General Jean Baptiste Salme

Général de brigade who was killed at the Siege of Tarragona

Born: November 18, 1766

Place of Birth: Aillianville, Haute-Marne, France

Died: May 27, 1811

Cause of Death: Killed in action

Place of Death: Tarragona, Spain

Arc de Triomphe: SALM on the west pillar


Coming from a farming family, Jean Baptiste Salme was taught by his uncles who were priests of Morancourt. In 1784 he joined the Noailles Regiment of Dragoons and then after the beginning of the Revolution he left the army in early 1791. That August Salme returned to the army when he joined the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Vosges. He served with the Army of the Rhine and in April of 1792 he was commissioned as a sous-lieutenant. Next Salme served at the Siege of Longwy and then in August he was wounded at Rülhwim. He went on to serve at the action of Mainz and then in September of 1793 he fought at the combat of Nothweiler. The next month Salme was promoted to lieutenant colonel, having skipped the intermediate ranks of lieutenant, capitaine, and chef de bataillon. Less than two weeks later he was again promoted, this time to chef de brigade, and then in December he served at Berstheim and Geisbërg. In March of 1794 Salme was promoted to général de brigade and he was employed in the advance guard of the Army of the North. In June he distinguished himself at Hooglède but then in July he was badly wounded at the attack of Malines. In September Salme was well enough to take command of the 4th Division and in October he ordered that Grave be besieged. That December bombardment commenced and he received the surrender of the city a few weeks later.

Salme took part in the French occupation of Holland and in January of 1795 he received the surrender of Utrecht. Less than a week later he was named commander of Amsterdam. Salme was next ordered to occupy the province of Over Yssel and in July he joined Souham's division. In June of 1796 he was sent to allay the troops in Belgium, but the following February he was dismissed for altercations with the administrators of Brussels and the département of Dyle. Salme was sent to join the Army of the Sambre and Meuse where he took command of a brigade of dragoons under Klein. In April he served at Altenkirchen but in September after the coup of 18 Fructidor Salme was dismissed. In 1798 he was designated for the expedition to Egypt but he did not embark with the army, instead he joined the Army of Rome which became the Army of Naples in 1799. With this army he commanded a brigade of light infantry as the advance guard, and on June 17th, 1799 he was wounded at the combat of Castel San Giovanni. Two days later he was again wounded at the Battle of the Trebbia , and the following day he was taken prisoner near Piacenza.

Salme was released to return to France in March of 1801. Later that year he was designated for the expedition to Saint-Domingue and in October he was sent to command the troops at Toulon that would join the expedition. Arriving in February of 1802, Salme joined General Hardy's division and he twice battled General Christophe that month. In May of 1802 General Leclerc promoted Salme to général de division but he also sent Salme back to France due to Salme's vocal objections to the reestablishment of slavery. Back in France, Salme's promotion to général de division was not confirmed and he was not employed by the army. During the following years he first retired to Drusenheim and then he joined a starch manufacturer in Neufchâteau. During the trial of General Moreau in 1804, Salme was placed under police surveillance.

Salme was finally recalled to duty in August of 1809 to command a brigade of the National Guard at Tête de Flandre. Afterwards he was sent home but then in April of 1810 he was reintegrated into the army at the request of General Souham. Sent to the Army of Catalonia, in 1811 Salme was commanding a brigade taking part in the Siege of Tarragona. On the night of May 4th he distinguished himself at the head of his brigade by taking the entrenchments placed before Fort Olivo. For this exploit he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor. During the night of May 14th, Salme repulsed a sortie of the garrison. On the night of May 27th he was fighting when he was killed by a shot of grapeshot to the head. Salme's body was buried under a Roman aqueduct.


Updated August 2018

© Nathan D. Jensen