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COMMAND A FORT IN THE STRATEGICAL QUADRANGLE

The passion of collectors and bibliophiles has positive and negative traits in the historical research that we usually carry out. While on the one hand the search for volumes on specific themes has made it possible to recover dispersed materials and create thematic collections, on the other hand, the jealousy of the collectors themselves rarely gives them the opportunity to carry out research on those texts.


However, these opposing cases are not a source of concern for the acrimperi members: the collecting of many members is grafted onto a strong sense of communion between enthusiasts which leads, as in this case, to interesting discoveries.


One of my most recent acquisitions is a volume of 1868, printed in Vienna with the types of Carl Gerold (son) with a collection of engineering essays published by the superior committee of the Engineer Corps.


Among these, one struck my interest: a chapter of instructions for the Commander of the Fort Archduke Rodolfo of Verona (a fort that we know well having made initiatives there several times). In addition to the specific curiosity, however, what interests me is the generality of the subject which explains in a detailed and exhaustive way the management precepts of the fortifications of that generation. It can easily be considered as a set of instructions that could easily be adapted to the case studies of the entrenched camps of the entire Quadrilateral and, by further extension, of the Habsburg forts of that era.


Some parts of the text are strictly specific to the fort in question and are of relative interest if not for the proportional distribution that can be deduced and applied to other works (for example the relationship between artillerymen and infantrymen in the specific areas or the positioning of engineers ). On the other hand, the reasoning about the methods of defense of the fort against the various types of attack and the generic prescriptions on the maintenance of the fort and the garrison and on the rules to be applied in the various situations are transversal.


Here is the translation - as literal as possible - of the text.


 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR FORT COMMANDERS


The Fort commander is always the most senior-ranking officer in the garrison, regardless of weapon; his deputy is the next higher-ranking officer, who is obliged to keep him fully informed of everything, so that no negative consequences arise from a sudden change in command.

Assisting the Commander are Artillery and Engineering officers as advisers, who receive their special directives from their respective higher commands and direct the specific affairs of their guns with the Commander's consent.



With the help of this Instruction, the master must have the most complete knowledge of all his obligations in order to be able to take the necessary measures clearly in all possible cases so that nothing surprises him. It falls to him to know the details of the occupied fort, its armament, ammunition and provisions, the state of the garrison, the function and purpose not only of his own fort, but that of all forts cooperating with it.

Through careful reconnaissance, he can acquire full knowledge of the attack terrain (meaning the terrain towards which the fort is armed) bordering the fortified Opera up to the nearby Opere and the one located behind it, as well as all the communication routes, so who knows how to orient himself well not only during the day but also at night and avoids any deception.


The Commander ensures the speed of work, order and military security, and manages the defence. He is directly subordinated to the fortress command, to which he reports all important incidents and about which he usually receives orders through the daily clearance of the fortress command. To enable the Commander to carry out his duty however, the following explanations may serve to facilitate his task, which is associated with great responsibility.


Position


The work is located in the first line of defense on the right bank of the Adige opposite the town of S. Massimo, between the roads to Lugagnano and Sommacampagna.


Scope


The main purpose of this work, like that of any field work in general, is to secure the internal premises by repelling enemy attacks. In particular, this work has the task of supporting the two subsidiary works, the Emperor Franz Joseph and the Archduchess Gisela, in the event of attacks against them, with powerful artillery shots from the flanks; for this purpose the latter form an angle of 100 degrees with the extensions of the faces of the nearby works. Finally, this work still has the task of preventing the enemy from breaking through between the two neighboring works.



Description


The fort forms a crescent closed to the front of the gorge and is made up of the development of the walls and the redoubt. The offensive capacity was preserved on both fronts and on the sides by a crenellated self-supporting wall, and on the gorge front by a ditch. To flank the moat wall, artillery and small caliber caponiers are placed at the two shoulders. To protect the gorge moat there is a caponiera in connection with the redoubt, also set up for defense with small caliber artillery. In each of the three caponiers mentioned there are loopholes for four guns, so that each side is protected by two guns. For communication with the two caponieres on the shoulders, the potterns are used, which pass under the embankments. From the caponieres one arrives at the patrol walkway, built behind the self-supporting wall. In the development of the gorge there is a system of casemates, crossed by a gate in the center and divided into two equal halves. The latter leads directly on one side into the gorge and on the other of the rooms mentioned. The main entrance portals, equipped with armored doors and drawbridges, are placed on both sides of the gorge caponiera. The entrance galleries are directly flanked by adjacent rifle galleries.

The redoubt is bomb-proof, is ordered on two floors and is closed towards the gorge by a self-supporting crenellated wall, the latter is connected to the valley casemates by two wing walls, so that the redoubt and the valley casemates form a whole, which contains two courtyards (meeting points) and still lends itself to an autonomous defense after the perimeter had been stormed.


On the sides of the redoubt facing the wall on both floors are rifle galleries, the upper one of which is used to protect the redoubt and the lower one to cover the base of the fort's embankments.

The storage rooms are in the foyer, in the gorge casemates and in the three sections of the walls. There are six powder magazines, four of which are under the patrol walkways, i.e. one on each side of the front barrage and in the two annexed to the gorge casemates. The other two are in the foyer. There are two food depots available in the reduced.

On both floors of the redoubt there are kitchens for 600 men. There are four toilets, one for each of the two front doors and one on each floor in the foyer. There are four wells, one of which is in the foyer, the other three under the walls.


Crew


it consists of 375 infantry men, 80 artillery (for the handling of cannons they are called infantry men) and 12 engineers.


Security service


For ordinary times, the relative provisions are contained in the service regulations and are in any case known to every commander. In times of uncertainty or war, the following provisions apply: Security duty at any fort may only be entrusted to fort personnel, and their crews shall not participate in general outpost duty to secure the entrenched camp, except in special cases*.

For this purpose the infantry, from which the crew for handling weapons must be separated at the beginning and used exclusively for artillery service, is divided into three equal parts. A third of this crew is on watch, and the rest is strictly waiting in the inner courtyard of the redoubt.


*Generally outpost and security service should be provided by mobile troops in the case of attacked forts, but by own garrison in the case of unattached forts


A guard post is located at the entrance door, the second entrance must be kept completely closed, to which three other signal posts are added during the day on the ramparts of the walled development, i.e. one at the highest point and one on each of the flanks , with surveillance function of the neighboring works to immediately report any observation. The latter are assigned to inspect artillery and engineering troops.

Liaison patrols are sent out at night with outlying detachments of troops, where necessary permanent patrols* may be maintained.

The second third of the infantry squad stands ready and the third third rests.

A third of the gun crew is on duty, surveying the tack by day and holding guns by night. The other two-thirds rest. The same goes for the Engineer troop, which participates in the surveillance.

In the exceptional case where it is ordered to provide for the works of the general outpost service, this will be carried out by the first third party and the second will join it.


Arrangement of alarms


The alarm can be given in the Fort either by a general alarm of the entrenched camp or by the fort commander himself if the factory appears exposed to an enemy attack. In the latter case, it might be more appropriate to give the alarm softly using pre-established signals, in order to show the enemy the illusion of taking the fort by surprise on the one hand and on the other in case the fears are not confirmed of an attack, so as not to unnecessarily alarm the rest of the entrenched camp.


* This point was changed so that the commander of the main post should immediately take reports from the lookout line of observations to the commanders of the secondary forts involved.


The purpose of the alarm is to call the garrison in the places assigned to them to prepare the work; To this end, the instrumentation of the work must be determined and practiced in advance, as follows:


Troop disposition


16 artillery men and 24 infantry men go to the artillery positions of the side battlements together for loading and handling the cannons and 28 infantrymen in the galleries of the rifle houses.

In the patrol path behind the self-supporting wall on both sides with 60 infantrymen and 30 infantrymen are arranged on the side wings. On the battlements there are 8 artillerymen and 12 infantrymen in the shooting positions while 12 infantrymen are placed in the ammunition depots. Along the perimeter walls, 48 artillerymen and 72 infantrymen are stationed for handling and functioning of the caponiere pieces. In the redoubt 40 infantrymen are placed along the rifle houses on the first floor and another 30 infantrymen defend the wall of the parade ground. As reserve the rest of the infantry.

At the access bridges 2 men of genius. The rest of the crew of the engineer troop is to be distributed to the gates of the redoubt and to the embankments for the timely closure and opening of the same or for other works.



In order to be able to occupy the fort as quickly as possible in the event of an alarm, with the methods described above, it is necessary to house the troops in such a way that they are as close as possible to the objects to be guarded. Naturally, only the team responsible for its defense can be accommodated in the moat embankments.

It is up to the Commander to distribute the Graduates according to his tactical vision, with the precaution that each point to be defended has its dedicated commander, who is well informed on the nature of his task.

It should also be noted that the general reserve for the walls of the moat and for the ramparts is uniformly distributed in the two power stations, while the department for the defense of the courtyard premises must be set up in the internal parade ground.

The squad intended to occupy the free wall of the moat must pass through the trench and if the enemy prepares to attack by bombing or bombarding the work, it should wait in cover in it.


Defence


The defense is organized according to the method of attack which can be:

a) the raid,

b) the frontal attack,

c) the bombing,

d) the formal siege.


  • a) The attack usually occurs at night or in the early morning, when the crew on duty are more prone to fall asleep. The enemy advances as unnoticed as possible, but with strength and speed against the works and tries to seize the entrances or to enter inside the works by climbing the walls with ladders. This type of attack can only be successful if the security services are completely neglected, i.e. if the enemy arrives at the facility before it is ready for combat. The Commander must therefore rigorously exercise the aforementioned security service, being free to determine, at his discretion, the number of possible forward guard posts and the patrols that will maintain contact with the troops posted for the security of the entrenched camp. As soon as the alert posts set up or the patrols sent signal the approach of the enemy, the garrison is alarmed and everyone rushes to the places indicated in the occupation of the work. The non-commissioned officers of artillery, who have the keys to the grate of the loopholes in custody, are to open the deposits of the embankments immediately. The guns placed there must be loaded with bombs, and where there are devices for lighting the ditches, they must be put into action. On the ramparts of the Fort all the cannons must be loaded with those shells which the artillery commander deems most suitable for the distance and disposition of the enemy. To judge this distance and be able to fire correctly, the outer field must be illuminated with illuminating shots, and the walls must be illuminated in the same way, if one does not prefer to prepare everything in silence and attract the enemy up to the Fort to inflict more damage on him. Retreating guardsmen and patrols must be brought back carefully and hoists must be raised. That patrol which is no longer allowed to enter may retreat to the works of the second line of defense. After these measures have been carried out, the enemy can soon persuade himself that the surprise has failed and consider whether to retreat or, despite the expected welcome, storm by climbing the ladders. In the first case the crew must be left in place until broad daylight, when it will be possible to verify with certainty that the enemy has not renewed his attempt to attack. Deployed patrols are best able to confirm enemy retreat. In the second case there is defense against assault, which is discussed in connection with frontal attack.



  • b) Violent attack differs from raiding in that the attacker, using cannon fire, seeks at all costs to scale the ramparts, without proceeding with a breach in the perimeter or the entire destruction of the defences. The defender is therefore still able to apply the necessary measures to repel the assault. As soon as it is perceived that the enemy intends to set up batteries, vigorous and well-aimed fire is to be maintained with all the artillery which can be aimed at these positions; if the enemy still manages to place its batteries or if the construction of the above was not noticed in time, the artillery of the fort engages in battle with the enemy. In both cases you can count on the support of ancillary works. If the enemy ceases his bombardment and proceeds to attack, the advancing enemy columns must be pelted first with grenades and then with grapeshot fire, and the advance must be impeded as much as possible. On this occasion, those parts of the ramparts where there are no artillery pieces are to be manned by the best marksmen of the standing infantry, who are to assist with well-placed shots; this fire will continue as long as possible. If, despite this reception, the enemy crosses the counterslopes and enters the moat, the cannons kept ready in the caponiers of the moat begin to fire, firing grapeshot as quickly as possible, while the cannons on the rampart continue their fire against the advancing enemy . The squad located in the circular redoubt behind the self-supporting wall must occupy those embankments from which to target the enemy who has entered the moat. Furthermore, we must not forget to occupy those three loopholes that overlook the moat directly, to prevent individual daredevils who wanted to climb it. If there are hand grenades in the fort, they must be used by passing them through the loopholes in the moat. It is hardly conceivable that during this process the enemy could succeed in scaling the walls with ladders in large numbers. Individuals who nevertheless manage to reach the crest of the wall must be shot down, or if they have jumped into the battlement, must be bayoneted. It goes without saying that the cannons in the caponiers will continue to fire as long as there are enemies in the wall. If the enemy retreats, the bastion will deal as much damage to them as possible. However, if the enemy manages to overcome the walls of the moat in large numbers due to numerical superiority, he is attacked with bayonets and shot down by the reserves in the potters; but if, which is hardly conceivable, the defenders should be driven from the ramparts, they must retreat to the potterns, where their retreat will be protected by infantry on the ramparts. After the retreat has been effected, the entrance doors of the walk must be closed immediately and the firing of the small pieces from the internal embrasures must be continued as long as anything can be accomplished with it. Meanwhile the penetrated enemy will scramble up the inner escarpments and try to seize the embankments. This project must be countered with salvos of rifle fire on the slopes, so all infantry positioned to protect the gunners must have their rifles close at hand. The reserves, meanwhile placed in the pots, serve to support the most threatened point. Meanwhile, the artillery crew takes the ammunition and powder to the safest assembly point. enemies receding down from embankments must be hit hard from above. If, on the other hand, the defenders are rejected, they withdraw to the internal rooms of the redoubt, and the infantry stationed in the artillery gallery on the first floor fire at the enemy on the embankments and preferably prevent the nailing down of the cannons. The advance of the enemy must be prevented by sealing the most appropriate gaps near the assembly points. The gates are closed, the troops are ordered, the loopholes of the redoubt are garrisoned, a reserve is kept ready against any forcing of the gates, a continuous fire is maintained against the enemy. If it is shaken or if help arrives for the work, the crew, which in the meantime has fully organized itself, contributes to the reconquest of the work through the available openings. The artillery crew then rushes to their respective guns and fires on the fleeing enemy.



The extreme cases mentioned here are likely to occur with great difficulty, as the camp works are never left without the support of the camp army or mobile occupation forces, which makes an attack on the forts nearly impossible. It is more probable that a general struggle was taking place in their area, in which the works participated as batteries and prepared bases. The procedure to be followed here depends on the progress of the battle and should be left entirely to the judgment of the commander. However, as a rule, the rule is that the garrison cannot, under any pretext, take part in open field combat by detachment, being calculated only for the defense of the work, the preservation of which is much more important and could be put in danger of detachment from it.


  • c) The bombardment or bombardment of a work with hollow shells of all kinds from field guns, has the purpose of obtaining the surrender of the fort through their devastating effect. During the bombardment, the commander must withdraw the entire crew to the bomb-proof premises, and those guns which are in the covered position must be used against the enemy. With the fort's solid construction, under bombardment only damage is done that can be easily repaired.


  • d) A formal siege will hardly include a single work, but it will be done on a larger scale, so that the work has only a special role which has its justification in general defensive measures, which is why instructions are provided separately in each case. In general, the specific effectiveness of artillery and engineering weapons to make the necessary preparations according to the rules of the art of defense appears here. The measures against an assault remain the same as detailed for a frontal attack, except that repairs to damage to walls, parapets and embrasures caused by bombardment must always be made as quickly as possible and repaired well, especially at night.


Other comments


No outsiders may approach the work or stay in its vicinity. Anyone requesting access must be recognized by the sentries and give the password according to the law.

Gates facing the outfield are always locked, and drawbridges must be kept up at night. During the day one of the drawbridges can be left down to facilitate communication between patrols and crews sent for other purposes. If the enemy is very close, this should also be deployed during the day. The keys to these gates are generally kept by the Commander, and may be given to another officer to grant access to detached patrols or to welcome reinforcements from authorized armed forces.

When the superiors enter the forts, only the commander and senior artillery and engineering officer must report. As long as it does not compromise security, the garrison must be granted all possible facilities, but in any case one third of the infantry and technical troops must always remain on site.

Packs must remain in their respective quarters and troops moving from forts move without.


Everyone must eat regularly every day and this must be stated in the first report. The stocks of food available in the plant must be carefully controlled by the commander, both in terms of quality and quantity, and he must ensure regular ventilation of the relative warehouses, especially since he is responsible for the precise distribution and moderate and targeted management .

The time from which the service and food supplies can be used in the works will be specifically established by the command of the fortress. Until now, ordinary rations and food purchases must be made in accordance with current legislation.


For the preservation of the health of the soldiers care must be taken that acidic dishes are prepared in the canteen twice a week, more often in the hot season and that they are eaten in the open instead of in the casemates so that these are ventilated, since, as it is known that more people are incapacitated by disease than by the enemy.


A separate area in the fort is to be designated for the sick and injured, where they receive first aid from the doctor present in the fort, but are then to be sent to the main hospital at the earliest opportunity, to this end a regular ambulance service is ordered ; a stretcher for the injured must also be kept in stock at the plant.


The day and night optical telegraph corresponds to the one on the Castelvecchio tower, whose management is entrusted to an engineer officer, and its use in times of war can only be permitted by the fort commander.


Conservation of ammunition is a fundamental duty to be able to act forcefully at the right moment. Any useless artillery fire is forbidden and the same is allowed only if the possibility of hitting the target is real. Individual enemies are to be left to the infantry riflemen; even rockets can only be used against senior enemy officers on reconnaissance.


The infantry crew must be trained diligently. The first report is to be sent daily to the command of the fortress and contains: number of men, ammunition and supplies, service certificate, number, route of patrols and time of their departure. Following condition of own fort, position of enemy. Important events will be reported immediately.


These instructions, which instruct the commander in his duties and on the course of the defense and enable him to adapt his procedure to different circumstances, are to be kept secret, guarded and handed over to the new commander each time he is changed and the receipt of the change must be sent to the command of the Stronghold.


For information: acrimperi@gmail.com


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