Monday, May 21, 2012

Baron André Joseph Boussart

André Joseph Boussart was one of the most prominent Belgians to have served in the Revolution and in the French Napoleonic army. During his life he served in the Austrian army, the army of the United Belgian States and the French army, seeing action in Europe, Africa and the East. He was born on 13 November 1758 in Binche, Hainaut. At the time Belgium was officially the Austrian Netherlands and he wanted adventure so he joined the Austrian army and by 1789 had become a junior lieutenant in the Austrian cavalry (which they were famous for). When the Brabant Revolution began he immediately left the Austrian service to give his full support to the revolutionary patriots and the United States of Belgium. He easily became a captain because of his prior military service but the United States of Belgium did not last long, being crushed by the Austrians, and Boussart escaped to France where he joined the army there, still determined to carry on the fight and joined other Belgians in the Hainault Dragoon Regiment in which he fought the Austrians again. Later he fought with the “Army of Italy” and earned many promotions because of his daring and fearlessness which also caused him to be frequently and badly wounded. By 1797 he was chef de brigade.

Boussart was a supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte and he accompanied Napoleon on his grand campaign to North Africa and the Near East. He fought at the epic battle of the Pyramids in 1798 and the battle of Aboukir in 1799. In 1800 he was promoted to general and in 1801 he fought the British at the battle of Alexandria where he was wounded three times and had to be sent back to France. For his bravery he was made a member of the legion d'honneur in 1803. During the Third Coalition War he led a cavalry brigade of dragoons at the stunning French victory at Austerlitz. In the next war he missed out of the battle of Jena but earned great fame for his participation in the pursuit of the Prussians after. His victories over the Prussians were probably the most remarkable of his career. He played a critical part in the battle of Prenzlau against the Prussians and later also captured the port of Wolgast on the Baltic. He served also under Grouchy at the battle of Lübeck and the battle of Czarnowo where he was wounded. He was badly wounded again at the battle of Pultusk where he fought with the unit of Nicolas Léonard Beker. He fought also at the battle of Eylau and in 1808 Napoleon made Boussart a Baron of the Empire and transferred him to the front in Spain.

He defeated superior Spanish forces at the battle of Margalef and then fought at the victorious siege of Lerida and later the victorious siege of Tortosa. He fought at the siege of Tarragona where he killed far more of the enemy than his own forces lost. Later his participation was also crucial in a victorious attack at the siege of Valencia despite being almost killed. In 1812 he was promoted to general of division and served at the battle of Castalla. He had to leave the front to recover from his bad wounds but was unable to and finally died because of his injuries on 11 August 1813.

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