General Pierre Dautancourt
Born: February 28, 1771
Place of Birth: Montigny-sous-Marle, Aisne, France
Died: January 2, 1832
Place of Death: Nevers, France
Conscripted into the army in September of 1793, Pierre Dautancourt, also spelled d'Autancourt, was immediately assigned to the Army of the North. He initially worked as a quartermaster and treasurer and then in January of 1794 he became a fusilier in the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Vienne. That March Dautancourt began working as a clerk with the military tribunal of the Army of the North and over time he was eventually named an officer of police and safety. In August of 1794 he was named a military judge with the rank of capitaine of infantry. Dautancourt ceased to be a judge in October of 1795 and then in April of 1796 he was named a lieutenant of gendarmerie. He served as a gendarme for a number of years and he was employed in Brussels in 1798. In 1800 Dautancourt served in the Army of the West and he was promoted to capitaine.
Dautancourt joined the elite gendarmerie in 1801 and then in 1803 he was employed in the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean. In 1804 he was promoted to chef d'escadrons and he assisted at the execution of the Duke of Enghien. For the campaigns of 1805 through 1807, Dautancourt continued to serve as a gendarme with the Grande Armée. In April of 1807 he was named major of the 1st Polish Lancers of the Imperial Guard.
In 1808 Dautancourt was sent to Spain but also rewarded as a Knight of the Empire. That November he served at Burgos and Somosierra . The next year he followed Napoleon to Germany for the Danube campaign and he served at the Battle of Aspern-Essling and the Battle of Wagram . In 1810 Dautancourt was named a Baron of the Empire and in 1812 he took part in the campaign against Russia. In 1813 he served in Saxony and that November he was promoted to général de brigade while retaining his position as major of the 1st Polish Lancers of the Guard.
In January of 1814 Dautancourt took command of the 2nd Brigade of Cavalry of the Imperial Guard in Champagne. He served at Brienne at the end of the month and then at La Rothière on February 1st. Next Dautancourt fought at the Battle of Montmirail and then at the end of February he was named a Commander of the Legion of Honor. He furthermore received another award, being named a Knight of the Military Order of Poland. Dautancourt was present at the defense of Paris at the end of March, serving under General Ornano. After Napoleon's abdication and the Bourbon Restoration, Dautancourt's regiment of Polish lancers was sent back to Poland. He was so beloved by the men that General Krasinski asked Dautancourt to accompany them to Poland. Dautancourt declined with the simple answer, "Prince, I am French".1
Dautancourt was put on non-activity by the restored Bourbons. When Napoleon returned from exile in 1815 for the Hundred Days, he placed Dautancourt in charge of the Gendarmerie of the Imperial Guard. After Napoleon's second abdication, Dautancourt was again placed on non-activity but he didn't officially retire until 1825.
- Edward Ryan, Napoleon's Shield and Guardian: The Unconquerable General Daumesnil, (London: Greenhill Books, 2003), 217.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated February 2022
© Nathan D. Jensen