Jean Baptiste, a French soldier, born in Strasburg in 1753 or 1754, assassinated in Cairo, Egypt, June 14, 1800. His father, a mason, died when he was a child, and he was educated by a country clergyman, his relative, who sent him to Paris to study architecture; but at the end of two years he returned to his native city. Two Bavarian gentlemen, whom he had protected from insult at a cafe, took him to Germany and placed him in the military school at Munich. After serving a few years as sub-lieutenant in the Austrian army, he resigned in 1783, returned to Alsace, and obtained the office of inspector of public buildings in the town of Belfort. In 1792 he enlisted as a private, soon became adjutant, distinguished himself during the siege of Mentz, and was raised to the rank of adjutant general. He was put under arrest on the surrender of that city, and taken to Paris, where he fully vindicated his conduct and that of the whole garrison. He was then made a brigadier general, sent to La Vendee with the first division of the "army of Mentz," fought heroically against the royalists, defeated them at Chollet, Oct. 17, 1793, and in concert with Marceau gained a victory at Savenay, Dec. 22. The indignation he then manifested at the cruelties ordered by the commissioners of the convention caused him to be cashiered; but he was recalled in 1794, raised to the rank of general of division, and sent to the army of the north under Jourdan. He shared in the victory at Fleurus, June 26, 1794, and in the conquest of the Austrian Netherlands. In 1795 he blockaded Mentz, and directed several bold operations on the banks of the Rhine. In the following campaign he defeated the Austrian division under the prince of Wurtemberg at the crossing of the Sieg, June 1, 1796, and nearly destroyed the same, three days later, at the battle of Alten-kirchen. Nevertheless, he was dismissed, and retired to Chaillot, in the vicinity of Paris, where he devoted his leisure to preparing his Memoires. In 1798 he joined Bonaparte in his expedition to Egypt, and received a wound on the head at the storming of Alexandria, where he remained in the capacity of governor.
He accompanied the expedition to Syria, led the advance division, crossed the desert, took Gaza and Jaffa, won the victory of Mount Tabor, and on the raising of the siege of Acre covered the retreat of the exhausted army. When Bonaparte returned to France, he confided to Kleber the command of the army. The latter, who had never believed that Egypt could be held, listened to proposals of peace, and signed the treaty of El-Arish with Sir Sidney Smith, by which the French were allowed to leave Egypt with their arms and baggage. Kleber hastened to deliver some of the fortresses he held to the Turks, but was informed by Lord Keith that the treaty had not been ratified by the English government, and that the French army must lay down their arms and give themselves up as prisoners of war. On the reception of this news, Kleber attacked the Turkish army, won the brilliant victory of Heliopolis (March 20, 1800), retook Cairo and several other cities, and found himself again the undisputed master of Egypt, He now succeeded in conciliating Murad Bey, and was about to conclude peace with the Turks when he was murdered while walking in his garden at Cairo, by a young fanatic named Solyman. Kleber's remains were brought to Marseilles on the evacuation of Egypt by the French army, and placed in the chateau d'If. In 1818 they were removed to his native city, and a bronze statue was inaugurated over them, June 14, 1840.