General Georges Joseph Dufour
Born: March 15, 1758
Place of Birth: Saint-Seine-l'Abbaye, Côte-d'Or, France
Died: March 10, 1820
Place of Death: Bordeaux, France
Arc de Triomphe: DUFOUR on the north pillar
The son of a surgeon, Georges Joseph Dufour enlisted as a soldier in the Nivernais Infantry regiment in 1776 at age eighteen. After serving for nine years, he obtained permission to leave the army in 1785 and he then took a job serving in the Bureau of the Navy at Rochefort. With the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, Dufour returned to the army as a lieutenant in the 1st Company of National Chasseurs of Rochefort. Before long he was selected to serve as capitaine and then major in the same National Guard unit.
In October of 1791 Dufour was elected a lieutenant colonel of the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Charente-Inférieure. Sent to the Army of the Center, he served at the defense of Verdun in 1792 where with Beaurepaire he refused to sign the surrender of that fortress. Next Dufour fought to defend Islettes but during the fighting he was wounded by a blast of a shell to the right leg. He and his battalion then joined the Army of the Ardennes and served at Namur, and in March of 1793 he fought at the Battle of Neerwinden where he was wounded by a shot of grapeshot to the right arm. Two months later Dufour was promoted to chef de brigade and then employed in the Army of the Coasts of La Rochelle. Seeing action almost immediately, he fought at the combat of Fontenay-le-Comte where he was wounded by multiple pike blows. In April of 1794 Dufour was promoted to général de brigade by the representatives of the people. Serving under Turreau, he battled the forces of Charette and distinguished himself at Montaigu.
In July of that year Dufour was tasked with leading 15,000 men of the Army of the West to join the Army of the Moselle. Successfully completing this task, he then served with the Army of the Moselle at Pellingen before he and his men seized the heights of Trèves and Montagne Verte. In January of 1795 Dufour served under Desaix near Mainz and then two months later when the army was reorganized Dufour was placed with the Army of the Rhine and Moselle. That June he was promoted to général de division and given command of the 7th Division. In September Dufour was fighting at Heidelberg when he was wounded by three saber blows and left for dead on the battlefield. He was taken prisoner by the Austrians but before long he was released on parole, promising not to fight until a suitable exchange had been arranged.
In January of 1796 Dufour was named commander at Lunéville and the following month he was given command of the 6th military division. That July Dufour was exchanged with Austrian General Provera, thereby allowing him to return to a more active command, and therefore in August he rejoined the Army of the Rhine and Moselle. In October of 1796 he took command of the 3rd Division, and then he served at the defense of Huningue at the end of the year. When General Abbatucci was mortally wounded during the siege, Dufour took over command of the defense. He finally surrendered the city in February of 1797 but obtained favorable negotiations and marched out with his troops, retaining command of his division. Two months later Dufour assumed command of the right wing of the Army of the Rhine and served at the crossing of the Rhine at Kehl. In 1798 he was appointed commander of the 14th military division at Caen and in 1799 he was employed in the Army of Mainz and then the Army of the Danube. During that time, Dufour defended Mainz from the Austrians led by Archduke Charles and then in September he was employed in Holland.
In the year 1800 Dufour took command of the 11th military division, the first of many administrative positions he would fill. In 1802 he was named commander at Brest and then later commander of the 21st military division at Bourges. Two years later Dufour was recognized and honored as a Commander of the Legion of Honor. In 1807 he was sent to Belgium to command the 1st Division and later the 12th military division.
In 1809 Dufour returned to France to command a division at La Rochelle and then that December he was sent into Spain to take command of the 3rd Division of General Junot's VIII Corps. After arriving in Spain, Dufour was named governor of Navarre in February of 1810. That May he joined Marshal Soult's IV Corps and then in October he was named governor of Seville. Almost a year later Dufour was appointed governor of Grenada. By this time Dufour had gained a reputation of being unhappy with the Empire and sharing his Republican opinions, so he was allowed to retire from the army. He retired to Bordeaux but in 1814 he found he disliked the Bourbons more. When Napoleon resumed power in 1815 for the Hundred Days, Dufour rallied to him and commanded the National Guard of Gironde. After the second Bourbon Restoration, Dufour was imprisoned in January of 1816 and not released until September of that year. Afterwards, he retired.
- Divry, Arnauld. Les Noms Gravés sur l'Arc de Triomphe. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2017.
- Six, Georges. Dictionnaire Biographique des Généraux & Amiraux Français de la Révolution et de l'Empire (1792-1814). 2 vols. Paris: Gaston Saffroy, 2003.
Updated January 2023
© Nathan D. Jensen