A siege is an operational method used by armies to capture heavily fortified or defended areas, including cities and castles.
A siege is an operational method used by armies to capture heavily fortified or defended areas, including cities and castles. The process begins when the besieging force cuts off access and egress to the besieged area. The purpose of this action is to prevent resupply or reinforcement of or escape from the garrison, compelling the garrison to surrender with minimal loss to the attacking force. If the besieged force does not surrender once it is surrounded, the siege continues until the attacker gives up or storms the fortifications using its military capabilities. Against a determined defense, the latter option could result in significant casualties to one or both sides.
In the early modern period, siege warfare closely resembled siege warfare of the earliest recorded times. In general, once the line of
Cannons were used by the English during the Siege of Calais (1346-1347). The
In the early part of the sixteenth century as the Turks expanded their
Gradually, over time, the art of
The waiting game continued well into the seventeenth century. It was at Stenay
In his lifetime Vauban constructed more than one hundred fortified locations and conducted dozens of sieges. During this period he made two major contributions to the art of siege warfare. At the Siege of Maastricht
Vauban’s system was simple and
Once the supporting troops were in place, another set of saps was dug toward the enemy positions. This second set of saps was connected by a third parallel, constructed at close range for the cannons. Again, the parallel would contain artillery positions. From the third parallel the final assault would be conducted. Vauban was able to develop the system to the point where he was able to predict the time until the successful completion of the siege before it even started. The entire process was codified in his book, De l’attaque et de la défense des places (1737-1742; attack and defense).
The second of Vauban’s innovations dealt with effective use of cannons during sieges. The cannons of the day were low-trajectory, direct-fire weapons that were used to batter away at the enemy defenses but which could do little else. It was during the Siege of Philippsburg
The seventeenth century would showcase a number of great
The fortifications constructed in the French, Dutch and, later, German styles, as developed by Vauban, Coehoorn, and others during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, changed the face of warfare in Europe for the next one hundred years. During the period from 1749 to 1815 a total of 289 major sieges were conducted throughout Europe, representing more than one-third of the total major engagements during the period. Even in North America sieges played a key role; the Siege of Yorktown
George Washington and the comte de Rochambeau at the Siege of Yorktown, which effectively ended the American Revolutionary War.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the science of artillery had overtaken the science of fortifications. Advancements in gunpowder technology, forging, and projectile design changed the face of siege operations. New gunpowder mixes and better metallurgy increased the range of the weapons, and rifling and shell aerodynamics improved accuracy. It was no longer necessary to dig saps and parallels close to the defenses. They could be attacked more effectively, and safely, from longer ranges. The development of the howitzer made indirect fire much more effective as well. Expensive fixed fortifications became obsolete except at large cities.
As the role of permanent fortifications declined, the value of field, or temporary, fortifications increased. The field fortification of choice was the
The introduction of the
Each of these steps became more difficult to make as technology advanced. As weapon lethality increased, so did troop dispersion. It became more difficult to concentrate forces to cut off the defender. Too many holes existed and small units could escape by avoiding the besieger’s patrols and fixed positions. Besiegers were further hindered by the increased use of aircraft for
The introduction of the atom
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