Gustave Paul Cluseret

The tomb of General Cluseret in the old cemetery of Suresnes, the only burial of a French general of the American Civil War identified in France! The plaque bearing the name of Cluseret was stolen. The monument is today anonymous and in a poor state. (Photo D. Delpech)

Gustave Paul Cluseret was born in Suresnes, France, on June 13, 1823. In 1841 he was admitted to St. Cyr, then the West Point of France. Seven years later he was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor for helping suppress the insurrection of June, 1848, against the Orleanist regime. With the return to power of the Bonapartists, he was temporarily retired but soon reinstated. He served in Algeria and in the Crimea and was promoted to captain in 1855. Resigning his commission in 1858, he commanded the French Legion in Giuseppe Garibaldi's forces and was wounded at the siege of Capua. Among many military adventurers who flocked to the United States at the outbreak of the Civil War, Cluseret arrived in January, 1862, and was commissioned colonel and aide-de-camp on the staff of General George B. McClellan. Soon afterward he joined John C. Fremont's entourage, was given a brigade, and fought tenaciously at the battle of Cross Keys. For his services here he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to rank from October 14, 1862. After service in the Shenandoah, he was reported in arrest (charges unstated) in January, 1863, when General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck (in responding to William S. Rose-crans' request that Cluseret be detailed to him) telegraphed: "If you knew him better, you would not ask for him. You will regret the application as long as you live. . . ." Cluseret resigned on March 2, 1863; the following year he edited a weekly in New York which advocated Fremont for the presidency while vehemently opposing the renomination of Abraham Lincoln. Returning to Europe in 1867, Cluseret soon had a price placed upon his head by the British government for his alleged complicity in the Fenian uprisings, was jailed by the French government for inflammatory magazine articles, and was ultimately allowed to leave France by claiming he was a naturalized American. Returning after the fall of Napoleon III, he schemed against the provisional government and was condemned to death—although the sentence was not executed—during the period of the Commune. In later years he was four times elected to the Chamber of Deputies from Toulon. General Cluseret died near Hyeres, Department of the Var, August 22, 1900. He was buried in the Old Cemetery of the Commune in Suresnes.

Previous Page

Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.