'Il ne m'aime pas, mais c'est un homme d'honneur qui a des sentiments élevés et sur le quel je peux, je crois, compter', Napoleon to Caulaincourt, 1814.
Born Sedan (Ardennes), 17/ November, 1765, died in the Château de Courcelles-le-Roi (Beaulieu dur Loire, Loiret), 25 September, 1840. Son of a Scottish Jacobite Served in the Légion Irlandaise, 1784 Lieutenant in the Régiment de Maillebois (served Holland), 1 April, 1785 Volunteer in the Régiment de Dillon (became the 87e Infanterie, 1791), 12 July, 1786 Lieutenant, 10 October, 1791 Beurnonville's aide-de-camp, 17 June, 1792 Capitaine, 19 August, 1792 Dumouriez's aide-de-camp, 29 August, 1792 Served at Jemappes, 6 November, 1792 Lieutenant-colonel in the 94e d'infanterie, 12 November, 1792 Chef de brigade of the 2e d'infanterie, 8 March, 1793 Took Blaton, 18 August, 1793 Général de brigade in the Armée du Nord, 26 August, 1793 Served in the Combat de Tourcoing (27 August) and at the taking of Werwicq and Menin (13 September) Joined the Division Souham, 11 October, 1793 Victor Werwicq, 23 November, 1793 Served at Courtrai (11 May, 1794), the Battle of Tourcoing (18 May), and Hooglède (13 June) Covered the siege of Bois-le-Duc, 23 September, to 9 October, 1794 Replaced Souham as Commandant of the 1er Division, 15 November, 1794 Général de Division in the Armée du Nord, 28 November, 1794 Took the Fort of Knotzemburg, 11 January, 1795 Appointed Commandant of the 2e Division of the Armée du Nord (in place of Compère), 21 May, 1795 As a result of complaints from the government of Holland, appointed Commandant in Sélande of the 3e Division of the Armée du Nord, 2 August, 1795 In charge of three divisions (Macdonald, Daendels and Dumanceau) ordered to cover the left wing of the Armée de Sambre-et-Meuse, 10 July, 1796 Commandant of the left wing of the Armée de Sambre-et-Meuse, 24 September, 1796 Commandant of the 1ere Division of the Armée du Nord, February, 1797 Joined the Armée d'Italie, 24 April, 1798 Commandant of the French stationed in the Roman Republic (in place of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr) 11 July, 1798 Commandant of the 1ere Division of the Armée de Rome and Governor of Rome, 19 November, 1798 Victor at Faventino but nevertheless evacuated Rome and then fought at Cività Castellana, 5 December Victor at Otricoli, served at the taking of Calvi, successfully attacked Capua (-3 January, 1799) Resigned after disagreement with Championnet, 11 January, 1799 Took Championnnet's place as commandant en chef of the Armée de Naples, 27 February, 1799 Victor (but wounded) at Modena, 12 June, 1799, after the evacuation of Naples Beaten at Trebbia, 17-19 June, 1799 Joined the Armée d'Italie, 3 July, 1799 On leave, 15 July, and left active service, 3 August, 1799 Commandant at Versailles during 18 Brumaire, 9 November, 1799 Sent to the Armée du Rhin as lieutenant to the Général en chef, Moreau, 7 December Lieutenant to the Général en chef of the Armée de Réserve, 7 December April, 1800 Commandant en chef of the 2e Armée de Réserve, 24 August, 1800 Commandant en chef of the Armée des Grisons, 5 October, 1800 Crossed the Splügen (4 December, 1800) and took Trento (6 January, 1801) Left the Armée des Grisons to become Ministre Plénipotentiare in Denmark, 1 April, 1801 Returned to France at the end of January, 1802 Disgraced for having defended Moreau in 1804 Authorised to serve in Naples, 28 February, 1807 Employed in the Armée d'Italie, 28 March, 1809 Commandant of a corps under Prince Eugène, 20 April, 1809 Commanded the right wing of the Prince Eugène's army, 28 April, 1809 Wounded at the battle of Piave, 8 May, 1809 Took Laiboch (22 May, 1809) and Graz (30 May, 1809) Broke the enemy centre at Wagram thus deciding the victory, 6 July, 1809 Maréchal d'Empire, 12 July, 1809 Grand Aigle of the Légion d'Honneur, 14 August, 1809 Received an annual rent of 60,000 francs from Naples Duc de Tarente, 9 December, 1809 Recalled to Paris, 9 January, 1810 Commandant en chef of the Armée de Catalogne (in place of Augereau), 24 April, 1810 Victor at Cevera (5 September, 1810), took Manresa, but was held back at Bisbal and Valls (15 January, 1811) Returned to France after 20 September, 1811 Commandant of the 10e corps of the Grande Armée in Russia, 3 June, 1812 Unsuccessful siege of Riga August to December, 1812 Ceded command of the 10e corps to Rapp, 13 January, 1813, and was placed in the Etat-major general Commandant of the 11e corps of the Grande Armée in Sachse, 10 April, 1813 Victor at Merseburg, 29 April, 1813 Commandant of the right of the army at Lützen, 2 May, 1813 Victor at Bischofwerda, 12 May, 1813 Commander of the right at Bautzen, 20-21 May, 1813 Beaten at Katzbach, 26 August, 1813 Fought at Wachau, 16 October, 1813 the 'Battle of the Nations' Fought at Leipzig, 18 October, the 'Battle of the Nations' Escaped by swimming the Elster, 19 October, 1813 Fought at Hanau, 30 October, 1813 In charge of the defence of the Lower Rhine border near Cologne, 1 November, 1813 Retreated to Châlons-sur-Marne, January, 1814 Retreated to Meaux, 4 February, 1814 Fought in retreat at Mormant, (17 February), La Ferté-sur-Aube (28 February), Troyes (4 March), Nogent-sur-Seine and Provins (17 March), and Saint Dizier (29 March) Chosen by Napoleon, along with Ney and Caulaincourt, to negotiate with the allied sovereigns, 4 April, 1814 Member of the Conseil de Guerre, 6 May, 1814 Pair de France, 4 June, 1814 Governor of the 21e division militaire in Bourges, 21 June, 1814 Commandant of the Armée du Gard, under the Duc d'Angoulême, 6 March, 1815 Accompanied the Comte d'Artois to Lyons, 8 March, 1815 Commandant en chef of the combined army for the defence of Paris, under the orders of the Duc de Berry, 17 March, 1815 Followed Louis XVIII to the border and then returned to Paris where he served as a Grenadier in the Garde nationale Grand chancelier of the Légion d'honneur, 2 July, 1815 Commandant en chef of the Armée de la Loire and governor of the 21e division militaire, 26 July, 1815 Deuxième major general in the Garde Royale (out of four), 13 September, 1815 Ministre d'Etat and member of the conseil privé, 19 September, 1815 Grand-croix de Saint-Louis, 24 August, 1820 Chevalier commandeur of the Ordre du Saint-Esprit, 30 September, 1820
From a family of Scottish origins, Macdonald personifies the position of those who were dedicated to France rather than to the ruler. Unfairly dismissed in 1802 (essentially for having fought under Moreau and Pichegru but never under Bonaparte) he spent five years effectively in the wilderness. But on his return to the army in 1809, his action at Wagram (a compact column charge, subsequently known as the Colonne Macdonald) led to his being made Maréchal on the battlefield; the only occurrence of such an event. During the Hundred Days he accompanied Louis to the border and returned to Paris where he enrolled as a simple grenadier in the Garde nationale. He remained faithful to his old compagnons d'armes notably when he defended Général Drouot during his trial.
Macdonald, J.-É.-J.-A., Souvenirs du maréchal Macdonald, duc de Tarente (with an introduction by Camille Rousset), Paris: Plon, 1892