by Geert van Uythoven


Jean Antoine de Collaert was born in Blehen (Liège) on 13 June 1761. Son of Marie Joseph Ferdinand Baron de Collaert, Adjutant of the Prince of Prussia, and Marianna Hauben.


Early years

He started his military career when he was 16 years old, as a 1st lieutenant with the Austrian Foreign Cavalry Corps ‘Donceel’ (March 1778). Promoted cavalry-captain in that same regiment already that same year. Serving in Bohemia during the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-1779). Dismissed on 5 June 1779.

Entered Dutch service as a volunteer cavalry-captain and commander of a dragoon company in the Walloon Legion de la Matha on 15 March 1785. Dismissed again December 1785. Again entering the Legion de la Matha as a major with the cavalry, during the Patriot rising of 1787. After the restoration of the Stadtholder William V, De Collaert was again dismissed (October 1787).


Batavian Army 1795 - 1806

After the Dutch Republic had been ran over by the French and the Batavian Republic was formed, on 8 July 1795 De Collaert entered Batavian service as a lieutenant-colonel with the Hussar Regiment. In 1796 he served in Germany under Herman Willem Daendels. In 1797 he embarked on the roads of Den Helder for the invasion of Great Britain, but nothing came of it. Campaign in North Holland 1799: Present at the battle of Bergen (19 September); distinguished himself during the battle of Alkmaar (2 October), and again during the battle of Castricum (6 October) were he led the decisive counterattack ordered by the commanding officer of the Hussar Regiment, Colonel de Quaita. On 8 October he pursued the retreating British to Petten village, taking two hundred prisoners. Serving in Germany under Dumonceau 1800-1801, severely wounded by two musket balls (one in his arm, one in his belly) during the fighting at Aschaffenburg (24 November 1800), while fighting back an Austrian sortie from that city, charging the Austrians three times with two hussar squadrons. Augerau reported about him: “le brave Colonel Collaert s’est comporté comme un militaire consommé, ce brave home après avoir reçu deux blessures, n’a pas cessé commander les troupes“. Receiving a sabre of honour from the Batavian government as recognition for his deeds on 16 June 1801. On 18 July 1803 he was promoted colonel with one year of active service, but remained with his regiment for the time being. Received command of the Hussar Regiment, replacing Colonel de Quaita on 12 August 1803.

Serving with the Expeditionary Division under Dumonceau 25 November 1803; serving in the training camp of Zeist under Dumonceau October 1804. On 28 June 1805, De Collaert was appointed commander of the Guard of the 'raadspensionaris' Schimmelpenninck. For the time being retaining command of the Hussar Regiment, later on relieved by Colonel Macpherson. During August-September 1805, he embarked on the roads of Den Helder for yet another planned invasion of Great Britain, but again nothing came of it. After that again serving in Germany under Dumonceau during September 1805. Appointed commander of The Hague on 8 October 1805. Promoted major-general on 7 March 1806.


Dutch Army 1806 - 1810

When Louis Bonaparte became king of the Kingdom of Holland, on 6 July 1806 De Collaert was appointed commander of the 4th Military District with his headquarters at Deventer. To fulfil that appointment, on 11 July he handed over command of The Hague to Du Ry. On 13 September 1806, De Collaert again went to the training camp at Zeist, this time to take command of the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Division (Van Boecop) of the Expeditionary Force under Dumonceau. In the end left for Germany on 25 September, commanding a brigade of the Division Michaud. Had to return to Holland because of his health and was relieved by Maschek during October 1806.  Appointed a Knight in the Koninklijke Orde van Verdienste on 1 January 1807 (this order was changed in the Koninklijke Orde van Holland on 14 February 1807); already on 16 February of that same year appointed commander of the same order.

On 8 May 1807, De Collaert was appointed colonel-general of the Royal Guard, and as such became a Grand Officer of the Kingdom as well. On 19 May of that same year he received the grand cross of the Koninklijke Orde van Holland (this order was changed in the Ordre de Réunion on 23 November 1807). Initially he remained in active service, but because of his injuries he was pensioned out of the army on 3 August 1808 (retaining his title of colonel-general) with an annual pension of 4,000 guilders (by Royal Decree of 15 October 1808 raised to 6,000 guilders).

During the British invasion of Walcheren, on 7 August 1809 De Collaert returned to active service, appointed commander of Breda relieving De Bruno. he had bad luck however and broke a leg, forced to hand over command tot Colonel Donnat and to leave active service again while retaining his former pension on 21 August.


French Army 1810 - 1814

When the Dutch Kingdom became a part of the French Empire, De Collaert entered French service as a général de brigade on 2 January 1811, and was send to the Illyrian Provinces (Dalmatia). On 27 April he received command of the 1st brigade of the 1st Division (Delzons) of the Corps d’Observation of Italy. Appointed commander of Zara (replacing Bertrand de Sivray) from 1811 to 1 April 1813. Received the grand cross of the Ordre de Réunion on 22 February 1812.

During the beginning of 1813, De Collaert transferred to the Grande Armée  in Germany, on 25 March 1813 receiving command of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Cavalry Division (l’Héritier, later 5th Heavy Cavalry Division) of the 3rd Cavalry Corps (Arrighi de Casanova). This Division was on 10 August of that same year renamed 5th Cavalry Corps, with De Collaert acting commander of the 5th Dragoon Division from 10 August to 5 October 1813. Serving in Saxony during 1813: Battles of Lützen (2 may) and Bautzen (20-21 May). During July with the Corps d’Observation of Bavaria (Augereau). Became a knight of the Légion d’honneur on 14 July 1813. Distinguished himself during the fighting at Augustenburg on 6 August 1813. Battle of Dresden 26-27 August. Not sure if he was present at Leipzig. On 24 December 1813 present at the combat near Sainte-Croix in the Alsace. Appointed officer of the Légion d’honneur on 8 January 1814.

Serving in France during 1814: Combat of Valjouan 17 February, combat of Saint-Dizier 26 March. After Napoleon’s abdication, on 16 August 1814 he was appointed a knight in the Order of the Holy Louis of France. He requested and received his dismissal from the French army on 1 March 1815.


Netherlands Army 1814 - 1815

De Collaert entered the Netherlands army, becoming a major-general of cavalry on 26 March 1815. On 21 April promoted lieutenant-general, receiving command of the cavalry of the Netherlands Mobile Army. That same month joining 1st Corps (Prince of Orange) of Wellingtons Anglo-Allied Army in Belgium. Suffering a serious wound by a musket ball which crushed his foot during the battle of Waterloo while leading from the front (18 June). Appointed commander of the Militaire Willemsorde on 8 July 1815. On 16 march 1816 appointed commander of the province Noord-Brabant.  Died in Brussels because of his wound suffered during the battle of Waterloo on 17 June of that same year.



His older brother, Marie Joseph Gerardus de Collaert born Blehen 17 December 1758, also had a military career, more or less similar to his younger brother. Initially entering Austrian service; 1787 cavalry-captain in the Dutch Legion de la Matha; 10 July 1795 cavalry-captain in the Batavian Hussar Regiment; 1799 participating in the campaign in Holland, distinguishing himself but wounded at the head during the battle of Castricum (6 October); 1805 campaign in Germany and Austria; 6 April 1807 colonel-commander of the same regiment, at that moment named 2nd Hussar Regiment; 1809 Walcheren campaign; 1812 commander of the French (former Dutch) 11th Hussar Regiment, Russian campaign. Pensioned by Napoleon in Moscow. He was a knight of the Ordre de Réunion.

© Geert van Uythoven