Attacking castles and other fortresses is one of the most common goals of battle during medieval days. Known as ‘storming a castle,’ it’s the action depicted in many movies centered on ancient warfare. Invading armies are focused on one thing , taking over large, important structures or forcing their opponent to forfeit and follow their rule. In this article, you will encounter some of the most common techniques of the past.
In the past, trying to withstand attacks in a castle meant coming up with ways to defend their territory while staying cooped up inside of their structure. With ample supplies, inhabitants of a castle could last for many months, but food preservation constantly posed a problem. Attackers would use this to their advantage and cut off supplies to a castle by covering nearly rivers and farms. Invaders also used catapults to toss dead bodies into a castle to spread disease. Spies were used as part of their strategy as well , sometimes thrown alive beyond the castle walls.
When defending a castle, walls and doors were outfitted with special features. For example, castles often had a portcullis , a gate comprised of wood, metal, or both. Within castle walls, the portcullis was mounted on vertical grooves and maneuvered with the help of chains or ropes that lowered or raised the gate quickly when needed. Some castles built two portcullises. The outer gate was lowered last and at times, used to trap attackers when they passed by the first of porticullis.
Some attackers would use ladders to climb the walls of castles. However, castles with a decent design usually had a strategy to deal with this kind of attack. A common response was to build a moat. Defenders without a moat would use hooks or spears to remove ladders out of their place during attack. During medieval days, using this method of attack was actually considered quite costly.
Taking over a castle by force was accomplished by launching sieges and the medieval tactics and weapons used greatly improved through the years. Strong fortresses required other measures of destruction, so enemies turned their attention to finding new and inventive ways to climb the castle walls or destroy the building from the outside. One method was to use diggers to create tunnels beneath a wall.
Once the tunnel was substantial enough, pieces of wood would help strengthen their progress. After finishing the tunnel, diggers would concentrate on breaking through the surface. In the end, the wood was set on fire, causing the tunnel to collapse and seriously weakening or damaging the walls.
Digging was also used as a counterattack. Defenders would flood the tunnels with water to locate their position and when one was found, the people within the castle would establish their own tunnel, which often led fighting underneath the castle grounds.