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BARON GASPAR GOURGAUD (1783-1852)

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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 288 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BARON GASPAR GOURGAUD (1783-1852), French soldier, was born at Versailles on the 14th of September 1783; his father was a musician of the royal chapel. At school he showed talent in mathematical studies and accordingly entered the artillery. In 1802 he became junior lieutenant, and thereafter served with credit in the campaigns of 1803-1805, being wounded at Austerlitz. He was present at the siege of Saragossa in 18o8, but returned to service in Central Europe and took part in nearly all the battles of the Danubian campaign of 18og. In 1811 he was chosen to inspect and report on the fortifications of Danzig. Thereafter he became one of the ordnance officers attached to the emperor, whom he followed closely through the Russian campaign of 1812; he was one of the first to enter the Kremlin and discovered there a quantity of gunpowder which might have been used for the destruction of Napoleon. For his services in this campaign he received the title of baron, and became first ordnance officer. In the campaign of 1813 in Saxony he further evinced his courage and prowess, especially at Leipzig and Hanau; but it was in the first battle of 1814, near to Brienne, that he rendered the most signal service by killing the leader of a small band of Cossacks who were riding furiously towards Napoleon's tent. Wounded at the battle of Montmirail, he yet recovered in time to share in several of the conflicts which followed, distinguishing himself especially at Laon and Reims. Though enrolled among the royal guards of ,Louis XVIII. in the summer of 1814, he yet embraced the cause of Napoleon during the Hundred Days (1815), was named general and aide-de-camp by the emperor, and fought at Waterloo. After the second abdication of the emperor (June 22nd, 1815) Gourgaud retired with him and a few other companions to Rochefort. It was to him that Napoleon entrusted the letter of appeal to the prince regent for an asylum in England. Gourgaud set off in H.M.S. " Slaney," but was not allowed to land Photographed from specimens in the British Museum. in England. He determined to share Napoleon's exile and sailed with him on H.M.S. " Northumberland " to St Helena. The ship's secretary, John R. Glover, has left an entertaining account of some of Gourgaud's gasconnades at table. His extreme sensitiveness and vanity soon brought him into collision with Las Cases and Montholon at Longwood. The former he styles in his journal a " Jesuit " and a scribbler who went thither in order to become famous. With Montholon, his senior in rank, the friction became so acute that he challenged him to a duel, for which he suffered a sharp rebuke from Napoleon. Tiring of the life at Longwood and the many slights which he suffered from Napoleon, he desired to depart, but before he could sail he spent two months with Colonel Basil Jackson, whose account of him throws much light on his character, as also on the " policy" adopted by the exiles at Longwood. In England he was gained over by members of the Opposition and thereafter made common cause with O'Meara and other detractors of Sir Hudson Lowe, for whose character he had expressed high esteem to Basil Jack-son. He soon published his Campagne de 1815, in the preparation of which he had had some help from Napoleon; but Gourgaud's Journal de Ste-Helene was not destined to be published till the year 1899. Entering the arena of letters, he wrote, or collaborated in, two well-known critiques. The first was a censure of Count P. de Segur's work on the campaign of. 1812, with the result that he fought a duel with that officer and wounded him. He also sharply criticized Sir Walter Scott's Life of Napoleon. He returned to active service in the army in 1830; and in 1840 proceeded with others to St Helena to bring back the remains of Napoleon to France. He became a deputy to the Legislative Assembly in 1849;. he died in 1852. Gourgaud's works are La Campagne de 1815 (London and Paris, 1818); Napoleon et la Grande Armee en Russie; examen critique de l'ouvrage de M. le comte P. de Segur (Paris, 1824) ; Refutation de la vie de Napoleon par Sir Walter Scott (Paris, 1827). He collaborated with Montholon in the work entitled Memoires pour servir d l'histoire de France sous Napoleon (Paris, 1822-1823), and with Belliard and others in the work entitled Bourrienne et ses erreurs (2 vols., Paris, 1830) ; but his most important work is the Journal inedit de Ste-Helene (2 vols., Paris, 1899), which is a remarkably naif and lifelike record of the life at Longwood. See, too, Notes and Reminiscences of a Staff Officer, by Basil Jackson (London, 1904), and the bibliography to the article LOWE, SIR HUDSON. (J. Hr.. R.)
End of Article: BARON GASPAR GOURGAUD (1783-1852)
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