Prince of Eckmuhl
Duke of Auerstadt
commander, Louis Davout's military and administrative skills matched
his aristocratic origins, the young Davout eagerly supported the
French revolution and was the officer who ordered his men to fire
upon the defecting General Dumouriez.
of brigade at 23, Davout spent his early years stationed near the
German states and took part in the actions at Mannheim, Kehl and
Haslach. He was captured, but exchanged, a move that the Prussians
would later rue.
of Louis Desaix, Davout became
known to Bonaparte and joined the expedition to Egypt.
fought at the Pyramids, Aboukir
and upon while returning to France following the abortive campaign
was again captured - this time by the Royal Navy - but was repatriated
after a month.
to general of division, Davout took charge of the cavalry arm of
the Army of Italy.
youngest of the soldiers promoted to the
Marshalate in 1804, Davout took over III Corps and through discipline
and training turned it into the finest force in the French army.
Austerlitz, he was the anvil
upon which Bonaparte pulverised the Russians and Austrians, but
it was in 1806 at Auerstadt that
he showed his true brilliance.
single corps of around 26,000 battled the main Prussian army of
at least 50,000 men to a standstill and then on to sweep them from
the field in one of the greatest military displays in history.
for Davout, his triumph took place on the same day as Bonaparte's
victory at Jena (against a smaller
Prussian force) and so the result was played down.
commanded well at Eylau and took
part in the battles of Eckmuhl,
Ratisbon, and Wagram.
the Russian campaign of 1812 Davout
was his usual brilliant self, beating General Bagration at Mohilev
and taking part at Smolensk.
tactician he angered Bonaparte by continually pushing for a flanking
attack against the heavily entrenched Russians at Borodino
and the enormous cost of the emperor failing to heed his advice
proved him right.
was again ignored when suggesting a different route of retreat for
what turned out to be the disastrous withdrawal from Moscow and,
if heeded, his advice of moving through better foraging countryside
may have saved much of the French army.
fought at Maloyaroslavets and
then took command of the rearguard and had further clashes with
the Russians at Kolotskoi and Viasma.
mindful of the welfare of his elite force of men and never popular
with many of his fellow marshals, Davout's rearguard strategy was
undermined by them and soon branded as being too slow by Bonaparte.
was replaced by Ney and then was blamed
for that marshal's force being cut off.
the task of holding Hamburg against the advancing allies, Davout
put up a model defence and held out for more than a year. He only
relinquished command of the city in 1814 when ordered to by the
restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII.
Bonaparte's return he became Minister of War but was left behind
in Paris, presumably to guard against treachery, when the French
army began the 100 Days' Campaign.
Bonaparte had Davout with him then the results at Quatre
Bras and Waterloo could have
been very different.
such a brilliant military man, Davout was very near-sighted. He
was harsh, difficult to get on with and had no patience with those
who tried to take easy ways out.
got on with few of fellow marshals but, in typical fashion, was
more interested with defeating France's enemies than pandering to
courtiers and politicians.