The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
General Marie-Victor-Nicolas de Fay Latour-Maubourg came from a very old and noble family having it's origins dating back at least to the mid-16th Century. He was born in the Chateau of La Motte de Galaure not far from Grenoble on 22 May 1768, the youngest son of Claude Florimond de Fay de Cosse, comte de la Tour-Maubourg and his wife Marie-Francoise de Vachon de Belmont. His older brother Marie-Charles-Cesar also became a General.
Marie-Victor enlisted as a sous lieutenant in the Regiment de Beaujolais Infanterie on 15 July 1782 and during the following turbulent years received a number of different appointments and in one particular incident was prominent in saving the life of Marie-Antoinette.
He was appointed Colonel of the 3e Regiment des Chasseurs-a-Cheval on 5 February 1792 and during the late summer was arrested and taken prisoner by the Austrians as were a number of prominent French officers. He was fortunate however and released a few weeks later at the end of September. He intended to return to France but was ordered to Brussels as an émigré where he remained for the next five years.
He was set free at the end of 1799 and returned to France and was almost immediately sent to Egypt by the First Consul on the frigate "l'Osiris" carrying the announcement of the establishment of the Consulate.
Having arrived at Aboukir in February 1800, he became ADC to Kleber at the capture of Belbeis, then to the eccentric General Menou following the popular Kleber was murdered. After taking provisional command of the 22e Chasseurs-a-Cheval he received serious head wounds from an exploding shell at Alexandria on 13 March 1801.
He returned to France with his regiment and was confirmed as Chef-de-Brigade of the 22e Chasseurs-a-Cheval by order of the Consuls in July 1802.
He was serving in Germany under General Edouard-Jean-Baptiste Milhaud whose brigade comprising La Tour Maubourg's 22e Chasseurs-a-Cheval, and the 16e Chasseurs-a- Cheval under their Colonel, the future General Antoine-Jean-Auguste-Henri Durosnel. These regiments were present at Austerlitz, where they formed part of Prince Joachim Murat's very impressive Reserve de Cavalerie.
La Tour Maubourg was promoted to General-de-Brigade less than three weeks after the battle on 24 December 1805.
During the battle of Jena on 14 October 1806, La Tour Maubourg found himself in the 3e Division des Dragons under General-de-Division Louis-Chretien Carriere de Beaumont, forming part of the Reserve de Cavalerie of Prince Joachim Murat. Latour Maubourg's brigade consisted of the 9e and 22e Regiments des Dragons. His fellow brigade commanders were General Charles-Joseph Boye, Baron d'Abaumont who commanded the 5e and 8e Regiments des Dragons, and General Frederic-Christophe-Henri-Pierre-Claude Marizy, Baron de Vagnair with the 12e and 16e Regiments des Dragons making a powerful force of over 3,000 sabres in 13 squadrons with three artillery pieces. The same formation was also present at Eylau on the 7th February 1807.
The division suffered some casualties to regimental commanders during this period, at Austerlitz Colonel Jean-Nicolas Lacour of the 5e Dragons was seriously wounded. Then at Prentzlow on 28 October 1806, while leading the 21e Dragons, Colonel Jean-Baptiste-Charles-Rene-Joseph Mas de Polart who was later to become a General suffered serious wounds. At Nasielsk on 24 December 1806, Colonel Louis Beckler of the 8e Dragons was killed. Then at Eylau, on 8 February 1807, Colonel Mas de Polart was again wounded while leading the 21e Dragons and on the same day Colonel Francois-Felix Girault Baron de Martigny of the 12e Dragons was also among the casualties. At Friedland on 14 June 1807, Colonel Alexandre-Louis-Robert Girardin d'Ermenonville, was among the wounded of the 8e Regiment des Dragons.
Promotion to General-de-Division for Latour Maubourg came in May 1807 and with it, service at Heilsberg and Friedland.. He was also made Baron de l'Empire in June 1808.
Later that year he went to Spain under the command of le Marechal Bessieres and was present at the fall of Madrid, then at Ucles, Cuenca, Medellin, Talavera de la Reyna, Ocana, Badajoz, Gebora, Albuquerque, Albuhera, and Elvas, before being asked to command a division in Andalucia.
Recalled from Spain in 1812 he went on the Russian Campaign where he was given command of the IV Reserve Cavalry Corps which included: the 4th (Polish) Light Cavalry Division under General Rozniecki which comprised the 29th Brigade commanded by General Turno made up of the 3e, 11e, and 16e Lanciers, a total of 11 squadrons and two horse artillery batteries; the 7e Cuirassier Division under General Jean-Thomas-Guillaume Lorge consisting of the 1er Brigade under General Thielemann made up of the Saxon Garde du Corps, the Saxon Cuirassier Regiment von Zastrow, and the 14e Polish Cuirassiers, making a total of 12 squadrons, and the 2e Brigade commanded by General Lepel consisted of the 1er and 2e Westphalien Cuirassier Regiments making another 8 squadrons and 2 more horse artillery batteries.
Latour Maubourg was wounded at Borodino and gave distinguished service at Mojaisk. He survived the rigours of the Retreat and in 1813 was decorated with the Grand Croix de la Reunion. He was then present at Bautzen, Reichenbach, Goldberg, Dresden and finally Wachau where he had his thigh carried away by a canon ball. He was the officer who seeing his valet distressed at his injuries, is alleged to have shouted, "What have you got to cry about man, you have one less boot to polish in future."
He easily pledged his loyalty to the returning Bourbon monarch, and remained with him during the 100 days. He was decorated on a number of occasions and held some important posts including that of Ambassador to London in 1819.
He sat on the Conseil de Guerre at the trial of le Marechal Michel Ney and sad to say he voted for the death penalty for his former comrade in arms.
La Tour Maubourg was an excellent officer and one of the great commanders of his time but never lost his noble leanings and confidently embraced the restored Bourbons. He was a natural leader but not an altogether popular one. He had a fine grasp of tactics, did not lack bravery, and was certainly an officer one would not wish to displease.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002
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