Louis-Nicolas Davout, Marshal of the Empire
|Nickname(s)||The Iron Marshal|
|Born||10 May 1770|
|Died||1 June 1823 53) (aged|
|Years of service||1788–1815|
|Rank||Marshal of the Empire|
|Unit||Commander of the Consular Guard Grenadiers (1801);|
IIIrd Corps (1804–1807 and 1809);
Observation Corps of the Elbe (1810–1811);
Ist Corps (1812);
XIIIth Corps (1813–1814);
Army of the Loire (1815)
|Commands held||III Corps, XIII Corps|
|Battles/wars|| French Revolutionary Wars Napoleonic Wars |
Prince of Eckmühl
Duke of Auerstaedt
|Other work||General inspector for cavalry (1801);|
Colonel general of the Imperial Guard Grenadiers (from 1804);
Governor-general of the Duchy of Warsaw;
Minister of War (Hundred Days);
Mayor of Savigny-sur-Orge
Louis-Nicolas d'Avout (10 May 1770 –1 June 1823), better known as Davout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt , 1st Prince of Eckmühl , was a French general who was Marshal of the Empire during the Napoleonic era. His talent for war along with his reputation as a stern disciplinarian earned him the title "The Iron Marshal". He is ranked along with Masséna and Lannes as one of Napoleon's finest commanders. His loyalty and obedience to Napoleon were absolute. During his lifetime, Davout's name was commonly spelled Davoust, which is how it appears on the Arc de Triomphe and in much of the correspondence between Napoleon and his generals (see external links below for examples).
The title of Duc d'Auerstaedt was created by Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, for the Marshal of France Louis Nicolas Davout in 1808 as a victory title rewarding and commemorating Davout's splendid victory at the Battle of Auerstaedt in 1806.
Eckmühl is a village of Germany, in Bavaria, on the Große Laaber, 20 km S.E. of Regensburg. It is famous as the site of a battle fought on the 22 April 1809 during the War of the Fifth Coalition between the French, the Bavarians, the Württembergers under Napoleon, and the Austrians under the Archduke Charles, which resulted in the defeat of the latter. Napoleon, in recognition of Marshal Davout's great share in the victory, conferred on him the title of Prince of Eckmühl.
Marshal of the Empire was a civil dignity during the First French Empire. It was created by Sénatus-consulte on 18 May 1804 and to a large extent resurrected the formerly abolished title of Marshal of France. According to the Sénatus-consulte, a Marshal was a grand officer of the Empire, entitled to a high-standing position at the Court and to the presidency of an electoral college.
Davout was born at Annoux (Yonne), the son of Jean-François d'Avout (1739–1779) and his wife (married in 1768) Françoise-Adélaïde Minard de Velars (1741–1810). 4 He was educated at a military academy in Auxerre, before transferring to the École Militaire in Paris on 29 September 1785. He graduated on 19 February 1788 and was appointed a sous-lieutenant in the Royal-Champagne Cavalry Regiment in garrison at Hesdin. :94 On the outbreak of the French Revolution, he embraced its principles. He was chef de bataillon in a volunteer corps in the campaign of 1792, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Neerwinden the following spring. He had just been promoted to general of brigade when he was removed from the active list because of his noble birth. He nevertheless served in the campaigns of 1794-1797 on the Rhine, and accompanied Desaix in the Egyptian Expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte.:
Annoux is a commune in the Yonne department in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté in north-central France.
Yonne is a French department named after the river Yonne. It is one of the eight constituent departments of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and is located in the northwest of the region, bordering Île-de-France. It was created in 1790 during the French Revolution. Its prefecture (capital) is Auxerre and its postcode number is 89.
A military academy or service academy is an educational institution which prepares candidates for service in the officer corps. It normally provides education in a military environment, the exact definition depending on the country concerned.
Although on his return he did not take part in the Battle of Marengo, where his friend Desaix was killed while making a decisive contribution to the victory. 65 Napoleon, who had great confidence in his abilities finally promoted him to general de division and arranged his marriage to his sister Pauline's sister-in-law Aimée Leclerc, thus making him part of Napoleon's extended family, and gave him a command in the consular guard. At the accession of Napoleon as emperor, Davout was one of the generals who were created marshals of France. Davout was the youngest and least experienced of the generals promoted to Marshal, which earned him the hostility of other generals throughout his career. As commander of the III Corps of the Grande Armée, Davout rendered his greatest services. At the Battle of Austerlitz, after a forced march of forty-eight hours, the III Corps bore the brunt of the allies' attack. In the subsequent War of the Fourth Coalition, Davout with a single corps fought and won the Battle of Auerstädt against the main Prussian army, which had more than twice as many soldiers at its disposal (more than 63,000, to Davout's 28,000). Historian François-Guy Hourtoulle writes: "At Jena, Napoleon won a battle he could not lose. At Auerstädt, Davout won a battle he could not win".:
The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy. Near the end of the day, the French overcame Gen. Michael von Melas's surprise attack, driving the Austrians out of Italy and consolidating Napoleon's political position in Paris as First Consul of France in the wake of his coup d’état the previous November.
The III Corps of the Grande Armée was the designation of a few military units during the Napoleonic Wars. The III Corps came to prominence between 1805 and 1809 under the command of Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout, when it repeatedly scored impressive victories single-handedly or in conjunction with other French forces. Napoleon called it "My tenth legion", in reference to Julius Caesar's finest unit, the X Equestris. Then troops from that Corps took part in many battles in Poland (1807) e.g. Czarnowo, Pultusk, Golymin, Eylau, in Bavaria at Teugen-Hausen, Eckmuhl and in Austria 1809 at Wagram. These troops later were reorganized as I Corps and included French, German/Polish units. It also included the 127th to 129th "régiment d'infanterie de ligne" from the north German countries of Oldenburg, Bremen and Hamburg that were annexed shortly before and thus counted as French.
The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.
As a reward, Napoleon let Davout and his men enter first in Berlin on 25 October 1806.
Davout added to his renown in the campaign of Eylau and Friedland. Napoleon left him as governor-general of the newly created Duchy of Warsaw following the Treaty of Tilsit of 1807, and the next year created him Duke of Auerstädt. In the war of 1809, Davout took part in the actions which culminated in the Battle of Eckmühl, and also distinguished himself in the Battle of Wagram, where he commanded the right wing. He was created Prince of Eckmühl following this campaign. He was entrusted by Napoleon with the task of organizing the "corps of observation of the Elbe", which would become the gigantic army with which Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. In this, Davout commanded the I Corps, numbering over 70,000, and defeated the Russians at Mohilev before he joined the main army, with which he continued throughout the campaign and the retreat from Moscow.During the retreat he conducted the rear guard, which was deemed too slow by the Emperor, and was replaced by Ney. His inability to hold out at Krasny until the arrival of Ney and his corps led him into disgrace and he would not meet with the Emperor again until his return from Elba.
The Battle of Eylau or Battle of Preussisch-Eylau, 7 and 8 February 1807, was a bloody and inconclusive battle between Napoleon's Grande Armée and the Imperial Russian Army under the command of Levin August von Bennigsen near the town of Preussisch Eylau in East Prussia. Late in the battle, the Russians received timely reinforcements from a Prussian division of von L'Estocq. After 1945 the town was renamed Bagrationovsk as a part of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia. The engagement was fought during the War of the Fourth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle of Friedland was a major engagement of the Napoleonic Wars between the armies of the French Empire commanded by Napoleon I and the armies of the Russian Empire led by Count von Bennigsen. Napoleon and the French obtained a decisive victory that routed much of the Russian army, which retreated chaotically over the Alle River by the end of the fighting. The battlefield is located in modern-day Kaliningrad Oblast, near the town of Pravdinsk, Russia.
The Duchy of Warsaw was a Polish state established by Napoleon I in 1807 from the Polish lands ceded by the Kingdom of Prussia under the terms of the Treaties of Tilsit. The duchy was held in personal union by one of Napoleon's allies, King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony. Following Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia, the duchy was occupied by Prussian and Russian troops until 1815, when it was formally partitioned between the two countries at the Congress of Vienna. It covered the central and eastern part of present Poland and minor parts of present Lithuania and Belarus.
In 1813 he commanded the Hamburg military district, and defended Hamburg, a poorly fortified and provisioned city, through a long siege, only surrendering on the direct order of the new King Louis XVIII, who had come to the throne after the fall of Napoleon in April 1814.During the siege, he expelled up to 25,000 of Hamburg’s poorest and weakest citizens out of the city into the cold winter, many of whom perished of cold and starvation. Between 1806 and 1814, when the French occupation came to an end by the surrender of Davout, the population decreased by nearly one-half, to 55,000.
Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million.
The city of Hamburg was one of the most powerful fortresses east of the Rhine. After being freed from Napoleonic rule by advancing Cossacks and other following Coalition troops it was once more occupied by Marshal Davout's French XIII Corps on 28 May 1813, at the height of the German Campaign during the War of the Sixth Coalition from French rule and occupation. Ordered to hold the city at all costs, Davout launched a characteristically energetic campaign against a similar numbered Army of the North made up of Prussian and other Coalition troops under the command of Count von Wallmoden-Gimborn, winning a number of minor engagements. Neither force was decidedly superior and the war ground to a halt and resulted in a rather stable front line between Lübeck and Lauenburg and further south along the Elbe river, even after the end of the cease-fire of the summer 1813. In October 1813 a French column's movement towards Dannenberg resulted in the only major engagement in the North of Germany, the Battle of the Göhrde. The defeated French troops retreated back to Hamburg.
Louis XVIII, known as "the Desired", was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1814 to 1824, except for a period in 1815 known as the Hundred Days. He spent twenty-three years in exile, from 1791 to 1814, during the French Revolution and the First French Empire, and again in 1815, during the period of the Hundred Days, upon the return of Napoleon I from Elba.
Davout's military character has been interpreted as cruel, and he had to defend himself against many attacks upon his conduct at Hamburg. He was a stern disciplinarian, who exacted rigid and precise obedience from his troops, and consequently his corps was more trustworthy and exact in the performance of its duty than any other. For example, Davout forbade his troops from plundering enemy villages, a policy he would enforce by the use of the death penalty. Thus, in the early days of the Grande Armée, the III corps tended to be entrusted with the most difficult work. He was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the ablest of Napoleon's marshals. On the first restoration he retired into private life, openly displaying his hostility to the Bourbons, and when Napoleon returned from Elba, Davout rejoined him.
The Bourbon Restoration was the period of French history following the first fall of Napoleon in 1814, and his final defeat in the Hundred Days in 1815, until the July Revolution of 1830. The brothers of the executed Louis XVI came to power, and reigned in highly conservative fashion; exiled supporters of the monarchy returned to France. They were nonetheless unable to reverse most of the changes made by the French Revolution and Napoleon. At the Congress of Vienna they were treated respectfully, but had to give up nearly all the territorial gains made since 1789.
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have monarchs of the House of Bourbon.
The Hundred Days marked the period between Napoleon's return from exile on the island of Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815. This period saw the War of the Seventh Coalition, and includes the Waterloo Campaign, the Neapolitan War as well as several other minor campaigns. The phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, Gaspard, comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the king back to Paris on 8 July.
Appointed Minister of War, he reorganized the French army insofar as time permitted, and he was so indispensable to the war department that Napoleon kept him in Paris during the Waterloo campaign. To what degree his skill and bravery would have altered the fortunes of the campaign of 1815 can only be surmised, but Napoleon has been criticized for his failure to avail himself in the field of the services of the best general he then possessed.
Davout directed the gallant, but hopeless, defence of Paris after Waterloo.He received the command of the army assembled under the walls of Paris, and would have fought, had he not received the order of the provisional government to treat with the enemy. On 24 June 1815 Davout was sent by Joseph Fouché, the president of the provisional government, to the dethroned Emperor at the Élysée Palace with a request to quit Paris, where his continued presence could lead to trouble and public danger. Napoleon received him coldly but left Paris the next day and resided at Malmaison until 29 June when he departed for Rochfort. In later years, Napoleon said of Davout bitterly that ”he betrayed me too. He has a wife and children; he thought that all was lost; he wanted to keep what he had got,” while on another occasion he remarked that “I thought that Davout loved me, but he loved only France.” Followingly, he retired with the army beyond the Loire and made his submission to the Bourbon government on 14 July, and within a few days gave up the command to Marshal Macdonald.
He was deprived of his marshalate and his titles at the second restoration. When some of his subordinate generals were proscribed, he demanded to be held responsible for their acts, as executed under his orders, and he endeavoured to prevent the condemnation of Michel Ney. After a time the hostility of the Bourbons towards Davout faded, and he became reconciled to the monarchy. In 1817 his rank and titles were restored, and in 1819 he became a member of the Chamber of Peers.
In 1822, Davout was elected mayor of Savigny-sur-Orge, a position he held for a year. His son Louis-Napoléon was also mayor of the city from 1843 to 1846. A main square bears their name in the city, as does a boulevard in Paris.
Davout died on June 1, 1823. His remains rest in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where an elaborate tomb marks his grave.
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He held the following honours and awards:[ citation needed ]
Davout was known as a methodical person in both military and personal affairs. Within the army and among his social peers, he was often considered cold and distant; while respected, he was not well-liked. During times of peace, he preferred to spend time with his family and care for his home, rather than cultivate his high social standing.[ citation needed ]
Because of his stubborn personality and limited social skills, he developed many enemies and antagonists within the army's officer corps, notably Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Joachim Murat (with whom he clashed strongly during the 1812 campaign), Louis-Alexandre Berthier and Baron Thiébault (who would harshly criticize Davout in his memoirs).[ citation needed ]
Perhaps his fiercest anger was directed towards Bernadotte, who failed to come to his aid at Auerstadt, though close enough to observe the smoke and hear the cannon fire.[ citation needed ] His anger was so intense that Davout requested to settle the matter with a personal duel, averted only by Napoléon's personal intervention. Bernadotte was eventually sent back to Paris in disgrace after being caught by Napoleon retreating without orders at the battle of Wagram. Bernadotte then caught the eye of the Swedish ambassador, looking for a well-connected French officer to take on the role of heir to the Swedish throne. When Sweden threw in her lot against Napoleon in the War of the Sixth Coalition, Davout personally asked to be placed opposite Bernadotte's contingent, in order to gain retribution for the latter's betrayal. But with Davout assigned to defend Hamburg (which he did, up to and beyond Napoleon's abdication), they never did face each other in battle.[ citation needed ]
Of the other Marshals, Davout had the best relations with Michel Ney, Nicolas Charles Oudinot and Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr. His best friend was possibly Charles-Étienne Gudin de La Sablonnière, one of his subordinates, who was killed in battle in 1812.[ citation needed ]
Davout was also noted for his loyalty to his long-time second wife –Paris, 17 December 1868), whom he married in 1801 and who remained with him until his death. Their marriage was loving and, most notably, the couple seem to have been faithful to each other despite very long periods of separation. They had eight children, four of whom died in childhood:[ citation needed ]Louise Aimée Julie Davout (née Leclerc, sister of Charles Leclerc and sister-in-law of Pauline Bonaparte) (Pontoise, 19 June 1782
The title of Duke went to the descendants of Louis-Nicolas' brother Charles Isidor (1774–1854) by his marriage in 1824 to Claire de Cheverry (1804–1895). He also had a sister Julie (1771–1846), married in 1801 to Marc-Antoine Bonnin de La Bonninière, 1st Count de Beaumont (1763–1830), and another brother, Alexandre, 1st Baron d'Avout (1773–1820), married in 1808 to Alire Parisot (1786–1856); they had issue.[ citation needed ] The youngest daughter, Adelaide-Louise, marquise de Blocqueville, left provision in her will for the name of her father to be given to a lighthouse. In 1897 the Eckmühl lighthouse was opened on the headland of Penmarc’h in Brittany.
Charles XIV John or Carl John, from 1818 until his death was King of Sweden and King of Norway and served as de facto regent and head of state from 1810 to 1818. He was also the Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo, in south-central Italy, from 1806 until 1810.
The Battle of Eckmühl fought on 21 April – 22 April 1809, was the turning point of the 1809 Campaign, also known as the War of the Fifth Coalition. Napoleon I had been unprepared for the start of hostilities on 10 April 1809, by the Austrians under the Archduke Charles of Austria and for the first time since assuming the French Imperial Crown had been forced to cede the strategic initiative to an opponent. Thanks to the dogged defense waged by the III Corps, commanded by Marshal Davout, and the Bavarian VII Corps, commanded by Marshal Lefebvre, Napoleon was able to defeat the principal Austrian army and wrest the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war.
Marshal of the Empire Michel Ney, 1st Duke of Elchingen, 1st Prince of the Moskva, popularly known as Marshal Ney, was a French soldier and military commander of German origin who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon. He was known as Le Rougeaud by his men and nicknamed le Brave des Braves by Napoleon.
The twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt were fought on 14 October 1806 on the plateau west of the river Saale in today's Germany, between the forces of Napoleon I of France and Frederick William III of Prussia. The decisive defeat suffered by the Prussian Army subjugated the Kingdom of Prussia to the French Empire until the Sixth Coalition was formed in 1812.
Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, 1st Marquis of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr was a French commander in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars who rose to Marshal of France and Marquis.
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| Duke of Auerstaedt |
Napoleon Louis Davout
Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke
| Minister of War |
20 March 1815 –7 July 1815
Laurent, marquis de Gouvion Saint-Cyr