Marc René de Montalembert

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Montalembert, Marc René de


Born July 16, 1714, in Angoulême; died Mar. 29, 1800, in Paris. Marquis; French military figure and theorist of fortifications; major general. Member of the Paris and St. Petersburg academies of sciences.

Montalembert entered military service in the cavalry in 1732 and saw service in the Wars of the Polish and Austrian Succession in the 1730’s and 1740’s. In 1750 he built an artillery plant with his own money, and in 1758 he published a summary of information concerning the manufacture of iron guns. During the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), Montalembert devoted himself to fortification and directed the construction of fortifications in Anklam and Stralsund and on Oleron Island. In 1779 he directed the defense of Ré and Aix islands against the British. After the Great French Revolution, Montalembert was a consultant to Minister of War L. Carnot.

In his work Perpendicular Fortification (vols. 1–11, 1776–93), Montalembert came out strongly against the bastion system of fortresses, which had become outmoded because of the unsatisfactory nature of flanking fire; instead, he proposed the idea of building fortress fronts with what was called a tenaille trace, in which the breaks of the defense lines would be perpendicular in order to make cross fire possible. He demanded aggressive defense of the fortresses, reinforcement of their artillery armament, and expansion of the area by building one or two chains of forts in front of the fortress line. This idea was implemented in his plan for the Cherbourg fortress and, in the opinion of F. Engels, opened a new era not only in the art of fortification but also in the methods of defending fortresses and in general strategy (see Izbr. voen. proizvedeniia, 1956, pp. 275–78). Montalembert’s ideas were recognized and developed in the 19th century in France, Russia, and Germany.