He studied painting in the studio of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, alongside Jean-Victor Bertin, but left the studio to volunteer in the Compagnie des arts de Paris in 1792. He received his baptism of fire in the battle of Valmy later that year. He became a sergeant in the 1st Arsenal battalion and in 1793 moved to the artillery at La Fère, assisting in the sieges of Landrecies, Le Quesnoy and Valenciennes. At Valenciennes he became aide-de-camp to general Jacob then, as a lieutenant on attachment to the engineers, took part in the 1794 Holland campaign and the 1795 campaign.
Called to the depot in 1798, he succeeded brilliantly in his exams and was made a captain on attachment to the engineers. He became aide-de-camp to Marshal Berthier in 1800, a post he retained until 1812 and in which he took an active part in practically all of the Napoleonic campaigns. He was wounded and captured in Spain. He was promoted to full captain after Marengo and chef de bataillon after Austerlitz, also becoming a knight of the Légion dhonneur and a colonel at the Siege of Saragossa.