General François Mireur

Volunteer during the Revolution who popularized La Marseillaise and later killed himself in Egypt

Born: February 5, 1770

Place of Birth: Escragnolles, Alpes-Maritimes, France

Died: July 9, 1798

Cause of Death: Suicide

Place of Death: Damanhur, Egypt

Arc de Triomphe: MIREUR on the south pillar


A student of medicine at Montpellier at the outbreak of the French Revolution, François Mireur joined the National Guard of Montpellier as a capitaine in 1790. Nevertheless, he finished his studies and became a doctor of medicine in June of 1792. His first claim to fame came shortly thereafter when he sang a patriotic song to the volunteers of Marseille. So impressed by the song and his performance, these volunteers sang it upon arriving in Paris, and the song thereafter was known as "La Marseillaise".1 Mireur meanwhile traveled to Soissons where he was elected a lieutenant of grenadiers. Sent to the Army of the North, Mireur served in Belgium and was slightly wounded at the Battle of Jemappes in November. In 1794 he received a promotion to chef de bataillon from the representatives of the people and he was appointed chief of staff to Mayer's division. That July Mireur joined the Army of the Sambre and Meuse when the army was reorganized and in October he served at Maestricht and the Roer.

During the summer of 1795, Mireur was promoted to chef de brigade and he served under General Bernadotte. That September he fought at the affair of Nassau where he was wounded in the arm. The next year Mireur crossed the Rhine in July where with 400 grenadiers he seized the redoubt of Bendorf and held it successfully against several enemy attacks. In 1797 he followed Bernadotte to the Army of Italy and in March he distinguished himself at the crossing of the Tagliamento and at Gradisca. Less than a week later he was appointed chef de brigade of the 19th Chasseurs à Cheval, and shortly thereafter he received a promotion to général de brigade. Mireur commanded a brigade in Italy for the remainder of the year.

In 1798 Mireur was designated for the expedition to Egypt and given command of a brigade of cavalry in the Army of the Orient. Serving in Dumas' division, he marched on Damanhour with Desaix's division. The harsh realities of campaigning in the desert made Mireur question the expedition and he was not the only one. At a council of war with the commander-in-chief Napoleon Bonaparte, Mireur expressed his and others' dissatisfaction at the conditions in Egypt and stated that the army should embark and leave at once. However, Napoleon ended the council by insisting that they conquer Egypt. Despondent, the next day Mireur rode out into the desert and shot himself in the head.2



Updated June 2024

© Nathan D. Jensen