Imperial Aides-de-Camp and Officiers d’Ordonnance
The Imperial Aides-de-Camp were hand-picked general officers, each a ‘specialist’ in his branch of the service, who were assigned to Napoleon’s personal staff which was part of the Maison. Napoleon trained these officers in his own ‘school of war.’ They were capable of commanding ‘forces of all arms’ from a small task force to a corps and independent commands. They were proven soldiers and the entire army respected them. They did not always serve with the Emperor and were sometimes detached on different missions and sometimes on minor diplomatic missions.
They spoke in the Emperor’s name and had the authority even with marshals to hold inspection of their commands and then report to the Emperor. Commanders in isolated commands far from the Emperor’s eye trusted them to take factual accounts of their operations and problems to the Emperor. They gave the Emperor their loyalty and long service, but these men were not ‘carpet knights’ but combat soldiers and their relationship with Napoleon was one of personal respect. They told the Emperor the truth and were trusted by him and Napoleon counted them as friends. He listened to their advice openly and ‘without rancor’ though he did not always take it. They were among the best soldiers and commanders in the Grande Armee.
Each of these general officers had their own aides-de-camp, known as the ‘little aides-de-camp who were sometimes ‘borrowed’ by Napoleon for his use when necessary.
The following is a sample of those general officers that served as Imperial aides-de-camp:
Jean-Leonard Lemarois(1776-1836) Lemarois was a product of the Ecole de Mars, a substandard ‘military school’ born of the Revolution. He had prior service in an artillery company in the National Guard as a lieutenant in May 1793 and commanded a detachment of artillery in August of that year. He was a student at the Ecole de Mars in July 1794 and later had staff duty in 1794 and 1795. He was promoted to captain in October 1795. From November 1795 to 1814, he was an aide-de-camp to Napoleon. He served at Lodi and Arcola and was badly wounded at Roveredo in September 1796. He was sent to Paris with captured enemy standards and was promoted the chef de bataillong in December 1796 and then to chef d’escadrons in January 1797. He did not go to Egypt with Napoleon because he was recovering from his wounds and rejoined Napoleon when he returned from Egypt. He served in the Marengo campaign and was promoted to chef de brigade in January 1800 before he campaign began. In August 1803 he was promoted to general of brigade and served at Austerlitz, and in Prussia and Poland in 1806-1807. He was promoted to general of division in December1805. He was wounded again at Jena and then served in various staff assignments and was awarded the Legion of Honor as a Grand Officer in August 1808. He disapproved of the invasion of Russia, but served faithfully through 1814. Lemarois’ specialty was logistics and he was noted as an officer that could ‘make bricks without straw’ and sometimes without mud. He was an expert organizer.
Bertrand, Henri-Gatien (1773-1844) The engineer expert among Napoleon’s Imperial Aides-de-Camp, Bertrand entered military service in the National Guard in 1792 but was a student sous-lieutenant at the artillery school at Mézières in 1793. He served in the Armee of the Pyrenees in 1794-1795 being promoted to captain in March 1795 and was with the Armee du Nord the same year.
He was attached to the ambassador to Constantinople in 1796 but transferred to the Armee d’Italie the next year. He was part of the Armée d’Orient and was the engineer officer in Bon’s infantry division. He was promoted to chef de bataillon by Napoleon in August 1798. Promoted to general of brigade in September 1800 and was the Director of Fortifications at Alexandria from March to August 1801. After returning from Egypt he became the Commandant of Engineers at St. Omer in 1803 and the next year he was appointed the Inspector General of Engineers as well as an Imperial Aide-de-Camp, being the engineer expert among those generals chosen by Napoleon to serve in that capacity. He served in the campaigns of 1805-1807 and directed the siege of Danzig in May 1807. He served at Friedland the next month and went to Spain with Napoleon in 1808.
In 1809 he was the engineer chief of the Army of Germany in the war against Austria and was Governor General in Dalmatia from 1811-1812, succeeding Marmont. He commanded the IV Corps in 1813 and was named as the Grand Marshal of the Palace after Duroc’s tragic death in action that year. He served through 1814 and in Belgium in 1815.
Responsible for bridging the Danube in the second Danube crossing in July 1809, which was a major engineering effort. After Waterloo he accompanied Napoleon to St Helena.
Antoine Drouot (1774-1847) was a product of the Metz artillery school and has been described by one historian as a ‘simple, honest, awkward gunner.’ Graduating from Metz in 1793 he was assigned to the 1st Foot Artillery Regiment. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1794 and was assigned to the Armee de Sambre et Meuse from 1794-1796.. Promoted to captain in 1796 he served both on the Rhine and in Italy from 1797-1799 and was assigned to Eble’s staff in 1800-1801. He commanded the 14th Company of the 1st Foot Artillery from 1803-1804 and was present afloat at Trafalgar in 1805. Promoted to chef de bataillon that year, he was serving on the Grande Armee’s staff while being the inspector for arms manufacture at Mauberge.
Promoted to major in the 3d Foot Artillery in 1807 and was the arms inspector for Charleville the same year. Sent to Spain in 1808, he was later picked by Napoleon that year to form the Artillerie a Pied of the Imperial Guard, leading it into Austria the next year and distinguishing himself at Wagram fighting under Lauriston. Wounded at Wagram, he was promoted to colonel in July 1809 and made a Baron of the Empire.
Drouot served in Russia, led the artillery attack at Lutzen in 1813 that destroyed the allied center, paving the way for the Guard’s decisive assault. Expertly handling his guns at Hanau late in 1813, he destroyed the cavalry sent to attack him and supported the Guard infantry assaults that won the day. He accompanied Napoleon to Elba in 1814, being made the governor of the island.
Drouot was with Nord in Belgium in 1815, and was court-martialed by order of Louis XVIII after Waterloo. Acquitted, he refused a pension from the Bourbons until years after Napoleon’s death. He wished to accompany Napoleon to Elba, but was refused by the Bourbons. He was both religious and highly intelligent, being dubbed the ‘Sage of the Grande Armee.’ He read his Bible every day. ‘He disapproved always of the Emperor, but remained faithful.’
Jacques Alexandre Bernard Law Lauriston (1768-1828) was another of the distinguished general officers that formed Napoleon’s personal staff of Aides-de-Camp. An artilleryman who began his military career in military school in 1784, he was a captain by 1791 and a colonel of artillery four years later.
He became on of Napoleon’s ADCs in 1800, played a prominent part in the buildup for the Marengo campaign and was promoted to general of division in 1805. Successfully defended Ragusa in 1806 and was Ambassador to Russia in 1811. A corps commander at Leipzig, he was captured after the Lindenau bridge was blown prematurely. After 1814 he remained loyal to the Bourbons
In 1809 at the battle of Wagram, he commanded the large 102-gun battery that supported Macdonald’s attack and covered Massena’s change of front.
Anne Jean Marie Rene Savary (1774-1833) was another of Desaix’s aides-de-camp that Napoleon ‘adopted’ after Desaix’s death. A captain in 1793, he was a general of brigade ten years later and a skilled commander of light cavalry. Additionally, he was unusually skilled in intelligence work, thereby being willing to do Napoleon’s dirty work, and his relationship with Napoleon was one of honest and blunt advice, as well as loyal service. Promoted to general of division in 1805, he was involved in the Enghien affair and in the arrest of the Spanish Royal family in 1807.
He replaced Fouche as Minister of Police in 1810 and greatly expanded the ministry, making both more efficient and had nothing to do with any of the type of intrigues and treasonous conduct Fouche had been involved in.
Savary was also one of the Imperial Aides-de-camp, and as such conducting much of the negotiating with the allies prior to Austerlitz, being allowed by them to come and go without escort through their camps and lines. In 1807 in Poland he took over command of Lannes’ V Corps when that marshal became too ill to remain at his post and defeated and destroyed the Russian forces that opposed him.
Savary had unusual skill in intelligence work which was why he was appointed as Minister of Police to replace the feckless Fouche. He was also an expert light cavalry officer who was no stranger to command at high levels, witness his excellent performance in Poland in 1806-1807 when he temporarily commanded the V Corps.
Georges Mouton (1770-1835) was an expert tactician who volunteered for duty in 1791 and became an aide-de-camp to Joubert in 1798. He was with Massena and the Army of Italy at Genoa in 1800. He became an Imperial Aide-de-Camp in 1805 and was promoted to general of division in 1807. He distinguished himself in leading the assault across the Landshut bridge under heavy fire in 1809, prompting Napoleon to quip ‘My sheep is a lion’ (‘Mon Mouton est un lion’).
At Essling in May 1809 he and Rapp led an assault of Young Guard infantry that was delivered with such shock and violence that they defeated Rosenberg’s Austrian corps and driving it from the village.
Considered one of the best tacticians in the Grande Armee, he commanded the small VI Corps in 1815, keeping the Prussians off Napoleon’s right flank until the odds became too long.
Jean Rapp (1771-1821), an Alsatian by birth, and known as ‘the Intrepid’ by the troops, enlisted in the Chasseurs des Cevennes in 1788 and was promoted to brigadier-fourrier in 1791. Two years later he was a marechal des logis and was commissioned by 1794. He became an aide-de-camp to Desaix in 1796 and was promoted to chef d’escadron in 1798 and chef de brigade the next year. His service up to this time was with the Rhine armies and when Desaix was assigned to the Armee d’Orient, Rapp accompanied him to Egypt.
After Desaix was killed in action at Marengo in June 1800, Rapp was ‘adopted’ as an aide-de-camp by Napoleon. His service under the Consulate and Empire was distinguished. He organized the Mamelukes of the Guard in 1801 and was promoted General of Brigade in 1802. By 1805 he was an Imperial Aide-de-Camp and Colonel en second of the Grenadiers a Cheval of the Guard. He led the last charge of Guard cavalry at Austerlitz that defeated the Russian Chevalier Garde and captured its commander and its horse artillery.
Many times wounded, and referred to by his comrades as a ‘piece of old lace’ Rapp’s commands and assignments were many and varied. He commanded Davout’s advance guard in 1806 for a time and made all the major campaigns of the Grande Armee. Assigned to command the city of Danzig after the disastrous Russian campaign, he conducted a successful defense until British naval rockets destroyed his supply warehouses and he was forced to capitulate. Rallying to Napoleon in 1815, he commanded on the Alsatian frontier, successfully conducting delaying actions against Schwarzenberg. Rapp always spoke his mind to Napoleon, whether or not the Emperor was inclined to listen. Stubborn and loyal, and a born combat leader, he was one of the trusted inner circle that always told Napoleon the truth.
Considered a friend by Napoleon, his relations with him were ‘blunt, frank, and loyal.’ Rapp opposed the divorce from Josephine and the Russian campaign, and his relationship with Napoleon did not suffer from his opinions.
The officiers d’ordonnance were a type of junior ADC. They fulfilled for Napoleon the traditional role of ADCs and there were always twelve of them, though all might not be present at any one time. Their usual duties were as ‘extensions of Napoleon’s eyes and ears’ and they collected information, carried dispatches and orders and conducted inspections for the Emperor when necessary. They were mostly junior officers from the combat arms, and there was at least one Polish officer among them. Some in the early days were actually civilians. They were assigned to the Maison Civile and were under Caulaincourt’s supervision and were immediately responsible to him, but one of their number, Gourgaud, was eventually promoted to general officer rank and was their senior officer.