The War of 1812 Magazine

Issue 15: May 2011


For want of this precaution so many Men lose their Arms:" Official, Semi-Official and Unofficial American Artillery Texts, 1775-1815 Part 8

By Donald E. Graves

The Flood Tide of French Influence: The Work of Tousard and Duane, 1807-1810

In the first decade of the 19th century, the influence of French military practice in the United States increased with rapidity, impelled by American fascination with Napoleon and his victories (the first book on the French dictator to appear in the U.S.A.  came out as early as 1798) and a concomitant interest in the French army. It was also spread by political refugees–many of whom were professional soldiers–from the turmoils of revolutionary and imperial France who sought sanctuary in the American republic.

These expatriates came in all shapes and sizes. At the top was General Jean-Victor Moreau, a hero of the French Revolutionary Army exiled in 1805 for complicity in a plot against Napoleon. Moreau, who resided in the United States until 1813 and acted as an unofficial military advisor to the American government. Near the bottom were men like ex-cavalry NCO, J.A.P. Poutingon, who, when later hired to train the U.S. Light Dragoons during the War of 1812, complained to the secretary of war about his low pay which was not enough, in his opinion, for spending "8 hours [daily] on the field, hallooing and galloping and spitting the blood."[1] Somewhere in the middle were two ex-colonels with literary talents, Maximilian Godefroy and Irenée Amelot De Lacroix, who both published books in 1807 urging the United States to improve its preparedness for war by modelling its military institutions on those of France.[2] De Lacroix, a former engineer officer, was knowledgeable about artillery and appended to his Military and Political Hints a little pamphlet, "The Artillerist", containing details of current French practice for the construction of siege batteries and the service and manoeuvres of field artillery. Shortly afterward, this useful item appeared as a separate publication entitled The French Artillerist.[3] 

However, the most important -- and certainly the most seminal -- work by a French military author appeared in 1808 when Louis de Tousard's American Artillerist's Companion, or Elements of Artillery, was released to the public in sections.[4] This was the comprehensive treatise, which Washington had requested his friend to compile and Tousard had been working on it since 1795. He probably completed it shortly after he returned to the United States in 1805 to serve as French consul in New Orleans because in September 1806 he offered to sell a number of artillery books to the academy at West Point and this implies that he no longer needed them for what Tousard liked to call his monument utile.[5] The American Artillerist's Companion was truly a "useful monument" because it provided in two well-organized volumes, totalling 1,197 pages supplemented by a volume of 67 plates, a selection in English of the best available current information not only on artillery but on theoretical and practical fortification, field engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, physics, ballistics, hydraulics and military theory.[6] This was far from being the "elementary treatise" that Washington had asked him to compile.

One interesting feature of the Companion is that, unlike most period authors who plagiarized each other with cheerful abandon, Tousard often noted the publications or authors from which he drew his information. This permits some analysis of his sources and this author has been able to identify no fewer than seventy different published or unpublished works used by Tousard for the Companion,  written by such familiar names as Adye, D'Antoni, De Scheel, Du Puget, Glenie, Gribeuval, Muller, Robins and Stevens that have earlier appeared in this study.[7] Other major sources -- particularly French sources as Tousard naturally leaned toward the work of his own countrymen -- need additional comment.

In selecting French material, Tousard chose wisely. He based much of his commentary on fortification theory on a series of lectures given by General Victor-Antoine, Baron Andréossy (1747-1819), Inspector-General of Engineers of the Imperial Army, at the recently founded Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, which were translated for him by Captain George Izard of the U.S. Artillery. Other unpublished material included a treatise written by Lieutenant-General Mouy on the artillery trials carried out at Strasbourg in 1764 at which the systéme Gribeauval guns were tested against their predecessors, and five large manuscript volumes of memorials and treatises compiled by the leading French artillery officers used to instruct cadets in that arm. On metallurgy and casting of ordnance, Tousard relied heavily on the respected work of General Jean, Comte Fabre de Lamartilliere (1732-1819), an inspector-general of the French artillery and former superintendent of the foundry at Douai. Besides Edme Du Puget, who was an established authority on the subject, Tousard drew information on field artillery from two articles in the Encyclopédie, "Artillerie de campagne ou de bataille," and "Canon de Campagne ou de Bataille," signed by one "A.A." This is possibly an abbreviation for "Ancien Artillerist" but still no help in identifying an author although, given the slant of these article, it was probably Antoine Baratier, Sieur Saint-Auban.

For practical information, from ammunition scales to such mundane matters as the provision of horse forage, Tousard made plentiful use of two standard reference works. General Theodore-Bernard-Simon d'Urtubie de Rogicourt (1741-1807) began to publish his Manuel d'Artilleur, similar in style to Adye's Pocket Gunner, in 1785 and took it through several editions at least until 1795 by which time it had become very popular. General Jean-Jacques-Basilien, Comte de Gassendi (1748-1828), another inspector-general of artillery, was the author of the Aide-Mémoire a l'usage des officiers d'artillerie de France, an encyclopaedic two-volume text, usually called the Aide-Memoire by period writers, that first appeared in 1780 and went through five editions by 1813. The Aide-Mémoire was no pocket book–the 1801 edition contains 1,200 pages–and it is, in this author's opinion, the single most comprehensive source on Napoleonic artillery that he has ever examined.[8]

Louis Tousard chose judiciously from all these sources to provide an excellent and relatively up-to-date reference manual for American artillerymen on all the major aspects of their profession–exactly what Washington had requested him to do. For the modern student of smoothbore artillery, the Companion (which happily has been recently reprinted and is thus readily available) is a good English-language source on the systéme Gribeauval, gun drill, casting, carriage construction, unit organization, siege warfare and fortification of the period 1795-1805. One caveat must be sounded about the accuracy of the gun tubes depicted in the volume of plates that form part of the Companion. These depict guns of the systéme Gribeauval with the patriotic addition of an American eagle and some researchers have used them to reproduce U.S. ordnance of the period. In actual fact, these plates depict what Tousard would have liked to have seen in American service, not what was actually in service.

Although not directly subsidized by the War Department -- either through the assumption of printing costs or large-scale purchase of copies -- the American Artillerist's Companion must be classified as the fourth semi-official American artillery text because of its widespread popularity. William Wade, who was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Artillery in 1813, was told by his "seniors that I would gain more instruction in [his] duties from Tousard's Artillery than from any other work which could then be obtained, as it was of later date and more full and complete in all its branches of artillery service than any other."[9] The big drawback to the Companion seems to have been its $16.00 price tag which, considering that the monthly pay of a second lieutenant of artillery was $25.00 in 1809, put it out of the reach of many would-be purchasers. The military academy at West Point apparently could not afford to purchase it as there are no copies included in the library catalogue of 1814, five years after it appeared.[10] In 1815, Captain Alden Partridge, the superintendent, discovered a bookseller in Philadelphia with 90 copies, which he was willing to sell at $10.00 each. Partridge found the money to make the purchase and Tousard was now available for the cadets of the academy.[11]

As for Louis de Tousard, a man to whom American gunners owe much, he continued in the French diplomatic service. In 1809 he was given the task of supervising the financial affairs of Mrs. Jerome Bonaparte (the former Betsy Patterson of Baltimore) after her separation from her husband. In 1814 he was French consul at New Orleans but had a falling out with Major-General Andrew Jackson after Tousard issued certificates of French nationality to male inhabitants of the city which exempted them from militia service. Never a believer in diplomatic niceties Jackson banished him from New Orleans but the dispute was eventually settled amicably. Tousard lost his diplomatic career after the Bourbon restoration and died in 1817 at the age of 69, having rendered good service to two nations.[12]

His Artillerist's Companion was shortly followed by the interesting but less useful American Military Library, or Compendium of the Modern Tactics.[13] Its author was William Duane (1760-1835), the publisher of the Philadelphia Aurora, a leading Republican newspaper. Duane conceived this work in 1807 when deteriorating American relations with Great Britain in the wake of the Chesapeake incident seem to threaten war. An industrious student of military matters, Duane was a proponent of the French infantry manual, the Réglément of 1791, which he wanted adopted by the United States and when the Chesapeake crisis was at its height, he commissioned an English translation of this manual with the intention of publishing it.[14] After tension subsided, Duane decided to combine this translation with additional material on artillery and cavalry in a book that would provide a basic education in modern weapons and tactics for the use of the militia. Being very well connected with the Republican government of Thomas Jefferson, Duane obtained the support of Secretary of War Henry Dearborn who loaned him books from the War Department library. Duane purchased a further two hundred titles himself and with all this in hand, sat down and in three months wrote or rather compiled his "military library," which began to appear in separate parts in 1807. Dearborn encouraged Duane to publish the Library as a complete book and promised that the War Department would "subscribe for as many copies as might be prudent."[15] As a result, in April 1809 the American Military Library appeared in two volumes.

Of the 1,132 pages in the Military Library, only 130 pages or less than 10% were devoted to artillery matters and in common with his treatment of the other arms, Duane pitched it at the most elementary level, which would appeal to militia officers. He based it mainly on sources that we have before encountered including Ralph Adye's Pocket Gunner ("which is very well for the pocket of a professional man [a regular officer] but not at all calculated to give instruction where there is no previous knowledge" as well as Henri De Scheel's Treatise which he found "limited in its scope" and D'Urtubie's Manuel d'Artilleur "which contains new material on the horse artillery, besides a vast body of invaluable information on the science at large." Duane also used Jean-Louis Lombard's Tables des Tir du Canon et des Obusiers of 1787, Isaac Landmann's Principles of Artillery and Thomson's 1789 translation of D'Antoni's Treatise. One source which Duane did not acknowledge but which he plundered ruthlessly was Gassendi's Aide-Mémoire and another was a little book by a French author that had appeared in France in the 1790s and was intended to provide basic artillery.[16] It utilized a question-and-answer format between an unbelievably enthusiastic infantryman and an unbelievably polite and knowledgeable gunner who adopted a teaching method somewhat redolent of that used by the Zen master to instruct his student, "Grasshopper," in the old television series. For example:

Infantry: "What ought a person desirous of obtaining practical knowledge of artillery to do?"

Artillery: "He should make himself acquainted with the terms used in the language of artillerists, the names of the various machines, and the several parts of the machines ..."

Infantry: "How is this to be done with the greatest readiness, so as to avoid the confusion arising from the difference of names among different persons for the same things?"

Artillery: "Perhaps if you have not an opportunity to practise with the implement and a gun, that the next best way would be to examine good drawings or prints of artillery ... in the Encyclopedias, though you will not obtain any information on artillery in those books worth perusing."[17]

And so on, for 21 closely-printed pages.

Duane also borrowed freely from Tousard and Kosciuszko. Tousard's American Artillerist's Companion had already begun to appear in parts while Duane was completing the Military Library and his comments on it are illuminating:

"Colonel Tousard, with a labor and perseverance that is truly commendable, has produced a series of five small numbers on artillery, making a very large volume, illustrated by plates executed in the best manner; this work, important as a library to the professional man [or regular artillery officer] is both in magnitude and price above the reach of many to whom a knowledge of the practice may be essential.[18]

It is clear that Duane, anxious to sell to the militia, was trying to preserve his market share and in fact his Military Library, although informative and interesting, would not have been all that useful for the regular artillery officer.

In that respect Duane's next publication proved to be more helpful. He had enough research material left over from the Military Library  to bring out a companion work, A Military Dictionary or, Explanation go the several Systems of Discipline of Different Kinds of Troops in 1810.[19] This 748-page tome contained not only a technical dictionary and a catalogue of all existing military regulations currently in force in the U.S. Army but also a translation of the complete Réglement of 1791 and the entire text of the 1804 American printing of the second London edition (1802) of Ralph Adye's Pocket Gunner and Bombardier. The inclusion of this very useful source made Duane's Military Dictionary a more serviceable item for the officer of the regular artillery than his Military Library. Because of its utility, Adye's Pocket Gunner, either in its pure form or as part of Duane's Military Dictionary, must be considered as the fifth semi-official text of the American artillery.  

End Notes

[1]. US National Archives (hereafter USNA), Record Group (hereafter RG) 107, Micro 221, Reel 47, Poutingon to Secretary of War, 27 October 1812, quoted in Donald E. Graves, "The Second Regiment of United States Light Dragoons, 1812-1814," Military Historian, Fall 1982.

[2]. Irenée Amelot de Lacroix, Military and Political Hints by Colonel De Lacroix ... To Which is Added, The Artillerist, Boston, 1807; and Maximilian Godefroy, Military Reflections on Four Modes of Defence, for the United States, with a Plan of Defence, Adapted to Their Circumstances, and the Existing State of Things, Joseph Robinson, Baltimore, 1807.

[3].         Irenée Amelot de Lacroix, The French Artillerist, Containing Brief Instructions For the Different Objects of Practical Artillery Selected From French Authorities ... By Col. Ir. A. De Lacroix. Translated by Samuel Mackay, Etheridge and Bliss, Boston, 1807. De Lacroix was an interesting man and his influence on American military thought during the period, 1805-1812, needs to be studied in greater depth. For details on his life and career see John C. Fredriksen and Donald E. Graves, "'Dry Books of Tactics' Re-Read: An Additional Note on U.S. Infantry Manuals of the War of 1812," Military Historian, XXXIX, No. 2 (Summer 1987).

[4]. The publication date of the two bound text volumes of The American Artillerist's Companion was 1809 but we have the evidence of William Duane who, writing in the spring of that year, states that five "parts of Tousard's work," had appeared, implying that the Companion appeared in separate sections before being bound together and sold as complete books

[5]. Tousard to Jonathan Williams, 26 September 1806, Jonathan Williams Papers, Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana. In the Artillerist's Companion Tousard cites an article in the Journal de Phisique dated March 1807 which means he was still working on the book after that time.

[6]. See Donald E. Graves, "Louis de Tousard and his 'Artillerist's Companion:' An Investigation of Source Material for Napoleonic Period Ordnance," Arms Collecting, vol 21, no. 2 (May 1983).

[7]. Graves, "Louis de Tousard and his 'Artillerist's Companion.'"

[8]. For more information on these authors, see Graves, "Louis de Tousard and his 'Artillerist's Companion.'"

[9]. William Wade, "Early Systems of Ordnance," Ordnance Notes no. 25 (May 1874).

[10]. USNA, RG 107, Micro 221, reel 56, Partridge to Secretary fo War Armstrong, 11 April 1814.

[11]. Stephen E. Ambrose, Duty, Honor, Country. A History of West Point, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1964, 48-49.

[12]. Graves, "Louis de Tousard and His 'Artillerist's Companion'", 60.

[13]. The full title is The American Military Library; or, Compendium of the modern tactics. Embracing the Discipline, Manoeuvres, and Duties of every Species of Troops, Infantry, Rifle Corps, Cavalry, Artillery of Position, and Horse Artillery; A Treatise on Defensive Works in the Field; the Exercise in Sea Coast Batteries and Regular Fortifications. Adapted to the Use of the Militia of the United States, to whom it is respectfully dedicated, published by the author, 2 volumes, Philadelphia, 1809.

[14]. Duane, American Military Library, vol 1, ix.

[15]. Frederick K. Vigman, "William Duane's American Military Library, Military Affairs, vol. 8, (Winter) 1944, 321-326, 323.

[16]. Duane does not give enough information to positively identify the source of this section but the author is fairly certain that this source is Claude Antoine Prieur-Duvernois, L'Art du Militaire; Ou, Traite Complet De L'exercise ..., Francois Dufart, Paris 1798. Prieur-Duvernois (1763-1832) was a French engineer officer who was connected with Lazaré Carnot's attempts to create a new military establishment in Revolutionary France.

[17]. Duane, American Military Library, vol. 2, 211-212.

[18]. Duane, American Military Library, vol. 2, 208.

[19]. William Duane, A Military Dictionary or, Explanation go the several Systems of Discipline of Different Kinds of Troops, Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry; the Principles of Fortification, and all the Modern Improvements in the Science of Tactics: comprising the Pocket Gunner, or Little Bombardier; the Military Regulations of the United States; the Weights, Measures, and Monies of all Nations; the Technical Terms and Phrases of the Art of War in the French Language. Particularly Adapted to the Use of the Military Institutions of the United States, published by the author, Philadelphia, 1810.


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