Research Subjects: Biographies


The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
#7 General Frederic-Louis-Henri Walther

By Terry J. Senior

 

General Walther

General Frederic-Louis-Henri Walther

General Frederic-Louis-Henri Walther was born in Alsace in 1761. His career began in May 1781 when he enlisted in the famous Bercheny Hussards, which in 1791 were re-named the 1er Regiment des Hussards.

His career lasted over 30 years and he saw action at Neerwinden, on the Piave, Pfullendorf, Stockach, Moesskirch, Ulm, Hohenlinden, Hollabrun, Austerlitz, then in Prussia, Poland, Austria, Russia, and Saxony.

A versatile commander he was equally at home leading, either light, medium or heavy cavalry although he was essentially a heavy cavalryman. At Austerlitz he commanded a division comprising the 3e, 6e, 10e, 11e, 13e and 22e Regiments des Dragons in le Marechal Joachim Murat's Cavalry Reserve. Walther's brigade commanders were General Andre-Joseph Boussart 2e brigade (3e, 6e and 11e), General Horace-Francois Sebastiani de la Porta, and 45 year old General Mansuy-Dominique Roget baron de Belloguet

Extremely loyal to Napoleon, Walther once told the Emperor during a spirited action that if he did not move to a place of safety, he would instruct his Grenadiers-a-Cheval to forcibly remove him.

At Wagram in July 1809 Walther commanded four squadrons of Grenadiers-a -Cheval of le Marechal Jean-Baptiste Bessieres Imperial Guard Cavalry. He did come in for some criticism for failing to call his command to action when instructed to do so by le Marechal Etienne-Jacques-Joseph-Alexandre MacDonald in Bessieres absence. The Emperor took his Imperial Guard commanders to task over the incident but MacDonald, in his Memoirs alleged that Napoleon himself was largely at fault.

Walther was wounded on a number of occasions throughout his career including Neerwinden, during the combat on the Iller, at Hohenlinden, and Austerlitz. Following the latter battle, he was decorated with le Grand Aigle de la Legion d'Honneur, and appointed Chambellan de l'Empereur, he was then decorated as Commandant de la Couronne de Fer and was appointed Colonel-Major des Grenadiers-a-Cheval in May 1806

He was married on 12 April 1802 to 20 year old Salome-Louise Coulmann and the couple had two children both girls, first Louise-Catherine born in 1803 and then Josephine-Napoleone-Frederique-Henriette born on the 14 June 1807.

A reliable and highly talented and respected cavalry commander, the General was taken ill and died at Kussel (Sarre) during the night of 24 November 1813. The cause of death was exhaustion. The privations of the Russian debacle together with the demands of the battles in Saxony in 1813 had taken their toll. The general's body was taken to the Cathedral at Metz before being transferred to Paris for its final resting place in the Pantheon. The body was escorted on its final journey by a detachment of Grenadiers-a-Cheval under the command of a young officer called Janker who was also the General's nephew.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002

 

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