Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban, Marshal of France, is undoubtedly the most famous military engineer in history, and was responsible for the construction of vast numbers of fortifications all around France. He was also a very successful besieger of fortifications (including many places that he had built himself).
This biography follows Vauban from his upbringing as a minor provincial nobleman through his rise to prominence and to his eventual appointment as a marshal of France. His life overlapped with the reign of Louis XIV, and also with a period of near constant warfare. As a result Vauban's skills as both a builder and besieger of fortifications were in near constant demand, and he left his mark all across France.
I would have liked some more detail on the complex system of fortification in use during this period, explaining what the various elements of the system actually were and what function each was expected to perform, although there is an appendix with definitions of the main terms.
I didn't realise that Vauban spent much of his career attacking fortifications, or that his most innovative ideas came in this activity. He introduced the idea of digging a series of parallel assault trenches into western warfare, in an attempt to hide the exact point to be attacked. He also developed a timetable for the successful siege that became a template throughout the eighteenth century.
This is both an interesting biography of an important figure and a useful account of the main military events of the reign of Louis XIV.
1 - Fence of Iron
2 - Siege Warfare
3 - A Typical Country Squire
4 - The War of Devolution
5 - War with the Dutch
6 - An End to Glory
7 - Nine Years War
8 - The Long Campaign
9 - The Greatest of His Services
10 - Engraved on the Soil
Appendix I: Vauban's Siege Operations
Appendix II: Vauban's Fortresses
Appendix III: Vauban's Idle Thoughts
Appendix IV: Glossary of Siege Terms
Author: James Falkner
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military