Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Resource for Early Modern Sieges

La Hougue, Normandy, August 2012 by David Flintham

I came across this post on the English Civil war site. It's by a Military Historian by the name of David Flintham. He makes the excellent point that warfare in the Early Modern age was often about fortifications - building them, besieging them, defending them, and storming them - rather than about battles in the field. It's an idea I was already familiar with, but sometimes seeing something again triggers other thoughts. Hence my previous post.

I was also happy to see that David Flintham had also created a site on sieges. Predominantly this is for the English Civil War or as he calls it the War of the Three Kingdoms - which in addition to being more geographically correct is just a helluva better name. But it also includes information on some other conflicts and he includes a nice little article on Vauban, the Frenchman who turned fortifications and siege craft into a science and not just an art. There is a line in the 1992 Michael Mann version of Last of the Mohicans that always reminds me of Vauban and Early Modern siegecraft.

Maj. Duncan Heyward: Might I inquire after the situation sir, given that I've seen the French engineering from the ridge above.

Colonel Munro: The situation is that his guns are bigger than mine and he has more of them. We keep our heads down while his troops dig 30 yards of trench a day. When those trenches are 200 yards from the fort and within range, he'll bring in his 15-inch mortars, lob explosive rounds over our walls, and pound us to dust.

The calculation of digging 30 yards of trench a day to reach a distance of 200 yards from the fortifications is typical of Vauban-style sieges: measured, planned, and predictable. Unless the defenders surrender first, once the walls are breached and the attackers storm the town, science and predictability give way to chaos, rapine, and slaughter. The end of a siege could be a grim and bloody affair.

So take a look at David Flintham's site. It's well worth the look.

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