General Charles-Etienne Gudin de la SablonnièreTalented général de division who served under Marshal Davout and was mortally wounded at Valutina
Born: February 13, 1768
Place of Birth: Montargis, Loiret, France
Legion of Honor: Grand Eagle
Imperial Nobility: Count
Died: August 22, 1812
Cause of Death: Mortally wounded
Place of Death: Valutina, Russia
Arc de Triomphe: GUDIN on the east pillar
A noble and son of an officer, Charles-Etienne Gudin was one of the young officers who did not flee the country as the Revolution got underway. After studying at the military school of Brienne, he became a member of the King's Guard in 1782, and a few years later he was appointed a sous-lieutenant in the infantry regiment of Artois. In 1791 he was promoted to lieutenant, and that January he set sail for Saint-Domingue to take part in putting down the revolt there.
After returning to France in July of 1792, Gudin would in due time become an aide-de-camp to his uncle, General Etienne Gudin. With aide-de-camp experience under his belt, he was then assigned as an aide to General Ferrand who commanded the Army of the Ardennes. In December of 1793, Gudin received a promotion to chef de bataillon, and then in the coming months he joined the staff of the Army of the North. By June of 1795, he was a chef de brigade and was serving in the the Army of Rhine and the Moselle.
April of 1796 saw Gudin joining Duhesme's division, and then in July he seized the town of Wolfach. After being appointed as chief of staff to Gouvion St. Cyr, he served a brief interlude as the chief of staff to the garrison at Kehl before returning to Gouvion St. Cyr's staff. Various positions followed, with Gudin being designated for the Army of England, then the Army of Mainz, promoted to général de brigade, commanding a brigade in the Army of the Danube, and then a division in the Army of Switzerland.
The latter half of 1799 was a busy time for Gudin. Commanding a brigade of Lecourbe's division, he seized the pass at Grimsel in August, and then rejoined Lecourbe to assist in the fighting at l'Oberalp. The next month Suvorov's attacks drove Gudin out of Airolo and Saint-Gothard, but Gudin was able to retake the lost ground in the coming weeks. After transferring to Loison's division temporarily, he became chief of staff to Lecourbe's corps on the right in the Army of the Rhine and took part in the battle around Philipsbourg.
The next May, Gudin fought at Stein, Stockach, Messkirch, and Memmingen, all in one week. As Vandamme was ordered to return to France, Gudin assumed command of his division under Lecourbe. With this division he served in the crossing of the Lech and then fought at Hochstaedt and Neubourg. That July he received a promotion to général de division, and later he seized Fuessen. With the campaigning of December of 1800, he led his division in the passage of the Inn River and fought at Salzbourg.
Administrative positions followed during the years of peace, and in August of 1803 Gudin commanded the 10th military division at Toulouse. The next year he was sent to the camp at Bruges to take command of Davout's 3rd Infantry Division in what was to eventually become the legendary III Corps. When war broke out in 1805, he led his division throughout the campaign, but they were too far away to arrive at Austerlitz in time to take part in that battle.
The next year Gudin led his division during the Prussian campaign and he was wounded during the fierce fighting at Auerstadt. In the pursuit that followed, Gudin seized Custrin on the 1st of November and entered Warsaw three weeks later. After fighting at Nasielsk in December, he went on to take part in the Battle of Eylau in February. Rewards followed for his excellent service, he was created a Count of the Empire and a Commander of the Order of Saint-Henri of Saxony, and he served briefly as the governor of Fontainebleau.
Back in action with Marshal Davout's corps in the Army of Germany in 1809, Gudin led his division into battle that April at Thann, Abensberg, Eckmuhl, Ratisbon, and Wittenau. Unable to take part in the fighting at Aspern-Essling due to the bridge being broken, at the end of June his division seized the area around the isles within the Danube where the army was to cross again. During the fighting at Wagram , Gudin was hit by shots four times, and the next month he received the honor of a Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor.
With the Grande Armée's campaign against Russia in 1812, General Gudin again took command of his division, and led it in the attack on Smolensk . At the Battle of Valutina, he was leading a brigade of Gérard's division when he was struck by a cannonball that smashed both of his legs, and he subsequently died within a few days.
Updated August 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen