The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Général Youssouf

Général Youssouf (Joseph Vantini)

A carte-de-visite portrait of an officer in the French Imperial army identified verso in a period hand as 'General Yusuf'. He is listed in Disdéri's catalogue of March 1861 as Général Jusuf. This is almost certainly Général Youssouf.

Born Joseph Vantini, he was abducted by pirates when he was about six years old and taken to Tunisia. He had no memory of his real parents and of his former life could only remember having seen the first Napoléon in 1814. In the seraglio of the Tunisian Bey he became a Muslim and in a short time learnt to speak Turkish, Arabic and Spanish. His skill in military exercises earned him the friendship of the Bey but in 1830 an intrigue with the Bey's daughter made his escape from Tunisia expedient. He departed in the French brig Adonis and a few days later disembarked at Sidi-Ferruch (Sidi-Fredj) in French-controlled Algeria.

He was appointed a Captain in the 1st regiment of the chasseurs d'Afrique and distinguished himself in the Algerian campaigns of 1831 and 1832. He was appointed an officer of the Legion of Honour in 1835. His distinguished conduct in 1836 and 1837 earned him the rank of lieutenant-colonel and from 1838 to 1841 he commanded a corps of Spahis. He was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal after the Battle of Isly in 1844.

During the Crimean War he was charged with organising four regiments of bashi-bazouks in Bulgaria.

Photographed by Disdéri of Paris.

Code: 124188
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