May 1809 On Conduct and Leadership: a French view at Essling

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy



The 1809 Battle of Essling created an appalling renommée (i.e. fame) during the Napoleonic Wars, which was due to the fact that it was one of the bloodiest and most costly to France’s aggressive expansionism in troops and officers. The memoirs of an officer of the Empire, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin de Marbot (a native of Altillac, castle of La Rivière, August 18, 1782), vividly depicts what warfare in the early XIXth Century was really like and its heavy toll in human life.

Many contemporary scholars believe that Napoleon became insensitive to the tremendous losses that his tactics and strategic applications cost in men and materiel – he thought his superior military experience and étoile (i.e. star, a figurative meaning for destinée: destiny) would overcome all odds. In the early years of his amazing military career, he did prevail over many obstacles and triumphed in battles (Arcole, Rivoli, Marengo) that most generals would not have won. Perhaps his most daring maneuvers, and unexpectedly successful outcomes, made him overconfident in the latter years of his military supremacy.  

A further point of remark is that as the emperor grew older, gained weight and suffered from various health issues, he was not quite as brilliant or stunning a strategist that he was in the masterful offensive campaigns of his youth (Italy: 1796-1797; 1800). Although Napoleon always studied international strategic assets and was well-prepared for battle emergencies, in the Iberian Peninsular theatre he was never able to suitably conform the French fighting techniques to the realities of social character and address Spain’s effective guerrilla warfare. He erred in not carefully planning for the campaign in Spain.

The premature death of Marshal Lannes and other prominent personalities of his General-Staff greatly affected the structural organization of the once powerful Grande Armée. These irreplaceable losses weakened the army’s effectiveness and the pillars of leadership in the final period (1809-1815) of military struggle – and lacking talent and adroit (i.e. skilful, clever) general officers were detrimental to the image of French military invincibility (Russia, 1812), strategic proficiency (Germany, 1813), and homeland invulnerability (1814; the Allies invaded France, and moved into Paris the last day of March).

In studying European history from the year 1796 to 1815, one can assume that the mighty French autocrat had a penchant (i.e. fondness, weakness, tendency) for raising war; he enjoyed the maneuvering, the mind games with his opponents, and pulling victory from near defeat. A dedication to the art of military matters and “born” to lead is what makes for successful commanders, regardless of the epoch they lived in. Confidence and unbounded arrogance are often traits that are most exhibited by those intrepid leaders of the military.

Through the passing of the centuries, there have been exceptional war-lords who spent their lifetime under trying circumstances of political survival, and sustained stoutly-fought armed confrontations throughout their campaigns of conquest and strategic annexations – to name a few, the son of Philip II, the Macedonian monarch Alexander III (356 B.C.-323 b.C.), nicknamed the Mégas Aléxandros (the Great Alexander); the Carthaginian Hannibal Barca (248-183 B.C.); the outstanding political and military Roman leader and dictator perpetuo named Gaius Julius Caesar (July 13, 100 b.C.-March 15, 44 b.C.); Attila (406 a.C.-453 a.C.), known as Attila the Hun, who mightily ruled the confederation of the Hunnish tribes from 434 until his death; the rex Francorum Charlemagne (April 2, 742-January 28, 814), who was crowned Imperator Augustus by the Pontiff Leo III (December 25, 800 A.D.); the founder and ruler of the Mongol Empire: Temujin (i.e. Chinggis Khaan, 1162 a.C.-1227 a.C.); the Turko-Mongol military leader Tēmōr (Timur, Tamerlane, April 6, 1337-February 19, 1405), who was actually the founder of the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty in Central Asia; Friedrich der Große (Berlin, January 24, 1712-Potsdam, August 17, 1786), aka Friedrich II, King of Prussia (1740-1786).

Some were despots, others helped instead to liberate people and countries from despots. 

The Post-Revolutionary (1789) clash of empires and social upheaval brought the towering figure of Napoleon strutting across the stage of history as a brutal autocrat, bringing turmoil to continental Europe.

As an ambitious analyst of the campaigns of the great captains of the past, Napoleon believed that “knowledge of grand tactics is gained only by experience and by the study of history of the campaigns of all great captains”.

The failure – of true knowledge – was incommensurable; and Napoleon was at war for all but fourteen months (peace with all countries lasted from March 1802 to May 1803) of the almost fifteen years he was in power. He was the kind of parvenu (i.e. social climber) and man of action (1799, coup d’ état du 18 brumaire) who emerged from the ashes of the French Revolution after the fall of the French monarchy, to gain power in Europe as a ruthless conqueror.

Two hundred years after the clash at Essling, historians still are writing about Napoleon; discussing, arguing and examining what should or could have been done in this epic battle. Is there any other historic military figure that so many writers have examined in such detail? And with such passion? 

In the wake of post-modern historical studies, the Italian historian provides a more in-depth essay related to the battle contingencies at Essling, keeping intact his punctiliousness and rigorous research for documentary sources and material. Scholarship and a penetrating analysis are both coupled together in a finely detailed, comprehensive analytical study, reflecting the dictum: it is the small, and insignificant details of a topic that makes for interesting study.  

By focusing on the experiences of a French officer who actively served through the line of bravery, the author gives a portrait of the true horror and chaos of Napoleonic warfare, presenting a refreshingly comprehensive investigation and bringing facts into a powerful breath d ’épopée.

Clarity in style and argument mark a significant contribution to understanding early XIXth century European history and the strategic applications in the 1809 Austrian campaign.

Dedicatum est. To the Fallen in Battle: Austrians, French, and Those Known only to God

Epoch making conflicts greatly impacted the nature of Napoleonic power and notably marked the beginning of early XIXth Century life, influencing the social relationships in politics which not only transcended France, but changed the course of history over most part of European countries. Napoleon’s amazing military campaign of aggression, which stamped his ambitious personality during an era of great events, saw the mighty attrition of the French invading forces opposed by the ruling monarchy of the Habsburgs in the pivotal epic of 1809. One of the toughest conflicts during this period occurred at the Battle of Essling,[1] which based on the grounds of martial challenge was deemed to be Napoleon’s first défaite militaire (i.e. military defeat) on the Continent.

Documentary piece

On the first day of the battle of Essling the Austrians had captured the village of that name, and the French regiment which had been posted there was retiring in some disorder before a much superior force, when, being sent to that point by Marshal Lannes, I learned that the colonel had just been killed.

The officers and men, resolved to avenge him and retake Essling, had, under the command of the major, promptly re-formed their ranks, still under fire, at no great distance from the houses.

I hastened to tell the marshal the state of affairs; but when I said in a low voice “The colonel is dead”, Napoleon, who was close by, frowned, uttering a “Hush!” which made me silent; and though unable to explain to myself how he proposed to improve the occasion, I could see that for the moment he did not wish to know that the colonel was killed.

The Emperor, who has been accused of lacking physical courage, galloped off, in spite of the bullets which were whistling round us, reached the centre of the regiment, and asked where the colonel was.

Comment: Unbothered by the withering fire and the whistling of lead bullets, the prompt intervention of Napoleon apparently was characterized by an impulse of daring. Nevertheless his esprit d’ initiative (i.e. spirit of enterprise), the urge of his personal transcendence and invigorative rush, were not resolved by the unfolding battle operations.

Napoleon’s calculated behaviour proved to be a failure: a threatened gap: a leak in the line left open by the retreat of a severely smashed French infantry unit (a significant element of analysis is indicated by the fact that the companies had abandoned the houses of Essling after having been badly mauled; the disarrangement of the troops was not negligible and was a prejudicial factor to the present status of maneuver of the battalions, urgently requiring coordinated action and back-up support).

This unexpected development meant that the Commander-in-Chief had a well-defined aim to achieve, otherwise he would not have unnecessarily imperilled his own life. All had a precise intent: fearing the contagious influence of this retour en arrière (i.e. backwards shifting) on the morale of his army, he had to stop the tactical displacement of the regiment; and a purpose was evident: to soon close the dangerous leak in the line of fighting. Nothing was dictated by generosity, and all was conditioned by strategic ground movement. The quintessence of warfare was easily at hand. As Bonaparte asked for monsieur le Colonel, it seemed he had to impart new effective dispositions to reverse this obnoxious military impasse.

Another consideration was that Napoleon had come to relieve the tension of a drama that had paid exceedingly in bloodshed; and, second, to relieve the psychological effect on his battalions, by bringing his persona to serve during the hottest part of the contest, amid the center (front line) of the regiment. This was a vibrant scene – it gave fresh confidence to the troops and reflected the majestic effect Napoleon’s speech imposed on his troops.

No one replied, till Napoleon having repeated the question, several officers answered, “He has just been killed”.

“I did not ask if he was dead, but where he is”.

Then a timid voice announced that he had been left in the village.

“What, soldiers!” said Napoleon.

“You have left your colonel’s body in the hands of the enemy? Know that a brave regiment should always be able to show its eagle and its colonel, dead or living. You have left your colonel in that village; go and find him”.

The major, catching Napoleon’ s thought, cried, “Yes, we are dishonoured, if we do not bring our colonel!” and off he went at the double.

Comment: Very few military leaders had that close martial connection with soldiers like Napoleon did in moments of bitter confrontation against overwhelming enemy troops. At the critical juncture now that the French supremacy in the sphere of strategic applications was suddenly challenged by an unfavourable turn and unpredictable circumstances – in leadership and manoeuvre –, Napoleon examined ongoing bouts in the fight-line, each of which stood as a haunting warning to what could be waiting against a recoiling régiment d’ infanterie de ligne (i.e. infantry regiment of the line).

Driven back from the line of fire, it was more than an appealing shock to the troop to know that the pére du régiment (i.e. father of the regiment), the commanding officer who held executive position and field responsibilities of Colonel (i.e. colonel), had perished under heavy enemy fire.[2] Unsuccessful attempts to re-establish the sort of the arms ended in violence and chaos; thus the French soldiers fell into psychological despondency.

A quagmire of desperation and tactical promiscuity followed in the disarrayed ranks; the death of the regiment commander had caused a lethal blow, clipping the wings of victory – and consequentially any further élan (i.e. dash) on the line of honour was broken. Under trying circumstances, it was disappointing that the unexpected check occurred to the French battalions, that was destroying Napoleon’s timetable, and therefore quite a concern to his mighty military reputation and seemingly frustrated design – and the man causing the complaint was the French empereur. However, the terrific circumstances of the fighting were stark against all odds, and the Austrian field units had put up protracted tenacious efforts of resistance as well as good military organization at Essling and all around the sphere of strategic dominance.

Deception and glory

In reading Marbot’s lucid account, Napoleon’s ambivalent generalship had reached a downturn. At Essling, he faced untold hardships, and was in a difficult position to confront the Austrian army corps under the inspired leadership of Erzherzog Karl von Österreich (i.e. Archduke Charles of Austria)[3] who tried to make a grand effort – a masterful maneuvering that rivalled his opponent – for the preservation of Vienna, the capital city of the Habsburgs monarchy.  

Although the Emperor’s sharpness and strategic ductility were not at theirs zenith, just a few years earlier (War of the Third Coalition; invasion of 1805), his martial abilities remained still impressive. Napoleon’s fluent over-confidence in his innate qualities and appealing magnetic zeal, convenient to the point of propaganda, could persuade a retreating[4] infantry regiment to change the perception (defeat, turning to stalemate) the soldiers had had on the line of collision: no difficulties were opposed by the Austrians, sufficient to search for the Colonel, and it did not matter if he was reported for tombé en bataille (i.e. perished in battle).[5]  

The seasoned veteran officer had bravely served in the ranks of the regiment wherever he had been ordered, and through long years of service à l’ armée (i.e. army service). Napoleon did not point out the crucial moment and the lasting intricacies of the battle, but contained himself to question the troops on the sacred fulcrum of military life: the devotion to the arms. Where is your Colonel? (author: quite a “synonymic” expression for “banner”) A straight, imposing question. One would be prone to understand this question in the following way: what have you done with that “banner” in the past? The meaning was quite subtle, giving plenty of reflection, significance, and remembrances to the victorious campaigns experienced in the past – and pending on the foretelling that those military successes shall have continued during the 1809 challenge and ongoing offensive push.  

Napoleon’s deception to the troops was a mastery of blundering, a formidable cunning. His questioning words did not appeal to the factual concept of gloire (i.e. glory), but tried to revive the concept the soldiers had of valour, a strictly related association of ideas connected to the figure and to the determined personality of their Colonel. This is the congenial reason why the French emperor appealed (directly; author: and by “comparison”) to the “regiment’s standard”, thus “imbuing” the valiant officier who had lead them, setting a standard to duty to front-line leadership. The emphasis of this scene was more convincing in which way Napoleon was able to control unexpected rapidly changing events on the battlefield. Meanwhile the French generalissimo had sought to lay the groundwork for the battle’s climatic attack, and this perseverance reanimated the hardihood of the troops.

The regiment followed, with a shout of “Long live the Emperor!” exterminated some hundred Austrians, remained master of the position, and got back the body of its colonel, which a grenadier company brought and laid down at the Emperor’ s feet.

As you quite understand, the Emperor cared nothing having the poor officer’ s body, but he wished to attain the double object of retaking the village, and impressing upon the troops that the colonel is a second flag, which a good regiment should never abandon.

This conviction in moments of difficulty exalts the courage of the men and leads them to fight obstinately around their chief, dead or living.

The Austrian painter and illustrator Felician Myrbach, Freiherr von Rheinfeld (Zaleščiki, Ukraine, February 19, 1853-Klagenfurt, January 14, 1940) left a vividly illustrated aquarelle
(Fighting in the streets of Essling) centered on the strenuous disputation of the battle ground.

Comment: The effectual counter-attack ordered to the French (this tactical option allowed them to quickly concentrate their troops, as this operation implied having received more reinforcements) gained – through flexibility and manoeuvrability – the momentum. Engaged in a vigorous offensive push against positioned forces on ground, the fiercely advancing infantry companies unleashed all their fury to take possession once more of the country village. They then lured the Austro-Hungarian battle units out of Essling, inflicting heavy casualties upon them. After a dreadful massacre, exceedingly bloody (the extermination reached into the hundreds), the corpse of the probe officer who had braved all dangers opposed to his advance, was brought back amid the distressful lamentations of his companions in arms.

The camaraderie (i.e. comradeship) and escort guard of the Grenadiers provided a solemn and mournful cortège of combatants. Despite the pugnacious and literary ambitious scene of combat worth recalling the honneur des armes (i.e. honour of the arms) – certainly a memento Marbot wrote to posterity –, a couple of questions would have to be posed: a) was there any difference in death between a Colonel and a common soldier? b) How many unnamed lives were sacrificed to have one corpse back a few hundred yards? No cultivated replies are searched for. Carefully reading (on Essling) through this passage, we are basically told some fairly “unexpressed” ideas about the lethality of warfare and the cost these tremendous clashings had in human losses.

Excerpts taken from Marbot’s memories are clear to the point – of intelligibility, and imposed Napoleonic megalomania. Essentially written, the narrative confirms the evidence on Napoleon’s direct responsibilities on the killing of soldiers used as chair à canon (i.e. cannon-fodder), and, last but not least, about the unreported sufferings the soldats (i.e. soldiers) endured from their wounds. Paradoxically, this reversal of understanding in the primary historical source also accounted how, under Napoleon’s ceaseless practice of warfare, the aventure médicale et chirurgicale (i.e. medical and surgical adventure) of the period was nonetheless in constant evolvement thanks to the solicitous carings of the empereur, a supposedly “brilliant and competent strategist”.  

French casualties in battle proved highly sensible and detrimental to the Army functional structure as well: Marshal Lannes[6] was killed, and both général de division (i.e. division general) Espagne[7] and général de brigade (i.e. brigade general) Pouzet[8] suffered his fate. Among the general officers seriously wounded: Claparède,[9] Destabenrath,[10] Durosnel,[11] Franquemont, Gros,[12] La Grange,[13] Legrand,[14] Mouton,[15] Navelet,[16] Saint-Hilaire,[17] and Tharreau.[18]  

Then, turning to Prince Berthier, the Emperor reminded him of the discussion in the council, adding, “If when I asked for the colonel there had been a lieutenant-colonel instead of the major, they would have said, “Here he is”, and the effect which I wished to produce would have been less impressive, for in the soldiers eyes lieutenant-colonel and colonel are pretty nearly synonymous titles”.

Then the Emperor sent word to the major, who had just taken his regiment along so bravely, that he promoted him to colonel [cfr. Marbot, 1935, pp. 223-224].

Comment: Despite the futility of the above cited statement, Napoleon’s prevailing statement sounded as if he did not perceive in terms of human sufferance (infantrymen were struck down indiscriminately by sustained Austrian fire-volleys and in the pêle-mêle rush of events) the blundering effect he had instead caused on the disputed terrain at Essling.

His one-directional concern appeared to debunk a major deficiency to the worry, respect, and consequences that would have to be paid by the families of the fallen soldiers, to the women left widows, and to the preadolescents deprived of their fathers. Napoleon’s utter insensibility was remarkable to the point of his unweighted sottise (i.e. silly remark) and caprice caractériel (i.e. characterial whim). 

The promotion of the surviving Major to the hierarchy-rank of Colonel was in corresponding function to a subservient military servitude – and supposedly re-affirmed grandeur (i.e. greatness), to increase the honour of an infantry unit that had lost heavily under mowing enemy assaults.

Analytical remark

Map of Aspern - Essling

The whole literary exposé and versatile story-telling, approaching to the finely rendered tonalities of a tableau militaire (i.e. military narration), equally captured the scenery which vividly illustrated what a battlefield was like in the age of Napoleon, and the impressions of brutality, heroism, and carnage they stood for. However, the author’s perspective is quite defined, and no doubts are left.

That is the reason why any serious Napoleonic military buff, modern researcher, and scholar who has an interest in this era, must be careful to discern on this eyewitness narrative and its anobli (i.e. ennobled) storylines. One more question does rise: by capturing the insights of this histoire événémentiel (i.e. events-based history), did the author cast an eye on a critical time in Napoleon’s saga? Through the significantly produced literary evidence – I suppose – the reply is quite affirmative; but the methodological approach here is unique, in style accomplishment – that is to say in its intrinsic psychological nature.

Marbot singled a particular frame, and detailed a human behaviour out of a variety of military circumstances and unflinching attitudes he had all around. Undeniably this mémoire d’ épopée (i.e. memory of the epoch) may be considered as a per se indication of the way the skilful aid-de-camp surveyed the emperor’s generalship, establishing the relevancy of the individual by his pernicious defaults. Discerning through not seemingly marginal episodes that bring history to life, the intent of the author was arguably to show the participants as much human as much fallible beings, with défaillances (i.e. faults) like all common men have, and not as half-gods of warfare. Marbot’s penetrating view of the battle (Napoleon versus soldiers, French soldiers versus Napoleon) marked that specific, and shed light on the reasons for the reverse suffered at Essling. 

Post Scriptum

Could we comment that continued attrition on the battlefield (seemingly leading to a fiery disputed strategic supremacy, and though not achieved by a victorious outcome) was a Pyrrhic victory, due to the overwhelming casualties suffered by the French, especially in commanding officers? Could that be the reason of Napoleon’s failure? Or that his stubbornness in sending more troops to their death was strategic folly? It rather reminds me of the battle at Montecassino (Italy, 1944), where the Allied command kept trying to storm the German Grüne-Teufel-held citadel. Finally, the Allies just had the Air Force bomb it, causing unnecessary deaths and destruction. I feel a spontaneous inclination to compare modern battles (XXth Century) by analogy, to others historical events in the past.

However, casualty ratios among the belligerents – Charles (99,000 Austrians, 264 guns), Napoleon (66,000, 150 guns) – were frightful. Victor lost 21,500 in killed and wounded, plus 1,500 prisoners of war. Charles lost 23,000 killed and wounded, plus 2,000 prisoners. [vide: Gunther E. Rothenberg, The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1980, Appendix I, p. 251]. On further examination of the data: the victor losses were 23.23 % of combatants; the defeated suffered  37.87 %.


5 January: Treaty of the Dardanelles (aka Dardanelles Treaty of Peace, Commerce, and Secret Alliance; otherwise mentioned as Treaty of Çanak, or Treaty of Chanak) concluded between Britain and the Ottoman Empire. A ratified clause affirmed that no warships of any power should enter the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, and strict observance to this diplomatic principle had to be followed.

12 January: Cayenne (French Guiana) is taken from the French (until 1814) by the British.

16 January: French tactical success attained at the battle of la Coruña, in Galicia (Spain). Napoleon leaves Spain. 

18 January: British forces evacuated northern Spain territories after the clash at Corunna.

1 February: Dutch King Louis Napoleon accepts metric system.

1 February : Napoleon is back in Paris to prepare war operations against Austria.

8 February: H.I. and R.M. The Holy Roman Emperor (Heiliger Römischer Kaiser) Francis I of Austria declared war on France.

20 February: After protracted siege operations and brutal street fighting, the French took the ciudad of  Saragossa (Spain).

25 February: Battle of Valls.

13 March: The King of Sweden, Gustav IV Adolf, was deposed in the royal palace through a conspiracy of army officers led by Carl Johan Adlercreutz. The monarch voluntarily abdicated on March 29; deposed together with his family heirs, he was expelled from the country.

17 March: Battle of Villafranca.

28 March: First Battle of Porto.

28 March: Battle of Medellín.

8 April: Austrian troops attacked Bavaria.

10 April: Fifth Coalition formed: the Austrian Empire, Britain, and rebel Spain, declared against the Napoleonic Empire in a “War of Liberation”.

13 April: Amberg.

15 April: Pordenone (Italian front).

16 April: Sacile (Italian front).

18 April: Teugen-Hausen ridge action.

19 April: Battle of Thann.

20 April: The French gained a signalled martial victory over the Austrian at Abensberg, in Bavaria.

21 April: Victory reported against Hiller’s troops at Landshut.

22 April: Battle of Eckmühl (also known as Eggmühl) and Egglifsheim Napoleon succeeded in beating Archduke Charles of Austria.

23 April: attack and conquest of Rastibonne.

24 April: Neumarkt.

26 April: British army forces landed at Lisbon (Portugal) under Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington).

29-30 April: combat of Soave (Italian front).

29-30 April: combats of Cassano di Tramigna, Monte-Bastia, Castel-Cerino, Fittà, Monte Foscarinetto, Monte Foscarino (Italian front).

3 May: Ebersberg.

6 May: Amstetten.

6 May: Siege of Gerona. 

8 May: Piave River (Italian front).

10-11 May: Battle of Grijó.

12 May: Second Battle of Porto.

13 May: The capital-city, Vienna, occupied by the French troops.

13 May: Schwarzenlackenau, and Worgel.

16 May: Malborghetto (Italian front).

17 May: Colle del Tarvisio (Italian front).

17 May: France annexed the Papal States.

21-22 May: Battle at Aspern-Essling: Austrian Archduke Karl defeated Napoleon.

23 May: Battle of Alcañiz.

31 May: The Prussian cavalry officer Ferdinand Baptista von Schill who had rebelled against the French domination was killed in street fighting at Stralsund (he was aged 33).

14 June: Raab.

15 June: Battle of María (Belchite).

5-6 July: Austrian Army forces got a reverse at the battle of Wagram.

12 July: Armistice of Znaïm; ceased hostilities (till August 20) between Austria and France. Austria evacuating Tyrol, Styria, and Carinthia.

27-28 July: Battle of Talavera.

11 August: Battle of Almonacid.

13-14 August: French are defeated by Tyrolian levies at the strenuously fought battle at Berg Isel.

By election, Hofer is appointed ruler of Tyrol.

17 September: Peace between Sweden and Russia; Finland, the Åland islands, and a north-eastern strip of Sweden were ceded to the victors. 

25 September: French and Bavarian forces are defeated by Josef Speckbacher at Lofer.

14 October: Treaty of Schönbrunn (known as the Treaty of Vienna) ended the War of the Fifth Coalition: Austria had to cede Trieste, Istria, Dalmatia, and Carinthia, to France; compensative portions of land were added to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Bavaria gained instead Tyrol and Salzburg.

19 October: Ratification of the Treaty of Schönbrunn.

19 November: Battle of Ocana.

10 December: Peace treaty signed between Sweden and Denmark.

15 December: Napoleon divorced Joséphine because of her inability to beget him a male hair.

26 December: English invasion troop left Vlissingen (Netherland).

Bibliography and further reading

1. English works:

Marbot (Baron De). The Memoirs of Baron De Marbot, late Lieutenant-General in the French army. Translated from the French by Arthur John Butler late fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. London, Longmans, Green, and Co.; and New York: 1892.

Marbot (Baron de). Adventures of General Marbot. Edited and illustrated by John W. Thomason Jr.. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, London, 1935.

2. French works:

Dupont (Marcel). Napoléon en campagne: de Marengo à Essling. Hachette, Le Rayon d’ Histoire, 1952.

Marbot, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcellin (Général, Baron de). Mémoires du Général baron de Marbot. Paris, Plon-Nourrit, 1891.

Marbot (Général, Baron de). Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot. Librairie Plon, E. Plon, Nourrit et Cie, Paris, 1892.

Marbot (Baron De). Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot. Paris, Plon, 1895.

Marbot (Baron de). Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot. Paris, Libr. Plon, Nourrit et Cie, 1910.

Marbot, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcellin (baron de). Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot. Librairie Plon, Nourrit et Cie, Paris, 1928-1929. 

Marbot (Général, Baron de). Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot. Paris, Plon, 1930.

Marbot (Général de). Débuts glorieux d’ un chevalier de l’ Empire, d’après les Mémoires du Général de Marbot. P., de Gigord (Collection Le cercle d’Orî), 1947.

Marbot (Général). En campagne avec Napoléon. Paris, Flammarion, 1959.

Marbot (Général). Mémoires, 1799-1815. Paris, Hachette, 1966.


[1] The battle dated May 21-22, 1809. Its capricious fate was the first serious setback Napoleon suffered over a decade.

[2] This information was sorted out by Napoleon himself, who had reached on the line of martial honour.

[3] Karl Ludwig Johann Josef Laurentius was born on September 5, 1771 in Florence – and died in 1847 (Vienna, April 30).  The son of Emperor Leopold II, and his consort the Infanta Maria Louisa of Spain.  The brother of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, he ascended the military hierarchy up to the rank of Austrian Field-Marshal.

[4] Attention must be paid to this verbal form, and to the argument it evidences. The verb masked the true sequence of events. A pregnant point was here well focussed: to consider that the dismayed officiers (i.e. officers) had lost command and tactical control of their fighting units; therefore, order in the ranks had to be re-establish at all costs before the Austrian tidal wave could be irrepressible turning to a débâcle (i.e. collapse, disaster).

[5] Although explicit information had been reported – the passing of a valorous regiment-level commander –, this date could not be confirmed for certain, especially since it occurred in an area still disputed by the opposing Imperial troops. It is equally deduced that many witnesses had seen the officer fall, and unmoving (his motionless body and static posture indicated that he had fallen in a dead faint). Perhaps hope was harboured at the last gasp that the Colonel could be extricated and saved by his fellow companions in arms.

It very doubtful that a single infantry regiment under full battle conditions and badly overwhelmed (the units had in fact recoiled backward) could be – as stated by Marbot – «[…] resolved to avenge him and retake Essling, […]» –, and effect revanche (i.e. revenge) for the Colonel’s death.

The couverture littéraire (i.e. literary covering) and apologetic tone given by Marbot to the real sequence of military actions is, in this case, quite noteworthy, a spurious mystification; a compassionate act and unrestrained moral grief, to pass unmentioned the vulnerability (aka mith of invicibility) and the beating of the French arms.

This is really the point of the matter, and the difference it made: the exhausted French were not winning on the battlefield, and Marbot was seeing this pitiful state of things with his own eyes – as was Napoleon, too.

The contradiction is fairly obvious by the fact that the French, in no hope of success, had left their positions at Essling uncovered because they were hammered by the enemy Ermattungsstrategie (i.e. a wearing-out strategy). The French regiment, having sustained heavy losses, was inferior in number to confront and balance the troops of the Danubian monarchy; and with inequality of force would have been doomed to ultimate failure, and annihilated to the last man within a time.

However, Marbot was convinced that the regiment retrograde movement some distance away was caused by the resolve «[…] to avenge him – the fallen commanding-officer – and retake Essling, […]»; consequentially, having misinterpreted (and conveniently removed) the unvarnished reality which passed before his eyes, he did not hesitate to write down his pensée (i.e. thinking, personal view) on the matière des armes (i.e. military affair).

Although the exposed narrative contaminates and contradicts the genuine understanding of the original historical source, nonetheless it is easy to discern the reason why it had been styled by a filtered character of  preferability.

In this instance, an old Latin axiom can well teach the importance of critical analysis and discerning on the historical source; it recited: Non numerantur, sed ponderantur – trsl.: They – author: eyewitnesses –  are not counted, but weighed.  

[6] Jean Lannes was born at Lectoure (Gers), on April 10, 1769. And died after his wounds at Ebersdorf (May 30, 1809).

[7] Jean-Louis-Brigitte Espagne was born at Auch (Gers), on February 16, 1769. Charging at Essling, he was mortally wounded by a boulet. He expired in the Lobau island (May 21, 1809).

[8] Pierre-Charles Pouzet was born at Poitiers, on July 11, 1776. On May 22, at the battle of Aspern-Essling Pouzet and Maréchal Lannes were discussing strategic options when a cannonball flew straight into Pouzet, killing him instantly. «While the two armies were mutually watching each other but not moving, and the commanders in groups in rear of the battalions were discussing the events of the day, Marshal Lannes, weary with riding, had dismounted, and was walking about with Major-General Pouzet. Just then a spent ball struck the general on the head laying him dead at the marshal’ s feet. […]. His grief, then, at seeing him fall dead was very great» [cfr. Marbot, 1935, pp. 210-211].  Military synopsis: 1782, 11 February: volunteer in the régiment de Champagne; 1792, 4 March: fourrier of the grenadiers; 10 October: sergent-major; 1792-1793: served in the armée des Alpes; 1793, 25 July: lieutenant-quartier-maître in the 1st battalion of grenadiers in the armée des Pyrénées-Orientales; 15 August: adjudant-major; 22 December: capitaine aide-de-camp of général Banel; 1795, 25 February: appointed chef de bataillon provisoire by general Catherine-Dominique Pérignon; 19 June: in the ranks of the 14e de bataille; 1796, 31 July: confirmed by the Directoire exécutif in the rank of chef de bataillon; 16 August: commander of the third battalion in the 14e de ligne; 1796-1800: in the armée d’ Italie; 1800, 21 December: commander of the chasseurs battalion of the garde consulaire; 1803, 26 August: adjudant-commandant; 3 October: colonel of the 10e léger; 1803-1805: in the armée des Côtes de l’ Océan; 1804, 15 June: officer of the Légion d’ honneur; 1805-1807: Saint-Hilaire division, in the grande armée; 1805, 2 December: wounded at the left thigh at the battle of Austerlitz; 1806 October: bruised at Iena; 1807, 8 February: wounded at Eylau; 10 February: général de brigade, commander of the 3e brigade of the 3e division (Legrand), of the 4th corps of the Grande Armée; 1808, 18 October: commander of the 2e brigade (58e and 75e de ligne) of Sébastiani division in Spain; 26 October: baron of Saint-Charles; 23 November: served at Tudela, chef d’ état-major provisoire of Lannes; 12 December: left to join Sébastiani division; 1809, 29 March: in the armée d’ Allemagne; 30 March: commander of the 1e brigade (10e léger) of Saint-Hilaire division

[9] Michel-Marie-Claparède was born at Gignac (Hérault), on August 28, 1770. He was wounded by a balle (i.e. bullet) in the left arm, then by a biscaien in the thigh. 1793, 1 February: soldier in the 4th battalion of volunteers of Hèrault; 5 February: elected capitaine in this battalion; 13 March: sent with his battalion to the armée des Côtes; May-September: garrison duty at Belle-Isle-en-Mer; September: served in the armée des Côtes at Brest; 22 November: elected lieutenant-colonel en chef of his battalion; 1794, 22 March: refused his rank to became once more capitaine in the same battalion; 1794-1795: served in the armée des Côtes de Cherbourg; 1796, 1 January: in the armée des Côtes de l’ Océan; 25 July: capitaine surnuméraire in the 23e légère; 1797, January: sent back home; 1798, 7 November: charged to accompany one detachment of recruits of the Hérault department to the armée d’ Italie; 1799, March: commander of the place of Milan; April: commander at Piacenza; 10 May: adjoint to the état-major of the armée d’Italie; 11 May: commander of the place of Genova under Pérignon; 14 July: chef de bataillon in the 23e légère, maintained in the position of adjoint to the état-major général of the armée d’ Italie and commander of the place of Genova; 22 August: substituted in his executive role of commandant of the place at Genova; 30 November: confirmed chef de bataillon in the 25e de ligne, and adjoint to the état-major of the armée du Rhin; 1800, 3 May: present at the battle of Engen; 5 May: at Messkirch; 9 May: Biberach; 19 June: Hochstaedt; 20 August: sent to Paris by Moreau; 8 September: appointed adjudant-commandant; 3 December: at Hohenlinden; 1801, 9 May: employed under Leclerc at the état-major of the corps d’ observation of the Gironde; 28 October: at the état-major of the armée de Saint-Domingue; 1802, 18 January: embarked at Cadix on the L’ Intrepide; 15 February: occupied Santiago; 10 June: commander of the town and urban district of Cap; 5 August: appointed provisional général de brigade by Leclerc; 5 October: member of the war-council charged to prosecute the black General Belair; 1 December: employed in the Clauzel division, at the place of François-Nivard-Charles-Joseph Hénin; 1803, 30 August: authorized by Rochambeau to go back to France due to poor wealth issues; 27 November: confirmed in the rank of général de brigade; 1804, 24 January: debarked in France; 17 March: employed under Lagrange; 6 October: under Lagrange for the expedition of the Dominica; 1805, 11 January: left from the isle of Aix; 23 February: took part at the conquest of Roseau, the capital town of the Dominica; March 5: took Basse-Terre, in the island of Saint-Christophe; 29 March: left to France with Missiessy; 20 May: debarked at Rochefort; 10 June: employed in the reserve division of Oudinot’s grenadiers at the camp of Boulogne; 11 September: Suchet division; 10 October: reached this division, and was charged to command the vanguard (1st brigade) of this division formed by the 17e légèr; 8 October: served at Wertingen; 14 October: at the attack of Ulm; 16 November: at Hollabrunn; 2 December: defended with the 17e léger the Santon during the battle of Austerlitz; 1806, 10 October: signalled at Saalfeld; 12 October: chased the Prussians from the village of Winzerlé; 14 October: served at Iena; 28 October: at Prentzlow; 26 December: wounded at the foot at Pultusk; 1807, 16 February: served at Ostrolenka; 11 June: chased by the Russian forces from the camp of Borki on the Omulew; 12 June: chased from that position the Russians, and took the bridge of Drenzewo; 1808, 10 March: obtained a life annuity of 30,000 francs; 19 March: comte de l’ Empire; September-October: commander of the infantry troops sent at the congress of Erfurt; 8 October: général de division; 17 October: transferred to the armée d’ Espagne; 1809, 11 January: appointed gouverneur of the province of Vallodolid at the place of general Mathieu Dumas; 15 January: selected to command one division of the corps de reserve under Oudinot; 16 February: was charged to organize the 1ere division at Strasbourg; 5 April: left Strasbourg to reach the armée; 9 April: commander of the 2e division under Oudinot; 19 April: served at Pfaffenhofen; 21 April: taking of Landshut; 26 April: Passau; 3 Mai: wounded at Ebersberg

[10] Jean-Marie-Eléonor-Léopold Destabenrath was born on April 13, 1770, at Gournay-en-Bray (Seine-Inférieure).Wounded on May 22. 1770, 13 April: born at Gournay-en-Bray (Seine-Inférieure); 1792. 12 January: sous-lieutenant in the 70e regiment d’ infanterie; 1792-1793: in the armée d’ Italie; 1793, 14 January: lieutenant; 15 May: capitaine adjoint provisoire to the adjudants généraux in the General-Staff of the army of Italy; 27 December: adjudant général chef de bataillon provisoire; 1794-1795: in the armée des Pyrénées-Orientales; 1795, 13 June: adjudant général chef de brigade; 12 October: employed in the 8e division militaire in the executive role of chef d’ état-major of Mouret; 1796, after April: reformed; 2 November: returned in activity in the 8e division under Willot; 1797, 31 August: provisional commander of the place of Marseille; 19 September: in the armée d’ Italie; 1798, 17 February: 7e division militaire; 1799, 19 February: 6e division militaire; 1800, 13 March: employed at the état-major of the armée de reserve; 16 April: under Dupont; 14 June: fought at Marengo; 15 June: commissaire for the execution of the convention of Alessandria; 20 July: employed at the état-major of the 2e armée de reserve a Dijon; 8 September: chef d’ état-major of the 2e division in the armée des Grisons; 1801, 19 May: attaché to the corps stationed in Helvetia; 3 August: adjudant-commandant; 1803, 2 November: in the camp of Compiègne; 1803-1805: chef d’ état-major of the 3e division (Partouneaux, then Malher) in the camp of Montreuil; 1805-1806: served in the Grande Armée, 3e division of the 6e Corps under Ney; 1806, October: sous-chef d’ état-major of Ney; 1806-1807: served in Prussia and Poland; 1806, December: chef d’ état-major in the 1st infantry division (Saint-Hilaire) of the 4e Corps of the Grande Armée; 1807, 1 May sous-chef d’ état-major général of the 4e Corps under Soult; 1807, 10 June: wounded at Heilsberg; 11 July: général de brigade; 15 November: commander of one brigade in the 4e Corps; 1808, 29 June: baron de l’ Empire; 12 October: chef of the 2e brigade (3e,  57e and 72e de ligne); 1809, 30 March: 3e brigade, same division (72e and 105e de ligne).

[11] Antoine-Jean-Auguste-Henri Durosnel was born at Paris, on November 9, 1771. 22 May 1809: wounded, and fell a prisoner to the Austrians. 1783, December: surnuméraire in the company of Scottish gendarmes; 1786, 12 November: gendarme; 1788, 1 April: reformed; 1792, 12 January: lieutenant, in the 26e infantry; 1792-1793, armée du Nord; 1792, 7 April: aide-de-camp of général d’Harville; 22 April: capitaine aide-de- camp; 1793, 12 September: capitaine, in the 16e chasseurs à cheval; 1794-1797: in the armée de Sambre et Meuse; 1795, 13 June: once more aide-de-camp of général d’Harville; 1796, 19 October: chef d’ escadrons, 16e chasseurs à cheval; 1799: with the armée de Hollande; 1 February: titled chef d’ escadrons in his regiment; 28 July: provisional chef de brigade, 16e chasseurs à cheval; 1800-1801: in the armée du Rhin; 1800, 5 May: served at Moesskirch; 9 May: charged at Biberach; 12 November: commander of the vanguard of Grenier’s corps; 30 November: driven back from Landshut; 1803-1805: employed in the armée des Côtes de l’ Océan; 1804, 17 July: appointed écuyer cavalcadour of the Emperor; 2 August: confirmed Colonel by Imperial decree; 1805, 30 August: brigade Milhaud, in the Grande Armée; 2 November: served at Amstetten; 3 November: under Murat, at Enns; 20 November: wounded in front of Brunn; 2 December: served at Austerlitz; 24 December: général de brigade; 1806, 20 September: commander of a light cavalry brigade, 7e corps of the Grande Armée, under Augereau; 1806-1807: served in Prussia and Poland; 1806, 14 October: at Iena; 26 December: at Golymin; 1807, 21 February: commander of the 4e brigade, cavalry division Lasalle; 9 June: served at Guttstadt; 14 June: at Friedland; 29 June: chevalier of the Lion of Bavaria; 1808, 24 April: comte of the Empire; October: écuyer of the Empereur in Spain; 1809, April: aide-de-camp of the Empereur in the armée d’ Allemagne; 16 April: général de division; 3 May: served under Bessières at Ebersberg.

[12] Jean-Louis-Gros was born at Montolieu (Aude), on May 3, 1767. He was wounded by a coup de feu (i.e. fire shot) at the right side on May 22. 1785, 6 October: soldier, in the foot-chasseurs of the Cévennes; 1786, 13 September: caporal; 1787, 20 March: sergent; 1789, September: obtained his discharge; 1791, 10 November: lieutenant, 2e bataillon of the Aude; 1793: in the armée des Pyrénées-Orientales; 10 April: capitaine; 1795, 10 June: wounded at the affair of Bascara; 28 August: in the 147e demi-brigade de bataille; end 1795: in the armée d’ Italie; 1796, 14 March: captain of the Grenadiers in the 4e demi-brigade de ligne; 3 August: wounded at the right leg at Castiglione; 8 September: served at Bassano – and was appointed chef de bataillon in the field; 15 September: wounded at the right foot at the combat of Saint-Georges; 12 November: at Caldiero; 20 December: under Augereau; 1797, 16 March: at the battle of the Tagliamento; 1799: with the armées d’ Angleterre; 1800: armée du Rhin; 9 Mai: Biberach: 1803, 17 November: chef de bataillon, chasseurs on foot of the garde consulaire, at Boulogne; 1804, 30 January: major of the chasseurs on foot of the garde; 14 June: commander of the Légion d’ honneur; 1805-1807: in the Grande Armée; 18 December: obtained the rank of major-colonel; 1806, 29 March: chevalier, of the military order of Maximilien of Bavaria; 15 April: major-colonel, 1er regiment de chasseurs à pied, garde imperiale; 1807, 9 July: général de brigade; 23 December: chevalier, of the Iron Crown; 1808, 24 June: baron of the Empire; 1809, 30 April: commander of the fusiliers brigade of the garde, division Curial, Grande Armée in Austria.

[13] Adélaïde-Blaise-François Le Lièvre marquis de La Grange et de Fourilles was born in Paris (December 21, 1766).  He lost one arm by a boulet on May 21. 1781, 21 December: volunteer in the garrison-battalion of the Artois regiment; 1782, 9 May: lieutenant en 2e, in the same corps; 4 August: sous-lieutenant in the carabiniers; 1784, 20 June: sous-lieutenant of remplacement; 1788, 1 May: sous-lieutenant en pied, 2e carabiniers; 1789, 8 November: capitaine in the regiment of the Reine-dragons; 1792, 12 January: capitaine, 50e infanterie; 3 March: aide de camp of Luckner; 15 June: lieutenant-colonel, 6e dragons; 8 September: colonel of the 15e dragons; 20 September: wounded by a fire-shot at the arm at Valmy; 1792-1793: at the armée du Nord; 1792, 12 October: colonel of the 5e hussars; 1793, 28 October: suspended in his functions; 4 December: after having been previously arrested, he is set free by order of Duquesnoy; 1795, 5, 6 October: took part in the uprising; 1800, 2 May: in the 24e chasseurs à cheval; 1800-1801: employed at the état-major of Murat in the armée de reserve, then in the armée d’ Italie; 1801, 8 February: colonel of the 7e chasseurs à cheval; 1803-1805: in the armies of Batavie and of the Côtes de l’Ocean; 1805, 30 August: in the 2e division (Maurice Mathieu) of the 7e corps of the Grande Armée; 1806, 20 September: brigade Durosnel; 1807, 10 June: wounded at the tight; 25 June: général de brigade; 28 November: employed in the 2e division of cavalry reserve of the 2e Corps d’ observation of the Gironde; 1808, 2 March: chef d’ état-major under Belliard; July: chef of the 1st cavalry brigade under Gobert; 22 July: taken prisoner at Baylen; 24 October: embarked on La Minerve at Cadix; 12 November: debarked at Marseille; 18 December: appointed commander of the district of Aranda; 1809, 10 April: chef of one brigade (7e hussars), division Lasalle, armée d’ Allemagne.

[14] Claude-Juste-Alexandre Legrand was born at Plessier-sur Saint-Juste (Oise), on February 23, 1762. A wound is reported, but he suffered it at Aspern, on May 22.  1777, 16 March: soldat in the regiment Dauphine-infanterie; 1781, 3 February: caporal; 1782, 1 January: sergent; 1786, 1 June: sergent-major; 1790, 1 May: soldat in the garde nationale of Metz; 1792, 5 March: lieutenant-colonel commander of the 4th volunteers battalion of the Moselle (garde nationale of Metz); 1793, 20 September: général de brigade, employed in the armée of the Moselle; 1794, 10 June: Championnet division; 18 April: served at Arlon; 26 June: at Flerus; 28 June: at the armée de Sambre et Meuse; 1795, 4 September: crossed the Rhine near Dusseldorf at the head of a cavalry brigade; 6 September: took Dusseldorf and 2,000 prisoners; 1796, 2 July: served at Neuwied; 3 September: at Wurzburg; 1797, April: on the Lahn, at the 4e division (Championnet); 1798, 12 January: selected for the armée d’ Angleterre; 1799, 9 January: division Gouvion-Saint-Cyr, armée du Rhin; 21 March: Pfullendorf; 25 March: Stockach; 20 April: général de division; 30 April: commander of the 2e division of the left wing of the armies of the Danube and of Helvétie; end May: 7e division, same armée; 19 June: transferred to the army of the Bas-Rhin; 4 July: winner at Renchen; 6 July: took Offenburg; 9 July: was chased from this location; November: under Delaborde; 1800: 15 March: commander of the 2e division in the armée d’ Allemagne, corps of Sainte-Suzanne; 16 May: served at Erbach; 1 June: corps of Richepance; served at Delmensingen; 12 November: corps of Grenier; 1 December: Ampfing; 3 December: Hohenlinden; 1801, 18 July: commander of the 27e division militaire at Torino; 1802, 27 February: free officer; 1803, 26 March: inspecteur général of infantry; 30 August: commander of the 3e division at the camp of Saint-Omer; 1805, 30 August: 4e Corps of the Grande Armée under Soult; 8 October: served at Wertingen; 16 November: at Hollabrunn; 2 December: fought at Austerlitz against the Russian left wing; 1806, 7 January: great eagle of the Légion d’ honneur; 14 October: served at Iena; 6 November: at the conquest of Lubeck; 1807, 3 February: at Bergfried; 7 February: Ziegelhoff; 8 February: Eylau; 10 June: Heilsberg; 14 June: at Koenigsberg; 30 June: obtained a life annuity of 12,049 francs on the Great Duchy of Warsaw; 23 September: obtained a life annuity of 5,882 francs; 1808, 10 March: compte de l’ Empire, with a rent of 30,000 francs from the goods reserved in Westphalia; 2 July: confirmed count of the Empire; 12 October: commanding his division on the Rhin; 1809, 23 February: commander the 1ere division of the 4e Corps of the Grande Armée under Massena in Germany; 3 May: served at Ebersberg; 22 May: wounded at Aspern.

[15] Georges Mouton was born at Phalsbourg (Moselle), on February 21, 1771. He had one hand pierched by a balle.  1792, 1 August: volunteer in the 9th battalion of the Meurthe; 16 August; lieutenant; 1792-1793: served in the armée du Centre in Champagne, then in the Electorate of Trèves; 1792, 5 November: capitaine in his battalion; 1793: in the armée of the Moselle, then in the corps of the Vosges; 1793-1795, October: in the armée du Rhein; 1793, 13 October: aide de camp of général Meynier; 1795-1801: at the armée d’ Italie; 1795, 20 December: incorporated in the brigade of the Côtes du Nord; 1796, 18 March: in the 60e de ligne; 1797, 22 May: with the état-major of général Joubert; 30 October: appointed by the général en chef Bonaparte provisional chef de bataillon at the support of the 11e demi-brigade de ligne; 21 November: aide de camp of Joubert; 1798, 26 May: ad interim commander of the 99e demi-brigade de ligne; November: entrusted the command of fort Saint-Ange by Championnet; 1799, 14 July: provisional chef de brigade of the 3e de ligne at the place of Martillière; 15 August: served in the Laboissière division at Novi; 15 December: wounded at the left shoulder at the taking of Mount Faccio near Genoa; 7 April: employed at the Gazan division at the defence of Genoa; at the combat of the Hermette; 18 April: covered the retreat; 30 April: was wounded in the body and at the right arm by a balle at the attack at the fort of Quezzi; 1801: employed in the armée du Midi; 1803, 24 September: colonel of the 3e de ligne; June: at the camp of Bayonne; 1804, March: in the fields of Compiègne, and Saint-Omer; 1805, 1 February: général de brigade; 6 March: aide de camp of the Empereur; 1805-1806: served in Austria, Prussia and Poland; 1805, 2 December: at Austerlitz; 1806, 14 October: Iena; 1807, 8 February: Eylau; commander of the order of the Iron Crown; commander of the order of the Mérite Militaire of Wurtemberg; 14 June: severely wounded at Friedland; 30 June: obtained an endowment of 32,178 francs on the Great Duchy of Warsaw; 23 September: obtained another endowment of 5, 882 francs; 5 October: général de division; 6 October: inspecteur général of infantry for the 1re division militaire; 6 December: charged to organize at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port the division d’ observation of the Pyrénées Occidentales; 1808, March: appointed inspecteur of the provisional regiments in Spain; 10 March, by decree, he obtained an endowment of 40,000 francs on the goods reserved in Westphalia, and a life annuity of 15,000 francs on the Hannover; 15 June: commander of the 2e division of infantry under Bessières at the armée d’ Espagne; 14 July: distinguished himself at Medina del Rio Seco; 7 September: commander of the 1re division (4e léger, 15e, 36e, and 55e de ligne) of the 2e Corps of the armée d’ Espagne; 3 November: in the same corps under Soult; 10 November: contributed to the taking of Burgos; 14 November: commander of the 3e division of the 2e Corps under Soult; 30 November: left his command to resume his function of aide de camp of the Empereur; 1809, January: came back to France with him; April: followed him in Bavaria; 20 April: served at Abensberg; 21 April: distinguished himself at Landshut, crossing the bridge at the head of the grenadiers of the 17e de ligne; 22 April: at Eckmühl; 22 May: charged at the bayonet and took Essling at the head of the fusiliers de la garde.

[16] Alexandre-Pierre Navelet de la Massonière was born in Paris, on March 20, 1767. Severely wounded on May 22.  The son of an infantry Major. 1786, 1 September: artillery pupil in the Ecole of Metz; 1787, 4 January: second lieutenant in the artillery regiment of Besancon; 1791, 11 June: lieutenant en premier in the 7e of foot artillery; 1792, 25 February: capitaine; 1792-1794: in the armée du Nord; 1792, 6 November: served at Jemappes; 1793, October: served at Maubeuge; 1794, at Landrecies and Quesnoy, at the siege of Maestricht; 1794-1795: armée de Sambre et Meuse; 1794, 20 July: appointed provisional chef de bataillon; 1795, 26 May: confirmed in this rank by the comité de salut public; 1795-1797: in the armée de l’ interieur; 1798: in the armées de Batavie and then de Mayence; 1799-1801: armée d’ Italie; 1799, 26 March: served at Pastrengo; 5 April: at Magnano; 12 May: Bassignano; 17 May: chef de brigade of the artillery; 15 August: served at Noli; 1800, 6 April-4 June; at the defence of Genova; 25 December: at the crossing of the Mincio; 1801, March: chef d’état-major of Dulauloy in the armée d’ observation du Midi; 7 December: chef de brigade of the 3e régiment d’ artillerie à cheval, at the place of Duroc; 1803-1807: in the armée de Hanovre; 1804, 14 June: officer of the Légion d’ honneur; 1805, 2 October: commander of the artillery park of the 1er corps of the Grande Armée under Bernardotte; 1805-1807: in the Grande Armée; 1807, 5 May: artillery commander in the reserve corps under Lannes; 14 June: distinguished himself at Friedland; 21 June: général de brigade d’ artillerie; 1808, 26 October: baron de l’ Empire; 1809, served in the armée d’ Allemagne; 13 March: artillery commander under Oudinot; 28 March: artillery commander of the 2e corps; 11 May: served at the shelling of Vienna.

[17] Louis-Vincent-Joseph Le Blond, comte de Saint-Hilaire was born on September 4, 1766, at Ribemont (Aisne). He had the left foot sheared by a boulet (May 22). Died in Vienna (June 5). «Just then I was bearing an order from Lannes to General Saint-Hilaire.

Hardly had I reached him when a storm of grape-shot struck his staff, killing several officers and smashing the general’ s leg. He died under amputation. […]. Both he – the Emperor – and the marshal felt the loss of General Saint-Hilaire keenly» [cfr. Marbot, 1935, p. 206].

[18] Jean-Victor Tharreau was born on January 15, 1767 at May-sur-Evre (Maine-et-Loire). Wounded on May 22.  1792, 17 August: adjudant-major in the 2e bataillon of the national volunteers of Mayenne and Loire; 1793, 20 April: aide-de-camp provisoire of général Tourville; 20 November: appointed provisional adjudant général chef de brigade by the representatives of the people by the armée des Ardennes; 1794, 24 March: général de brigade and chef d’ état-major in the same army; 2 April: confirmed in his rank; 27 May: chef d’ état-major of the armée des Ardennes and of the right wing of the armée du Nord re-united; 28 May: served at the siege of Charleroi; 19 June: suspended in his executive functions; 1795, 13 June: in activity in the armée de Rhin-et-Moselle; 23 October: employed in the 3e division (Bourcier); 1796, April: in the 3e division (Reneauld); 31 May: 5e division (Beaupuy); 2 July: in the 3e division under Jean-Baptiste Tholmé; 10-11 August: took Lindau and Bregentz; 7 September: driven back on Dürach; 20 October: 3e division (Dufour); 24 October: repulsed on Rheinfelden; 18 November: employed in the division Sainte-Suzanne at the defence of Kehl; 1797, 23 September: in the armées d’ Allemagne; 1798, 12 January: d’ Angleterre (aka armée); 17 July: armée de Mayence; 1799 March: armée du Danube, division Ferino; 21 March: served at Pfullendorf; 25 March: at Stockach; 20 April: Général de division; 30 April: commander of the 3e division of the center, of the armée d’ Helvétie; 14 May: commander of the 1er division of the center of the armée d’ Helvétie, at the place of Vandamme; 22 May: fought at the Thur; 27 May: chased by the Austrians from Glaris; 28 May: commander of the 4e division, at the place of Oudinot; 19 June: commander of the place of Lorge, 5e division, armée d’ Helvétique; 11 September: employed in the armée du Rhin, and commander at Strasbourg; December: commander of the 2e division of the left corps under Baraguey-d’Hilliers, in the armée du Rhin; 1800, 15 March: commander of the 3e division of the corps of the center under Gouvion-Saint-Cyr; 9 May: served at Biberach; 20 November: division commander under Murat, in the armée d’ observation du midi; 1801, March: charged to conquer the Elba island; 13 December: employed in the corps of the French troops stationed in the Cisalpine Republic; 1802, 23 September: en disponibilité; 1808, 21 December: baron of the Empire; 1809, 9 March: commander of the 2e division of grenadiers of Oudinot corps; 9 April 1809-1 July 1810: at the 1er division, at the place of Claparède; 11-12 May: served in the attack at Vienna.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2009


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