The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders:
General Pierre-David (Edouard) Colbert de Chabanais was the second son of Comte Louis-Henri-Francois de Colbert-Chabanais and his wife Jeanne de David and was born in Paris on 18 October 1774. His older brother, Amboise, who had also been a soldier serving with the future Marechal Emmanuel de Grouchy in the 2e Regiment des Dragons, had emigrated to Martinique where he died. His two other brothers were both to have careers with the armies of le Premier Empire. For details of Auguste-Francois-Marie see Number 13. The remaining brother Louis-Pierre-Alphonse was also to reach the rank of General-de-Brigade.
The family was of noble stock and that is why Amboise fled the country, those being dangerous times for members of the aristocracy.
Edouard, as he was better known, enlisted in 1793 and there was a worrying period for him in January 1796 when the young, talented and very promising General Lazare Hoche suspended him from duty on the grounds that he was a Royalist. He survived this however and joined l'Armee d'Orient. He was wounded in the arm serving in Upper Egypt but became Capitaine des 3e Regiment des Dragons and then ADC to General Francois-Etienne Damas, General Jean-Baptiste Kleber's chef d'etat major.
When he returned to mainland Europe, he was first ADC to General Andoche Junot and then to General, and future Marechal, Alexandre Berthier.
Wounded at Austerlitz, he became Chef d'Escadron in the 15e Chasseurs-a-Cheval and served in Italy before joining le Grande Armee as Colonel du 7e Regiment des Hussards for 1806/7. He was present at Eylau, Heilsberg, and Friedland, receiving three superficial lance wounds at the latter. He was promoted to General-de-Brigade in March 1809 and served at Amstetten, Raab and Wagram. He was appointed Colonel du 2e Regiment de Chevau-legers de la Garde Imperiale.
He served in Russia (Smolensk and Borodino), then Dresden, Leipzig and Hanau. He gave distinguished service at Bautzen and was made General-de-Division in November 1813.
For the battle for France he and his lanciers came under the overall command of General Nansouty and served at Champagne, la Rothiere, Champaubert, Montmirail, Chateau Thierry, Nangis, Craonne, Reims, Epernay, and Arcis sur Aube.
He rallied to Napoleon during the 100 Days and was present at Quatre Bras and Waterloo where he was wounded in the left arm. During the battle he commanded the 1er and 2e Lanciers in the 5e Division de Cavalerie commanded by General Jacques-Gervais Subervie who was actually born in the same street, in the same town of Lectoure as le Marechal Jean Lannes.
On the return of the Bourbon King Louis XVIII, de Colbert was imprisoned for two years. After his release and a further period of inactivity, he resumed his career and over the next 30 years or so held a whole string of major administrative appointments. In July 1835 he was one of those wounded by Fieschi's machine infernale.
He was Commandant de la Legion d'Honneur, Comte de l'Empire, Ecuyer Cavalcadour de l'Imperatrice in March 1810, and Pair de France in 1832. He was also appointed ADC to le duc de Nemours.
de Colbert, always smart in appearance, was a courageous and outstanding commander with an exemplary record. He was a familiar and determined figure on the battlefield with his distinctive uniform as commander of the "Lanciers". He was a loyal Bonapartist and popular with those under his command.
He was married somewhat late in life in March 1831 to Clementine Perrotin but there were no children of the alliance. He was, by then 57 years of age. He died on 28 December 1853, aged 79.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2002
© Copyright 1995-2010, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.