1795: How Young Napoleon Became Famous by a Massacre

1795: How Young Napoleon Became Famous by a Massacre
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 3 October 1795
  • The following is an example how it was once possible to become a national hero by massacring one's opponents.

A series of events took place on this day, which led to young Napoleon achieving the status of a French national hero.

Namely, Napoleon managed to defend the French revolutionary government from attacks by Royalists, who threatened to completely erase the heritage of the Revolution.

It is widely known that not all the French supported the Revolution. A number of them remained faithful to the monarchy and were called Royalists.

In addition, foreign powers tried to quell the Revolution by force. The leader of the Royalists – King Louis XVIII’s brother (called the Count de Artois) – landed on the French coast with the help of the British.

The combined British and Royalist forces set off towards Paris in order to destroy the revolutionaries. Spurred on by the news, Royalist also rose up in Paris itself, concentrated in the Le Peletier district (roughly between today’s Opera building and the Palais-Royal). They attacked the revolutionary assembly (Convention), trying to “decapitate” the revolutionary forces.

The Convention appointed 26-year-old general Bonaparte to lead the defense. Napoleon reacted quickly. He sent Junior Lieutenant Joachim Murat (who later became one of Napoleon’s most famous marshals and even a king) to acquire guns and organize defenses.

Napoleon’s troops loaded their cannons with grapeshot, which was very effective against massed infantry assaults.

When the Parisian Royalists attacked, Napoleon gave the order to open fire. The Royalists were massacred; around 600 dead bodies littered the streets.

Napoleon’s victory was total, he became a national hero and was soon given command over the French forces in Italy.

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