179 : General Boudet

I based General of Division Boudet on a 25mm round base, the size I had decided to use for a divisional commander’s base (see Post 175).

General Jean Boudet was born in the same year as Napoleon so was 40 in 1809. I had a soft spot for this particular general, a commander whose conduct was exemplary at Essling (not to mention at Marengo in 1800 where he played a principle role in turning defeat into victory). Outnumbered and isolated, his division heroically held on to Essling, securing the army’s right flank, and Boudet himself remained in Essling granary even when his regiments were forced to evacuate the village. His efforts were recognised by the Emperor – “General, you have saved my army.” – and he was made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour shortly after.

Boudet was all set to repeat his success at the Battle of Wagram where his division, again isolated and outnumbered, was expected this time to hold the army’s left flank and the village of Aspern. 10 guns were sent forward in order to enfilade the advancing korps of FML Klenau. This proved reckless as the artillery was ridden down by Austrian hussars. Boudet denied that he had given the orders to move the artillery, in his opinion, too far to the right. By the time he had made a personal reconnaissance, it proved too late. The 56th Line tried valiantly to recapture the guns but without cavalry support failed to keep them. Lacking sufficient artillery, his division fell back in the face of overwhelming numbers and Boudet was unable to defend either Aspern or Essling, putting the French supply train and the vitally important bridges from the island of Lobau in danger. Luckily, his regiments were saved by the heavy fire of the French batteries on the other side of the Danube.

Klenau’s cavalry captures Boudet’s artillery near Aspern on the morning of 6 July 1809.

Boudet received severe criticism by for his conduct at Wagram. One story is that his death on 14 September 1809, apparently the same day as Napoleon fiercely and publicly criticised him, was said to have been a result of either despair or suicide. Boudet, however, appears to have been suffering from gout and his health had deteriorated dramatically the night before he died.

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