Charles Lallemand, an exiled Napoleonic general who founded an illegal military colony on the Trinity River in 1818, was born in Metz, France, on June 23, 1774. He entered the cavalry during the French Revolution (1792) and by 1811 rose to brigadier general, baron of the empire, and commandant of the Legion of Honor while serving in France, Egypt, Santo Domingo, and Spain. During a trip to New York in 1804 Lallemand married a sixteen-year old Creole called Caroline, born Marie Charlotte Henriette Lartigue. In 1815 Charles Lallemand and his younger brother Henri-Dominique- supposedly serving in the army of Louis XVIII-attempted unsuccessfully to lead a rebellion against the royal government, which resulted in their arrest. When Napoleon arrived in Paris and replaced the Bourbon government, he rewarded their efforts with a brevet of general of a division. After the battle of Waterloo, as the Allies began to occupy Paris, Charles Lallemand accompanied Napoleon to Rochefort, where the former emperor surrendered himself to Captain Maitland on board the Bellerophon. The British refused to allow Charles Lallemand to accompany Napoleon into exile and imprisoned him in Malta for two months before permitting him to escape. Lallemand and the other officers who instigated the rebellion against Louis XVIII were condemned to death in absentia. Considered incorrigible, the Lallemand brothers were exempted from subsequent amnesties.
From the moment of Napoleon's surrender, Charles Lallemand was continuously identified in the United States and British newspapers as "Lallemand, the elder, who accompanied the Emperor when he surrendered. . ." Lallemand galvanized the world's attention and concern, and he came to symbolize the remains of imperial glory in a world-wide contest with Bourbon and Allied powers. In 1817 Lallemand arrived in Philadelphia and became the president of the French Emigrant Association (the Society for the Cultivation of the Vine and Olive), which obtained a grant of four townships in the portion of the Mississippi Territory that became Alabama. Remaining in contact with Sainte Helena, Lallemand established American mining, military, and piratical connections, under constant surveillance of the French, Spanish, and U.S. officials. Lallemand and his followers accepted Alabama land grants, which were sold to finance an alternative colony in Texas on land disputed between the United States and Spain since the Louisiana Purchase. With diplomatic attention focused on Texas and rumors flying, the repercussions of this French intrusion would be international. Many people expected Lallemand and his followers to rescue Napoleon from Sainte Helena or set his brother Joseph, formerly King of Spain, upon a Latin American throne, thereby establishing a base for liberating Central and South America. Lallemand possibly considered these options, as well as liberating Florida from Spain.
The projected Texas colony would be a refuge called Champ d'Asile (Field of Asylum) for the defeated Napoleonic veterans to collectively begin new lives. Charles Lallemand announced in the press that Champ d'Asile would be agricultural in nature, military only for protection. His main force, consisting of some 150 men sailed from Philadelphia on December 17, 1817, and arrived at Galveston on January 14, 1818. Lallemand and his brother, Henri, reached New Orleans on February 2, 1818, at which time Jean Laffite and his brother prepared to betray the expedition to the Spaniards. Recruits from New Orleans joined the group, and, with the aid of Laffite, about 120 "settlers" left Galveston in small boats on March 10. They went up the Trinity River to Atascosito where they built two small forts. In the meantime, Governor Antonio María Martínez, alarmed by reports of the French activity, prepared to send an expedition to the Trinity. He stationed an advance force on the San Marcos to guard against a surprise attack. Rumors of this move caused the French exiles to abandon their Champ d'Asile and flee to Galveston about July 24. The expedition disintegrated quickly. Lallemand abandoned his colony and returned to New Orleans where he became a United States citizen. Jean Lafitte and Amable Humbert ferried some of the survivors back to Louisiana by water; others straggled back to New Orleans on foot in August 1818. About half of the colonists remained in the New Orleans area; others went to Philadelphia or joined the Vine and Olive Colony in Demopolis, Alabama. The 1818 colony of Champ d'Asile would be the last filibuster incursion from the U.S. into Spanish Texas. Early in 1819 Spain ceded Florida to the U.S., retaining Texas as a province of Mexico for two more years. In 1821 Mexico gained its independence, and Napoleon died on the island of Sainte Helena leaving Charles Lallemand 100,000 francs in his will. Encumbered with debt, Lallemand's inheritance went quickly to his debtors. Charles Lallemand lived primarily in the United States until the July Revolution of 1830, which placed the liberal Louis-Philippe at the head of a constitutional monarchy. This government restored the imperial military grades. Charles Lallemand served as military governor of Corsica, 1837–38, and died in Paris in 1839.