Nursery Rhymes

Attacking a Castle in the Middle Ages

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Attacking a Castle in the Middle Ages - Siege Warfare
Successfully attacking a castle during the Middle Ages depended on whether the castle and its inhabitants could withstand a siege. Understanding Siege warfare was critical during the Middle Ages. The concentric castles of the Middle Ages were designed with this in mind and included defence features such as the Moat, Portcullis, Barbican, Gatehouse, Crenellations and Drawbridge.

The Medieval siege engines had to break down all of these defences if the attack on the castle was to be successful. The alternative was to starve the inhabitants of the castles and force surrender.

Attacking a Castle in the Middle Ages - Siege Warfare
Attacking a castle in the Middle Ages included undermining the Castle. The attackers chose the weakest point of the castle for these endeavours and mined underneath a corner. The attackers would dig a tunnel underneath one of the corners of the castle using timber props. These miners were called sappers. The tunnel would then be packed with highly flammable brush wood. The wood would be set on fire and the corner of the castle would be weakened and then collapse. The weight of the castle would bring the walls caving in and the whole castle would sometimes collapse. Other methods were also used when attacking a castle in the Middle Ages

  • Men, armed with scaling ladders scaled the walls of the castle when attacking a castle. The main attribute of the scalars was their speed
  • Treachery - Traitors within the castle could turn on the inhabitants - this was a surprisingly common occurrence
  • Starvation - An effective siege strategy if time and cost was not a problem

Attacking a Castle in the Middle Ages - Siege Weapons
The soldiers attacking a castle in the Middle Ages had to use every siege weapon that might be available to them. The Medieval Siege Weapons used during the Middle Ages were constructed at the site of the castle which was to be placed under siege. The exact type and number of siege weapons and their design had to be established when plans were made to attack a castle. Medieval lords, knights and their Siege Engineers identified the weakest parts of the Castle and planned their siege strategy accordingly. The siege engines when attacking a castle in the Middle Ages were the Trebuchet, Ballista, Catapult, Mangonel, Battering Ram and Siege Towers.

  • The Battering Ram were used to literally 'batter' down, pound, punch, shake and drill into the walls of the castle
  • The Ballista  was similar to a Giant Crossbow and worked by using tension when launching missiles
  • The Mangonel launched missiles from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of the one giant arm of the Mangonel
  • The mighty Trebuchet siege engine consisted of a lever and a sling and was capable of hurling stones weighing 200 pounds when attacking a castle
  • The Siege Tower was designed to protect attackers and their ladders whilst attacking a weak area of the castle wall

Siege Warfare was applied when attacking a concentric castle - Castle walls could fall due to bombardment from Siege Engines such as the ballista, the mangonel, and the trebuchet

Middle Ages Castles
Middle Ages Index

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