Jean Rapp : : the fearless General of Napoleon
Hero of the armies of Napoleon, Jean Rapp (1771-1821) is one of the biggest names of Colmar. His statue, sculpted in 1859 by Auguste Bartholdi, watches still today over the square which has the same name in the Champs de Mars. Rapp was born at the Koïfhus of Colmar where his father was caretaker. He studied at the protestant gymnasium to become a pastor, but his belligerent temperament led him to commit to the regiment of the Cevennes in 1788. He became sergeant in 1793, captain in 1796 and aide de camp of general Dessaix (1768-1800) that he followed in the countryside of Italy and Egypt, where he became Colonel.
After the death of General Dessaix, for whom he had a real admiration, Rapp became aide de camp of General Bonaparte. His many wounds proved that he was very courageous, but he also made blunders. For example one day he recommended the emperor to beware of Corsicans.
On the evening of the Battle of Austerlitz (1805), where he distinguished himself again, Rapp became major general. He was governor of Dantzig from 1807 to 1814 and became Count of the Empire in 1809. He participated to the disastrous Russian campaign in 1812 and was wounded during the passage of the Berezina. Appointed general-in-chief, Rapp was forced to capitulate in Dantzig November 29, 1813. Captured and taken to Kiev, he cannot return to Paris until Napoleon's departure for the island of Elba. Louis XVIII made him peer of France and chamberlain of the king, but General Rapp met the emperor at the Tuileries Garden in March 1815. He will always be loyal to the Emperor whose death affected him so much that Louis XVIII himself had to comfort him: "Do not be shy, Rapp, I hope you will weep for me like this”.
Rapp died from a stomach cancer. He will have survived the Emperor a few months only. Buried in the Ladhof cemetery in Colmar, his heart was entrusted in the St Matthew Church, where he often went when he was young. Besides the statue made by Bartholdi and the place named after the General, the city of Colmar paid again homage to his hero by renaming in 1919 the “Neue Infanterie Kaserne”, built between 1887 and 1889, “Caserne Rapp”.