Fortification Design

Fortification Design (HM7AL)

Location: Newport News, VA 23608
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 9.866', W 76° 33.916'

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1862 Peninsula Campaign

The Confederate field fortifications constructed on the Virginia Peninsula were influenced by seventeenth-century French military engineer Marshal Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban and nineteenth-century American engineering professor Dennis Hart Mahan. Vauban designed superior fortresses with many fronts and bastions which presented an impenetrable defense in depth. He also revolutionized siegeworks by developing a system of parallels and zig-zag trenches for reducing fortresses with only minimal casualties to the attacking force. Vauban built over 30 fortresses, conducted 50 sieges, and wrote several engineering texts during his 50-year military career. His designs and writings influenced military engineers into the twentieth century.

Mahan graduated from West Point in 1824 and studied military engineering in Europe from 1826-30. He spent his last year at the French military school of engineers and artillery in Metz. There he read texts influenced by Vauban. Mahan returned to West Point in 1830 and taught there until 1871. As professor of engineering, Mahan instructed virtually every West Pointer who later served in the Confederate or Union armies. He wrote many articles and books during his 39-year tenure. His Triest on Field Fortifications was used extensively by Civil War engineers for constructing redoubts, bastion fortifications, redans and other earthworks.

The fortifications at Lee's Mill contained two types of earthworks detailed in Mahan's book. The first was the breastwork with its chest-high parapet and interior ditch for protecting infantrymen. The second was the redoubt for mounting artillery pieces. This many sided fortification provided protection from enemy fire and slowed their advance. Confederate engineers Isaac St. John and Alfred Rives astutely situated the earthworks along the Warwick River and three redoubts above on the heights. Their fortification designs incorporated the natural landscape and delayed the Union advance from Fort Monroe and Camp Butler at Newport News Point.
HM NumberHM7AL
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 6:41am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 361024 N 4114260
Decimal Degrees37.16443333, -76.56526667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 9.866', W 76° 33.916'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 9' 51.96" N, 76° 33' 54.96" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)757, 301
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 280 Rivers Ridge Cir, Newport News VA 23608, US
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