Baudin, Charles (1784–1854)

By: Betje Black Klier

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: October 26, 2018

Charles Baudin, French naval officer, was born in Sedan, France, on July 21, 1784, the son of Pierre Charles Louis Baudin. His father was known for his justice and moderation during the French Revolution. Legend says he died of joy at the news that Napoleon Bonaparte was coming to power in 1799. That year Charles Baudin entered the navy at age fifteen and was accepted into service aboard the Foudroyant as a novice seaman. By 1808 he had risen to command successively the frigates Piémontaise and Sémillante. Despite losing his right arm in combat with the English in the Indian Ocean that year, he continued his career and became a captain in 1812. With Gen. Charles Lallemand (future founder of Champ d'Asile), William Lee (American consul at Bordeaux), and Gen. Bertrand Clausel, he plotted the escape of Napoleon from France after Waterloo; but the emperor refused, preferring to throw himself upon the mercy of the British. With the second restoration of the Bourbons, Baudin was forced to resign his commission, though he subsequently prospered as a merchant in Le Havre. In this capacity he befriended the penniless Pierre Soulé, who became a well-known lawyer, senator, and diplomat of New Orleans, and later provided for Baudin's voyage to America.

After the July Revolution in 1830, the government of King Louis Philippe restored Baudin's naval command and in 1838 dispatched a blockading squadron to Mexico under his command, accompanied by the king's third son, Prince Joinville. During the siege, known in Mexican history as the "Pastry War," all of the French provisions (including drinking water) were shipped from Havana. President Mirabeau B. Lamar sent Col. Barnard E. Bee to Veracruz to obtain Mexican recognition of Texas independence, but the Mexicans refused to see Bee, who consulted with Baudin and Joinville. Through the blockade of Veracruz, by engaging the military and depriving Mexico of import duties, its principal source of revenue, France impeded Mexico's attempts to reconquer its rebellious northeastern province, Texas, and avenge the Mexican defeat at the battle of San Jacinto. When negotiations failed to satisfy France's complaints, Baudin's squadron leveled the supposedly impregnable citadel of San Juan de Ullóa on November 27, 1838, earning Baudin international fame as the "hero of San Juan de Ullóa." During the bombardment of the citadel, Baudin's forces further disabled the Mexican army by capturing Gen. Mariano Arista (a future president) and wounding Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, whose leg had to be amputated. The Duke of Wellington proclaimed this victory to be the only known instance in history of a regularly fortified citadel's being taken solely by naval force. Accounts vary regarding the ultimate success of the mission, however, because Mexico expelled the French soon after Baudin's departure for Texas, where he became an honorary Galvestonian in May 1839. Louis Eugène Maissin, his aide-de-camp and later chief of staff, published a book in Paris at the end of 1839 describing their military experiences with Mexico and their friendly visit to Texas. His report on the commercial and military potential of the Republic of Texas and the brave and industrious Texans contributed to France's decision to recognize the republic. The role of Baudin in Texas history has been compared to that of the Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution, because Baudin and Lafayette personified France's aid to the young republics during their struggles for independence. After a distinguished career Baudin was promoted to admiral by Napoleon III only days before his death, on June 7, 1854.

Pierre Blanchard and André Dauzats, San Juan de Ulùa, ou Relation de l'expédition française au Mexique, sous les ordres de M. le contre-amiral Baudin (Paris: Gide, 1839). Mary Katherine Chase, Négociations de la République du Texas en Europe, 1837–1845 (Paris: Champion, 1932). Jurien de la Gravière, "Une expédition d'outre-mer en 1838," Revue des Deux Mondes 73 (February 1886). Eugène Maissin, The French in Mexico and Texas, 1838–1839 (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones Press, 1961).

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Military
  • Soldiers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Betje Black Klier, “Baudin, Charles,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 26, 2018