What was the first execution by firing squad in history ? Using firearms, that is.

  • I suspect that the firing "squad" was an evolution of the execution process to remove the need for a specialized executioner. So the first execution by firing squad might not be the first execution by firearm. Do you intend the former or latter? – Steve Bird Sep 20 '16 at 11:17
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    Since there doubts had been raised about if the 1526 executions with firearms were by firing squad or just by single shot, the earliest firing squad that I can easily document is that of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_of_May_1808 . Anyway, I just mention it here as an upper bound, because it's quite sure that the practice had been invented earlier - probably much earlier. – Pere Sep 20 '16 at 16:23
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    Admiral Byng was famously shot by firing squad on 14th March 1757 after a political court martial. None of the information I've read about that suggests that it was the first of its kind. – Steve Bird Sep 20 '16 at 19:48
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    Royal Navy officer Richard Kirby was executed by firing squad on 16th April 1703. Neither him seems to be a first case for this. – Brasidas Sep 20 '16 at 22:46
  • Charles Lucas and George Lisle on 28 August 1648, English Civil Wars. – Brasidas Sep 21 '16 at 16:08

Humayun, son of the first Mughal Emperor Babur, has been credited with the first execution by firing squad.

Over one hundred prisoners of war were captured along with around eight war elephants. However, unlike after previous battles, these prisoners were not bonded or freed; by decree from Humayun, they were shot. In His memoirs Babur recorded the incident thusly: "Ustad Ali-quli and the matchlockmen were ordered to shoot all the prisoners, by way of example; this had been Humayun's first affair, his first experience of battle; it was an excellent omen!". This is, perhaps, the earliest example of execution by firing squad.

This is before the first Battle of Panipat in April 1526.

Source: Babur (Wikispeedia)


As @SteveBird points below, the text quoted in my answer is quite ambiguous.

Wikipedia article Blowing from a gun has a section on the Mughal Empire:

Just prior to the institution of the reign of the first Mughal emperor, Babur, his son Humayun is said to have blown from guns 100 Afghan prisoners on 6 March 1526, in one incident of his father's many struggles against the Lodi dynasty.

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    The quote within the quote merely states that the "matchlockmen were ordered to shoot all the prisoners" but doesn't specify how that was done. If each matchlock man shot a single prisoner in turn, it would still match the description but wouldn't have been a 'firing squad'. – Steve Bird Sep 20 '16 at 14:47
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    Good point. That's probably why the author included a "perhaps". – Brasidas Sep 20 '16 at 14:50

As for the American Civil War goes, the first executions for desertion were held on August 19, 1862.

The first executions for desertion in the Army of Northern Virginia took place at Mount Pisgah Church on August 19, 1862, when three men of Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro's division and two from Brigadier General Jubal A. Early's division—all from the Shenandoah Valley or from the counties of what is now West Virginia—were shot by firing squad under orders from Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. As Colonel Samuel Bassett French, Jackson's aide, wrote, "the preservation of the army itself was dependent on the maintenance of discipline, and discipline could not be had if desertions were longer to go unpunished." - Military Executions during the Civil War

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  • I do hope someone can find a confirmed earlier date. – Ken Graham Sep 21 '16 at 12:56

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