Étienne Eustache Bruix
Étienne Eustache Bruix
Étienne Eustache Bruix, by E. Charpentier,
engraved by Ch. Geoffroy. 1840
|Born||17 July 1759|
Fort-Dauphin, Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti)
|Died||18 March 1805 (aged 45)|
|Allegiance|| Kingdom of France|
French First Republic
French First Empire
|Years of service||1778-1805|
|Battles/wars||French Revolutionary Wars (Ireland), Napoleonic Wars|
|Other work||French Naval Minister|
From a distinguished family originating from Béarn, he embarked as a volunteer on a slaving vessel commanded by captain Jean-François Landolphe. Two years later, in 1778, he was made a garde de la marine, seeing his first campaign on the frigate Fox, and his second on board the Concorde. He served in various French squadrons sent to the aid of the United States of America in the American War of Independence, being made enseigne de vaisseau.
Named as commander of the Pivert, he and Puységur were charged with cruising round Saint-Domingue and re-mapping its coasts and harbors. Lieutenant de vaisseau at the start of the French Revolution, and becoming a member of the Académie de Marine in 1791, he was made captain on 1 January 1793, but discharged from the service for being a noble in October 1794. Retiring to the outskirts of Brest, he produced his memoirs under the title Moyens d'approvisionner la marine par les seules productions du territoire français (Means of Provisioning the Fleet Solely by What Is Produced in French Territory). This advocacy of naval autarky as a means of dealing with British blockades was read and appreciated by Napoleon and so Bruix was recalled to the navy in 1795 under the ministry of Laurent Truguet, which entrusted the Éole to him. He held this command up to the moment he was sent to join Villaret-Joyeuse's squadron as Chief of Staff (major general).
Eustache Bruix was put in command of a division attached to admiral Justin Bonaventure Morard de Galles during the 1796 French invasion of Ireland. Lazare Hoche noticed him on that campaign and named him contre-amiral in May 1797. He was made Ministre de la Marine from 28 April 1798. Le bulletin de loi n° 198 du 8 floréal an VI (7 May 1798) stated:
- By decree number 1814 a decision of the Executive Directory names citizen Bruix to the ministry of the navy and the colonies. The Executive Directory decides that Citizen Bruix, the contre-amiral, is to be named minister of the navy and the colonies, to replace citizen Pleville Le Peley on his retirement. This present decision is printed in the bulletin des lois. For confirmation, Merlin, président of the executive directory, signed this. Signed by secretary general Lagarde.
On taking office, he rushed to Brest to take personal command of a fleet that was about to sail for Egypt in an attempt to extricate the French army trapped there since its invasion in 1798. With the help of the winds and fog he succeeded in evading the British blockade and sailed south with 25 ships of the line. Anticipating a possible landing in Ireland, still unsettled in the wake of the United Irishmen's rebellion, the blockading fleet drew off north-westwards, giving Bruix a considerable headstart before it was discovered where he had gone. Off Cadiz Bruix encountered a British blockading force of 15 ships of the line under Lord Keith. Despite his numerical superiority and the presence of 28 Spanish ships of the line in Cadiz, Bruix ignored the opportunity to attack and continued into the Mediterranean.
Having made a detour to Toulon for repairs, Bruix learned that André Masséna was besieged in Genoa and was ordered to assist. He rerouted the fleet to the Gulf of Genoa to resupply the beleaguered army but was driven back by the weather. Meanwhile, Keith had followed him into the Mediterranean and gathered together the scattered British squadrons in the area at Menorca. Bruix abandoned his venture, eluded his pursuers and returned to the Atlantic. Collecting a Spanish squadron en route he re-entered Brest.
After this dramatic but fruitless expedition, known as the Cruise of Bruix, he returned the navy portfolio on 11 July 1799, and took command of the fleet assembled at the île d'Aix ready to sail to Spain, but the British reinforced their blockade, the admiral fell ill and the peace of Amiens prevented the fleet from leaving port. A vice-amiral from 13 March 1799, he was privy to the secret coup d'état that occurred on 18 brumaire, year 8 (9 November 1799). Napoléon Bonaparte named him admiral in 1801 and conseiller d'État the following year.
War having broken out again, Napoléon conceived a plan for a new invasion of England, and put Bruix in command of the flotilla based at Boulogne that would carry the invasion troops across the English Channel. Bruix deployed all his energies towards the preparations but was obliged to return to Paris, where he died of tuberculosis at only 45. The Boulevard de l'Amiral-Bruix in Paris is named after him.
Georges René Le Peley de Pléville
| French Naval Minister
27 April 1798– 4 March 1799
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord