Born: 18 September 1758 – Morlancourt, Somme, France
Died: 24 June 1829 – Seraincourt, France
Friant rose to the rank of Corporal before he left the service in 1787 but then volunteered for the Garde Nationale of Paris during the outbreak of the French Revolution in September 1789. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the 9e battalion de Paris in September 1792. Friant was wounded in the left leg on 16 December 1793 while leading his battalion on the German frontier under the Army of the Moselle.
On returning back to duty as Colonel of the 18e Demi-Brigade in March 1794, Friant took part in the great victory of Fleurus on 26 June 1974, a short distance from the future battlefield of Ligny/St-Amand. He was for a while acting-commander of a brigade in July and then a division in August in the same year. He was at the sieges of Maastricht in October 1894 and Luxemburg in April the following year. He was promoted to General de Brigade on 13 June 1795.
After serving as Military Governor of Luxemburg for a sort period, Friant served with the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse in 1796 along the Rhine. In January 1797 at the age of 39, he joined Bernadotte’s Division of the Army of Italy. He saw action at the Battle of the Tagliamento on the 16 March 1797 and assumed command of the 5th Brigade, 3rd Division with the 30e and 55e Ligne from June 1797.
In the Egypt campaign Friant commanded the 2nd Brigade with the 61e and 88e Linge of General Desaix’s division in Egypt, taking part in the Battle of the Pyramids in July 1798. He was temporally promoted to General de Division on 4 September 1799 and succeeded Desaix as commander in Upper Egypt after Desaix returned to France. Friant took a lead role in the suppression of the great revolt in Cairo in March – April 1800 and was confirmed as General de Division and named Governor of Alexandria in September 1800. He fought the British at the Second Battle of Aboukir 8 March 1801 and defended Alexandria in August the same year. At the end of 1801, Friant returned to France and became the inspector general of infantry. By this time General Davout had married one of Leclerc's sister’s, and with Friant also being married to one of Leclerc's sisters and they had a son called Jean Francois Friant, the two generals became brothers-in-law.
In 1805 in the Ulm-Austerlitz campaign, Friant’s Division earned reputation for rapid and effective marching. This quality was put to excellent use when the Division was sent from Vienna to reinforce the Grande Armee at Austerlitz, marching 70 miles in 46 hours and arrived just in time to counterattack the Allies at Telnice and Sokolnice on the morning of 2 December 1805. In the fighting along the Goldbach stream, Friant had three horses killed under him. He was awarded the Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor on 27 December 1805.
In October 1806 in at the Battle of Auerstadt where Davout was in command of the III Corps of 26,000 men and defeated the Prussian main body of 63,000. Friant’s Division advanced on the right, turning the Prussian left flank. The infantry of Friant and Gudin who were standing in square, withstood and shattered a large cavalry attack led by Blucher himself.
In the Polish campaign, Friant’s Division fought successfully at the Ukra River on 24 December 1806. At the Battle of Eylau, Friant’s Division arrived to reinforce the French right on the morning of 8 February 1807, helping to turn a near-defeat into a stalemate. Friant suffered a musket shot to his right side at Eylau. Friant was named Comte de I’Empire on 5 October 1808.
In the 1809 campaign, Friant’s Division fought with distinction at the battles of Teugen-Hausen, Abensberg, Eckmuhl and Ratisbon in April of that year.
At the Battle of Wagram on 6 July 1809, Friant was wounded in the shoulder by a shell fragment during the successful storming of the Square Tower at Markgrafneusiedl.
In the Russian campaign of 1812, Friant commanded the 2e Division of Davout's I Corps. In August 1812, after General Dorsenne's death, he was nominated as commander of the Grenadiers à Pied de la Vieille Garde. Friant remained at the head of his Division. He was wounded yet again at the Battle of Smolensk 17 August and severely wounded during the capture of Semenovskaya village at the Battle of Borodino 7 September 1812. Incapacitated and left behind at Gzhatsk, he was still there with his wounds unhealed when the retreating army returned to Gzhatsk at the end of October.
Friant returned to France to recover from his wounds in January 1813. He returned to the front in June 1813, commanding the Old Guard Division at the Battles of Dresden 26 August, Leipzig 16–19 October, and Hanau 30 October 1813.
In the 1814 campaign in France, Friant and his 1st Division of the Old Guard fought a successful defensive action against Gyulai's Austrians at Bar-sur-Aube on 24 January. Friant took part in Napoleon's surprise counter-offensive against Blücher's Army of Silesia, gaining victories at Montmirail 11 February, Château-Thierry 12 February, and Vauchamps 14 February 1814. Friant's Old Guard was the core and reserve of the Emperor's masse de manoeuvre. They were committed to battle in the bloody and indecisive clash at Craonne 7 March 1814, the reverse at Laon 9–10 March, the recapture of Reims 13 March, and the defeat at Arcis-sur-Aube 20 March.
During Napoleon's exile, Friant was retained as commander of the Grenadiers à pied de France. In the campaign of the Hundred Days, he was appointed as Colonel-in-chief of the first Grenadiers à Pied of foot of the old guard. His men made the final assault on Ligny as darkness fell on 16 June 1815.
On 18 June, at Waterloo Friant led his 3800 Old Guard Grenadiers in the final, fateful attack on Wellington’s Allied center, where he was wounded once again. He was admitted to retirement on September 4, 1815, at the age of 57 years where he had served in 34 years of campaigns.
He died on 24 June 1829, aged 70. His name is on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.