Record of Dupont’s Military Service: Information taken from Georges Six's Dictionnaire...
Pierre Comte Dupon de l’Etaing (1765-1840) was a distinguished French general officer who ended up being officially disgraced and imprisoned for his failed campaign in southern Spain in 1807-1808.
He began his military service as a sous-lieutenant in the Legion de Mallebois from 1784-1787 in the service of Holland. He became an artillery lieutenant in the service of Holland from 1787-1790. In July 1791 he was nominated by French General Rochambeau as a sous-lieutenant in the 12th Infantry Regiment, and was confirmed in that grade in September 1791.
He became an aide-de-camp (ADC) to General Theobald Dillon in October 1791 and was a captain in the 24th Infantry Regiment in January 1792. The following April he was wounded by a pistol shot while defending his commander during a mutiny. He was an ADC to General Arthur Dillon in May 1792 and the following month he was made a chevalier of St Louis, which made him a ci-devant noble.
Nominated a provisional adjutant general lieutenant colonel by General Dumouriez in September 1797 and confirmed in that grade in March 1793. Served at the defense of Islettes and was made chief of staff for the troops stationed in Belgium. Nominated as a provisional adjutant general chef de brigade in August 1793 and served at the captured of Tourcoing and Werwicq, in August and September 1793, respectively.
He was confirmed as a general of brigade in October 1795 and as a general of division in May 1797. He was appointed to be the Director of the Depot de la Guerre in September 1797.
He was appointed as General Berthier’s chief of staff in April 1800 and served in the Marengo campaign, distinguishing himself in the operations against Fort Bard. After the French victory of Marengo, he negotiated the Convention of Alessandria with the Austrians in June 1800.
He served under Brune in various billets in the Armee d’Italie from June to December 1800, and was the victor over 45,000 Austrians with only 15,000 French at Pozzolo on 25 December. In March 1802 he was assigned as the Commandant of the 2d Military District at Mezieres and became the commander of the 1st Division at the Camp of Compiegne under Ney in August 1803.
Subsequently, that December he was the commander of the 1st Division at the Camp of Montreuil. In August 1805, Dupont’s command became the 1st Infantry Division of the newly-named VI Corps of the Grande Armee.
Dupont served as an infantry division commander in the campaigns of 1805-1807, first being assigned to the VI Corps under Ney and then the I Corps under first Bernadotte and then Victor. He distinguished himself at Haslach during the Ulm campaign, Durrenstein under Marshal Mortier, and again at Friedland in June 1807 supporting Senarmont’s artillery attack against the Russian center and defeating the Russian Guard infantry in the same action.
After Tilsit he was assigned as the French Commandant in Berlin in September 1807, and had been awarded the Grande Eagle of the Legion of Honor in July.
In November of 1807 he was assigned as the commander of the 2d Corps d’Observation de la Gironde, an independent command for the first French invasion of Spain. Moving into Spain, he was at Vittoria on 26 December 1807, Valladolid on 12 January 1808, Aranjuez on 11 April, Toledo on 24 April, and Andujar on 2 June. He was the victor of the action at the bridge d’Alcola on 7 June and then entered Cordova on 7 June which he allowed his troops to sack.
On 16 June he evacuated Cordova and left for Andujar. Napoleon made him a Count of the Empire on 4 July.
He was wounded during the action and defeated by Spanish General Castanos at Baylen on 19 July and capitulated, surrendering his entire command on 22 July.
He and his senior commanders embarked for France at Cadiz on Le Saint-Georges on 5 September, abandoning his troops to Spanish captivity. He arrived at Toulon on 21 September and was arrested by imperial order that day. He was transferred to Paris on 15 November. On 1 March 1812 he was destituted and confined at the Fort de Joux, later being transferred to the citadel of Doullens. On 26 January 1814 he was at Dreux under police surveillance.
After Napoleon’s first abdication, he was rehabilitated by the Bourbons, first being Minister of War, replacing General Clarke, from 30 April to 13 May 1814 for the provisional government and then being confirmed by the Bourbons as Minister of War from 13 May to 4 December 1814.
On 11 March he was assigned to the command of Marshal St Cyr but after Napoleon’s return form Elba he was again destituted on 3 April 1815. After Waterloo and Napoleon’s second abdication he served the Bourbons in various assignments until they were thrown out in the Revolution of 1830.
‘There was not in the empire a general of division whose reputation stood higher than Dupont's. The opinion of the army, in unison with the favorable disposition of the sovereign, awarded to him the highest military rank; and when he set out for Andalusia, no one doubted that he would find his marshal’s baton at Cadiz. In the battle of Pozzolo on 25 December 1800, when he was under the command of Brune, he changed into a principal attack the secondary operation with which he was entrusted; and the obstinacy which he displayed against the enemy, after the general-in-chief had sent him orders to retreat, gained for Dupont the fame of a daring general. This fame he sustained and increased in the German campaigns. Yet, among those who most closely observed him, there were some who did not allow that he possessed strong determination and the inspiration of the moment; but all agreed in acknowledging his splendid courage and distinguished talents.’-Maximilian Foy, History of the War in the Peninsula, 336
‘Dupont on the other hand was a young man, who had first won a name by his brilliant courage at the combat of [Durrenstein] in the Austrian war of 1805. Since then he had distinguished himself at Friedland: he was on the way to rapid promotion, and, if his expedition to Andalusia had succeeded, might have counted on a duchy and a marshal’s baton as a reward. Napoleon knew him as a brave and loyal subordinate, but had never before given him an independent command. He could hardly guess that, when left to his own inspirations, such a brilliant officer would turn out to be dilatory, wanting in initiative, and wholly destitute of moral courage. It is impossible to judge with infallible accuracy how a good lieutenant will behave, when first the load of responsibility is laid upon his shoulders.’-Charles Oman, A History of the Peninsular War, Volume I, 127.
‘Dupont on the other hand was a young man, who had first won a name by his brilliant courage at the combat of Dirnstein in the Austrian war of 1805. Since then he had distinguished himself at Friedland: he was on the way to rapid promotion, and, if his expedition to Andalusia had succeeded, might have counted on a duchy and a marshal’s baton as a reward. Napoleon knew him as a brave and loyal subordinate, but had never before given him an independent command. He could hardly guess that, when left to his own inspirations, such a brilliant officer would turn out to be dilatory, wanting in initiative, and wholly destitute of moral courage.’-127.
‘It is clear that Dupont’s misfortunes were of his own creation. He ought never to have lingered at Andujar till July was far spent, but should either have massed his three divisions and fallen upon Castanos, or have retired to a safe defensive position at Baylen or La Carolina and have waited to be attacked. He might have united something over 20,000 men, and could have defied every effort of the 35,000 Spaniards to drive him back over the Sierra Morena. By dividing his army into fractions and persisting in holding Andujar, he brought ruin upon himself. But the precise form in which the ruin came about was due less to Dupont than to Vedel.’-202-203.-From Volume I, A History of the Peninsular War by Charles Oman.
Dupont allowed his troops to loot and ruin Cordova, and insisted on taking the officers baggage and their loot in a 500-wagon train with him which he should have abandoned. Dupont did not enforce discipline among his young troops and quite literally shoved his head in a sack.
And the machinations of the surrender to the Spanish, and his failure to allow Vedel to escape, and who already, to all intents and purposes had, compounded his tactical and strategic errors. He also disobeyed orders from Savary added to the crime he committed. Dupont could have massed his troops, abandoned the two-and-a-half mile vehicle convoy, and fought his way out. Instead, slightly wounded, he just gave up and condemned his troops to neglect and abuse by the Spaniards. Only about ten percent of those condemned to Cabrera survived.
‘Dupont’s operations during 19 June-23 July 1808 are an outstanding ‘horrible’ example for any commander faced by a popular insurrection.’-Vincent Esposito and John Elting, A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars, Map 85.
Timeline of the Baylen Campaign:
22 November 1807:
-The II Corps of Observation of the Gironde, commanded by General of Division Pierre Dupont, enters Spain.
-Between 6 February and 18 March 1808 the French seize the French seized the Spanish frontier fortresses.
14 March 1808:
-Murat marches on Madrid with the corps of Dupont and Moncey.
23 March 1808:
-Murat enters Madrid.
22 April 1808:
-The first signs of Spanish ‘unrest’ brought on by the publication of Charles IV’s letter protesting his abdication. The circulation of the letter by the Spanish Junta, or their ‘agents’ brought on a riot by the Madrid populace.
23 April 1808:
-One of the Spaniards at Bayonne escaped to Spain and communicated a message from Ferdinand that explained Napoleon’s plans for Spain.
29 April 1808:
-The message is delivered to the Spanish Junta, along with Spanish judges and other magnates of Madrid.
30 April 1808:
-The message is spread among the populace of Madrid.
1 May 1808:
-Murat orders that the remaining members of the Spanish royal family be arrested and detained.
2 May 1808:
-A mob forms in Madrid and riots. Riot is bloodily suppressed and captured rioters are executed by firing squad by Murat’s order.
3 May 1808:
-Murat rescinds the execution order. The rest of Spain is in an uneasy calm after the outbreak and reprisals in Madrid.
Between 20 May and 5 June 1808:
-The national revolt begins across Spain against the French. Murat falls seriously ill.
24 May 1808:
-Dupont leaves Toledo for Cadiz.
7 June 1808:
-Dupont routs a Spanish army at Alcolea and then storms and pillages Cordova.
16-19 June 1808:
-Dupont learns that his communications with Madrid have been cut, he retires to Andujar.
14 June 1808:
-Savary arrives in Madrid with new plans of operations from Napoleon.
29 June 1808:
-Murat turns over command to Savary and leaves Spain. Savary orders Frere to Madridejos and Vedel southward to extricate Dupont.
19 July 1808:
-Savary orders Dupont to withdraw north of the Sierra Morena.
20 July 1808:
-Joseph reaches Madrid and countermands Savary’s orders to Dupont, and directs Gobert to join Dupont.
5: Dupont occupies Andujar. He receives reliable intelligence that the Spanish have risen against the French invasion.
7: Dupont routs a Spanish army at Alcoela; pillages Cordova. Dupont discovers that he is cut off from his base.
14: Savary arrives in Madrid with new instructions from Napoleon. Murat is ill. Realizing that Dupont is isolated Savary orders Frere’s division to Madridejos and dispatches Vedel’s division south to extricate Dupont.
16: Dupont leaves Cordoba with a convoy attached to his corps of 500 wagons loaded with plunder from Cordoba. He has left no detachments to preserve his line of communications.
16-19: Dupont learns that his communications with Madrid are cut and that the French fleet at Cadiz was forced to surrender. He retires to Andujar.
19: Dupont occupies Andujar and remained there until 18 July. During that period of inactivity the situation in Spain changes for the worst.
27: Vedel, marching south reaches La Carolina and is in contact with Dupont. Dupont orders Vedel’s division to Baylen leaving the passes to their rear unguarded.
29: Murat leaves Madrid leaving Savary in command.
2-3: Dupont sends one of Vedel’s brigades to Jaen to attack the local levies. Jaen is taken and sacked, and the brigade returned to Baylen.
3-17: -Savary dispatches Gobert’s division to reinforce Dupont. Savary tells Dupont that Gobert is to be employed on the northern side Sierra Morena to cover Dupont’s withdrawal should that be necessary.
-Dupont ignores Savary’s instructions and orders Gobert to join Vedel.
-Dupont adopts a cordo-style defense that gives him a fifteen mile front: too much for his corps to cover even with the reinforcements of Vedel and Gobert.
-By 7 July Dupont has positioned his units at Andujar (9,000-10,000 under Dupont); Baylen (4,000 under Vedel); Mengibar Ferry (2,000 under Liger-Belair); La Carolina (3,150 under Gobert). Instead of concentrating all of his available units and retaining the initiative, Dupont settles on a widely-scattered defense.
11-The Spanish commanders decide to attach Dupont.
13: The Spanish commanders begin their operations against Dupont.
14: -Reding begins to attack the Mengibar Ferry forcing Liger-Belair’s pickets to retire.
-Alarmed at this demonstration, Dupont orders Gobert’s division to Baylen to link up with Vedel.
15: -Castanos appears in front of Andujar to make a demonstration.
-Coupigny appears at the ford at Villa Nueva and engages a French detachment from Andujar sent to hold the ford.
-Reding crosses the Guadalquivir River at Mengibar and attacks Liger-Belair. Vedel comes to Liger-Belair with his division and Reding retires.
16: -Dupont orders Vedel to send him reinforcements at Andujar, at most a brigade, but Vedel instead marches with his entire division, leaving Liger-Belair to defend the ford alone.
-Reding crosses the river and again attacks Liger-Belair, who sends for reinforcements. Gobert brings his division in support, but is mortally wounded in the fighting and the French, outnumbered two to one, retire to La Carolina on the 17th.
-Dupont hears of Gobert’s defeat and instead of concentrating his corps, he divides it into two halves: one at Andujar, the other at Baylen.
17: -Vedel marches for Baylen.
-Vedel stops halfway between Baylen and La Carolina at Guarroman to rest his troops during the night of the 17th. Dupont discovers that Baylen had been evacuated and that Vedel had moved to the northeast, thirty miles away from Dupont and the main body. Dupont does nothing.
18: -Vedel joins Liger-Belair’s detachment and Gobert’s former division, now under Dufour in and around La Carolina. Baylen is left unoccupied. Vedel decides to wait 12 hours before rejoining Dupont.
-Reding, joined by Cupigny, attacked Baylen but find it unoccupied.
-Dupont, after wasting fourteen hours sitting at Andujar decides to move to Baylen late on the 18th. He did not know that Reding and Cupigny had occupied Baylen and he insisted on taking the 500 wagons loaded with loot with him, which not only impeded his movements but would eventually block the road to the rear of the column, the wagons being in the middle of the march column.
19: -Dupont fails to defeat the Spanish to his front and is wounded in the fighting. Dupont fails to concentrate his troops in order to force his way through the defending Spanish but is again hampered by the huge baggage train. Spanish under Cruz-Murgeon attack the rear of Dupont’s column. Dupont is trapped. Dupont requests an armistice.
-At or about 1700 Vedel approaches Baylen from La Carolina. Vedel attacks, but is sent a message from Dupont ordering Vedel to cease fire because of the armistice. Vedel obeys and withdraws two miles up the road towards La Carolina.
-Dupont informs an ADC of Vedel that he must prepare to withdraw as Dupont’s troops can no longer offer determined resistance.
20: -Dupont decides on surrender. There is haggling over terms between the French and Spanish commanders and their representatives. The capitulation guarantees that the French would be allowed to be transported back to France by sea, but this is later not agreed to by the British. Dupont and his division commanders were allowed to return to France, abandoning their troops to the prison hulks and to confinement on Cabrera Island in the Balearics. Only about ten percent survive.
-Dupont sends secret orders to Vedel to get out and retreat to Madrid. Vedel departs on the night of the 20th-21st.
-Dupont discovers that his representatives have included Vedel in the capitulation.
-The Spanish discover that Vedel has escaped, and inform Dupont that if Vedel is not ordered to surrender, hostilities were begin immediately and no quarter will be given to the French. Dupont agrees and orders Vedel to return and surrender.
-Vedel returns and surrenders despite the objections of his subordinates as he was out of the reach of the Spanish.
23: -Dupont surrenders to the Spanish.
24: Vedel surrenders his command to the Spanish. Dupont and his division commanders are destituted and imprisoned upon their return to France, abandoning their troops, most of whom die of starvation and neglect by their Spanish captors.
It certainly appears that both Oman and Col Elting are correct in their assessments of Dupont's performance at Baylen. Dupont failed to concentrate his units to fight the Spanish; kept the 500 wagons with him instead of abandoning them (he shouldn't have had them in the first place); he clearly demonstrated a definite lack of moral and physical courage in ordering Vedel to surrender and Vedel a lack of leadership and moral courage in obeying an order of a former commander 'in the power of the enemy.' Seems to me the punishment meted out to Dupont and his senior commanders was merited.