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To attack a castle, the attackers could not rely on bringing down the castle with conventional methods such as swords, spears, or anything of the like. Usually they would surround a castle and try to starve the inhabitants into submission. When the siege became too long, or the besiegers became too restless, the weapons of siege warfare were used. Often an expensive ordeal, they were kept as a last resort.


The Catapult

The catapult, or mangonel, was used to hurl missiles of stone or lead at a castle's walls or palisades. The missile would be launched from the cup at the end of the arm with a great velocity.

Catapult

 

Battering Ram

The battering ram was used to slowly chip away at the walls of a castle so the besieging forces could enter the castle. Often these would be in wagons covered with fresh, water soaked cowhides to protect those in the wagon from missiles and fire. The battering ram itself was made of a tree trunk with usually a lead tip, but sometimes other types of tips were used such as plain wood or a decorated tip.

Battering Ram

 

Siege Tower

The siege tower was used to take the besiegers over the castle walls. If the castle had a moat around it, it would be filled up with logs or anything else available, and the tower would be wheeled up next to the wall. The tower was often covered with fresh, water soaked cowhides, just like the battering ram, to protect those inside from missiles and fire. These were hardly used because they were expensive to build and were extremely difficult to maneuver.

 

 

Siege Tower

Mining

A technique not too heard of today, mining under castle walls was an arduous task that involved great danger. Usually, the miners would begin a mine not too far away from the castle, covering the hole with a shelter to protect them from missiles hurled from the castle. They would mine until they got under the wall and set up wooden beams to hold up the ceiling of the mine. Then they would light the wood on fire so they could safely escape the mine before the wood would burn up, allowing the mine to collapse and the wall above it as well. This was an extremely devastating method of bringing down a castle's walls.

Mining


Castle Defence

To protect the castle from these various siege weapons, those in the castle would use many different kinds of defences. They would often throw objects down onto the attackers. These usually consisted of rocks, boiling water, red hot irons, boiling pitch, or quicklime. They would also shower them with arrows from the regular bow or crossbow. To guard against mining, they would sometimes use pots or pans of water to set on the ground, watching the surface of the water to see if there were any vibrations coming from the ground in which case they would know if there was a miner trying to collapse the castle wall.

To defend against the battering ram, those in the castle would put mats against the walls and try to grab the ram's head with a hook, or grapple, as shown below.

Defence Against the Ram


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©1998-2001 Jason J. Nugent
Created: May 4th, 1998
Last modified: February 4th, 2001