Follow-up on the “gabion” question I posed to you last time

To answer my own questions – no, I cannot begin to lift it! And no, it will not control roaming cats! They will readily climb out. So, I hope you have found the answer by now.

The word gabion is a derivative of a 16th century French (Italian, too) military term. I will describe it in light of Rochambeau and Washington’s preparation for the battle of Yorktown in the of fall 1781.

A gabion, when completed, resembles a tall cage made of strong, wooden sticks enveloped by interwoven vines much like a huge basket. This one beside me in the picture stood about 4 plus feet high.  It is filled with stones and dirt, all compacted to make a tidy package that could be transported to the scene of an upcoming battleground. By the way, it takes one man a day to make one.

N.B. The sappers and miners who performed most of this pre-siege drudge job at Yorktown worked all day and all night for several days in all kinds of weather under enemy fire. The army required countless gabions to perform the job they were created to do.

You say, what good would this funny, super heavy, unwieldy thing do to aid in an attack or a defense of in a siege?  Well, when the gab ion is put to work, it helps to form a part of the defensive redoubts that will protect the troops as they fire on the enemy.  But this does not tell the whole story yet because, as it is, bullets and grapeshot will pierce it easily.

So, after the gabions are handmade, and there will be many, many prepared in advance of the opening volley, they will be neatly buried in the long lines of earthworks. These gabions help to create and build up earthworks faster than using shovels full of dirt.

When incorporated into the breastworks they will be invisible reinforcements of the same. Soldiers will then be able to fire their muskets from behind the raised mound of earth and be protected by them at the same time.

I welcome any additions, comments and corrections that might add to our knowledge of gabions!


3 thoughts on “Follow-up on the “gabion” question I posed to you last time

  1. I called to tell my mom she had a funny typo on her blog, but she said it is not a typo! Breastworks are the trenches in front of you that come up to a soldier’s breast, “a low temporary defense or parapet”.
    She’s had this word in her vocabulary forever, but not me!!

  2. Upon visiting Dobb’s Ferry, NY, I discovered a redoubt location held by the 1st Connecticut
    Brigade. This post adds a new dimension to that visit; a year ago this month. Thanks Jini.

  3. If an empty gabion is placed next to a half-dug trench the sapper can toss the dirt from additional digging into the basket and it will form a steep wall rather than rolling down into a low slope. Thus a wall of baskets can build a high wall faster than a pile of loose dirt. A double wall of baskets (staggered so as to leave no gaps) will stop musket balls, so trenches do not need to be dug as deep as a soldier’s height. A barrier on wheels is used at the end where the trench is being extended to protect the lead sappers as they begin a new section of trench and have not yet filled any gabions there.

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