Switzerland, the Directory consolidated the remnants of the French armies under Masséna’s command. With a force totaling approximately 90,000 men, Masséna was ordered to defend the entire frontier. He was defeated by Archduke Charles at the First Battle of Zurich over 4-6 June. After the Austrian night attack over 4/5 June, both sides rested on 5 June, but when the Austrians resumed their attack on 6 June, Masséna had abandoned the city and taken up positions in the surrounding mountains.[6] Becoming aware of the advance of Russian Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov toward St. Gotthard in September, Masséna had used his troops in the south of Switzerland: General Claude Jacques Lecourbe‘s division took the Gotthard Pass, which required Suvorov to retake it on 24 September, delaying his advance north towards Zurich. Suvorov then faced General Jean-de-Dieu Soult‘s French division blocking the route at Altdorf and then took the Teufelsbrücke in the Schöllenen Gorge. The same day, 25 September, Masséna defeated the Austro-Russian force under General Alexander Korsakov at the Second Battle of Zurich. Unable to break through the French lines and aware of Korsakov’s disastrous defeat, the Russian general turned east through the high and difficult Pragel Pass to Glarus. Bagration‘s advance guard threw back the French under Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor, while Rosenberg‘s rear guard held off Masséna, before rejoining Suvorov at Glarus on 4 October. So, Suvorov decided that to evade the French forces awaiting him, he would march into the 9,000 foot high mountains of the Panikh range. After a difficult march, the Russian army reached Ilanz on 8 October and then crossed the treacherous Panix Pass, abandoning his baggage and artillery. [7] This, among other events, led to Russia’s withdrawal from the Second Coalition.

In 1800, Masséna was besieged at Genoa in Italy by the Austrians, while Bonaparte marched with the Army of the Reserve to Milan. By the end of May, plague had spread throughout Genoa and the civilian population was in revolt. Negotiations were begun for the exchange of prisoners early in June, but the citizens and some of the garrison clamored for capitulation. Unknown to Masséna, the Austrian general Peter Ott had been ordered to raise the siege because Bonaparte had crossed Great St Bernard Pass and was now threatening the main Austrian army. Describing the situation at Genoa, Ott requested and received permission to continue the siege. On 4 June, with one day’s rations remaining, Masséna’s negotiator finally agreed to evacuate the French Army from Genoa. However, “if the word capitulation was mentioned or written”, Masséna threatened to end all negotiations.[8] Two days later, a few of the French left the city by sea, but the bulk of Masséna’s starving and exhausted troops marched out of the city with all their equipment and followed the road along the coast toward France, ending the siege of almost 60 days. The siege was an astonishing demonstration of tenacity, ingenuity, courage, and daring that garnered additional laurels for Masséna and placed him in a category previously reserved for Bonaparte alone.[4]

By forcing the Austrians to deploy vast forces against him at Genoa, Masséna made it possible for Bonaparte to cross Great St Bernard Pass, surprise the Austrians, and ultimately defeat General Michael von Melas‘s Austrian army at Marengo before sufficient reinforcements could be transferred from the siege site. Less than three weeks after the evacuation, Bonaparte wrote to Masséna, “I am not able to give you a greater mark of the confidence I have in you than by giving you command of the first army of the Republic Army of Italy.”[9] Even the Austrians recognized the significance of Masséna’s defense; the Austrian chief of staff declared firmly, “You won the battle, not in front of Alessandria but in front of Genoa.”[10] Masséna was made commander of French forces in Italy, though he was later dismissed by Napoleon. Despite the praise, Napoleon also criticized Masséna for capitulating too early in his memoirs, contrasting his actions with those of the Gauls under Vercingetorix when besieged by Julius Caesar in the Battle of Alesia.[11]

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

Masséna by Louis Hersent
Masséna’s sabre, on display at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Neuchâtel

Not until 1804 did Masséna regain Napoleon’s trust. That year, he was made a Marshal of the Empire in May. He led an independent army that captured Verona and fought the Austrians at Verona and later, on 30 October 1805, Caldiero. Masséna was given control of operations against the Kingdom of Naples, and commanded the right wing of the Grand Army in Poland in 1807. He was granted his first ducal victory title as Duke of Rivoli on 24 August 1808.

In 1804, he participated in the reorganization of French Freemasonry and became, in November, “grand representative of the grand master of the Supreme Council”; in this capacity, he was one of the negotiators of the concordat established between the Grand Orient de France and the Supreme Council. Under the Empire, he was a member of the Sainte Caroline lodge in Paris.[12] He is also “worshipful of honor” in various Masonic lodges, such as “Les Frères Réunis” in Paris, “La Parfaite Amitié” in Toulon, “L’Étroite Union” in Thouars or “Les Vrais Amis Réunis” in Nice.

In 1808, Masséna was accidentally shot during a hunting expedition with the imperial suite. It is unclear as to whether he was shot by Napoleon himself or by Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier, but he lost the use of one eye as a result.

Heraldic achievement of André Masséna as Prince of Essling

It was not until 1809 that he returned to active service, this time against the forces of the Fifth Coalition. At the beginning of the campaign, Masséna led the IV Corps at the battles of Eckmühl and Ebersberg. Later in the war, when Napoleon tried to cross to the north bank of the Danube at the Battle of Aspern-Essling, Masséna’s troops hung onto the village of Aspern through two days of savage fighting. He was rewarded on 31 January 1810 with a second, now princely, victory title, Prince of Essling, for his efforts there and in the Battle of Wagram.

During the Peninsular War, Napoleon appointed Masséna as Commander of the Army of Portugal in 1810. Masséna captured Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida after successful sieges, but suffered a first setback at the hands of the Duke of Wellington‘s Anglo-Portuguese army at Buçaco on 27 September. He followed the retreating allies to the Lines of Torres Vedras, a scorched earth trap prepared by Wellington in absolute secrecy. After losing 21.000 men of 61.000 in several months of hunger, Masséna was forced to retreat due to lack of food and supplies, an example of attrition warfare against Napoleon.[13] Masséna withdrew to the Spanish frontier, allegedly prompting Napoleon to comment, “So, Prince of Essling, you are no longer Masséna.”[14] After suffering defeats at the battles of Sabugal and Fuentes de Oñoro, he was replaced by Marshal Auguste de Marmont and did not serve again, becoming a local commander at Marseille.


Masséna’s tomb at the Père Lachaise Cemetery

Masséna retained briefly his command after the restoration of King Louis XVIII until he was removed for his background.[15] When Napoleon returned from exile the following year, Masséna took Napoleon’s side once again, and was awarded as a Peer of France but remained as a local commander. The day after Napoleon’s second abdication on 22 June 1815, he was named head of the National Guard in Paris by the Provisional Government, but was soon replaced upon the return of the Bourbons.[16] He was disinclined to prove his royalist loyalties after the defeat of Napoleon, and was also a member of the court-martial that refused to try Marshal Michel Ney. Masséna died in Paris in 1817 and was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery, in a tomb he shares with his son-in-law Honoré Charles Reille.[17]


Masséna’s wife stayed at their home in Antibes during his campaigns. Their first child, Marie Anne Elisabeth, was born on 8 July 1790, but died only four years later. Their first son Jacques Prosper, born 25 June 1793, inherited his father’s title as 2nd Prince of Essling on 3 July 1818. Victoire Thècle was born on 28 September 1794 and married Honoré Charles Reille on 12 September 1814. François Victor, born on 2 April 1799, became 2nd Duke of Rivoli, 3rd Prince of Essling, and married Anne Debelle on 19 April 1823.


Masséna is the namesake of one of the Boulevards of the Marshals that circle Paris, having also a bridge named after him.

The village of Massena in New York was settled by French lumbermen in the early 19th century and named in Masséna’s honor. Massena, Iowa, also in the United States and in turn named for the community in New York, honors Masséna with a portrait of him in Centennial Park. His birthplace, Nice, is the location of Place Masséna, also named after him. The palatial Museé Masséna in Nice houses memorabilia of Masséna’s life but was constructed by his grandson and is named for him.

In literature[edit]

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output a,.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit} .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F} .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error, .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){ .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error, .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397} .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Paris, Louis (1869). Dictionnaire des anoblissements (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: Bachelin-Deflorenne.
  2. ^ a b Horward, Donald D. (ed.) (1973). The French Campaign in Portugal, An Account by Jean Jacques Pelet, 1810-1811. Minneapolis, MN, p. 501.
  3. ^ Franceschi, Michel (2005). Austerlitz. Montreal: International Napoleonic Society, p. 20.
  4. ^ a b “INS Scholarship 1997: André Masséna, Prince D’Essling, in the Age of Revolution”. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  5. ^ Rewbell to Masséna, 14 February 1797, Koch, Mémories de Masséna I, lxxxix.
  6. ^ Marshall-Cornwall, Massena, 72-74.
  7. ^ Gachot, Édouard (1904). Histoire militaire de Masséna, La Campagne d’Helvétie (1799). Paris, pp. 182-473.
  8. ^ Masséna to Ott, 2 June 1800, Gachot, Le Siège de Gênes, 241.
  9. ^ Bonaparte to Masséna, 25 June 1800, Correspondance de Napoléon Ier, No. 4951, VI, 489-90.
  10. ^ James Marshall-Cornwall, Marshal Massena, 115.
  11. ^ Roberts, Andrew (2014). Napoleon: A Life. Penguin. p. 330.
  12. ^ Dictionnaire de la franc-maçonnerie – Daniel Ligou (Presses universitaires de France, 1998).
  13. ^ Grehan, John (2015). The lines of Torres Vedras : the cornerstone of Wellington’s strategy in the Peninsular War, 1809-1812. Frontline Books. ISBN 9781473852747.
  14. ^ Napoleon’s Peninsular Marshals: A Reassessment. Richard Humble, 1972.
  15. ^ Elting, Swords Around a Throne, 141.
  16. ^ Thibaudeau, Memoires, 1799 – 1815, 519.
  17. ^ Monuments and Memorials of the Napoleonic Era Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Honoré Charles Reille


  • Chandler, David, ed. (1987). Napoleon’s Marshals. London: Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-297-79124-9.
  • Chandler, David (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan.
  • Clausewitz, Carl von (2018). Napoleon’s 1796 Italian Campaign. Trans and ed. Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-2676-2
  • Clausewitz, Carl von (2020). Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume 1. Trans and ed. Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-3025-7
  • Clausewitz, Carl von (2021). The Coalition Crumbles, Napoleon Returns: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume 2. Trans and ed. Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-3034-9
  • Smith, Digby (1998). The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill. ISBN 1-85367-276-9.

External links[edit]

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Regnal titles
Title created
Prince of Essling
31 January 1810 – 4 April 1817
Jacques Prosper Masséna
Title created
Duke of Rivoli
24 August 1808 – 4 April 1817
Jacques Prosper Masséna