General Auguste Jean Gabriel de Caulaincourt
Born: September 16, 1777
Place of Birth: Caulaincourt, Aisne, France
Died: September 7, 1812
Cause of Death: Killed in action
Place of Death: Borodino, Russia
Arc de Triomphe: CAULAINCOURT on the east pillar
Born into a noble family, Auguste Jean Gabriel de Caulaincourt was the younger brother of Armand Augustin Louis Caulaincourt. In early 1792 he volunteered to join the 8th Cavalry and he went on to serve in the Army of the Center and then the Army of the Moselle before going on leave in April of 1793. By 1795 Caulaincourt had returned to duty as a sous-lieutenant and aide-de-camp to General Aubert-Dubayet. Briefly serving with the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg, in August of 1795 he joined the 12th Dragoons and then in January of the next year he was promoted to lieutenant in the 1st Carabiniers. Transferred to the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, in January of 1797 he led 40 dragoons in capturing 400 enemy soldiers at Vedolago. A promotion to capitaine with the 21st Dragoons soon followed.
Next Caulaincourt served with the Army of the Rhine and Moselle and he joined the 1st Dragoons. During 1798 and 1799 he served with the Army of the Danube and then the Army of Switzerland, distinguishing himself in fighting at Ostrach and Liptingen in March of 1799. That May Caulaincourt became aide-de-camp to General Klein and the next month he fought at Zürich, being promoted afterwards to chef d'escadrons by Masséna. Serving under Lecourbe, he fought at the combat of Muotathal in October and was wounded by a lance blow. The next year Caulaincourt joined the Army of the Reserve and he fought at Marengo where he was wounded by a shot to the head.
In 1801 Caulaincourt was promoted to chef de brigade of the 19th Dragoons. Later he served in garrison with the 16th military division until 1804 when he became an aide-de-camp to Prince Louis Bonaparte. For the campaign of 1805, Caulaincourt served in Bourcier's 4th Dragoon Division and he fought at Austerlitz. Afterwards he was rewarded as a Commander of the Legion of Honor on Christmas Day. The next year he passed to the service of the King of Holland, Louis Bonaparte, remaining as an aide-de-camp and he was promoted to major general. During this time he served as Master of Horse and in February of 1807 he was awarded a Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of Holland.
In early 1808 Caulaincourt returned to France as a général de brigade and he joined a cavalry division forming at Poitiers. Made a Baron of the Empire, he was immediately sent to Spain, where in July he seized de Cuenca. That November he joined the general staff of the Army of the Spain before taking command of the 2nd Brigade of La Houssaye's dragoon division the next month. Over the coming months, General Caulaincourt served under Soult at Chaves and Braga, and he fought at Oporto and Penafiel. He commanded the advance guard at Villamagna, in this capacity seizing Amaranthe, and then commanded the rearguard as the French evacuated Amaranthe in May. In September of 1809 Caulaincourt received a promotion to général de division and then in November he took command of five brigades of dragoons of the cavalry of VIII Corps.
In February of 1810 Caulaincourt returned to France due to ill health. That year he became a Count of the Empire and the next year he received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Reunion. For the Russian campaign of 1812, Caulaincourt was placed in charge of Napoleon's headquarters. During the Battle of Borodino, after Montbrun's death Caulaincourt was summoned by Napoleon. Napoleon told him, "Go and take command of the First Cavalry Corps. Do as you did at Arzobispo." As Caulaincourt waited for Berthier to write down the order giving him command, he seized his brother's hand and told him, "With things this hot, I don't suppose I shall see you again. We shall win, or I shall get myself killed."1
Arriving at the front and finding Montbrun's aides in tears, Caulaincourt told them, "Follow me! Weep not for Montbrun, but come and avenge his death!" Murat ordered him to charge the Great Redoubt, and he responded, "You shall see me there, dead or alive."2 As he led the charge of the 5th Cuirassiers, he was killed by a cannonball.
- Armand de Caulaincourt, With Napoleon in Russia, ed. Jean Hanoteau and George Libaire, (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2005), 97.
- Philip J. Haythornthwaite, Who Was Who in the Napoleonic Wars, (London: Arms & Armour, 1998), 64.
- Chandler, David G. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1979.
- Haythornthwaite, Philip J. Who Was Who in the Napoleonic Wars. London: Arms & Armour, 1998.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated April 2023
© Nathan D. Jensen