What is a siege?

The siege is a military operation in which forces surround a fortress or city with the goal of conquering by cutting off essential supplies. The word comes from the Latin word butt,which means “to sit”. A siege is commonly placed when the attacking forces encounter a fortress or a city that cannot be easily conquered by a rapid assault and are not ready to surrender. The attackers try to reduce the supply of essential goods and the flight of troops, a tactic known as investment. Generally, the attacking forces try to reduce the fortifications through mining, siege engines and artillery bombardment, as well as the use of treason to violate the defenses. Sieges can stretch for years if the fortified position has adequate provisions.

Sieges in the medieval era

The Assyrians and several settlements that occupied the Indus Valley civilizations built fortifications. The first cities in the ancient Near East made use of fortifications including Uruk, Babylon, Handan and Mycenae. Archaeologists have discovered some of these siege systems. One of these ancient siege systems is the system that surrounds the archaeological site of Lachis, located in Israel. It was erected in 701 BC by Sennacherib of Assyria. The medieval attacker sometimes staged a surprise attack, as seen during the 1221 capture of Fotheringhay Castle by William de Forz. An attacker would force a member to break the fortification or offer generous terms to the defender. The earthworks were also built to cut supplies.

Another offensive tactic was the use of diseases like throwing sick animals into the city using catapults. Several siege engines were invented to accelerate sieges including stairways, siege hooks, onagers, rams, ballistas, siege towers and trabucchi. The mining tactic involved the excavation of tunnels under the fortifications of the walls, while the fire was also used on wooden fortifications. The defenders, on the other hand, pump smoke through the tunnels built by the attackers to suffocate them. An adequate stock of water and food was a strategic means of overcoming hunger as a form of siege warfare, while defenders sometimes hunted “excess civilians” to reduce the demand for supplies. Over the years, the ancient fortifications were built stronger, as seen in the construction of concentric castles, preparation of incendiary substances and the inclusion of homicide holes, sally ports, deep water wells, water arrows and drains. The cities also made use of tunnels for water supply, communications and storage while the advent of gunpowder added further advantages to the defender.

The impact of industrial progress on sieges

Industrial advances have strongly disadvantaged the defenders. Where sieges generally took weeks or months, inventions reduced the number to days or weeks at most. The walls of Vienna, for example, had managed to block the Turkish attacks in the mid-17th century, but they did not pose any obstacle to Napoleon in the 19th century. The introduction of the railways has encouraged the transport of larger armies than those involved in the Napoleonic wars. The armies used to capture those fortresses that were in the railway lines of those enemy territories they intended to occupy. The defenders of the cities of Paris and Metz made use of the power of fire and the principle of both the detached / semi-detached forts and of the large-caliber artillery to foil attacks during the Franco-Prussian war. The introduction of steamships further helped the defense as the blocked runners could transport items such as food to cities under siege at a much greater speed.

Sieges in the modern era

Trench warfare evolved as a form of siege during the First World War. At that time, the sieges had disappeared from urban contexts because the walls of the city had become ineffective against modern weapons. The trench war was borrowed from the strategies of the sieges, including friction, weakening, gusts and mining on a very large front and on a larger scale. The trench sieges accompanied the traditional fortification sieges. The siege of Tsingtao in 1914 saw the German forces swept away by the Japanese. The inability to adequately refuel for the garrison in defense was one of the factors accused of the German defeat. The biggest sieges of the war occurred in Europe. The 1st German procession in Belgium, for example, has produced four major sieges. Germany emerged victorious thanks to the use of the Skoda 1911 mm 305 model and the Big Berthas siege mortars. These huge guns have gained prominence as the most effective weapons of the siege war in the century. The battle of Verdun is considered the greatest siege of war, and neither the French nor the Germans have won. The sieges of the Second World War foresaw the use of the Blitzkrieg in which the offensive would launch rapid and powerful attacks to violate the defensive line. The use of air force has seen sieges that lasted only a short time. The siege of Leningrad is particularly noteworthy for its devastation, and when it ended in the 29th month, about one million residents died. The most powerful of the individual engines of The siege used in the war was used during the siege of Sevastopol, where the 600mm German siege mortar and 800mm machine gun secured the Axis victory. Western powers have accumulated experience in air transport that has been useful in situations like the Berlin Cold War blockade.

Legendary sieges

The Siege of Tire

One of the sieges carried out under the command of Alexander the Great was the siege of Tire at 332 BC. The traditional siege warfare proved ineffective as the city extended over an island and had fortified walls that stretched to the sea. The Macedonian army resorted to the siege and blocked Tire for seven months. Alexander commanded his army to use stone and timber in the construction of a causeway that connected the mainland to the island. This artificial bridge became one of the most important illustrations in the history of military engineering. The bridge allowed Alexander’s men to support the siege engines and subsequently bombard the city walls. This causeway has gradually collected silt and sand and has transformed Tire from an island to a peninsula.

The siege of Vicksburg

The siege of Vicksburg took place during the American civil war. It lasted from May 18 to July 4, 1863. The United States advanced towards Vicksburg since it was the last major Confederate fortress located along the Mississippi River. The offensive was overseen by Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant who decided to besiege Vicksburg after the defenders cut two assaults with heavy losses. The garrison has lasted for over 40 days, but by decreasing supplies and reinforcement it has triggered its surrender. The offensive side had losses and losses of 4.835 and 32.697 on the defensive side

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