Napoleonic General Henri Lallemand: Improving the US artillery
Though overshadowed by his hotheaded older brother Charles, Henri Lallemand was a skilled Napoleonic officer whose influence on artillery practice was felt in the United States, which is where he sought exile after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat. Henri did not accompany Charles to the Champ d’Asile in Texas, but was keenly involved in planning and equipping the ill-fated expedition. His much younger wife Henriette was the niece of America’s richest man, Stephen Girard.
An inspiring officer
Henri Dominique Lallemand was born on October 17, 1777 in Metz, France, where his father owned a wig-making shop. Like his brother Charles Lallemand, Henri was keen on a military life. He studied at the École Polytechnique, near Paris, and became an artillery officer.
Henri Lallemand fought in Egypt, Spain and Germany, and built a reputation as a sound organizer and trainer at his regiment’s depot at Metz. However, it wasn’t until 1809 at Wagram that he really distinguished himself on the battlefield.
His battery was part of a massed battery that traded shots for hours with the Austrian guns opposite. Lallemand’s leadership was of a high order and his gunners kept firing despite mounting losses. (1)
Napoleon rewarded him by making him a Baron of the Empire in 1810.
During the Russian campaign in 1812, Lallemand showed inspiring leadership at Smolensk and Borodino. He also commendably tried to keep his guns moving during the retreat. As chief of staff of the Imperial Guard artillery, he fought at Lutzen, Bautzen and Leipzig.
Largely due to his personal efforts, 166 guns were brought back across the Rhine. (2)
In 1814, Lallemand became a general. He played a key role in the battles of Brienne, Montmirail and Laon. After Napoleon’s first abdication, Lallemand unenthusiastically served under King Louis XVIII.
When Napoleon escaped from Elba in 1815, Henri Lallemand joined the unsuccessful plot of his brother and Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes to seize the artillery depot of La Fère for the Emperor. He was arrested and imprisoned. Released when Napoleon entered Paris, Lallemand was made second-in-command of the Imperial Guard artillery. When General Desvaux was killed during the Battle of Waterloo, Lallemand assumed full command. Wounded during the final stages of the battle, he followed the army back to Paris, where Napoleon abdicated for the final time.
Knowing he would be tried for treason, Henri Lallemand escaped to England under the false name of General Cotting. A French court sentenced him to death in absentia. Lallemand sailed from Liverpool to Boston, arriving in 1816.
Love in the United States
Henriette (or Henrietta) Maria Girard (also called Harriet), was born on June 21, 1802 in Burlington, NJ. She was the daughter of Girard’s older brother Jean, who died in 1803. Her mother, Eleanor (McMullin) Girard, died in 1807. Henriette and her two older sisters, Antoinette and Caroline, went to live with their rich uncle. She must have been an attractive prospect for the exiled Napoleonic officer, who was over twice her age.
Lallemand became a shareholder in the Society for the Cultivation of the Vine and Olive, which successfully petitioned Congress for a grant of land in Alabama to establish a colony for the French exiles. Charles Lallemand – who arrived in the United States in 1817 – was president of the Society. Together the brothers came up with a scheme to sell the Alabama land grants to finance an armed expedition to Texas, which was then under Spanish rule.
Shortly before his wedding, Henri Lallemand “had words” with another French exile: François-Louis Taillade, notable for serving – without distinction – as commander of Napoleon’s fleet on Elba. Taillade was associated with a group of French emigrants who were opposed to the Lallemands’ Texas expedition. They thought the escapade would harm their relations with the Americans and remove any chance of obtaining pardons from France. “The most vile insults” were exchanged, and Taillade challenged Lallemand to a duel. Lallemand sent Henriette a farewell note, which he dated “the day of my death.”
On the eve of my marriage, a fatal duel has transformed my nuptial bed into a tomb. (3)
The two were arrested by local constables before they could fight. Followed by a crowd, they were led through Philadelphia in police custody and taken before a magistrate who made them post a substantial bond.
Henri and Henriette Lallemand were married on October 28, 1817 in Philadelphia. Louis Lauret was the best man. The witnesses included Stephen Girard, Joseph Bonaparte, Charles Lallemand and Emmanuel de Grouchy (the French Marshal whom Napoleon blamed for his defeat at Waterloo).
Two months later — having extracted a $4,000 letter of credit from Stephen Girard — Lallemand left his new wife to sail to New Orleans with his brother. There they sought additional recruits and bought supplies and equipment for the Texas expedition. Henri wrote to Girard:
Perhaps you will say it is a weakness to be too fond of one’s wife. Possibly it is; but for all that I shall not apologize for loving her a great deal and finding it a hardship to be separated from her. Anyhow, though I may be madly in love with her, my love will never make a fool of me; for you see that I can leave her when my business renders it necessary. (4)
He added that he was “the architect of the fortune which I acquired in France and, to restore that fortune, I am ready to go through danger, trouble and privation.” (5)
In fact, Henri did not go on to Texas with Charles to found the Champ d’Asile. He stayed in New Orleans with the aim of providing logistical support to the expedition. But the money ran out in April 1818 and Henri returned to Philadelphia to plead with Girard, who refused to extend more credit. After this he seems to have given up on the expedition. The French consul-general noted in June that Henri
has neither booked passage back to New Orleans…nor is he seeking, at least ostensibly, to recruit adventurers to go to Mexico. (6)
Treatise on Artillery
On August 27, 1819, Henri’s and Henriette’s daughter, Caroline Adelaide Stephanie, was born. Henri occupied himself with writing a two-volume Treatise on Artillery, which War Secretary John C. Calhoun helped him publish in 1820. The following year the US army adopted the treatise as its standard manual – something referred to in Napoleon in America when Lallemand tries (on Napoleon’s behalf) to entice Simon Bernard to leave the US military. When the Marquis de Lafayette visited the United States in 1824, he was surprised to see artillerists near Boston using perfect imitations of French guns.
The militia of Massachusetts are indebted to [Henri Lallemand] for great improvements in their artillery; and he has left a treatise on the subject…in which it is true he has only reproduced in part the regulations already known and practised in France, but which he has admirably adapted to the use of those for whom he wrote. (7)
Henri Lallemand died in Bordentown, NJ (possibly at Joseph Bonaparte’s house) of dysentery on September 15, 1823, a month short of his 46th birthday. Stephen Girard had a tomb built for him in the Holy Trinity Catholic cemetery in Philadelphia.
Henriette’s life after Henri
Joseph Bonaparte invited Henriette – who became good friends with Joseph’s daughters Charlotte and Zénaïde – and her daughter to stay at his house. Girard also offered her a permanent home with him in Philadelphia. She appears to have stayed there until 1829, when she married John Yardley Clark, a prominent Philadelphia physician and a widower with a four-year-old son.
When Stephen Girard died in 1831, leaving most of his fortune to charity, Henriette and her sisters unsuccessfully contested his will.
Henriette and her new husband had three children: Roma (died in infancy), Henry and Florence. For many years they lived in Paris.
Her home was a centre of attraction to Americans abroad and to the best French people, and many from England and other places. Her brilliant conversational powers and fine education brought her in contact with the nobility, and made her a general favorite not only in Parisian society but in other capitals of Europe. She was also an accomplished linguist, and her extensive travels in Europe gave to her conversation an interest that drew around her a charmed circle of friends. (8)
They returned to America around 1853, with Clark in failing health. He died in 1863. Henriette died in Philadelphia on July 26, 1880. She was in poor health for the last 20 years of her life. Three years before her death she had a paralytic stroke, from which she never recovered.
Henri’s and Henriette’s daughter Caroline – who received a bequest of $20,000 in Stephen Girard’s will – married a Frenchman with the last name of de St. Marsault (some sources say he was the Count de Saint-Marsault, but I’ve found no primary evidence of that).
You might also enjoy:
- Mark Adkin, The Waterloo Companion (Mechanicsburg, PA, 2001), p. 292.
- Ibid., p. 292.
- Rafe Blaufarb, Bonapartists in the Borderlands: French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815-1835 (Tuscaloosa, 2005), pp. 91-92.
- Patricia Tyson Stroud, The Man Who Had Been King: The American Exile of Napoleon’s Brother Joseph (Philadelphia, 2005), p. 29.
- Blaufarb, Bonapartists in the Borderlands, p. 101.
- Ibid., p. 102.
- A. Levasseur, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825; or Journal of a Voyage to the United States, Vol. 1, translated by John D. Godman (Philadelphia, 1829), p. 62.
- “The Late Mrs. Girard-Clark,” The New York Times, July 29, 1880.
[T]though I may be madly in love with [my wife], my love will never make a fool of me; for you see that I can leave her when my business renders it necessary.