Dominique Vandamme

French General
1770 -1830

Dominique VandammeDominique Vandamme was a brave, formidable fighter whose career was marred by greed, looting and his bad temper.

He had a varied early career with the French army and served in the West Indies before returning to Europe and fighting in Holland and Belgium.

By late 1793 he was a brigadier-general with General Moreau and fought at Tourcoing, but within two years had been suspended for looting.

Forgiven, he was made a general of division in 1799, fought at Stockach.

An argument with Moreau led to him being charged over financial irregularities - which were later dismissed - and he went back to service in Holland.

Vandamme's next major campaign saw him one of the heroes of Austerlitz where he recaptured the Pratzen Heights from General Miloradovich. Attacked by General Kutusov's guard infantry, Vandamme and his men held their ground but were placed in peril by Marshal Bernadotte's failure to support him.

The situation was saved by the intervention of Marshal Bessieres at the head of the guard cavalry.

Again falling out with his commanding officer - this time Marshal Soult - the rough, fighting general spent periods on the staff and with Marshal Ney.

In 1809, he fought at Abensberg, Landshut, Eckmuhl and was wounded in the shoulder at Wagram, where he led the VIII Corps.

When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia in 1812, Vandamme was given command of the II and VIII Corps under Jerome Bonaparte, but the two quickly fell out and he was sacked.

In 1813, he joined Marshal Davout in the defence of Hamburg and fought at Kulm, where he was unlucky to be captured.

While a prisoner, Vandamme was accused of looting by Tsar Alexander. The general countered with: "At least I have never been accused of killing my father."

After the fall of Bonaparte, Vandamme was exiled by the returning Bourbons but rejoined his emperor and led III Corps for the 100 Days' Campaign.

Under the command of Marshal Grouchy, Vandamme and General Gerard both argued strongly - albeit unsuccessfully - for the right wing of the army to march and join Bonaparte on the field of Waterloo.

Following the French defeat, Vandamme was placed in charge of the French rearguard, but his performance was well below his usual high standards.

With the Bourbons now back in power, Vandamme was exiled again and spent three years in America. Upon his reconciliation with the Royalists he returned to France in 1819 and was given back his rank and privileges, but remained unemployed.

In 1830 he died of throat cancer.

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