General Joseph-Marie, comte Dessaix, 1764-1834

General Joseph-Marie, comte Dessaix (1764-1834) was a French general who fought throughout the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and who rose to command a division by the end of the wars. Dessaix should not be confused with the more famous General Louis-Charles-Antoine Desaix who was killed in the process of saving Napoleon at Marengo in 1800.

Dessaix was born in Savoy and studied medicine, qualifying as a doctor. He joined the Paris Nationa Guard in 1789, and in 1792 he formed the Légion des Allobroges (named after a Gallic tribe from the Savoy region).

Dessaix fought at Toulon (1793), in the Pyrenees during the period of Spanish involvement in the First Coalition, and in Italy. He was captured at the battle of Rivoli (14-15 January 1797).

In 1798 he was elected to the Council of Five Hundred. He apposed Napoleon's coup of Brumaire in 1799, but his military career didn't suffer and he was promoted to general of brigade in 1803.

Dessaix fought in Italy during the Austrian war of 1809. He was involved in the first fighting as the Archduke John invaded Italy in April 1809. He commanded Prince Eugene's advance guard at the battle of the Piave (8 May 1809), crossing the Piave and defending a bridgehead across the river. The French then pushed the Austrians back towards the pre-war border. Dessaix's men clashed with the Austrians at San Daniele on 11 May and at Tarvis (16-17 May 1809). Dessaix took part in Eugene's advance across the Alps into Austria and the victory at St. Michael (25 May 1809). He was promoted to general of division and made a comte as a reward for his efforts.

He commanded the 4th Division of I Corps during the invasion of Russia of 1812. He fought at Borodino, where he took part in the attacks on the Bagration fleches. He had to take command on that part of the field twice, first after Compans was wounded and then after Rapp received one of his many wounds. Dessaix too was finally forced from the field by a wound to his left arm.

After Napoleon's first abdication Dessaix served the Bourbons, but he rejoined his former master in 1815 and in the following year was briefly imprisoned. That ended his military career.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 May 2014), General Joseph-Marie, comte Dessaix, 1764-1834 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_dessaix_joseph_marie.html

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