Catinat, Nicholas

, one of the ablest generals under Louis XIV. the son of the dean of the counsellors of parliament, was born at Paris, Sept. 1, 1637, and began his career at the bar; but having lost a cause that had justice on its side, he renounced the profession for that of arms. He first served in the cavalry, where he never omitted an opportunity of distinguishing himself. In 1667, in the presence of Louis XIV. at the attack on the counterscarpe of Lisle, he performed an action so honourable both to his judgment and his courage, that it procured him a lieutenantcy in the regiment of guards. Gradually | rising to the first dignities in the army, he signalized himself at Maestricht, at Besangon, at Senef, at Cambray, at Valenciennes, at St. Omer’s, at Ghent, and at Ypres. The great Comic“set a proper value on his merit, and wrote to him, after the hattle of Senef, where Catinat had been wounded:” No one takes a greater interest in your wound than I do; there are so few men like you, that in losing you our loss would be too great.‘ 7 Having attained to the rank of lieutenant-general, in 1688, he beat the duke of Savoy at Staffarde and at the Marsaille, made himself master of all Savoy and a part of Piedmont; marched from Italy to Flanders, besieged and took the fortress of Ath in 1697. He had been marechal of France from 1693, and the king, reading the list of the marechals in his cabinet, exclaimed, on coming to his name: “Here valour has met with its deserts!” The war breaking out again in 1701, he was put at the head of the French army in Italy against prince Eugene, who commanded that of the emperor. The court, at the commencement of this war, was undecided on the choice of the generals, and hesitated between Catinat, Vendome, and Villeroi. This circumstance was talked of in the emperor’s council. “If Villeroi has the command,” said Eugene, “I shall beat him; if Vendome be appointed, we shall have a stout struggle; if it be Catinat, 1 shall be beaten.” The bad state of the army, the want of money for its subsistence, the little harmony there was between him and the duke of Savoy, whose sincerity he suspected, prevented him from fulfilling the prediction of prince Eugene. He was wounded in the atfair of Chiari, and forced to retreat as far as behind the Oglio. This retreat, occasioned by the prohibition he had received from the court to oppose the passage of prince Eugene, was the source of his subsequent mistakes and misfortunes. Catinat, notwithstanding his victories and his negociations, was obliged to serve under Villeroi; and the last disciple of Turenne and Conde was no longer allowed to act but as second in command.’ He bore this injustice like a man superior to fortune. “I strive to forget my misfortunes,” he says in a letter to one of his friends, “that my mind may be more at ease in executing the orders of the marechal de Villeroi.” In 1705 the king named him to be a chevalier; but he refused the honour intended him. His family testifying their displeasure at this procedure, “Well, then,” said he to his relations, | strike me out of your genealogy” He increased as little as possible the crowd of courtiers. Louis XIV. once asking him why he was never seen at Marli; and whether it was some business that prevented his coming? “None at all,” returned the marechal; “but the court is very numerous, and I keep away in order to let others have room to pay their respects to you.” He died at his estate of St. Gratian, Feb. 25, 1712, at the age of 74, with the same sedateness of mind that had accompanied him through life. Numberless anecdotes are related of him, which shew that this calmness of temper never forsook him. After an ineffectual attack at the unfortunate affair of Chiari, rallying his troops, an officer said to him: “Whither would you have us to go? to death?” “It is true,” replied Catinat, “death is before us; but shame is behind.” He had qualities yet more estimable than bravery. He was humane and modest. The part of his labours most interesting to humanity, was a regular correspondence with marechal Vauban, on the administration of the revenues of the various countries which they had visited during their military expeditions. They did not seek for means of increasing the revenues of their sovereign beyond measure; but they endeavoured to find the most equitable repartition of the taxes, and the cheapest way of collecting them. Catinat, on account of his cautiousness and judgment, was, by the soldiers under his command, significantly called Pere la Pensee, “Father Thought,” a sirname which he appears to have deserved in his peaceable retreat, not less than in his military expeditions. 1


Memoires pour servir a la Vie de Catinat,Paris, 1775, 12mo.—Dict Hist.—Moreri.