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Alfred Dreyfus and his family
An artillery officer
A conscientious lieutenant
Dreyfus was assigned to the 31st artillery regiment in Le Mans on 1 October 1882. Although he left this post a year later, he distinguished himself by his enthusiastic service and his application during maneuvers. His biographer Vincent Duclert has pointed out that he was not served by his weak and monotonous voice, but that he imposed his authority "by the accuracy and intelligence of his orders." Assigned to the horse batteries of the 1st division of the independent cavalry in Paris, he showed himself to be enthusiastic and conscientious; in January 1886, his commanding officer described him as spirited, a bold horseman, educated and intelligent. The following year, the enthusiasm of the excellent battery lieutenant was noted, and in January of 1888, he was noted as the "best lieutenant in the battery group (…) served by an excellent memory and a very lively intelligence." His qualities as an instructor and as a leader propelled him to a higher rank.
A captain at thirty
On 12 September 1889, a few days before his thirtieth birthday, Alfred Dreyfus was promoted to captain of the 21st artillery regiment and was dispatched to Bourges as adjunct to the director of the Ecole Centrale de Pyrotechnie Militaire. He taught courses in mathematics and draftsmanship to the head pyrotechnicians, and he continued to assert that the army, as a school for duty and honor, should "be a highly moral school"; he liked to think that he was "ruthless towards those who serve poorly" and just with those who did well. He was bored at Bourges, and found that the manners there had retained "a quite rustic flavor." Although he shared his comrades' "dream of glory at the foot of a standard," Captain Dreyfus wanted to perfect his knowledge of tactics and topography, but as a modern officer, he knew that strategic preparation for the next conflict was essential. By sitting for the examination at the Ecole de Guerre, he positioned himself to make a personal contribution to this.