Monday, July 12, 2010

Général Jean Isidore Harispe

Jean Isidore Harispe, 1st Comte Harispe (7 December 1768 – 26 May 1855) one of our heroes from Margafel who's charge with the 4e Hussars halted the initial Spanish advance has an interesting background. The son of a wealthy Basque landowner, born in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry in the Pyrénées,  he was destined to spend most of his career fighting in or against Spain.

Revolutionary Wars
When the French Revolutionary Wars started in 1792, Harispe enlisted as a volunteer in the French army. In 1793, Harispe was elected commanding officer of a company organizing at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Harispe distinguished himself in War of the Pyrenees against Spain. After peace was made with Spain in 1795, Harispe was assigned garrison duty in Bordeaux, where he fought insurgents in the Haute-Garonne. In 1799, he took part in the campaign in the Grisons under MacDonald. Transferred to the Army of Italy, he fought under Moncey and Brune. In May 1802, he was given command of the chasseurs basque, which became the 16th demi-brigade garrisoned in Angoulême.

Napoleonic Wars
When the War of the Third Coalition broke out, Harispe served under Marshal Augereau in the Army of the Ocean Coast. In the campaigns of 1805 and 1806, he fought in the Division Desjardin. Harispe was wounded at Jena and in January 1807, he was promoted to General de Brigade. Transferred to the corps of Marshal Soult, Harispe was given command of a brigade of the division Verdier. Harispe distinguished himself in fighting at Gludstadt and in the battles of Heilsberg and Friedland, where he was wounded again.

In December 1807, Harispe was made chief of staff of the Corps of Observation of the Ocean Coast under the orders of Marshal Moncey. With this corps, he partook in the Spanish campaign of 1808. In November 1808, Harispe fought under Marshal Lannes at the Battle of Tudela and in the siege of Saragossa. After Lannes returned to France on the outbreak of the War of the Fifth Coalition, Harispe became chief of staff to general Suchet.

After being wounded in the Battle of María, where Suchet with 10,000 men beat a Spanish force outnubering him 3-to-1, Harispe was promoted general de division. After having distinguished himself further in the sieges of Tarragona and Lerida and in the conquest of Valencia, Harispe was made a Grand Officer in the Légion d'honneur and created a count.

Harispe served in the Army of Aragon until 1813. In 1814, he was sent to Barcelona to as reinforcements to Soult, who after Vitoria was tasked with preventing the Duke of Wellington from invading southern France. During the retreat into France, he was forced to burn his own castle in his native town to prevent it being used by the Spanish. After the Battle of Orthez, he covered the retreat of the army. After having fought a Portuguese division at Tarbes on 20 March 1814, Harispe served in the Battle of Toulouse, fought after Napoléon had already abdicated. Tasked with defending the heights at Calvinet, he defended these redoubts to the utmost. His leg had to be amputated after it was shattered by a cannon ball.

Later life
During the Bourbon Restoration, Harispe was made a knight of Saint Louis and given command of the 15th military division. Upon Napoléon's return from Elba, Harispe rallied to the emperor during the Hundred Days and served on the Spanish border. After the second abdication, Harispe tried to prevent the Spanish invading southern France.

The Second Bourbon Restoration caused Harispe to retire to his chateau until the 1830 Revolution, after which he served in various positions, eventually being created a Marshal of France by President Bonaparte. After the establishment of the Second French Empire he was made a senator. Harispe died in 1855 in Lacarre.

Harispe has his name inscribed on the west side of the Arc de Triomphe.

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