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Captain Jean Danjou

Jean Danjou (15 April 1828 – 30 April 1863) was a decorated captain in the French Foreign Legion. He commanded the 62 legionnaires and two lieutenants who fought the legendary Battle of Camarón during the French intervention in Mexico. He was killed during the battle.

Contents

Education

Jean Danjou was born in Chalabre into a family with a great military history. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the foremost French military academy. He graduated from the academy as a 2nd Lieutenant.

Military career

Wooden hand of Jean Danjou

After graduation from Saint-Cyr, Danjou was transferred to Algeria, to assist French colonization efforts. It was here that he lost his hand in combat on 1 May 1853. He had a wooden prosthetic hand made, which he used for the rest of his life (see below). Danjou was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 24 December 1853.

As 1st Lieutenant, Danjou was part of the French army that fought in the Crimean War, where Danjou served during the Siege of Sevastopol. He was promoted to captain on 9 June 1855.

His next campaign during the Austro-Sardinian War, where in 1859 he fought in the Battle of Magenta and the Battle of Solférino.

After serving in Morocco for some time, Danjou was part of the French expeditionary corps sent to Mexico in 1862. He was quartermaster of Colonel Jeanningros, who was in charge of the Foreign Legion regiment in Mexico. It was the duty of the French Legion to ensure the movement and safety of French supply convoys.

On 29 April, Colonel Jeanningros was informed that an important convoy was on its way to Puebla, with a load of 3 million francs, and material and munitions for the siege. Danjou decided to send a company to escort the convoy. The 3rd company of the Foreign Regiment was assigned to this mission, but had no officers available. Danjou himself took the command.

The Battle of Camarón

On 30 April, at 1 a.m., the 3rd company was on its way, with three officers and 62 men. At 7 a.m., after a 15 mile march, it stopped at Palo Verde to rest. Soon after a Mexican force of 2,000 soldiers (800 cavalry & 1,200 infantry) was spotted. Danjou made the company take up a square formation and, even though retreating, he drove back several cavalry charges, inflicting the first heavy losses on the enemy.

Looking for a more defensible position, Danjou decided to make a stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, an inn protected by a 10 foot high wall. His plan was to tie up the enemy forces to prevent any attacks on the nearby convoy. While his legionnaires prepared for a defense of the inn, the Mexican commander, Colonel Milan, demanded that Danjou and his men surrender, pointing out the fact that the Mexican Army was greatly superior in number. Danjou went around to each of his men with bottle of wine and made them all swear to not surrender.

At noon, Danjou was shot in the chest and died. His soldiers continued to fight, despite overwhelming odds and the extreme heat, until 6 p.m.. The 60 men, who had had nothing to eat or drink since the day before, resisted many charges of the Mexican army. The last five men all were down to their very last bullet. Instead of dishonour they decided to charge with fixed bayonets. When they did, the Mexican commander ordered his troops to cease fire. The surviving men were spared their lives. Out of admiration for their courage, the Mexican commander allowed them to return to France with the body of Captaine Danjou, as an honour guard. This story has become legendary in French military history.

Danjou was buried on 3 May 1863 in Camarón.

Trivia

After the battle, a Mexican named Ramirez took Capitaine Danjou's wooden hand. Ramirez was arrested and the hand retrieved by Lieutenant Karl Grübert of the Austrian army, which replaced the Foreign Legion in this conflict on 17 July 1865. To this day, the wooden hand plays an important role in the celebration of the anniversary of the battle.

External links

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