Francois Joseph Lefebvre
Born: 1755 Rouffach, Alsace, France
Died: 1820 Paris, France
Rank: Marshal of France
Francois Lefebvre was born in Rouffach, Alsace, on the 25th October 1755. He was a son of a Hussar, Francois enlisted in the French army at the age of 18 and like his close friend Michel Ordener, he welcomed the French Revolution.
In 1783 he married Catherine Hubscher with whom he had 14 children with, although none living to survive him (His last son died in 1812 in battle).
In 1789 he was a Sergeant in the Gardes Francaises, and like most of the regiment, he joined the revolution. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1793 where he took part in the Battle of Fleurus in June the following year. After the death of General Louis Lazare Hoche’s, Lefebvre commanded the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse in September of 1797. He then later commanded the vanguard of the Army of the Danube under Jourdan in March 1799, although for the first week of the campaign he was incapacitated with ringworm and Dominique Vandamme replaced him temporarily. He was later injured at the Battle of Ostrach where the Advance Guard bore the brunt of the early fighting. In November 1799, Lefebvre commanded the Paris troops and reluctantly agreed to support Napoleon in his coup d’etat.
In 1800 Napoleon appointed him senator and by 1804, Napoleon made him a Marshal of the Empire. Lefebvre commanded a division of the Old Guard in the German campaign of 1805.At the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in 14th October 1806, Lefebvre commanded the infantry of the Imperial Guard. He besieged and took Danzig in 1807, which won him the title of Duc de Danzig (Duke of Danzig).
In 1808 he took part in the Peninsula War and in 1809 he commanded the Bavarian army at the battles of Eckmuhl and Wagram. Defeated by Tyrolean patriot Andreas Hofer in the same year, he was replaced. He later commanded the Old Guard in the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and in the German 1813 and French campaigns of 1814, with the War of the Sixth Coalition.
He voted for the Emperor’s deposition at the Senate and during the First Restoration in June 1814, he was made Peer of France by Louis XVIII, but rallied to Napoleon for the Hundred Days and survived the Battle of Waterloo.
Lefebvre was excluded from the House of Peers during the Second Restoration. However, he retained his rank of Marshal. Louis XVIII restored his peerage on 5th March 1819. He died on 14th September 1820 at the age of 64 and was buried near Andre Massena at the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
He never forgot the hard work that brought him rank and wealth. When a friend expressed envy of his estate, Levebvre said “Come down in the courtyard, and I’ll have ten shots at you with a musket at 30 paces. If I miss, the whole estate is yours.”
The friend naturally declined his offer, and Lefebvre then added, “I had a thousand bullets shot at me from much closer range before I got all this.”