General Sébastien VialaGénéral de brigade who as colonel of the 85th of the Line was thought killed at Auerstadt
Born: March 11, 1763
Place of Birth: Rodez, Aveyron, France
Died: February 11, 1849
Place of Death: Rodez, France
Arc de Triomphe: VIALA on the east pillar
An infantry soldier, Sébastien Viala first enlisted in 1781 in the regiment of Vermandois. After serving in Corsica for a few years, he eventually left the military in October of 1789. In 1792 Viala returned to service, joining a company of volunteers at Rodez as a capitaine. That July he was elected lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Battalion of Volunteers of Aveyron. Viala did not waste time seeing action, in 1793 he served at Puget-Théniers, Isola, Sainte-Etienne, and the Siege of Toulon . In 1794 he became a chef de bataillon and fought at Saorgio.
In 1796 Viala was with the Army of Italy and in April he fought at Ceva, Saint-Michel, and Mondovi . That November he joined Joubert's division and then in January he fought at the Battle of Rivoli . Afterwards he served at Trente and then was designated for the Army of the Orient. Traveling to Egypt with the army, Viala was placed under Reynier's command. He fought at Gozzo, Alexandria, Chebreiss, the Battle of the Pyramids , and El Hanka in 1798. In 1799 he served at the Siege of Acre and afterwards was promoted by General Bonaparte to chef de brigade of the 85th of the Line. Remaining in Egypt, in 1800 he fought at Heliopolis, Belbeis, and then Cairo before fighting in 1801 at the Battle of Canope where he was wounded by a shot to the head.
At the end of 1801 Colonel Viala finally returned to France and served in the garrison of Sarrelouis. In 1803 Viala went to the camp of Bruges where his unit, the 85th of the Line, became part of General Gudin's 3rd Division. Recognized as an Officer of the Legion of Honor, Viala went on to take part in the campaign of 1805. During the campaign of 1806 against Prussia, Colonel Viala continued to command the 85th of the Line as part of Gudin's division. He fought at Auerstadt where he was badly wounded by a shot to the right side and left for dead on the battlefield. He was not found alive until after the battle and Napoleon's 5th Bulletin incorrectly listed Viala as having been killed at Auerstadt.1 After being found and rescued, Viala was promoted to général de brigade a little over a week later.
Viala's wounds were serious enough to limit his activities, and in 1807 he returned to duty in an administrative position in the 9th military division. In 1808 he commanded the département of Hautes-Pyrénées and then he was sent to Spain to serve in the staff. The next year he left Spain for reasons of health and was instead sent to command the Invalides at Louvain. Later Viala was recognized as a Knight of the Empire and retired, and he eventually became the mayor of Rodez.
- J. David Markham, Imperial Glory: The Bulletins of Napoleon's Grande Armée 1805-1814, (London: Greenhill Books, 2003), 83.
Updated July 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen