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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

François Joseph Lefebvre, Duc de Dantzig, Marshal (1804)

(Born Rouffach, Haut-Rhin, 1755 - Died Paris, 1820)


He is also the husband of the famous "Madame Sans-Gêne." On the eve of the 18-Brumaire, this general who has well proved his great merit, and is very popular with his men, rallies to Napoleon.

Son of a hussar, Lefebvre enlists at the age of 18 in the regiment of the French Guards. Fifteen years later, in 1789, he is a sergeant. The Revolution breaks out. He is wounded while protecting the royal family. Promoted to brigadier general in 1793, he is sent to the Army of the Mosel, where he meets up with Hoche again. His bravery in battle has him promoted to major general in 1794. He is successively put in command of the vanguards of several armies. He serves in that of Sambre-et-Meuse in 1794 and takes part in the battle of Fleurus (June 24, 1794).

He is then under Kléber's orders in 1795. He fights at Altenkirchen on June 4, 1796. After Hoche's death, he is put in command of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse (September 1797). He commands the vanguard of the Army of the Danube under Jourdan in March 1799.

After years of faithful service in the army, he comes back to Paris, where he hopes to be appointed Director. The Elders refuse and Bonaparte easily wins him over. His support is important, as he is in command of the Paris troops. On 19 Brumaire, Lefebvre enters the council hall of the Five Hundred, sword in hand, and sends his grenadiers after the deputies.

Bonaparte appoints him senator (April 1, 1800), promotes him to marshal on May 19, 1804, grand aigle de la Légion d'Honneur, but does not employ him in the army before 1805. For the German campaign, he puts him in command of a division of the Armed Guard. At Jena, on October 14, 1806, Lefebvre is in command of the infantry of the Imperial Guard. He gathers the 10th army corps in Thorn and besieges Dantzig (March 27 to May 19, 1807). Lefebvre keeps telling the artillerymen: "I don't understand your problems; but bore me a hole and I'll go right through". And that is just what he does in May 1807. This difficult siege wins him the title of Duc de Dantzig.

In 1808, Lefebvre accompanies the Emperor to Spain, where he wins namely the battles of Durango and Espinossa. Back in Germany in 1809, he is appointed commander of the Bavarian army. He takes part in Wagram and Eckmühl, and is then put in charge of crushing the Tyrolean uprising. He is defeated by Hofer and replaced.

He commands the Old Guard during the Russian campaign (1812), walking at its head during the long retreat. It is also as commander of the Old Guard that he takes part in the last battles of the French campaign in 1814.

On April 4, Lefebvre is one of the marshals who attend Napoleon's meeting with MacDonald, who has come to demand his abdication. He votes the Emperor's deposition at the Senate and is made Peer of France by Louis XVIII (June 4, 1814), but rallies to Napoleon during the Hundred Days. He is excluded from the House of Peers during the second Restoration. However, he retains his rank of marshal. Louis XVIII gives him back his peerage on March 5, 1819. He dies in 1820, and is buried near Masséna at the Père-Lachaise, in Paris.

by Artea


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