General Jean Joseph Paul Augustin Dessolle
Born: July 3, 1767
Place of Birth: Auch, Gers, France
Died: November 2, 1828
Place of Death: Saulx-les-Chartreux, France
Arc de Triomphe: DESSOLES on the east pillar
Despite his noble birth, Jean Joseph Paul Augustin Dessolle, sometimes spelled Dessolles, supported the French Revolution and in 1792 he was elected a capitaine in the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Gers. In 1793 he served with the staff of the Army of the Western Pyrenees and he was promoted to chef de bataillon, but in 1794 he was suspended due to his noble birth. Dessolle was reintegrated in the Army of the Western Pyrenees in June of 1795 and shortly thereafter he was promoted to chef de brigade. Next he was sent to the Army of Italy where he took part in the Italian campaign under General Bonaparte. In 1797 Dessolle was placed under General Victor's orders and he received a promotion to général de brigade that May. The following month he was given command of a brigade of light infantry and then in September he became the interim chief of staff of the Army of Italy.
In 1798 General Dessolle was designated for the Army of England but he did not join that army, instead remaining in Italy and then commanding a reserve of grenadiers in Piedmont. As the campaigns of 1799 got underway in March, Dessolle conquered Valtellina with the help of the Army of Switzerland and then led his men over the glaciers of Wormser Loch. Proceeding on, he defeated the Austrian positions at Glurns where he took 4000 prisoners and 25 cannons. The next month Dessolle was promoted to général de division and then named chief of staff to Schérer. Soon thereafter he became General Moreau's chief of staff and in this capacity he served at the Battle of Novi that August. After the loss at Novi, Dessolle was appointed commander at Genoa and then placed in charge of the troops in Liguria.
When General Bonaparte seized power in late 1799, Dessolle was serving as Moreau's chief of staff again and therefore in 1800 he traveled to Paris to discuss military plans with Napoleon. He returned to the army in Germany and took part in the campaign that summer, fighting at Messkirch, Biberach, and Neubourg. Dessolle was still serving as chief of staff to Moreau that December and he therefore took part in the Battle of Hohenlinden. During the years of peace that followed, he was named a councilor of state and inspector general of infantry of the Army of the South. In 1802 he married Louise de Dampierre, the daughter of the fallen General Dampierre. Two years later in 1804 Dessolle was serving at Hanover when General Moreau was arrested and put on trial. Dessolle was next appointed chief of staff to Lannes, but due to his friendship with Moreau he refused the appointment and retired to Auch. He remained in retirement for the next four years.
In 1808 Dessolle agreed to return to the army and he was sent to the Army of Spain where he took command of a division under Marshal Ney. The next year he served under Marshal Jourdan in the Army of the Center, and over the course of the year he fought at Toledo, Talavera , Almonacid, and Ocaña . Dessolle continued to fight in 1810, for that January he served at the crossing of the Sierra-Morena and took Cordoba. Next he became the governor of Cordoba and then Seville, finally commanding the province of Jaen. In February of 1811 Dessolle was recalled to France and he remained there until the spring of 1812 when he joined the Grande Armée in preparation for the campaign against Russia. In June of 1812 he was appointed chief of staff to Prince Eugene's IV Corps, but he fell ill at Smolensk and was unable to continue to serve. Dessolle retired from the army and returned to France, missing the horrors of the retreat from Russia.
As France was threatened in 1814, Dessolle very briefly joined the National Guard of Paris before Napoleon's abdication. The restored Bourbons treated him well, naming him the chief of staff to the Count of Artois, a count, a Peer of France, a Minister of State, a Commander of Saint Louis, commander of the all the National Guard of France, and awarding him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. When Napoleon returned from exile in 1815, Dessolle tried to stop him from returning to Paris but failed. Instead he accompanied the king to Bethune and then retired again. After Napoleon's second abdication, Dessolle was returned to favor. He participated in the trial of Marshal Ney later that year and voted for death. In 1817 he became a marquis and in December of 1818 he became President of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He resigned from these positions in November of 1819.
- 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