Thomas Robert Bugeaud De La Piconnerie, duke of Isly (1784-1849), marshal of France, was born at Limoges on the 15th of October 1784. He came of a noble family of Périgord, and was the youngest of his parents' thirteen children. Harsh treatment led to his flight from home, and for some years about 1800 he lived in the country, engaged in agriculture, to which he was ever afterwards devoted. At the age of twenty he became a private soldier in the Vélites of the Imperial Guard (1804), with which he took part in the Austerlitz campaign of the following year. Early in 1806 he was given a commission, and as a sub-lieutenant he served in the Jena and Eylau campaigns, winning his promotion to the rank of lieutenant at Pultusk (December 1806). In 1808 he was in the first French corps which entered Spain, and was stationed in Madrid during the revolt of the Dos Mayo. At the second siege of Saragossa he won further promotion to the rank of captain, and in 1809-1810 found opportunities for winning distinction under General (Marshal) Suchet in the eastern theatre of the Peninsular War, in which he rose to the rank of major and the command of a full regiment.
At the first restoration he was made a colonel, but he rejoined Napoleon during the Hundred Days, and under his old chief Suchet distinguished himself greatly in the war in the Alps. For fifteen years after the fall of Napoleon he was not re-employed, and during this time he displayed great activity in agriculture and in the general development of his district of Périgord. The July revolution of 1830 reopened his military career, and after a short tenure of a regimental command he was in 1831 made a maréchal de camp. In the chamber of deputies, to which he was elected in the same year, he showed himself to be an inflexible opponent of democracy, and in his military capacity he was noted for his severity in police work and the suppression of émeutes. His conduct as gaoler of the duchesse de Berry led to a duel between Bugeaud and the deputy Dulong, in which the latter was killed (1834); this affair and the incidents of another émeute exposed Bugeaud to ceaseless attacks in the Chamber and in the press, but his opinion was sought by all parties in matters connected with agriculture and industrial development.
He was re-elected in 1834, 1837 and 1839.
About this time Bugeaud became much interested in the question of Algeria. At first he appears to have disapproved of the conquest, but his undeviating adherence to Louis Philippe brought him into agreement with the government, and with his customary decision he proposed to employ at once whatever forces were necessary for the swift, complete and lasting subjugation of Algeria. Later events proved the soundness of his views; in the meantime Bugeaud was sent to Africa in a subordinate capacity, and proceeded without delay to initiate his war of flying columns. He won his first victory on the 7th of July 1836, made a brilliant campaign of six weeks' duration, and returned home with the rank of lieutenant-general. In the following year he signed the treaty of Tafna (June 1st, 1837), with Abd-el-Kader, an act which, though justified by the military and political situation, led to a renewal of the attacks upon him in the chamber, to the refutation of which Bugeaud devoted himself in 1839. Finally, in 1840, he was nominated governor-general of Algeria, and early in 1841 he put into force his system of flying columns.
His swiftness and energy drove back the forces of Abd-el-Kader from place to place, while the devotion of the rank and file to "Père Bugeaud" enabled him to carry all before him in action. In 1842 he secured the French positions by undertaking the construction of roads. In 1843 Bugeaud was made marshal of France, and in this and the following year he continued his operations with unvarying success. His great victory of Isly on the 14th of August 1844 won for him the title of duke. In 1845, however, he had to take the field again in consequence of the disaster of Sidi Brahim (22nd of September 1845), and up to his final retirement from Algeria (July 1846) he was almost constantly employed in the field. His resignation was due to differences with the home government on the question of the future government of the province. Amidst his other activities he had found time to study the agricultural characteristics of the conquered country, and under his régime the number of French colonists had grown from 17,000 to 100,000. In 1848 the marshal was in Paris during the revolution, but his orders prevented him from acting effectually to suppress it.
He was asked, but eventually refused, to be a candidate for the presidency in opposition to Louis Napoleon. His last public service was the command of the army of the Alps, formed in 1848-1849 to observe events in Italy. He died in Paris on the 10th of June 1849.
Bugeaud's writings were numerous, including his oeuvres militaires, collected by Weil (Paris, 1883), many official reports on Algeria and the war there, and some works on economics and political science. See Comte d'Ideville, Le Maréchal Bugeaud (Paris, 1881-1882).