General Antoine Lasalle was a gifted French cavalry commander, who entered the pre-revolutionary French army at the age of eleven, rising to the rank of lieutenant when he was only fourteen. As an aristocrat he lost this rank during the revolution, and re-enlisted in the ranks. By 1795, aged twenty, he had regained that rank, and would continue to rise through the ranks until his death at Wagram.
His career was aided by proximity to Napoleon. He was a staff officer with the army of Italy, where Napoleon first came to prominence. He then took part in Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, where he saved Davout’s life.
In 1800 he was promoted to colonel, and by 1805 he was a general of brigade, commanding the light cavalry at the battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805). In 1806, at the head of only 600 cavalry, he captured the fortress of Stettin, and was promoted to general of division.
In 1808 he was given command of a cavalry division in Spain. There he took part in a number of battles, beginning with a victory over General Cuesta at Cabezon (12 June 1808), where a cavalry charge helped to destroy a badly positioned Spanish army. He commanded the light cavalry at Medina de Rio Seco (14 July 1808), splitting the Spanish army in half. He also played a part in the French victory at Gamonel (10 November 1808), during Napoleon’s Spanish campaign and in the victory at Medellin (28 March 1809).
In 1809 he was appointed to command a cavalry division in the grande armée for the campaign in Austria, fighting at Aspern-Essling. He was killed leading his men at the Battle of Wagram (5–6 July 1809). He was buried in Austria, but in 1891 his body was returned to France and was interned in the Invalides. He had been one of Napoleon’s most gifted cavalry commanders, and was said to have had the making of a great battlefield commander.