General Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de CasanovaCousin to Napoleon and notable cavalry general
Born: March 8, 1778
Place of Birth: Corte, Corsica, France
Legion of Honor: Commander
Imperial Nobility: Duke
Died: March 2, 1853
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: ARRIGHI on the south pillar
Arrighi de Casanova was a cousin of Napoleon Bonaparte, and married the daughter of Napoleon's chamberlain Montesquiou.
The first significant event in Arrighi de Casanova's career was when the king's orders admitted him to the military school at Rebais. By 1793, he was a student at the University of Pisa but the Revolution was soon to change his path. After the English left Corsica in 1796, Arrighi joined the army and was elected a sous-lieutenant in the 3rd Free Company of Liamone, a département of Corsica at the time. Within a month, he was promoted to lieutenant.
In April of 1797, his now famous cousin Napoleon appointed him as a lieutenant to the 75th Demi-Brigade of the Line of the Army of Italy. Soon afterwards he worked as the secretary to the French ambassador to Rome, Joseph Bonaparte. While in Rome, he was by the side of General Duphot when that general was unfortunately killed in a riot.
Appointed to the staff of the Army of the Orient, Arrighi distinguished himself at the Battle of Salahieh, receiving a saber blow to the head but also being promoted to capitaine after the battle by General Bonaparte. He became an aide-de-camp to Berthier in February of 1799, and he was one of the first soldiers through the breach during the assault on Jaffa.
Soon thereafter Arrighi took part in the assault on Acre with Lannes. While there, he arrived at the front only to be hit by a ball that passed through his neck. Blood spurting everywhere, Arrighi fell to the ground, and a soldier rushed to him and put a finger in each hole on the sides of his neck, slowing the bleeding. Dr. Larrey was called for, and he quickly applied bandages while ignoring the shots falling all around them, saving Arrighi de Casanova's life.1 This was enough to put Arrighi out of action for a while, and he did not fight again until Marengo, where he was again Berthier's aide-de-camp.
Arrighi was promoted to chef d'escadrons later that year, and then in 1803 he was promoted to chef de brigade, and in 1804 he became a Commander of the Legion of Honor. The next year, Arrighi received more saber blows to the head at the combat of Wertingen, and he fought at Austerlitz. In May of 1806, he became Major-Colonel of the Dragoons of the Guard. After fighting at Friedland, Arrighi was promoted to général de brigade but retained his rank in the Imperial Guard.
One of the new nobility, Arrighi became Duke of Padoue in March of 1808. When the French moved into Spain, he commanded the Dragoons of the Guard, leading them into battle at Benavente. Returning to serve in the Austrian campaign, Arrighi fought at Aspern-Essling and after the battle was promoted to général de division, replacing the fallen General Espagne as head of the 3rd Division of Cuirassiers. With this unit, he fought at Wagram.
In July of 1810, Arrighi became the inspector general of cavalry, and for the next few years filled administrative posts, mostly with the National Guard. Assuming command of the III Cavalry Corps in March of 1813, he drove out partisans in his area and then became Governor of Leipzig, succesfully defending it from an attack by the Russian General Czernischeff on June 7, 1813. Continuing to lead his cavalry corps, Arrighi fought under both Oudinot and Ney in the coming months, distinguishing himself at Dennewitz. After fighting at Leipzig, he was pushed back to Weimar, and then he fought at Hanau.
During the defense of France of 1814, Arrighi fought at many battles, usually under Marshals Macdonald or Marmont. He was wounded defending Paris, and then when the Bourbons returned, they put him on non-activity. With Napoleon's escape from Elba and return to power, Arrighi was appointed Governor of Corsica for the duration of the Hundred Days. The vengeful Bourbons proscribed him upon their return, and he escaped to Lombardy. Finally in 1819, he was allowed to return to France.
- Robert Richardson, Larrey: Surgeon to Napoleon's Imperial Guard, (London: Quiller Press, 2000), 67-68.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Page last updated: February 16, 2014
© Nathan D. Jensen