Joseph Henry (1846 - 1898)

Joseph Henry



Hubert Joseph Henry was an assistant to Colonel Sandherr in the Statistics office and the industrious craftsman who created the most famous forgeries in the Dreyfus Affair. He was born in Pogny, in the department of La Marne on 2 June 1846.

The son of a farmer, Henry took his brother's place as a soldier in July 1865. He was made private first class in 1866, and sergeant major in 1868. He was taken prisoner on 11 October 1870, but managed to escape a week later, fighting as a lieutenant but was demoted to second lieutenant from February 1872 to July 1874. Ranking 78th out of 106 in a regional Ecole de tir, he served in Africa and Tonkin from 1881 to October 1890.

Henry was made a knight in the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam, received the Colonial Medal, and was made a knight in the Legion of Honor in 1884. He married the daughter of an innkeeper from Peronne in April 1892. The manner in which he accused Captain Dreyfus before the court martial in 1894 earned him the most laudatory remarks from the head of the general staff office. In 1895, he was assessed as being an "excellent servant, with an unwavering enthusiasm and devotion [who] provides the highest services to the section." In 1896, it was noted that he "absolutely deserved to be promoted." In 1897, he was again pointed out as being "an excellent officer: extremely devoted and energetic [who] absolutely deserved the praise he has received from his superiors." He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 10 November 1897, and he no doubt thought that he would triumph after Esterhazy's acquittal in January 1898 and Zola's conviction the following month.

But the one whose hierarchy referred to as "an excellent officer on whom one may count in any circumstances" pushed his enthusiasm too far when he forged false telegrams and a wire meant to compromise Colonel Picquart and, in 1896, a forged letter from the Italian military attaché to his German counterpart. When it was revealed to Captain Cuignet that this letter was a forgery, Colonel Henry confessed and was arrested and put in the Mont Valérien fort on 30 August 1898. He was found around 5:00 p.m. the following day with his throat cut and his razor folded. The head of the general staff office resigned, and the War Minister was changed four times in a month.

For Henry's widow, who was born Berthe Amélie Bertincourt in 1872, and for his son, "a little French goy whose father was killed by the Jews," La Libre Parole started a fund that received, in less than a month, 131,000 francs in donations. The 25,000 donors to the "Henry monument" wanted to allow her to take Joseph Reinach to court. Her pension was liquidated in November 1898 for a total of 1,667 francs, but, in two judgments handed down on 12 June 1902 and 28 May 1903, she and her son were each awarded 500 francs in damages for insults to her husband's memory.