Général Thomas-Alexandre Dumas

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Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie

Also Known As: "ген. Томас-Александър ДЮМА", "Général Thomas-Alexandre Dumas", "Thomas Rétoré"
Birthplace: Jérémie, Haiti
Death: February 26, 1806 (43)
Hôtel de l’Epée, Villers-Cotterêts, Picardie, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie and Marie-Céssette Dumas
Husband of Marie-Louise Élisabeth Labouret
Father of Aimée-Letellier Dumas; Louise-Alexandrine Dumas and Alexandre Dumas, père
Brother of Adelphe Davy de la Pailleterie; Jeannette Davy de la Pailleterie and Marie-Rose Davy de la Pailleterie

Managed by: Henn Sarv
Last Updated:

About Général Thomas-Alexandre Dumas

Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was the first known French general of color, being the son of a French plantation owner and a slave woman of African descent.

He was nicknamed the "Schwarze Teufel" ("Black Devil") by the Austrians after his personal bravery prevented their retreat across the Adige on January 19, 1797.

A biography about him, "The Black Count", earned the Pulitzer prize for biography in 2013.



Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, (1762–1806) was a hero of the French Revolution and General in Napoleon's army. He is better known as Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, General of the French Revolution and the father of author Alexandre Dumas, père, and grandfather of author Alexandre Dumas, fils. He was nicknamed the "Schwarze Teufel" ("Black Devil", "Diable Noir" in French) by the Austrians after his personal bravery prevented their retreat across the Adige on 19 January 1797.

Early life

Born 25 March 1762 in Jérémie, Saint-Domingue (today Haiti), Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie was the son of a French nobleman, the Marquis Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie (20 June 1714, Belleville-en-Caux–15 June 1786, Belleville-en-Caux), and Marie-Césette Dumas, who was of Afro-Caribbean descent. His father served the government of France as Général commissaire in the Artillery in the colony of Saint-Domingue, and his mother Marie-Césette managed a farm (her name "Dumas", derives from "du Mas" which means "of the farm"); she died there of dysentery when her son was 12. Thomas-Alexandre had three sisters: Adelphe, Jeannette and Marie-Rose. At age 18, his father took him back to France and gave him the education of a young nobleman of the time. His father was the son of Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie (1674–1758) and his wife, Jeanne-Françoise Pautre de Dominion.


As Dumas grew into manhood he moved to Paris, enjoying life with the financial support of his father. But soon after the senior Davy married his second wife, he suspended the payments to his son. Without any income, Thomas-Alexandre decided to join the French Army in 1786. At the request of his father, he enlisted under his mother's name Marie Dumas, in order to preserve the family's reputation. During the French Revolution, Dumas became a devout republican serving in an all-black unit known as "La Légion Américaine." This dedication helped him catapult from the rank of corporal to that of General of a division in less than two years.

In August 1789, his regiment was sent to Villers-Cotterêts to secure the region. While staying at an inn, he met the daughter of the innkeeper and his future wife, Marie-Louise Elisabeth Labouret. He first served under General Dumouriez in the Army of the North. When he reached the rank of colonel in 1792 he married Marie-Louise. During the French Revolution, Dumas distinguished himself as a capable and daring soldier and became a General by the age of 31. As a General, he fought in the Revolt in the Vendée (1793–1796), the Italian Campaign (1796–1797), and the Egyptian Campaign (1798–1800).

Dumas, however was very critical of Napoleon and it nearly came to mutiny. While Napoleon was preparing his Syrian campaign, Dumas told him that he was very ill because of the climate. Napoleon is stated to have said: "I can easily replace him with a brigadier", and let him go.

Returning to France, storms forced his ship into Taranto, where he was imprisoned by Ferdinand, King of the Two Sicilies, then at war with France. Thomas-Alexandre was kept starved and incommunicado for two years. Constant attempts were made to poison him with arsenic, and by the time of his release, he was partially paralysed, almost blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, his exceptional physique broken. During his imprisonment no attempt was made by France to ransom him, nor was he awarded the customary pension.


Dumas died of stomach cancer, on 26 February 1806 in Villers-Cotterêts, France. At his death his son, the future author Alexandre Dumas, père, was three years and seven months old and the family was plunged into poverty.


In February 1906, a statue of General Dumas was erected in Paris for the 100th anniversary of his death. It was removed by the Germans just before Hitler's visit to occupied Paris and has never been restored. In 2009, a sculpture by Driss Sans-Arcidet was erected in Paris, Place du Général Catroux. It represented broken slave handcuffs and was unveiled on April the 4th, 2009. In the Nouvelle Revue d'Histoire, No. 42 (May–June 2009) Jean-Joël Brégeron pointed out that this statue was not particularly appropriate—the General had never been a slave. On April the 15th, the writer Claude Ribbe put a petition to set up on the internet to ask Nicolas Sarkozy for giving General Dumas the Légion d'honneur. His name is also inscribed on the south wall of the Arc de Triomphe.

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Général Thomas-Alexandre Dumas's Timeline

March 25, 1762
Jérémie, Haiti
Two other documents say Marie-Cessette remained alive after that year., Haiti
September 10, 1793