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Renaissance Warfare and Weapons – Preparing to Siege

Military strategist Vauban was considered a genius at defending against a siege but also a genius at carrying out a siege.

The planning and maintaining of a siege could be just as difficult as defending against one. Because the attacking armies could potentially be attacked not only by those defending their city, castle or fortress, the attackers would also have to guard against being attacked by those coming to the aid of the besieged. As a defense tactic, the besieging armies usually dug lines of trenches. Two main trench lines were common. The first and outermost trench line would surround the entire besieging army and protect it from outside attackers. This outermost trench is called the “lines of contravallation”.

Another trench would be dug facing towards the besieged area; this would protect them from being attacked by sorties from the defending armies. This trench was called the “line of circumvallation”. This line would also help prevent the escape of the defenders.

With his defensive trenches in place, Vauban would then begin a series of trenches to be used in the offensive manner. He would place another trench about 2,000 feet from the target. This trench would contain the heavy cannons and allow them to hit the target without coming under fire themselves.

Once that trench was established, Vauban would then dig another trench about 1,000 feet from the target. This line was used to keep the smaller guns protected.

The last trench would be dug about 200 feet from the fortress. This trench would be used to house mortars and act as a common staging area for the attacking parties once the walls were breached. Sappers (in the Offensive Siege Tactics) would also use this trench to dig their tunnels

The trenches that connected the above trenches to each other could not be built perpendicular to the fortress wall because that would make the attacking soldiers easy targets from the fortress. So these connecting trenches were dug in a zigzag fashion.

The last part of the Vauban design is the citadel. The citadel is the strongest part of the fortress. These were sometimes built inside the main walls and designed to be the last line of defense. The citadels were used during peacetime to keep the residents in line and to protect the garrison from a potential revolt in the city.

The outcome of sieges was oftentimes won by the army that could last the longest. Most sieges had very little fighting between opposing armies and the decision by the attacking army to just wait for the surrender. There was little to be gained from a direct assault and the resulting high casualties. The besieged would either be starved out or disease would become so rampant that they would be forced to surrender.

On the other hand, disease could also wreak havoc on the besieging army too. Sometimes the besieging army would retreat due to loss of life from disease in its own camp.

There was also a strategy in exactly how to accept the offer of surrender. They had to decide if they would allow the surrender at all. It was common for the siege army to accept the surrender. This saved casualties and allowed word to spread to others that if they came under siege, they too, could surrender. If the siege army had the reputation of killing and pillaging after the surrender then that reputation would make it harder for them during the next siege.

The most dominant type of warfare in Western Europe for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was “siege” warfare. Sieges could last a very long time. Ostend was under siege from 1601-1604. These lengthy sieges were costly and slow but they did work better than a direct open battle between armies.

As weapon technology continued to improve the importance of capturing a single fortress became less important. The new tactics with improved weaponry allowed for the fight to be quickly taken to the battlefield. The Napoleonic war was the first to use this type of warfare strategy.

A touch of “Swan Song” and a dash of “The Stand”…Very good post-apocalyptic tale in the mode and mood of R. McCammon’s “Swan Song” and S. King’s “The Stand”. ★★★★★

Excerpt from Troop of Shadows:

Colleyville, Texas

Dani cursed the weight of her backpack. The final two items from the ransacked Walgreens, crammed in as an afterthought ten minutes ago, might cost her everything. After surviving the last twelve months of hell only to be thwarted now by a can of Similac and a twelve-pack of Zest soap, would be sadly anticlimactic. Despite running at a full sprint down a dark suburban street, dodging overflowing garbage cans while eluding three men who would steal her hard-won tubes of Neosporin and likely rape and kill her in the process, she snorted at the thought of a fictional headline: Young Woman’s Life Ends Tragically but Zestfully Clean.

Damn it, she would ditch the backpack. She could come back tomorrow night for it, but right now staying alive outweighed any future benefit its contents might provide. As her pursuers rounded the corner behind her, she darted across the front lawn of a house and leaped over a cluster of dead juniper shrubs. A year ago, those shrubs had been green, manicured, and providing curb appeal to the upscale neighborhood; they functioned now as a hurdle component in the obstacle course Dani navigated on most nights.

She angled toward the side of the house and around the corner, only to come to an abrupt stop next to a six-foot barricade. Residents of these sprawling bedroom communities situated between Dallas and Fort Worth clung to their privacy fences as fiercely as their rural counterparts did to their firearms. Why all those day-trading dads and cheerleader moms required such secrecy was beyond Dani. She didn’t care. All that mattered was how difficult they made her nightly forages. Only idiots or people with a death wish traveled alone on the streets anymore. The clever ones navigated through backyards and drainage ditches, shadowed easements and alleyway, avoiding open spaces and other humans.

Especially humans traveling in groups.

Stealth and caution were second nature to her now, and she was pissed at herself for loading up the backpack with more weight than she could easily carry at a full run.

Rookie mistake.

She flung the pack into the undergrowth of a once meticulous garden, making a mental note of the enormous red tip photinia which camouflaged the bundle in a leafy shroud. She hoped to be alive the next day to retrieve it.

She clambered up the fence, finding a toehold on a warped plank, and squirmed over the top. A silver fingernail of a moon did little to illuminate the backyard. Weak starlight reflected off the inky surface of a half-empty, kidney-shaped swimming pool. Her Nikes gripped the concrete deck as she skirted the murky water and made a beeline for the back of the yard that was, of course, separated from its neighbor by a privacy fence. It was a tall one too — a full ten feet. There were no bushes or trees to use for leverage either. She scanned the area for anything that might serve as a step ladder.

Of all the yards she could have chosen for her escape, she’d picked one with a damn ten-foot fence.

Her heart raced from the sprint, but not from panic. Gone was the young woman from a year ago, the full-time floundering college dropout and part-time surly Starbucks barista who spent too much time reading books and not enough time looking for a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house. She was too smart for her own good, everyone had told her. She should have taken that secretarial position in North Dallas, but she would have lost her sanity in that environment. The tedious filing, the ringing phones, the office politics — in other words, hell on earth for a girl with an IQ over a hundred and fifty.

Despite the recent horrors, she’d come into her own at last, after twenty-one years of meandering through life unfocused and unchallenged. The extra twenty pounds she’d been carrying courtesy of Freddy’s cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos were gone, thanks to her newfound self-discipline and endless hours of Krav Maga training with Sam. Not only had she transformed her body, she’d elevated and strengthened her mind as well. Before the power had gone out, she’d watched countless tutorials on T’ai Chi, Qigong, and Buddhist meditation. During that same window — when people were beginning to get sick, but before most of them had died — she’d combed book stores and libraries within a fifteen-mile radius. When the country went dark and people realized that life-saving information was no longer available with a few keystrokes, Dani had amassed reference material on subjects as diverse as hydroponics and combat first aid, ancient meat drying techniques and bomb making. Between martial arts lessons with Sam, she spent every spare minute absorbing the printed esoteric knowledge like a greedy lizard on a sun-drenched rock.

Knowledge was survival.

When the first of the men slithered over the fence into the backyard, she hadn’t found anything to use as a foothold. Another figure followed behind him. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, slow and measured, then took off at a full run toward them. While she ran, fingers slid down to a leather sheath secured to her belt. Two seconds before she reached the first of her would-be assailants, a Ka-Bar — the grandaddy of tactical knives — was in her hand.

Dani used momentum and every ounce of her one-hundred-twenty pound frame to slam the first man into the second, knocking both assailants off-balance and unprepared for her next move: a vicious stab to the groin of the first. He collapsed to his knees. She followed with a backhand movement, opening up the throat of his companion. A similar gesture to the man with the injured groin silenced his moaning.

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