Boulart, Jean-François (1776–1842) was a Guard artillery officer who played the flute and made all of the major campaigns of the Grande Armée. Boulart graduated from the Châlons artillery school in 1793 and was assigned to the 2nd and then the 3rd Régiment d’Artillerie à Pied at Strasbourg. He served with the Rhine armies from 1793–8 and was promoted to captain in June 1796. He was assigned to the Armies of Rome and Italy from 1798–1800. He was promoted to Captain-Commandant in the 5th Régiment d’Artillerie à Pied in September 1803 and was a chef de bataillon in July 1806. That September he was made a chef d’escadrons in the 3rd Regiment d’Artillerie à Cheval and the two artillery companies he commanded were attached to the Imperial Guard horse artillery for the Jena campaign.
He served at Jena and in January 1807 he was attached to General Oudinot’s elite division. In March he was taken into the Guard horse artillery as a chef d’escadrons and served at Friedland. He next served in Spain and was taken into the newly forming Regiment d’Artillerie à Pied of the Imperial Guard as a chef de bataillon. He served at both Essling and Wagram and in July 1809 he was promoted to major in the Imperial Guard. He served in Russia, in Saxony in 1813, and through the campaign of 1814. After the first abdication he was appointed as the commandant of his old artillery school at Strasbourg in February 1815, but joined Napoleon upon his return from Elba and served with Rapp in eastern France in 1815.
He left an important memoir, and there is a delightful story from Chef de Bataillon Boulart after the Battle of Essling. One of his gun companies had been engaged with the Austrians and had suffered moderate to heavy losses of both men and horses, but all six of his guns, along with the other company of six pieces, were brought back to Lobau during the withdrawal. It was reported to him that one of the pieces had to have the vent lining replaced, which was an arsenal job, and he sent one of his officers with the piece to the Vienna arsenal for repair. He was told by Napoleon that he would inspect Boulart’s command and was informed by the Emperor that he expected Boulart that he not only have all twelve field pieces present, but in good repair, have his ammunition replenished, and be ready to go into action. Because he had to send the damaged piece to the arsenal, he was going to be short of one gun. He went to General Songis, told him of his problem, and asked to have one of the captured Austrian 12-pounders to temporarily replace the damaged piece. Songis loaned him one, and when Boulart saw the Emperor just before he was to be inspected and explained what he had done. the Emperor was pleased and told Boulart he wouldn’t be inspected.
This gives some insight into how Napoleon motivated those who worked for him as well as the initiative and ingenuity of the officers who were in the Grande Armee.