General Pierre-Charles PouzetDrill instructor who trained Lannes, Subervie, and Banel and was killed at Aspern-Essling
Born: July 11, 1766
Place of Birth: Poitiers, Vienne, France
Died: May 22, 1809
Cause of Death: Killed in action
Place of Death: Aspern-Essling, Austria
Pouzet began his military career by enlisting in the regiment of Champagne in 1782. Ten years later he was promoted to sergeant-major and after a brief stint with the Army of the Alps, was assigned to the 1st Batallion of Grenadiers of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees as a drill instructor. In this position, he met, became friends with, and trained many of the volunteers of Gers, including Lannes, Banel, and Subervie.1 Lannes would later attribute his first promotion to Pouzet's excellent teaching, and was forever grateful, with the two remaining friends until their deaths.
Fighting with the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees, Sergeant-Major Pouzet was wounded twice that year, first by a shot to the right leg and the siege of the fort of Saint-Elme, and then by a bayonet to the right arm at Villelongue. In December of 1793 he was promoted to captain and became Banel's aide-de-camp when Banel became a general. In 1795 Pouzet was promoted to chef de bataillon, and from 1796 to 1800 he served with the Army of Italy. At the end of the year 1800, he took command of a battalion of chasseurs à pied of the Consular Guard.
In 1803 Pouzet was promoted to colonel, and the next year rewarded by being made an Officer of the Legion of Honor. Assigned to the 10th Light in Saint-Hilaire's division, he took part in the 1805 campaign before playing a notable part in the Battle of Austerlitz. As Saint-Hilaire's division seized the plateau, they were temporarily isolated and came under fierce attack from the Allies determined to destroy them. After twenty minutes of withstanding a brutal assault, the Allies withdrew momentarily to reform and attack. In that moment, General Saint-Hilaire told his commanders, "This is becoming intolerable, and I propose, gentlemen, that we take up a position to the rear which we can defend." Before anyone had a chance to respond, Pouzet cut in, "Withdraw us, my general... If we take a step back, we are lost. We have only one means of leaving here with honor, it is to put our heads down and attack all in front of us and, above all, not give our enemy time to count our numbers."2 With Pouzet's determined words, the French held their ground in this key position to the battlefield. Somewhere in the midst of this fighting, Pouzet was wounded by grapeshot to the left thigh.
Colonel Pouzet continued to serve with the Grande Armée, fighting at Jena and Eylau and being badly bruised at both battles. A few days after Eylau, he received a promotion to général de brigade. In October of 1808 he was sent to Spain where he took command of the 2nd Brigade of Sebastiani's division. Instead of taking that position, he temporarily became chief of staff to his old friend Marshal Lannes and served at Tudela, then returned to his command in December.
In 1809 Pouzet was transferred to the Army of Germany, taking command of the 1st Brigade of Saint-Hilaire's division. At the Battle of Aspern-Essling , General Pouzet and Marshal Lannes were discussing options when a cannonball flew straight into Pouzet, killing him instantly and almost cutting him in half. Disturbed by seeing his friend killed directly in front of him, and covered in his friend's blood, Lannes walked away from Pouzet's corpse and towards his own death, as he was mortally wounded minutes later.3
- Margaret Chrisawn, The Emperor's Friend: Marshal Jean Lannes, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001), 2.
- Ian Castle, Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Eagles of Europe, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2005), 181.
- Chrisawn, Emperor's Friend, 234-235.
Updated June 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen