Principles of defence

This Art was invented at the first, to preserve a handfull of men against the oppression and cruelty of a multitude; for according to the rules of ¡t, a Garison [sic| Town is not sufficiently fortified, except one hundred men within it, can oppose a thousand assailants without; and a thousand, ten thousand, that is, one defendant against ten assailants; but it is with this caution, that the place besieged be provided with a competent number of men, ordnance, ammunition, arms, victuals, and a Magazine furnished with all manner of fire-works, mortar-pieces, engines of warre, ladders, and pioneers tools; for if any of these necessaries be wanting, this Garison [sic) will not subsist against a lesser number than is here spoken of.

These words written by the Civil War engineer David Papillon begin chapter four, 'Of the true use of the Art of Fortification', of his Practicall Abstract published in London in January 1645/6. it was written from experience by one who had observed Civil War sieges and fortification first-hand. The author emphasised the importance and value of good defensive fortifications in a war where defence was of the utmost importance. During the conflict, each town and city went to great lengths to create defences in depth that could hold the enemy off until relief came, although many committees charged with this task failed to live up to this aim. A 'siege mentality' developed as each community was forced to fend for itself. If professional engineers like Papillon were available, so much the better, but this was not always the case. Papillon himself criticised the fortifications of Northampton for being poorly designed and not employing the most current forms.

The continental conflicts earlier in the 17th century had provided the opportunity for some Britons to gain experience in the art of war. This experience would be put to good use during the Civil War where professional soldiers were in short supply. Several veterans had written treatises on 'modern' warfare based on their observations on the Continent, or translated foreign studies, and these manuals became important tools not only for the organisation of field forces, but also for laying down the principles for attack and defence of fortified places. However, such volumes published in small print runs had limited circulation beyond London and the university towns. Complex artillery fortifications were the exception rather t/ian ¡he rufe during the war and many towns and garrisons defended themselves in whatever ways they could without the luxury of time, money, or professional advice. The resulting defences did not always conform to the standard systems of fortifications of the day. In most cases, the defenders had to make do with what they had and what they knew if anything. That said, there is enough evidence from contemporary plans of defences and surviving sites to suggest at least a passing knowledge of bastioned fortifications on the part of defenders.

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