General Antoine DrouotCommander of the Artillery of the Imperial Guard
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
General Drouot 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 cold water and using 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.
The son of a baker, Drouot studied at Nancy before being accepted as a sous-lieutenant in the artillery school at Châlons in early 1793. With barely six months of school, he was sent as a lieutenant to an artillery regiment in the Army of North, and within a few months got his first taste of action at Hondschoote. Over the next few years he served with the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, serving at Fleurus and receiving a promotion to captain. In 1797 he served in the Army of the Rhine, and the next few years were spent with the Army of Naples, notably serving at La Trébie. In 1800 he joined General Eblé's staff in the Army of the Rhine, and later that year served in that capacity at Hohenlinden.
1805 was the next notable year of Drouot's military career. During the summer, he was promoted to chef de bataillon and traveled to Toulon to join the French fleet. As an expert of gunnery, he served aboard the Indomptable during the Battle of Trafalgar. Once back in France, he was made an inspector of the manufacture of weapons.
In February of 1808 Drouot was placed in charge of the artillery park in the Army of Spain. Later that year he was promoted to major in the Imperial Guard and became the director of the Guard's artillery park. The following year he served during the Danube campaign 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 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 became an aide-de-camp to Napoleon. In May, he 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. In September, he was promoted to général de division and then the next month fought at Leipzig . During the French retreat from Leipzig, when the traitorous 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 1814 General Drouot continued to lead the Guard Artillery, fighting at La Rothière, Vauchamps , Craonne, and Laon. With Napoleon's abdication and exile to Elba, Drouot chose to follow Napoleon into exile and became Governor of Elba. Upon learning of Napoleon's planned escape from Elba, he disapproved but chose to stay with his commander and returned to France alongside Napoleon. Napoleon placed him back in charge of the Artillery of the Imperial Guard, which he commanded during the campaigning of the Hundred Days. At Waterloo, he 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 the Emperor'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.2
- John R. Elting, Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armée, (USA: Da Capo Press, 1997), 199.
- Ibid., 667.
Updated prior to 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen