General Louis Friant

Louis Friant
Brother-in-law and divisional commander of Marshal Davout who later commanded the Grenadiers à Pied of the Old Guard

Born: September 18, 1758

Place of Birth: Morlancourt, Somme, France

Died: June 24, 1829

Place of Death: Seraincourt, France

Arc de Triomphe: FRIANT on the north pillar


The son of a candlemaker, Louis Friant embarked on a military career in 1781 when he joined the French guard. In 1787 he left the army and in 1788 he married his first wife. In September of 1789 Friant joined the Parisian National Guard and then three years later he was elected a lieutenant colonel of the 9th Battalion of Paris, called the Arsenal. Shortly thereafter he served in the Army of the Moselle and in 1793 he fought at Arlon and Kaiserslautern and in December he was wounded in the left leg. In 1794 Friant fought at Arlon again and then Fleurus , and the next month he began fulfilling the functions of chief of staff for General Schérer. In August he was promoted to général de brigade, and a mere ten days after that he was given provisional command of Muller's division after Muller was dismissed by the Committee of Public Safety. With this division he took part in the Siege of Maestricht and then the Siege of Luxembourg, and afterwards he became Governor of Luxembourg when the city surrendered in June of 1795. In early 1796 General Friant was ordered to join the Army of the Rhine and Moselle, but instead he served with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse. He took part in the crossing of the Rhine in June of that year and the Siege of Ehrenbreitstein before joining Bernadotte's division in the Army of Italy in January of 1797. With the Army of Italy he took part in the crossing of the Tagliamento and fought at the combat of Laibach.

Designated for the Army of England in January of 1798, Friant joined the expedition to Egypt as part of Desaix's division, commanding the 2nd Brigade. Once in Egypt, he led this brigade through many battles, including Chebreiss, the Battle of the Pyramids , Sédiman, Samanhout, Girgeh, Samatah, Aboumanah, and Souhama. In April of 1799 his leadership was recognized with a promotion to général de division. After Desaix left Egypt for his fateful return to France, Friant took command of Upper Egypt. In this new position, he fought at Héliopolis in March of 1800, then at Belbeis, and finally he marched to Cairo and helped put down the revolt there. In September he was appointed Governor of Alexandria. Friant tried unsuccessfully to stop the British landing at Abukir in March of 1801, and afterwards he was defeated and pushed back at the combat of Lake Madieh. At the Battle of Canope he served on the right wing under Reynier, and in April he became Menou's second in command of all the French forces in Egypt. After the French surrender in Egypt, Friant returned to France at the end of 1801 where he became inspector general of infantry.

In August of 1803 Friant was employed in the camp of Bruges and at the end of 1804 he married a sister of General Leclerc, making him a brother-in-law to Marshal Davout. As the Grande Armée prepared for war with the Third Coalition in 1805, Friant took command of the 2nd Division of Davout's III Corps and during the campaign that followed he led his division with distinction. Before the Battle of Austerlitz, Friant pushed his division hard to ensure they would arrive at the battle on time, with the division marching more than 70 miles in 36 hours.1 During the battle he had three horses shot out from under him, and when he was ennobled later during the empire, he put three horse heads on his coat of arms to signify that. A few weeks after the battle, he was awarded a Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor in recognition of his contributions.

1806 was also full of distinction for Friant as he fought at the Battle of Auerstädt with Davout against the numerically superior Prussian forces. He continued to fight during the campaign in Prussia and Poland and he took part in the battles of Nasielsk and Golymin that December. At the Battle of Eylau he was wounded by a shot to the right side and in 1808 he was made a Count of the Empire. Friant continued to serve under Marshal Davout during the Danube Campaign of 1809 and he fought at Thann, Schierling, Eckmühl, and Ratisbon in April. Unable to fight at Aspern-Essling due to the bridge being out, he made up for it at Wagram where he was hit in the right shoulder by a shell fragment.

In early 1812 Friant occupied Swedish Pomerania before taking command of the 2nd Division of Davout's I Corps for the campaign against Russia. After Dorsenne's death, Napoleon named Friant colonel commander of the Grenadiers à Pied of the Old Guard as a replacement. However, Friant remained in command of his division and he went on to serve at Smolensk and then Borodino where he received two more wounds. After returning to France in January of 1813 he took command of the 4th Division of the Young Guard in Saxony in June, and the next month he traded commands with General Roguet and took command of a division of the Old Guard. With this division he fought at Dresden and Hanau, and then he was placed under Marshal Mortier's command for the defense of France in 1814. Leading the veterans of the Old Guard, he was victorious at Rouvré, and he fought at Montmirail , Vauchamps , Craonne, Laon, Reims, and Arcis-sur-Aube.

The restored Bourbons did not treat Friant badly but he did not hesitate to rejoin Napoleon in 1815 for the Hundred Days and Napoleon made him a Peer of France. Again commanding a division of the Old Guard, Friant fought at the Battle of Ligny and was wounded by a shot at the Battle of Waterloo. He retired from the army in September of 1815.



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Updated February 2022

© Nathan D. Jensen