Monday, July 4, 2011

Siege Warfare In the Medieval Period

Of all of the warfare that involved sieges against fortified places the group that inspired
the worst fear in those who faced them were the Mongols. The Mongols it seems had
no limitations to what they thought proper in a siege from catapulting the heads of their
prisoners into the fortified place from using captured children as shields on their siege
engines. In respect to brutality and genocide, it appears that they had no equals save
for perhaps the ancient Assyrians.

In this history of the most violent of those who used siege warfare Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula) is mentioned as the second of those so feared. The Prince of Wallachia used the device of impalement for the masses of his captured men and women whether they were either Christians or Turks. These tactics as cruel and horrendous as they were, successfully kept the enemy at bay through a campaign of intimidation.

In third place, surprisingly were the Vikings who struck terror to the hearts of those who
lived on virtually every coast-line of Europe and North Africa. Their trails of looting and
pillage remained as a burning memory to all those who had endured such a campaign.

In the history of siege warfare the worst destructive elements of this style of battle was:

--Disease or pestilence: Because this was not fully understood, use of this element
could easily cause defeat of either the attacker or those being besieged;

--Starvation: Without adequate stored supplies of food this element usually affected the
defender more than those engaged in the attack;

--Lack of water: This was probably the most effective element in warfare unless the
besieged had access to a well, cistern, or some other water source. One of the first
things a besieger wanted to do was to cut off or poison the water supply of the

--Time: This was usually determined by supplies or by rescue. If the siege extended a
long time the besieger was more likely to raise the siege. If the defenders were rescued
by forces friendly to the defender, this was also possible in raising the siege. However,
if the defender ran out of supplies (food, water, military supplies, etc.) the defender was
faced with surrender.

Of all of the weapons used in siege warfare, the following were the most effective:

--The Trebuchet: This is essentially a catapult that used a counterweight in order to gain
more power and a longer distance of throw. It could launch a wide variety of projectiles
and could with proper use inflict significant damage on walls and the inside of the castle,
fort, or city.

--The crossbow and long bow: The defender benefitted more from these tools of warfare,
allowing his to target and hit the enemy from behind fortifications.

--The Belfry: The belfry was a tower which in most cases allowed the attacker to reach
the summit of the fortifications and thereby dominate the walls. The problem was in
moving the machine into position over ditches, and other ground defenses.

--Mining: It was an effective way to bring down a wall or tower if the besieger had time on
is side. It could be defeated by countermining on the part of the defenders.

--The Cannon: In the latter part of the medieval period, the cannon was able to take
down walls that were weak and also had the ability to generate a great fear in the

Respectfully Submitted;

Marcus Audens

Siege Warfare In the Medieval Period

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