Medieval Life - Attacking and Defending a Castle
The main methods of attacking a Medieval Castle were:
- Battering Rams
Fire was the best way to attack the early Motte and Bailey castles since they were made entirely of wood. The fire might be started by building a bonfire against the outer wooden fence (palisade) or, more usually, by archers shooting fire-arrows into the castle. As the fire spread through the castle those living inside would be forced to leave allowing the attackers to take them prisoner or kill them. This was one of the reasons why Motte and Bailey castles were soon replaced by Stone Keep castles. Fire has little effect on a stone castle.
The thick stone walls of the Stone Keep castles were difficult for men to knock down. Although pickaxes could be used against castles with thinner walls, it would take a very long time to knock a hole through a castle with very thick walls. The battering ram was particularly useful since the weight of several men would be put behind it. This would make it a considerable force that could seriously weaken and possibly destroy doors or walls.
Ladders were used by those attacking a castle to climb over the walls and fight the castle inhabitants within the castle walls. However, ladders had the disadvantage of leaving the man climbing the ladder subject to attack by arrow, boiling water or oil, or by being thrown to the ground if the ladder was pushed away from the wall. To prevent this type of attack the Belfry or Siege Tower was developed.
The Belfry was a large structure on wheels that could be pushed up to the castle walls. Ladders inside the Belfry allowed attackers to climb to the top under cover and get into the castle. Castle owners prevented this type of attack by piling earth up against the castle walls so that the Belfry, which was on wheels, could not be pushed near to the castle.
A variety of catapults or siege engines were developed during the Middle Ages to fire stones, fireballs or other objects such as dead sheep, cattle, or plague victims, at the castle walls or into the castle itself. This type of catapult works by twisting rope as tightly as possible so that it acts like elastic when the arm is released.
A good way of attacking a stone castle was through mining. Attackers would dig a tunnel underground up to the castle walls, under the gatehouse if possible. They would then set a charge and make an explosion which would make the walls crumble and collapse. The advantage of mining was that the attack could not be seen by those living in the castle. However, if those inside the castle were aware that attackers were mining underground, they would often mine from the castle to meet the attackers underground and there would be a sword battle.
Another good way of attacking a stone castle was by placing it under siege. Attackers would surround a castle with both men and catapults so that no one could enter or leave the castle. Sieges could last for months, usually until the inhabitants of the castle ran out of food and were starving. One of the castle owner's main line of defence against siege was to send all women, children, old, weak and sick people out of the castle. This meant that only those strong enough to fight off attackers remained in the castle and that the food supply would last much longer.
The Middle Ages were a terrible time to get sick. There was no sanitation inside cities and hardly any in rural areas. While there might be some drainage or elementary sewers, the fact remains that people simply threw their bodily wastes out into the streets. Animal dung, dead dogs and rotting garbage of all kinds landed in the street and stayed there, trampled in and out of people’s houses.
The Catholic... Read More
The First Film about the Titanic Premiered Just 29 Days after the Vessel Sank
You may have seen James Cameron’s theatrical version of the Titanic, a movie that has accrued over $1.84 billion in total gross sales since its release in 1997. But we can confidently bet that you have never laid eyes on Saved From the Titanic, a 1912 silent motion picture starring actress and survivor of the RMS titanic, Dorothy... Read More
Most Americans are familiar with the magic of Thanksgiving. A holiday associated with family reunions, football, Black Friday sales, turkeys, pumpkin pies, pilgrims, and Indians. However, not many are aware of its somewhat grimmer origins. Typically, what we are taught in school is an idealized historical account of what actually took place in the first pilgrim harvest festivity.
The first Thanksgiving,... Read More
Theodore Roosevelt Gave a Speech with a Bullet in his Chest
Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most badass presidents to ever step foot inside the White House. He was a policeman, cowboy, boxer and soldier. He went head to head with business giants such as Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan.
At the age of 50, he got into a fistfight with an army lieutenant who punched him so hard that it left him blind in... Read More
Spying became an integral part of the Cold War. Both sides went out of their way to acquire as much knowledge as they could about each other. While Hollywood has romanticized the whole image of espionage, the real thing is far from romantic. It is a dangerous cat and mouse game that typically results in torture, prison, or execution for the spy if caught by the opposing team.
During the Cold War, spies... Read More