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Jean-Baptiste Kleber

French General
(1753-1800)

Another portrait

Jean-Baptiste KleberJean-Baptiste's Kleber's first taste of military life came in the Bavarian army but, in 1789, the lack of promotional opportunity saw him go back to his native Alsace and join the National Guard in time for the Revolution.

Three years later he was a lieutenant-colonel and, after heroics at Mainz in 1793, he was promoted to general of brigade.

That same year he served against rebels in La Vendee and drew more attention with his performances there.

In 1794 he took command of a division and fought at Fleurus. Kleber soon became angry at not being given similar acclaim as his peers - generals Hoche, Moreau and Pichegru - and rejected further offers of command.

His belief in the ability of Napoleon Bonaparte swung him back into the fold when the young general asked him to join the expedition to Egypt in 1798.

Kleber shone during the campaign fighting well at Alexandria, El Arish, Jaffa, Acre and in independent command at Mt Tabor, where he held off vastly superior numbers.

Given the honour of taking command of all French forces when Bonaparte returned to France, Kleber held together his isolated troops in the face of an increasingly hostile native population and a large Ottoman army.

He won a key action at Heliopolis, retook Cairo but, when on the verge of stabilising the situation, was assassinated by a knife-wielding fanatic.

 

 
 
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