General Antoine Rigau
Born: May 14, 1758
Place of Birth: Agen, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Died: September 4, 1820
Place of Death: New Orleans, United States
Arc de Triomphe: RIGAU on the north pillar
Likely a career soldier, Antoine Rigau appears to have served in the infantry regiment of Sarre beginning in 1779 but his name does not appear in the regimental records. After the Revolution had arrived, in 1792 he served as a capitaine in a free company before joining the 10th Hussars. Rigau served in the Army of the North and he fought at Jemappes in November of 1792 where he was wounded by a sabre blow. The next day he fought at Mons where he was again wounded by a sabre blow and also wounded by a shot to the thigh. In 1793 Rigau was promoted to chef d'escadrons in the 10th Hussars, and in 1794 he was allegedly offered a promotion to général de brigade but he refused it. That May he fought at Roulers where he was hit in the jaw by a shot that wounded him so badly that he could no longer speak without assistance.
Nevertheless, Rigau continued to serve and in August of 1796 he received a promotion to chef de brigade. In 1798 he served in the 24th military division and then in 1799 he was sent to Italy. That year he served at the affairs of Stura and Pignerol and then in the year 1800 he joined the Army of the Reserve. Taking part in the campaign in Italy, Rigau served at Marengo in June. Afterwards, he provisionally took command of the 8th Dragoons and then in December he fought at Pozzolo under Davout.
Returning to France in 1801, Rigau was placed in charge of the 16th Cavalry and garrisoned at Châlons-sur-Marne. In 1803 his command became the 25th Dragoons and was placed with the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean. When war broke out in 1805, Rigau's unit joined Bourcier's 4th Dragoon Division in the Cavalry Reserve and he served on the campaign in Austria throughout that year. At the end of the year he was named a Commander of the Legion of Honor. In 1806 Rigau joined Sahuc's division and then in November he served with Beker's division. During the following January he was promoted to général de brigade and then in February he fought at Ostrolenka where his arm was hit by a ball. That May Rigau was employed at Marienburg and then Berlin.
In late 1807 General Rigau was given command of a brigade of heavy cavalry that would enter Spain in 1808. However, in May of 1808 he was replaced in his command and he returned from Spain. In 1809 Rigau was named commander of the cavalry depot of Pau and a Baron of the Empire before he was employed in the 26th military division. The following year he took command of the département of Sarre where he remained for the next few years.
In August of 1813 General Rigau was ordered to take reinforcements to Mainz. That October he evacuated Cassel and then fell back on Dusseldorf. Rigau next took part in the defense of France of 1814, serving in Roussel d'Hurbal's division in Champagne. In March he fought at Arcis-sur-Aube before the war ended in April with Napoleon's abdication.
The restored Bourbons named Rigau a Knight of Saint Louis and commander of the département of Marne. However, in 1815 when Lefebvre-Desnouettes was on the run for trying to build support for Napoleon, Rigau sheltered him and assisted him in avoiding capture. As soon as Napoleon's return had made some progress, Rigau declared his support for Napoleon at Châlons-sur-Marne. Rigau took command of the 12th Ligne and 5th Hussars and brought them over to Napoleon's side despite Marshal Victor's best efforts. Next he retook command of the département of Marne and ordered the arrest of Marshal Victor who escaped to Ghent.
During the Hundred Days, Rigau continued to command the Marne département from Châlons-sur-Marne. With only 150 men he tried to hold the city against the Russians but on July 2nd he was driven out and taken prisoner. The Russians transported Rigau out of France and then the restored Bourbons proscribed him. Rigau refused to acknowledge the court summons, and he was therefore condemned to die by a council of war in 1816. He briefly took refuge in Ghent before traveling to America. After arriving in America, Rigau traveled to the Champ d'Asile in Texas that had been organized by Lallemand for veterans from France. When the colony failed, Rigau moved to New Orleans for the remainder of his life.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated February 2015
© Nathan D. Jensen