General Barthélemy-Louis-Joseph Schérer

Barthélemy-Louis-Joseph Schérer
General who led successful sieges in 1794 and later served as an army commander

Born: December 18, 1747

Place of Birth: Delle, Territoire de Belfort, France

Died: August 19, 1804

Place of Death: Chauny, France

Arc de Triomphe: SCHERER on the west pillar

Initially joining the Austrian army as a cadet in 1760, Barthélemey-Louis-Joseph Schérer almost immediately saw action in the Seven Years War. That year he fought at Torgau and was wounded, and the following year he received a promotion to the equivalent of sous-lieutenant. In 1764 Schérer was promoted to lieutenant, and he remained in the service of Austria until 1775 when he resigned. Five years later in 1780 he joined the French army as a capitaine in the artillery regiment of Strasbourg. Not content to remain there, Schérer arranged to be transferred to the service of Holland where he was given the rank of major.

After the French Revolution was well underway, in March of 1790 Schérer resigned from Dutch service. Two years later in January of 1792 he was readmitted to the service of France as a capitaine in the 82nd Infantry. Schérer served in the Army of the Center as an aide-de-camp to General Prez-Crassier and then went to the Army of the Rhine to serve as an aide-de-camp to General Beauharnais. In July of 1793 he was promoted to chef de bataillon, and only two months later he received another promotion, this time to général de brigade. The next month he took command of the troops of Haut-Rhin.

1794 was a busy year for General Schérer. In early January he was promoted to général de division and then in April he was sent to the Army of the North. While there he served under General Ferrand and then in July he won at Mont Palisel. When the army was reorganized at that time, Schérer was placed with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse and served under General Jourdan. He was ordered to command the sieges in the north and in July he took command of the siege of Landrecies. Less than a week later he took that city's surrender and then moved his forces to blockade Le Quesnoy. Le Quesnoy surrendered in August and Schérer continued on, next laying siege to Valenciennes which surrendered in less than two weeks. Schérer then took Condé before rejoining the main forces of the Army of the Sambre and Meuse. That September he fought at the Battle of the Ourthe where he commanded the right, and then in October he commanded the right at the Battle of Aldenhoven.

Schérer was called to Paris in October of 1794 for a new assignment, and the next month he was named commander-in-chief of the Army of Italy. After traveling to that army, in March of 1795 he was named commander of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees, but he did not take command until the end of May. That June Schérer won at the Battle of the Fluvia, and then after peace was signed with Spain he returned to command the Army of Italy. In November of 1795 he and his forces won at the Battle of Loano , but afterwards he submitted his resignation, tiring of the orders sent to him by the Directory. His resignation was accepted in March of 1796 and he was replaced by a young General Bonaparte eager to prove himself. Later that year Schérer was named inspector of the cavalry of the Army of the Interior and then in 1797 he was named commander of the 8th military division.

In July of 1797 Schérer was appointed Minister of War and he remained employed there until February of 1799, lasting considerably longer than a number of other generals. In March of 1799 Schérer retook an active command, taking command of the Army of Italy and then leading it to victory at Pastrengo. However, the next month he was defeated at Magnano and at the end of April he resigned his command. Known for being prolific in his consumption of alcohol, in June of 1799 a new charge was laid against him. The Council of 500 accused Schérer of selling the army's equipment for his own profit and began an investigation, but after Napoleon seized power in November the investigation was dropped. However, Napoleon did not employ Schérer again.


Updated July 2015

© Nathan D. Jensen