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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

Nicolas Charles Oudinot, Duc de Reggio, Marshal (1809)

(Born Bar-Le-Duc, 1767 - Died 1847)


"The Bayard of the French army" (Napoleon). Napoleon waited some time before giving a marshal's baton to this general, although he held him in high esteem. Oudinot's military career was faultless and he was a born gentleman, happy on the battlefield, lenient with the conquered peoples and faithful to his oaths.

The son of a brewer, he enlisted in an infantry regiment at age 17. Recalled by his father who wanted him to take over the family business, he returned to his village and got married. The Revolution brought him back into the army, and he was quickly named lieutenant-colonel of the Meuse volunteers.

In 1793, he distinguished himself by repulsing a Prussian attack of the château de Bitche. The following year, thanks to another feat of arms, he was named brigadier general. He then served in the Army of the Rhine and Mosel. At the Battle of Neckerau, he was wounded, the first time in a long series of injuries, and taken prisoner, only to be exchanged several months later. Oudinot then served under Moreau and fought in the Army of Helvetia in 1799. He was chief of staff in the taking of Zurich and Constance under Masséna, who named him major general.

When the Consulate was founded, Oudinot continued his military career with Masséna, during the siege of Genoa. He distinguished himself during the crossing of the Mincio in December 1800.

In 1805, he commanded a division of grenadiers. After a series of victories and significant contribution to the Battle of Austerlitz, his division was nicknamed the "Oudinot grenadiers." He continued to gain success, particularly at Ostrolenka in February 1807; and at Friedland in June, after which he earned the title of count. In 1808, as governor of Erfurt, he organized the meeting between Napoleon and Alexander I. The Emperor introduced him to the Tsar as the "Bayard of the French Army."

In 1809, Oudinot's successes continued, crowned by the Battle of Wagram, where his clearsighted intervention earned the French a victory. He received his marshal's baton several days later, then the title of duc.

In 1810, he served as administrator in Holland, which Louis Bonaparte had just abandoned. He then was named governor of Berlin before fighting in the Russian campaign. Here again, he fought admirably, especially during the crossing of the Berezina. In 1813, he was at the Battle of Bautzen; two months later, he was defeated by Bernadotte at Grossbeeren. He got his revenge at Wachau, where he beat the Prince of Wurtenberg. The French campaign came next.

On April 4, 1814, Oudinot was among those who asked the Emperor to abdicate. He then rallied to Louis XVIII, who gave him the command of the former Imperial guard. He was one of the few marshals not to rally to Napoleon during the Hundred Days. As a reward, Louis XVIII named him commander of the Royal Guard and then the National Guard of Paris. In 1823, Oudinot headed the first expeditionary force to Spain. In 1830, he retired to his estates, was named grand-chancelier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1839 and governor of the Invalides in 1842.

Four of his eleven children were boys, and they all became soldiers.

by Artea


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