This page last updated : 3 January 1998
The French military engineer Sebastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de
Vauban [1633-1707] was among the most esteemed of King Louis XIV's
subjects. He is best remembered as Le Maréchal de Vauban,
the rank & title to which he was elevated in 1703. He was
honored thus in recognition for his tireless service to King &
Introduction & Overview:
While Vauban was responsible for many important public works during his long and illustrious career, it was as a soldier & military engineer that he was most influential. And, rightly, it is for this that he is best remembered. He simply had no equal in the art of attacking & defending fortified places. And so in an era when the siege dominated military affairs [sieges being far more commonplace than major battles], his genius for sieges and his mastery of the art of fortification guaranteed his place as one of the leading men of his time.
Vauban's influence on warfare was enormous; and not just during his own lifetime. One might consider his personal campaign record & how it helped shape France's frontiers. Or how in peace-time his work to improve existing fortresses and designs for building new ones acted to stabilize & strengthen those new borders. Or his systems for attacking & defending fortified places - which were still influential a hundred years & more after his death. Or his many inventions & innovations, among which was the design of the first ever socket bayonet [which fitted around rather than in the muzzle of the soldier's weapon] & his having encouraged the French Army to adopt the new flintlock musket. Vauban was also the first to build proper permanent barracks accomodation for the soldiery. Finally, his strategic thinking has even been credited with influencing the formulation of post-WWII French foreign & defense policy under President Charles De Gaulle.
Right: statue of Vauban raised in the town of his birth. The impressive larger-than-life figure was sculpted by Guillot.
As one might expect Vauban received the liberal thanks & rewards of his sovereign Louis XIV. Likewise he earned the respect of his contemporaries, even that of enemies! So eager were his opponents to learn from him that even at a time when England & France were at war copies of his writings went on sale in London!
Significantly it was not just those with a blind lust for La Gloire who remembered him fondly. Vauban, it was attested by many, was an extremely compassionate and humane man. He never once treated his soldiers like cattle and constantly strove to improve their lot. He astounded the world, and won the undying love of the French soldier, when he took pains and devised means whereby he could capture a fortress with fewer losses than those he inflicted on the beseiged! I could cite numerous tributes to his greatness, but I'll confine myself to the succinct yet comprehensive testimony that comes from the pen of the respected English military historian, Christopher Duffy .....
"What remains beyond dispute is that Vauban survives as one of the most complete mortals whom history has to show. Hard-headed but warm-hearted, he was able to reconcile success in warfare, an inherently bloody trade, with the demands of common humanity."[The Fortress in the Age of Vauban & Frederick the Great, 1660-1789 - page 97 ]
It is also worth mentioning here that on 28 May 1808 the Emperor
Napoleon I - arguably the greatest soldier the world has yet seen - honoured Vauban by arranging to have his heart placed within a grand monument erected
under the dome of the Invalides church in Paris. Here Vauban's heart still rests today, and now only a few yards from the Emperor's
own mortal remains!
Left: As can be seen from this photograph taken under the dome of Les Invalides, Vauban's heart rests in august company indeed! Napoleon's tomb is seen in the foreground with Vauban's memorial in the right-hand background. In the left background is the tomb of Marshal Foch - hero and Allied Generalissimo of WWI.
Also buried nearby are Napoleon's son, his brother Joseph, and another truly great French general & servant of Louis XIV, Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Le Maréchal de Turenne
Click on image for close-up of Vauban's tomb.
And in 1867, in accordance with an Imperial Decree signed by Napoleon III [Great-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte], Saint-Léger-de-Foucheret, the town in which Vauban was born, was renamed Saint-Léger-Vauban in his honour.
Purpose & Contents:
This web-site is dedicated to Vauban's memory, & to his legacy - the places he fortified [both within & without modern day France]. Most of these sites still boast impressive remains. These imposing & often very attractive relics call-out to be explored by all who would profess to have an interest in the past - especially those interested in military history.
I present here information on some the places fortified by Vauban [he built 33 fortresses entirely from scratch and modified some 300 others]. And I attempt to put all this into context by reference to the geography and history of France, and the development of her borders, in a section entitled "The Square Enclosed Field".
The visitor to this site will also encounter references to other sources of information about Vauban, including - a recommended reading list, details of museums & societies devoted to studying the man and his works, and links to other sites on the world wide web which will afford you further opportunities to enhance your appreciation of Vauban's special place in history.
Finally, some new additions to this web-site; as of 22.11.97 we have a Review Page. First to feature here is a CDROM title about the former French fortress of Louisbourg [Canada]. And, as of 2.1.98, we now have the Marshal Vauban Timeline in a slot of it's own. This file juxtaposes Vauban's life & career with the main events of French and European/World history. It is a useful source of information on Vauban, as well as serving to place his life in some context. AND ...