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Davout, Louis Nicolas, Duke of Auerstadt, Prince of Eckmuhl (1770-1823).

"The Iron Marshal," "The Just." French Marshal of the Empire. Principal wars: French Revolutionary (1792-1799) and Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815). Principal battles: Neerwinden (near Liege) (1793); the Pyramids (1798); Aboukir I (Abu Qir) (1799); Mariazell, Austerlitz (Slavkov) (1805); Auerstadt (near Weimar), Golymin (1806); Eylau (Bagrationovsk) (1807); Eckmuhl (Eggmuhl), Ratisbon (Regensburg), Wagram (1809); Smolensk, Borodino, Maloyaroslavetz (near Kaluga), Krasnoye (Smolensk region), Berezina River (1812); and Hamburg (1814).

Born May 10, 1770, at Annoux in Burgundy, the son of Jean Francois Davout, an officer of the Royal Champagne Cavalry; entered the Brienne Military School (September 29, 1785); commissioned a sublieutenant in his father's regiment (1788); although a noble, he opposed the monarchy and was arrested after leading a mob against his unit's depot (1790); released, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the 3d Battalion, Yonne Volunteers (1791), which he led at Neerwinden (March 18, 1793); forced to resign by the Assembly's decree against ex-nobles in the field (August), he was restored to service (October 1794) and commanded a cavalry brigade in the Army of the Rhine (1795-1797); captured at Mannheim (September 20, 1795), he was exchanged; commanded a cavalry brigade in the Army of the Orient in Egypt and fought at the Pyramids (July 21, 1798) and Aboukir (July 25, 1799); captured by the Royal Navy en route to France (1800) but released within a month; general of division (July 3) and given command of the cavalry in the Army of Italy; inspector general of cavalry (July 1801) and commander of the grenadiers of the Consular Guard; commander in chief of the training camp at Bruges (1803); marshal (May 19, 1804) and colonel general of the Imperial Guard; commanded the III Corps in the 1805 campaign and fought at Mariazell (November 8) and Austerlitz (December 2), where he won great distinction for his resolute conduct of the defensive battle on the right wing; in the Prussian campaign (1806) he won a brilliant victory at Auerstadt (October 14) against the superior forces of the Duke of Brunswick; after Auerstadt his III Corps was considered the elite corps of the army; he fought at Golymin (December 26) and played a major role at Eylau (February 7-8, 1807), where he was wounded; after the Treaty of Tilsit (Sovetsk, Kaliningrad) (July 7-9) he was appointed governor-general of the Duchy of Warsaw and was created Duke of Auerstadt (March 1808); during the Austrian campaign (1809) he again commanded the III Corps, which added to its reputation at Eckmuhl (April 22), Ratisbon (April 23), and Wagram (July 5-6); for his part in these victories he was created Prince of Eckmuhl (August 15); appointed governor of the Hanseatic Towns and given command of the forces on the Rhine (1810); commanded the I Corps of Observation of the Elbe (1811), which he led during the invasion of Russia (1812); fought at Mogilev (July 23), Smolensk (August 17-19), and Borodino (September 7), where he was again wounded; after Maloyaroslavetz (October 24-25), commanded the rearguard (October 26-November 3) and fought at Vyaz'ma (November 3) before turning over the command to Ney; after the action at Krasnoye (November 17) he rejoined the main army and fought at the Berezina River (November 27-29); during the campaign in Germany (1813) he occupied Hamburg and held it until ordered by Louis XVIII to surrender (May 30, 1813-May 10, 1814); he retired to his estates during the Restoration but returned to service during the Hundred Days; Minister for War (March 20-July 8, 1815) and commander in chief of Paris (June 21-July 8) until forced to evacuate the city and retire to the Loire River; stripped of his peerage and exiled to Louviers under guard during the Second Restoration (1815-August 1817); restored to the peerage (March 1819) and died in Paris of tuberculosis on June 1, 1823.

Davout was a cold, severe, methodical, and efficient commander and administrator; he was an excellent strategist and superb tactician; although a harsh disciplinarian, he took excellent care of his troops and was respected by them; perhaps the ablest of Napoleon's generals, he was never defeated and remained loyal to Napoleon. <BL>
Sources:
Chenier, L. de, Histoire de la vie politique, militaire et
     administrative du marechal Davout, duc d'Auerstaedt, prince d'Eckmuhl.
     Paris, 1866.
Gallaher, John G., The Iron Marshal: A Biography of Louis N. Davout.
     Carbondale, Ill., 1976.
Meeks, Edward, ed., Napoleon and the Marshals of the Empire. Reprint
     (2 vols. in one), Philadelphia, 1885.
Reichel, D., Davout et l'art de la guerre. Paris, 1975.
Vigier, Le Comte Davout: marechal de l'Empire. 2 vols. Paris,
     1898.


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Author:Hawkins, Vincent B.
Publication:The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:754
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