THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: From the News Letter of May 1891

Survivors of Napoleon’s ‘Grand Army’

Friday, 21st May 2021, 10:00 am
Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram, 16 July 1809, by Horace Vernet
Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram, 16 July 1809, by Horace Vernet

An interesting census that had been taken in Paris of the survivors of the Napoleon’s Grande Armee (“Grand Army”) had been published, reported the News Letter during this week in 1871.

The doyen de braves, or the oldest warrior, was one Jean Baptiste Piquard born in December 1790, at Beaumont-en-Argonne, in the department of the Ardennes, where he still “shoulders his crutch and shows how fields were won”. In 1803 he joined the 13th Light Infantry Regiment, was made a prisoner at Flushing, and spent five years in Portsmouth Dockyard. On liberation he fought at Waterloo, receiving two wounds at Quatre Bras. After the defeat of the French he bought a horse from dragoon and rode home. He was discharged from military service in 1818, “has ever since enjoyed excellent health, and is now able to stump about as a centenarian”.

Next in the list came a member of the marine, “old Cartigny of Hyeres”, born in 1791, he was wounded at Trafalgar, “and is said to be the only survivor in France of that famous fight”. The News Letter noted of old Cartigny that he had experienced better treatment at the hands of English visitors to Hyeres than he had from his own countrymen. 
It was reported: “His portrait is said to hung up near that Nelson in an English Town Hall.”

1814. Campagne de France (Napoleon and his staff return from Soissons after the battle of Laon), by Ernest Meissonier, 1864 (Musée d'Orsay)

Among the other survivors of Waterloo besides Piquard are Fabrege of Montpellier, “age ninety-six”, Denis, “about the same age, now living at Fayt near Calais”, who in reply to “the energetic census-takers” stated that he was still in good health and able to “take his glass”; another survivor was Quinot of Pithiviers in the department of Loiret, Runturier of Matha in the depart of Lower Charente, who was noted as another centenarian and last saw “the Great Emperor” at Recroi; and finally Baillot, who was born in 1793 at Carisey in the department of Yonne, and after Waterloo was discharged from the army “as consumptive”. Bailliot was noted as another “jokist” who wrote to his “interrogators” that he hoped “Dr Koch would make his patients weather consumption as well as he has done”.

He also stated that he was a widower and “did not want to marry again”.