In artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

, a grapeshot is a type of shot
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

 that is not a one solid element, but a mass of small metal balls or slugs packed tightly into a canvas bag. It was used both in land and naval warfare. When assembled, the balls resembled a cluster of grape
A grape is a non-climacteric fruit, specifically a berry, that grows on the perennial and deciduous woody vines of the genus Vitis. Grapes can be eaten raw or they can be used for making jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, wine, grape seed extracts, raisins, molasses and grape seed oil. Grapes are also...

s, hence the name. On firing, the balls spread out from the muzzle, giving an effect similar to a giant shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...


Grapeshot was devastatingly effective against massed infantry at short range. It was used to savage massed infantry charges
Charge (warfare)
A charge is a maneuver in battle in which soldiers advance towards their enemy at their best speed in an attempt to engage in close combat. The charge is the dominant shock attack and has been the key tactic and decisive moment of most battles in history...

 quickly. Cannons would fire solid shot to attack enemy artillery and troops at longer range and switch to grape when they or nearby troops were charged.

A canister shot
Canister shot
Canister shot is a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. It was similar to the naval grapeshot, but fired smaller and more numerous balls, which did not have to punch through the wooden hull of a ship...

 (case-shot) similarly consists of many small elements, although packed into a canister (case). The canister is usually made of tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

 or brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

, and could be guided by a wooden sabot
A sabot is a device used in a firearm or cannon to fire a projectile, such as a bullet, that is smaller than the bore diameter, or which must be held in a precise position. The term is also applied to a battery stub case, a device used similarly to make a small electrical battery usable in a...

. Later, the shrapnel shell was invented that acted in a similar manner but had much better effectiveness at long range.

Scattershot is an improvised form which uses chainlinks, nails, shards of glass, rocks, etc. Although scattershot can be cheaply made, it is less effective than grapeshot due to the absence of uniformity for every projectile in terms of mass, shape, material, and terminal ballistics.

Field-expedient Claymore mines, consisting of a container, projectiles such as ball bearings or used ammo links arranged to project in one general direction, and explosives are often called grapeshot.

Use in conflicts

Conflicts in which grapeshot was effectively used include:
  • The noted pirate Bartholomew Roberts
    Bartholomew Roberts
    Bartholomew Roberts , born John Roberts, was a Welsh pirate who raided ships off America and West Africa between 1719 and 1722. He was the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy. He is estimated to have captured over 470 vessels...

     (popularly known as "Black Bart") was killed by a blast of grapeshot from HMS Swallow
    HMS Swallow (1703)
    HMS Swallow was a 50-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Deptford Dockyard and launched on 10 February 1703. Swallow was rebuilt according to the 1706 Establishment at Chatham Dockyard, and was relaunched on 25 March 1719...

     on February 10, 1722.
  • Battle of Culloden
    Battle of Culloden
    The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Taking place on 16 April 1746, the battle pitted the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart against an army commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, loyal to the British government...

     - 1746, Jacobites under Bonnie Prince Charlie vs. British forces under the Duke of Cumberland
  • Battle of the Plains of Abraham
    Battle of the Plains of Abraham
    The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, also known as the Battle of Quebec, was a pivotal battle in the Seven Years' War...

     - 1759, Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
    Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
    Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran was a French soldier best known as the commander of the forces in North America during the Seven Years' War .Montcalm was born near Nîmes in France to a noble family, and entered military service...

     was mortally wounded in the abdomen by grape-shot.
  • Kazimierz Pułaski was injured, and later died, from a grapeshot-inflicted wound in the Battle of Savannah
    Siege of Savannah
    The Siege of Savannah or the Second Battle of Savannah was an encounter of the American Revolutionary War in 1779. The year before, the city of Savannah, Georgia, had been captured by a British expeditionary corps under Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell. The siege itself consisted of a joint...

     during the American Revolutionary War
    American Revolutionary War
    The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

  • Battle of Guilford Court House
    Battle of Guilford Court House
    The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 in Greensboro, the county seat of Guilford County, North Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War...

    -1781, when Cornwallis ordered two grapeshots to be fired into the middle of a battlefield, where hand-to-hand combat between the British and Continental Army was taking place.

  • 13 Vendémiaire
    13 Vendémiaire
    13 Vendémiaire Year 4 is the name given to a battle between the French Revolutionary troops and Royalist forces in the streets of Paris...

     - Napoleon, then a brigadier general
    Brigadier General
    Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

     during the later stages of the French Revolution
    French Revolution
    The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

    , famously dispersed a Royalist mob on the streets of Paris
    Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

     with a "whiff of grapeshot" on 5 October 1795. He was rewarded with the command of the Army of Italy
    Army of Italy (France)
    The Army of Italy was a Field army of the French Army stationed on the Italian border and used for operations in Italy itself. Though it existed in some form in the 16th century through to the present, it is best known for its role during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic...

     in 1796, and his victories at the battles of Lodi
    Battle of Lodi
    The Battle of Lodi was fought on May 10, 1796 between French forces under General Napoleon Bonaparte and an Austrian rear guard led by Karl Philipp Sebottendorf at Lodi, Lombardy...

    , Castiglione
    Battle of Castiglione
    The Battle of Castiglione saw the French Army of Italy under General Napoleon Bonaparte attack an army of Habsburg Austria led by Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser on 5 August 1796. The outnumbered Austrians were defeated and driven back along a line of hills to the river crossing at...

    , Arcola and Rivoli
    Battle of Rivoli
    The Battle of Rivoli was a key victory in the French campaign in Italy against Austria. Napoleon Bonaparte's 23,000 Frenchmen defeated an attack of 28,000 Austrians under Feldzeugmeister Jozsef Alvinczi, ending Austria's fourth and final attempt to relieve the Siege of Mantua...

     provided a springboard for his military and political ambitions.
  • During the Haitian Revolution
    Haitian Revolution
    The Haitian Revolution was a period of conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Haitian republic...

    , grapeshot was used by French troops against the victorious troops of Toussaint Louverture.
  • During the Irish Rebellion of 1798
    Irish Rebellion of 1798
    The Irish Rebellion of 1798 , also known as the United Irishmen Rebellion , was an uprising in 1798, lasting several months, against British rule in Ireland...

    , grapeshot was widely used by British forces against Irish forces, notably in the battles of New Ross
    Battle of New Ross (1798)
    The Battle of New Ross took place in County Wexford in south-eastern Ireland, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It was fought between the Irish Republican insurgents called the United Irishmen and British Crown forces composed of regular soldiers, militia and yeomanry...

    , Arklow
    Battle of Arklow
    The second Battle of Arklow took place during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 on 9 June when a force of United Irishmen from Wexford, estimated at 10,000 strong, launched an assault into County Wicklow, on the British-held town of Arklow, in an attempt to spread the rebellion into Wicklow and to...

    , Saintfield
    Battle of Saintfield
    The Battle of Saintfield was a short but bloody clash in County Down, in Northern Ireland. The battle was the first major conflict of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in Down. The battle took took place on Saturday, 9 June 1798.-Background:...

     and Vinegar Hill
    Battle of Vinegar Hill
    The Battle of Vinegar Hill was an engagement during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 on 21 June 1798 when over 15,000 British soldiers launched an attack on Vinegar Hill outside Enniscorthy, County Wexford, the largest camp and headquarters of the Wexford United Irish rebels...

    . At the Battle of Vinegar Hill
    Battle of Vinegar Hill
    The Battle of Vinegar Hill was an engagement during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 on 21 June 1798 when over 15,000 British soldiers launched an attack on Vinegar Hill outside Enniscorthy, County Wexford, the largest camp and headquarters of the Wexford United Irish rebels...

     the British used grape shot to kill hundreds of women and children who were fleeing the battlefield.
  • Battle of Borodino
    Battle of Borodino
    The Battle of Borodino , fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the French invasion of Russia and all Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties...

    , 1812—Prince Mikhail Kutuzov
    Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov
    Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov was a Field Marshal of the Russian Empire. He served as one of the finest military officers and diplomats of Russia under the reign of three Romanov Tsars: Catherine II, Paul I and Alexander I...

    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    ) v. Napoleon Bonaparte (France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

  • British commander Sir Edward Pakenham
    Edward Pakenham
    Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB , styled The Honourable from his birth until 1813, was an Irish British Army Officer and Politician. He was the brother-in law of the Duke of Wellington, with whom he served in the Peninsular War...

     was fatally wounded while on horseback by grapeshot fired from the earthworks during the Battle of New Orleans
    Battle of New Orleans
    The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812. American forces, commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, defeated an invading British Army intent on seizing New Orleans and the vast territory the United States had acquired with the...

  • At the Battle of Waterloo
    Battle of Waterloo
    The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

     (1815) The Earl of Uxbridge
    Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey
    Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, KG, GCB, GCH, PC , styled Lord Paget between 1784 and 1812 and known as The Earl of Uxbridge between 1812 and 1815, was a British military leader and politician, now chiefly remembered for leading the charge of the heavy cavalry against...

     was hit in the leg by French grapeshot, the leg
    Lord Uxbridge's leg
    Lord Uxbridge's leg was shattered by a cannon shot at the Battle of Waterloo and removed by a surgeon. The amputated limb went on to lead a somewhat macabre after-life as a tourist attraction in the village of Waterloo in Belgium, where it had been removed and interred.-Waterloo:Henry Paget, 2nd...

     was amputated and The Earl of Uxbridge was commended for the injuries he sustained and his bravery in the battle.
  • In Victor Hugo
    Victor Hugo
    Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....

    's novel Les Misérables
    Les Misérables
    Les Misérables , translated variously from the French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims), is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century...

    , grapeshot was the weapon used against the barricades in the 1832 insurrection in Paris.
  • During the Battle of Buena Vista
    Battle of Buena Vista
    The Battle of Buena Vista , also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States Army use artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican army in the Mexican-American War...

     (Mexican-American War) in 1847, General Zachary Taylor
    Zachary Taylor
    Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

     effectively employed a double load of grapeshot for his artillery in defeating a numerically superior Mexican army led by Santa Anna. His famous order, "double shot your guns and give them hell", became the campaign slogan that later won him Presidency in the White House.
  • Battle of Gettysburg
    Battle of Gettysburg
    The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

     during the American Civil War
    American Civil War
    The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

     in 1863, Union forces effectively used canister shot in repulsing the massed Confederate
    Confederate States of America
    The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

     advance known as Pickett's Charge, a key stage in the battle.

See also

  • Beehive
    Beehive (ammunition)
    Beehive is an anti-personnel round fired from an artillery gun. The round is packed with metal flechettes which are ejected from the shell during flight by a mechanical time fuze. It is so called because of the 'buzzing' sound the darts make when flying through the air...

  • Canister shot
    Canister shot
    Canister shot is a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. It was similar to the naval grapeshot, but fired smaller and more numerous balls, which did not have to punch through the wooden hull of a ship...

  • Chain shot - a shot consisting of metal chains
  • Shrapnel shell
  • Shotshell
    Shotgun shell
    A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge loaded with lead shot or shotgun slug designed to be fired from a shotgun....

    , functionally identical small arms ammunition
  • Salvo
    A salvo is the simultaneous discharge of artillery or firearms including the firing of guns either to hit a target or to perform a salute.Troops armed with muzzleloaders required time in which to refill their arms with gun powder and shot...

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