Jean Danjou

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Jean Danjou
Born(1828-04-15)15 April 1828
Chalabre, France
Died 30 April 1863(1863-04-30) (aged 35)
Camarón de Tejeda, Mexico
AllegianceFlag of France.svg  France
Years of service 1849–1863
Rank Captain
Commands held French Foreign Legion

Crimean War

Franco-Austrian War

French intervention in Mexico

Awards Chevalier of the Legion of Honor

Jean Danjou (15 April 1828 30 April 1863) was a decorated captain in the French Foreign Legion. He commanded the two lieutenants and 62 legionnaires who fought the legendary Battle of Camarón during the French intervention in Mexico, during which he was killed.

French Foreign Legion military service branch of the French Army

The French Foreign Legion is a military service branch of the French Army established in 1831. Legionnaires are highly trained infantry soldiers and the Legion is unique in that it was, and continues to be, open to foreign recruits willing to serve in the French Armed Forces. When it was founded, the French Foreign Legion was not unique; other foreign formations existed at the time in France.

Battle of Camarón last-stand battle during the second French intervention in Mexico

The Battle of Camarón which occurred over ten hours on 30 April 1863 between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army, is regarded as a defining moment in the Foreign Legion's history. A small infantry patrol, led by Captain Jean Danjou and Lieutenants Clément Maudet and Jean Vilain, numbering just 65 men was attacked and besieged by a force that may have eventually reached 3,000 Mexican infantry and cavalry, and was forced to make a defensive stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, in Camarón de Tejeda, Veracruz, Mexico. The conduct of the Legion, who refused to surrender, led to a certain mystique — and the battle of Camarón became synonymous with bravery and a fight-to-the-death attitude. In June 2017, the Warfare History Network declared this battle as one of the 17 greatest last stands in military history.



Jean Danjou was born in Chalabre, he enrolled in the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the foremost French military academy, and graduated from the academy at the age of 20. [1] :15 He was assigned to the 51st Regiment of the Line. [1] :15

Chalabre Commune in Occitanie, France

Chalabre is a commune in the Aude department in southern France.

Military career

In 1852, he transferred to the 2nd Foreign Regiment. [1] :15 He was transferred to Algeria, to assist French colonization efforts, including the campaigns of Kabylie. [1] :15 He lost his hand on a mapping assignment, on 1 May 1853, when his musket exploded. He designed a wooden prosthetic hand, which he used for the rest of his life. [1] :16 Danjou was promoted to 1st lieutenant on 24 December 1853.

2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment

The 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is one of two mechanized infantry regiments of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade.

Algeria country in North Africa

Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the far north of the country on the Mediterranean coast. With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, the world's largest Arab country, and the largest in Africa. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the west by Morocco, to the southwest by the Western Saharan territory, Mauritania, and Mali, to the southeast by Niger, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is a semi-presidential republic consisting of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes (counties). It has the highest human development index of all non-island African countries.

Kabylie Place in Algeria

Kabylie, or Kabylia, is a cultural region, natural region, and historical region in northern Algeria. It is part of the Tell Atlas mountain range, and is located at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

As a 1st lieutenant, Danjou was part of the French army that fought in the Crimean War, and served during the Siege of Sevastopol. [1] :15 He was promoted to captain on 9 June 1855.

Crimean War 1850s military conflict

The Crimean War was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which the Russian Empire lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. The immediate cause involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Roman Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The longer-term causes involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the unwillingness of Britain and France to allow Russia to gain territory and power at Ottoman expense. It has widely been noted that the causes, in one case involving an argument over a key, have never revealed a "greater confusion of purpose", yet they led to a war noted for its "notoriously incompetent international butchery".

His next campaign during the Austro-Sardinian War, where in 1859 he fought in the Battle of Magenta and the Battle of Solférino.

Battle of Magenta battle

The Battle of Magenta was fought on 4 June 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence, resulting in a French-Sardinian victory under Napoleon III against the Austrians under Marshal Ferencz Gyulai.

After serving in Morocco for some time, Danjou was part of the French expeditionary corps sent to Mexico in 1862. [1] :15 He was the quartermaster of Colonel Jeanningros, who was in charge of the Foreign Legion regiment in Mexico. It was the duty of the French Legion to ensure the movement and safety of French supply convoys.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North West Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Quartermaster army supply officer or naval rank

Quartermaster is a military or naval term, the meaning of which depends on the country and service. In land armies, a quartermaster is generally a relatively senior soldier who supervises stores and distributes supplies and provisions. In many navies, a quartermaster is a non-commissioned officer rank; in some others, it is not a rank but a role related to navigation.

On 29 April, Colonel Jeanningros was informed that an important convoy was on its way to Puebla with three million francs and material and munitions for the siege. Danjou decided to send a company to escort the convoy. The 3rd company of the Foreign Regiment was assigned to this mission, but had no officers available. Danjou himself took command. Two other officers volunteered for this mission : 2nd Lt. Jean Vilain, Regimental Financial Officer, and 2nd Lt. Clément Maudet, Regimental Colours-Bearer.

The Battle of Camarón

At 1 a.m. on 30 April, the 3rd company was on its way, with three officers and 62 men. At 7 a.m., after a 15 miles (24 km) march, it stopped at Palo Verde to rest. Soon after, a Mexican force of 2,000 soldiers (800 cavalry and 1,200 infantry) was spotted. Danjou had the company take up a square formation and, even though retreating, he drove back several cavalry charges, inflicting the first heavy losses on the enemy.

Looking for a more defensible position, Danjou decided to make a stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, an inn protected by a 10-foot (3-meter) high wall. His plan was to tie up the enemy forces to prevent any attacks on the nearby convoy. While the legionnaires prepared a defense of the inn, the Mexican commander, Colonel Milan, demanded that Danjou and his men surrender, pointing out the fact that the Mexican Army was greatly superior in number. Danjou went around to each of his men with a bottle of wine and made them all take a solemn oath not to surrender.

At noon, Danjou was shot in the chest and died. His soldiers continued to fight until 6 p.m. despite overwhelming odds and extreme heat. The 60 men, who had had nothing to eat or drink since the day before, resisted many charges of the Mexican army. The last five survivors were all down to their very last bullet. Instead of dishonoring themselves, they decided to charge with fixed bayonets. When they did, the Mexican commander ordered his troops to cease fire. Out of admiration for their courage, he spared the surviving men and allowed them to form an honour guard for the body of Captaine Danjou. They were released to return to France. This story has become legendary in French military history.

Danjou was buried on 3 May 1863 in Camarón.

After the battle, a Mexican named Ramirez discovered and took Danjou's wooden hand. Ramirez was soon arrested and the hand retrieved by Lieutenant Karl Grübert of the Austrian army, which replaced the Foreign Legion in this conflict on 17 July 1865. Today, Danjou's wooden hand is paraded annually on April 30, Camerone Day.

Prosthetic Hand

Wooden hand of Jean Danjou Main Danjou.gif
Wooden hand of Jean Danjou

When the Legion moved to France, Danjou's wooden hand was taken to Aubagne, where it remains in the Legion Museum of Memory. [1] The hand is the most cherished artifact in Legion history, and the prestige and honor granted to a Legionnaire to carry it on parade in its protective case is among the greatest bestowed on a Legionnaire.

30 April is celebrated as "Camerone Day", an important day for the Legionnaires, when the wooden prosthetic hand of Capitaine Danjou is brought out for display. [1] Captain Danjou appears in Ian Colquhoun's 2014 historical novel 'Le Boudin - The Demons of Camerone' - Colquhoun, like Danjou, is an amputee.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ryan, James W., 1996, Camerone, The French Foreign Legion's Greatest Battle, Westport: Praeger Publishers, ISBN   0-275-95490-0