Napoleon Series Archive 2003

Re: The grave of Fournier Sarlovèze

Evan and Glen,

You may also say that the movie "The Duellists" was inspirated by the live of François Fournier.
And Fournier was also one of those persons who dared to contradict Napoleon.

Some months ago I made the following posting on the forum :

"François Fournier-Sarlovèze - the most malicious person of the army" - This is the title of the biography that Marcel Dupont has written in 1936 about the person in question, and that says already a lot about this capricious person, (in French hâbleur) always bluffing, provoker, champion of all categories of destitution and re-integration.

A Jacobin?

Born in Sarlat on 6th September 1773, his father was a cabaretier (player in a cabaret). In his youth he received a solid instruction by the monks of his hometown and became a clerk of the prosecutor.
In 1791 he went to Paris and entered the army, and the following year became sous-lieutenant of the 9th Dragoons. Affected at the Army of the Alps he distinguished himself through his extremely Jacobinist political opinions., so that, after Roberspierre’s death, he was deprived of his rank and even imprisoned in Lyon. He succeeded in escaping prison and he was reintegrated in the Army of the North, and afterwards in the Army of the Samber-and-Meuse.
Again deprived of his rank because of financial dishonesty and illegal absences, he was reintegrated again and became the aide-de-camp of Augerau.
Involved in the curious affair of Donnadieu and suspected of a complot against the First Consul, Fournier was arrested in May 1802, imprisoned in the Temple and send afterwards to Perigueux under house arrest.

In Spain.

In April 1805 he is reintegrated again as commander of the 600 men of the expedition of the rear-admiral Magon in Martinique, but never debarked and returned to France.
Protected by Lasalle who found Fournier a good alter-ego ready at all escapades, he became the commander of his staff and distinguished himself in 1807 in different terrible cavalry charges – at Eylau, Guttstadt and Friedland.
This impetuous horseman was afterwards send to Spain, and, between the 18th and the 23rd May 1809, succeeded in defending the town of Lugo for 5 days with only 1.500 men against 20.000 attackers ! (wasn’t this a fight against all odds ???)

He attracted attention once more through a blow of anger in giving some sabre slashes to an aide-de-camp placed under his orders by the State Secretary Daru, fact that caused him once again to be placed on leave without pay.
But in Spain the French needed men as Fournier : so he set off again with the 9th Army Corps of Erlon and distinguished himself once again in the anti-guerrilla operations and in his charge of the 5th May 1811 at Fuente de Oñoro, where, with his brigade (2 squadrons of the 7th, the 13th and the 20th Chasseurs à cheval), he penetrated and sabred three English infantry squares.

After a cross-reference with the Osprey Campaigns n° 99 by René Chartrand, I read on page 81 -:
“The French were more fortunate a little further west. There, a piquet from Stopford’s Foot Guards Brigade in Spencer’s 1st Division formed a small square to resist the oncoming French cavalry. The square easily beat off the rather disorganized charge by the French troopers. Unfortunately, their commander, Lieutenant-Colonel George Hill of the Scots Guards, the ordered his men into an extended skirmish line again. At that point a second charge made by the 13th Chasseurs à Cheval (20 officers and 250 man) that broke through three companies and cut down some 70 men in a matter of minutes, taking Hill and 20 others prisoner. The rest of the guards piquet banded together and resisted the onslaught as best it could until relieved by a troop of the 1st Royal Dragoons and a squadron of the 14th Light Dragoons. By that time, the Guards had suffered about 100 casualties”

And in Russia.

During the Russian Campaign, he commanded the 31th Brigade of Light Cavalry, composed of the Baden Hussars, the Hessian and Westphalien cheveau-legers and charged in the battle of Smolensk.
Promoted division general on 11th November 1812, Fournier served in 1813 at Gross-Beeren and at Leipzig. He was promoted Count of the Empire, but deprived again of his rank on 26th October 1813 following an verbal dispute with Napoleon.

Louis XVIII re-established him in his grade in the First Restoration, and Fournier didn’t serve in the Hundred Days Campaign.
In 1819 Louis XVIII permitted him to add the family name of Sarvolèze on his name and promoted him as inspector-general of the cavalry. He took also part in the elaboration of the new Military Code.
He died on 18th January 1827 at the age of 54.

Fournier-Sarlovèze : the judgment of history :

1° Military art and tactical behaviour : good

Grand sabreur. Excellent performer. Fournier is a (“fonceur” in French) charger who knows only « the charge ». Redoubtable fighter with the sabre . Very good marksman on the pistol.

2° Integrity and honesty : bad

Very very moderate. Under the Revolution, in the army of the Alps, of the North, et of the Samber-and-Meuse, he committed frequently embezzlements, tampered the financial accounts of his squadron and was frequently put under arrest for illegal absence. One should have difficulties in counting the number of his destitutions and arrestations.

3° Fidelity to Napoleon. : non-existent.

Very doubtful. Fournier didn’t like Napoleon, who did return this on him ! In 1802, he was suspected of a complot against the First Consul, who distrusted him and his excesses, and hesitated a long time to accord him any promotion. Fournier was destituted another time on 25th October 1813 after shouting in the face of Napoleon : “Je dis que vous perdez, vous et la France” – “I’m telling you that you are losing, you and the whole of France”.

4° Bravery : excellent.

Foolish recklessness. Blind courage. You can’t be the friend of Lasalle for nothing…

5° Nickname.

Nicknamed “El Demonio” (the Demon) by the Spanish guerrillas, as much for his brutality as for his efficiency in the anti-guerrilla operations.

6° Character.

A very colourful person and a very marked character. Pathological pride. Criticiser. Abrupt. Capricious. Doesn’t mince his words. Ready for all excesses. Warm headed. Brilliant speaker. Knew perfectly several languages and even Latin. Good musician. Very charming. Elegant. Exquisite.

7° Remarks on him : Marcel Dupont, who have made a biography of him in 1936, has written : “Instead of taking advantage of all his talents in order to be acceptable and making friends, Fournier did his best to make the contrary. His mind served him more in speaking ill of others, make fools of them or soiling their reputation than charming them”.

Some remarks of myself and some questions at the other members of the forum :
1° Wasn’t he like some Marshals of the Empire ?
2° Were was he a coward, as Kevin stated ?
3° Where can I find the book written by Marcel Dupont (in French ) ?
4° Didn’t the French army, especially in Spain, need such men in order to fight the guerrillas

I would like to have some more information about this men and also about some other very special characters in the French Army or of other nationalities ?

It gives me the salt in my historical studies.

Best regards


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