Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye: French soldier, American teacher
Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye was yet another Bonapartist who, after 30 years in the French army, wound up scraping a living in the United States after 1815: in this case, by teaching languages and writing grammar texts in Philadelphia. In Napoleon in America, Texier de la Pommeraye has a chance to exercise his military talents once again.
Fighting for France
Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye was born on September 3 or 4, 1768 in Poitiers, France, the second oldest of Pierre and Rose Texier de la Pommeraye’s 13 children. His name suggests a noble origin, and judging from his subsequent writings, he received a good education. Texier de la Pommeraye joined the French army in 1784, serving in the Regiment of the Dauphin until 1786, and then, during 1787-89, in the French navy off the coasts of Spain, Portugal and the Levant. In 1792, after the French Revolution, Texier de la Pommeraye became a captain of the 2nd battalion of the National Guard of Vienne, the French department in which Poitiers is located. He fought at the Battle of Jemappes in Belgium. Wounded in the shoulder in May 1793, Texier de la Pommeraye nonetheless distinguished himself during the siege of Valenciennes. Later that year, commanding the 23rd battalion of chasseurs à pied, he was twice wounded when fighting against counter-revolutionary forces in the Vendée. (1)
Texier de la Pommeraye was subsequently part of the army that crossed the Rhine in 1797. As such, he became privy to documents of the Austrian chancery that were seized by the French, including correspondence between French General Pichegru and the Prince of Condé, which indicated that the former was plotting in favour of the monarchy’s restoration.
In June 1797, in Paris, Texier de la Pommeraye married Marie-Françoise Hermann (born in 1774). They had five children: Jacques (born in 1798), Victor (1800), Françoise (1804), Emile (1806) and Félix (1807).
Texier de la Pommeraye was part of the force Napoleon assembled in 1803-1805 with the intention of invading England. In June 1804, he was promoted to major and made a member of the Legion of Honour. He subsequently served in Switzerland, the Netherlands and in Spain. After Napoleon’s first abdication in 1814, Texier de la Pommeraye retired from the army, receiving the pay of a lieutenant colonel. He resumed service when Napoleon escaped from Elba in 1815. Though it’s not clear what he did during the Hundred Days, Texier de la Pommeraye’s support for Napoleon probably resulted in the loss of his full pension (see my post about demi-soldes). At any rate, he felt the need to leave France, and received a passport to go to the United States in August 1816.
Exile in the United States
Along with other exiled Bonapartists, Texier de la Pommeraye joined the Society for the Cultivation of the Vine and Olive, to which the US Congress granted land in Alabama in 1817 (see my post about the Bonapartists in America). If Texier de la Pommeraye actually visited the grant, he did not stay there long. In 1818 he sold his allotment and settled in Philadelphia. Short of funds, he tried to sell a politically sensitive document regarding the Pichegru conspiracy to French diplomats. (2) He did not join Charles Lallemand’s expedition to Texas.
To earn a living, Texier de la Pommeraye became a language teacher. He advertised as follows:
M. Texier de la Pommeraye, teacher of the French, Spanish and Latin languages, No. 12 North Eighth near Market Street, has the honor of informing his friends and the public, that his classes in French, Spanish and Latin commenced on Monday the 5th of September, inst. He will continue as formerly to give private lessons at his own house, or abroad if required. M. de la Pommeraye will omit no exertions to merit a continuance of that favor and confidence of which he has had so many honorable proofs. (3)
In December 1822, Texier de la Pommeraye published Abridgment of a French and English Grammar, a textbook for English students wanting to learn French. On the title page, he styled himself as “Late Commander in Chief of the Staff of a Division (Corps d’armée) of the French army,” and noted:
It is by the advice of many gentlemen of Philadelphia, whose judgment I highly value, that I have been induced to publish this abridgment of the larger treatise on grammar already announced, and which I expect will appear early in April next. I seize with eagerness the opportunity of dedicating this elementary work to the youth of Philadelphia. Should it also meet the approbation of their parents, I shall feel myself amply recompensed for the care and labour of its preparation. (4)
The work included an analysis by Texier de la Pommeraye of the life of Ben Franklin (in both French and English), with the note:
We do not think that there exists, for the contemplation of youth, a better model than the life of Franklin. (5)
Texier de la Pommeraye had to borrow money to have the book printed. Supporters included Pennsylvania Congressman Samuel D. Ingham and Philadelphia banker Stephen Girard. In 1826, Texier de la Pommeraye published another book for students of the French language (Lecteur français, amusant et instructif, proper aux jeunes étudians qui ont déjà acquis une certaine connaissance de la langue française). He dedicated it to Joseph Bonaparte’s daughter Zénaïde, who lived with her father and her husband Charles in the Philadelphia area from 1823 to 1828 (see my post about Joseph’s American exile). She or Joseph may have subsidized the publication.
During the Marquis de Lafayette’s 1824-25 visit to the United States, Texier de la Pommeraye welcomed Lafayette to Philadelphia on behalf of the French residents of the city:
General, the French and descendants of the French established in Philadelphia gather around you so you can witness the joy they feel to see you in their midst, on this land that was the theatre of your first work for the sacred cause of liberty. … Born on the same soil as you, they cannot help but experience noble pride in seeing lavished on a Frenchman the unanimous testimony of love and recognition…of this great and illustrious nation, in which so many Frenchmen have found a new country, which is no less dear to them than that in which they were born. (6)
However dear Texier de la Pommeraye found the United States, he returned to France after the July Revolution of 1830, which removed Bourbon King Charles X from the throne. Texier de la Pommeraye’s wife died in 1831. In 1839, he published a detailed account of the siege of Valenciennes (Relation du siège et du bombardement de Valenciennes, en Mai, Juin & Juillet 1793).
Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye died on November 30, 1843 in Belleville, France (south of Niort), at the age of 75.
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- Information about Texier de la Pommeraye’s early military career comes from F. Babié, Archives de L’Honneur, ou Notices sur la vie militaire, Vol. III (Paris: Laurens, 1805), pp. 283-286.
- Rafe Blaufarb, Bonapartists in the Borderlands: French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815-1835 (Tuscaloosa, 2005), p. 244.
- Aurora and Franklin Gazette, Philadelphia, September 15, 1825.
- Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye, Abridgment of a French and English Grammar (Philadelphia, 1822), front matter.
- Ibid., p. 270.
- Charles Ogé Barbaroux, Voyage du Général Lafayette aux États-Unis d’Amérique en 1824 et 1825 (Paris: L’Huillier, 1826), pp. 96-97. Texier de la Pommeraye delivered this address on October 1, 1824.
I seize with eagerness the opportunity of dedicating this elementary work to the youth of Philadelphia. Should it also meet the approbation of their parents, I shall feel myself amply recompensed for the care and labour of its preparation.
Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye