The French general and army commander Jean-Etienne Championnet was born on 13 April 1762 at Valence (Drome) and would distinguish himself during the siege of Gibraltar in 1782. In July 1789 he joined the National Guard of Valence and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming sergeant in December 1789, lieutenant in March 1790, and premier adjutant général in September 1791. In 1792 Championnet rose to chef of the 6th Volunteer Battalion of Drome and took part in operations against insurgents in Jura and other eastern departments. In November 1793 he transferred to the Army of the Moselle and served at Kaiserslautern, Bischwiller, and Haguenau. On 23 December 1793 he took command of a detached corps and fought at Landau and Worms. For his actions, he was promoted to général de brigade by the representatives on mission (in French, représentants en mission, political commissars or deputies of the Convention sent on specific missions to various regions or armies) to the Army of the Rhine and Moselle on 6 February 1794. Later that year, he commanded divisions on the left flank of the army and was promoted to général de division by the representatives on mission on 10 June 1794 (confirmed by the Committee of Public Safety on 2 December 1794). He took part in the Battle of Fleurus on 26 June, and his resolute fighting in the center contributed to the French success.
Over the next three years, Championnet took command of several divisions (4th, 9th, 7th, and 3rd, respectively) in the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse, and he distinguished himself at Düsseldorf, Königstein, Amberg, and Würzburg. In early 1797 he temporarily commanded the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse and later was in charge of the advance guard of the Army of Mayence (Mainz). In 1798 he briefly led the right wing of the Army of England, and he later replaced General Laurent Gouvion St. Cyr as the commander in chief of the Army of Rome (18 October 1798). In January 1799 he occupied the Kingdom of Naples and proclaimed the Parthenopean Republic. Appointed commander in chief of the Army of Naples (24 January), he soon quarreled with the Directory and was dismissed and arrested in March. After brief court proceedings, Championnet was acquitted and given command of the Army of the Great Alps (Grandes Alpes) in July 1799. During the 1799 campaign during the War of the Second Coalition, Championnet took command of the Army of the Alps, which constituted the left flank of the Army of Italy. Later that year, he replaced General Jean Moreau in command of the Army of Italy (21 September), but he was defeated at Genola on 4 November and resigned his command the following month. Championnet died of illness at Antibes on 9 January 1800.
References and further reading Championnet, Jean-Etienne. 1904. Souvenirs du général Championnet (1792-1800). Paris: Flammarion. Saint-Albin, A. 1860. Championnet, général des armées de la république française, ou Les campagnes de Hollande, de Rome et de Naples. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et De Broise. Six, Georges. 1934. Dictionnaire biographique des généraux et amiraux français de la Révolution et de l’Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Saffroy.