General Jean BoudetGénéral de division who distinguished himself at Marengo and Aspern-Essling
Born: February 9, 1769
Place of Birth: Bordeaux, Gironde, France
Died: September 14, 1809
Cause of Death: Fatigues of war
Place of Death: Budweis, Austria
Arc de Triomphe: BOUDET on the east pillar
Jean Boudet's career in the military started inauspiciously when he enlisted as a dragoon in the Penthièvre regiment in 1785. Two years later he was condemned to receive fifty blows by the flat of a sabre and remain in the military for four years for not revealing a plot to desert. Nevertheless, despite this punishment, somehow in 1788 he was released from military service and returned home.
With the Revolution in full swing, Boudet answered the call for volunteers in 1792 and was elected a lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of Volunteers of Gironde. He served in the Army of the Pyrenees and was promoted to capitaine barely a month later. In 1793 Boudet fought at the defense of Chateau-Pignon where he was wounded by a shot to the left shoulder, and at the end end of the year he was appointed lieutenant colonel of a battalion of chasseurs. Next Boudet went to the Vendée and then the isle of Ré.
In 1794 Boudet left France for Guadeloupe where he seized Fort Fleur d'Epée. That June he was promoted to chef de brigade and named commander of Port de la Liberté. At the end of 1795 Boudet received another promotion, this time to général de brigade. Continuing to serve in Guadeloupe, he defended Pointe-à-Pitre against the English but had his shoulder hit by grapeshot in the action. Afterwards, General Boudet retook Fort Saint-Charles and seized Sainte-Lucie, Saint-Vincent la Grenade, and Anguilla. In October of 1796 his contributions were recognized with a promotion to général de division.
Boudet remained in Guadeloupe until 1799 when he returned to France for health reasons. That October he was given command of the 3rd Division of the Army of Holland and he served at Castricum before carrying to the Directory the terms of the Convention of Alkmaar. In 1800 Boudet was given command of the 5th Division of the Army of the Reserve. That May he served at the crossing of the Chiusella, Sesia, and Tessin, and then in June he fought at Melegnano, Lodi, and Plaisance. When General Desaix arrived and joined the army, Boudet's division was placed under Desaix's command, and Boudet and his men were part of Desaix's force that saved the day at Marengo. Boudet was wounded at Marengo and afterwards he joined the Army of Italy and served at Monzembano.
General Boudet returned to France in the summer of 1801. That November he was designated to be part of the expedition to Saint-Domingue. Arriving at Saint-Domingue in February, Boudet seized Léogane and Saint-Marc that month. He went on to fight at the fort at Pierrot where he was wounded by a shot to the heel, and then in April he turned over his command and traveled to Guadeloupe. That September Boudet returned briefly to Saint-Domingue before departing for France.
Once back in France, Boudet was sent to Utrecht where he took command of the 1st Division. When war broke out in 1805, his unit became the 1st Division of General Marmont's II Corps. He took part in the campaign in Austria that year, and after the cessation of hostilities he went into garrison at Trieste.
Boudet's next major command came in April of 1807 when he took command of the 1st Division of the Corps of Observation under Marshal Brune. That year he served at the siege of Colberg, seized Trebessèe, and participated in the siege of Stralsund. Afterwards, he was rewarded, being made a Count of the Empire, and he went on to serve on the Rhine.
When Austria again attacked in 1809, Boudet was given command of the 4th Division of Masséna's IV Corps for the Danube campaign. During that campaign, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Aspern-Essling and afterwards was rewarded as a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, Knight of the Iron Crown, and Grand Cordon of the Order of Dannebrog. But Boudet's success was not to last. As Napoleon planned another crossing of the Danube, Boudet was assigned a critical duty of protecting the crossing. On the 6th of July, he lost his artillery to the Austrians and was sharply criticized by Napoleon, perhaps unfairly.
On September 13th, Boudet fell gravely ill. As his condition worsened, he wrote a final letter to his wife and then died the next day. Rumors swirled that he had committed suicide due to Napoleon's reproaches, but no evidence has been found to support that conclusion.1
- Monica Fouché, Glory Overshadowed: The Military Career of General Jean Boudet 1769-1809, (Electronic Theses, Treatises, and Disseratations, 2005), 58-59.
Updated August 2015
© Nathan D. Jensen