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Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon

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Title: Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon  
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Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon

Jean-Baptiste Drouet
Born (1765-07-29)29 July 1765
Died 25 January 1844(1844-01-25) (aged 78)
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French army
Years of service 1782-1843
Rank Marshal of France

French Revolutionary Wars

War of the Third Coalition

War of the Fourth Coalition

War of the Fifth Coalition

Peninsular War

War of the Seventh Coalition

Awards Officer of the Legion of Honour

Jean-Baptiste Drouet, comte d'Erlon (1765–1844) was a marshal of France and a soldier in Napoleon's Army. D'Erlon notably commanded the I Corps of the Armée du Nord at the battle of Waterloo.


  • Early life 1
  • The Revolutionary Wars 2
  • The Napoleonic Wars 3
  • The Hundred Days 4
  • Post-Napoleonic Service 5

Early life

D'Erlon was born in Reims on 29 July 1765.[1] His father and grandfather were carpenters, and he trained to be a locksmith.

The Revolutionary Wars

D'Erlon entered the army as a private soldier in 1782, was discharged after five years’ service and re-entered it in 1792.[1] In 1792 he served as a corporal in the pre-revolutionary army, being elected to captain the following year.

From 1794 to 1796 he was aide-de-camp to General Lefebvre. In 1799 he was promoted to brigadier general, and fought under André Masséna in Switzerland.[1] The same year he distinguished himself at the Second Battle of Zurich.

He continued his service in many battles of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, including Hohenlinden in 1800 (in which he was wounded),[1] the Hanover region (earning him promotion to Major General in 1803).

The Napoleonic Wars

As a general of division he took part in Napoleon’s campaigns of 1805 and 1806.[1] At the Austerlitz in 1805,[1] his division played a pivotal role, and he rendered excellent service Jena in 1806.

In 1807, as chief of staff for Lefebvre at the siege of Danzig (now Gdańsk), he negotiated the terms of surrender. The same year he was wounded in the foot at Friedland.[1] After this battle he was made grand officer of the Legion of Honour, was created Count d’Erlon and received a pension.[1]

Following the conclusion of the 1809 Danubian campaign, D'Erlon was sent as Chief of Staff to Marshal Lefebvre. Lefebvre was in command of the VII (Bavarian) Corps in action in the Tyrolean Rebellion against the pro-Austrian insurgency led by the innkeeper Andreas Hofer. After the failure of the allied second offensive to retake the Tyrol, Lefebvre was relieved of his command by Napoleon because of his poor performance and terrible relationship with the Bavarians. D'Erlon was given command, and in by the end of November he had pacified the region, and in the process formed a strong bond with his Bavarian subordinates.

For the next six years d’Erlon was almost continuously engaged as commander of an army corps in the Peninsular War, in which he added greatly to his reputation as a capable general. He arrived in the Peninsular as commander of the IX Corps,[2] and at the pass of Maya in the Pyrenees defeated the British General Hill. In the subsequent battles of the 1814 campaign he distinguished himself further.[1]

After Napoleon abdicated in 1814 d'Erlon transferred his allegiance to the House of Bourbon along with the rest of the army and was given command of the 16th military division, but he was soon arrested for conspiring with the Orléans party, to which he was secretly devoted. He escaped and joined Napoleon, who had returned from exile on the island of Elba.[1]

The Hundred Days

Napoleon made him a peer of France, and gave him command of the I Corps, which formed part of the Army of the North. On 16 June 1815 during the first major engagements of Waterloo Campaign, due to conflicting orders his Corps spent the day on the Nivelles-Namur road marching and counter marching between the battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny without engaging in either battle. He was not, however, held to account by Napoleon, and as the latter’s practice in such matters was severe to the verge of injustice, it may be presumed that the failure was not due to d’Erlon.[1]If the I Corps had engaged in either battle the outcome of the campaign might have been different.[3]

Two days later at the Battle of Waterloo it was his Corps in Column formation which attacked the Allied centre near La Haye Sainte at 13:30 and was stopped by Picton's Peninsular War veterans, and then attacked in the flanks by the British heavy cavalry.[4] He retreated with the rest of the French army and fought in the closing operations around Paris.[1] After the surrender of Napoleon, d'Erlon entered exile in Munich.

Post-Napoleonic Service

In 1825 he was granted amnesty by Charles X.[1] In the July Revolution in 1830 he supported the Juilletistes, and was given the Great Order of the Legion of honour by Louis-Philippe on 19 November 1831. In 1832 was given the command of the 12th Division in Nantes. Later in the year his division suppressed a Vendean revolt and arrested the Duchess of Berry.[1]

In 1834 d'Erlon was named governor-general of Algeria.[1] After the defeat of the French army under General Trezel at the Battle of Macta in 1835,[5] D'Erlon

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