General Jean-Joseph-Ange d'HautpoulHeavy cavalry general who was mortally wounded at Eylau
Born: May 13, 1754
Place of Birth: Cahuzac-sur-Vère, Tarn, France
Legion of Honor: Grand Eagle
Died: February 14, 1807
Cause of Death: Mortally wounded
Place of Death: Vornen, Prussia
Arc de Triomphe: D'HAUTPOUL on the east pillar
Known as a talented cavalry commander, Jean-Joseph-Ange d'Hautpoul was born into an old noble family and volunteered to join the dragoons in the Dauphine's legion in 1771. Six years later he was commissioned as a sous-lieutenant in the Languedoc dragoons. Once the Revolution was underway, in 1792 he received a promotion to captain and then a few months later to lieutenant colonel. In 1793 he served at the relief of Maubeuge, and then in 1794 at Cambrai. It was here that d'Hautpoul was arrested due to his noble birth, but his soldiers adored him so much that they threatened mutiny, and the representatives of the government wisely backed off.1 Afterwards he was promoted to chef de brigade on March 21st, and then two weeks later to général de brigade. That May he was with the Army of the Ardennes in the advance guard, and in June fought at Fleurus . In September of 1795, now with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse, he fought at Blankenberg where he distinguished himself.
The summer of 1796 saw General d'Hautpoul fighting at Altenkirchen in June where he was wounded by a ball to the left shoulder. Richepanse took over his command due to his wound, but when Richepanse himself was wounded that August, d'Hautpoul resumed his command. In October he received a promotion to général de division. In 1797 d'Hautpoul became commander of the heavy cavalry of the Army of the Sambre and Meuse and served at the crossing of the Rhine in April. Originally designated for the Army of England in 1798, he instead took command of the 7th Cavalry Division of the Army of Mainz.
In 1799 d'Hautpoul joined the Army of the Danube and fought at Ostrach and Stockach in March. At the end of April he was relieved of command due to a complaint from Jourdan that he had disobeyed and missed a charge at Stockach. A council of war was formed to investigate these allegations. The council of war acquitted him, and he joined the cavalry of the Army of the Rhine. In April of 1800 d'Hautpoul was assigned to the Reserve Corps, and distinguished himself at Engen and Biberach in May. That December he took part in the Battle of Hohenlinden.
Next d'Hautpoul became inspector general of cavalry in 1801, and in 1803 went to the camp of Compieègne. Later that year he took command of the camp of Saint-Omer. When war broke out in 1805, he was given command of the 2nd Cuirassier Division in Marshal Murat's Cavalry Reserve. Leading his men into action, he charged the Russian center at the Battle of Austerlitz that December. In 1806 d'Hautpoul was rewarded with a Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor and appointed as a senator. When the war with Prussia began that October, he returned to the army and fought at Jena and Lubeck.
A few months later, on February 6, 1807, during the skirmish at Hoff Hautpoul rode his cuirassiers to the rescue of Murat's light cavalry. Successfully driving off the Russians, he returned to the Emperor with his armor dented and covered in blood. As he dismounted, Napoleon came up to him and embraced him in thanks for his successful charge. Honored and embarrassed by Napoleon's gesture, Hautpoul told him, "Sire, for showing me so great an honor, I must die for your majesty."2
Sadly, two days later he participated in the great charges of Eylau but was wounded in the right thigh. As d'Hautpoul was carried away from the battle, both Doctors Larrey and Percy examined him. Larrey suggested an amputation, while Percy suggested the leg could be saved. Hoping for the best, d'Hautpoul agreed with Percy, but died within a few days from the wound.3
- John R. Elting, Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armée, (USA: Da Capo Press, 1997), 38.
- Robert Richardson, Larrey: Surgeon to Napoleon's Imperial Guard, (London: Quiller Press, 2000), 111.
- Ibid., 114.
Updated prior to 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen