Featured Book Reviewer
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
- Feb 23, 2013
- East Texas
There is a very interesting example of the exact opposite displayed at Ninety-Six National Historic Site, South Carolina, remarkable for its compactness, simplicity, and ease of understanding. Ninety-Six was a tiny community originally built around a trading post of that name which was erroneously believed to be that many miles from Charleston. Following the British invasion of the state and capture of Charleston by the British in 1780 during the Revolution, many of these small upcountry settlements became British garrisons and/or Tory strongholds and therefore targets for small Patriot forces led by Nathaniel Greene, Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and others. Greene led an attack on Ninety-Six that resulted in a sort of mini-siege, complete with fortifications (the Star Fort surrounding the trading post) and siegeworks. In the current park a short observation tower located in the center of where the the British fort once stood allows visitors to overlook the entire area of operations, including the SINGLE Patriot zig-zag approach trench. This was a truly and typically dinky backwoods operation, surprisingly conducted on traditional and formal lines. Also typical of Greene's usual lack of success that nevertheless worked to his advantage: following a very short "siege" he was forced to give it up and withdraw, whereupon the British and Tories did likewise, abandoning Ninety-Six and the surrounding area, retreating all the way back to Charleston.The idea of building defensive entrenchments when besieging a fortress is very old indeed and goes back past Caesar.
... There is a specific type of situation in WW1 which is novel, which is the establishment of a complete set of manned fieldworks stretching across the whole theatre of operations. This means that it is no longer possible to turn the enemy and that attacks on trenches are necessary.
Another factor that's novel in WW1 is that the whole force digs in as a matter of course on both sides, regardless of quality. This is attributable to the spread of very long range high power rifles, the spread of shell-firing artillery with good time fuzes, and in particular the spread of the heavy watercooled machine gun (as this means that even in a relatively "quiet" sector it's not safe to have troops in the open within line of sight for very long at all.)