General Marie Théodore Urbain Garbé

Engineering officer who served with the Grande Armée from 1805 to 1807 and then served in Spain

Born: May 25, 1769

Place of Birth: Hesdin, Pas-de-Calais, France

Died: July 10, 1831

Place of Death: Hesdin, France

Arc de Triomphe: GARBÉ on the south pillar


The son of a baker, Marie Théodore Urbain Garbé entered the engineering school of Metz as a sous-lieutenant in March of 1794. The following year he left the school to join the Army of Italy where he served under Sérurier at the attack of Saint-Martin de Lantosque and he was promoted to lieutenant. In April of 1796 Garbé was promoted to capitaine and in May he served at the crossing of the Po. He next took part in the Siege of Mantua but in September he was taken prisoner during an Austrian sortie from the garrison. When Mantua finally surrendered in February of 1797, Garbé was released. In 1798 he joined Desaix's division and embarked for Egypt at Civita-Vecchia. Garbé served at the action of Malta and he was named chief of engineers of Desaix's division. Arriving in Egypt, he took part in the action of Alexandria and then the Battle of the Pyramids . In October of 1798 Garbé was wounded at Sédiman and then in 1799 he was promoted to chef de bataillon by General Kléber. He went on to serve at Cairo in 1800.

Garbé returned to France in 1801 and in 1802 he was named deputy director of engineers at Ostend and then at Sas de Gand. At the end of the year he was employed at Montreuil and then in 1804 he was sent to Boulogne where he worked on General Bertrand's staff. When war broke out in 1805, Garbé was named chief of staff of engineers of Marshal Soult's IV Corps in the Grande Armée. In October he served at Memmingen, in November he served at Hollabrunn, and in December he served at Austerlitz. At the end of the year Garbé was promoted to colonel and then at the start of 1806 he was named commander of the engineers of IV Corps. After Prussia declared war in October of 1806 Garbé served at the Battle of Jena and Lübeck. In 1807 he was wounded by a shot to the right arm at the combat of Hoff and two days later he participated in the Battle of Eylau. That June Garbé fought at Heilsberg where he was hit by a ball in the thigh.

In November of 1808 Garbé was given command of the engineers of Marshal Soult's II Corps of the Army of Spain. In January of 1809 he served at Corunna , in March he served at Oporto, and in August he served at the bridge of Arzobispo. That November Garbé was promoted to général de brigade. In February of 1810 he took command of the engineers of Marshal Victor's I Corps and he participated in the Siege of Cadiz. In 1811 Garbé served at Chiclana and then in February of 1812 he was given command of all the engineers at the Siege of Cadiz. That August he was named a Baron of the Empire but the French army also abandoned the siege. In early 1813 Garbé took command of the engineers of the Army of the South and in June he served at the Battle of Vitoria . As the French fell back from Spain, in 1814 Garbé took command of the engineers of the defense of Bayonne.

After Napoleon's abdication and the Bourbon Restoration, Garbé was named to the committee of defense and he was also named a Knight of Saint Louis. After Napoleon's return to power in 1815 for the Hundred Days, Garbé rallied to him and was given command of the engineers of General Drouet d'Erlon's I Corps. Garbé served at the Battle of Waterloo in June and despite serving with Napoleon during the Hundred Days his military career did not suffer after the Bourbons returned to power once again. In 1830 he was elected a deputy of Pas-de-Calais.


Updated June 2018

© Nathan D. Jensen