From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution

By Frederic J. Baumgartner | Go to book overview

16
The Sixteenth Century

But the Erench made much more manageable pieces and only out of bronze, which the called cannons, and used iron balls where they used to be of stone and incomparably larger and heavier; and they moved them on carts which were drawn not by oxen as was the custom in Italy, but by horses. The men and equipment assigned to this work were so skillful that they could almost always keep up with the rest of the army; and when brought up to the walls they were set up with unbelievable rapidity. With only the briefest intervals between shots, they shot so rapidly and powerfully that they could do in a few hours what in Italy used to take days.

Francesco Guicciardini, The History of Italy, trans. Cecil Grayson, ( New York, 1964), p. 153. Guicciardini was a Florentine historian of the early sixteenth century.

Just as guns profoundly changed war at sea, so they required drastic changes in siegecraft and fortification design. Guns were in use at sieges from their first appearance, but only after 1430 did they begin to have a real impact on siegecraft. It took another generation before they affected the design of fortifications.

It was in Italy that fort building first began to reflect the destructive power of artillery. The increasing use after 1470 of iron balls, which were more effective in battering the high walls and towers of medieval castles, required a reduction in their height. The lower trajectory of cannon in comparison to mechanical artillery meant that the lower part of a wall was more likely to be hit by cannonballs. That in turn meant that the rubble from a collapsed wall would probably fill the moat and make an assault on the breach easier. Lowering the walls, however, increased the likelihood of a successful escalade. The response to these problems was to make the ditch deeper and wider, so that only a small portion of the wall was raised above ground level. Machicolation atop the walls was replaced by rounded shoulders to allow balls to deflect off without doing as much damage. Gun openings, called casemates, were cut into the base of the wall to aid the defense of the ditch.

-219-

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From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Maps ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Greek Phalanx 7
  • 3 - The Roman Legion 25
  • 4 - The Fall of the Roman Empire 43
  • 5 - The Byzantine and the Arab Empires 55
  • 6 - The Early Middle Ages in Western Europe 67
  • 7 - Feudalism 79
  • 8 - Holy War in the Middle East 93
  • 9 - Castles and Siegecraft 111
  • 10 - War in the High Middle Ages 125
  • 11 - The End of the Medieval Military 141
  • 12 - The Fifteenth Century: Pikes and Guns 157
  • 13 - War in the Renaissance 171
  • 14 - Naval War in the Mediterranean 187
  • 15 - The Rise of the Atlantic Fleets 203
  • 16 - The Sixteenth Century 219
  • 17 - The Dutch Revolt 231
  • 18 - The Thirty Years War 245
  • 19 - The New Model Army and Navy 263
  • 20 - The Wars of Louis XIV 275
  • 21 - War in the Early Eighteenth Century 291
  • 22 - The Wars of Frederick the Great 307
  • 23 - The French Revolution 321
  • Suggested Readings 329
  • Index 337
  • About the Author *
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