General Nicolas DahlmannFounding member of Bonaparte's Guides who was mortally wounded at Eylau
Born: November 7, 1769
Place of Birth: Thionville, Moselle, France
Died: February 10, 1807
Cause of Death: Mortally wounded
Place of Death: Eylau, Prussia
Arc de Triomphe: DAHLMANN on the east pillar
One of the original guards of Napoleon, Nicolas Dahlmann began his military career sooner than others when he became a child of the cavalry regiment of the Dauphin. At age sixteen he officially joined his regiment but then a few years later in 1790 he left them. In 1792 Dahlmann served with the Army of the Moselle and then in 1793 he served with the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and was wounded by a shot to the right leg at Peyrestortes. After peace was obtained with Spain in 1795, Dahlmann was sent to the Army of Italy. In June of 1796 Dahlmann was one of the first soldiers to be incorporated into General Bonaparte's Guides, the unit that protected the commander-in-chief and eventually evolved into the Imperial Guard. In 1797 he was commissioned as a sous-lieutenant, and then in 1798 he followed Bonaparte on the expedition to Egypt. In Egypt Dahlmann fought at Salahieh that August and was promoted to lieutenant on the field of battle. The next year he fought at Abukir and the following day was promoted to capitaine. When General Bonaparte left the army to return to France, Dahlmann went with him as a member of his guard.
Once back in France, Dahlmann and most of his fellow Guides did not return to Paris with their commander, but were instead to make their way there on their own means. Upon arriving at Valence, they were told by the city's administrators that they could not stay. Dahlmann and Bessières, the future Marshal's brother, formed the Guides into battle formation, and aggressively moved into the city. The local guard had no desire to fight them, and upon seeing the Guides moving in battle formation, they disobeyed the city administrators' orders to stop the Guides. The Guides moved into the citadel and made themselves at home.1
As General Bonaparte took power in a coup d'état and became the First Consul, Captain Dahlmann began to serve with the Grenadiers à Cheval of the Consular Guard. In 1802 he was promoted to chef d'escadrons and joined the Chasseurs à Cheval, and in 1804 he became an Officer of the Legion of Honor. In 1805 Dahlmann took part in the campaign in Austria and he fought at the Battle of Austerlitz, assuming command of the regiment when Colonel Morland was mortally wounded. A few weeks later he was promoted to colonel and confirmed in command of the Chasseurs à Cheval. The next year Dahlmann led his men into action during the campaign against Prussia at the Battle of Jena in October and then at Lopaczyn in December. At the end of the year he was promoted to général de brigade and attached to the imperial staff.
At the Battle of Eylau in February of 1807, as Dahlmann learned that his old unit the Chasseurs à Cheval was going to partake in a cavalry charge, he requested to lead them into battle and the Emperor granted this request. Unfortunately, during the charge he was badly wounded by grapeshot to the hip and knocked from his horse. His nephew, who was also a chasseur, managed to get him on a horse and bring him back to friendly lines, but Dahlmann succumbed to his wounds in a few days.2
- Edward Ryan, Napoleon's Shield and Guardian: The Unconquerable General Daumesnil, (London: Greenhill Books, 2003), 88.
- Ibid., 148-149.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated December 2015
© Nathan D. Jensen