General Baron Gaspard Gourgaud: A Survivor of St Helena

Author(s) : FRIEDMAN Peter
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Dedicated to the memory of Napoleon Gourgaud du Taillis who passed away on 8 August, 2010.

Life before St Helena

If one were to ask a Napoleonic scholar about Gaspard Gourgaud the response might be, “Gourgaud? He accompanied Napoleon to St. Helena”.  If it were an astute scholar the reply might be, “Gourgaud? He saved Napoleon’s life in Russia”. A really astute scholar might answer, “Gourgaud? He and Count Las Cases met with British Captain Maitland on HMS Bellerophon in Rochefort harbor to ask for asylum for Napoleon after Waterloo.”

As the broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, “Here’s the rest of the story”.

Gourgaud was born in Versailles on 14th September, 1783. His father, Etienne-Marie Gourgaud (1734-1805), was a violinist in the King’s chapel a Versailles. His mother, Helene Gerard, was the nursemaid to the Duc de Berry. Gourgaud’s grandfather was the famous comedian “Dugozon”, the stage name for Pierre-Antoine Gourgaud (1706-1774), and his great aunt was the famous French actress “Madame Vestris”, which was the stage name for Francoise-Rose Gourgaud (1743-1804). By all accounts, Gaspard Gourgaud was an only child.

Like Napoleon, Gourgaud displayed an aptitude for mathematics. He was enrolled in the Ecole Polytechnique (Technical School) in September, 1799 at age 16. His school records, file 848 dated 30th November, 1799, indicate that his hair was brown, low forehead, large nose, gray eyes, small chin, a well-filled oval face, and 1.68 meters tall, or 5’6″+, nearly exactly the same height as Napoleon!

In September, 1801 Gourgaud was promoted to sous-lieutenant (2nd Lieutenant) and enrolled in the artillery school at Chalons. In September, 1802 he was posted to the 7th Regiment of Foot Artillery. He then was promoted in January, 1803 as a Professor of Fortification at the artillery school in Metz. His stay in Metz was short-lived. He moved on to the 6th Regiment of Horse Artillery in August of that same year, stationed in Hanover.

While stationed in Hanover he came to the attention of the commanding officer, General Foucher de Careil, who appointed him his Aide de Camp, following the general to Boulogne. From that point on Gourgaud was a fixture with the Grande Armee. He was to participate in most of the major campaigns including the capture of both Ulm and Vienna in the German campaigns in 1805 and 1806 (he was wounded at Austerlitz), the Polish campaign of 1807, where he received the Legion of Honor at Pultusk, the Spanish campaign of 1808 (where he was promoted Captain and served at the siege of Saragossa), and again in Germany in 1809 including Eckmuhl, Essling, and Wagram. In February, 1811 he was posted to the munitions factory in Versailles where he worked on the development of new firearms and improvements for lances.

In 1811 he was sent to Danzig to research its strength and fortifications in preparation for the coming Russian campaign. The excellent reports he generated came to the attention of Napoleon, and he was personally invited to accompany Napoleon to Russia in 1812. (Gourgaud was personally recommended to Napoleon by his commanding officer, General Lariboisiere, as “Ordnance Officer to the Emperor”. He retained this position for the balance of his service, including his exile to St. Helena `with Napoleon.)

During the Russian campaign he was wounded by a bullet in his shoulder at Smolensk. He also fought in the battles of Krasnoe, Vitebsk, Valoutina, and Borodino. After Borodino he was detailed to Moscow to parley with the Russians prior to Napoleon entering the city.

However, his first “heroic” activity personally saving the life of Napoleon occurred in Moscow at the Kremlin where he discovered and extinguished the fuse lit by retreating Russians about to ignite 500,000 pounds of gunpowder! For his heroism he was awarded the title of Baron by Napoleon on 3rd October, 1812. Gourgaud was still only a captain!

During the retreat from Moscow Gourgaud was detailed to assess possible points of crossing the Berezina River. It was very dangerous work as it was the dead of winter, and the river was filled with blocks of floating ice. Due to his diligence in this effort, Gourgaud was promoted Chef d’Escadrons and the title, “Premier Officer d’Ordnance, a rank specially created for him by Napoleon. After the retreat from Moscow, Gourgaud fought in the battles of Lutzen, Bautzen, and Wurschen.

After the armistice of Pleiswitz, Napoleon detailed Gourgaud on another secret mission. Napoleon was going to march on Konigsberg, but Gourgaud convinced him to march on Dresden instead. Napoleon confronted General Moreau and defeated him there on 26th August, 1813. As a result, Napoleon awarded Gourgaud the status of “Officer” in the Legion of Honor and an annual stipend of 6,000 Livres for life.
After the battle of Leipzig, Gourgaud was ordered to destroy the bridge at Freyberg. However, Gourgaud, knowing that Marshal Oudinot had not yet crossed the river with his troops, delayed the destruction allowing many wounded Frenchmen to escape to safety.

Finally, Gourgaud participated in the battles at Brienne, where he saved Napoleon’s life again from a Cossack’s lance on 29th January, 1814, Chapaubert, Montmirail, Rheims, and Arcis-sur-Aube. (There is a Gourgaud family “legend” that Gourgaud’s life too was saved from a Cossack lance at the same time by its glancing off his Legion of Honor medal on his chest!) As a reward for saving his life, Napoleon awarded Gourgaud the sword Napoleon carried at the battle of Lodi. After capturing Rheims, Napoleon promoted Gourgaud to full colonel.

After Napoleon’s first abdication and exile to Elba, Gourgaud was posted to Louis XVIIIs Garde du Corps as Chief of Staff of Artillery of the 1st Division, and received the cross of Saint-Louis.

When Napoleon returned to France in March, 1815, Gourgaud immediately rallied to him. Napoleon again appointed Gourgaud as his “Premier Officer de Ordnance”. Gourgaud fought with Napoleon in the battles at Ligny, Fleurus, and Waterloo, where he was responsible for the last cannon shots of that battle. After Waterloo, on 21st June, Napoleon promoted Gourgaud Brigadier General and his personal Aide de Camp. (His promotion was a bone of contention on St. Helena with Count Montholon nearly resulting in a duel between them!) Then began Gourgaud’s incredible adventure related to the exile of Napoleon on St. Helena, in which Gourgaud played a major role.

Indeed, when Napoleon finally handed himself over to the British, it was Gourgaud who carried the famous letter to the Prince Regent (George III has been declared too ill to reign and so his son ruled in his place):

“Your Royal Highness,
“A victim to the factions which distract my country, and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to throw myself upon the hospitality of the British people. I put myself under the protection of their laws; which I claim from your Royal Highness, as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies.”
Signed, “Napoleon”.

However since Gourgaud was to refuse to deliver Napoleon’s letter to anyone other than the Prince Regent and the British refused him access to the Prince, the Frenchman was to be brought back to Bellerophon, the ship he had left, the letter undelivered (Note: The Gourgaud copy of Napoleon’s letter has remained with the Gourgaud family ever since!).

When the Emperor and his entourage were first notified that they were to be transported to St Helena, Gourgaud’s name was not on the list of those permitted to accompany Napoleon. Deeply offended, Gourgaud engaged the Grand Marshal Bertrand in a heated conversation, and Napoleon himself interceded, adding Gourgaud to the list in place of General Planat.

The French party was transferred to Northumberland for the long voyage on 7th August. On the long voyage, only Gourgaud (of the entire French party) escaped seasickness.

Gourgaud’s memoirs – the St Helena period

Unfortunately, whilst Gourgaud kept a journal of his time with the emperor, it only begins with the arrival at St. Helena on 15th October. He wrote nothing regarding the roughly 10-week voyage.

When reading Gourgaud’s journal, it is necessary to view it through the prism that existed. Once everyone was ensconced at Longwood, the “tone” of the environment was set solely by Napoleon. While Napoleon was a “benevolent” dictator, and enamored with all things related to “nobility”, he attempted to create a micro court environment that duplicated as much as possible what had occurred under the Empire. Into this environment came friends and associates who agreed to go into exile with Napoleon mostly out of loyalty to him. A few came with the prospects of financial gain, but General Baron Gourgaud was not one. (Gourgaud received nothing from Napoleon’s will, and his journal was not published until after his death.)

Unlike the Bertrand and Montholon families, Gourgaud (only 32 years old and unmarried) was on the island alone. And so when Napoleon went riding, it was usually Gourgaud who accompanied him because no one else would arise early enough.

On arrival at St. Helena with Napoleon on 15th October, appropriate accommodations not being ready, the French entourage spent the next two days in the harbor onboard Northumberland. At 7:15 PM on the 17th Gourgaud finally set foot on St. Helena together with Las Cases. Napoleon is put up in a small house in Jamestown temporarily, with Gourgaud and Las Cases in a small hotel.

On the 18th, Napoleon, together with Cockburn and officers, rides up to Longwood to take a look. On the way back they stop at the “Briars”, the home of the Balcombes, where Napoleon was to reside until Longwood was ready to receive him and the others. A comment was made by Bertrand that Gourgaud should marry Betsy Balcombes, only fourteen years old! Napoleon, hearing the comment, says never to bring it up again! He will find a suitable bride for Gourgaud in Paris!

On 20th October, Napoleon told everyone to start complaining about St. Helena, how disgraceful a place it is – nothing but a prison. Napoleon had had a letter drafted by Las Cases with numerous complaints to be submitted to Admiral Cockburn. After Gourgaud read the letter he commented to Napoleon that the petty items of complaint in it were unworthy of him! Napoleon then gave the letter to Bertrand to rewrite it and sign it as coming from him. Bertrand refused.

On 27th October, Cockburn returned Gourgaud’s sword to him. Gourgaud also obtained the arms owned by Napoleon that were taken from him, all except his firearms.

On 8th November, Gourgaud rides to Longwood to have a look at his assigned room – “It is a veritable cellar!”

On 20th November, Admiral Cockburn holds a ball at Plantation House. Cockburn instructs Gourgaud with whom he will dance! He is to dance with Betsy Balcombes, specifically defying Napoleon’s order. Gourgaud, however, notices the daughter of the present governor, Laura Wilks, and presents himself to her. He ultimately falls in love with her, but to no avail.

On 28th November, Gourgaud and others are invited to dine in the temporary tent constructed at Longwood while it is being prepared. There are places set at the table for everyone except Gourgaud!  He sits away from the table, and when asked why he is not eating replies, “There is no place set for me!”

On 7th December, Gourgaud meets Cockburn at Longwood. Cockburn shows Gourgaud the temporary tent raised for him to live in until his room in the house is completed. (Gourgaud has rented a room in a small hotel in Jamestown until now.) Gourgaud tells Cockburn, “I did not come to St. Helena to camp!” However, on the 10th Gourgaud moves into his tent.

On 13th December, Gourgaud and Montholon finally have an overt argument over dinner table seating arrangements. Gourgaud claims “military” seniority – Montholon takes it as an insult. There is bad blood between them ever after.

On 15th April (1816), Dr. O’Meara brings a stack of letters from Gourgaud’s mother to Gourgaud that had been sitting at Plantation House. They have all been opened and obviously read. The letters are dated from the previous three months!  Gourgaud had no knowledge of them.

16th April, Sir Hudson Lowe arrives, and Gourgaud meets him at Longwood. However, Napoleon refuses to meet him, which starts the animosity between them.

28th May, Gourgaud and Napoleon argue over a debt owed by Napoleon to him of 50,000 Francs. Gourgaud is broke and needs the money to send to his mother in Paris who exists on a small pension as the former nursemaid to the Duc de Berry. Napoleon promises to write to Prince Eugene to pay 1000 Francs each month to Gourgaud’s mother. It is never done!

18th June, Albine Montholon has a baby girl she names Helene Napoleone [sic]. Nobody is certain whether the father is Napoleon or Count Montholon!  Nothing is said though.

On 19th July, there is a meeting between Napoleon, Montholon, Gourgaud, and Las Cases in which they apprise Napoleon they find neither “fortune nor position” with him at St. Helena. They are all very bitter. The only consideration they receive is what Napoleon allows them. (Bertrand is absent because he does not live at Longwood. He lives with his family at Hutt’s Gate about 100 yards away.)  Napoleon calms them all down with promises of “fortune” in his will. Gourgaud complains to Bertrand, but is told: “We cannot change his [Napoleon’s] character. Just let us do our duty, and disregard the rest. It is because of this trait in his character that he has no friends, and has made so many enemies. This, after all, is why we are at St. Helena.”

The 27th July, Napoleon promises Gourgaud 300,000 Francs. Napoleon assures him that soon they will all be living in the United States or England. None of this ever happens.

Gourgaud began to feel slightly ostracized from the Emperor. He was young, brave, accomplished, but the only time allowed him to spend with Napoleon was riding, hunting, or taking dictation. When the others were around, Napoleon ignored Gourgaud. As time went on Gourgaud’s relationship with Napoleon and the others deteriorated. Gourgaud became jealous of the others, and Napoleon became more irritated with Gourgaud’s jealously. As Napoleon’s relationship with Sir. Hudson Lowe deteriorated, he found uses for Gourgaud, Montholon and Bertrand against Lowe, which further damaged their relationship with Napoleon. It was a vicious cycle.

On 30th August, Napoleon mentions to Gourgaud that he feels he is the only one who ever speaks the truth to him.

15th October and Hudson Lowe assures Gourgaud that his letters to his mother, which must proceed through Lowe, are being sent. Gourgaud has not received any letters for some time.

14th November (1816), Gourgaud celebrates his 33rd birthday. It is not celebrated by the “famille”.

The 25th November, Las Cases is arrested for trying to smuggle a letter off the island written by Napoleon!  Gourgaud and the Montholons are pleased that Las Cases will be sent away.

On 13th December, a heated discussion regarding Las Cases’ arrest takes place at dinner between Napoleon and Gourgaud. Napoleon has written a lengthy letter extolling the virtues of Las Cases, which, if Las Cases is sent away, he is to deliver to Marie-Louise to ingratiate himself to her. Gourgaud argues that Las Cases has only been around Napoleon for less than eighteen months, while he has over eighteen years of military service, six years as Napoleon’s ADC, ranked as the Premier Ordnance Officer, fought in thirteen campaigns, and been wounded three times!  Napoleon calls Gourgaud “a child”!

On 15th December, Gourgaud recommends to Napoleon that he refrain from insulting Hudson Lowe because it affects everyone. Napoleon ignores him.

On 25th December, Napoleon and Gourgaud engage in a heated argument regarding Las Cases. Apparently, Lowe offered to allow Las Cases to return to Longwood under certain conditions. (According to Las Cases’ journal, he did not want to return.) Without witnesses present, Gourgaud defends himself against several charges of infidelity toward Napoleon. Napoleon goes so far as to tell Gourgaud,
“You thought that in coming here you were my friend. I am nobody’s friend. No one can take ascendancy over me. You would like to be the centre of everything here, as the sun is the centre of the planets. You have been the cause of all our anxieties since we came here. If I had known, I would have brought no one but servants. I can live here alone well enough, and when one is tired of life, a dagger can do the rest quickly enough. If you’re so maltreated here, rather than quarrel with Montholon, you had better leave us.”

Gourgaud was stunned! He was going to mention Napoleon’s promise about the pension for his mother, but he thought better than to bring it up. Gourgaud reminded Napoleon that he never asked him for anything, other than to be with him at St. Helena.

On 20th January (1817), another heated argument breaks out between Gourgaud and Napoleon over the Montholons. Napoleon chides Gourgaud that he should not “persecute” people that he [Napoleon] “loves”. Gourgaud responds: “What! I was Premier Ordnance Officer, and my prerogatives were superb. I have nothing in common with the [Montholons]. Their service is distinct from mine. Your Majesty insists on Montholon wearing his red uniform, and if I may maintain my office of Ordnance Officer, I will be anything but jealous. In the army I, artillery General, would never have obeyed M. Montholon.”

Napoleon then tells Gourgaud that he would never make the Premier Artillery Office a member of the official household!  In short, Gourgaud was never a member of Napoleon’s household.

On 21st January, Napoleon speaks with Gourgaud and Montholon together and demands they put their differences aside. Each agrees.

At this point several conclusions can be drawn by the reader:
1. Napoleon appears to have been manipulating Bertrand, Montholon and Gourgaud.
2. Gourgaud was a person of honor and integrity, and perhaps openly too honest.
3. Bertrand was generally aloof to the undercurrents occurring at Longwood, probably because he had his own family with which to contend, and did not reside at Longwood.
4. The Montholons both appear to be constantly attempting to manipulate everyone around them, including Napoleon. (If Napoleon was, in fact, using Albine Montholon as a mistress, especially with the knowledge of her husband the Count, it would account for much of the remunerations they received afterwards once away from St. Helena. Napoleon provided handsomely for Count Montholon in his will.)

Things never really got any better for the residents at Longwood. Las Cases and O’Meara were sent away, and Napoleon became more introverted and melancholy picking fights with mostly Gourgaud and Madame Bertrand, to the consternation of the Count. The spent more and more time at Hutt’s Gate, at Plantation House, and in town rather than around Napoleon and Longwood.  Longwood house was in a terrible state of disrepair. Along with the rat infestation, it was nearly unbearable. Further, as Napoleon began to suffer more from his terminal illness, he became more reclusive requiring more attention. The more reclusive he became, the more Hudson Lowe advanced new restrictions that irritated everyone, not just Napoleon.

On 1st September (1817), Gourgaud wrote directly to Lowe complaining that the promised repairs to his room at Longwood had not been done, and since he had not received any letters from his mother for several months, he wanted some assurance that his letters were actually being sent, and his mother’s to him were not being held up as they had in the past. On September 2nd Lowe sent a letter to Gourgaud assuring him. On 3rd September, Gourgaud responded to Lowe thanking him for his letter of assurance. Later that day workmen appear at Longwood with written orders from Lowe to begin repairing Gourgaud’s room! Lowe apparently was unaware the work had not been done.

26th January (1818): Albine Montholon gives birth to another baby girl. (The first one apparently was conceived onboard Northumberland! She was born on 18th June, 1816. Northumberland sailed from Plymouth on 9th August, 1815, exactly nine months earlier.)

On 8th February, Gourgaud submits a letter to Napoleon requesting to be relieved of his duties and to be allowed to return home due to ill-health. Gourgaud tells Bertrand that he doesn’t want to go, but Napoleon is driving him away. Gourgaud meets with Napoleon that evening, and Napoleon wishes him well. Later that evening Gourgaud receives a letter from Napoleon indicating that he has awarded Gourgaud a life-pension of 12,000 Francs. (Gourgaud never received this!)

On 13th February, Gourgaud leaves Longwood and moves in with Lieutenant Basil Jackson at Bayle Cottage near Plantation House. He and Jackson are invited to dinner with Hudson Lowe.

On 14th February, Major Gorrequer inspects Gourgaud’s personal papers at the request of Lowe.

17th February, Lowe and Major Gorrequer meet with Gourgaud and inspect his personal belongings – everything is in proper order. However, Gourgaud is flat broke! Not a sou to his name!

14th March: Gourgaud departs St. Helena for England. (Usually, those of Napoleon’s suite departing St. Helena are required to transit to the Cape first. Gourgaud was allowed by Lowe to go straight to England!)

Turning to Major Gorrequer’s official notes as military secretary to Hudson Lowe, we find some interesting information regarding the character of Gourgaud. Gorrequer inspected Gourgaud’s papers at Bayle Cottage on 14th February. Lowe commented to Gorrequer that he need not do too thorough an “inspection” as Gourgaud had assured him at dinner with him the previous evening that he had no important papers with which to be concerned. (They had discussed the smuggling issue with Las Cases at dinner.) Lowe told Gorrequer it was a matter of “form” rather than “substance”. Basil Jackson witnessed Gorrequer’s inspection. Nothing of consequence was discovered. Lowe further did not require seals to be placed on Gourgaud’s trunks after the inspection.

Nothing further is extant in Major Gorrequer’s official notes.

We now turn to Gourgaud’s roommate, Lieutenant Basil Jackson. His memoir, Notes and Reminiscences of a Staff Officer, was not published until 1877, and were for private circulation only. (Jackson died in 1899.) Jackson and Gourgaud were roommates for exactly one month.

According to Jackson, he and Gourgaud were immediately on “friendly terms”. (Recall that Jackson was constantly in attendance at Longwood as he was in charge of repairs there.  He was in a good position to observe all events occurring there.)
According to Jackson, he observed early on that Napoleon had taken a clear dislike to Gourgaud. Jackson’s private conversations at Longwood with Gourgaud confirmed this. Jackson also confirms the bad blood between Las Cases and Gourgaud, as well as the real bitterness toward Count Montholon. Jackson, under orders to report the goings-on at Longwood, apprised Lowe of his conversations with Gourgaud. Lowe specifically requested that Jackson find room for Gourgaud at Bayle Cottage if Gourgaud decided to leave Longwood. Once it was determined that Gourgaud would leave, Lowe detailed Jackson to fetch him from Longwood and stay with him until he departed St. Helena.

On the way to Bayle Cottage they passed Plantation House, and Gourgaud stopped to pay respects to Lowe and thank him for his courtesy. Gourgaud, after his meeting with Lowe, expressed great surprise to Jackson that Lowe did not ask him at all about what the situation was at Longwood. Gourgaud assumed that Lowe would bring it up, but didn’t. Subsequently, Jackson and Gourgaud were frequently invited to dine with Lowe. Gourgaud did disclose how easy it had been to smuggle letters out of Longwood to England. He admitted that O’Meara was the main culprit! Gourgaud also disclosed that Napoleon had contemplated suicide on several occasions, but was talked out of it. Jackson formed the opinion that Gourgaud was a “foolish, vain fellow, without sense enough to conceal his weaknesses.”

During this time Gourgaud’s health greatly improved. The main topic of their conversations regarded the retreat from Moscow. Both Baron Sturmer and Balmain treated Gourgaud very kindly as well, residing only a short walk away from Bayle Cottage.

As Gourgaud was about to depart St. Helena, he and Jackson rode to Longwood and asked Bertrand for a small loan – Bertrand refused because Gourgaud had refused taking the funds offered earlier by Napoleon. When they returned to Bayle Cottage, Jackson informed Lowe of the rejection. The day that Gourgaud departed, Jackson presented Gourgaud a check for 100 Pounds drawn on Lowe’s personal account! Jackson never saw Gourgaud again.

Lastly, there is the “Gourgaud Problem” to be confronted. There has always been speculation as to why Gourgaud wanted to leave St. Helena, apart from the obvious.

There are differing suppositions:
1. Gourgaud simply wanted to leave because he was miserable.
2. Gourgaud and Napoleon hatched a plot to make it appear they were at odds so that Gourgaud could make contacts with Napoleon’s friends and family in his behalf. (Montholon may have been a co-conspirator)
3. Gourgaud purposefully fought with Montholon so that Napoleon would force him to leave just to keep peace at Longwood.

Based upon all of the original source records, including Gourgaud’s own private diary not disclosed until after his death, it would appear that Gourgaud simply had had enough of the in-fighting and back-stabbing at Longwood, and Napoleon’s consistent behavior of ignoring or chiding him.  It was a hostile environment regardless of how you look at it. It is interesting however, to take note of Gourgaud’s activities after reaching England.

Gourgaud arrived in England on 1st May, 1818. The following day he had an interview with Henry Goulburn, the Under-Secretary of State. He made it clear to him that he had been badly treated at Longwood, and that it was very easy to smuggle letters to Europe. He told him that the main person responsible was O’Meara, William Balcombe, and various British ship captains and visitors that were allowed an audience with Napoleon. He also stated that, as of his departure, Napoleon seemed to be in good health, contrary to reports that filtered back to England.

After seeing Goulburn, Gourgaud had a meeting with the French ambassador, d’Osmond. (Lowe had given Gourgaud a letter of introduction to him when he left St. Helena.)  There is, in fact, in the British Library, a letter dated 31st October, 1818, written by d’Osmond to Lord Bathhurst in which d’Osmond reported, after his meeting with Gourgaud, that Gourgaud stated to him that he said to Napoleon upon departing St. Helena:

“If Fate should ever destine my country to the horrible misfortune of seeing you [Napoleon] again, you would find me in the ranks of your enemies, and I should not approach you except with weapons in my hands.”

While this letter certainly is hearsay, it is a part of official records. However, in another interview with the Russian Ambassador, Count de Lieven, Gourgaud repeated the statement.

For many weeks after arriving in England, Gourgaud continued his anti-Napoleon rhetoric. It appeared to all that he had finally realized his “error” in following Napoleon, and that he had brought nothing but misery to France. However, Gourgaud suddenly did an about-face! He wrote a letter to Marie-Louise describing Napoleon as a martyr at St. Helena. Based upon this letter, the British authorities took the position that Gourgaud had fooled them initially, and that he was really Napoleon’s “agent”. Gourgaud was arrested and deported on 14th November, 1818, to Hamburg. He wound up actually receiving 12,000 Francs from Prince Eugene having received that direction from Napoleon. He was allowed back in France in 1821, and married Senator Roederer’s daughter, Marthe, in 1822. They had one son, Louis Marie Napoleon Helene Gourgaud. He is the Great-Great Grandfather of Napoleon Gourgaud du Taillis who passed away in Paris on 8th August, 2010.

Gourgaud was an active member of the Bonapartist Party until 1830. He wrote a scathing criticism of the Count de Segur’s History of the Grande Armee, for which Segur challenged him to a duel, but was won by Gourgaud wounding him. He also wrote a criticism of Sir Walter Scott’s, Life of Napoleon, but no duel ensued!  Scott published an attack on Gourgaud afterwards.

In 1830 Gourgaud was promoted Commander of the Artillery in Paris, and was posted to Louis Philippe as Aide-de-Camp in 1832. He was promoted Lieutenant General in 1835, and was granted French peerage in 1841. Ironically, he returned to St. Helena in 1840 as a part of the mission to recover Napoleon’s body and return it to France. Also ironically, Gourgaud made an attempt to have Montholon included in the mission, but failed as Montholon was then imprisoned in the fortress of Ham together with Louis Napoleon, the future Napoleon III. Gourgaud was present at Napoleon’s second funeral at the Invalides. In 1849 Gourgaud was elected a deputy of the Legislative Assembly. In 1852 he passed away. His journal was kept a secret by his family and only published in 1899, forty-seven years after his death.

In conclusion, in this writer’s opinion, Gaspard Gourgaud was an amazing individual, apparently consumed with integrity and honor, but with conflicted emotions regarding his relationship with Napoleon.  This is not that fair apart from many who were privy to the Great Man, but some handled it better than others, Gourgaud obviously being one.



Hudson Lowe letter to Gourgaud dated September 2, 1817 from the collection of Peter M. Friedman, Friedman Historical Manuscripts.

Gourgaud, General Baron Gaspard, The St. Helena Journal of General Baron Gourgaud, John Lane the Bodley Head, London, English Ed., 1932.
Jackson, Lt.-Col. Basil, Notes and Reminiscences of a Staff Officer, London, 1903.
Kemble, James, St. Helena During Napoleon's Exile - Gorrequer's Diary, Heinemann, London, 1969.
Maitland, Captain Frederick, Narrative of the Surrender of Buonaparte, Henry Colburn, London, 1826.
Napoleon, Memoirs of the History of France, 2 vols dictated to Gen. Gourgaud, Henry Colburn, London, 1823.
Richardson, Hubert, A Dictionary of Napoleon and His Times, Cassell and Co., London, 1920.
Ropes, John Codman, The Campaign of Waterloo, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1893.
Rose, John Holland, Napoleon's Last Voyages, (Diary of John Glover), Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1906.
Watson, G. L. de St., A Polish Exile with Napoleon, Harper & Brothers, London, 1912.

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