1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lebœuf, Edmond

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LEBŒUF, EDMOND (1809–1888), marshal of France, was born at Paris on the 5th of November 1809, passed through the École Polytechnique and the school of Metz, and distinguished himself as an artillery officer in Algerian warfare, becoming colonel in 1852. He commanded the artillery of the 1st French corps at the siege of Sebastopol, and was promoted in 1854 to the rank of general of brigade, and in 1857 to that of general of division. In the Italian War of 1859 he commanded the artillery, and by his action at Solferino materially assisted in achieving the victory. In September 1866, having in the meantime become aide-de-camp to Napoleon III., he was despatched to Venetia to hand over that province to Victor Emmanuel. In 1869, on the death of Marshal Niel, General Lebœuf became minister of war, and earned public approbation by his vigorous reorganization of the War Office and the civil departments of the service. In the spring of 1870 he received the marshal’s baton. On the declaration of war with Germany Marshal Lebœuf delivered himself in the Corps Législatif of the historic saying, “So ready are we, that if the war lasts two years, not a gaiter button would be found wanting.” It may be that he intended this to mean that, given time, the reorganization of the War Office would be perfected through experience, but the result inevitably caused it to be regarded as a mere boast, though it is now known that the administrative confusion on the frontier in July 1870 was far less serious than was supposed at the time. Lebœuf took part in the Lorraine campaign, at first as chief of staff (major-general) of the Army of the Rhine, and afterwards, when Bazaine became commander-in-chief, as chief of the III. corps, which he led in the battles around Metz. He distinguished himself, whenever engaged, by personal bravery and good leadership. Shut up with Bazaine in Metz, on its fall he was confined as a prisoner in Germany. On the conclusion of peace he returned to France and gave evidence before the commission of inquiry into the surrender of that stronghold, when he strongly denounced Bazaine. After this he retired into private life to the Château du Moncel near Argentan, where he died on the 7th of June 1888.