Research Subjects: Biographies


The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
#9 General Nicolas Dahlmann

By Terry J. Senior

 

General Nicolas Dahlmann

General Nicolas Dahlmann

General Nicolas Dahlmann was born at Thionville on 7November 1769, the son of a trumpeter and enlisted as enfant de troupe in 1777 at the age of 8 years. His father and his older brother were already serving in the regiment Dauphin Cavalerie, which later in 1791 became the 12e Regiment de Cavalerie.

He later served with the infantry and saw action with l'Armee de la Moselle and l'Armee des Pyrenees Orientales with whom he received a wound in his right leg at Peyrestortes on 17th September 1793. From 1796 to 1798 he was with l'Armee d'Italie and was selected to join the Guides-a-Cheval de Bonaparte when they were formed in June 1796.

He went to Egypt with l'Armee d'Orient and served at Salahieh, and Aboukir. He was one of the few chosen to return to France with Napoleon in 1798 and became Chef d'Escadron of the Chasseurs-a-Cheval in October 1802. He served at Austerlitz and was made Colonel-Major des Chasseurs-a-Cheval de la Garde Imperiale after their previous commander, Colonel Francois-Louis de Morland had been killed on 2 December 1805.

Dahlmann saw further action at Jena, then Lopaczyn in Poland on 25 December 1806 where Capitaine Marie-Louis-Hercule-Hubert Corbineau, whose two brothers were both to become famous Napoleonic Generals, was wounded. Just five days later, Dahlmann was promoted to General-de-Brigade at the age of 36.

In the snows at the battle of Eylau on 8 February 1807, while leading his victorious squadrons in action when they forced 20,000 Russians to abandon their positions he took a very serious wound in his right hip from a heavy calibre artillery piece and died the following day in the chateau of Eylau.

Dahlmann came from a family of nobles, which originated from the Grand Duche de Bade. The future General was aged 20 at the outbreak of the Revolution and was with his brother, and his sister who later married Colonel Bert, Chevalier de l'Empire. Dahlmann's brother was executed as a noble while his sister was thrown in the gaol at Haguenau.

The General married on 7 September 1800 Anne-Exilatrice Solere and the couple had three children, a son Jean-Baptiste born 21 August 1801 whose god-father was le Marechal Jean-Baptiste Bessieres. He took a military career, becoming a Capitaine de Cavalerie. The General's second child was a girl Marguerite-Eugenie born in July 1803, and finally another daughter Clarisse-Caroline was born on 20 April 1806.

Dahlmann had a brilliant career stretching before him. A gifted horseman, a natural, courageous leader, and a very astute tactician who enjoyed the utmost devotion of his men, he was the very epitome of a born commander.

He was a good-looking man, of medium build and a determined manner. He possessed a mass of brown curly hair, typical long sideburns and a moustache, which turned down at each end. His eyes were a piercing blue. His manner was calm and calculating but decisive. In all probability, had he lived, a Marechals baton was awaiting him.

The Emperor obviously held Dahlmann in very high esteem for he granted his widow a pension of 6,000 francs and in 1811 accorded his only son the title of Baron de l'Empire at the age of 10. On the instructions of Napoleon, Dahlmann's heart was embalmed and taken to Paris where it was placed at rest in the Pantheon

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002

 

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