Jean Lannes (1769-1809), Duke of Montbello

LannescropThe son of a stable hand, Jean Lannes was a dry cleaner’s apprentice before enlisting in a battalion of volunteers in 1792. After rising to the rank of chef de brigade, he was dismissed in 1795 for political reasons, but rejoined as a private in the Army of Italy, quickly earning a reputation for conspicuous bravery. In the Italian Campaign, his exploits at Lodi and Arcola would become the basis for a lasting friendship with Napoleon. In Egypt, he was among the small cadre of officers to return to France in October of 1799 to take part in the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire. In 1800, now a major-general, Lannes led the French vanguard across the Alps and scored a hard-won victory at Montebello, for which he received a dukedom. At Marengo, he commanded the French right and was responsible for delaying the Austrian advance long enough to allow the army to regroup. During the 1809 Campaign, he commanded the vanguard during the initial crossing of the Danube but was cut off from the rest of the army when enemy rams destroyed a pontoon bridge. During the fighting at Aspern/Essling, he was struck in the legs by a cannonball and died of his wounds six days later.