(13) Michael Rudulph

The most authoritative biography of Michael Rudulph, who many people said became Marshall Michel Ney of France, is contained in an article written by Marilou Alston Rudulph and published in two parts in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in 1961. The article varies with biographies of Marshal Ney and other reports of his life.


Biographies of Marshal Ney, Napoleon’s top marshal, say that he was a native Frenchman, married a French woman, had a family, and was executed by a firing squad after the fall of Napoleon. They say it is the remains of Michael Ru­dulph which lie in the tomb marked “Marshal Michel Ney” at Paris, France.


An article titled “The Mystery of Peter Ney ,” by Herbert Ravenel Sass, appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1946. It suggested that Marshal Ney was not executed and escaped to America and became Peter Stewart Ney, a North Carolina school teacher. The same story was repeated on the television program “Believe It or Not” in 1983. Neither of the two reports mentioned Michael Rudulph.


Marilou Alston Rudulph, in her article for the Georgia Historical Quarterly, said that Michael Rudulph, who resided in Liberty County for nearly ten years after the Revolution­ary War, was born January 5,1758, son of Jacob and Rachel Johnson Rudulph of Cecil County, Maryland. He joined the Continental Army at the age of 20, advanced from the grade of sergeant major to the rank of lieutenant in 16 months, and became known as “Lion of the Legion” because of his prowess and daring in battles with the British in the Northern colonies, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.


Rudulph’s organization was ordered to Augusta, Georgia, in 1778. It was there that Rudulph, now a captain, met Colonel John Baker and his daughter, Sarah Baker of Liberty County. Rudulph married Sarah Baker after the Revolution­ary War. They resided in Sunbury and had children. He established a rice plantation, raised cattle, was clerk of the Liberty County Superior Court, Justice of the Peace for Glynn and Camden counties, and Liberty County representa­tive in the General Assembly.


Rudulph was elected captain of a troop of militia cavalry when the Creek Indian Wars occurred shortly after the Revolutionary War. On June 3, 1790, he reenlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned as captain of the First Infantry at Elkton, Maryland. This is where his wife and family re­sided while he was in the service.


It was on March 5, 1792, that Rudulph received a com­mission as major of the Light Dragoons at Fort Fayette, Pennsylvania. On February 23, 1793, he was appointed adjutant general and inspector general of the U.S. Army. He resigned from the U.S. Army on July 17, 1793. He embarked on a voyage to the West Indies a short time later, and was never again seen by his wife and family.


A report was received by Rudulph’s family that he had perished in a ship wreck during a violent storm at sea. Lucian Lamar Knight, the Georgia historian, in 1914 said that Ru­dulph died on June 28, 1800, and was buried in McIntosh County, Georgia. Neither story has ever been substantiated.


It was in 1795 that a newspaper in Boston, Massachusetts, first published a story suggesting that Michael Rudulph and Marshal Michel Ney were one and the same. Acquaintances of Rudulph Visiting France said a portrait of Marshal Ney strongly resembled Rudulph. Acquaintances of Rudulph from Liberty County visited France and said they talked with Marshal Ney. They said Marshal Ney did not admit he was Rudulph, but did not deny it either. Contemporaries of Rudulph, through the years, stoutly maintained that he and Marshal Ney were one and the same.


The children of Rudulph did not declare their father dead until 1819, after the execution of Marshal Ney. They then used the date of his death as 1795, two years after they last saw him.


Count Napoleon Ney, son of Marshal Ney, visited South Georgia in 1829. Some of Rudulph’s children at that time were residing in Screven County, Georgia. They speculated that Count Ney came to make sure that they suspected nothing, ” … otherwise, as legitimate children, they could dispute the succession to Marshal Ney’s property in France.”