Gli artefici della vittoria

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Patrice-Edme Maurice de Mac Mahon

Generali Macmahon  Patrice-Edme Maurice Conte di Mac Mahon Duca di Magenta
(Sully 13 giugno 1808 - Forèt de Montcresson il 17 ottobre 1893)

Marie Edmé Patrice Maurice de Mac Mahon was born on 13 June 1808, in Château de Sully, in Saône-et-Loire. A noble of Irish origins, he started his studies at the Autun High School and at 17 he was accepted at Saint-Cry Military school 1825-1827). In 1827 he attended the General staff Academy, in 1829 he was appointed sublieutenant. In 1830 detached at the 4th Hussars he embarked for Algeria. His numerous successes in the Army earned him the Légion d’honneur which he received on 20th November 1830 from the hands of Marshall Clauzel. From 1827 to 1840 he was General Staff officer and aide-de-camp to Generals Achard, Bellair, Bro, Damrémont, d’Houdetot and Changarnier. When the first 10 battalions were established, Mac Mahon was appointed commander of the 10th Battailon of the “Chasseurs à pied”. Upon appointment as lieutenant colonel of the 2nd regiment of the Foreign Legion he remained at Bona for three years. Colonel (1845), brigade general (1848), general of division (1852), during the Crimean War he became an outstanding character and experienced a successful carrier. On 4th August 1855, at the command of the 1st infantry division of the 2nd corp of the Orient army, he left to Sevastopol. He entered the legend on the next 8th September. Standing on the Malakoff tower, mined and under the Russian shots, he spurred his soldiers on to attack, responding with the famous “J’y suis, j’y reste” (here I’m, here I stay), to those begging him to get down. The marine flag that he carried up to there turned out to be drilled by forty-two rifle shots and three shots of artillery, as to demonstrate the fervour of the fight. After these events he was appointed Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur. Senator from 1856 to 1870, he returned to Algeria participating to the reunification of the great Kabylia. On 22 April 1859 he was assigned the command of the 2nd Army corps of Italy, thanks to which he won in Magenta. The day after Napoleon III, grateful, appointed him Duke of Magenta and Marshall of France. As Governor of Algeria he was recalled by the Emperor at the outburst of the French-Prussian war and on 17th July 1870 he became Commander of the 1st Corps of the Rhine Army, but he cannot escape the setbacks of the French Army, which was unprepared. After being defeated at Froeschwiller, at Sedan he was seriously wound and imprisoned on 2nd September. Prisoner at Wiesbaden he was set free on March, 1871.Adolphe Theirs, President of the Republic, ordered him to command the Versailles army and suffocate the insurrection at the Paris Commune. On 24th May 1873 he was elected President of the Republic. He will remain President until 1879. After retiring from public life, Marshall Mac Mahon died on 17th October 1893 in the Castle of Forêt de Moncresson, nearby Montargis, in the Loiret area. His mortal remains rest in the crypt of the governors in the Church of Saint Louis, at the Hôtel des Invalides, in Paris.

Jean-Joseph-Gustave Clèr

Generali Cler  Jean-Joseph-Gustave Clèr
(Salins.les-Bains-Jura 10 dicembre 1814. - Magenta 4 giugno 1859)

Son of the director of the important saltworks of Salins-les-Bains (Jura), Jean-Joseph-Gustave Clèr was born on 10th December 1814. He started his study in the college of that same town. He was lively and impulsive, and it seems he did not give great satisfactions to his teachers. He compensated the lack of diligence with a vivid intelligence. It is known that he was really appreciated by teachers and by class mates, since he was sincere, brave and had a good nature. In November 1832 he was admitted to the special military school of Saint Cyr, in Paris. He came out in 1832 with excellent results. He was appointed sublieutenant of the 21st Garrison’s infantry regiment at Perpignan. Three years later, promoted lieutenant, being acknowledged as excellent designer, he was entrusted with the topographic surveys of the region. His good job earned him the compliments and the support of the General, Earl of Castellane, and this was important considering his severity and his roughness. The regiment was stationed in Paris and for the second time Lieutenant Clèr returned to the capital. It seemed that he did not like Paris’ life and that after his appointment as captain, in April 1841, he asked to be transferred to the infantry in Africa. Appointed adjutant major, he availed himself of his first African stay to carry out excavations in the Carthaginian and Roman ruins, where he found coins and vases that he brought to France and donated to the museum of his motherland. He was among the winners of the competition for the rank of Major in 1845, and was the youngest Senior Officer of the Armée. In April 1846 he joined the 6th Infantry regiment at Montbrison (Loire). He was at Avignon during the Revolution in February 1848, and was really appreciated for his moderation. Promoted Lieutenant Colonel in Lyon in 1852, he was appointed War Council President of the Region. Being a man of action, as soon as he got acquainted of the creation of three regiments of Zouaves, he stood as candidate to command one of them. When he joined the 2nd regiment at Orano he replaced the Colonel Vinoy, who was ill. Before embarking for this destination he received in Paris, with the other deparments, from the hands of the Prince, President of the Republic, Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, the Eagle and the Flag of the 2nd Regiment of Zouaves. He outstood during the Campaign of Africa and became division colonel on 10th August 1853. The French expedition corps that included also 1200 men of the 2nd Zouaves regiment landed in Crimea on 14th September 1854. Clèr launched the “French fury” of his Zouaves to conquer the tower on the hill of the Alma where he thrust the flag into the ground. On 5th March 1855 he was raised to the rank of Brigade General and set to the command of the 62nd and 73rd Line infantry. His behaviour in Crimea earned him the Légion d’Honneur. Upon restructuring of the Imperial Guard in 1856 he was appointed as commander of the infantry brigade composed by Zouaves, Granadiers and Gendermes. At Saint Cyr he wrote “Souvenir d’un officier du 2ème de Zouaves” and published it thanks to the support of his friend, the baron P. Du Casse, whom he recommended not to mention the author’s name and rank. Gustave Clèr commanded the Guard brigade during the Italian Campaign. At Pontenuovo di Magenta, during a severe phase aiming at conquering the bridge over the Naviglio Grande, after continuous, unsuccessful and bloody assaults, he was struck dead while at the head of his soldiers during a bayonet assault. His body was found only three hours later, after the bustle of the fights, when the battle was won. His body was intact but deprived of his Turkish sword, his epaulettes and decorations, an Austrian use against prisoners and dead soldiers.

Esprit Charles Marie Espinasse

Generali Espinasse  Esprit Charles Marie Espinasse
(Castelnaudary 2 aprile 1815 - Magenta il 4 giugno 1859)

He was born on 2nd April 1815 in Castlenaudary, and died on 4th June 1859 in Magenta. He was appointed Minister of Home affairs and of the Public Security on 7th February 1858. Esprit Charles Marie Espinasse was the son of Jean and Germaine Robert. Accepted at the Militar Academy of Saint Cyr, he came out as sublieutenant of the 47th line infantry regiment, and soon passed to the Foreign Legion. On 17th January 1841 he became captain of the 1st regiment of the Tirailleurs and took part to the Algerian campaign from 1835 to 1849. He was wounded by four shots during the fight at Aurès(at the chest, belly and thighs). With the 22nd line infantry he participated to the Rome assault during which he stood out entering as first in the pontifical town. In 1851, before the coup d’état, General de Saint Arnaud called him to Paris to command the 42th of line. Since his loyalty declaration to the Prince President, on 2nd December, he was appointed as aide-de-camp and on 10th May 1852, Espinasse was promoted Brigadier General. At the beginning of the Crimean Campaign he was commander of the 1st brigade of the 1st Infantry division. He stood out during the fights of Cernaia and Malakoff and was promoted Divisional General, commander of the 3rd infantry division of General Bosquet’s 2nd corps d’armée. By the end of the war Emperor Napoleon III assigned him, within the framework of the Armée d’Orient, a special mission, with exceptional powers. Back to France in 1857 he became Infantry General Inspector, but after Orsini’s assassination attempt (14th January 1858) the Emperor appointed Espinasse Minister of Home affairs and of Public security. He performed the said task from 7th February until 14th June 1858, date in which he was appointed Senator. He joined the Italian army on 2nd April 1859 as commander of the 2nd Division of General Mac Mahon’s 2nd Corps d’armée. On 4th June his division faced difficulties in front of Magenta, Mac Mahon came to help him requiring the intervention of General Camou’s Voltigeurs. Espinasse had the chance to start the offensive over again. Coming from Marcallo he entered Magenda surpassing the railway. Not far from the town, nearby Casa Giacobbe, he was shot dead and with him also Lieutenant Froidefond, his orderly. The Emperor lost a loyal friend and France his youngest Divisional General. He was 45. Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1842, Officer in 1849, Commander on 16th August 1856, he was awarded with several foreign decorations: Papal order of Saint-Grégoire-le-Grand, order of Bain d’Angleterre, Medal of Crimea, of Her Majesty the Queen of England. He married Marie Festugière from Bordeaux, and had three children.