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Morard de Galles (1741-1809)

Justin Bonaventure Morard de Galles

Justin-Bonaventure Morard de Galles (30 March 1741, Goncelin, Isère – 23 July 1809, Guéret) was a French admiral.


de Galles was the issue of a noble family from Dauphiné whose origins stretched right back to the end of the 11th century. His father was an infantry captain, and his elder brother Charles Morard de La Bayette de Galles was a général de Division under the Revolution and the Directory.

On 22 December 1783 he married Louise Marie Victoire Henriette Fayd'herbe de Maudave at Port-Louis, Mauritius. To this day there are many descendants of her siblings still living in Mauritius


Ancien RégimeEdit

de Galles began his naval career in 1757 on the brig Ecureuil and took part in many combats in the Mediterranean and the Americas as part of the Royal French Navy with the rank of garde de pavillon. He entered the service at the age of 11, in the gardes de la maison du roi.

In 1765, the comte de Grasse was charged with clearing the Mediterranean of its infestation of Barbary pirates. In 1765, on Héroïne as enseigne de vaisseau, Morard de Galles participated in the bombardment of Morocco's Atlantic coast. The young Morard de Galles next became an ensign on board the frigate Hermine, and there received a mission to burn one of the corsairs which had taken refuge under the protection of the coastal batteries. Favoured by a cloudy night, he board the enemy vessel and attached a coat of sulphur to one of her sides - a terrible explosion half an hour later announced the success of this audacious enterprise.

Returning to France, he remained attached to the group directing the naval building works at Brest until 1776, when he took to sea again in Duchaffault's squadron. Named lieutenant de vaisseau in 1777, he distinguished himself the following year at the Battle of Ushant on board the Ville de Paris, and in the encounters of 17 April, 15 and 19 May 1780.

It was under de Suffren's orders, however, principally at the Battle of Porto Praya, that Morard truly acquitted himself gloriously. On 16 August 1781, the French fleet met a larger English fleet off the coast of Senegal, but de Suffren did not hesitate to attack. At the beginning of action, the vessel Morard was on found itself surrounded by five enemy vessels and his captain, de Trémoignon, was wounded and put out of action. Wounded himself, Morard nevertheless took command and, after a bloody struggle, managed to disengage and regain his position in the French line of battle. This conduct brought him praise from both the army and the admiral, who named him temporary captain (subject to confirmation later) and put him in command of the ship which he had so well defended.

La Cour ratified Morard's captaincy, and he continued to deserve it during the following campaigns on board the frigate Pourvoyeuse and the captured English vessel Annibal. He commanded her in the engagements of 17 February, 13 April, 6 July and 3 September 1784, receiving three new wounds which obliged him to seek recuperation. However, he had scarcely arrived in the Isle de France (now Mauritius) when he was put on board the Argonaute and ordered to rejoin the squadron outside Gondelour. He then commanded various ships in the West Indies, then returned to France on the Vengeur to move up to the rank of commandant en second in 1785.

French RevolutionEdit

At last, after having assisted in diverse combats which covered the French Navy in glory in the last years of the French monarchy, his health (weakened by his wounds and the unhealthy climate of the West Indies) forced him in 1790 to demand a return to France. There, he found the fleet wholly disorganised due to the emigration of its officers from the nobility and - unlike his comrades - offered his services to the new government and was promoted to counter admiral, with command of a division.

Named vice admiral in 1793, with his flag on the Républicain in the roads of Brest, his fleet (made up of 3 ships of the line and 7 frigates) was to sail to Saint-Domingue, where it would receive orders to cruise between Groix and Belle-Île so as to ensure the safe passage of merchant shipping into France's ports past the English blockade. However, his crews, harassed and stripped of everything, mutinied and threatened their officers with death if the fleet did not return to the roads off Brest. On his return, removed by the law which excluded nobles from employment in the civil and military services, he was arrested and remained a prisoner until 9 Thermidor.

He only received a new command in year V, to prepare an expedition to Ireland at Brest - 15 ships of the line, 12 frigates, 6 corvettes or avisos, and 9 transport vessels were to transport 15000 soldiers, with Lazare Hoche commanding the soldiers and Villaret the ships. However, at the very moment of weighing anchor, Villaret was replaced by Morard who, on 25 frimaire, year V (5 December 1796), gave the signal to depart, his flag on the frigate Fraternité. This expedition was not a success, with the Séduisant lost in the passe du Raz on the sail out of Brest and the fleet - before it had gained entry into Bantry Bay - being forced by contrary winds to sail back into Rochefort in disgrace.

Consulate and First EmpireEdit

The Consulate and First Empire, however, made up for the disgrace Morard had incurred on the Irish expedition, since he became a member of the Sénat conservateur at its formation (4 nivôse year VIII, or December 25, 1799) and a member of the Légion d'honneur on 9 vendémiaire, year XII (2 October 1803). Napoleon also decorated him with the cordon of a Grand Officier of the Légion on 25 prairial year XII (14 June 1804), gave him the titular lands of the sénatorerie of Limoges on 2 prairial (2 May 1804), and made him comte de l'Empire in 1808.

On his death at Guéret on 23 July 1809, the municipal council of that town voted funds to build a monument in his memory. His ashes were taken to the Panthéon.


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