Dominique Vandamme

Dominique Joseph René Vandamme

Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme
Born 5 November 1770
Cassel, France
Died 15 July 1830 (1830-07-16) (aged 59)
Allegiance  Kingdom of France
 Kingdom of the French
 French First Republic
 First French Empire
 Bourbon Restoration
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1786–1815
Rank General of Division
Commands held I Corps
III Corps
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
Awards Legion of Honour (Grand Cross)

General Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg (5 November 1770, Cassel, Nord 15 July 1830) was a French military officer, who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. He was a dedicated career soldier with a reputation as an excellent division and corps commander. However he had a nasty disposition that alienated his colleagues; he publicly criticized Napoleon, who never appointed him marshal.[1]


Vandamme enlisted in the army in 1786 and rapidly rose through the ranks. At the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793 he was a Brigadier General. He was court-martialled for looting and suspended. Reinstated, he fought at the First Battle of Stockach on 25 March 1799, but disagreement with General Jean Moreau led to his being sent to occupation duties in Holland. At the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 he led his division, alongside Gen. St. Hilaire's, as part of Marshal Soult's IV Corps in the charge that captured the Pratzen Heights.[2]

In 1806-7 his forces besieged Breslau, and after finally taking it he ordered the fortifications to be levelled. He was named Count of Unsebourg by Napoleon I after the Silesian campaign during the War of the Fourth Coalition.[3] In the campaign of 1809, he led a small allied corps from Württemberg in the battles of Abensberg, Landshut, and Eckmühl.[4]

Reportedly a brutal and violent soldier, renowned for insubordination and looting, Napoleon is said to have told him, "If I had two of you, the only solution would be to have one hang the other". Napoleon added that he would give Vandamme command of the vanguard were he (Napoleon) to launch a campaign against Lucifer in Hell.[5][6]

In the campaign of 1813, Vandamme's I Corps attacked the Allied Bohemian Army as it tried to retreat after the Battle of Dresden. While his troops were engaged in the Battle of Kulm, a corps led by the Prussian General Friedrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf fortuitously attacked the French from the rear. In the consequent disaster, Vandamme and 13,000 of his men were captured.[7] In the campaign of 1815 Vandamme was in command of the III Corps, under the direction of Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy. He urged Grouchy to join Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, but Grouchy preferred to pursue the Prussian 3rd Corps under General Johann von Thielmann, winning the Battle of Wavre, but losing the war. After the restoration of Louis XVIII of France Vandamme was exiled to America and settled in Philadelphia amongst other French military exiles.[8] General Vandamme was allowed to return to by the ordinance of 1 December 1819. He was re-established in the service in the Ètat-major Général, until his final retirement on 1 January 1825. Afterwards he lived alternatively in Cassel and Ghent, occupying himself with the writing of his memoirs. He died in his native Cassel, aged 59. [9]

VANDAMME is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.


  1. John G. Gallaher, Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible: General Dominique Vandamme (2008).
  2. Christopher Duffy, Austerlitz 1805, Archon Books, Hamden, CT, USA, 1977, pp 105-07, 113-21
  3. 19 March 1808, confirmed by patent dated 1 April 1809. (Gallaher 2008, p. 185)
  4. David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1966, pp 680-83
  5. Horne (2014).
  6. Veronica Baker-Smith (2015). Wellington’s Hidden Heroes: The Dutch and the Belgians at Waterloo. Casemate. p. 29.
  7. Chandler, pp 911-12
  8. John G. Gallaher, Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible: General Dominique Vandamme (2008). excerpt
  9. Chisholm 1911.


Further reading

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