Christopher Duffy's brilliant history of fortifications and siegecraft is the best general work available on the subject. It covers the classic age of military engineering, which was heralded by the work of Vauban, chief engineer to the French King Louis XIV. There was astonishingly little change in the way fortresses were perceived and used for the next 200 years, until the advent of rifled artillery brought dramatic new ideas into play. Duffy examines the purpose of fortresses across Europe, and the debates of the time concerning their offensive and defensive uses. He analyses the strategic and structural considerations that dictated their locations, and describes how they were planned, designed and built, and by whom. He then explains how a siege progressed from start to finish: plans and preparations; the investment of the fortress; the ways in which a fortress could be reduced short of a formal siege; and the siege itself at every stage, from the choice of the frontal attack to the storm of the breaches and capitulation. The differences in siting, design and techniques of attack and defence for coastal fortifications are also covered. Using excerpts from the accounts of people who took part in actual sieges or were themselves besieged, Duffy brings out the human side of siege warfare as well as its purely technical aspects. In order to give the overall picture he traces four great sieges in their entirety: Namur in 1692 and again in 1695, with Vauban and his Dutch counterpart Coehoorn pitting their wits against one another; the French attack on Antwerp in 1832, which showed how little siegecraft had changed since Namur; and the Anglo-Dutch naval bombardment of Algiers in 1816. Duffy's clear perspective, and his skilful handling of details, make Fire and Stone and enthralling book to read as well as an invaluable source of information.
Fire and Stone The Science of Fortress Warfare, 1660-1860
Hardback (15 Nov 2023)
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