Nicolas ChauvinNicolas Chauvin (possibly b. Rochefort, France, c. 1790) was a semi-mythical soldier and patriot who served in the First Army of the French Republic and subsequently in La Grande Armee of Napoleon Bonaparte.
He enlisted at age 18, and served honorably and well. He is known to have been wounded 17 times in his nation's service, resulting in his severe disfigurement and maiming. For his loyalty and dedication, Napoleon himself presented the soldier with the Saber of Honor and a pension of 200 francs.
Chauvin's distinguished record of service and his love and devotion for Napoleon, which endured despite the price he willingly paid for them, earned him only ridicule and derision in post-Napoleonic France. The nation had lost its earlier idealism, and passionate nationalism was less in vogue. He was made a mockery of in several plays which were produced for the original Vaudeville, including La Cocarde Tricolore (1831).
Through the plays in which Chauvin was made a character, the term "chauvinism" was coined as a term for excessive nationalistic fervor.
As the historical figure became a dramatic persona, he was attributed with acts and feats which were highly inaccurate. One representation said that he was born on July 4, 1776, and entered the Revolutionary Army as a conscript during the Reign of Terror. These falsehoods were spread by some historians through the use of these fictions in secondary sources. More critical modern historians have debunked these myths, leaving us with a better picture of the man as a patriot.