Research Subjects: Biographies

Colonels of Napoleon, 1804-1815

By Eman Vovsi

Part of this work is translated and annotated from Danielle & Bernard Quintin 's Dictionnaire des Colonels de Napoléon

In introduction to their monumental work on the Napoleon’s colonels[1] the authors note that the focus was primarily on those officers, who already were in the active service upon the proclamation of the Empire (18 May 1804); and those who were nominated to the rank of colonel and/or adjudant-commandants by decrees signed by the Emperor between 18 May 1804 and 6 April 1814, and also on the period of the Hundred days, 1 March - 22 June 1815.  Note that >adjudant-généraux of the Revolution were renamed to the adjudant-commandants by decree of 27 Messidor An VIII (16 July 1800); in general, it was a senior staff officer, administrator, on the intermediate level between colonel and general of brigade, but without direct troop command status; he could, however, be appointed, if necessary.[2]

Therefore, the total number of colonels and adjudant-commandants being on the active service during the period of the First Empire was 1,574 men.

The present study, however, contains information absorbed from 1,531 biographical notes only; one can come back to the great work of Georges Six[3] for the biographies of the 11 men who were commanders of the demi-brigades des vétérans, general officers during the Revolution, and of the other 32 colonels and adjudant-commandants, who exercised the functions of this grade during the Empire, and whom G. Six did qualify as provisional generals or generals in the service of the kingdom of Naples, Spain, Holland, Westphalia and the Grand Duchy or Warsaw and who entered into the cadres of the French Army after the fall of the Empire (see Appendix I).

Under the First Empire, 635 colonels and adjudant-commandants were promoted to the general of brigade’s rank and therefore, they haven’t been included into the Dictionnaire.

I. – Determination by the arm of service.

Arms of service

Number of colonels

%

Infantry
General staff (adjudant-commandants)
Cavalry
Artillery
Commandants d’armes*
Engineers
Gendarmerie
Non-line and auxiliary troops
Aide-de-camps
Navy artillery
Others

428
353
223
145
104
  80
  60
  51
  40
  18
  72

27.1
22.4
14.1
9.2
6.6
5.0
3.8
3.2
2.5
1.1
4.5

* Senior officers, usually put in charge of various military objects, such as citadels, palaces, postal services, etc.  They were under general officers, commanding the Military Divisions.[4]

However, this table should be considered as a flexible one.  For example, Claude Bruguière (1773-1806), chef de brigade of the 4th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment[5], became an aide-de-camp of the prince Joseph Bonaparte in January 1806.  Charles Delacroix, colonel aide-de-camp of the Vice-Roi Eugène in 1807, was leading the 9th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment in 1808; but again rendered duties of the aide-de-camp to the Vice-Roi by the end of 1809 campaign.  Pierre Lejeune, colonel of the 56th Line Infantry Regiment in 1811, was appointed an Adjudant-commandant in 1812, while chef de battalion Étienne Martin de Beurnonville (1789-1876), aide-de-camp of the marshal Macdonald, was promoted to colonel on 7 November 1813 and appointed commander of the 19th Light Infantry in December same year[6].    

II – Geographical and local origin.

A) The number of colonels of the French descent was estimated as 1,389 men, or 88.2% out of the total, and could be divided as follows: 1,338 were born in France; 23 were born on the territories controlled by France or her colonies (Guadeloupe 6, Martinique 6, Saint-Domingo 4, Isle Maurice 3, Réunion 2, Sante-Lucie1, Chandernagor 1); 8 in Sarrelouis and Landau, cities that belonged to France prior to 1815; finally, 20 were foreigners, but having their fathers who were French nationals.

B) Out of 1,389 colonels of the First Empire, 682 noted t be born in cities (114 in Paris, 24 in Versailles, 17 in Lyon, 15 in Metz, etc.), 187 in the little towns and 469 were born in villages.  By region, first place is held by Ile-de-France (modern Paris Metropolitan area) – 173 men, then Lorraine – 135, Rhône-Alpes – 109, etc., having Corsica on the last place – 22.

C) Also, there were 185 colonels of the foreign origin (or 11.8%) that were admitted to the service for France.  Originally, 33 of them were born in Italy, 33 in Holland, 20 in Belgium, 21 in Swiss, 19 in Poland, 19 in Germany, 10 in Portugal, 8 in Ireland, 7 from Baltic states, and finally 3 from Croatia.      

III. – Military background

Taking as the total sample 1,563 colonels it was found that:

A) 573 men, or 36.7% had started their careers in the old Royal Army, 234 as officers and 339 in the ranks of sous-officers or soldiers.  Out of that group, 4 officers and 188 sous-officers and soldiers of the Ancien Régime continued their service during the revolution and became engaged in the various battalions of the National volunteers;

B) 771 men, or 49.3% who never were in the army before, entered into the service during  the Revolutionary period (14 July 1789 – 10 November 1799); out of this number, 421 had enlisted in the battalions of the National volunteers; 72 were former students of l‘École Polytechnique, l‘École d’artillerie of Châlon, l‘École du génie of  Mézières (or Metz).[7]

C) The breakdown among 219 colonels, or 14% that had been promoted to that rank during the Consulate and Empire, is the following: 

- 28 former students of ‘grandes écoles’ such as: 6 l‘École Polytechnique, 19 of the l‘École spéciale militaire (a.k.a. Fontainebleau, transferred to Saint-Cyr in 1808) [8],  and 3 applicants of the l‘École du génie of Metz.

- out 66 enlisted for that period in the army, 20 were qualified as officers.

- 125 officers of the foreign originality, but particularly serving from the attached lands under original lands of Empire.

The result, therefore, is as shown:

1) 613 colonels of the First Empire (39.2%) had served in the various battalions of the volunteers, 421 since its original formation and 192 as former soldiers and officiers of the Ancien Régime.

2) the number of colonels of the First Empire which may be qualified as an officers of the Ancien Régime is very negligible and composes only 14.9%.

3) 25 former students of the famous l‘École Polytechnique attained the rank of colonel during the period of the First Empire.[9]

IV. – Social origin.

Of the original total 1,389 colonels (excluding 185 that of the foreign origin) there were following categories:

1°) The background of 1,113 colonels, or 80.1% qualifies them as roturière (bourgeoisie, or the Third Estate).  Note however, that profession of the fathers at the time of birth is known for sure only for 821 of them, but it narrows down to 798, because, for example, three colonels and brothers Bizot mentioned above were from the same family (auditor).  Following table shows the breakdown among the colonels:

Profession

Number

Merchants, craftsmen, inn-keepers
Legal professionals (attorneys, notaries, etc.), Magistrate
Laborers, farmers, cultivators, gardeners
Traders, financial specialists, entrepreneurs and plant owners
Military
Middle bourgeoisie, sole practitioners
Medical servants
Time-workers, domestic servants
Employees attached to the Maison d Roi, managers, etc.  
Art professions
Teachers
Seamen 

233
139
83
78
67
55
49
42
21
14
9
8

Total

798

2°) Another group of 276 men, or 19.8% were former nobles of the Ancien Régime with respect to the following determinations:

-          112 colonels had served in the old King’s army and continued to serve Revolution   (though it is necessary to note that most of them were suspended from their functions in 1793-94) and Empire; the biggest share belongs to the artillery and engineers.

-          36 of them still kept their allegiance to the King; they either emigrated or fought against in Vendée, but came back when opportunity allowed.  Some served during the Consulate, like Cachedenier de Vassimon or de Castres, or during the Empire – Drummond de Melfort, de Mathan, de Vachan de Belmont, Belly de Bussy or de Scépeaux de Bois Guignot, etc.

-          75 enlisted during the revolutionary period, i.e. 14 July 1789 – 10 November 1799, such as de Brancas, de Boudon de Poméjack, de Courbon-Blénac, or de Lingniville.

-          Finally, 53 had entered into the service during the Consulate or upon debut of the Empire, conforming the Emperor’s policy of putting together old aristocracy and the new nobility, created under his reign.  Also note a small group nobles of the Ancien Régime had attained colonel’s rank by the end of the Empire – already noted Charles de la Bédoyère,[10] de Saint-Chamans, de la Bourdonnaye, de Talhouet, etc.

V. – Nomination.

This table shows the actual number of the officers nominated to rank of colonel and adjudant-commandant since formation of the Empire:

Year

Number of nominations

Observations

May-December 1804
1805
1806
1807
1808
1809
1810
1811
1812
1813
January – April 1814
March-June 1815

21
75
87
132
99
202
69
146
 155
374
122
75

Of them, 6 colonels have hold  general’s rank effective 6 April 1814
38
52
76
42
73
20
24
16
21
3
-

Total

1,557

371

A touching story was told of Jean-Baptiste Sourd, colonel of the 2nd Chevau-légers Lanciers who, at Genappe in 1815, received several sabre-cuts, treatment of which required the amputation of his right arm.  As Larrey performed the operation, Sourd dictated a note to the Emperor declining promotion to general, as he preferred to remain in command of his regiment…[11]

Note, that during the period of the Hundred Days (15 March –21 June 1815), the Emperor confirmed nominations of the First Restoration and, additionally, promoted the general officer’s rank a total of 62 men (except for colonel baron Pierre Léglise, who was just exercising functions of a general officer).  The first of this Napoleon’s “last cohort” was Charles de la Bédoyère, colonel of d’Orléans Line Infantry Regiment (former 7th, on 4 October 1814), promoted to the maréchal de camp on 25 March.  He was the only one who has also reached the next rank, the lieutenant-general, on 2 June, for such a short period of time.  The last promotion was presented to the first officier d’ordonnace of the Emperor (since 3 April 1815), baron Gaspard Gourgaud[12], promoted on 21 June.[13]

The old titles, such us maréchal de camp and lieutenant-general were preserved by Napoleon probably for political reasons; they were finally abolished on 28 February 1848, thus returning back to more usual general of brigade and/or division

During the difficult retreat from Russia, the “Sacred squadron” (L’escadron sacré) was created.[14]  The organization was released at Bobr village on 24 November 1812; according to the papers of General Belliard, the following colonels and adjudant-commandants had accepted the “honorable demotion”:

Garde d’honneur of His Majesty:

General Staff:

General count de Grouchy, Colonel-General of Chasseurs, commander of the I and III Corps, colonel

1st Company of the Garde d’honneur of His Majesty (I Corps of the Cavalry Reserve):

Adjudant-commandant baron Taverner  F. Antoine, Chief of staff of the 1st Light Cavalry Division, maréchal-de-logis

Colonel baron Paul S. Dermoncourt, the 1st Chevau-légers Lanciers, maréchal-de-logis

Adjudant-commandant Alexandre de Laville, Chief of staff of the 1st Cuirassier Division, maréchal-de-logis

Colonel François Chabert, the 5th Lanciers, fourrier

Brigadiers:

Colonel baron Charles M. Gobrecht, of the 9th Lanciers

Colonel baron Charles E. de Lalaing, the 3rd Cuirassier Regiment (promoted to general of brigade, 5 December)

            Lieutenants:

Colonel baron Joseph Eulner, of the 7th Hussars Regiment

Colonel Charles C. Coetlosquet, of the 8th Hussars Regiment

Colonel Suchorzewski, of the 6th Polish Lanciers

Colonel baron Pierre Rolland, of the 2nd Cuirassiers Regiment

Colonel Michel F. Murat-Sistrières, of the 9th Cuirassiers Regiment

Colonel chevalier Martin Isidore, of the 6th Cuirassiers Regiment

Garde d’Honneur:

Colonel Duclaux Pierre, of the 11th Cuirassier Regiment

Table of Promotion to Colonel’s Rank by Certain Age

Age

Infantry

Adjudants Cdts

Cavalry

Artillery

Engineers

Aide-de-camps

Gendarmerie

Cdts d’arms

Sea artillery

Total

under 25

 

  1

  6

   

  1

     

  8

25-29

   6

14

19

  2

  1

  8

     

  50

30-34

  30

46

35

20

12

13

 

2

 

 158

35-39

119

76

51

37

17

  9

  6

3

1

  319

40-49

218

90

80

34

14

  3

19

    21

6

  485

50-59

  19

18

4

14

  2

  2

10

5

6

    80

60 &over

 

  1

 

  5

  2

   

2

2

    12

Total

   392

    246

  195

   112

      48

     36

    35

   33

    15

1,112

In that period of permanent wars, due to the heavy loses on the battlefield, serious wounds, sickness, enprisonment, etc., especially during the retreat from Russia and Leipzig, one might explain an acceleration in the number of promotions by the end of the Empire, 1813-14. 

1°)  According to the table above, it is obvious that the age when an individual achieved the rank of colonel does vary from the arm of service.  For example, the majority of colonels of infantry and gendarmerie, or colonels commandants d’armes, attained their ranks after age 40, while artillerymen, engineers, or adjudant-commandants are relatively younger.

2°)  With the exception of commandants d’armes (6.1 %) and colonels of the infantry (7.6%) the certain officers of the following arms of service had achieved the rank of colonels between 30-34 years of age: artillery (17.9%), cavalry (18%), the adjudant-commandants (18.7%), the colonels of engineers (25%); aide-de-camps also had achieved the highest rate – more than 36%.    

3°)  The promotions that occurred when the nominee was in his late 20s weren’t that vast, just nearly 7.1%.  Such an accelerated career was, of course, due to the various circumstances – sometimes because of the bravery and courage on the battlefield, sometimes because of the important relativism of the certain candidate to the immediate Emperor’s family, marshalate, or high dignity of the Imperial court.

The only colonel of the First Empire promoted at the age 21 was Bon Marie Jannot de Moncey (1792-1817), ex-page of the Emperor and son of marshal of the Empire and duke Conegliano; he was named colonel of the 3rd Hussars Regiment on 15 March 1815.  Not that far behind were Alphonse F. de Grouchy (1789-1864), son of future last marshal, promoted on 15 December 1813 at the age of 24; Alexandre E. Talleyrand-Périgord, 24 (1787-1872) nephew of the prince of Beneveneto and Vice-Grand-Électeur, promoted to colonel of the 8th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment, on 19 January 1812.  Paul Faudoas (1788-1844), brother-in-law of General Savary became colonel of the 25th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment in the age of 25, on 26 March 1813; same for Michel Ordener (1878-1862), son of the commander of the Grenadier à Cheval de la Garde Imperiale, promoted[15] on 19 November 1812; also Louis Jean Desaix (1790-1845), nephew of legendary Desaix, on 21 June 1815.  Pierre Claude Tascher de la Pagerie (1787-1861) was cousin of the Empress and colonel in the age of 27, promoted on 15 March 1814; the Montesquiou-Fezensac brothers, Ambroise (1788-1878), colonel on 5 November 1813 at 25, and Charles (1782-1810), colonel of the 13th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment, on 22 August 1809 at 27, were sons of Pierre Montesquiou-Fezensac, Grand Chambellan of the Empire.

VI. – Careers after fall of the First Empire.

After the end of the Empire, many of colonels were admitted to retirement or became inactive; the other group, however, decided to further pursue its career, despite the difficulties of political character of the regime which succeeded in France.  The data regarding 390 colonels of the post-napoleonic epoch is as shown below:

-  187 men terminated their military career upon the Second Restoration in 1815, like de Caux de Blacquetot or the d’Ambrugeac brothers;

-  127 served during the Second Restoration and July Monarchy, like Denys de Damrémont, Despans-Cubières, Fabvier, de Faudoas, baron Marcellin de Marbot (1782-1854)[16], or Woirol.

-  4 colonels were in service for the period of the Second Republic (1848-1851):  Anthoine  deSt.-Joseph, Gauldrée-Boilleau, Alphonse de Grouchy and François Gérard (1786-1856).[17]

-  71 colonels  retired or  remained  inactive  after  the fall  of the  First  Empire,  but  once again served, already for the July Monarchy, like Bro, Duchand de Sancey, Gourgaud, Ordener, etc.  And one of them, Thomas Bugeaud de la Piconniere[18], duke de Isly (1784-1849), was appointed marshal of France, 31 July 1843.

- Finally, Espirit Victor Boniface, marquis de Castellane (1788-1862), Colonel-major of the 1st Regiment of the Garde d’Honneur (21 June 1813), maréchal de camp during the Second Restoration, lieutenant-general of the July Monarchy, the Commander-and-chief of l’armée de Lyon, during the Second Republic – also became marshal of France on 2 December 1852 and still was on the active service during the Second Empire.

- Along  with Bugeaud and  de Castellane who became marshals of France,  45 former colonels of The First Empire were promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general (8 during the Second Restoration, 36 during the July Monarchy and 1 during the Second Republic) and 189 – to maréchal de camp (125 during the Second Restoration and 64 – during the July Monarchy).

-   Five former Napoleon’s colonels also hold important office functions: de Caux de Blacquetot, at Ministry of the Secretary of d’État de la Guerre in 1828-29, and later in Ministry d’État during the Revolution of 1830; Schneider also, at Ministry of the Secretary of d’État de la Guerre in 1839-40; Despans-Cubières, at Ministry of the Secretary of d’État de la Guerre in 1840; Trézel was leading the War Ministry in 184748; Destutt de Tracy – the Ministry de la Marine et des Colonies, 1848-49.

VII. – Parliamentary functions            

Another group of 78 colonels of the First Empire exercised various parliamentary functions at the various stages of their career, and it could be before or long after one’s achieved the colonel’s rank.   For example, Louis Brue (1762-1820) promoted to Chef of brigade[19] of the 19th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment, 5 December 1798 – he was a member of the National Convention from the Morbihan Departament, 10 September 1792; he also served in the Counsel of Five Hundred, after 26 October 1795.  The chart below is shows when various colonels held office, whether during the Revolution, periods of the First, or Second Empire, including:  

Assemblies

Colonels, members of the various assemblies

Convention

L. Brue, Rivaud du Vignaud, Sirugue-Maret

Counsel of the Five Hundreds

L. Brue, Rivaud du Vignaud

Corps of Legislature (Consulat and Empire)

Angel, Bardenet, Caissoti-Chiusano, Chevillard de Marlioz, C. Jannot de Moncey[20], Noizet Saint-Paul, Nompar de Caumont, duke de la Force, Pavetti, Sirugue-Maret, Terrasson

Tribunat (Consulat and Empire)

de Carrion-Nisas

Chambers of the deputies of the departments (First Restoration)

Chevillard de Marlioz, C. Jannot de Moncey Noizet Saint-Paul, Sirugue-Maret

Chamber of Paris (the Hundred Days)

de Fobin-Janson, C. Huchet de la Bédoyère, de Marmier, de Turenne

Chamber of the Representatives (the Hundred Days)

J. d’ Albignac, Calès, Camus de Richemont, Dubalen, L. Dupuy, Majou, de Marmier, Ségnaville, Sirugue-Maret, Teullé, Tripoul 

Constitutional Assembly (Second Republic)

Bugeaud, Destutt de Tracy

Assembly of Legislature (Second Republic)

Brunet-Denon, A. Petiet, Rogé

Senate (Second Empire)

Achard de Castellane, A. de Grouchy, de Lawoestine, P. Tascher de la Pagerie, Ordener.

The other group of 32 colonels of the First Empire (not included in the above table) did hold various offices during the Second Restoration, the July Monarchy or Second Republic (1848-51).

VIII. – Compensation

A)    Legion of Honor

Nearly 92% of the colonels were awarded or became members of the Order of the Legion of Honor during the Consulate, First Empire and the Hundred Days.  The breakdown among 1,453 colonels is as shown below:

- 110 commandants, term utilized during the First Empire to designate the commandeurs of the Order

- 813 officiers, and

- 530 legionnaires (on 1 March 1808 the title was renamed to a chevaliers) 

Qualifying sums were set here annually for the beneficiaries at 2,000F for the commandant, 1,000F for officiers and 250F for chevaliers  Nearly the same number of the colonels were decorated during the First Empire, were again awarded this high honor, during the Restoration, the July Monarchy, Second Republic or even the Second Empire.  Apparently, out of 1,480 recipients, 17 were decorated with the Crand –croix of the Legion of Honor,  52  became grand officiers, 297  were awarded cravate  of  the commandeur, and there was André Maréchal (1764-1867)[21] who became one on 99 years of age, 11 September 1864.  Also, during the post-napoleonic period 760 men became officiers and finally, 354 – chevaliers of the Order.

B)     Noble titles

The Emperor created 553 notables out of the total number of his colonels, or 35.1% and it included 295 barons and 247 chevaliers of the Empire (de l’Empire).

Other 11 became the counts of the Empire, but they were rather exceptions and again, mostly relatives of the high dignitaries of the court or old aristocracy.  Among them were Jean and Pierre de Thacher de la Pagerie, cousins of the Empress Josephine, Alexandre de Talleyrand-Périgord, nephew of the prince of Beneveneto, de Montolon-Sémonville[22], Jannot de Moncey, son of marshal, son of Ordener; Thomas de Pange, de Turenne and de Marmier, nobles who joined the Empire.  One was de Salha, the War Minister to the King Jérôme of Westphalia.  Finally, Huchet de la Bédoyère, member of the old nobility, become one on 4 June 1815, during  the period of the Hundred Days.

Note another group of 77 colonels of the First Empire were ennobled during the Restoration, some of them repeatedly, as follows:

Dukes: 2 (de Talleyrand-Périgord and Marmier, former counts of the Empire)

Marquis: 1 (de Mathan)

Counts: 6 ( including Hulot d’Osery and L. de Lambel, former barons of the Empire)

Viscounts: 12 (including 5 former barons and 2 chevaliers of the Empire)

Barons:  53 (13 former chevaliers of the Empire), and

Chevaliers: 3

Finally, during the July Monarchy, marshal Bugeaud (who served as colonel of the 14th Line during the Hundred Days) obtained the title of the duke d’Isly, in honour of his victory on 14 August 1844 over the Moroccans.

C) Hereditary income

The group of 542 colonels of the First Empire was compensated in one form or another receiving Imperial dotations.  They were designated to provide consistent revenue to the new holders and carved out of the foreign lands: Monte Napoleone[23], Westphalia, Hanover, Bayreuth, Erfurt, etc.

Number of the beneficiaries amongst colonels and their respective annual income (rentes annuelles)

Annual income (based on dotations)

Number of beneficiaries

16,000F
10,000F
  9,000F
  8,000F
  7,000F
  6,000F
  5,000F
  4,500F
  4,000F
  3,500F
  3,000F
  2,500F
  2,000F
  1,500F
  1,000F
     500F

1
4
1
7
3
13
8
8
136
1
7
19
207
1
48
78

As can be seen, among 542 colonels benefits had comprises in the range between 500 and 4,000F (or 91% of the total beneficiaries).

Colonel Laurent F.-M. Marbeuf (1786-1812) was the only one who received 16,000F annual income: he was a son of lieutenant-general Lous Charles René count de Marbeuf (1712-1786) of the King’s army, governor of Corsica  and Commander-and-chief of the French troops on the island, 1772-86, protector of the Bonaparte’s family prior to 1789.  The Emperor had him admitted to the l’École spéciale militaire, nominated baron l’Empire in 1809 and finally, made him colonel of the 6th Chevau-légers Regiment in October 1811.  Colonel Marbeuf died in November near Marieupol (Duchy of Warsaw) of the wound sustained in the battle at Krasnoe, 14 August 1812.

Other major beneficiaries who received dotations of 10,000F were already mentioned colonel Charles de Montesquiou-Fezensac, and colonels Jacques Bégougne de Juniac[24] (1762-1841), Marie Louis Corbineau[25] (1780-1823) and Joseph L.-V. Greiner[26] (1773-1838).  The last two were severely wounded in the battle of Wagram and had undergo hard amputations.

IX. – Fatal casualties 

It sometimes raises a question, while during the First Empire the death of colonels could be determined by the following three categories:

-          those who were killed while on campaigns

-          died or killed due to the various tragic circumstances, and

-          colonels died due to diseases and/or natural causes

1°) The first category consists of colonels killed or died after sustaining mortal wounds (A), disappeared in the course of campaign (B), and colonels who died on campaign due to hardship of war, became victims of the various epidemics, or were killed by an accident (C).  The breakdown is as shown on the table below:

Campaign

(A)

(B)

(C)

Total

1805 in Austria

10

10

1806 in Prussia

9

1

10

1807 in Poland

18

3

21

1809 in Austria

22

22

1812 in Russia

33

3

17

53

1813 in Germany

30

2

7

39

1814 in France (Grande Armée)

16

1

2

19

Peninsula and Pyrenees 1808-1814

44

15

59

1815

10

10

Various minor theaters (St.-Dominique, Java, Middle East, captivity)

 6

1

1

8

Total

198

7

46

251

The percentage, using the total of 1,574 colonels on active service during the major campaigns of the First Empire, yields 12.57% colonels killed in the combat or mortally wounded and died afterwards; while another 15.9% lost their lives elsewhere.  Included in this number are 251 colonels, victims of war. The biggest loses by campaign could be determined, based on the table provided above, which occurred during the campaign and retreat from Russia, operations 1813 in Germany; campaign in France for the rather short period of time from January to April 1814 and finally, campaign in Belgium, 1815.

            Same categories, as on the table above, apply to the loses in the major campaign of the Empire based on the arm of service, as follows:

Table representing loses based on the arms of service

Arms of service

(A)

(B)

(C)

Total

Infantry

90

1

10

101

Adjudant-commandants

37

4

21

 62

Cavalry

35

 3

 38

Artillery

12

 12

Majors of the Garde Imperiale

  7

 4

 11

Engineers

  4

2

 6

 12

Commandants d’armes

  4

2

 4

 10

Legion de la Vestule

  3

  3

Artillery and Navy

  2

  2

Aides-de-camp

   1

  1

Gendarmerie

 1

  1

Others units

   3

 1

  4

Total

198

7

        46

251

This table puts in evidence the preeminent role that was played by the infantry, the “Queen of the battles” in the course of the Napoleonic wars. The loses registered for the colonels of the infantry only are slightly higher than for the other services: 45.45% taking to the account only the colonels killed in combat or mortally wounded and 40.23% out of the total number of 251 colonels, who were war victims; note that colonels of the infantry represent 27.1% of the colonels who were active under the First Empire.

To reflect the most reliable data on loses that were sustained by colonels as well as adjudant-commandants during the major battles of the First Empire, various sources were absorbed and put together[27].  As a result, there are some discrepancies in the table provided below, which does not necessarily depict the exact information from the original figures of the Dictionnaire.  Also, only the French officers were put in the table, with no allies’ or foreign commanders.  The following table was composed in decreasing order of loses; of all mortally wounded, only those who died within a week or so, were counted[28].   Legend: m.w = mortally wounded

Leipzig, 16-19 October 1813   Total: 11           

Adjudant-commandants Hugues, Levasseur, Monestier, Robert
Colonel Camescasse    142nd Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Chauveau       General staff of the artillery, III Corps of the Reserve Cavalr
yColonel Magaud (m.w.)  29th Light Infantry Regiment
Colonel Maleszewski   Regiment of the Vistule Infantry
Colonel Montigny        25th Dragoons Regiment
Colonel Royer             3rd Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment
Colonel Sennegon        155th Line Infantry Regiment                                                            

Wagram, 5-6 July 1809   Total: 10                   

Adjudant-commandants Ducommet (m.w., died 9 July), Dupont, Magnac (died 12 July)
Colonel Delga (m.w.)   2nd Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Gallet              9th Line Infantry Regiment[29]
Colonel Horiot             23rd Light Infantry Regiment
Colonel Huin               13th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Laborde          8th Hussars Regiment
Colonel Leduc             19th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment
Colonel Oudet (m.w.)  17th Line Infantry Regiment

La Moscowa, 5-7 September 1812      Total: 8

Adjudant-commandant Dupont d’Erval
Colonel Demay                        General staff of the artillery
Colonel Désirat                        11th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment
Colonel Ledard (m.w.) 6th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment                                                            
Colonel Massy             4th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Méda (m.w. at Schewardino, 5 Sept., died 8 Sept.)  1st Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment
Colonel Pelgrin (m.w.) 2nd Horse Artillery Regiment
Colonel St.-Vincent     General Staff of artillery

Eylau, 7-8 February 1807  Total: 6                 

Adjudant-commandants Mac-Cheehy and Michel
Colonel Bourbier               11th Dragoons Regiment
Colonel Lacuée                  63rd Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Lemarois              43rd Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Silbermann (m.w.) 53rd Line Infantry Regiment                                                         

Waterloo, 18 June 1815  Total: 6                                

Adjudant-commandant Chasseriau (m.w. died 26 June)
Colonel Aubrée (m.w. died 26 June) 11th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Cobert (m.w.) 5th Cuirassiers Regiment
Colonel Lacroix (m.w.)            2nd Cuirassiers Regiment
Colonel Mallet             3rd Chasseurs à pied de la Garde                                                                     
Colonel Rignon                        51st Line Infantry Regiment                                                                

Friedland, 14 June 1807      Total: 4                           

Adjudant-commandants Pelissard and Roussot
Colonel Faure-Lajonquière (m.w.)  76th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Forno              2nd Horse Artillery Regiment                                                          

Austerlitz, 2 December 1805        Total: 3      

Colonel Morland          Major Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde
Colonel Mazas             14th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Castex             13th Light Infantry Regiment

Iena, 14 October 1806               Total: 3          

Colonel Barbanègre          9th Hussars Regiment
Colonel Houdart-Lamotte  36th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Marigny              20th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment

Essling, 21-22 May 1809     Total: 3               

Adjudant-commandant Ransonnet[30]                                                           
Colonel De Brancas (m.w.)  11th Cuirassiers Regiment
Colonel Richard                  46th Line Infantry Regiment

Chiclana-Barossa, 5 March 1811         Total: 3

Colonel Moranzin (m.w.)  General Staff of artillery
Colonel Autié                  8th Line Infantry Regiment
ColonelMaingarmaud     96th Line Infantry Regiment

Krasnoe, 16-17 & 19 November 1812  Total: 3         

Colonel Juillet (m.w.)       111th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Bouvier               General Staff of engineers
Colonel Fondzielski (m.w.) 3rd Vistula Legion

Lützen, 2 May 1813            Total: 3               

Adjudant-commandant Masson
Colonel Lamour           22nd Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Larcilly (m.w.)            13th Line Infantry Regiment                                                              

Ligny, 16 June 1815           Total: 3                

Colonel Dubalen          64th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Laurède (m.w.)           63rd Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Maury             71st Line Infantry Regiment                                                               

Bussaco, 27 September 1810              Total: 2

Colonel Amy               6th Light Infantry Regiment
Colonel Meunier          31st Light Infantry Regiment                                                              

Raab, 14 1809        Total: 2                            

Colonel Thierry           23rd Light Infantry Regiment
Colonel Bohn              7th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment

Arapiles (or Salamanca), 22 July 1812          Total: 2 

Adjudant-commandant Durel (m.w., died 28 July)[31]
Colonel Molard                        6th Light Infantry Regiment                                                      

Polotsk, 17-18 August 1812          Total: 2     

Colonel Aubry             19th Line Infantry Regiment
Colonel Mayot             37th Line Infantry Regiment

Vitoria, 21 June 1813                 Total: 2        

Colonel Foulon                        28th Light Infantry Regiment
Colonel Gilliard                       General Staff of artillery

Kulm, 13 August 1813                  Total: 2                 

Colonel Autran               7th Light Infantry Regiment
ColonelQuandalle (m.w.)  13th Light Infantry Regiment

Auerstädt, 14 October 1806             Colonel Higonett              108th Line Infantry Regiment[32]

Heilsberg, 10 June 1807                    Colonel Perrier                53rd Line Infantry Regiment

Medina del Rio, 14 July 1808            Colonel Piéton-Prémalé    22nd Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment

Eckmühl, 22 April 1809                    Colonel Sachs                  14th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment

Valutina-Gora, 19 August 1812         Colonel Thoulouze             12th Line Infantry Regiment 

Maloyaroslawetz, 24 October 1812     Colonel Penant                35th Line Infantry Regiment

Dresden, 26-27 August 1813               Colonel-major Deshayes    2nd Chasseurs à pied de la Garde

Defense of Brême, 13 October 1813   Colonel Thuillier              Commandant d’armes[33]

Hanau, 30 October 1813                     Colonel Ferran                  22nd Light Infantry Regiment

Montmirail, 11 February 1814               Colonel-major Malet         2nd Chasseurs à pied de la Garde

Reims, 15 March 1814                           Colonel-major de Belmont  3rd Regiment de Gardes d’Honneur

2°) Concern of the second group includes 20 colonels who died under various tragically related circumstances, as follows:

3 were shot by the firing squads: Charles Prévost (1760-1814), adjudant-commandant effective 27 August 1803; he was convicted in espionage for the Allies, arrested, tried by military commission and condemned to death.  Colonels’ de Gordon and Huchet de la Bédoyère (accused in treason and rebellion) were executed during the First Restoration, in the first month of the “white terror” on 6 July and 19 August 1815 accordingly.

6 committed suicide; one of them, colonel Fortuné Marchant, in 1811.

5 were assassinated: Colonel Morio in 1811, Noizet in 1818, La Caussade de Prévost Saint-Cyr in 1820; Ramel, who refused to cry “Vive le Roi” in Toulouse, in August 1815 and de la Chasse de Vérigny, after ball, by a certain Fieschi, on 28 July 1835.

2 were killed on the duel: Larcher in 1812 and Rottier de Laborde in 1828.

Colonel Quesnel, retired, died under the bridge at Sèvres; some said he was pushed off  the bridge, some said it was suicide.   Colonel of the engineers Boutin was assassinated under mysterious conditions in July or August 1815; general, former colonel Denys de Damrémont, aide-de-camp to marshal Marmont in 1813-14, was killed when the French cannon blew off  at the siege of Constantinopole, 12 October 1837.  Finally, the youngest of colonels, Bon Jannot de Moncey, son of the marshal, was accidentally killed, while hunting, on 21 December 1817; he was just 25 years old…

3°) Out of total number 1,265 colonels died of natural courses: the longevity breakdown among certain groups is as shown below:

60 – 69 years: 350
70 – 79 years: 398
80 – 89 years: 194
90 – 99 years: 25; note that Petit died at 97, François Berthier de Grandry, Lèbre and Portal at 95, and Paulin 94 years of age. Colonel André Maréchal, finally, died at 102 years of age.    

X. – Postmortem

It is interesting to note that 108 colonels have buried in Paris: 3 at Invalides (Bugeaud, Denys de Damrémont, and de la Chasse de Vérigny), 71 on the famous cemetery of Père-La-Chaise, 19 on Montmartre, and other 15 elsewhere.

Another 9 colonels who were killed in the battlefields or died of wounds, honored to be depicted on the Arc de Triomphe: Claude Blancheville, François Damas, Claude Henry, Joseph Higonett, Antoine Houdar de Lamotte, Gérard Lacuée, Joseph Marigny, Jacques Mazas and François de Morlan or Morland.

 

Notes:

[1] Danielle & Bernard Quintin, Dictionnaire des Colonel de Napoleon, preface by J. Tulard (Paris, 1996).  Hereinafter was used the adapted translated version, taken from the original introduction, pp. 11-29.

[2] Alain Pigeard, L’Etat-major sous l’Empire, 1804-1815 (Tradition magazine, No. 136, 1998), p. 17.

[3] Georges Six, Dictionnaire des généraux et amiraux de la Révolution et de l'Empire, 2 vol’s (Paris, 1948).

[4] A. Pigeard, op.cit., p.19.

[5] Appointed on 31 August 1803.

[6] He was just 24 years old, but already had 7 years of service.

[7] For example, the three brothers Bizot: Bizot-Brice (1754-1836), graduated 1 January 1773, chef de brigade  16 June 1795; Bizot-Charmois (1757-1812), graduated 1 January 1780, chef de brigade 23 July 1801; and Bizot du  Coudray (1751-1827), graduated 1 January 1770, commandant of the same school, 16 June 1794; colonel 26 December 1805.

[8] For example, Louis Jean Desaix (1790-1845), graduated 23 January 1806; Alphonse F. Grouchy (1789-1864), graduated 8 December 1806, Charles de la Bédoyère (1786-1815), graduated 29 July 1805, etc.

[9] One of them was baron Gaspard Gourgaud (1783-1752) future first officier d’ordinnace of the Emperor, graduated 23 September 1799; colonel on 15 March 1814.  

[10] He took an active part in the Russian campaign, promoted to colonel of the 112th Line Infantry Regiment,   1 May 1813; being just 27 years old, he has had 8 years of service. 

[11] Philip Haythornthwaite, Napoleon’s Commanders, c. 1792-1809 (Osprey-Elite series No. 72), p. 9.

[12] Promoted to colonel on 15 March 1814 at the age 30, having 14 years of active service.

[13] Alain Pigeard, L’Armée Napoléonienne, 1804-1815 (Edition Curandére, 1993), pp. 139-40.

[14] Ibid., pp. 54-55.

[15] Crossed the Berezina river along with his 7th Cuirassiers; at the head of the 30th Dragoons, 11March 1813.

[16] Colonel of the 23rd Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment, 15 November 1812; maréchal de camp on 22 October 1830, Inspector-general of cavalry 1845-47

[17] Son of General Gérard; appointed Commandant supérieur de la place of Soissons, 9 March 1814, colonel 18 January 1815, maréchal de camp on 1 January 1833; general of division and put at the head of the 4th  Military Division, 28 August 1848-49.

[18] Major of the 14th Line Infantry, 10 January 1814, colonel of the same regiment during the 1st Restoration,  aged 30; confirmed by Napoleon on 6 May 1815.

[19] The rank ‘colonel’ on the early stage of the Revolution implied aristocratic privilege and was abolished.

[20] Baron Claude M.-J. Jannot de Moncey (1764-1828) was brother of marshal and his aide-de-camp;   promoted colonel 17 September 1810.

[21] Colonel of the 102nd Line Infantry Regiment, 5 May 1812; chevalier of the Legion of Honour on 14 June 1804; officier on 19 March 1815.

[22] Charles Tristan (1783-1853); adjudant-commandant, 13 May 1809, age 25 and having 9 years of service.  Later accompanied Napoleon on the St.-Hélène, 1815-21. 

[23] A bank founded in 1805 to consolidate and liquidate the Italian public debt.

[24] Colonel titulaire of the 1st Hussars Regiment, 6 January 1807; commandant d’armes 3rd class, 20 August 1810; retired in 1810, in gendarmerie during the Hundred Days.

[25] Brother of two generals Corbineau and major of the Chasseur à Cheval of the Garde Imperiale, 13 June 1809; retired 1810.

[26] Colonel-director of artillery, 9 July 1809; served at l’École Polytechnique, 1810-14.

[27] See, e.g., A. Martinien, Tableaux par corps et par batailles des officiers tués et blessés pendant les guerres de l’Empire, 1805-1815 (Lavauzelle, Paris), 1890;  A. Pigeard, L’Armée Napoléonienne…, pp. 855-85.

[28] For example, adjudant commandant Duveyrier who was mortally wounded at Friedland, 14 June 1807, died after almost a month, on 13 July; so he could be considered as wounded; see Martinien, op. cit., p. 27.

[29] Newly promoted to colonel Andre Gouy, who assumed the command, died of wounds 21 July.

[30] Adjudant-commandant Chaponnel, who sustained mortal wound, died on 8 July; A. Martinien, op. cit., p. 27.

[31] Mortally wounded adjudant-commandant Leclerc de Montpye died on 12 September, A. Martinien, op. cit., p. 28.

[32] Mortally wounded adjudant-commandant Delotz-Darros died on 31 December; A. Martinien, op. cit., p. 27.

[33] A. Martinien, op. cit., p. 60

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2013 - June 2015

 

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