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It’s the year 1835 on the Boulevard du Temple, Paris. There’s a cloud of smoke above the crowded street. It’s the day of a parade, a grand military review and anywhere from twenty to forty-two people now lay injured on the ground. Ten have died and eight more will die but the cause of all this bloodshed, the “infernal machine,” didn’t succeed in killing its true targets, King Louis-Philippe of and his sons.

The infernal machine was a "super gun" contraption constructed by Giuseppe Fieschi along with his accomplices Theodore Pepin and Pierre Morey both members of the Society of the Rights of Man. The machine itself consisted of twenty-five rifles (filled with grape shot, buck shot, and slugs) mounted in parallel on a wooden chasse that were all rigged to fire simultaneously. The device was then positioned in the window of a rented room overlooking the parade. Fieschi simply fired upon the king once he came into range.

Fieschi and his creation caused eighteen deaths and forty-two injuries. The arrangement of guns and bullets covered a spread of twenty-five feet. But amazingly enough the king’s forehead was merely grazed and the princes weren’t hit. In a twist of cosmic justice the machine succeeded in not just harming others but also gravely injuring Fieschi due to four of his guns misfiring (which potentially caused a minor explosion.) The telltale cloud of smoke immediately gave his position away and due to his injuries Fieschi was easily apprehended. Some accounts say that Fieschi was judiciously cared for and nursed back to health by the king’s orders in order for him for face justice (aka the guillotine) after his trial. In the end Fieschi, Morey, and Pepin all were sentenced to the guillotine.

Fieschi's true motives for the assassination attempt remain unclear. Morey and Pepin were clear Republicans but some accounts say that Fieschi wasn't politically motivated while others label him as an anarchist. 

Interestingly enough this is not the first time the phrase "infernal machine" or "la machine infernale" has been attached to an assassination. The same phrase was used to describe a bomb-like device used in an assassination attempt against Napoleon. But the name supposedly goes as far back as 1585 when an Italian engineer created an explosive involving a rifle during the Siege of Antwerp. Some credit Fieschi’s design as one of the predecessors of the modern machine gun. It may have also inspired the WWII Soviet rocket launcher, Katyusha.


Links:

Histoire D'attentats p30

The Birth of Machine Guns p27

Bio of Fieschi

Infernal Machine History 340

Fieschi Wiki English, Fieschi Wiki French

La Machine Infernale Wiki