Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Catapults (and Cow-tapults)

Siege warfare was a Medieval military operation that involved surrounding or blockading a town, fortress or castle in an attempt to capture it. Quite often these places were surrounded by a wall which left the besiegers with two options: go over or go through. Going over was a no brainer. They simply used ladders which were not only easy to set up but to carry to the battlefield as well.  

Unfortunately, any time you are close to your enemy you are more vulnerable and the use of the ladder was no exception. The climbing soldiers were easy pickings to not only arrows but one of my favorite weapons, the polearm. Ya gotta appreciate a good ole' long stick!

In order to minimize loss of troops, attacks were also performed at a distance, more often than not with a catapult. These are the weapons we'll be looking at today. There are many but I will highlight the biggies. All of these were used to not only knock down walls but to launch fire, pestilence and of course, in the case of the "cow-tapult", cows, over them. Catapults were employed by not only those outside the wall by those within as well as evidenced by this documentary clip.

Any piece of equipment that uses tension, torsion, traction or gravity to launch is technically a catapult. However, this is what we we commonly envision when we encounter the word. All types consist of a bucket, arm and frame. Whatever is launched is called the payload. This particular catapult has an arc trajectory.

The ballista is basically a giant crossbow. Straight trajectory.

The source of the mangonel's tension is rope wound around the arm and frame. Although able to launch farther, mangonels aren't as accurate as trebuchets. Arc trajectory. 

The onager is often confused with the trebuchet. The difference is their source of propulsion. Like the mangonel, rope is the source of tension. However the onager employs rope twisted at the base of the arm. Arc trajectory.

The trebuchet requires a counterweight. The tension required to make it a catapult is in the pulling down of the bucket and raising of the weight. Arc trajectory.

Until the next time at FightWrite.net, get blood on your pages. Now, go away or I shall taunt you a second time!

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