Claude Lecomte

Claude Lecomte (September 8, 1817 – March 18, 1871)[1] was a French general killed by the National Guard of the Paris Commune.

Claude Lecomte
Born(1817-09-08)September 8, 1817
 France Thionville
DiedMarch 18, 1871(1871-03-18) (aged 53)
 France Montmartre
Years of service1837–1871
RankGénéral de Brigade


Lecomte graduated from the military academy of Saint Cyr in 1837, was promoted Colonel in August 1865 and in 1869 became second in command of the Prytanée National Militaire in La Flèche. Lecomte was promoted Brigadier General in 1870 and was part of the northern army commanded by General Louis Faidherbe during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Lecomte took part in the battles of Amiens, St. Quentin, and Pont-Noyelles. Back in Paris after the capitulation, when he replaced Admiral Viscount Fleuriot de Langle, commander of the sixth sector,[2] he was placed temporarily at the head of a brigade of the new army of Paris and was appointed headmaster of La Flèche.

As Brigadier General he took part in the Siege of Paris. After the capitulation of the capital, he was appointed commander of the 2nd sector.


He was about to leave for the provinces when the Uprising of March 18, 1871 broke out. The government of Adolphe Thiers charged Lecomte with retrieving cannons from Montmartre where the National Guard had brought them when the Prussians had advanced on the Champs Elysees. Lecomte waited in vain for his artillery teams to remove the cannon components. They were surrounded by a crowd opposing the removal of the guns, at which point Lecomte tried to withdraw, and then ordered his soldiers to load their weapons and fix bayonets. He thrice ordered them to fire, but the soldiers refused. Some of the officers were disarmed and taken to the city hall of Montmartre, under the protection of the mayor of the 18th arrondissement, and later prime minister, Georges Clemenceau. General Lecomte and the officers of his staff were seized by the guardsmen and his mutinous soldiers and taken to the local headquarters of the National Guard at the ballroom of the Château Rouge. The officers were pelted with rocks, struck, threatened, and insulted by the crowd. In the middle of the afternoon Lecomte and the other officers were taken to 6 Rue des Rosiers by members of a group calling themselves The Committee of Vigilance of the 18th arrondissement, who demanded that they be tried and executed.[3] In the late afternoon, Lecomte was beaten and then shot in the back. Minutes later, another general, Jacques Leon Clément-Thomas, who was in civilian clothes, was recognized by the crowd, thrown on top of Lecomte's corpse, and slain in turn. Their bodies were left exposed at the site of the slaying for two days. A Doctor Guyon, who examined the bodies afterwards, found forty balls in the body of Clément-Thomas and nine balls in the back of Lecomte.,[3]:19[4]

Assassinat des généraux Clément-Thomas et Lecomte, rue des Rosiers 6 à Montmartre - Photomontage d'Eugène Appert (Killing of Generals Clément-Thomas and Lecomte, 6 rue des Rosiers, Montmartre - Photomontage by Eugène Appert). Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris.
The killing of Generals Clement-Thomas (above) and Lecomte by national guardsmen on 18 March sparked the armed conflict between the French Army and the National Guard.

The legend that Generals Lecomte and Thomas were shot "in a regulation manner" by a firing squad was a fabrication:[5] it is based on a photograph staged by the photographer Eugène Appert, which was taken in June, three months later.[6] There was even an activist theater production (La Commune, historical drama, 1908), which portrays a pseudo-trial of the two generals before their execution.

According to the Commune history written in 1876 by Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, when General Lecomte was arrested by his men, the Vigilance Committee of Montmartre issued an order to the commander of the National Guard responsible for guarding the General at the Château Rouge to ensure his protection.[7] The order came just after Lecomte was moved from that location.[7]


  1. ^ Jouin, Henri Auguste (1898). La sculpture dans les cimetières de Paris. Macon: Protat frères. p. 53.
  2. ^ "Documents, Siege de Paris, 1870, VIe Secteur". Bulletin de la Société historique d'Auteuil et de Passy. Société historique d'Auteuil et de Passy. 6–7: 362. 1907. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b Milza, Pierre (2009). L'année terrible: La Commune (mars–juin 1871). Paris: Perrin. pp. 16–18. ISBN 978-2-262-03073-5.
  4. ^ Gluckstein, Donny (15 January 2014). Paris Commune: A Revolution in Democracy. Haymarket Books. p. 231.
  5. ^ "Archive: Photographs of the Paris Commune". Musée d'Orsay. 5 December 2008. the first political photomontages appeared, with evocative titles - Crimes of the Commune (Eugène Appert), Martyrs of La Roquette (Hippolyte Vauvray) - faked pictures, with an anti-communard purpose, reconstructions after the event of episodes from the Commune with the help of actors in costume, highlighting mostly the executions of hostages by insurgents in May 1871.
  6. ^ Tillier, Bertrand (2004). La Commune de Paris, révolution sans images?: politique et représentations dans la France républicaine (1871-1914). Ceyzérieu: Editions Champ Vallon. p. 68. ISBN 9782876733909. c'est au début du mois du juin 1871 que Eugène Appert entreprit sa serie de photomontages des Crimes de la Commune
  7. ^ a b Lissagaray, Prosper-Olivier (2007). "Chapter 3". History of the Paris Commune of 1871. St Petersburg, Florida: Red and Black Publishers. ISBN 978-0-9791813-4-4.

Collectif, Les barricades de la Commune, Editions Les amis de l'histoire, 1968, and Editions Omnibus, 2012.