A dedicated career soldier and excellent division and corps commander, Dominique Vandamme was a thorn in the side of practically every officer he served. Outspoken to a fault, he even criticized Napoleon, whom he never forgave for not appointing him marshal. His military prowess so impressed the emperor, however, that he returned Vandamme to command time and again.
In this first book-length study of Vandamme in English, John G. Gallaher traces the career of one of Napoleon’s most successful midrank officers. He describes Vandamme’s rise from a provincial youth with neither fortune nor influence to an officer of the highest rank in the French army. Gallaher thus offers a rare look at a Napoleonic general who served for twenty-five years during the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Empire.
This was a time when a general could lose his head if he lost a battle. Despite Vandamme’s contentious nature, Gallaher shows, Napoleon needed his skills as a commander, and Vandamme needed Napoleon to further his career. Gallaher draws on a wealth of archival sources in France—notably the Vandamme Papers in Lille—to draw a full portrait of the general. He also reveals new information on such military events as the Silesian campaign of 1807 and the disaster at Kulm in 1813.
Gallaher presents Vandamme in the context of the Napoleonic command system, revealing how he related to both subordinates and superiors. Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible depicts an officer who was his own worst enemy but who was instrumental in winning an empire.
About the Author
John G. Gallaher is Professor Emeritus of History at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and author of Napoleon's Irish Legion, The Iron Marshall: A Biography of Louis N. Davout, and General Alexandre Dumas: Soldier of the French Revolution.