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Topics of military history


Commander-in-Chief of the Swiss Army

Guillaume-Henri Dufour, Ulrich Wille and Henri Guisan. Of the eighteen generals who have served as the head of the Swiss Armed Forces, these are the three most notable in Switzerland's military history. Appointed by Parliament to the highest level of command over the armed forces, their task was to protect the Swiss Confederation in times of crisis and war. The series 'Chiefs of the Swiss Armed Forces' will shine a spotlight on all of Switzerland's highest-ranking generals throughout its military history, with profiles to be published periodically in the coming months.


Joseph Leonz Andermatt

On 31 August 1790, a mutiny within the garrison of Nancy in France was crushed. The uprising broke out on 5 August because the soldiers were convinced that their officers had made unfair deductions from their pay. For his role in suppressing the revolt, Joseph Leonz Andermatt, an officer in the Swiss Châteauvieux regiment that was part of the Nancy garrison, was awarded the title of knight of the Order of Saint Louis.


Henri Guisan

On 25 July 1940 General Henri Guisan summoned all Switzerland's military commanders with the rank of major or higher to the Rutli meadow, where he informed them about the military's National Redoubt strategy. France had been defeated in June and Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers. In his radio address on 25 June, Marcel Pilet-Golaz, the President of the Confederation at the time, caused confusion among the population by mentioning the New European Order. General Guisan emphasised in his speech the army's willingness to offer unconditional resistance.


Sebastian Peregrin Zwyer of Evibach

At the end of June 1630, during the War of the Mantuan Succession, the imperial army besieged the capital city Mantua, which was eventually seized and plundered on 18 July. Lieutenant Colonel Sebastian Peregrin Zwyer of Evibach fought under the imperial ensign as one of commander Matthias Gallas's men.


Johann Ulrich von Salis Soglio

On 22 May 1844 Johann Ulrich von Salis-Soglio, colonel in the Swiss General Staff, was in the Valais, where a faction of the Young Europe association was causing unrest. The Federal Council had appointed him commander of the troops and tasked him with disarming Young Switzerland, which was a revolutionary liberal group modelled on the Young Italy movement founded by Giuseppe Mazzini. In August 1847 Johann Ulrich von Salis-Soglio was released from the service on account of his conservative views. Shortly thereafter, however, he was back in military uniform again, having reluctantly accepted his appointment as supreme commander of the Sonderbund army.


Ulrich of Hohensax

On 19 April 1512, the Swiss Tagsatzung, the legislative and executive council of the Swiss Confederacy, appointed Ulrich of Hohensax supreme commander of the confederate army, which was preparing to enter Lombardy. The Council of War confirmed the Tagsatzung order on 30 May, making Ulrich of Hohensax the first commander-in-chief in Swiss history. The campaign ended on 31 December, when Ulrich of Hohensax led the Swiss army into Milano and restored Massimiliano Sforza to the throne. With the success of this operation, the Confederates strengthened their position, becoming equal partners with other European powers.


Augustin Keller

On 28 March 1799, in the midst of a period of upheaval the commander of the Helvetic Legion, Colonel Augustin Keller, was promoted to brigadier general and appointed commander-in-chief of the Helvetic Republic's army. However, the hurriedly assembled troops proved completely incapable of fighting a battle. Augustin Keller was released from his duties on 24 May 1799 due to failure and the militia army was disbanded on 12 August of the same year.


Johann Ludwig von Erlach

The first Battle of Rheinfelden took place on 28 February 1638, during the Thirty Years' War. On one side of the field was the Bernese Johann Ludwig von Erlach, the Chief of Staff to Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and organiser of the High Rhine campaign, which ended with the cession of Alsace to France. Johann Ludwig von Erlach ended his career as Marshal of France, and is regarded as one of the greatest generals in the mercenary service of the 17th century.


Charles-Jules Guiguer de Prangins

On 24 January 1798, the national representatives declared the Pays de Vaud's independence from Bern. Charles-Jules Guiguer de Prangins enlisted in the Vaud military forces as a lieutenant to join the liberation struggle alongside the French forces. He was promoted to captain within a year, and later, as a general, commanded the Swiss forces in 1831 and 1838.


Ulrich Wille

On 11 November 1918, World War I ended when the armistice of Compiègne came into force. Fears sparked by the first general strike from 12 to 14 November, however, led to an extension of mobilisation in Switzerland. Finally, on 11 December 1918, General Wille, commander-in-chief of the Swiss military, handed over command and was discharged from his duties.