Research Subjects: Biographies


The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
#4 General Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul

By Terry J. Senior

 

General d'Hautpoul

General Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul

Another fine commander and a heavy cavalry specialist, mainly cuirassiers. He came from a very old noble family, which had a tradition of serving France stretching back hundreds of years. Talented and charismatic, a giant of a man, with enormous upper body strength, and who used his physical presence to great effect. A veteran soldier when compared with many of the Emperor's senior commanders.

Present on the fields of Maubeuge, Fleurus, Blankenberg, Altenkirchen, Neuwied, Ostrach, Stockach, Engen, Biberach, and Hohenlinden. He had an awesome reputation even before Napoleon came on the scene.

He was at Austerlitz, where he led the charge against the Russian centre on the Pratzen Heights with his 2nd Heavy Cavalry Division comprising the 1er, 5e, 10e and 11e Cuirassier Regiments with his brigade commander, the 44 year old General Raymond-Gaspard de Bonardi Saint Sulpice.

Then at Jena on 14 October 1806, where d'Hautpoul retained divisional command, the 1er and 5e Cuirassiers were under Brigade commander General Jean-Christophe Collin Verdiere of which only the four squadrons of the 1er Cuirassiers were engaged, while Saint-Sulpice retained command of the 2e brigade. Four days later, on 18 October, at Schwarzbourg in Germany, Verdiere suddenly died aged 52.

At Eylau on 7 February 1807, d'Hautpoul led his division in action against the Russians, his squadrons together with those of Colonel Lepic of the Grenadiers-a-Cheval having penetrated to the third line of the enemy, and causing many casualties. d'Hautpoul was struck by a canon ball, which shattered his hip. The renowned surgeon, Dominique Larrey, on viewing d'Hautpoul's terrible wounds recommended amputation of his leg as his only chance of survival, but encouraged by Pierre-Francois Percy, the stricken cavalry commander unwisely ignored this advice. He was taken wrapped in his bloodstained cloak to the nearby village of Vornen where he died the following day. He was 51 years of age.

According to Meneval's Memoirs, Volume 2, d'Hautpoul in spite of his wounds, wrote to Napoleon expressing his everlasting devotion. The Emperor for his part, replied stating that he was sure d'Hautpoul would survive to lead his squadrons in further victorious actions.

The gallant cavalryman's command was taken over by his long time friend and colleague General Saint-Sulpice.

d'Hautpoul was a very talented soldier and one of the great commanders of his time. His loss was a great blow to Napoleon, however, the giant cuirassier probably died as he would have wished, leading his men in action across the snowy wastes of Eylau.

He was married to Alexandrine-Suzanne Daumy and had one son, Alphonse-Joseph-Napoleon who also became a cavalry officer.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002

 

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