Monday, February 23, 2009

1715 French military engineer Cormontaingne

Into my hands has come a book printed in the early 1800s. (If I were discovered with this book in the latter half of the 1700s, I'd have been tried for military espionage.) The author wrote extensively on the precise nature of the work need to attack and defend fortifications.
M. Louis de Cormontaingne built extensively on the works of an earlier engineer, Vauban, basically cleaning them up to match more modern techiques. His writings from as early as 1714 (when he was around 20 years old!) was a dead secret. By 1741 it was starting to leak out, and was published unofficially in bits. To correct the record, Cormontaigne published some of it himself officially in 1741, though it was not widely seen. His full notes were gathered and re-edited after his death twice, initially only distributed to officers (1776), later to the rest of us (1803 - 1809).

"His system of fortification was not marked by any great originality of thought, which indeed could not be expected of a member of the corps du génie, [essentially the corps of engineers, or the contrivers of military engineering works] the characteristics of which were a close caste spirit and an unquestioning reverence for the authority of Vauban. Forts Moselle and Bellecroix are still in existence."

Do forts work? Not very well, it appears, but if that's what you have to work with, you might as well get it right. So you follow this gentleman's diagrams, and careful metrics of all materials, manpower, and design.
Okay, here we are in the early 1700s. What you do when you prepare to attack a place, or defend it, is build big walls, collect a lot of food, blast away, and wait. (Oh, and dig tunnels!) A lot of people end up dead, or very sick. And - - the book is in French, so my rudimentary vocabulary is not keeping up with the specifics of the weaponry involved. There were three volumes in this set; we have the Vol II, "How to Attack", and Vol III, "How to Defend". Complete with tables about what is needed to supply the care of injured - how many spoons, napkins, specific medicines per person (and it is NOT one spoon for each invalid!).

I'll show you a couple of the beautiful engravings which show us all exactly how to fortify a place, with specific examples on how to aim your cannon. You need to know this.

No comments:

Post a Comment