General Antoine Drouot
Born: January 11, 1774
Place of Birth: Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
Died: March 24, 1847
Place of Death: Nancy, France
Arc de Triomphe: DROUOT on the west pillar
The son of a baker, Antoine Drouot studied at Nancy before being accepted as a sous-lieutenant in the artillery school at Châlons in early 1793. After six months of school, he was sent as a lieutenant to serve with the 1st Foot Artillery in the Army of North, and within a few months got his first taste of action at Hondschoote . Over the next few years Drouot served with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, serving at Fleurus and receiving a promotion to capitaine. In 1797 he served in the Army of the Rhine and then the next few years were spent with the Army of Naples, including fighting at the Battle of the Trebbia . In 1800 Drouot joined General Eblé's staff in the Army of the Rhine and later that year he served in that capacity at the Battle of Hohenlinden.
1805 was the next notable year of Drouot's military career. During the summer he was promoted to chef de bataillon and he traveled to Toulon to join the French fleet. As an expert of gunnery, he served aboard Indomptable during the Battle of Trafalgar. Once back in France, he was made an inspector of the manufacture of weapons.
By this time Drouot had gained a reputation and was admired as an honest man, known for always carrying a bible and his exemplary discipline. Every morning he would shave with whatever was at hand, often just using cold water and a mirror he hung on an artillery gun's wheel.1 He was also known for wearing his old artillery uniform into battle, based on the superstitious fact that he he had never been wounded while wearing it.2
In February of 1808 Drouot was placed in charge of the artillery park in the Army of Spain. Later that year he was named a major in the Imperial Guard and he became the director of the Guard's artillery park. The following year Drouot served during the Danube campaign against Austria and either his superstition did not hold up or he wasn't wearing his old uniform for he was wounded by a shot to the right foot at Wagram . From then on he walked with a limp, but his service and conduct were appreciated and within a few days he was promoted to colonel within the Guard. The next year he was rewarded again when he was made a Baron of the Empire.
Colonel Drouot took part in the Russian campaign of 1812, distinguishing himself at Borodino. Once back in Germany in early 1813, he was promoted to général de brigade and he became an aide-de-camp to Napoleon. In May Drouot took command of the Artillery of the Guard, leading them at Weissenfels, Lützen, and Bautzen. At Lützen in particular, he followed the artillery tactics pioneered by Senarmont at Friedland, bringing his guns quickly to the front to fire at the enemy at a very close range. That September Drouot was promoted to général de division and then the next month he fought at Leipzig . During the French retreat from Leipzig, when the Bavarians led by Wrede tried to stop the French army at Hanau, Drouot's artillery played a decisive part in forcing the Bavarians out of the way.
Throughout the defense of France in 1814 General Drouot continued to lead the Guard Artillery, fighting at La Rothière, Vauchamps , Craonne, and Laon. Towards the end of March he was named a Count of the Empire. After Napoleon's abdication and exile to Elba, Drouot chose to follow Napoleon into exile and he became governor of Elba. Upon learning of Napoleon's plans to return to France, he disapproved but chose to stay with his commander and returned to France alongside Napoleon in March of 1815. Napoleon placed Drouot back in charge of the Artillery of the Imperial Guard and Drouot led the Imperial Guard during the campaign in June. At the Battle of Waterloo, Drouot recommended that the start of the battle be delayed to allow the ground to dry so the artillery could be moved into a better position.
After Napoleon's second abdication, Drouot was stripped of his command and proscribed. Refusing to flee, he returned to Paris and turned himself in to the new government. Charged with high treason, a trial acquitted him but he chose not to work for the Bourbons, instead retiring and refusing a pension until after Napoleon's death.3
- John R. Elting, Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armée, (USA: Da Capo Press, 1997), 199.
- Philip J. Haythornthwaite, Who Was Who in the Napoleonic Wars, (London: Arms & Armour, 1998), 101.
- Elting, Swords Around a Throne, 667.
- 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 March 2023
© Nathan D. Jensen