The stories of the Marshals of France and of a handful of top commanders of the other armies are well-enough known. What, though, do we know about the mass of divisional and brigade commanders whose miniature portraits look back at us from the Battleground screens (at least, until they are struck down and replaced by the even more obscure "Colonels Anonymous")? This series will be devoted to biographical essays on those leaders, hoping to give the reader some understanding of "the man behind the counter."
The craggy aristocratic face of Piré is seen in all three of the Battleground games, at Borodino in command of the 2e Brigade de Cavalerie Légère, 1e Division de Cavalerie, I Reserve Cavalry Corps, and at Quatre-Bras and Waterloo leading the 2e Division de Cavalerie Légère attached to Reille's II Corps. Born 31 March 1778, Hippolyte emigrated with his noble parents in 1791. He began his military career in 1792 as a cadet in the Royalist émigré forces, being named Sous-Lieutenant in the Rohan infantry regiment in March 1794, and promoted to Lieutenant while on campaign in the Netherlands at age 16. His career was nearly ended by a chest wound sustained during the Royalist attack on Quiberon, 21 July 1795. He recovered to serve with the Royalist forces in the Vendée, where he was wounded again on 15 March 1796.
On 22 March 1800, Piré enlisted in the First Consul's Hussars, where he rose to Captain by 20 June. He was a staff officer at Austerlitz. In the Jena campaign, still a Captain, he was the first into the city of Leipzig at the head of a mere 50 troopers. Promoted to Chef d'Escadron in the 10th Hussars, he served at Eylau, 8 February 1807. 25 June 1807 he became Colonel of the 7e Chasseurs à Cheval, whom he led in Spain in 1808-09. Promoted to Général de Brigade on 10 March 1809, he commanded a light cavalry brigade at the combats of Tengen, Schierling, Eckmühl, Ratisbon, Ebersberg, Essling, and Wagram in April-July 1809. After garrison duty in Holland and Germany in 1810-11, he was a light cavalry brigade commander in Bruyères' 1st Light Cavalry Division in the Russian campaign.
Piré rose to Général de Division in command of the 9e Division de Cavalerie Légère in Milhaud's Corps in Germany, 15 October 1813. He led his division through the 1814 campaign in France, fighting at Saint-Dié, Brienne, Mormont, Troyes, Ferté-sur-Aube and Saint-Dizier in January-March 1814.
During the Hundred days Piré rallied to the Emperor and fought at Quatre-Bras, Waterloo, and Rocquencourt (1 July 1815). Condemned by the Bourbons, he took refuge in Russia 1815-19, then returned to the French Army, retiring in 1848 and dying in 1850.
Adapted from Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux et Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814), by Georges Six. Paris, Librairie G. Saffroy, 1934. Reprinted by Librairie Historique Teissedre, 1999.