SIEGE

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SIEGE. The taking of a fortified place may be attempted, 1. by surprise (coup de main), in case the defenders should be off their guard, or treachery should enable the assailants to enter the fortress by means of secret or unguarded passages; 2. by a sudden onset (une affaire brusquee), usually connected with an assault and Healing of the walls (escalade), if the place should not be strongly garrisoned, or not m a proper state of defenceor if the assailants have no time to lose, or are possessed of strength and means sufficient for carrying their point (of late years, this method of attack has been strongly recommended, especially if it can be seconded by an efficacious and skilful use of artillery); 3. by blockade out of gunshot (see Blockade); 4. by a siege, properly so called. The fortress is first blockaded, so as to cut off all intercourse from without ; it is then important to examine the nature of the fortification, to discover the strength of the garrison, as well as the means of defence, and, if possible, the weakest parts of the place, in order to mark out a proper plan of attack: after this, the cannon, together with the necessary ammunition and implements for the pioneers, are brought forward ; and the other requisites (fascines, gabions, &c.) are prepared and kept in readiness. The engineer who directs the operations must accurately calculate his time, the resistance to be expected, as well as the means at his disposal, and form his plan of attack accordingly. If any detached works are situated before the fortress, their capture becomes necessary to admit the opening of the trenches, at the distance of 500-900 paces from the covered way. After they are properly marked out (tracces), several columns of pioneers, furnishedwith fascines and instruments for digging, and defended by regular troops, advance (commonly by night) towards the fortress as far as the spot designated for the trenches, and there immediately engage in opening a trench. Each laborer places his fascine before him, throws the ground over it, and thus a kind of breastwork is formed, constituting the first parallel (q. v.), where the forces directed against the fortress may be collected. The besieged, by sallies and counter operations of every kind, strive to drive off the laborers and to destroy their work, while, on the other hand, the besiegers make efforts to establish themselves more and more securely, to raise batteries, and then, by means of trenches, dug for this purpose, and new parallels which more and more closely encircle the fortress, to approach the moat, while the artillery is kept constantly playing from the batteries on the garrison as well as the works and guns of the besieged. With this the bombardment from the mortarbatteries is usually combined (see Battery), for the purpose of dislodging the garrison from their works, of dismantling the works themselves, and of destroying buildings, magazines, &c. From the last parallel, which approaches very near the moat of Jje fortress, the besiegers prepare to cross the moat, and labor to make breaches, (q. v.) Here likewise mining operations (see Mine) are carried on, whenever they are found advisable. The moat is crossed in saps (q. v.), or covered passages of a similar kind, and, should it be filled with water, on rafts, bridges, &c. When at last the breaches are practicable, the works of the stronghold as much as possible demolished, the garrison and their artillery impaired, then follows the storming or scaling of the walls.To raise the siege of a fortress, is,to compel the enemy to retire from the place. They may be forced to this by inundations, if the situation of the place admits of them ; by want of provisions, if the surrounding country has been desolated, or the convoys intended for them be captured; or, finally, by assault. If it is impossible to drive away the enemy, a temporary interruption of the siege is attempted, in order to introduce provisions or fresh troops into the fortress. This is generally done by a sudden attack on the lines of the besiegers, and forcing a way through them, with the cooperation of the besieged.