grapeshot n : a cluster of small projectiles fired together from a cannon to produce a hail of shot
- A cluster, usually nine in number, of small iron balls, put together by means of cast-iron circular plates at top and bottom, with two rings, and a central connecting rod, in order to be used as a charge for a cannon. Formerly grapeshot were inclosed in canvas bags.
Grapeshot is a type of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. Instead of solid shot, a mass of loosely packed metal slugs is loaded into a canvas bag. Grapeshot can also be improvised from chainlinks, shards of glass, rocks, etc. When assembled, the balls resemble a cluster of grapes (hence the name). On firing, the balls spread out from the muzzle at high velocity, giving an effect similar to a shotgun, but scaled up to cannon size.
Grapeshot was devastatingly effective against massed infantry at short range. It was used to savage massed infantry charges quickly. Cannons would fire solid shot to attack enemy artillery and troops at longer range (although the shrapnel round was invented to increase the effect of grapeshot at a distance) and switch to grape when they or nearby troops were charged.
Grapeshot was largely replaced by canister shot during the early 19th century, with the cloth bag being replaced with a wood-sealed metal canister, guided by a wooden sabot. This gave improved range and more controllable dispersal and allowed the shot to be safely fired at higher velocity.
Conflicts in which grapeshot was famously and effectively used include:
- The noted pirate Bartholomew Roberts (popularly known as "Black Bart") was killed by a blast of grapeshot from H.M.S. Swallow on February 10, 1722.
- Battle of Culloden - 1746, Jacobites under Bonnie Prince Charlie vs. British forces under the Duke of Cumberland
- Battle of Guilford Court House, when Cornwallis ordered two grapeshots to be fired into the middle of a battlefield, where hand-to-hand combat between the British and Rebels was taking place.
- 13 Vendémiaire - Napoleon, then a brigadier general during the later stages of the French Revolution, famously dispersed a Royalist mob on the streets of Paris with a "whiff of grapeshot" on 5 October 1795. He was rewarded with the command of the Army of Italy in 1796, and his victories at the battles of Lodi, Castiglione, Arcola and Rivoli provided a springboard for his military and political ambitions.
- During the Irish Rebellion of 1798, grapheshot was widely used by British forces against Irish rebels, notably in the battles of New Ross, Arklow and Vinegar Hill.
- Battle of Borodino, 1812—Prince Mikhail Kutuzov (Russia) v. Napoleon Bonaparte (France)
- In Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, grapeshot was the weapon used against the barricades in the 1832 insurrection in Paris.
- British commander Sir Edward Pakenham was fatally wounded while on horseback by grapeshot fired from the earthworks during the Battle of New Orleans.
- Kazimierz Pułaski was injured, and later died, from a grapeshot-inflicted wound in the Battle of Savannah during the American Revolutionary War.
Since the passing of muzzle-loaded cannon and the introduction of the fixed round, grape has been replaced by canister or case round, where a brass cartridge contains the shot.
grapeshot in Japanese: ぶどう弾
grapeshot in Norwegian: Kardesk