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Not to be confused with his son, the famous French author. This Alexandre Dumas (who also went by the name Thomas-Alexandre Dumas) was the son of a lesser French nobleman, Alexandre-Antoine Davy, Marquis de la Pailleterie, and a black slave, Marie-Cessette Dumas, in Saint-Domingue. The marquis returned to Paris with his son* in 1776.
* Briefly selling young Thomas-Alexandre into slavery, possibly in order to get him into France legally. This is why you read these comments - I add the appalling historical details. Because I care.
Dumas stood well over six feet tall and knew no fear. He joined the first battalions of the Revolution in the rank of Private, using his mother's name to avoid family shame at being of such a low rank. (Men of noble lineage could enter directly into commissioned ranks, but it was difficult for someone of mixed race to do so**).
** It's fun to try to guess why!
Dumas went on to have a dazzling military career, attaining the rank of General. He served as second-in-command to the Chevalier St-Georges in the 'Black Legion' (so named it was comprised of free men of color.) He later led the Army of the Alps as Commander-in-Chief.
Unfortunately, later in his career Dumas found himself at odds with Napoleon Bonaparte. When he was captured and imprisoned in 1799, Bonaparte did nothing to secure his release, and Dumas returned to France ill and impoverished. He was denied a pension from the army, and died in 1806 at the age of 44.