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Antoine Eugène Alfred Chanzy

Antoine Eugène Alfred Chanzy (March 18, 1823 - January 4, 1883), French general, was born at Nouart (Ardennes).

The son of a cavalry officer, he was educated at the naval school at Brest, but enlisted in the artillery, and, subsequently passing through St Cyr, was commissioned in the Zouaves in 1843. He saw a good deal of fighting in Algeria, and was promoted lieutenant in 1848, and captain in 1851. He became chef de bataillon in 1856, and served in the Lombardy campaign of 1859, being present at Magenta and Solferino. He took part in the Syrian campaign of 1860-61 as a lieutenant-colonel; and as colonel commanded the 45th regiment at Rome in 1864. He returned to Algeria as general of brigade, assisted to quell the Arab insurrection, and commanded the subdivisions of Bel Abbes and Tlemçen in 1868.

Although he had acquired a good professional reputation, he was in bad odour at the war office on account of suspected contributions to the press, and at the outbreak of the Franco-German War he was curtly refused a brigade command. After the revolution, however, the government of national defence called him from Algeria, made him a general of division, and gave him command of the XVI corps of the army of the Loire.

The Loire army won the greatest success of the French during the whole war at Coulmiers, and followed this up with another victorious action at Patay; in both engagements General Chanzy's corps took the most brilliant part. After the second battle of Orléans and the separation of the two wings of the French army, Chanzy was appointed to command that in the west, designated the second army of the Loire. His enemies, the grand duke of Mecklenburg, Prince Frederick Charles, and General von der Tann, all regarded Chanzy as their most formidable opponent.

He displayed conspicuous moral courage and constancy, not less than technical skill, in the fighting from Beaugency to the Loire, in his retreat to Le Mans, and in retiring to Laval behind the Mayenne. As Gambetta was the soul, Chanzy was the strong right arm of French resistance to the invader. He was made a grand officer of the Legion of Honour, and was elected to the National Assembly. At the outbreak of the Commune, Chanzy, then at Paris, fell into the hands of the insurgents, by whom he was forced to give his parole not to serve against them. It was said that he would otherwise have been appointed instead of MacMahon to command the army of Versailles. A ransom of £40,000 was also paid by the government for him.

In 1872 he became a member of the committee of defence and commander of the VII army corps, and in 1873 was appointed governor of Algeria, where he remained for six years. In 1875 he was elected a life senator, in 1878 received the grand cross of the Legion of Honour, and in 1879, without his consent, was nominated for the presidency of the republic, receiving a third of the total votes.

For two years he was ambassador at St Petersburg, during which time he received many tokens of respect, not only from the Russians, but also from the German emperor, William I, and Prince Bismarck. He died suddenly, while commanding the VI army corps (stationed nearest to the German frontier), at Châlons-sur-Marne, only a few days after Gambetta, and his remains received a state funeral.

He was the author of La Deuxième Armée de la Loire (1872). Statues of General Chanzy have been erected at Nouart and Le Mans.