Fortifications and War
Given the immense time, labour and costs involved in constructing defensive works, it is surprising that decisive action occurred so rarely around or about them. T.H. McGuffe looks at how the appeal of military fortifications faded with time.
In Sir Edward Creasy's classic book Decisive Battles of the World, only two of his fifteen examples, Syracuse and Orleans, are concerned with what may be called permanent fortifications. Temporary entrenchments and the tactical adaptation of natural features are common to all warfare; but, in view of the immense expenditure of time, labour and money laid out by mankind on constructing castles, forts, walls, citadels, towers and elaborate defensive works, it is surprising that decisive action occurred so rarely around or about them.
Maiden Castle, Hadrian’s Wall, strong buildings like the Tower of London, Martello Towers and castles of all shapes and condition, from the gracious and splendid Arundel to ruins mouldering on lonely mounds, remind us in our own land of the works of our forbears. Abroad, even more remarkable evidences exist; the Great Wall of China, Carcassonne, the geometrical fortifications of Vauban and the vast subterranean galleries of the Maginot Line bear witness to man’s endless search for security behind devices meant to save him from physical contact with his enemies.