true story behind the "duellists"

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true story behind the "duellists"

Post by Balrog » 03 Aug 2003 04:12

i wanted to know if anyone knew the supposedly true story of a 3 decades long duel between 2 of napoleon's officers that inspired the ridley scott film "duellists". i have been unable to find much at all about the true facts.

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Post by Peter H » 03 Aug 2003 10:19

The story was a work of fiction,a short story penned by Joseph Conrad in 1908,'The Duel'.

Conrad was also supposedly wounded in a duel,when involved in gun runing in a civil war in Spain,in the 1870s.

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Post by Patras » 03 Aug 2003 12:01

Joseph Conrad was a polish russian writter, he took part in the third Carlist War (1872-1876) smuggling guns to carlist band. And he was wounded when he tried to kill himself

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Post by Balrog » 04 Aug 2003 01:22

i read a review of the film, and the press kit claimed that joseph conrad had based the film on real events. i've found other web sites that claim that the story was real. thank you for any information you can give me.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by Romani » 06 Apr 2009 17:00

"The Duel" story by Conrad is based on a true story, but Conrad changed the setting to the Napoleonic wars from the 18th Century.

As quoted by Duffy in "The military experience in the age of reason" page 78

"Two captains of the Champagne regiment, La Fenestre and d'Agay, had been mortal enemies for twenty-eight years, and had met seven times on the field of honour. La Fenestre had his head blown off by a cannon ball at Vellinghausen, but his partisans noted with a point of pride that a fragment of his skull put out d'Agay's eight eye."

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2009 16:12

Maj. Benjamin C. Truman, The field of honor ; being a complete and comprehensive history of duelling in all countries (1883), pp. 572-574, gives this account of a similar feud:
One of the most remarkable duels (or series of duels) of any age was the affair between two French officers named Fournier and Dupont. This duel was commenced in 1794, and lasted nineteen years. Fournier had challenged and killed a young man named Blum, at Strasburg, under distressing circumstances ; and General Moreau, the commandant, who had issued cards for a soiree which was to take place


upon the evening of the day of Blum's funeral, had hinted to his chief of staff (Dupont), just before the commencement of the arrival of guests, that the presence of Fournier might mar the character of the festivities. So, when Fournier appeared, he was denied admission by Dupont, who was at once challenged, and fought (with swords) and wounded Fournier. In a month or two they fought again, and Dupont was wounded. Immediately upon the recovery of the latter the combatants again met, and both received severe and dangerous wounds. Before retiring from the field, however, they had an agreement drawn up and sworn to that, whenever afterward they came within one hundred miles of each other, each should travel fifty 'miles toward the other, and renew and continue the fight until at least one of them was placed hors de combat. In the mean time they corresponded with each other, met and fought many times during ten or twelve years, always shaking hands, and sometimes dining together after their fights. At length both became general officers, and, during the year 1813, were ordered to Switzerland. Dupont arrived at the post at night, put up at the best inn, and learned shortly after his arrival that Fournier occupied an adjoining apartment. In a few moments they were at it again, sword in hand, and the fight was temporarily ended by Dupont running his steel through his antagonist's neck and pinning Fournier against the wall. While in this situation Fournier challenged Dupont for a meeting upon the following day. " Early in the morning, with pistols, in the woods near Neuilly !" cried Dupont, greatly to the astonishment of Fournier, who was a distinguished shot. " Good !" re-


plied the latter. " Hear me," added Dupont ; "I am about to engage in matrimony, and have concluded that this matter of ours must first be permanently settled ; so I propose that we each arm ourselves with a pair of loaded pistols, go into the woods together, then separate and walk off in opposite directions one hundred paces, then turn and fire at will."

The proposition was accepted by Fournier, and the combatants met upon the following morning, went to the woods together, separated, paced off a hundred steps, turned, and commenced to advance hostilely. Dupont, while on his hands and knees, got sight of Fournier behind a tree, and at once took up a like position. He then stuck out a flap of his coat, as if' in a kneeling position, and in an instant a bullet went through it from Fournier. Then Dupont hung his cap on the muzzle-end of one of his pistols, and by degrees stuck it out to one side until at length Fournier blazed away. Dupont then stepped out from behind the tree and advanced upon his astonished antagonist with drawn weapons and said, " General, your life is in my hands, but I do not care to take it. I want this matter to end, however, right here ; and in case of a fresh disturbance, I want you to never lose sight of the fact that the weapons must be pistols your favorite weapons and that I am entitled to the first two shots ; distance, three feet." This incident took place nineteen years after the first meeting between the two officers, during which period they had fought each other seventeen times. No fresh disturbance, it may be added in conclusion, ever broke out between them, which was very natural when it is remembered that Dupont was entitled to the first two shots.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2009 19:14

Here is an earlier and more detailed version of the same story, from Andrew Steinmetz, The Romance of Duelling in All Times and Countries, vol. 2 (1868), pp. 70-78:
A Duel lasting Nineteen Years.

This most curious duel was brought to a termination in 1813, after lasting nineteen years. It began at Strasbourg, and the cause of the protracted fighting was as follows : —


A captain of hussars, named Fournier, who was a desperate duellist, and endowed, as the French say, " with deplorable skill," had challenged and killed, on a most frivolous pretence, a young man, named Blumm, the sole support of a family. At the event the entire town put forth a cry of lamentation — a cry of malediction on the murderer. The young man's funeral was attended by an immense multitude, and sympathy was felt for the bereaved family in every household. There was, however, as it happened, a ball at the quarters of General Moreau. The ball was expressly given to the citizens of Strasbourg, and the General, apprehensive that the presence of Fournier might be offensive to his guests of the evening, charged Captain Dupont, his aide-de-camp, to prevent him from entering the ball-room. He accordingly posted himself at the entrance, and when Fournier made his appearance, he exclaimed, " Do you dare to show yourself here?" "The deuce! what does this mean!" asked Fournier. " It means," replied Captain Dupont, " that you ought to have understood that on the day of the funeral of poor Blumm, it would have been only decent to remain at home, or certainly not to appear at a reunion in which you are likely to meet with the friends of your victim.'' " You mean enemies ; but I would have you to know that I fear nobody, and that I am in a mood to defy all the world," said Fournier.

"Ah, bah! You shall not enjoy that fancy to-night j you must go to bed, by order of the General,"


rejoined Dupont. " Yon are mistaken, Dupont ;'' said Fournier, ''I cannot call the General to account for insulting me by closing his door upon me, but I look to you and to them, and I am resolved to pay you handsomely for your commission as door-keeper which you have accepted !" " Oh, as for that, my dear fellow, I'll fight you when you like. The fact is, your insolent and blustering behaviour has displeased me for a long time, and my hand itches to chastise you!" " We shall see who is the chastiser,'' said Fournier.

The duel came off, and Fournier was laid on the grass with a vigorous sword-thrust. "That's the first touch," he exclaimed as he sank. "Then you wish to have another bout, do you ?" asked Dupont.

" Most assuredly, my brave fellow, and before long, I hope," said Fournier.

In a month Fournier got well ; they fought again ; this time Dupont was grievously wounded, and in falling he exclaimed, " That's the second. As soon as possible again ; and then for the finish." The two adversaries were about equal with the sword; but with the pistol the chances would have been very different. Fournier was a frightful crack shot. According to M. de Pontecoulant,* often when the hussars of his regiment were galloping past smoking, he amused himself with smashing their short pipes between their lips!

I have seen some wonderful doings with the pistol.
* " L' Audience."


I have known a determination to hit a certain part of the adversary, and it was hit. I have seen hens held out by the hand of a negro, hit by a pistol bullet ; but the feat of hitting a pipe in the mouth of a galloping horseman is beyond my comprehension. If Fournier could do that, then Dupont was perfectly justified in refusing to try him at that game, as he proposed. They fought again with swords, but the finish was not forthcoming j it was only a slight wound on both sides ; but now they resolved to continue the contest until either of them should confess himself beaten or satisfied. They drew up formal terms of the warfare, as follows : —

" 1 . Every time that Dupont and Fournier shall be a hundred miles from each other, they will each approach half the distance to meet sword in hand.

" 2. Should one of the contracting parties be prevented by the duties of the service, he who is free must go the entire distance, so as to reconcile the duties of the service with the exigencies of the present treaty.

" 3. No excuse whatever, excepting those resulting from military obligations, will be admitted.

"4. The present being a bond fide treaty, cannot be altered from the conditions agreed upon by the consenting parties. "

This contract was religiously executed in all its rigour. Moreover, the contracting parties found no difficulty in keeping their engagements ; this state of


war became to them a normal condition, a second nature. Their eagerness to meet was like that of two lovers. They never crossed swords without first shaking hands in the most boisterous manner.

Their correspondence during this periodic duel is the essence of burlesque. Take the following : —

" I am invited to breakfast with the officers of the regiment of Chasseurs, at Suneville. I hope to be able to accept this pleasant invitation. As you are on leave in that town, we will take advantage of the opportunity, if you please, to get a thrust at each other."

Here is another, less familiar, perhaps, but not less tender :—

" My dear friend, — I shall be at Strasbourg on the 5th of November, proximo, about noon. Wait for me at the H6tel des Postes. We shall have a thrust or two.''

Such was the style and such the tenor of the entire correspondence.

At intervals, the promotion of one of them provisionally interrupted the meeting; this was one of the cases anticipated by Article 3 of the treaty. As soon as they got on an equality of rank in the service, the party last promoted never failed to receive a letter couched in the following terms, written by Fournier.

" My dear Dupont, — I hear that the Emperor, doing justice to your merit, has just promoted you to the grade of Brigadier-General. Accept my sincere con-


gratulations on a promotion, which by your future and your courage is made natural, a mere matter of course. I have two reasons for exultation in this nomination. First, the satisfaction of a fortunate circumstance for your advancement ; and secondly, the facility now vouchsafed to us to have a thrust at each other on the first opportunity/^

They afterwards became generals. Dupont was ordered to join the army in Switzerland. He arrived, unexpectedly, in a village occupied by the staff, and which had not a single inn or tavern in it. The night was dark. Not a light was seen excepting at the window of a small cottage. Dupont went to the door, entered, and found himself face to face with Fournier.

"What! You here?" exclaimed the latter rapturously. " Now for a thrust !"

They set to at once, conversing as they fought.'

" I thought you were promoted to some high administrative function ?"

" You were wrong ; I am still of the trade. The Minister has sent me to the fourth corps d'armee, and here I am."

'' And your first visit is to me ? It is very kind of you. Sacrebleu !"

Dupont drove his sword through Fournier's neck, and held him spitted to the wall, saying, —

'' You will admit that you did not expect that thrust !"


Dupont still held him fast, and Fournier muttered, —

" I'll give you a thrust quite equal to this."

" What thrust can you give ?''

" Why, as soon as you lower your arm, and before you can parry, I shall lunge into your belly !"

" Thank you for the hint. Then we shall pass the night in this position."

" That's an agreeable prospect ! But, really, I am not very comfortable."

" Drop your sword, and I set you free."

" No, I must stick you in the belly."

Meanwhile some officers, attracted by the noise they were making, rushed in and separated the two generals.

Thus the contest continued, the contract being faithfully fulfilled on both sides. At length, however, Dupont thought of marrying, and he set his wits to work to find out how to make an end of the engagement. He must either kill Fournier, or muzzle him effectually. He went to him one morning ; it was at Paris. " Ah !" said the latter at seeing him, " Glad to see you. Let's have a brush together." "A word first, my dear fellow," said Dupont. " -- I am on the point of getting married. We must end this quarrel, which is becoming rather rancid. I now come to get rid of you. In order to secure a definitive result, I offer to substitute the pistol for the sword — there !"

" Why, man, you are stark mad !" exclaimed the dead-shot Fournier, astounded by the proposal.


" Oh, I know your skill with the pistol, mon ami, . . . But, let me tell you, I have hit upon a plan which will equalize the conflict. Here it is. Near Neuilly there is an enclosure, with a little wood in it. It is at my disposal. My proposal is this. We shall enter the wood, each provided with a pair of horse- pistols, and then, having separated, and being out of sight of each other, we shall track each other as best we can, and fire at our convenience."

" Capital ! Agreed !" exclaimed Fournier ; but let me give you, mon vieux, a little piece of advice."

" If you please," said Dupont.

" Well, don't go too far with your marriage project. It will be time and trouble lost ; for I warrant you'll die a bachelor."

" They who win may laugh," said Dupont.

On the day appointed Fournier and Dupont set out in their hunt. Having separated, and got out of sight of each other, as agreed, they crept about or advanced like cautious wolves or foxes, striving to catch a glance at each other through the thicket, whenever the motion of the leaves showed their presence. All at once, as though by a common movement, both came in sight together, standing behind two trees. They squatted down, and thus remained for a few minutes. The situation was delicate — critical. To stir was certain death, to one of them, at least. Dupont, however, was the first to make the attempt, or rather to pretend to do so. He raised the flap of his coat, and allowed


one end to project out of cover. Bang! came the bullet in an instant, cutting through the cloth.

"That settles one shot," ejaculated Dupont, with a sigh of thanksgiving.

After a short interval, Dupont returned to the charge, but this time on the other side of the tree. Holding his pistol with his left hand, he presented the barrel, as though about to fire, and at the same instant he held out his hat with his right hand. Bang! came another bullet, driving the hat into the bushes.

"Now, my brave, it's all up with you !" exclaimed Dupont, stalking out, with both pistols in hand and cocked ; and marching up to Fourneir, he said: --

"Your life is at my disposal, but I will not take it."

"Oh, just as you please about that !" muttered Fournier. Dupont continued: --

"Only you must remember that I do not give up my right of property in it. Beware of ever crossing my path again, for if you do, I may probably put my two bullets into your brains, as I might this instant."

Such was the termination of this long quarrel of nineteen years, ending with the marriage of one of the parties, who contrived at last to beat the unapproachable crack-shot at his own weapon.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by wm » 10 Apr 2009 20:05

The Fournier and Dupont duel is the right answer. From The Plot of Conrad's the Duel by J. DeLancey Ferguson, 1935:

Of the genesis of his brilliantly ironic story the Duel Joseph Conrad, thirteen years later, said in his preface to a set of Six The Personal Edition:
Its pedigree is extremely simple. It springs from a ten-line paragraph in a small provincial paper published in the South of France. That paragraph, occasioned by a a duel with fatal ending between two well-known Parisian personalities, referred for some reason or other to the "well-known fact" of two officers in Napoleon's Grand Army having fought a series of duels in the midst of great wars and on some futile pretext. The pretext was never disclosed. I hat therefore to invent it; and I think that, given the character of the two officers which I had to invent, too, I have made it sufficiently convincing by the mere force of its absurdity.

The statement sounds sincere, and was almost certainly made in good faith. In fact, however, Conrad must have read much more than he remembered. Not the mere germ of the story but its whole outline, including the "futile pretext" Conrad claims as his own, had long been in print. The version which follows appeared in Harper's Magazine for September 1858.

(Next, Fournier and Dupont story is quoted in full)

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2009 20:30

Looking further, there is another version of the Dupont-Fournier duels in Charles G. Shanks' "An Old-Time Duel," in Appletons' journal: a magazine of general literature, Volume 1, Issue: 18, July 31, 1869, pp. 553-556, beginning at: ... df&seq=561

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by wm » 10 Apr 2009 20:46

in Harper's Magazine the story is part of "Our Foreign Gossip" in The Editor's Easy Chair :) ... 017-79))::

THE late Paris duels have called up the subject
of dueling anew; and among the most extraordinary
affairs of that nature which inquiry has
brought to light, is the story of a duel commencing
in 1794 and ending only in 1813. We commend
its perusal to Messrs. Gwin, Wilson, Burlingame,
et id omue belliger:
In 1794, then, there lived a Captain of hussars,
Fournier by name, at Strasbourg, who was the
most hot-headed and quarrelsome man in all that
region. Again and again he had slain his man in
duels, hut no successes seemed to satiate his taste
for this sort of murder. On one occasion he had
wantonly provoked a young man, named Blumm
who was a great favorite among the good bour-
geoisie of Strasbourgand as wantonly had slain
Last edited by wm on 10 Apr 2009 20:52, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by wm » 10 Apr 2009 20:49

Patras wrote:Joseph Conrad was a polish russian writter,
Sorry but only a polish writer.
Conrad was just Polish novelist, writing in English. In fact, his father (a Polish poet and playwright) was arrested and exiled to the north of Russia as he was a leading organizer of political demonstrations in Warsaw, two years before the January Uprising of 1863.
Conrad himself left Poland because he was liable to conscription into the Russian Army.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2009 20:52

Thanks, wm. That's the earliest version I've seen of the tale. From the editor's comments ("among the most extraordinary affairs of that nature which inquiry has brought to light"), there's probably an even earlier account out there. If it comes to light, it will be interesting to see whether its basis is factual or fabulous.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2009 22:12

For interested readers -- Here is Mr. Shanks' decidedly literary version of the story, from 1869:


It was in 1803 that Captain Fournier of the Chasseurs, and Captain Dupont of the Hussars, commenced a duel which lasted nearly five years. Fournier was the most famous duellist in the French army at the time. He was a skilful swordsman, and even more skilful with the pistol. When quarrels were scarce, he would frequently smash with his pistol-balls the pipes in the mouths of soldiers, who sat unsuspectingly thirty paces away. And quarrels, of course, became lamentably scarce with such an expert as Fournier, and the soldiers, becoming wary, would not sit out-doors as usual, nor in fact at their windows, with their pipes in their mouths. While matters were in this strait, young Blumm, a wealthy burgher, who had been roistering around Fournier's quarters in Rouen, one evening, was found a corpse the next morning, with a rapier thrust in his throat. Blumm being inexperienced, some indignation was excited among the citizens against Fournier, who was believed to have dispatched him. Fournier, however, never replied to the indignant murmurs that reached his ears, except by a shrug of his shoulders. "A fight," he would say, "is too precious to lose."

On the night succeeding Blumm's funeral, a ball was given at the Grand Opera, the finest ball that it was probable Rouen would see for many a day. It was reported that Fournier had expressed an intention of coming. This following so closely on the disastrous duel, public decency was shocked at the suggestion. The general said that it must be prevented. He sent for the captain of the guard, who happened to be young Captain Dupont.

"Captain," said the general, "Fournier proposes to come to the ball to-night. You see it is plainly impossible that he should be admitted."


"Yes, general."

"You will, therefore, prevent his entrance, captain."

"Yes, general."

Captain Dupont knew Fournier by sight and fame alone. The two could not be intimate friends, for Dupont detested duelling and duellists. He was a good swordsman, a man of honor, and had a brave heart. He loved Marie Huton, a lovely young lady of Rouen, and the day just before the ball she had consented to become his wife. Now he felt that he must be a better swordsman than Fournier, if he won her. Not that Fournier loved her, or even knew her, but Dupont saw that a duel was inevitable, and he must kill or be killed.

The ball opened, and Dupont was at his post. Late in the evening, Fournier arrived.

"Captain," said Dupont, "it would seem somewhat indecorous for you to attend a ball on the night of young Blumm's funeral."

"I presume," answered Fournier, "that I alone have the right to judge of that."

"Apparently not," replied Dupont; "the general has decided that you should not attend."

"Has the general directed you to prevent my entrance'?"


"I suppose you are willing to answer at the sword's point, for impertinences that you retail second-hand."

"I am willing to answer at the sword's point."

"Early in the morning then, captain, at the usual spot," said Fournier, eagerly; "so, bon soir; I assure you I do not regret the ball."

The parties met at the appointed time and place, and, after a few well-contested thrusts, Dupont was wounded in the shoulder. As he fell, he exclaimed; "I claim another fight."

Then he sank into insensibility.

"Perhaps you will claim it when you recover, and perhaps you will not," said Fournier, and, leaving Dupont in the care of surgeons, he withdrew. Within two weeks Dupont was well again, and he sent word to Fournier that he claimed his privilege.

The code of honor in those days guaranteed a fight until death or surrender, but a cessation when either party received a wound sufficient to incapacitate him.

Fournier was gratified at Dupont's demand for another fight.

"One man for two or three fights," said he, "is economy."

They met again, and Fournier this time received a severe thrust in the shoulder. "Ah," said he, in anguish as he fell, "I claim the privilege."

They met a third time, and Fournier was again wounded, and again claimed the privilege. When he had nearly recovered from his second wound, he sent a note to Dupont asking him to call and see him. Dupont went.

"My dear captain," said Fournier, "we have had three bouts, and I hope we shall have many more. I therefore propose that we draw up a convention by which to govern our future combats."

" I had hoped, captain," responded Dupont, "that we would not have more than another fight at the farthest, but I heartily subscribe to your idea of a convention."

And between them they drew up an agreement, similar to this:

1.-A fight shall be arranged whenever the parties are within thirty leagues of one another.

2.-There shall be no excuse from fighting except illness, or military duty.

3.-Pistols shall not be used except by mutual consent.

4.-Death, surrender, or mutual agreement, shall alone terminate the fight.

Fournier objected to the third clause, as he expressed himself anxious to try a pistol-fight once more, but Dupont insisted upon it, as he knew that the fight would be unequal with that weapon.

That night Captain Dupont, with his company of hussars, was ordered to Beauvais. He went to see his sweetheart Marie, before his departure. He asked her to marry him then and there, but she refused.

"No," she said, "you have a duel on hand with Captain Fournier, and I will not marry you until the duel is ended."

"Alas, my dear Marie," answered the captain," we have just drawn up an agreement to fight at every opportunity, until we die or surrender.'

"Heavens!" cried Marie, "the duel may never be ended!"

"Hope better than that, Marie," he answered. "It may be ended the next bout."

But she was disconsolate, and he went away to his quarters with a heavy heart.

He wrote the following note to Captain Fournier:

"Sir: I am ordered with my company to Beauvais. Address me in case you should be in that neighborhood.
"Yours, etc.,

The next day the company departed, to the inexpressible regret of Marie Huton and Captain Fournier.

"Ah," said Marie, in tears at her window, "what a hateful thing is this duelling!"

"Ah," said Captain Fournier, in his sick-chair on a balcony, "what an exquisite duellist!"

Six months passed, and the combatants were still separated. One day, Fournier was ordered to carry important dispatches to Paris. He was accompanied by two chasseurs, and, while laboring through a tangled forest-path, he met Dupont.

"My dear Dupont," he cried, " I have been almost dead to see you."

"My dear Fournier," responded Dupont, "I am quite glad to meet you. Shall we fight?"

"Heavens!" said Fournier, "I have no time. I am carrying important dispatches to Paris. But you-"

"I have a short leave of absence for Rouen, but, if you wish, I will ride with you to Paris."

"My dear, good Dupont," cried Fournier, in ecstasy, "you give me new life. Come, then."

And Dupont, turning his horse, sped onward with the party. They stopped late at night at a quiet little hostelry, where, after a hearty meal, Fournier and Dupont retired to the same room to sleep. Fournier awoke before daylight, and discovered Dupont sitting at the fire, with his head in his hands.

"My dear Dupont," said Fournier, yawning, "why are you so abstracted?"

"To tell you the truth," said Dupont, "I am vexed. My leave of absence was for the purpose of seeing my fiancee at Rouen, and she will not cherish me more highly for preferring a duel with you, to a chat with her."

"Then you wish to return. We can arrange it. I shall show you that I can be as generous as yourself. We'll fight now, and you can return to-morrow."

"But," interposed Dupont, "suppose something should happen by which your dispatches are delayed?"

"There is where my generosity comes in," answered Fournier, rising and preparing to dress himself.

"My dear fellow," said Dupont, "you are not philosophic. If your dispatches were to miscarry, it might be a matter of considerable detriment to France."

"And I might be court-martialled," said Fournier, "and then I could not fight you any more. I will give them to one of my chasseurs."

"No," said Dupont, "Iwill carry them if you fall."

They stirred up the fire, to give them better light, and then they closed again in deadly combat. The fight was long, for Fournier had learned to be cautious, and Dupont had long been so. While their rapiers were still twining and twisting, without a scratch having been received by either, the day broke into the room, and the sun struck fairly into Captain Dupont's eyes, blinding him for an instant. In that instant he felt, for he could not see, the pressure of Fournier's sword against his own relax, and, on stepping from the sunlight, he found that Fournier had withdrawn so that Dupont's back would be partly toward the sun. The two, standing thus on opposite sides of the narrow strip of sunlight, stopped a moment, and dropped the points of their swords.

"Captain," said Dupont, tenderly, "I have to thank you for a very graceful courtesy."

"Captain," returned Fournier, with feeling, "you taught me the lesson." With that they again took position, and were about to renew the fight, when a knock came at the door, and a chasseur entered. He saluted in military style, and said: "Breakfast and the horses are ready, captain."

The two captains hesitated a moment, when Dupont said: "I think this comes under the head of military duty, captain?"

"True," returned Fournier, and the two sheathed their swords. The chasseur withdrew.

"I presume you will return to Rouen," said Fournier, as they proceeded to fully enrobe themselves.

"Yes," returned Dupont, "we have had our bout, and, although neither has been wounded, I for one do not feel the less satisfied."

They mounted their horses, and parted at the door, Fournier going toward Paris, and Dupont toward Rouen.

"Wait for me if you can," said Fournier, as they shook hands on their departure.

On reaching Rouen, Dupont reported to the general, and called upon Marie. He again urged marriage upon her.

"No," she said. "You cannot doubt my love, Alexis, but I will surely doubt yours if you urge marriage upon me while this terrible duel is pending."

The very next day, Dupont received orders from the general to re turn immediately to his company and prepare for the campaign. The great Napoleon was again about to take the field.

Dupont left his regrets with Fournier. "'It seems," he wrote, "that fate is against us as well as the general."

Fournier returned answer: "It is hard, but we must have patience."

Over two years had elapsed, and, at Austerlitz, Dupont found Fournier almost overborne by an attack of Austrian cavalry. With his own good company at his heels, he dashed to the rescue, and brought Fournier, badly wounded, from the hands of the foe.

"Is it you, Dupont?" he asked, faintly, as he opened his eyes. "How shall I thank you?"

"By getting well again, my poor friend," said Dupont. These two enemies now termed each other "friend "-- Dupont, too, who had detested duelling and duellists.

When Fournier was almost well, a month later, he rode ten leagues to meet Dupont. The latter was overjoyed to see him looking so well.

"We have not had a fight for over two years," said Fournier. "Is is not sad?"

" We will have one now."

With that their rapiers again sprang to the work. Dupont seemed abstracted. He laid his guard open freely, but Fournier did not notice that he was not playing his best. At one of these unlucky moments, Fournier pricked him unmercifully in the right breast. Dupont fell almost without a groan. Fournier sprang to him, and raised his head.

"My friend, my friend!" he cried, "look up." He tore open his breast, and discovered there a parchment commission as colonel of hussars for gallantry at the battle of Austerlitz, where he had rescued Fournier.

"A colonel! " he cried, "and yet he consented to fight me, a captain. Good, generous friend!"

He gave Colonel Dupont into the hands of his servants and his surgeon, and withdrew with a bowed head and an aching heart, thinking of the modest, generous demeanor of his friend and enemy.

Two battles took place soon after that, and Fournier displayed such consummate daring that Napoleon himself conferred the cross upon him, and made him a colonel. His first step, after receiving his colonelcy, was to ride over to Dupont. Alas! Dupont had been made a general of brigade.

"The fates are against me," said Fournier.

"It is hard," said Dupont; "but have patience."

Four years and a half had elapsed since Dupont barred Fournier's entrance to the ballroom at Rouen. Fournier had recently won his promotion to general, and several bouts had taken place, with varying results. At least ten duels had been fought by the two in this time, and at least five wounds were recorded on each one's body by the other's rapier. Fournier, being of the opinion that duelling was the normal condition of man, was delighted. Dupont was despondent, for Marie remained firm to her purpose.

He asked her again to marry him. "This duel," he repeated, "will probably never end."

"Then I will never marry," she said, firmly.

"It can only end by my surrendering to Fournier," said he, as he turned bitterly from her presence. This woman, who loved him so dearly, gazed after him with flashing eyes. "Did he say surrender?" she murmured. That night, as General Dupont rode at a slashing gait past her house, in the direction of Beauvais, where Fournier was now stationed, she muttered a short prayer, and rested her head on her hands. In her heart of hearts she said: "He surely will not surrender."

Dupont reached Fournier early the next morning. They embraced like old friends, as, indeed, they were, for Fournier, about a month previous, had proved his friendship by pricking a young fellow who had said something derogatory of Dupont's sweetheart.

"At least," he said, in telling Dupont of the circumstance, "I thought it might have been your sweetheart, for she lived in Rouen, and he called her Marguerite."

"My dear fellow," Dupont had responded, "there may be many Marguerites in Rouen; but my sweetheart is not one of them. She is Marie."

A shade of gloom overshadowed Fournier's countenance. "I was wrong, then," he said. "I pricked the poor fellow for no cause at all."

When Dupont and Fournier had embraced, Dupont entered imme diately upon the business that had brought him.

"I have come, Fournier," he said, "to compromise the whole matter between us."

"Compromise it? Impossible."

"Listen first. We have been fighting for nearly five years, and for what?"

"Ciel! I do not know."

"You surely remember the cause of our quarrel?"

"Not a bit of it."

"My dear Fournier," said Dupont, "when we were both captains at Rouen, I, by the general's order, debarred your entrance to the grand ball, on the night of the funeral of young Blumm, whom you slew.'"

"My dear Dupont," said Fournier, coolly, "I never slew young Blumm. He was a burgher, and I would not have condescended to fight with him. I remember now that you debarred my entrance to the grand ball; but you had your premises all wrong."

"Why, then, did you not say so?" asked Dupont.

Fournier shrugged his shoulders. "That was not for me to do. Duels were scarce in those days, and my cause of quarrel had nothing to do with Blumm. He was probably killed by some roistering blade of his own rank, while I received the credit of it, as I did of every wild act occurring in Rouen at that time."

"Then the whole thing has been a mistake," said Dupont. "Is there any reason why we should continue our quarrel?"

"Ah! yes, general," said Fournier, with a smile. "You see, it was not the killing of Blumm that constitutes our cause of quarrel; it was your barring my entrance to the ball."

"True," said Dupont, with a sigh. "Then, I have come to propose a compromise."

"Why, my dear general, do you wish to wind up our pleasant interchanges so summarily?"

"Because," replied Dupont, in a low tone, "my betrothed will not marry me until this duel is ended."

"Ah!" said Fournier, rising, "have I been doing you such a wrong as that? Come, then, let's hear your proposition."

"It is this: We will fight with pistols. As you have greatly the advantage, we will each take our two pistols, and enter the private park of M. La Tour, in the suburbs, at opposite gates. Then we will fire when we like."

"The idea is a good one," said Fournier; but he was apparently not enthusiastic over this duel with pistols, which he had been so long craving. He was, in fact, abstracted.

The two separated, and repaired to the park. As Fournier entered the northern gate, he saw Dupont waving his hand to him in the southern entrance. They advanced a short distance, and Fournier took refuge behind a tree. Dupont, seeing this, did the same. They were still at long range; but Fournier, stepping from behind his tree, fired one shot, which struck against Dupont's tree, a foot above the roots. Dupont then moved forward to another tree, and the two were thus brought in closer range.

"One of his two shots is gone," said Dupont. "It is bad shooting for Fournier. Let me see if I can draw his other one."

He thrust his hat cautiously from behind the shelter of the tree.


Fournier plainly saw the ruse. Nevertheless he fired at the hat, which, he knew, was not on Dupont's head. The ball went through it. Dupont, having, drawn his adversary's fire, stepped out, and advanced upon him with his two pistols, still loaded, in his hand. Fournier, with a pale face, stepped gayly out from behind his tree, took off his hat with a bow, opened the breast of his coat, and said, "Shoot!"

Dupont dashed his pistols on the ground. "I will not," he cried.

"Then," said Fournier, "my life is in your hands. Make your own terms."

"Fournier," said Dupont, taking both his hands, and looking into his eyes, "our duel is no longer a duel. We do not fight to kill, but to show generosity. Your two pistol-shots were intended, not to hit, but to miss me. I can fight you no longer, and I give you your life without terms."

"I take it," responded Fournier, "only on condition that I may be your friend, and not your antagonist, and that, if we ever fight again, you shall hold the right you now have -- to two shots first."

The terms were accepted, and the two friends were no longer antagonists. On returning to Rouen, Dupont claimed Marie's hand, and told her how the duel had ended.

"Then," said she, "you did not surrender?"


Then that woman, who loved him so, fell into his arms, and whispered in his ear: "Ah! dear, if you had surrendered, I should never have spoken to you again."

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2009 22:48

Here's a proofed and formatted version of the 1858 Harper's story:
THE late Paris duels have called up the subject of dueling anew; and among the most extraordinary affairs of that nature which inquiry has brought to light, is the story of a duel commencing in 1794 and ending only in 1813. We commend its perusal to Messrs. Gwin, Wilson, Burlingame, et id omue belliger:

In 1794, then, there lived a Captain of hussars, Fournier by name, at Strasbourg, who was the most hot-headed and quarrelsome man in all that region. Again and again he had slain his man in duels, hut no successes seemed to satiate his taste for this sort of murder. On one occasion he had wantonly provoked a young man, named Blumm -- who was a great favorite among the good bourgeoisie of Strasbourg -- and as wantonly had slain him.

The whole town was full of excitement, and the whole town condemned Fournier as his murderer. Still, dueling was honorable; who should venture to punish the murderer, who was only duelist?

It happened that, upon the night of the burial of poor Blumm, a great ball, long time announced, was given by the military commander of the place. Fournier was among the invited guests; but the general commanding, foreseeing what unpleasant rencontres might grow out of his presence, gave or-


ders to his aid-de-camp, Captain Dupont, to station himself at the door, and, citing the order of his general, to give congé to Fournier.

Dupont accepted the commission. Fournier in due time presented himself. Dupont addressed him: "Fournier, what are you doing here on the night of poor Blumm's burial ?"

" Ah! c'est toi, Dupont; bon! I come to the ball, naturally enough.

" And I am here to prevent you, by my general's orders."

" Ah! c'est ça! I can not fight the general, for his rank; you will, perhaps, have no objection ? -- you who commit impertinences at second-hand."

Dupont accepted the challenge; in a few days they fought, and Dupont succeeded in giving the desperado a severe sword wound; but Fournier, even as he fell, claimed a new meeting. On his recovery another duel was fought, in which Fournier wounded Dupont severely. But Dupont, maddened by the ruffianism of his antagonist, and trusting to his skill, insisted, upon his recovery, on a third trial. Fournier declared for pistols, being himself unfailing in his aim, and amusing himself on leisure evenings by shattering, the pipes in the mouths of the soldiers with pistol-balls.

Dupont, however, claimed a privilege of the military service, and the trial was renewed with swords. Both were slightly wounded. Upon this a duel convention was drawn up between them (still in existence), running in this way:

1st. As often as MM. Dupont and Fournier find themselves within thirty leagues of each other, they shall meet half-way between, for a duel with swords.

2d. If either of the combatants finds himself restrained by the exigences of the service, the other shall make the entire journey, in order to effect a meeting.

3d. No excuse, except such as may grow out of the exigences of military duty, shall be admissible.

The convention was executed in good faith; on every occasion when it was possible for the two hot-heads to meet, they met, and fought desperately.

A most extraordinary correspondence sprung up between them, of which we give a sample.

" I am invited," writes one, "to breakfast with the staff of chasseurs, at Luneville; and since you are in that place, upon leave of absence, I shall accept the invitation, and shall hope for the opportunity of giving you another sword thrust.
" Truly yours."

Or, again:

" DEAR FRIEND, -- I shall pass through Strasbourg at noon, on the 5th of November next. You will find me at the Hôtel des Postes: we will have a fight."

Sometimes the promotion of one or the other, by destroying their military equality, interfered with the prosecution of their agreeable engagements. Thus Fournier writes:

" MY DEAR DUPONT, -- I learn that the Emperor has made you General of Brigade. Accept my felicitations. The appointment gives me special pleasure, since it restores you to equality of rank with me, and gives us opportunity to renew fight, which I shall surely do on the first occasion."

The affair, naturally enough, attracted great attention in its day. Each bore the marks of numerous wounds: each was anxious to compass the death of the other. Both, however, were admirable swordsmen, and held religiously to the law of the duel, which forbade a second thrust after blood had once been drawn.

On one occasion, it is related that they met unexpectedly by night in a chalet of Switzerland.

" Ah, Dupont, it is you! Let us fight !"

Dupont threw aside his cloak, and put himself in position. As they parried thrust after thrust, the following conversation took place:

" Parbleu! I thought you were in the interior."

" No, I am ordered here."

" Good! We shall we near by. Are you lately arrived ?"

" This instant."

" Very good .to think of me. And as he spoke Dupont's sword pierced his neck-cloth, grazing his neck, and pinning him to the wall.

The noise of the altercation had drawn in officers from a neighboring chalet, who separated the antagonists.

So through fourteen years the long duel trailed, satisfaction not being given or gained.

At length Dupont found himself on the eve of marriage. His fiancée insisted the strife should be ended. He paid a visit to Fournier; he represented to him the inconvenience of the feud and the intervention of his bride. He proposed a finality.

A duel should he fought with pistols.

Fournier, conscious of his force in that way, expressed surprise.

Dupont says, "I know this. But I have a scheme to put us on a level. A friend of mine has
a pleasant copse, inclosed by a high wall; there are two gates.-- one to the north, one to the south. At noon precisely, to-morrow, you shall enter at the north gate, pistol in hand; I shall enter by the south. Once within the copse, each shall seek his occasion to fire."

The terms were accepted. At noon the next day they entered; the gates were closed; they advanced cautiously from thicket to thicket. At length they discovered each other, and at the same instant each took refuge behind a trunk. Five minutes passed: Dupont slowly thrust his arm beyond shelter; the bark flew, there was a quick report, and one ball of Fournier's was lost. Five minutes more, and Dupont cautiously thrust his hat into sight: on the instant it was pierced, the ball grazing his fingers.

He now marched out coolly: Fournier left his shelter, with the empty pistol in his hand -- cool to the last.

Dupont took deliberate aim at his heart -- stopped. " I have your life in my hands, said. he. I give it you on this condition that if you ever harass me, or provoke me to renew this long fight, I shall have the benefit of two balls before you tire. The condition were accepted; the fourteen years of duel were ended; Dupont was married; the story is done.

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Re: true story behind the "duellists"

Post by David Thompson » 11 Apr 2009 01:38

Paging through Dr. Robinet's Dictionnaire historique et biographique de la révolution et de l'empire, 1789-1815. Ouvrage rédigé pour l'histoire générale (1899), the most likely candidates (based on name, rank and age) for Generals Dupont and Fournier are General Pierre Dupont de L’Etang (or Létang) (1765-1840) and General François Fournier-Sarlovese (or Sarlovéze) (1773-1827). Other websites have also identified Fournier-Sarlovese as the "Fournier" in the story.

However, the dates given in the story don't track very well with the ranks and career details of those two generals. Gen. Dupont was court-martialled and relieved of his command following his defeat (in 1808) by Spanish forces in the Peninsular War. As far as I can tell, Dupont was in prison in 1812-1814, during the time the pistol duel was supposedly fought. Furthermore, although Gen. Fournier was apparently a notorious duellist and a commander of cavalry, his rank was inferior to Gen. Dupont for most of Dupont's active career. For example, when these duels were supposed to have started in 1794, Dupont was already a brigadier general.

Dupont did serve, when he was a lieutenant, as adjutant to Gen. Charles Dillon in northern France in 1791. Both Dupont and Fournier also served in Spain at about the same time.

For brief, English-language biographical sketches of the careers of these officers, see:

General Pierre Dupont de L’Etang (or Létang) (1765-1840) ... %C3%89tang

General François Fournier-Sarlovese (or Sarlovéze) (1773-1827) ... rnier.html

Perhaps some of our readers can cast more light on this question. There may be other period generals named Dupont and Fournier, or there may be additional career details out there on these officers which match up. There may even be reputable anecdotes of a duel or duels between the two men.

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