((OOC: Originally these essays were going remain as drafts until we have more information on military things, however the new format of the Royal Herald I have decided to release them. The intent behind this is to be a manual of arms written by Degwin Zabi based on his military experiences, it’ll be divided into four parts. Part One will cover the Introduction and Chapter One: The Recruitment and Training of Infantry and Cavalry and their Equipage. Part Two will cover Chapter Two: Formations and Tactics of Land Battles. Part Three shall cover Chapter Three: Military Engineering and Chapter Four: Siegecraft. Part Four shall cover Chapter Five: Espionage. I expect as our knowledge of warfare grows Nirath’s generals (and eventually admirals) will write commentaries and edits – and help propagate the knowledge of the art of warfare through successive generations.))
My loyal reader, I have described to you the recruitment, training and equipping of the forces that you command and have shown you the optimal way to organise and deploy your forces to the field, now I set forth for your reading pleasure a brief primer on one of the specialities of military life that is of greatest import in military life, that of the military engineer.
hile every soldier should be able to dig a trench or construct a temporary camp the specialist knowledge of constructing more permanent fortifications belongs rightly to the military engineer. While I have not studied the arcane sciences of masonry and architecture I shall set before loyal reader a few fortifications in their most common layouts.
Outposts are the smallest permanent structures and are often placed in remote locations either to provide local security in a relatively safe area or to provide a form of early warning in areas where an attack is expected. Outposts rarely have more than a cohort stationed within them and come in two general configurations, each matching a particular function of an outpost. Outposts dedicated towards providing early warning tend to consist of one tall building, or a single low building on a elevated area, surrounded by a single wooden palisade. This palisade generally has only one entrance – with stables nearby to allow messengers to make a speedy exit. Occasionally these early warning outposts will have a beacon of some sort nearby but most rely on a system of messengers.
Outposts designed for facilitation of security operations tend on the other hand to be made of three small buildings, a barracks, an armoury and some holding cells, surrounded once more by a wooden palisade. The palisade in this case often has multiple entrances, since the function of the outpost is to facilitate patrols of the surrounding area. I have seen outposts with as many as six entrances, though I discourage using more than three since the purpose of this outpost is also hold those criminals who patrols may capture.
By its most basic definition any fortification may be rightly called a ‘fort’ however in the common parlance it has come to mean a small defensive structure of a size greater than an outpost but lesser than a keep. In reality I find that there is no upper limit to the size of a fort, merely in the aristocratic title of it’s holder. Most forts hold a single regiment including their winter quarters, support staff and training cadre.
Forts are usually constructed around a large open drilling field, around this field are arranged each cohort’s barracks and a mess hall often one story wooden buildings constructed so as to survive the inclement weather of the region. Beyond these tend to be the quarters of the serjeants and the captain, including in more peaceful areas their families, the regimental offices and the armouries. Again most of the second square of buildings tend to be one story but occasionally the regimental offices and captain’s quarters will be two story, depending on the business and wealth of the regiment in question. The armouries are often usually the only stone buildings in the fort. The compound is surrounded by a wooden wall or earthen rampart, usually with stables, storerooms and other support services built along the inside of the wall.
The Keep is the demesne of a Baron and one must hold a baronial contract with a duke to build a keep. They are designed for two things, to control the land around them and to provide long term accommodation to the baron, his family, and his retainers. Keeps are also generally the first type of fortification to be made primarily of stone, most keeps have ditches dug around a stone wall, inside this wall is an open courtyard, often with a set of residential and industrial buildings for the baron’s retainers and their families. In the centre of this courtyard is the residence of the baron himself, often a hall or tower arranged on top of a natural or constructed mound.
While many think a stronghold is merely an upgraded keep this characterisation does not do justice to what are important linchpins in most nation’s defensive strategies. Strongholds are usually controlled by rich barons or counts and can hold multiple regiments and civilians for an extended period of time. Often strongholds will consist of a set of connected courtyards each ringed by stone walls and with heavy gates where the courtyards meet. I have seen many innovative designs for strongholds but almost all will have one courtyard higher than the others, this is the central ‘keep’ as it were and the residences of the stronghold’s castellan’s family and their retainers. The other courtyards in the stronghold, most have between two or three in total, but I have seen strongholds with as many as ten courtyards, hold residential and industrial buildings for the housing and supply of the soldiers under the castellan’s command. Strongholds tend to also have either fresh water or a large amount of storage for both food and water, this is of great utility in sieges.
The castle is the king of the fortification, home to several regiments and nigh impossible to breach the castle is usually the centre of a duchy’s military might. Castles carry the most variation in design but like other fortifications tend to have common aspects. Many castles are built in areas with a plentiful supply of fresh water since this helps with stand siege but also helps with the gardens that almost all castles maintain. These gardens may have aesthetic appeal but most wise castle designers plant plenty of fruits and vegetables as well, in order to provide for the garrison. Many castles are designed around a central hall, in which the castellan holds court around this hall is a courtyard and living area for the castellan’s family and their servants. In a castle generally each regiment has their own courtyard, these are surrounded by walls and linked by gardens and passageways, all kept safe by large walls along an outer perimeter, studded with towers and heavy weapons.
Bridges are a vital component of military manoeuvres, when an army comes to a river they must either ford it or bridge it. In some cases it is not feasible to ford the river and a bridge cannot be found, it is then that the military engineer has a chance to practice their mastery. There are in military terms two types of bridge the first of these is the temporary bridge with the second being the permanent bridge. The temporary bridge is used to quickly bridge a river so that soldiers may cross, these tend to be built with whatever materials the engineer has to hand and tend not to last more that a single campaign season before needing to be rebuilt. The advantage to a temporary bridge is that it can be created quickly on the march allowing an army greater options for mobility than solely relying on permanent bridges. The most innovative type of temporary bridge is the ‘pontoon bridge’ in which multiple floating blocks of wood and cork are connected to each other and to the banks of the river by rope and pulled tightly so that there are minimal gaps, the main disadvantage of ‘pontoon bridges’ is that the army supply chain must allow for the ‘pontoons’ to be taken to the head of the army relatively quickly.
The permanent bridge is used to create a permanent crossing point on a river, these bridges are often made of stone and are constructed during respites in the campaign or during peacetime. The advantages of permanent bridges are in their ability to hold more weight and the relatively low maintenance costs. Permanent bridges are also of use to civilians and are a good use of the military engineer during periods of peace.
Roads are vital for the modern military as they allow for quicker movements of troops and supplies to the battlefield and for the speedy return of messengers. Since roads are also for the traders and peasants of a realm the construction of roadways should be a primary concern for military engineers upon entering a conquered province along with the construction of fortifications. Road building is an excellent use of military engineers in peacetime, as it encourages the good will of your counts and mayors.
It is the nature of cities and of fortifications to be resistant to a siege. There are however ways with which to break this resistance but first I must issue a stark warning to all commanders seeking to engage in a siege.
On the Health of Troops Engaged in a Siege
Sieges often take many months to complete and during this time soldiers are often kept in close proximity in temporary siege camps and often have little in the way of duties except maintaining a watch on the enemy to prevent a breakout. The close nature of the living conditions combined with a lack of discipline brought on by boredom can lead to disease running rampant. It is vital for the commander of a siege to take measures to prevent camp diseases such as the flux and filth-sickness. These measures generally comprise of a strict enforcement of camp discipline, alleviating the boredom of the soldiers by providing them with work, and making significant efforts in separating the jacks from the areas where drinking water is obtained.
The Six S’s of Siege Warfare
The basic tactics of siege warfare can be described by the six s’s: subverting key defenders, scaring the garrison through propaganda, sapping the walls, starving the population, storming the defences, and shelling the defenders. These tactics are rarely used alone and it is generally through a combination of these that strongholds and cities eventually fall.
Subverting Key Defenders
This tactic requires contact with key defenders within the city or stronghold to be besieged. It also requires the contact to be pliable towards your goals, whether through ideology, a desire for power, or mere mercenary tendencies. This subversion can occur in several ways, from a single guardsman opening a gate in exchange for gold to the burgomasters of a town removing their lord in exchange for governance of the area.
Needless to say when dealing with someone who is already a traitor it is necessary to be cautious lest they also act against you.
Scaring the Garrison Through Propaganda
This is is often considered the hardest method to achieve and tends to require the attacking army to maintain an overwhelming force and to have a fierce reputation. The tradition of ‘Murum Aries Attigit” as it is called in the ancient tongue helps especially if your force has a history of treating those who resist poorly.
Sapping the Walls
Sapping is one of the most vital siege techniques as it allows for walls to be brought down with the minimum of resources and lives expended which hastens the surrender of any garrison. In this method a sap is dug under the walls of a city or stronghold supported with wooden beams. The saps are filled with straw which is then set on fire the resulting tunnel collapse will bring down your enemy’s walls.
Care must be taken when sapping to avoid counter sapping from the defenders either against your camps and artillery or against your saps, which can oftentimes lead to a desperate underground fight.
Starving the Population
Starving the population is the most common of the siege tactics, and one of the easiest to achieve if time is not pressing. Starvation of the populace of a large city tends to be easier than that of a stronghold but both can take significant amounts of time usually several months.
Starvation can be mixed with other methods to achieve a goal faster. When Lord Blake of Khaledor engaged in his now famous Siege of Acres the defenders were ill prepared the length of the siege. After three months the defenders had begun to run out of food and it was said that if a mother had bread she would not share it with her child, nor the child with his mother so focused on their hunger were they. It was in this third month that the Day of Burning fell and midst the celebrations Lord Blake sent a grand feast into the city telling the populace to make merry on the day of the Qin. Within three days the elders of the city surrendered. This is a brilliant mixture of starvation with the subversion of key defenders, all while allowing Lord Blake to take the city, albeit temporarily.
Storming the Defences
Storming the defences of a stronghold or city is often the final step of a siege and is, unless camp sickness has been rampant, the most costly tactic for the attacker. Nonetheless it is often necessary for an infantry assault on the defenders in order to compel a final surrender.
This assault can be achieved in many ways, I shall cover the three most common here. The first is an assault taking advantage of a breach in the walls resulting either from a successful sap, the use of a ram against a gate, suborning a defender to open the gates or as a side affect from the use of artillery. Taking advantage of a breech is often the least costly method of assault in terms of lives but tends to have excessive material and time based costs. The second method, and the most common, is the use of siege ladders. Siege ladders are easily made from commonly found resources, and provide a cheap and efficient way to allow forces to scale walls, the drawback however is that there are usually significant casualties in the first waves of the assault. The third method is through the construction of a siege tower, this is expensive materially but the ability to put a large number of soldiers into a single point on a wall allows for a minimum of casualties.
Shelling the Defenders
Shelling the defenders involves the use of artillery to destroy parts of the city or stronghold, damaging morale and killing defenders. This is an expensive prospect and difficult to achieve logistically however bombardment can reduce the length of a siege drastically. The main thing that it is important to note when dealing with siege engines is that they are targets for the enemy’s revenge, either through sorties or through sapping and should be protected unless you want to give your enemy a morale boost.