Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Term


Abatis: A roadblock or defensive barrier that was made of felled trees piled on top one another, with the branches sharpened pointing toward the oncoming or expected enemy.


Banquette: A kind of step made on the rampart of a work near the parapet, for troops to stand upon in order to fire over the parapet.

Barbette: A wooden or earthen platform inside a fortification, on which the cannon were placed in order to allow them to shoot over the rampart.

Bar Shot: An artillery projectile consisting of a metal bar with a solid half-sphere at each end.

Battalion: A body of foot soldiers, subdivided into companies, sometimes identical with a regiment.

Bastion: A strongpoint of projecting masonry work in the perimeter of a fortress, usually V-shaped, angled out beyond the main line of the walls of a fortress. From it, attackers along the curtain could be cross-fired upon.

Battery: A protected position designed as a firing place for one or more pieces of artillery. The term may also refer to the pieces in such a position, such as ( "west battery"or "forward battery"), or by the organization of soldiers who man them ("Battery A").

Berme: The ledge in a fortifacation between the ditch and the base of the parapet.

Blockhouse: A thick-walled building usually constructed of logs, with loopholes for muskets, designed as a center for defense. Bomb or Shell: An explosive projectile made of cast iron, detonated in flight or after penetrating the target by means of a fuse.

Brigade: A military force consisting of two or more regiments. Camp Followers: A civilian, often a woman, who accompanies an army and performs various services for the troops.


Canister: A canvas or cloth bag filled with small round lead or iron pellets and crammed into a cannon on top of a charge of gunpowder. It would not carry as far as solid shot, but it was deadly at close range.

Carcass: A small metal can punched with holes and filled with oiled rags that were set ablaze when the carcass was shot from a cannon. The purpose, was to cause a ship, a building or a whole town to catch fire.

Cartridge: a prepared package, cylindrical in shape, containing both the propelling charge and the projectile of the gun.

Casemate: A chamber built within the walls of a fort. Casemates can house barracks, guardhouse, and other administrative functions that otherwise would require separate buildings. Casemates also furnish positions from which cannon and small arms can be fired at an attacker through ports or embrasures in the walls.

Case Shot: An artillery projectile consisting of a cylindrical tin container holding many balls. When fired, the canister burst and the balls continued toward the target in a spreading fashion. An other name for canister.

Cassette: a work made under the rampart, like a cellar or cave with loopholes, to place guns in.

Chain Shot: An artillery projectile consisting of two iron balls of half-balls connected with a short length of chain.

Chamade: A drum beating played when a besieged commander wished to discuss terms.

Chvaux-de-Frise: A crisscross of heavy timbers, usually tipped with steel spikes, calculated to stop infantry. Sometimes this was also used under water to stop ships.

Cohorn: A small stubby howitzer.

Counterscarp: The outer wall or slope of the ditch surrounding a fort. The inner wall was the scarp.

Covered Way: The Covert or close way, left above the ditch next to the open field.

Curtain: The wall of a fortification between bastions, towers, or other crossfire projections.


Demilune: Half-moon-shaped outworks, smaller than a Lunette.

Double Sap: a trench with a parapet on both sides instead of on just the side facing the besieged fortress.

Dry Ditch or Dry Mote: A ditch that surrounds the walls of a fort, hindering any attacker and giving an open area into which guns of the fort may fire.


Embrasure: An small opening in a "parapet"or wall through which weapons may be fired.

Enfilade: To fire into a formation of troops from a position approximately on the extension of its principle axis.

Ensign: The most junior officer in a company of infantry. Traditionally the ensign carried the colors in battle.

Epaultement: The "shoulder" of a fort wall; the place where the CURTAIN and BASTION meet.

Exterior Slope: An inclined surface or bank constructed on the outside of a fortifacation.


Facines: Bundles of tightly bound twigs and sticks hastily assembled and tied together. They were used for constructing gun platforms and , even more, for filling ditches to permit the passage of military vehicles.

Field Piece: A piece of artillery mounted on a wheeled carriage for use in the field.

Flche: A small defensive ditch, unroofed, in the shape of an arrowhead, the point toward the expected enemy. It was an outwork, a deterrent, a stopgap, not a real fortlet.

Forlorn Hope: A body of troops, sometimes volunteers, assigned the mission of leading an attack.

Fraise: The horizontal or down-sloping palisade round the berme.

Frigate: A type of warship developed in the eighteenth century, mounting from approximately twenty to as many as fifty guns, mostly 6, 9, and 12-pounders.

Fusil: A type of light flintlock musket.


Gabions: Wicker-work baskets or forms, without top or bottom. They were made of any material, (wicker was preferred), and filled with earth and stones. Clumsy, heavy things, they were used for shoring up parapets, filling ditches, and protecting field guns. They were the eighteenth century equivalent of sandbags.

Glacis: The parapet of the covered way extended in a long slope to meet the natural surface of the ground, so that every part of it could be swept by fire from the ramparts.

Grape or Grapeshot: Similar to CANISTER except that the balls were smaller and there were more of them.

Grenade: A small, hand-thrown iron bomb detonated by means of a fuse.

Grenadier: A soldier specially trained and equipped for throwing grenades. One company of grenadiers generally was included in every British regiment, and in battle was stationed on one of the flanks. Grenadiers, "the tallest and briskest Fellows" in the regiment, could be identified by their mitre-style headgear which lacking a brim, did not interfere with their hurling.


Hornwork: An outwork consisting of two demi-bastions joined by a curtain.

Howitzer: A small cannon sharply uptilted, used, mostly in mountain warfare, to lob shells or balls into a protected position.


Jacobite boat: An open gunboat armed with a single heavy cannon.


Lunette: A lunette is a V-shaped defensive structure pointing outward. It is a part of the outer works of a fort.


Magazine: The structure where arms, kegs of gunpowder, provisions and in later years more sophisticated munitions, were stored.

Matross: A sort of assistant artilleryman who helped to handle a fieldpiece in action.

Merlin: A part of a parapet used to provide cover for a battery of artillery.

Mess: A small group of soldiers in which each man takes his turn of cooking.

Mortar: An extremely short-barreled, large-calibered piece of artillery, usually mounted on a heavy oaken base, so trunnioned that it can shoot very high. Used to hurl shells along a high trajectory and down into fortified positions.

Musket: A smooth-bore flintlock shoulder gun.


Outwork: A fortified position located outside or in advance of a main fortifacation.


Palisade: In wooded country, a defensive wall or barrier consisting of sharpened logs set upright and close together in the ground forming an enclosure or defense. The logs may be vertical or may project horizontally from the earthworks. Also know as a stockade.

Parallel: In siege operation, a trench or system of trenches dug by the besieging army roughly parallel to the enemy's ramparts as a line from which to begin a further advance.

Parapet: The wall of a fortification or a defense of earth or stone built to conceal and protect troops.

Picket: A small party of foot soldiers sent forth in advance of the army to feel out the enemy and harass him if he approaches.

Pickets: Timbers with one end placed in the ground, the other end sharpened, used to slow the advance of infantry.

Pierrier or Perrier (referred to by English as a "paterero"): An archaic iron breech-loading swivel gun, it could fire a small ball or a handful of shot. They were very common at frontier posts in New France.

Pioneer: A civilian or soldier employed in laboring on roads or fortifications.


Quoin: A wooden wedge inserted beneath the breech of a cannon to control the elevation of the muzzle.


Rampart: The principal outer wall of a fortress, usually consisting of a broad, steep-sided embankment.

Ravelin: This was a small earthwork, an outwork with only two faces, sometimes like a Flche.

Redan: The same as a Ravelin, though somewhat smaller.

Redoubt: This was larger and stronger. It might be a square or some other multiangled shape, but it was always completely enclosed, never open at one end.

Revetment: A retaining wall of wood or masonry supporting the face of an earthwork (earthen rampart) on the side of the ditch.

Royal: A small mortar firing a shell of 51/2 inches in diameter.


Sallyport: A gate through which soldiers can sally forth to counter attack the enemy. In larger forts, it usually includes a tunnel through the walls.

Saucissons: Facines much larger than the common ones, used particulary to raise batteries and repair breeches in walls.

Sentry Box: also called gu?rite or ?chauguette.

Scarp: The steep bank immediately in front of and below the rampart. Ship of the Line: A warship mounting from fifty guns (fourth-rate ship) to as many as 100 guns (first-rate ship), sufficiently powerful to fight in the line of battle.

Spontoon: A sort of halberd or pike carried by sergeants.

Sutler: A civilian storekeeper who accompanies an army and sells liquor, provisions, and other supplies to the troops.

Stockade: A barricade for entrenchments and redoubts, usually made of timber, often furnished with loopholes for musket fire. Same as Palisade.


Tenaille: A small, low fortification, sometimes with only one entrance, sometimes with two, occasionally roofed, placed for annoyance, purposes outside the CURTAIN between the two BASTIONS.

Terreplein: The surface of the rampart behind the parapet, where guns (cannon) are mounted.

Toises: archaic French fathoms or six French feet.(76.71 inches)

Tomahawk: A type of small hatchet used as a weapon.

Troop: A company of mounted soldiers or cavalry.

Terre-plein: In a fortifacation, the top platform, or horizontal surface of the rampart, where the cannon are placed, as well as the soldiers that defend the fort.


Up in the Air: An unprotected flank was said to have been left "up in the air"