Medieval Glossary


A redoubt was a small fortress of varying shape, constructed for temporary purpose, and usually without flanking defenses. The term is vague in its acceptation, being applied equally to detached posts and to a strong position within another fortress. Redoubts were made square, pentagonal, and even circular. Each redoubt had parapet, ditch, scarps, banquette, etc., as in regular fortification, but it was commonly rather roughly constructed, haste and unprofessional labor precluding mathematical accuracy.

The entrance might have been made by a cutting through the parapet, the cutting being covered within by a traverse, or, preferably, by an excavated gallery leading into the ditch, and thence by a ramp through the counterscarp. For the sake of flanking the ditch, and preventing an assaulting party from forming in it, caponnières of timber, loop-holed, were sometimes formed. Or, if the soil was stiff or chalky, a gallery might have been cut behind the counterscarp, and loop-holed towards the ditch. Redoubts had the weak feature of not defending their own ditches and of being approached at their salient angles with comparative impunity. They were therefore not adapted to a protracted defense, but as temporary field-works, or in war of posts, they were often of incalculable importance.

Troops whose stability in open field was doubtful were especially strengthened by redoubts in their line. Redoubts were particularly useful in fortifying the tops of hills, or commanding passes, or where the object is to occupy a hostile territory, or to feel the way gradually through a wooded country.

Related term(s): Fortress; Parapet; Scarp; Banquette; Counterscarp; Caponnière
Category: Castles and Fortifications
Added: 09.30.05
Last modified: 07.01.06
Source information: Wilhelm, Thomas. A Military Dictionary and Gazetteer. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1881. 480.


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