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Bugeaud, Thomas-Robert, Marshal, Duc D'Isly 1784-1849

Bugeaud, Thomas-Robert, Marshal, Duc D'Isly 1784-1849 was France's most distingui shed military figure during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Though he served during the first Napoleonic Empire (Austerlitz, Poland, Spain), his contributions are most important in connection with the conquest and colonization of Algeria.

In the fading days of the first Empire, Thomas-Robert Bugeaud and Marshal Sushet, outnumbered four or five to one, defeated ten thousand Austrians in a thermopylae style victory at l'Hôpital-les-Conflaus in Savoy. During the Bourbon Restoration most of Bugeaud's energies were devoted to his family estates in Perigord where a marked paternalism characterized his policies. This perspective on personal relations was obvious in some of the colonization programs he later devised for Algeria. From his campaigning in Saragossa in 1809, however, he had reluctantly concluded that in a situation of total war all measures were acceptable to repress a people in arms. Hence he defended his subordinates in Algeria when they brutally suffocated tribesmen trapped in caves. Th is conduct was severely criticized in the chamber of deputies, where Bugeaud held a seat during almost the entire reign of Louis-Philippe. In 1832-33 he commanded the fortress at Blaye where the Duchesse de Berri was incarcerated following her counter-revolutionary attempt. Then posted to Algeria, he enjoyed remarkable success, his greatest triumph (earning him his title and marshal's baton) coming on August 4, 1844 at Isly. This victory assured the final conquest of Algeria. From December 1840 to June 1847 he served as the governor general of Algeria.

In the upheavals of 1848 he played a relatively ineffective role, succumbing to Bonapartist pleas to remain aloof from presidential policies, thus helping to assure the electoral triumph of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. The next year he fell victim to cholera.

Bugeaud was a commanding personality and a father figure ("Père Bugeaud") to the officers who served under his immediate command in Algeria. These included Changarnier, Cavaig nac and Lamoricière, as well as the men who would occupy major commands during the Second Empire, officers such as Saint-Arnaud, Pélissier, Canrobert and Bosquet. Despite the Napoleonic Legend's enormous influence in the French army and also despite Bonapartist control of the government under Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III), these officers revealed the dominance of their African service when, finding themselves in difficult straits, they asked, "What would Bugeaud do now?" rather than how Napol eon Bonaparte would have acted.

While out of the army from November 1815 until September 1830, Bugeaud devoted himself to promoting the welfare of his estates and developing his social and political ideas. He supported the Charter of 1814 and believed the king should rule as well as reign. After the extremism of the Ultra-led White Terror, Bugeaud held a general fear of the political right, believing in a centrist position, the juste milieu, a course of moderation. This was especially the case until 1835 when he began to move to the right. As a "doctrinaire but not an ideologue in the chamber of deputies, he was a supporter of François Guizot. With fighting becoming more intense in Algeria, he came to advocate unabashed use of whatever force might be required to subdue the native insurgent population.

As an estate owner (La Durantie) in Perigord in the Dordogne, Bugeaud embarked on a course of agricultural innovation. He suppressed the fallow field system, introducing clo ver and alfalfa to increase soil fertility and more abundant forage, resulting ultimately in higher crop yields with improved living conditions for the métayers (sharecroppers). Redistributing topsoil to deprived areas similarly added substantial wealth. The key to it all was increased forage and his ideas proved successful. He carried it all further, advocating schools for his agricultural reforms and experimentation. Greater agrarian production would also sustain more people and Bu geaud advocated moving some of the nation's urban population to the countryside. His ideas were paternalistic as well as opposed to the developing industrialism which he believed was polluting the cities and denuding the countryside. In a strong rural agricultural system was the key to stable government and the progress of civilization.

In Algeria Bugeaud promoted the agricultural ideas he had found so effective at home. He sought to control Jewish commercial leaders and, ruling through tribal elit es, he tried to create a Muslim agrarian peasantry. Meanwhile, colonial settlement by European civilians as well the military would encourage orderly progress. He felt that small land holdings would promote the sense of cooperation and community essential to frontier agriculture and respect for local militias. Such programs earned him the local nickname of the "great head gardener." As his tenure as governor-general lengthened, so his emphasis on a paternalistic agricultural regime became more authorita rian.

After 1815 Bugeaud wrote a host of essays on both agricultural and military topics and other primary materials on his career are abundant. The translation of many of his military works served to enhance his reputation among soldiers of many nations.

Brison D. Gooch


Birr, Georges. Un gentilhomme terrien: Thomas-Robert Bugeaud de la Penconnerie, maréchal de France, duc d'Isly. Limoges: La Cour d'Appel, 1970.

Ideville, Henri Amédée Le Lorgne, Comte d'. Le marechal Bugeaud d'après sa correspondence intime et des documents inédites, 1784-1848. 3 vols. Paris, Librarie de Firmin-Didot et Cie, 1882.

Lichtenberger, André. Bugeaud. Paris, Librarie Plon, 1931.

Lucas-Dubreton, Jean. Bugeaud, le soldat-le député-le colonisateur: portraits et documents inédits. Paris, Albin Miche l, 1931.

Sullivan, Antony Thrall. Thomas-Robert Bugeaud, France and Algeria 1784-1849: Politics, Power and the Good Society. Hamden, Conn., Archon, 1983.

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