General Nicolas-Joseph Desenfans
Born: August 4, 1765
Place of Birth: Saint-Rémy-Chaussée, Nord, France
Died: January 8, 1808
Cause of Death: Illness
Place of Death: Mainz, Germany
Arc de Triomphe: DESENFANTS on the north pillar
A career soldier, Nicolas-Joseph Desenfans first enlisted as a carabinier in 1783. After the onset of the Revolution, in April of 1791 he obtained permission to leave the army and then five months later he joined the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Nord. That November Desenfans was elected a capitaine of grenadiers of his battalion. In 1792 he saw combat when in April he saved a French flag during the rout at Quiévrain and only a week later he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In June he went disguised as a workman to reconnoiter the advance posts of the enemy at Maubeuge and then a few days later he surprised them. Desenfans continued to serve in combat and that November he seized the redoubt of Mont-Palissel and then was given the rank of chef de bataillon. In March of 1793 he distinguished himself at the retreat of Saint-Trond and then at Pellenberg. Five months later in August August Desenfans was promoted to chef de brigade and then in September he served at Zermezeele. Next he fought at Esquelbecq where he was wounded, and then he entered Furnes and marched to assist Maubeuge. Continuing to be active, Desenfans seized Saint-Rémy-Chaussée and then Monceau-Saint-Waast, and for all these efforts he was promoted to général de brigade by the representatives of the people in October of 1793.
In 1794 General Desenfans joined General Michaud's division and that April he seized Rousbrugge and Poperinghe. That June he served at the siege of Ypres and then in July he joined the 3rd Division of the Army of the North. Desenfans went on to finish the year at the sieges of Bréda and Berg op Zoom. As the revolutionary armies were reorganized in 1795, Desenfans was not included in the staff and he therefore went into retirement. He was employed in the département of Cher and in April of 1796 he defeated a royalist force at Sens-Beaujeu. Afterwards he was returned to the army as commander of the département of Cher and then in June he joined the Army of the Rhine and Moselle. In September of 1796 Desenfans was named commander of Huningue and he distinguished himself at the defense of Huningue that November.
Desenfans served in the right wing of the Army of the Rhine and Moselle in April of 1797 and he took part in the crossing of the Rhine at Kehl. That October he was employed in the 18th military division and then the 20th military division. A year later in October of 1798 Desenfans was named commander at Tarbes where he prepared for a siege. In February of 1799 he was sent to the Army of Mainz and then in April he was employed in the Army of the Danube. The next year Desenfans briefly served in the Army of the Rhine before he was sent to serve in the French and Dutch army in Holland and finally the 26th military division.
During the years of peace that followed, Desenfans commanded the département of Sarre. In 1804 he was named a Commander of the Legion of Honor and then in 1805 he was employed in the Army of the North. The next year Desenfans returned to the 26th military division and then in September he was sent to command a brigade in Marshal Mortier's VIII Corps. In March of 1807 Desenfans commanded a brigade in Marchand's division in Marshal Ney's VI Corps and then in May he was sent to the Siege of Danzig . At the end of the month he was sent to the Siege of Graudenz but during the siege he fell extremely ill. Desenfans was transported to Mainz but he never recovered from his illness, dying in January of 1808.
- 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 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen