Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle
an army of colourful characters one man stood apart - General Comte
Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle.
only was he brave and a brilliant cavalryman, Lasalle was also a
famed hellraiser and thought that any hussar who wasn't dead by
the age of 30 was a "blackguard".
many adventures included sneaking deep into Austrian territory to
spend the night with a noblewoman and capturing Stettin, a heavily
fortified city, and its garrison with fewer than 1000 cavalrymen.
came from a noble family and joined the army as an officer, although
the French Revolution saw him dismissed.
He rejoined as an enlisted man and was quickly elected to sergeant.
campaigned in Belgium and, through family friendship with the later
Marshal Kellermann, became his
aide. Flourishing with the challenges of staff work, the young soldier
stayed with Kellermann when he transferred to Italy in 1796.
early on, Lasalle was exchanged and took up a love affair with a
marquise in Vicenza. This led to an incident in which he led a party
of troopers to his lover's house - deep within Austrian lines -
and upon discovery escaped by bluffing and fighting his way out.
incident brought Lasalle to Napoleon
Bonaparte's attention the morning after when he rode a captured
Austrian horse on parade.
skill leading cavalry won him more promotions and his reputation
was enhanced when at Rivoli he charged
an Austrian brigade with only 26 men and routed it.
then took up a dangerous affair with Josephine Berthier, the sister-in-law
of Marshal Berthier. Whatever
potential damage that did to his career paled when considered on
a personal level - as he later married her and is reported to have
remained passionately devoted to his wife.
was handsome, only 5 foot 8 inches tall, and throughout his career
had a succession of flambouyant moustaches. He was a superb horseman
and once rode into a ball where he made his mount dance.
Egypt he regularly battled and
bested the famed mameluke horsemen - in one encounter bravely dismounting
to pick up his fallen sabre - and played a major part in General
Desaix's subjugation of Upper Egypt.
the one to create an impression - either good or bad - Lasalle adopted
mameluke breeches as part of his uniform.
hellraising ways brought him notoriety, but didn't stop his brilliance
handling light cavalry from shining and by 1805 he was a general
star was high during the 1806 campaign
for Prussia where his hussars became known as the Infernal Brigade.
He was one of the officers taken in by General
Blucher's ruse to extricate his army after Auerstadt
- a fortunate lapse in that he was massively outnumbered and could
not have stopped the Prussians for long
recovered, however, and while harrying Blucher stopped at Stettin
- a city boasting 5000 defenders and almost 300 cannon - and managed
to threaten it into submission with only 800 troopers at his back.
followed battles that included Golymin, Eylau
of Lasalle's major faults was his willingness to repay brutality
in kind and it was said of him he "made Spain tremble".
In 1807, Lasalle joined the expedition to Spain
and was responsible for the torching of Torquemada, a village that
resisted his troops.
afterwards he smashed Spain's General
Cuesta at Cabezon.
Medina del Rio Seco, Lasalle's cavalry
routed the divided Spanish armies under General
Blake and Cuesta and he played a part in the French victory
of the few French generals to leave the Spanish Ulcer with a good
military reputation, Lasalle joined the Grande Armee for its 1809
Campaign along the Danube. He arrived just prior to Napoleon's
push across the Danube at Aspern-Essling
and was sent to probe for the whereabouts of the Austrian army.
Lasalle's men fought along the good defensive ground running between
the two villages - charging the Austrians to prevent them launching
a coordinated attack and his determination and courage contributed
to the French being able to successfully withdraw.
next assignment was at Raab with Eugene
Beauharnais and then followed the massive clash at Wagram.
was killed on the second day of that battle when he was shot between
the eyes while charging retreating Austrian infantry.
his boorish, empty-headed behaviour as a hellraiser, Lasalle was
an intelligent man who suprised many with his private character
and wit. When he died France lost its best light cavalry commander.