General Joseph Servan de Gerbey

Joseph Servan de Gerbey
Minister of War in 1792 and commander of the Army of the Western Pyrenees

Born: February 12, 1741

Place of Birth: Romans, Drôme, France

Died: May 10, 1808

Place of Death: Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe: SERVAN on the west pillar

A career soldier, Joseph Servan de Gerbey first enlisted in the French army in 1761 and he initially served in Brittany. At the end of 1762 he joined the Regiment Dauphin, and then in 1765 he was commissioned as a sous-lieutenant. Servan went on to serve in Corsica in 1769, receive a promotion a promotion to capitaine in 1772, be appointed a major of grenadiers in 1779, and become a Knight of Saint Louis in 1783. Just before the arrival of the Revolution he was appointed deputy governor of pages in the court, but he was relieved from this duty by order of the minister Saint-Priest.

After the arrival of the Revolution, in 1790 Servan served at Marseille and then in November of 1791 he became a lieutenant colonel of the 61st Infantry. In March of 1792 Servan was promoted to colonel and only two months later he was again promoted, this time to maréchal de camp. The day after his promotion to general Servan became the Minister of War and served in this capacity for a month. Next he joined the Army of the Sarre and then served at the camp of Soissons. That August he was again appointed Minister of War, and then in September he was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned to the Army of the Pyrenees. After providing his resignation to the Ministry of War in October, he took up his command in the Pyrenees and remained in command until May of 1793 when the army was reorganized and he was appointed commander of the Army of the Western Pyrenees. That June he repulsed the Spanish on the Bidassoa River.

Less than a month later, in July of 1793 General Servan was relieved of duty and arrested. He was initially taken to Lyon to be tried before a military commission, but due to events at Lyon he was instead conducted to Paris and held at l'Abbaye. Servan remained in prison until February of 1795 when he was finally released. In July of 1795 he became inspector general of the troops of the Army of the Western Pyrenees and Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and he was also included in the negotiations for peace with Spain. After peace was signed with Spain, the two armies of the Pyrenees were dissolved with their units sent to other theaters of war.

Servan's next major command came in July of 1799 when he was ordered to organize auxiliary battalions in the south of France. A month later he was named inspector general of the troops in the south and that December he took command of the 20th military division at Périgueux. Servan was next ordered to stop the brigands in the south of France, and in August of 1800 he took command of the 10th military division at Toulouse. In 1801 he was made available but not actively employed and then in 1803 he was appointed inspector chief of reviews. Servan was named an Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1805 and he finally retired from the army in 1807.


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Updated October 2015

© Nathan D. Jensen