Research Subjects: Biographies


The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
#6 General Etienne-Marie-Antoine Champion de Nansouty

By Terry J. Senior

 

General Nansouty

General Etienne-Marie-Antoine Champion de Nansouty

General Etienne-Marie-Antoine Champion de Nansouty was a very able and knowledgeable cavalry commander of the old school. He came from a family having noble origins and was considered by many to be fussy and cautious. Fussy because of his attention to detail especially where dress was concerned. He was one of those who supported the retention of the hair done in a "queue", and was beside himself with fury when he returned from leave and found that it had been abolished during his absence (as was also le Marechal Jean-Baptiste Bessieres).

He was considered cautious because he developed a reputation for being slow, or even reluctant to bring his squadrons to battle, but that was mainly on those occasions that Murat was in overall command, who Nansouty considered to be somewhat over zealous and headstrong when faced with the possibility of an all out charge on a grand scale.

In some aspects, the cautious "tag" was not warranted, as the delay often resulted from the terrain and distance Nansouty had to travel to bring his men to action and on a number of occasions too much was asked of both his men and their horses. However, Nansouty was one of those commanders who cared a great deal about the welfare of every man under his command and regarding them more as if they were his own children.

His combat record was little short of brilliant and he was present at Wertingen, Ulm, Austerlitz, Kolozomb, Golymin, Eylau, Willenberg, Guttstadt, Friedland, Abensberg, Eckmuhl, Ratisbonne, Essling, Wagram, Swir, Ostrovno, Borodino, Dresden, Leipzig, Hanau, Rothiere, Montmirail, Troyes, Berry au Bac, and Craonne.

He was certainly no Bonapartist and on the Restoration, had no difficulty at all in swearing his allegiance to the returning Bourbon Monarch. He became a Chevalier de Saint Louis, and ADC to Comte d'Artois.

During his period in the Emperor's service he was very highly regarded and awarded a number of honours including in 1805 Premier Chambellan to Imperatrice Josephine then decorated with the Grand Aigle de la Legion d'Honneur. He was Premier Ecuyer de l'Empereur in 1808 and Comte de l'Empire about the same time. He was also awarded annual pensions of 5,882 francs, 25,000 francs, and 10,000 francs respectively by Napoleon who rated his abilities very highly indeed. Nansouty also was a married man and had one son born on 16th July 1803. Receipt of all these honours and awards did not prevent him from switching his allegiance to Louis XVIII on his return after Napoleon's exile to Elba.

Although he was considered a good, level headed, reliable and tactically sound commander he lacked the flare and initiative of a LaSalle or Montbrun.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002

 

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