Michel Ney

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Ney, Michel

Ney, Michel (mēshĕlˈ nā), 1769–1815, marshal of France. Called “the bravest of the brave” by Napoleon I, Ney, a cooper's son from Saarlouis, rapidly rose to glory in the French Revolution. He distinguished himself in the campaigns of 1794 and 1795, commanded the army of the Rhine briefly in 1799, seized Elchingen (1805), and conquered Tyrol. His assistance was decisive in Napoleon's victory at Friedland. Ney's greatest feat was his defense of the rear in the retreat from Moscow in 1812. He was created Duke of Elchingen and prince of Moskowa by Napoleon. Later, Ney was one of the generals who urged Napoleon to abdicate after Leipzig. Ney was raised (1814) to the peerage by Louis XVIII. On Napoleon's return from exile in Elba, Ney promised the king that he would stop Napoleon on his march to Paris, but instead he joined Napoleon and commanded in the Waterloo campaign. He was condemned for treason by the house of peers and shot.


See biography by J. T. Foster (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ney, Michel


Born Jan. 10, 1769, in Saarlouis; died Dec. 7, 1815, in Paris. Marshal of France (1804), duke of Elchingen (1808), prince of Moscow (1812). Son of a cooper.

In 1788, Ney joined the cavalry and was promoted in 1794–95 during the revolutionary wars. In 1796 he became a brigadier general, and in 1799 a major general. Ney took part in all the Napoleonic Wars. In 1800 he commanded a division, from 1802 the forces in Switzerland, and from 1803 to 1814 a corps. He operated successfully in the Elchingen region near Ulm (1805), as well as in the battles of Jena (1806) and Friedland (1807). From 1808 to 1811, Ney suffered a number of defeats in Spain. At the Battle of Borodino of 1812 he was in command of the center of Napoleon’s army; it was his group that attacked the Semenovskoe fleches. During the retreat from Moscow, Ney commanded the rear guard, which was almost completely wiped out near Krasnyi.

Ney was distinguished for his personal bravery and enjoyed great popularity among the soldiers. After Napoleon’s abdication in 1814, Ney entered the service of the Bourbons. He became a peer of France and a member of the Military Council, but during the period of the Hundred Days in 1815 he again allied himself with Napoleon. At the battle of Waterloo he commanded the center of the army. After the defeat of Napoleon’s army Ney hid, but he was arrested and shot by sentence of a court-martial.


Mémoires. vols. 1–2. Paris, 1833.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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