Louis Marie Joseph Maximilien Caffarelli (1756-99) was an engineer who became one of Napoleon’s closest friends during the Egyptian Campaign, but who died after his arm was amputated during the siege of Acre.
Caffarelli was commissioned as an Engineer in the French Royal Army in 1775. He became a convinced and extreme republican, but this didn’t prevent him losing his rank or being imprisoned during the worst of the Revolutionary period.
Early in his career one of his legs was removed by a cannon ball during the fighting on the Rhine, earning him the nickname ‘Jambe de Bois’ (wooden leg).
In 1795 he took part in Kleber’s crossing of the Rhine. In the same year he was promoted to général de brigade.
In 1798 he introduced Kléber to Napoleon, helping to gain Kleber his place on Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition. Caffarelli was one of the expedition’s leaders, helping to plan it. He commanded the engineers and supervised the Scientific Commission.
He performed well during the taking of Alexandria (2 July 1798), stormed by Kleber after an opposed landing.
At the start of the Cairo revolt on 21 October 1798 Caffarelli’s house was stormed, and the engineering equipment and supplies stored there were destroyed and two of the expedition’s academics, Duval and Thévenot, were killed.
At the siege of Acre his arm was broken, and although he survived the wound itself he died as a result of the resulting surgery. His army was amputated by Larrey, but despite the skill of his doctor, a fever set in and he died on 27 April 1799, two weeks after the operation.
His brother General Marie-Francois Caffarelli also served in the French army, and rose to command the Army of the North in Spain during the Peninsular War, although without much success.