October 5, 1795: Napoleon Bonaparte Enters History with a “Whiff of Grapeshot”

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A Brief History

On October 5, 1795, the man that would be the subject of more books than any other human being in history (except Jesus Christ), Napoleon Bonaparte, made his entrance on the French political stage and into prominence when he put down a rebellion against the National Convention in Paris with what he called “a whiff of grapeshot.”

Digging Deeper

Napoleon, a general in the French Army without a command, had been recruited by Paul Barras, one of the leaders of the Revolutionary government (Executive leader of the Directory from 1795-`799). The rebels numbered about 20,000 and posed a real danger to the revolutionary process. Napoleon and other generals managed to seize the cannons that were in the hands of the rebels and turn those cannons against the rebels, and with “a whiff of grapeshot” repulsed the Royalist rebels assault, thus emphasizing the change in power, therefore successfully ending the rebellion, finally marking a milestone in history often recognized as the end of the French Revolution.

Napoleon’s skill at capturing the 40 cannon in question and using them successfully against the rebels brought him instant notoriety and fame which he rode to eventually becoming First Consul and then Emperor of the French, one of the most famous people in history. Napoleon, now a hero, was promoted and given command of the Army in Italy where he earned new glories. The actions on 4-5 October earned Napoleon Bonaparte the nick name, General Vendemiaire, a title of glory he wore with pride. (Note: The French Republican calendar month of Vendemiaiare is equivalent of October, although the days of the month do not line up with our modern account.)

Question for students (and subscribers): Does Napoleon Bonaparte deserve the incredible amount of attention history and writers have shown him? What other Great Man (or Woman) is more deserving of such attention? Share your thoughts with us the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Conner, Susan P.  The Age of Napoleon (Greenwood Guides to Historic Events 1500-1900).  Greenwood, 2004.

Markham, J. David.  Napoleon For Dummies.  For Dummies, 2005.

Zarzeczny, Matthew D.  Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.