Napoleon’s Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan was born on this day. He was about seven years older than Napoleon; therefore, he was among the more experienced military commanders of the French Empire. Indeed, it is interesting that Jourdan became a general before Bonaparte did. Specifically, Jourdan was promoted to the rank of general in the French army in May 1793, and Napoleon only in December during same year.
However, the most interesting period of Jourdan’s life was the one before the French Revolution even started. Namely, Jordan joined the French army when he was only 15 years old. Of course, it was the royal army of Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Already the following year, young Jourdan crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the head of French troops, and found himself on the battlefields of the American War of Independence. In that war, the French were the allies of the Americans against Britain and its king, George III.
In America, young Jourdan participated in the siege of the city of Savannah in the state of Georgia. It was then the southernmost of the thirteen states because Florida was not yet a part of the United States. The city of Savannah was held by the British, and combined American and French forces besieged it in the attempt to conquer it. During the ensuing bloody battle, even the famous Casimir Pulaski, a Pole who is considered “Father of the American Cavalry”, was killed.
The American-French forces failed to take the city, and the British continued to hold it for a few more years. Jourdan was transferred to the French forces in the Caribbean. There he contracted an illness (possibly malaria) that troubled him for the rest of his life.