History of Europe

The longest duel in history, 19 years

The captains Dupont and Fournier of the French army were the protagonists of the duel that lasted 19 years (1794 – 1813)

In 1794, in the city of Strasbourg, a young man from the local bourgeoisie named Blumm had the misfortune to cross the path of Captain Fournier – with a reputation for fighting and very bad drinking -. The captain provoked the young man and he made the mistake of challenging him to a duel... Blumm died. Although the duel had been "legal" the local population blamed Fournier but nothing could be done against him. A few days later, the commander in chief gave a reception for the city's personalities and ordered his second in command, Captain Dupont , to prevent Fournier from entering so as not to stir things up. When he tried to agree, Dupont stopped him and they challenged each other.

The duelists

Knowing Fournier's skill in firearms, Dupont chose the sword and managed to wound Fournier who, while he was falling, challenged him again. In this second attack, both were injured and there was a third. After the third, and seeing that there was no end to it, they established a pact:

  • As long as the two are less than thirty leagues apart, they will travel half the distance each until they meet and challenge each other to the sword.
  • If one of the two, due to the needs of the service, cannot move, the other will travel the distance that separates them to challenge each other with a sword.
  • There will be no excuses, unless your military obligation prevents the meeting.

An epistolary relationship was established between them in which they even congratulated each other on their military successes and their promotions. Their relationship was more than cordial until it was time to wield the swords. In addition, they respected that the first blow that made the opponent bleed stopped the fight.
All the duels were at the sword, until in 1813, and shortly before getting married, Dupont offered to settle the issue with pistols (the preferred weapon of Fournier). To equalize the contest, they established different rules for the last duel:they would carry two pistols each, the duel would take place in a fenced private forest with two gates (north and south); each one would enter for one and… «God bless you from Saint Peter «. For a while they were playing cat and mouse but Fourier's eagerness lost him and he spent both shots without taking down his rival. Dupont managed to hold Fournier at gunpoint and told him:

I have your life in my hands, I will forgive you on the condition that if you challenge me again I will have two shots before you can open fire.

The conditions were accepted and ended 30 clashes over 19 years.

The script for “The Duelists” (1977), Ridley Scott's first film, is based on "The Duel » by Joseph Conrad and this one in the history of Dupont and Fournier.

Sources:Napoleonics, 1808-1814, Axis History