Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban

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"Vauban" redirects here. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_0

For other uses, see Vauban (disambiguation). Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_1

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_table_infobox_0

Sébastien le Prestre, Marquis de VaubanSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_0_0
BornSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_1_0 (1633-05-04)4 May 1633

Saint-Léger-Vauban, Bourgogne-Franche-ComtéSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_1_1

DiedSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_2_0 30 March 1707(1707-03-30) (aged 73)

ParisSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_2_1

BuriedSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_3_0 Bazoches, later reburied in Les InvalidesSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_3_1
AllegianceSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_4_0 FranceSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_4_1
Service/branchSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_5_0 EngineerSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_5_1
Years of serviceSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_6_0 1651–1703Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_6_1
RankSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_7_0 Maréchal de France 1703Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_7_1
Commands heldSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_8_0 Commissaire général des fortifications (1678–1703)Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_8_1
Battles/warsSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_9_0 Franco-Spanish War 1635–1659
War of Devolution 1667–1668 
Franco-Dutch War 1672–1678 
War of the Reunions 1683–1684 
Nine Years' War 1688–1697 
War of the Spanish Succession 1701–1714Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_9_1
AwardsSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_10_0 Order of the Holy Spirit
Order of Saint Louis May 1693 
Honorary Member French Academy of SciencesSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_10_1
SignatureSébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_header_cell_0_11_0 Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_cell_0_11_1

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Seigneur de Vauban, later Marquis de Vauban (1 May 1633 – 30 March 1707), commonly referred to as Vauban (French: [vobɑ̃), was a French military engineer who served under Louis XIV. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_2

He is generally considered the greatest engineer of his time, and one of the most important in Western military history. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_3

His principles for fortifications were widely used for nearly 100 years, while aspects of his offensive tactics remained in use until the mid-twentieth century. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_4

He viewed civilian infrastructure as closely connected to military effectiveness and worked on many of France's major ports, as well as projects like the Canal de la Bruche, which remain in use today. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_5

He founded the Corps royal des ingénieurs militaires, whose curriculum was based on his publications on engineering design, strategy and training. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_6

His economic tract, La Dîme royale, used statistics in support of his arguments, making it a precursor of modern economics. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_7

Later destroyed by Royal decree, it contained radical proposals for a more even distribution of the tax burden. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_8

His application of rational and scientific methods to problem-solving, whether engineering or social, anticipated an approach common in the Age of Enlightenment. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_9

Perhaps the most enduring aspect of Vauban's legacy was his view of France as a geographical entity. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_10

His advocacy of giving up territory for a more coherent and defensible border was unusual for the period; the boundaries of the French state he proposed in the north and east have changed very little in the four centuries since. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_11

Biography Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_0

Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban was born 4 May 1633, in Saint-Léger-de-Foucheret, in the Nièvre, now part of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_12

His parents, Urbain le Prestre (ca 1602-1652) and Edmée de Comignolle (?-ca 1651), were members of the minor nobility, from Vauban in Bazoches. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_13

His birthplace was renamed Saint-Léger-Vauban by Napoleon III in 1867. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_14

In 1570, his grandfather Jacques acquired Château de Bazoches, when he married Françoise de la Perrière, an illegitimate daughter of the Comte de Bazouches, who died intestate. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_15

The 30 year legal battle by the Le Pestre family to retain the property proved financially ruinous, forcing Urbain to become a forestry-worker. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_16

He also designed gardens for the local gentry, including the owners of the Château de Ruère, where Vauban spent his early years. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_17

In 1660, Vauban married Jeanne d'Aunay d'Epiry (ca 1640-1705); they had two daughters, Charlotte (1661-1709), and Jeanne Françoise (1678-1713), as well as a short-lived infant son. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_18

He also had a long-term relationship with Marie-Antoinette de Puy-Montbrun, daughter of an exiled Huguenot officer, usually referred to as 'Mademoiselle de Villefranche.' Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_19

His only sister Charlotte (1638-1645?) Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_20

died young, but he had many relatives; his cousin, Paul le Prestre (ca 1630-1703), was an army officer who supervised construction of Les Invalides. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_21

Three of Paul's sons served in the army, two of whom were killed in action in 1676 and 1677. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_22

The third, Antoine (1654-1731), became Vauban's assistant and later a Lieutenant-General; in 1710, he was appointed Governor of Béthune for life, while he inherited Vauban's titles and the bulk of his lands. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_23

Vauban died in Paris on 30 March 1707; buried near his home in Bazoches, his grave was destroyed during the French Revolution. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_24

In 1808, Napoléon Bonaparte ordered his heart reburied in Les Invalides, resting place for many of France's most famous soldiers. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_25

Career Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_1

The first half of the 17th century in France was dominated by domestic conflict and foreign wars, including the Huguenot rebellions of the 1620s, the 1635–1659 Franco-Spanish War, and 1648 to 1653 Fronde. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_26

Vauban's family was one of many impacted by these events; his Catholic grandfather married a Protestant from La Rochelle, and served Huguenot leader Admiral Coligny, while two of his uncles died in the war with Spain. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_27

At the age of ten, Vauban was sent to the Carmelite college in Semur-en-Auxois, where he was taught the basics of mathematics, science, and geometry. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_28

His father's work was also relevant; the design of neo-classical gardens and fortifications were closely linked, since they both concerned managing space. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_29

It was common to combine these skills; John Armstrong (1674–1742), Marlborough's chief military engineer, laid out the lake and gardens at Blenheim Palace. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_30

In 1650, Vauban joined the household of his local magnate, the Prince de Condé, where he met de Montal; a close neighbour from Nièvre, the two were colleagues for many years, and often worked together. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_31

During the 1650–1653 Fronde des nobles, Condé was arrested by the Regency Council, led by Louis XIV's mother Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_32

After being released in 1652, he and his supporters, among them Vauban and de Montal, went into exile in the Spanish Netherlands, and allied with the Spanish. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_33

Vauban worked on the defences of Sainte-Menehould, one of Condé's principal possessions. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_34

While doing so, he was captured by a Royalist patrol in early 1653, and switched sides, serving in the force led by Louis Nicolas de Clerville that took Sainte-Meenhould in November. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_35

Clerville, later appointed Commissaire general des fortifications, employed him on siege operations, and building fortifications. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_36

Vauban was appointed Ingénieur du Roi or Royal Engineer in 1655, and by the time the war with Spain ended in 1659, he was known as a talented engineer of energy and courage. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_37

Under the terms of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, Spain ceded much of French Flanders, and Vauban was put in charge of fortifying newly-acquired towns such as Dunkirk. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_38

This pattern of French territorial gains, followed by fortification of new strongpoints, was followed in the 1667–1668 War of Devolution, 1672–1678 Franco-Dutch War and 1683-1684 War of the Reunions. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_39

In the course of his career, Vauban supervised or designed the building of more than 300 separate fortifications, and by his own estimate, supervised more than 40 sieges from 1653 to 1697. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_40

The first of these was the 1673 siege of Maastricht, although he was subordinate to Louis, who ranked as the senior officer present, and thus took credit for its capture. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_41

Vauban was rewarded with a large sum of money, which he used to purchase the Château de Bazouches from his cousin in 1675. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_42

Post-1673, French strategy in Flanders was based on a memorandum from Vauban to Louvois, Minister of War, setting out a proposed line of fortresses known as the Ceinture de fer, or iron belt (see Map). Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_43

He was made Maréchal de camp in 1676, and succeeded Clerville as Commissaire general des fortifications in 1677. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_44

During the Nine Years War, he supervised the capture of Namur in 1692, the major French achievement of the war, while the 1697 siege of Ath is often considered his offensive masterpiece. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_45

He was rewarded with money, and made Comte de Vauban, a member of the Order of the Holy Spirit and Order of Saint Louis, and an Honorary Member of the French Academy of Sciences. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_46

The numbers needed to conduct a siege, and prevent interference from opponents meant armies of the Nine Years' War often exceeded 100,000 men, sizes unsustainable for pre-industrial societies. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_47

It prompted a change in tactics, Marlborough arguing winning one battle was more beneficial than taking 12 fortresses. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_48

The armies of the War of the Spanish Succession averaged around 35,000, and siege warfare superseded by a greater emphasis on mobility. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_49

Vauban was promoted Maréchal de France in 1703, marking the end of his military career, although the Ceinture de fer proved its worth after the French defeat at Ramillies in 1706. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_50

Under pressure from superior forces on multiple fronts, France's northern border remained largely intact despite repeated efforts to break it. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_51

Capturing Lille cost the Allies 12,000 casualties and most of the 1708 campaigning season; the lack of progress between 1706–1712 enabled Louis to reach an acceptable deal at Utrecht in 1713, as opposed to the humiliating terms presented in 1707. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_52

With more leisure time, Vauban developed a broader view of his role. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_53

His fortifications were designed for mutual support, so they required connecting roads, bridges and canals; garrisons needed to be fed, so he prepared maps showing the location of forges, forests, and farms. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_54

Since these had to be paid for, he developed an interest in tax policy, and in 1707 published La Dîme royale, documenting the economic misery of the lower classes. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_55

His solution was a flat 10% tax on all agricultural and industrial output, and eliminating the exemptions which meant most of the nobility and clergy paid nothing. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_56

Although confiscated and destroyed by Royal decree, the use of statistics to support his arguments ... establishes him as a founder of modern economics, and precursor of the Enlightenment's socially concerned intellectuals. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_57

Doctrines and legacy Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_2

Offensive doctrines; siege warfare Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_3

While his modern fame rests on the fortifications he built, Vauban's greatest innovations were in offensive operations, an approach he summarised as 'More powder, less blood.' Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_58

Initially reliant on existing concepts, he later adapted these on lines set out in his memorandum of March 1672, Mémoire pour servir à l'instruction dans la conduite des sièges. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_59

In this period, sieges became the dominant form of warfare; during the 1672–1678 Franco-Dutch War, three battles were fought in the Spanish Netherlands, of which only Seneffe was unrelated to a siege. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_60

Their importance was heightened by Louis XIV, who viewed them as low-risk opportunities for demonstrating his military skill and increasing his prestige; he was present at 20 of those conducted by Vauban. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_61

The 'siege parallel' had been in development since the mid-16th century but Vauban brought the idea to practical fulfilment at Maastricht in 1673. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_62

Three parallel trenches were dug in front of the walls, the earth thus excavated being used to create embankments screening the attackers from defensive fire, while bringing them as close to the assault point as possible (see Diagram). Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_63

Artillery was moved into the trenches, allowing them to target the base of the walls at close range, with the defenders unable to depress their own guns enough to counter this; once a breach had been made, it was then stormed. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_64

This approach was used in offensive operations well into the 20th century. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_65

However, Vauban adapted his approach to the situation, and did not use the siege parallel again until Valenciennes in 1677. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_66

Always willing to challenge accepted norms, at Valenciennes, he proposed assaulting the breach during the day, rather than at night as was normal practice. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_67

He argued this would reduce casualties by surprising the defenders, and allow better co-ordination among the assault force; he was supported by Louis, and the attack proved successful. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_68

Vauban made several innovations in the use of siege artillery, including ricochet firing, and concentrating on specific parts of the fortifications, rather than targeting multiple targets. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_69

His Dutch rival Menno van Coehoorn employed a similar approach. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_70

While the 'Van Coehoorn method' sought to overwhelm defences with massive firepower, such as the Grand Battery of 200 guns at Namur in 1695, Vauban preferred a more gradual approach. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_71

Both had their supporters; Vauban argued his was less costly in terms of casualties, but it took more time, an important consideration in an age when far more soldiers died from disease than in combat. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_72

Defensive doctrines; fortifications Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_4

It was accepted even the strongest fortifications would fall, given time; the process was so well understood by the 1690s, betting on the length of a siege became a popular craze. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_73

As few states could afford large standing armies, defenders needed time to mobilise; to provide this, fortresses were designed to absorb the attackers' energies, similar to the use of crumple zones in modern cars. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_74

The French defence of Namur in 1695 showed "how one could effectively win a campaign, by losing a fortress, but exhausting the besiegers." Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_75

As with the siege parallel, the strength of Vauban's defensive designs was his ability to synthesise and adapt the work of others to create a more powerful whole. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_76

His first works used the 'star-shape' or bastion fort design, also known as the trace Italienne, based on the designs of Antoine de Ville (1596–1656), and Blaise Pagan (1603–1665). Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_77

His subsequent 'systems' strengthened their internal works with the addition of casemated shoulders and flanks. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_78

The principles of Vauban's 'second system' were set out in the 1683 work Le Directeur-Général des fortifications, and used at Landau and Mont-Royal, near Traben-Trarbach; both were advanced positions, intended as stepping-off points for French offensives into the Rhineland. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_79

Located 200 metres (660 ft) above the Moselle, Mont-Royal had main walls 30 metres (98 ft) high, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long and space for 12,000 troops; this enormously expensive work was demolished when the French withdrew after the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, and only the foundations remain today. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_80

Fort-Louis was another new construction, built on an island in the middle of the Rhine; this allowed Vauban to combine his defensive principles with town planning, although like Mont-Royal, little of it remains. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_81

The French retreat from the Rhine after 1697 required new fortresses; Neuf-Brisach was the most significant, designed on Vauban's 'third system', and completed after his death by Louis de Cormontaigne. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_82

Using ideas from Fort-Louis, this incorporated a regular square grid street pattern inside an octagonal fortification; tenement blocks were built inside each curtain wall, strengthening the defensive walls and shielding more expensive houses from cannon fire. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_83

To create a more coherent border, Vauban advocated destroying poor fortifications, and relinquishing territory that was hard to defend. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_84

In December 1672, he wrote to Louvois: "I am not for the greater number of places, we already have too many, and please God we had half of that, but all in good condition!" Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_85

Infrastructure and engineering Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_5

While often overlooked, Vauban worked on many civilian infrastructure projects, including rebuilding the ports of Brest, Dunkerque and Toulon. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_86

Since his fortifications were designed for mutual support, roads and waterways were an essential part of their design, such as the Canal de la Bruche, a 20-kilometre (12 mi) canal built in 1682 to transport materials for the fortification of Strasbourg. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_87

As early as 1684, Vauban published design tables for retaining walls with heights of 3 m < H < 25 m. Three years later, Vauban, in his role as newly appointed Commissary General of all French fortifications, sent his engineers in the Corps du Génie Militaire his Profil général pour les murs de soutènement in which he presented his retaining wall profiles that were later adopted by engineering offers such as Bélidor (1729), Poncelet (1840) and Wheeler (1870). Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_88

He also provided advice on the repair and enlargement of the Canal du Midi in 1686. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_89

His holistic approach to urban planning, which integrated city defences with layout and infrastructure, is most obvious at Neuf-Brisach. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_90

His legacy is recognised in the Vauban district in Freiburg, developed as a model for sustainable neighbourhoods post-1998. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_91

Vauban's 'scientific approach' and focus on large infrastructure projects strongly influenced American military and civil engineering and inspired the creation of the US Corps of Engineers in 1824. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_92

Until 1866, West Point's curriculum was modelled on that of the French Ecole Polytechnique, and designed to produce officers with skills in engineering and mathematics. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_93

To ensure a steady supply of skilled engineers, in 1690 Vauban established the Corps royal des ingénieurs militaires; until his death, candidates had to pass an examination administered by Vauban himself. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_94

Many of his publications, including Traité de l'attaque des places, and Traité des mines, were written at the end of his career to provide a training curriculum for his successors. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_95

Assessment Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_section_6

Vauban's offensive tactics remained relevant for centuries; his principles were clearly identifiable in those used by the Việt Minh at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_96

His defensive fortifications dated far more quickly, partly due to the enormous investment required; Vauban himself estimated that in 1678, 1694 and 1705, between 40 and 45% of the French army was assigned to garrison duty. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_97

Vauban's reputation meant his designs remained in use long after developments in artillery made them obsolete, for example the Dutch fort of Bourtange, built in 1742. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_98

The Corps des ingénieurs militaires was based on his teachings; between 1699 and 1743, only 631 new candidates were accepted, the vast majority relatives of existing or former members. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_99

As a result, French military engineering became ultra-conservative, while many 'new' works used his designs, or professed to do so, such as those built by Louis de Cortmontaigne at Metz in 1728–1733. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_100

This persisted into the late 19th century; Fort de Queuleu, built in 1867 near Metz, is recognisably a Vauban-style design. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_101

Some French engineers continued to be innovators, notably the Marquis de Montalembert, who published La Fortification perpendiculaire in 1776. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_102

A rejection of the principles advocated by Vauban and his successors, his ideas became the prevailing orthodoxy in much of Europe, but were dismissed in France. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban_sentence_103


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban.