Dominique Joseph Vandamme

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Dominique Joseph Vandamme

Dominique Joseph Vandamme , also Dominique-Joseph-René Van Damme, Count of Unebourg (also: Unsebourg, Ursbourg) (born  November 5, 1770 in Cassel , Département Nord , † May 15, 1830 ibid) was a French general in the Napoleonic Wars . He was considered extraordinarily brave and fearless, and a good commander. His harsh manners and lack of adaptability made him a difficult subordinate and colleague. Although Napoleon was very devoted, he publicly complained that others were appointed marshals in his place. Vandamme commanded German troops several times during the Napoleonic Wars.


Vandamme served first as a common soldier, then as a sergeant in a colonial regiment in Martinique , when the French Revolution broke out he deserted and returned to France. In 1792 he founded a well-known free group under the name of Chasseurs du Mont-Cassel , as the leader of which he distinguished himself thanks to his organizational talent. He quickly rose to the top of Paris society, where he was known for his elegant uniforms. 1793 Vandamme distinguished himself in his homeland on September 8th at the Battle of Hondschoote , when he was given the leadership of the avant-garde of the Armée du Nord .

Uses as general until the empire

He was then promoted to Général de brigade on September 27, 1793 at the age of 22 and continued to serve in the Northern Army in Belgium . In May 1794 he contributed significantly to the successful outcome of the Battle of Tourcoing with a brigade of the Moreau division led by him , when he delayed the first attack of the Allies considerably despite considerable inferiority. In April 1795 Vandamme was relieved and ordered to Paris to answer to the welfare committee for alleged looting.

After briefly returning to his homeland at the end of the year, he was assigned to the Rhine Army led by Moreau and in 1796 commanded a column of the 7th Division ( Guillaume Philibert Duhesme ) in the Corps Saint-Cyr and distinguished himself when crossing the Rhine at Kehl and when crossing the Lech and the victorious battle near Friedberg . However, because of the overall situation, Moreau had to cancel his advance to Bavaria and retreat to the Rhine again. Vandamme, promoted
to Général de division in February 1799 , was given command of an association on the left wing of the newly formed Danube Army commanded by Jourdan ( Armée du Danube ), which was to advance along the
Danube against Austria after the failure of the Rastatt Congress . Vandamme and his association had cleared up the situation in Württemberg and returned in good time to temporarily grapple with the right wing of the Austrians in the battle of Stockach in cooperation with the Saint-Cyr division. In mid-May, Vandamme gave up his command to defend himself in Paris against allegations that he had extorted money from Württemberg people and tolerated misconduct by his soldiers. In the autumn the general was sent to the Netherlands to take over a French division, which, together with two Dutch divisions under the command of the future Marshal Brune, was supposed to fend off a Russian-British landing corps . Due to the victorious battle near Bergen and further successful battles near Alkmaar and Castricum , the attackers were forced to surrender on October 18 and to retreat by November 19, 1799. After these successes and a short home leave, Vandamme returned to the Rhine Army, which was again led by Moreau. As commander of a division of the Lecourbe corps, which was mostly used as the right wing, participated in the enforcement of the capitulation of Hohentwiel , the first skirmishes near Stockach and Meßkirch (May 3rd and 5th, 1800) and the battle near Memmingen (also Höchstadt , 19th century). June) - Vandamme had to go to Paris again to clarify questions about the use of funds. Shortly without command, he then received the command of the vanguard of the newly formed army in Graubünden ( Armée des Grisons ) on the Upper Rhine, led by the later Marshal MacDonald , with which he crossed the Splügen in winter on the way to Turin . After the peace agreement, he was given command of the 16th military division in Lille by the First Consul .

Uses in the German Empire

When Napoleon formed the Armée des côtes de l'Océan for a planned landing in England in 1804 , Vandamme, meanwhile a member and then a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor , became commander of the 2nd division in the camp of Saint-Omer. When the Napoleon decided to attack Austria, it became the 2nd Division of the IV Army Corps of Marshal Soult . Vandammes Verband formed the vanguard of the Grande Armée on the advance through southern Germany and was the first to enter the battle with the Austrians when it crossed the Danube at Donauwörth on October 6, 1805 . The Soult corps first marched further east, while the following units included the Austrian army in Ulm. The corps was only passively involved in the battle of Ulm , as it marched back to Memmingen to prevent the Austrian Danube Army from breaking out to the south, which did not plan or attempt to do so.
In the decisive battle of the campaign on December 2, 1805, the Battle of the Three Emperors at Austerlitz , it was Vandammes division alongside that of Saint-Hilaire that successfully carried out the decisive attack. Together with the two other division generals of the Corps Soult, Saint-Hilaire and Legrand , as well as Friant , the commander of the 2nd division of the III. Corps, which appeared on the battlefield in time with a forced march of 112 kilometers in just 44 hours, Vandamme was awarded the Grand Aigle of the Legion of Honor after the battle . He was also given land on the island of Cadzand in the Netherlands. Since he was suspected of having used part of the war booty of the campaign to pay off his enormous personal debts, and because he had fallen out with his direct superior, Marshal Soult, Vandamme had to return to France and he was appointed division commander by Jean François Leval replaced.

In the autumn of 1806, Napoleon entrusted Vandamme with the support of his brother Jérôme , who had previously served in the Navy, in leading the newly formed IX. Army corps whose troops were essentially provided by France's German allies. The corps had a Württemberg and two Bavarian divisions with which Prussian Silesia was to be conquered. The Prussian troops there had withdrawn into the existing fortresses and Vandamme tried to force them to surrender. First Glogau (December 2nd, 1806) and Breslau (January 6th, 1807) fell, so that Jérôme was actually able to receive the surrender of the fortresses of Glogau and Breslau on January 8th. Jérôme nevertheless expressed dissatisfaction with Napoleon, as he was not allowed to take part in a decisive battle and withdrew from his corps. Vandamme and his subordinate troops occupied Brieg on January 17th, Schweidnitz on February 8th and Neisse, which Georg von Steensen had defended for almost four months on June 16th. When the peace was concluded, he besieged Glatz, which was defended by Friedrich Wilhelm von Götzen . Also Cosel and Silberberg remained despite attacks and siege by Bavarian troops in Prussian hands.

In the autumn of 1807, Vandamme returned to the post of commandant of the 16th Military District. In August 1808 he was entrusted with the management of a newly formed training camp in Boulogne . In March 1809 he took over the leadership of the Württemberg troops in Heidenheim , which were last deployed as the 8th Army Corps in the Grand Army in the ensuing war against Austria. On April 1, 1809, Vandamme received the title of Comte d'Unsebourg .
The association and its commander first distinguished themselves in the Fifth Coalition War in the Battle of Abensberg . After the following battle near Landshut , Vandamme and the Württemberg soldiers under his command and parts of the VII (Bavarian) Army Corps led by Lefebvre contributed significantly to the victory of III, who until then had been fighting alone against the main power of the Austrians. Army Corps under Marshal Davout in the Battle of Eggmühl . In the period that followed, Vandamme and the Württemberg corps pursued the retreating Austrians south of the Danube as far as Linz (May 4), where he independently formed a bridgehead on the other side of the Danube, which he successfully defended and left in mid-May against attacks by the Austrians under Kolowrat repair the Danube bridge damaged by the Austrians. Later his troops secured the French supply routes and occupied Vienna . Vandamme, who was promoted to commander of an army corps on June 1, 1809, took part in the battle of Wagram on Napoleon's staff , where he was wounded in the shoulder. In August he occupied Styria with his troops and then commanded the French garrison in Vienna until November.

Returning to France, he replaced Sainte-Suzanne in February 1810 as the commander of the Boulogne camp. Dissatisfied with the headquarters he was using, he had the mayor's house occupied. This caused considerable anger and is said to have prompted Napoleon to say that if there were two Vandamams in the French army, one would hang the other. At the beginning of August 1811, Vandamme was transferred to Cherbourg and took over command of the 14th Military District.
For the Russian campaign of 1812 , Vandamme was again assigned to Napoleon's brother Jérôme, now King of Westphalia , on February 21, 1812 as an advisor and deputy in the leadership of the VIII (Westphalian) Army Corps. Shortly after the campaign began, the two fell apart and complained to the emperor, who first sided with his brother and removed Vandamme from his post on July 3rd. But Jerome also lost his command just a few days later.

It was not until March 17, 1813 that Vandamme received a command again when he took command of two Dutch divisions in Wesel , with which he was supposed to restore order in the Hanseatic departments (32nd military district) belonging to the Napoleonic Empire . On his advance, he gathered the occupying troops that had withdrawn from the uprisings of the population and the Cossack corps. The previous commander there, General Carra Saint-Cyr , had evacuated Hamburg on March 12th and declared a state of siege in Bremen. Vandamme largely retook the French departments by moving into Hamburg by May 31. He had already conquered Harburg on April 29 and Wilhelmsburg on May 9 . As an occupier, he stood out for his particular harshness and brutality, blackmail and neglect of discipline. Most recently, Marshal Davout had the supreme command, who had been Governor General of the Hanseatic Departments before the Russian campaign and who took over this task again until 1814.

Memorial to the capture of the general near Kulm

When the armistice of Pläswitz expired in August 1813, Vandamme had taken over the I. Army Corps of the main army in Saxony, previously commanded by Davout. During the Battle of Dresden , Vandamme crossed the Elbe near Königstein with 30,000 men and was supposed to cut off the return route to Bohemia for the Allies. At Krietzschwitz near Pirna he came across the 2nd Russian Infantry Corps under Duke Eugen von Württemberg , which prevented his further advance. As a result, Napoleon's planned encirclement of the Allies failed. Vandamme could only follow them. When the Russian troops under Ostermann-Tolstoy wanted to stop the pursuer, Vandamme could not break through their positions in the battle of Kulm . When the II. Prussian Army Corps under General Friedrich von Kleist attacked the French corps from behind on August 30, its order broke. Vandamme was captured and 10,000 men with 81 cannons surrendered; other parts of his corps, such as Dumonceau's division , escaped and joined the corps under Marshal Gouvion Saint-Cyr in Dresden. After a conversation, the Russian Tsar Alexander I had Vandamme brought to the Siberian border under harsh conditions . He was held there until the peace agreement.

Uses after Napoleon's first abdication

When he returned to France, the Bourbons had no use for him and decided to stay in his home town of Cassel.

After Napoleon's return from exile on the island of Elba for 136 days , Napoleon made him a peer and gave him the command of the III. Army corps, which belonged to Grouchy's army section , and with which he fought at Ligny and Wavre in June 1815 .
After the second restoration he had to emigrate as a result of the royal order of January 12, 1816 and went to North America, as the Netherlands also forbade him to stay in Flanders . He did not return to France until 1824, where he died on May 15, 1830 in his hometown of Cassel.


His name is entered on the triumphal arch in Paris in the 5th column.