From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in an Age of Revolution

By Samuel F. Scott | Go to book overview

10

WAR AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE ARMY

THE ISSUE OF WAR became a major preoccupation of the Legislative Assembly when it replaced the National Assembly at the beginning of October 1791. This body, elected the previous month under the terms of the new constitution, included five representatives who had served as officers under Rochambeau in the United States: Mathieu Dumas, an aide de camp with the rank of captain in 1780 and a major general in 1791; Claude Blanchard, a commissary officer who had also been on Rochambeau's staff; Captain Jean Baptiste Aubert du Bayet, a second lieutenant in the Regiment of Bourbonnais during the American campaigns; Henry Crubilier d'Opterre who had been a captain of engineers since 1770 and was finally promoted two months after his election as a deputy; and Claude Etienne Hugau, an officer of fortune who had been a lieutenant colonel in Lauzun's Legion and retired from the army at the same rank in March 1789.

In most respects these men little resembled their illustrious predecessors in the National Assembly. Hugau was the son of a domestic servant, Crubilier d'Opterre came from a bourgeois background, Dumas and Blanchard were nobles of recent vintage, and Aubert du Bayet was from an undistinguished family of the nobility of the sword. None could boast the lineage of a Noailles, Biron, Castries, Broglie, or Custine. Nor did they play a prominent role in the new legislature. They were political moderates and, for the most part, limited their official concerns to military affairs. 1

As the likelihood of war grew in late 1791 and early 1792, issues affecting the army were of paramount importance to the new government. Essentially, the Legislative Assembly continued and expanded policies initiated

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