General Augustin de LespinasseCommander of artillery during Napoleon's first Italian campaign
Born: October 8, 1737
Place of Birth: Pouilly-sur-Loire, Nièvre, France
Legion of Honor: Grand Officer
Imperial Nobility: Count
Died: November 23, 1816
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: LESPINASSE on the west pillar
The son of a lawyer, Augustin de Lespinasse joined the army as a musketeer in 1759. After serving in Germany as a lieutenant from 1761 to 1762, he was appointed to the artillery in 1763. In 1768 Lespinasse was ordered to compose a treatise on the theory of trigonometry and levelling which was published that year. The next year he was promoted to capitaine and sent to Corsica where he remained for a number of years. In 1788 Lespinasse received a promotion to chef de brigade and he was made a Knight of Saint Louis.
Before the Revolution got underway, Lespinasse was ordered to established a central depot of artillery at Charité-sur-Loire, but this plan was abandoned with the arrival of the Revolution. In 1791 he was named lieutenant colonel in the 5th Artillery and in 1793 he became the chef de brigade of the 2nd Foot Artillery. Sent to Bayonne, Lespinasse built up the arsenal there and then became deputy commander of the artillery of the Army of the Western Pyrenees. He fought at Croix-des-Bouquets that June and then continued to serve until he was relieved of command by the committee of public safety in January of 1794. However he was quickly brought back into action and he repulsed the Spanish at the attack on the camp of Sans-Culottes. A promotion to général de brigade followed, but he was not confirmed in the rank, and he was again relieved, though he did not leave his position.
In the summer of 1794 Lespinasse crossed the Bidassoa while under fire from the enemy, then he went on to save the artillery park of Irun and seize Fontarabie. Continuing to fight, he served at Tolosa, Roncevaux, and Altobiscar before retiring in March of 1795.
Spending time in Paris, Lespinasse was promoted to général de brigade by the Directory and sent to the Army of Italy to command that army's artillery in May of 1796. That June he directed the siege of the citadel of Milan, and then in August he fought at Castiglione . Lespinasse continued to see action, fighting at Roveredo and Saint-Georges in September and then Caldiero and Arcola in November. After participating in the siege of Mantua, he also fought at Rivoli and afterwards was promoted to général de division. Lespinasse went on to serve at the crossing of the Tagliamento in March.
In 1798 General Lespinasse briefly commanded the artillery of the Army of Rome before switching to a political career. The next year he became a senator, and in 1804 he became the senator for Pau and Dijon. Rewards followed and Lespinasse was made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1804 and a Count of the Empire in 1808.
Lespinasse agreed with the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, and the restored Bourbons named him a Peer of France. In 1815 when Napoleon retook power for the Hundred Days, he did not employ Lespinasse. Afterwards, Lespinasse voted for death at the trial of Marshal Ney, but later expressed much regret about that decision.
Updated February 2015
© Nathan D. Jensen