1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Decaen, Charles Mathieu Isidore, Count
DECAEN, CHARLES MATHIEU ISIDORE, Count (1769–1832), French soldier, was born at Caen on the 13th of April 1769. He was educated for the bar, but soon showed a strong preference for the military career, in which he quickly made his way during the wars of the French Revolution under Kléber, Marceau and Jourdan, in the Rhenish campaigns. In 1799 he became general of division, and contributed to the success of the famous attack by General Richepanse on the Austrian flank and rear at Hohenlinden (December 1800). Becoming known for his Anglophobe tendencies, he was selected by Napoleon early in the year 1802 for the command of the French possessions in the East Indies. The secret instructions issued to him bade him prepare the way, so that in due course (September 1804 was hinted at as the suitable time) everything might be ready for an attack on the British power in India. Napoleon held out to him the hope of acquiring lasting glory in that enterprise. Decaen set sail with Admiral Linois early in March 1803 with a small expeditionary force, touched at the Cape of Good Hope (then in Dutch hands), and noted the condition of the fortifications there. On arriving at Pondicherry he found matters in a very critical condition. Though the outbreak of war in Europe had not yet been heard of, the hostile preparations adopted by the Marquis Wellesley caused Decaen to withdraw promptly to the Isle of France (Mauritius), where, during eight years, he sought to harass British trade and prepare for plans of alliance with the Mahratta princes of India. They all came to naught. Linois was captured by a British squadron, and ultimately, in 1811, Mauritius itself fell to the Union Jack. Returning to France on honourable terms, Decaen received the command of the French troops in Catalonia. The rest of his career calls for no special mention. He died of the cholera in 1832.
See M. L. E. Gautier, Biographie du général Decaen (Caen, 1850). (J. Hl. R.)