Jacques Antoine Hippolyte, Comte De Guibert - Encyclopedia




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JACQUES ANTOINE HIPPOLYTE, COMTE DE. GUIBERT (1743-1790), French general and military writer, was born at. Montauban, and at the age of thirteen accompanied his father;, Charles Benoit, comte de Guibert (1715-1786), chief of staff to Marshal de Broglie, throughout the war in Germany, and won the cross of St Louis and the rank of colonel in the expedition to Corsica (1767). In 1770 he published his Essai general de tactique in London, and this celebrated work appeared in numerous subsequent editions and in English, German and even Persian translations (extracts also in Liskenne and Sauvan, Bibl. historique et militaire, Paris, 1845). Of this work (for a detailed critique of which see Max Jahns, Gesch. d. Kriegswissenschaften, vol. iii. pp.2058-2070and references therein) it may be said that it was the best essay on war produced by a soldier during a period in which tactics were discussed even in the salon and military literature was more abundant than at any time up to 1871. Apart from technical questions, in which Guibert's enlightened conservatism stands in marked contrast to the doctrinaire progressiveness of Menil Durand, Folard and others, the book is chiefly valued for its broad outlook on the state of Europe, especially of military Europe in the period 1763-1792. One quotation may be given as being a most remarkable prophecy of the impending revolution in the art of war, a revolution which the " advanced" tacticians themselves scarcely foresaw. "The standing armies, while a burden on the people, are inadequate for the achievement of great and decisive results in war, and meanwhile the mass of the people, untrained in arms, degenerates.. .. The hegemony over Europe will fall to that nation which. .. becomes possessed of manly virtues and creates a national army" - a prediction fulfilled almost to the letter within twenty years of Guibert's death. In 1773 he visited Germany and was present at the Prussian regimental drills and army manoeuvres; Frederick the Great, recognizing Guibert's ability, showed great favour to the young colonel and freely discussed military questions with him. Guibert's Journal d'un voyage en Allemagne was published, with a memoir, by Toulongeon (Paris, 1803). His Defense du systeme de guerre moderne, a reply to his many critics (Neuchatel, 1779) is a reasoned and scientific defence of the Prussian method of tactics, which formed the basis of his work when in 1775 he began to co-operate with the count de St Germain in a series of muchneeded and successful reforms in the French army. In 1777, however, St Germain fell into disgrace, and his fall involved that of Guibert who was promoted to the rank of marechal de camp and relegated to a provincial staff appointment. In his semiretirement he vigorously defended his old chief St Germain against his detractors. On the eve of the Revolution he was recalled to the War Office, but in his turn he became the object of attack and he died, practically of disappointment, on the 6th of May 1790. Other works of Guibert, besides those mentioned, are: Observations sur la constitution politique et militaire des armees de S. M. Prussienne (Amsterdam, 1778), Eloges of Marshal Catinat (r775), of Michel de l'Hopital (1778), and of Frederick the Great (1787). Guibert was a. member of the Academy from 1786, and he also wrote a tragedy, Le Connetable de Bourbon (1775) and a journal of travels in France and Switzerland.

See Toulongeon, Eloge veridique de Guibert (Paris, 1790); Madame de Steel, Eloge de Guibert; Bardin, Notice historique du general Guibert (Paris, 1836); Flavian d'Aldeguier, Discours sur la vie et les ecrits du comic de Guibert (Toulouse, 1855); Count Forestie, Biographic du comic de Guibert (Montauban, 1855); Count zur Lippe, "Friedr. der Grosse and Oberst Guibert" (Militar-Wochenblatt, 1873, 9 and io).

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