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“ (much beyond what any former Theories have
assigned) is likewise ascertained.” On which Principles it will appear, that the original Velocities of Bullets, when impelled by full Charges of Powder, and the Track described by their Flight, are extremely different from what the Writers on these Subjects have hitherto fuppofed.
As the principal Disquisitions of this work relate to the Force of Powder, and the Flight of Shells and Bullets, Mr. Robins has very agreeably thrown into his Preface a few Particulars, respecting the Invention of Powder, as also the History and Improvements of Gunnery, and its Sister-Art, Fortification, and this he was the rather induced to, as the Nature and Purport of what he afterwards advances is in some measure illustrated, by being compared with the Opinions that have formerly prevailed concerning these Matters. ' And tho his immediate View is the promoting the Theory and Practice of Gunnery, yet the present Methods of Fortifying are so connected with the Invention and Management of Artillery, that he judged a short Recital of the Origin and Changes of the modern Military Architecture would not be impertinently prefixed to an Account of those powerful Machines which gave it Birth. An Epitome of what he has favoured us with on these Heads is as followeth.
With regard to the first Invention of Bastions, there are many Opinions amongst Authors; it being a Point yet undecided, in what Place, and at what Time, they were first put in Practice. Some have attributed this Invention to Zisca, the Bohemian ; others to Achmet Bashaw, who having taken Otranto in the Year 1480, fortified it in a particular Manner; which is supposed to be the first Instance of the Use of Bastions. But these are the Positions of later Writers. Those who wrote on the Subject of Fortification near two Centuries ago, seem to sup
pose, pose, that Bastions were a gradual Improvement in the ancient Method of Building, rather than a new Thought, that any one Person could claim the Honour of. Pasino imputes the Changes in the anci. ent Fortifications, and the Introduction of the modern Form, to the increased Violence of the later Artillery, without pretending that it was effected at one Time, or by one Person. So that Mr. Robins believes we cannot with Certainty affirm more in Reference to the Invention of Bastions, than that they •were well known foon after the Year 1500.
We cannot, with any greater Exactness, fix the Time when the old circular Towers were first converted into Bastions; yet probably it did not pre. cede the Date above-mentioned.
The first Bastions were but small, and removed at a great Distance from each other: But in a few Years there were introduced Bastions much larger, and much nearer together. Probably the Citadel of Antwerp, built under the Direction of the Duke d'Alva, about 1566, was the first Instance of this Improvement.
From this Period the modern Practice of Military Architecture may be supposed to have taken its Rise; most of the Improvements of the present Times being little more than the putting in Use fuch Methods as were proposed within a few Years of this Æra.
The better to determine the Pretensions of the Moderns, and the Merit of the Systems of Fortification now in Vogue, Mr. Robins enters into a brief Discussion of the various Methods which have been proposed for covering the Flanks, and conse quently for securing the Ramparts from the Approach of an Enemy: For as it is agreed, that the principal Defence of a Fortress is its Flanks, the best Standard whereby to judge of the Merit of any
System of Fortification, is the Manner in which it provides for the Safety of the Flanks, against the Efforts of an Enemy.
From what Mr. Robins has said upon this Topic it appears, that the Covering of the Flanks was a Thing much more attended to by the ancient Engineers, than by those who have succeeded them ; and, consequently, that the Art of Fortification has not received from the Moderns those great Improvements, which unskilful Writers sometimes boast of.
Our Author shews of what vast Importance in Fortification securing the Flanks is, and how neg. ligent, with reference to that Point, some of our modern Engineers are: He exposes those erroneous Maxims whereby they have been induced to such a Conduct, and the ill Effects that have follow'd thereupon; and he gives us a Detail of the several Inventions for screening of the Flanks, chat have been recommended at different Times, and by different Artists.
But beyond all these, he tells us, there is still, in a proper Soil, a more efficacious Defence; and that is, by the Means of Contre-mines.
The first successful Application of the blowing of Mines in Sieges, he says, was in the Kingdom of Naples, where Pietro de Navarre by this Means poffeffed himself of a Fort garrison'd by the French. But the first celebrated Use of these Mines in opposing the Progress of the Besiegers, was in the Years 1666, 67, 68, at the Siege of Candia : Not but that they had been often practised in the Defence of Places before, tho' in a less memorable Manner; for; by the Aflistance of this Invention, principally, the City of Candia kept the whole Power of the Ottoman Empire at a Bay for three Years successively. Since thac Time the Advantages of the Contre-mines have been better understood. The last eminent Instance of their great Usefulness was in the Defence of Turin, in the Year 1706;
for so effectually were the Besiegers traversed thereby, that after near four Months of open Trenches, they were not in the Possession of more than the Countre-scarp, and even there eleven Pieces of their Cannon were blown up by the Defendants, but three or four Days before the place was relieved.
Before he leaves this Head, Mr. Robins mentions with Approbation the Improvement in the Doctrine of Mines, which is contained in a Dissertation annexed to the third Volume of the French Polybius, said to be wrote by M. de Valiere, Marechal des Camps, and Captain-General of the Miners.
Mr. Robins, at the same Time that he takes Notice of the Defects in the Writings of many of those, who amongst the Moderns have undertaken to form Systems of Fortification, avows the superior Merit of the great Coeboorn, who was undoubtedly, he says, the ablest Fortifier that ever the World knew.
He has been assured, by those who were well acquainted with this excellent Man, that his Treatises were far from acquiring him either the Advantages or Reputation which he might reasonably have expected from them: For that his Contemporary Engineers, wedded to their old Road, decried him, as an unskilful self-conceited Pretender; but that he at last surmounted these Effects of their Envy and Prejudice by his Defence of Fort William at Namur, when that place was besieged by the French : After this, which established his Reputation, he rose apace to the greatest Military Commands, and immortalized his Name by his Conduct at the Siege of Namur under King William, and afterwards at Bon, Limburg, the Citadel of Liege, Ec. Mr. Robins adds,
Besides being intrusted with the Direction of Sieges, he was employed tco in the repairing and new-modelling many of the Dutch Frontiers. His last Work, which is left unfinished, was Bergen-op
Zoom, which will always do Honour to his Memory.
Tho', with Regard to the modern Writers on Fortification, our Author cannot find another to place in the same Article with the great Genius last mentioned; yet, he says, there are two Authors on the Methods of atttacking and defending Places, who deserve the highest Applause ; these are Goulon and the Marechal de Vauban: The first in a short Treatise, intitled, Memoires sur l’Attaque et la Defence des Places; the other in a Work which he presented in Manuscript to the late King of France, of which Copies getting abroad, it was published four Years since in Holland.
Having insisted, so far as he judges sufficient, on the Origin and Variations of the present Military Architecture, our Author next discusses what is more immediately connected with the Purport of the Work now before us ; that is, the Invention of Powder and Artillery, with their respective Improvements, and the different Theories they have given Rise to.
The Invention of Gunpowder is usually ascribed to one Bartholdus Schwartz, a German Monk, about the Year 1320; and the first Use of it in War is commonly supposed to have been by the Venetians against the Genoese, about the Year 1380. But, Mr. Robins says, both these Suppositions are false ; for a Composition resembling Gunpowder is mentioned by Rager Bacon, as well known in his Time, near fifty Years before Schwartz; and there are indisputable Proofs of the Use of Artillery much earlier than the Year 1380.
Indeed, as the Time of the Discovery of Saltpetre is confeffedly uncertain, it is not to be wonder'd at, that that of Gunpowder is so also; for these Discoveries are so connected, that the first could hardly be long known before the latter.