General Claude Petit
Born: June 14, 1763
Place of Birth: Paray-le-Monial, Saône-et-Loire, France
Died: June 3, 1809
Cause of Death: Killed in action
Place of Death: Presbourg, Austria
Enlisting in the infantry regiment of Auvergne in 1781, Claude Petit was sent to Martinique shortly thereafter. In 1785 he was named a sergeant instructor and in 1789 he was dismissed from the army. Petit didn't waste time and he joined the National Guard where he served as an instructor. In July of 1792 he joined the 3rd Battalion of Volunteers of Saône-et-Loire and the following month he was elected lieutenant colonel of his battalion. Sent to serve in the Army of the Rhine, Petit saw action in December of 1793 at the recovery of the lines of Wissembourg. He continued to serve in the Army of the Rhine for the next few years and in June of 1796 he took part in the crossing of the Rhine. A few months later he was taken prisoner near Kempten.
Petit was finally released from captivity in December of 1797 and he returned to his unit only to be sent to the Ionian Islands in 1798. In October of 1798 he fought at Butrinto where he was wounded in the right thigh by chain-shot. Within two weeks Petit received a promotion to chef de brigade. In 1799 he returned to France where he was employed at Lyon and then in 1801 and 1802 he was employed in Portugal.
Petit next returned to France where he was promoted to général de brigade and sent to the camp of Bruges to serve as part of Bisson's 1st Infantry Division. In 1804 he was recognized as a Commander of the Legion of Honor. As the Grande Armée prepared to deal with the Austrian threat in 1805, Petit was named commander of the 1st Brigade of Gudin's 3rd Division of Marshal Davout's III Corps. He served throughout the campaign against Austria and Russia that year, and then in 1806 he took part in the campaign against Prussia and was wounded at Auerstadt. Continuing to serve on campaign, Petit also fought at Czarnowo in December.
In 1808 Petit was assigned to the Army of Germany where he continued to serve under General Gudin. The next year he was named a Baron of the Empire and a Knight of the Order of Saint Henry of Saxony. After Austria attacked in April, Petit took part in the Danube campaign, serving at Tengen in April. That June he was leading his men in an attack on the bridge of Presbourg when he was killed.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
- Names on the Arc de Triomphe: Petit
- The Petit on the Arc de Triomphe
- Petit's divisional commander Gudin
- Petit's corps commander Davout
Updated December 2015
© Nathan D. Jensen