Star Fortresses

Posted: December 10, 2011 in Steam Punk, Survival, Thoughts

Star forts as i have discussed before seem a logical progression for protecting your community should things degrade to that level.

“Origins

Fortification plan of Coevorden, laid out in a radial pattern within polygonal fortifications and extensive outer earthworks as reconstructed in the early seventeenth century by Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange

The predecessors of star fortifications were medieval fortresses, usually placed on high hills. From there, arrows were shot at the enemies, and the higher the fortress was, the further the arrows flew. The enemies’ hope was to either ram the gate or climb over the wall with ladders and overrun the defenders. For the invading force, these fortifications proved quite difficult to overcome. Therefore, fortresses occupied a key position in warfare.

When the newly effective maneuverable siege cannon came into military strategy in the fifteenth century, the response from military engineers was to arrange for the walls to be embedded into ditches fronted by earthen slopes so that they could not be attacked by destructive direct fire and to have the walls topped by earthen banks that absorbed and largely dissipated the energy of plunging fire. Where conditions allowed, as in Fort Manoel in Malta, the ditches were cut into the native rock, and the wall at the inside of the ditch was simply unquarried native rock. As the walls became lower, they also became more vulnerable to assault.

Worse yet, the rounded shape that had previously been dominant for the design of turrets created “dead space”, or “dead” zones (see figure), which were relatively sheltered from defending fire, because direct fire from other parts of the walls could not be directed around the curved wall. To prevent this, what had previously been round or square turrets were extended into diamond-shaped points to give storming infantry no shelter. The ditches and walls channeled attacking troops into carefully constructed killing grounds where defensive cannons could wreak havoc on troops attempting to storm the walls, with emplacements set so that the attacking troops had no place to shelter from the defensive fire.

A further and more subtle change was to move from a passive model of defence to an active one. The lower walls were more vulnerable to being stormed, and the protection that the earthen banking provided against direct fire failed if the attackers could occupy the slope on the outside of the ditch and mount an attacking cannon there. Therefore, the shape was designed to make maximum use of enfilade (or “flanking”) fire against any attackers who should reach the base of any of the walls. The indentations in the base of each point on the star sheltered cannons. Those cannons would have a clear line of fire directly down the edge of the neighboring points, while their point of the star was protected by fire from the base of those points. The evolution of these ideas can be seen in transitional fortifications such as Sarzana Sarzanello in North West Italy.[3]

Ideal fortified city: 1663 plan of Neuhäusel, Upper Hungary (Nové Zámky, Slovakia), drawn c. 1680

Thus forts evolved complex shapes that allowed defensive batteries of cannons to command interlocking fields of fire. Forward batteries commanded the slopes which defended walls deeper in the complex from direct fire. The defending cannons were not simply intended to deal with attempts to storm the walls, but to actively challenge attacking cannons and deny them approach close enough to the fort to engage in direct fire against the vulnerable walls.

The key to the fort’s defense moved to the outer edge of the ditch surrounding the fort, known as the covered way, or covert way. Defenders could move relatively safely in the cover of the ditch and could engage in active countermeasures to keep control of the glacis, the open slope that lay outside the ditch, by creating defensive earthworks to deny the enemy access to the glacis and thus to firing points that could bear directly on to the walls and by digging counter mines to intercept and disrupt attempts to mine the fort walls.

Compared to medieval fortifications, forts became both lower and larger in area, providing defense in depth, with tiers of defenses that an attacker needed to overcome in order to bring cannons to bear on the inner layers of defenses.

Firing emplacements for defending cannons were heavily defended from bombardment by external fire, but open towards the inside of the fort, not only to diminish their usefulness to the attacker should they be overcome, but also to allow the large volumes of smoke that the defending cannons would generate to dissipate.

Fortifications of this type continued to be effective while the attackers were armed only with cannons, where the majority of the damage inflicted was caused by momentum from the impact of solid shot. While only low explosives such as black powder were available, explosive shells were largely ineffective against such fortifications.

The development of mortars, high explosives, and the consequent large increase in the destructive power of explosive shells and thus plunging fire rendered the intricate geometry of such fortifications irrelevant. Warfare was to become more mobile. It took, however, many years to abandon the old fortress thinking.”
quoted from Wiki

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