Welcome home, Gen. Gudin
In case you missed it, (most of) the body of fallen General of Division Charles-Étienne César Gudin de La Sablonnière was reinterred at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris on 2 December 2021, marking the anniversary of the French victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. The event was complete with a Napoleonic honor guard.
Gudin, from a noble family, was born in 1768 and served with the King’s Guard prior to the Revolution. Keeping his head (see what we did there), the reported childhood friend of Napolean fought with the Army of the North and of the Rhine from 1793, distinguishing himself at Auerstaedt in 1806 and at Eylau in 1807, then was wounded at Wagram.
Rising to command a division for the disastrous Russian campaign in 1812, he died at age 44 near Smolensk three days after his leg was amputated following it being smashed by a Russian cannonball during the battle of Valoutina Gora.
As the convoy back to Europe was small, the French buried his shattered body in one of the bastions of the Smolensk fortress then carried Gudin’s heart back home, later installing it in a chapel in Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery, and added his name to the Arc de Triomphe.
Fast forward to 2019 and, under a dance hall in eastern Russia, a one-legged skeleton of a man, aged 40-45, was discovered by an international team of scholars who chased down Gudin’s story.
Matching the remains with the known DNA of Baron Pierre-César Gudin, Charles-Etienne Gudin’s brother– also a Napoleonic general who died more peacefully in 1855– the body was ceremoniously transferred back to France.
In last year’s interment, chaired by Geneviève Darrieussecq, Minister Delegate of the Minister of the Armed Forces, in charge of Memory and Veterans Affairs, Gen. Gudin has returned from his very cold, and very long, Russian winter.