Vauban under Siege

Engineering Efficiency and Martial Vigor in the War of the Spanish Succession


Author: Jamel Ostwald
Winner of the 2009 Distinguished Book Award of the Society for Military History

Vauban under Siege is the first systematic comparison of the theory of Vaubanian siegecraft with its reality. It places Vauban’s siege accomplishments back into their broader context, highlighting his continuation of the quest for ever-greater efficiency pursued by a century of military engineers. Based on a comprehensive inventory of sieges in the War of the Spanish Succession, it describes how both French and Allied military officers rejected this efficiency paradigm and embraced instead vigorous brute force tactics. Ignoring their over-worked and under-compensated engineers at key points, generals chose to save precious campaign time by sacrificing their soldiers’ lives in siege after siege. This early modern cult of the offensive has influenced the Western way of war ever since.

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Jamel M. Ostwald, Ph.D. (2002) in History, Ohio State University, is Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Connecticut State University. His published articles have focused on the operational context of battles and siege tactics in the age of Louis XIV.
"Jamel Ostwald has set a new standard for the writing of military history. He proposes revisionist readings of time-worn truisms about the directions and development of early modern warfare, all based upon a thorough and intelligent analysis of pertinent archival sources" Michael Wolfe in H-France Review Vol. 8 (January 2008), No. 10.

“Jamel Ostwald’s book is very welcome because, without taking away from Vauban’s achievements, it directs a critical spotlight on the reality and legacy of his approach to siege warfare….. This well-researched book will certainly not be the last word on the subject, but it does add some very useful findings to fuel the debate, and is strongly to be recommended.” Simon Pepper in Journal of Military History, Oct2007, Vol. 71/4

"A fascinating story and a new insight into the benefits and problems of Vauban's systematic methods..." Casemate 2007 May
Acknowledgements .. ix
List of Maps, Figures and Tables .. xi
Notes .. xiii

Chapter One: Introduction .. 1

Chapter Two: The Perfect Siege of Ath 1697 .. 21

Chapter Three: Efficiency and the Perfect Siege .. 46

Chapter Four: The Transitional War of the Spanish Succession .. 92

Chapter Five: Implementing the Paradigm Siege .. 123

Chapter Six: Contesting the Paradigm Siege .. 173

Chapter Seven: Vigor: An Alternative Paradigm .. 215

Chapter Eight: Succeeding with Vigor .. 253

Chapter Nine: The Vigorous Future .. 309

Appendix A: Allied Campaign Lengths in Flanders .. 325
Appendix B: Siege Dataset Methodology .. 326
Appendix C: Siege Lengths Dataset .. 340
Appendix D: Non-Siege Positional Tactics .. 348
Appendix E: Length Estimates, Selected Sieges .. 361
Appendix F: Siege Artillery .. 367

Bibliography .. 371
Index .. 383
All those interested in military history and culture, siegecraft, the age of Louis XIV, Vauban, the War of the Spanish Succession, and the Duke of Marlborough.