Louis Gabriel Suchet was born in 1770, near Lyon, and looked to follow in the business of his father, a quite successful silk merchant. However, he caught the Revolutionary fervor, and joined the Lyon national guard. By 1793, he was a Lieutenant Colonel, and fought at the siege of Toulon, coming to the attention of General Bonaparte. He later commanded the 4th battalion of the 18th Demibrigade, part of the Army of Italy, and during the 1796 campaigns fought with distinction at Dego, Lodi, Borghetto, Castiglione, Peschiera, and Bassano. As part of Massena's Division, he fought at Arcola and Rivoli.
In 1798, he served as Chief of Staff to General Brune in Switzerland. and later that year was finally promoted to General de Brigade, and served as Chief of Staff to the Army of Italy under Joubert. While listed among the officers to take part in the Egyptian campaign, he ultimately wound up returning to Italy, subsequently commanding a Brigade in Massena's Army of Switzerland where he again distinguished himself; he later became Massena's Chief of Staff. In 1799, when Joubert was placed in command of the Army of Italy, he allegedly made having Suchet as his Chief of staff a condition of accepting the post. Unfortunately, Joubert didn't fare well in Italy, and against the advice of Suchet and others, gave battle at Novi, where the French were decisively beaten by Suvorov and his Russians, Joubert himself being killed early in the battle. With the return of General Bonaparte from Egypt and the subsequent Coup d' etat of 18 Brumaire 1799, Massena was appointed to command the Army of Irtaly. By that time, Suchet had left for France, but was convinced to take a command under him.
Monsieur le Marechal is a Front Rank figure, and the colonel accompanying him is Foundry. In Spain, Suchet's command included some Swiss troops, so I have painted the colonel in a uniform suggestive of a Swiss regiment, in part to make Suchet's base stand out from the crowd!
During the 1800 campaign in Italy under Massena, Suchet commanded the center with 12.00 men. Under presuure from Melas's Austrians, Massena and the left wing were forced to retreat to Genoa, where he famously held the city as long as possible before capitulating on June 4th, Soult commanding the right wing was captured, and Suchet retreated to Nice. As Melas advanced, he was forcesd to withdraw to the ,line of the river Var, defending the French interior. Melas occupied Nice on May 13th, but Suchet and his men, although greatly outnumbered, succesfully held the line of the Var for 10 days. The arrival of Bonaparte in his rear eventually compelled Melas to withdraw, and Suchet re-entered Nice on May 29th. He pursued the Austrians vigorously, moved into the Tenda pass in early June, and defeating an Austrian force under General Elnitz several times, reached the Genoa river., and crossed into the plain of the Bormida river. In the process, his forces captured 15,000 men, 30 cannons, and 6 standards.
Suchet had hoped to command a Corps in 1805, but instead lead an excellent infantry Division, first under Soult and then under Lannes. His Division held the Santon mound at the Battle of Austerlitz, where it fought with distinction. During the 1806-1807 campaign, Suchet's Division was part of the V Corps under Lannes. It was one of the first to fight the Prussians (at Sallfield), lead the second attack at Jena, and fought at Pultusk and Ostrolenka. he was sent to Spain in 1808. Interestingly, Suchet married Honorine Anthoine de Saint-Joseph a niece of both Joseph Bonaparte's wife, Julie Clary, and Bernadotte's wife, Desiree Clary, on 16 November 1808.They had three children: The arranged marriage was a happy one, and his wife evidently often accompanied him on campaign,
The center figure is an ADC to a General de Brigade, as evidenced by the blue brassard on his right arm (just like the sashes of their commanders, the brassards were red for an ADC to a General de Division and white for those of a Marshal). The mounted officers (colonels) wee included in the command packs of some recently purchased Foundry French line infantry. As I don't use mounted colonels in my infantry units, they were surplus. I have put them use as ADC's or temporary commanders of smaller forces.
Described as "reserved, methodical, and dependable", Suchet was one of the very few to perform well and enhance his reputation in Spain. With the approach of war with Austria in 1809, Suchet was finally given the independent command he had sought since his days in Italy. He was appointed to command "3 mediocre Divisions ", which would become the Army of Aragon. He lost his first (and only) battle with Spanish regulars to General Blake at Alcaniz on May 23, 1809. The men were ill fed, all but unpaid, and undisciplined. Suchet took measures to improve all three, as well as to work with the population of the province, respecting their religion and customs. He became by far the most successful of the French military governors. Less than a month later he defeated Blake twice at the battles of Maria and Belchite. He collaborated in the siege of Saragossa, at the conclusion of which he was actually thanked by the Spanish authorities. He went on to gradually subdue most of Catalonia as well, culminating in the successful siege of Taragona (May - June 1811), and a Marshal's baton for Suchet at last on July 11, 1811.
Ordered to subdue Valencia by Napoleon, Suchet bottled up General Blake in that city in January 1812; after only 7 days the city fell, and Suchet captured 18,00 Spanish regulars, along with Blake himself. Napoleon responded by naming him Duke of Albufera. He held his opwn through most of 1812, but as Wellington advanced, and troops were drawn off to the Emperor's armies in Germany. Despite another victory at Molina del Rey in January 1814, Suchet and his few remaining men finally returned to France in March 1814. He met the returning King Ferdinand of Spain near the border, who thanked Suchet for his benevolent conduct. he served the Bourbons under the restoration, but supported Napoleon when he returned to power in 1815. He was appointed to command the French Army of the Alps and was stationed near his birthplace in Lyon. He prevented that city from being dacked by the allies. After Napoleon's defeat (some have argued, with justice, that Suchet would have made a far better chief of staff to Napoleon than Soult), he was dismissed by the Bourbons (although later restored in 1819, He tried to persuade Ney to flee the country, offering him money, a passport, and an escort. Suchet died in relative obscurity in 1826; the following month the citizens of Sargossa attended a mass for his soul in their cathedral.
Suchet's grave in Paris's Père Lachaise Cemetery (from Wikipedia)
Napoleon, asked while on St. Helena,. which of his generals was most skillful, answered "That is difficult to say, but it seems to me that it was Suchet..." Brigadier Peter Young stated of Suchet "he was a general of great ability, the superior in military skill to all but Massena, Davout, Soult, and perhaps Macdonald." "Few indeed of the 26 could equal Suchet's record, whether for military ability or personal integrity."