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Comte de Custine, portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court

General Custine, 1793 engraving

Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine (4 February 1740 – 28 August 1793) was a French general. Born in Metz, he began his military career as a captain in the Seven Years' War, where he learned to admire the modern military organisation of Prussia.

He next served with distinction against the British as a colonel in expeditionary force of the comte de Rochambeau in the War of American Independence. On his return to France he was named maréchal de camp (brigadier general) and appointed governor of Toulon. In 1789 he was elected to the states-general by the bailliage of Metz. In October 1791 he again joined the army, with the rank of lieutenant-general and became popular with the soldiers, amongst whom he was known as général moustache. General-in-chief of the army of the Vosges, he took Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Frankfurt in September and October 1792.

He carried on the revolutionary propaganda by proclamations, and levied heavy taxes on the nobility and clergy. During the winter a Prussian army forced him to evacuate Frankfurt, re-cross the Rhine and fall back upon Landau. He was accused of treason, defended by Robespierre, and sent to command the Army of the North. But he dared not take the offensive, and did nothing to save Condé-sur-l'Escaut, which the Austrians were besieging. Sent to Paris to justify himself, he was found guilty by the Revolutionary Tribunal of having intrigued with the enemies of the Republic, and guillotined on 28 August 1793.

His son was guillotined for attempting to defend him, and his daughter-in-law nearly shared the same fate, but survived, as did his grandson, Astolphe-Louis-Léonor, marquis de Custine.

Custine's invasion of the German Palatinate forms the background for Goethe's "Hermann and Dorothea", whose plot takes place in a small town near Mainz, flooded by refugees who fled their villages on the western side of the Rhine in order to seek refuge from the French troops on the eastern side.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Alfred Nicolas Rambaud, Les Français sur le Rhin (Paris, 1880)
  • Arthur Chuquet, Les Guerres de la Révolution (1886-1895; vol. vi, "L'Expédition de Custine").
  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) "Wikisource:1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Custine, Adam Philippe" Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 

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