VAILLANT, JEAN BAPTISTE, COMTE ( 1790-1872), marshal of France, minister of war ( 1854-1859), and minister of the imperial household ( 1860- 1870); born at Dijon, 6 October 1790. A graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and of the Ecole d'Application du Génie, Vaillant campaigned under Napoleon I from 1812 to 1815 and was named to the Legion of Honor in 1813 for his great courage on the battlefield. He later served as an engineer during the Algiers expedition ( 1830) and the siege of Antwerp ( 1833). Colonel from 1833, he directed construction of fortifications in Algeria ( 1834-1838). Subsequently, as general of brigade, he commanded the Ecole Polytechnique from 1838 to 1840. He helped to fortify Paris during the 1840s (directing the work from 1845) and was promoted to lieutenant general. In 1849, as second in command of the French expeditionary force to Rome, he directed the successful siege of the city, winning promotion to grand cross of the Legion of Honor, 12 July 1849.
Vaillant was not interested in politics. He was prepared to serve the existing regime and therefore rallied readily to Louis Napoleon following the coup d'état of December 1851. He was named senator on 26 January 1852 in the initial appointments list, marshal of France on 11 December 1852 (following proclamation of the Empire), and grand marshal of the palace on 1 January 1853. Shortly after, he was awarded the title of comte. On 11 March 1854, Vaillant succeeded Marshal Leroy de Saint-Arnaud as minister of war on the latter's appointment to command French forces in the war against Russia. He held the post for five years, reorganizing the military schools and, in fact, much of the army's structure, and creating several specialized corps. In July 1856 he served briefly as interim minister of public instruction. In 1853 he had been elected to the Académie des Sciences as a membre libre. It was to Vaillant (later a member of the Conseil Privé) that Napoleon III intended to confide the presidency of the Council of Ministers if he had persevered in his intention of going in person to the Crimea early in 1855.
At the beginning of the war against Austria ( 1859), Vaillant organized for the first time the transport of French troops by rail and then surrendered his ministry to Marshal Jacques Louis Randon, partly as a consequence of his failure to prepare the army for the war, partly in order to serve under the emperor's
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Publication information: Book title: Historical Dictionary of the French Second Empire, 1852-1870. Contributors: William E. Echard - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1985. Page number: 676.