Glossary of fortification terms



Scarp Ramparts Bastions Glacis

Parts of a fortification.This plan reflects the classic Dutch form of artillery fortification with the bastion perpendicular to the curtain walls. Included are some of the main features of a bastioned fortification. (From Harrington, 1978)

abbatis Defence formed of felled trees; the sharpened ends face the enemy.

approaches Trenches built by besieging forces in the direction of the place under attack, bastion Formed projection, usually symmetrical, from the curtain on the side or at an angle of a defensive work, providing flanking cover for adjoining defences. By the 17th century, it was normally angular with two forward faces and two flanks, battery A fortified position for mounting cannon, berm Narrow strip of flat ground between the rampart and the ditch.

blindes Wooden boards intended to provide protection and cover.

breastwork Parapet of earth usually constructed in haste, bulwark A bastion; the terms are used indiscriminately though bulwark more often implies a platform for artillery, cavalier Raised earthwork platform from which to command a particular position or for an additional tier of guns for defence. chevaux-de-frise Wooden obstacle consisting of square beams connected to stakes and designed to slow down or halt advancing troops, circumvallation A line of siegeworks that faces open country, contravallation A line of siege trenches designed to protect against a relieving force, covered way Communiction route protected by a parapet, curtain Run of wall or rampart between towers and/or bastions.

demi-bastion Bastion halved axially on plan. i.e. with one forward face and one flank.

enceinte Main line of bastions and curtain, particularly of a fortified town, as distinct from outworks, enfilade The delivery of raking fire at an objective such as a length of trench, face Length of defence facing towards the field, i.e. face of a bastion; one of the two sides that together form the forward angle.

false braye A defence on the berm. faggots Bundles of wood used to fill in trenches, fascines Bundles of wood used as cover, flank Length of defence facing towards adjacent defences from which to provide covering fire. e.g. flank of a bastion - the side linking face and curtain, fort Detached stronghold with provision for flank defence, gabions Baskets filled with earth as a protection for cannon, glacis Slope on which attackers are exposed to the fire of defenders, graffe A ditch.

half-moon An outwork originally crescent-shaped, but more often with two faces forming a salient angle; placed outside the main work in front of the curtain or bastion, hornwork An advanced work consisting of a short curtain between two demi-bastions, often joined to the main work by long sides.

leaguer The headquarters or camp of a besieging force, lines of communication A circuit of fortifications, mount A platform or battery.

outworks Fortifications outside the main defences of a place, palisado Strong timber stakes, i.e. palisade, usually set upright with sharpened ends as part of a defensive system; sometimes placed horizontally in a trench, parapet Low mound or wall usually along the front edge of a rampart giving protection to the men and guns behind it. pitfall Concealed pit.

ravelin Work similar to a half-moon but always placed before the curtain.

redan A detached outwork,V-shaped in plan with an open rearward side.

redoubt A detached outwork, usually rectangular in plan and enclosed on all sides. It usually formed part of a larger system of defence.

salient Angle projecting towards the field, sap A trench.

scarp Inner side of a ditch, i.e. the ditch slope facing towards the enemy.

sconce A detached fort with bastions.

storm poles Horizontal sharpened stakes positioned to hinder storming operations, trace Horizontal outline, i.e. plan of a work, turnpikes Wooden obstacles blocking a roadway, workes [sic] Contemporary term for fortifications, zigzag Another term for advanced trenches or approaches.

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