YrktnSieges are ugly affairs, but during the late 18th Century sieges had developed a formal methodology thanks to a French soldier by the name of Sebastian le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707). Up until his arrival, sieges were chaotic events in which attackers suffered heavy losses while haphazardly digging trenches toward a well defended wall.

Sebastian conceived of a rather simple method (aren’t all innovations wonderfully simple?) of meticulously approaching an enemy wall by digging a series of well placed trenches while protecting the men who dug the trenches. Those who failed to protect themselves were, well…’poor saps‘.

By using de Vaban’s methods, the art of the siege became so well entrenched (ha! see what I did there?) that executing a siege became a ritualized affair set with formal rules and customs. This fell in line perfectly in a age of limited warfare. Vauban’s method’s were so effective that once a siege began, there was little hope for the defender outside of the appearance of a reinforcing army.

Such was the case for Charleston in 1780. The British launched their ill advised Southern Campaign and unfortunately for South Carolina, Charleston was their first stop. De Vauban’s technique was used successfully during the siege and Charleston was taken.

The Road to Guilford Courthouse‘ by John Buchanan has a wonderful description of the siege that includes colorful characters on both sides including a brilliant Jäger commander by the name of Johan von Ewald, a brutish British Admiral and a man that led up the American defense who suffered from narcolepsy. The book is excellent!