Admiral Pierre Baste

Pierre Baste
Commander of the Seamen of the Imperial Guard who was killed at Brienne

Born: November 21, 1768

Place of Birth: Bordeaux, Gironde, France

Died: January 29, 1814

Cause of Death: Killed in action

Place of Death: Brienne, France

Arc de Triomphe: BASTE on the west pillar


Originally serving on merchant ships, Pierre Baste began his career as a cabin boy in 1781 at age twelve. In his early career he frequently sailed between France and Saint-Domingue but in the late 1780s he also served on the east coast of Africa and throughout the Atlantic. By the time of the Revolution, Baste was still serving aboard merchant ships, but in 1793 he began to serve with the French navy when he helped assist the navy against the rebels of Saint-Domingue. Afterwards he sailed to the United States and then back to France. In December of 1794 Baste embarked as an ensign on the corvette Résolue and then in August of 1795 he was taken prisoner by the British. He was exchanged less than a month later, and Baste's career began to rise noticeably in 1796. In June of 1796 Baste began to serve in the flotilla attached to the Army of Italy under the overall command of General Bonaparte. He was sent to Peschiera and then promoted to ensign of vessel and he took command of a ship on Lake Garda. That July Baste commanded the flotilla on the lake of Mantua as part of the Siege of Mantua and then in August he withdrew the flotilla in the face of the enemy advance. At Peschiera he resumed command of a ship but then in October he returned to Mantua to command the flotilla there. After Mantua was successfully taken Baste returned to Lake Garda to command a ship until November of 1797 when he was sent to Venice.

Baste sailed to Ancona and then in January of 1798 he joined the crew of the frigate Diane. They sailed to Toulon and joined the fleet of Admiral Brueys preparing for the expedition to Egypt. Baste participated in that expedition and he served at the Battle of the Nile where the French fleet was defeated by British Admiral Nelson. Afterwards his ship Diane, commanded by Rear Admiral Decrès, sailed for Malta to take part in the defense of Malta. In April of 1800 Baste left Malta to carry dispatches to France and as soon as he arrived in France he set out for Paris. He was promoted to lieutenant of vessel and then he returned to Toulon, embarking on the ship Athénien for Malta. After the surrender of Malta to the British, Baste returned to France and in 1802 and 1803 he served at Saint-Domingue. He returned to France in August of 1803 and then in September he took command of a division of ships in the flotilla at La Rochelle. That month he was also promoted to captain of frigate. Next Baste was named commander of the 3rd Seamen of the Consular Guard and then in 1804 he took command of a division of barges of the flotilla of Boulogne. Baste next took command of the 3rd Division of Cannoniers of the flotilla and then in August he took command of the 1st Division of Cannoniers of the Guard as part of the Seamen of the Guard. With the Imperial Guard, Baste served on campaign with the Grande Armée throughout 1805, 1806, and 1807.

In 1808 Baste and his men were sent to Spain to serve under General Dupont. They took Jaen in June and then in July Baste was promoted to captain of vessel. However, later that month they fought at Bailen where Dupont surrendered and Baste was taken along as a prisoner of war. He was first sent to Cadiz and then to Marseille. Next he took part in the Danube campaign of 1809 and at the outset Baste was promoted to colonel of the Seamen of the Guard. In July he and his men ensured the successful crossing of the Danube leading up to the Battle of Wagram . In 1810 Baste was named a Commander of the Legion of Honor and a Count of the Empire and he was then sent back to Spain to serve under General Dorsenne as commander of the Seamen of the Guard. That July he seized Almazan but he was then recalled to Paris. In 1811 he was promoted to rear admiral and he took command of the flotilla of Boulogne.

Baste was recalled to the army in December of 1813 for the defense of France. He took command of a brigade of the Young Guard serving under General Decouz. He fought at and was killed at the Battle of Brienne, where his commander Decouz was mortally wounded.


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Updated January 2017

© Nathan D. Jensen