Bazaine, François Achille

BORN 13 Feb 1811, Versailles, Yvelines - DIED 23 Sep 1888, Madrid
GRAVE LOCATION Madrid: Cementerio de San Justo (Patio de San Milán, Nichio 1976)

François Bazaine was born at Versailles as the son of the mathematician and engineer Pierre-Dominique Bazaine, who left his mother before he was born without supporting her financially. After he failed to be admitted to the École Polytechnique he entered the army in 1831. He served in the Foreign Legion and was quickly promoted. In 1848 he became a Lieutenant Colonel and in 1850 he bcame a full colonel. He married Maria Juana de la Soledad in 1852 in Versailles.

After a brave conduct at Sebastopol (where he was wounded) he became a General de Division and became the governor of Sebastopol. In 1862 he served under Forey in Mexico and he received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1863. In 1863 he became a marshal of France and a member of the senate. In Mexico he married a rich young lady, Pepita de la Peña y Azcarate. After Napoleon III decided to withdraw the French troops he was in command of the embarkation at Veracruz in 1867.

After the Franco-German War of 1870 broke out he was put in command of the Third Corps of the Rhine Army near Metz. On 13 Aug 1870 he succeeded Napoleon III as Commander-in-Chief of the entire French army. His troops were besieged by the Germans in Metz. After Napoleon III's surrender he refused to recognize the new government in France and he tried to negotiate between Prussia and the empress Eugénie, who had fled to Hastings. He didn't succeed and had to surrender his army at Metz.

In 1873 he was tried for treason and he was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. He was transported to the Île Sainte-Marguerite near Cannes where he was treated as an exile. In 1874 he managed to escape into a boat that his wife had brought from Cannes. they sailed to Genoa and moved on to London.

In 1875 he settled in Madrid where he was more than welcome after his service as a young officer in the Carlist War. There he died in 1888. In France, papers were still negative about him at the time of his death but the German press wrote that he had been mistreated by his own people.

Related persons
• was painted by Beaucé, Jean-Adolphe
• has a connection with Maximilian of Austria, emperor of Mexico

14/9/1866Bazaine orders the withdrawal of the French troops from Guaymas in Mexico 
16/8/1870The Battle of Mars-la-Tour is undecided. The Germans clashed with the French army that was twice as big. Although none of the parties could claim victory, Bazaine withdrew his troops to positions around Metz. This complicated a possible retreat but shortage of ammunition and provisions forced him to make this choice. Both sides had around 15,000 men killed. 
18/8/1870Battle of Gravelotte: the Germans force the French in the direction of Metz. This was the largest battle of the Franco-Prussian War. The Germans had found out that Bazaine's entire army was positioned around Metz. The German left wing attacked to early and suffered heavy losses against the French artillery. The German artillery managed to restore the balance. After that the Germans occupied the villages St. Hubert, St. Privat, Amanweiller and St. Marie-aux-Chênes. During the night the French withdrew to the fortress of Metz and was no longer able to retreat to Verdun. This meant a strategic victory for the Germans. The Germans lost 899 officers and 19,260 soldiers. The French lost 595 officers and 14,200 soldiers. 
27/10/1870Bazaine surrenders Metz to the Germans 
31/10/1870Eugénie arrives at Wilhemshöhe where Napoleon III is imprisoned. She had travelled incognito to Germany to visit him. At the same day Bazaine spoke with Napoleon III. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
6/10/1873Marshall Bazaine is heard by the court martial. He had surrendered Metz to the Germans in October 1870 without a fight and was imprisoned with Napoleon III at Wilhelmshöhe afterwards. Gambetta and others accused him of collaboration with the Prussians. The court martial was presided by the Duke of Aumale. 
10/12/1873Marshall Bazaine is comdemned to death by the court martial. He was also stripped of his rank. President Mac-Mahon converted his sentence on 12 December to 20 years of imprisonment. Bazaine was convicted because he had surrendered his army of 170,000 men in the open field, because he had negotiated with the enemy and because he had surrendered a fortress to the enemy. 


The grave of François Bazaine at the Cementerio de San Justo, Madrid.
Picture by Androom (07 May 2012)


• Vincent, Benjamin, Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, and Universal Information, Ward, Lock & Co, London, 1906
• Edwards, Stewart, The Paris Commune 1871, Quadrangle Books, New York, 1977
Mexican Almanac
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
François Achille Bazaine - Wikipedia

Bazzaro, Ernesto

Published: 24 Jun 2012
Last update: 10 Mar 2022