General Pierre Guillaume Gratien

Officer who served in a variety of theaters, notably in Italy in 1814

Born: January 1, 1764

Place of Birth: Paris, Paris, France

Died: April 24, 1814

Cause of Death: Illness

Place of Death: Piacenza, Italy

Arc de Triomphe: GRATIEN on the north pillar


The son of a merchant, Pierre Guillaume Gratien enlisted in the regiment of Dauphin-Dragoons in January of 1787. Two years later, on July 13th of 1789, he became a lieutenant of grenadiers in the battalion of Red Children in the National Guard of Paris. In July of 1790 Gratien was promoted to capitaine in the same unit, and then in September of 1791 he joined the 2nd Battalion of Volunteers of Paris. In January of 1792 he was named a lieutenant colonel of the battalion and he and his unit began serving with the Army of the North. In 1793 when Dumouriez began his treason to abandon Belgium to the Austrians and march his army on Paris, Gratien evacuated the camp of Maulde and conducted his battalion to Escautpont and then Douai. Next in August Gratien fought at the combat of Linselles where he distinguished himself. Two weeks later he was promoted to général de brigade and then in October he joined Duquesnoy's division. During the Battle of Wattignies , on October 16th Gratien and his men were forced to conduct a fighting retreat, and the representatives of the people on the battlefield dismissed him from command. Gratien was arrested and sent to prison in Arras where he remained until he was acquitted in March of 1794 by the revolutionary tribunal of Pas-de-Calais. However, he was not immediately given a position in the army.

In June of 1795 Gratien was reinstated in his rank and he returned to the Army of the North and then in July he was sent with reinforcements to the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg. He was briefly suspended during his time there and then on January 1st, 1796 General Hoche recalled Gratien to the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean. Gratien was next designated for the expedition to Ireland and in December he embarked aboard the Tourville. After the expedition ended in a failure to land, Gratien was sent to the Army of the Sambre and Meuse where he joined Lemoine's division. In April of 1797 he served at the crossing of the Rhine at Neuwied. In October of 1798 Gratien prepared for the second expedition to Ireland but he did not go to Ireland. In May of 1799 he took command of the département of Manche but then in August he was nominally suspended for having disobeyed the orders of his chief, however he remained in his position. At the end of 1799 Gratien joined the Army of the West. In 1801 he joined the troops embarked on Admiral Ganteaume's fleet as reinforcements for the army in Egypt. In 1802 Gratien joined the Army of Holland, in 1803 he joined Barbou's division, and then in 1804 he was named a Commander of the Legion of Honor.

In November of 1805 Gratien was serving in a French division stationed in Holland and then in 1806 he began serving in the 12th Military Division. At the end of the year, with the establishment of the Kingdom of Holland, Gratien passed into service of Louis Bonaparte the King of Holland and in February of 1807 he was promoted to lieutenant general. In April of 1807 he took command of the 2nd Dutch Division under Marshal Brune. In 1809 Gratien served in the X Corps commanded by King Jérôme Bonaparte and he battled and defeated the insurrection led by the partisan Major Schill. In the meantime he was named a Commander of the Order of Merit of Holland and given the Grand Cross of the Order of Denmark. At the end of October, Gratien returned to French service as a général de brigade and he was sent to command a brigade of Loison's division in the Army of Spain. In January of 1810 he took command of the 1st Brigade of Solignac's division in Junot's VIII Corps in the Army of Portugal. That October Gratien distinguished himself at Caxeirias in Portugal and then in 1811 he was employed in the Army of Germany and named a Baron of the Empire.

In 1812 Gratien took command of the 2nd Brigade of Morand's division for the campaign against Russia. That August he served at the Battle of Smolensk where he was wounded and in September he was promoted to général de division. As the French tried to reorganize against the Sixth Coalition in 1813, Gratien was sent to Italy where he took command of the 2nd Division under General Grenier. That August he evacuated Villach and then retook the town and then in October he served at Tarvis, was wounded, and served at Bassano. In November Gratien's division was broken apart and in December he formed a new division at Alexandria. In 1814 his new division became the 3rd Division of the Army of the Reserve and they rejoined the main army in February. Gratien fought at the Battle of the Mincio in February and then he was named commander of the right corps at Piacenza. In March he fought at the combat of Parma and he died of sickness in April of 1814, after Napoleon's abdication and the cessation of hostilities.


Updated February 2020

© Nathan D. Jensen