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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
"Waterlinie"fFortress towns

The Dutch Water Line was a series of water based defences conceived by Maurice of Nassau and realised by his half brother Fredrick Henry.

Early in the Eighty Years' War of Independence against Spain the Dutch had realised that flooding low lying areas formed an excellent defence against enemy troops, as was demonstrated, for example, during the siege of Leiden, 1574. In the latter half of the war when the economic heartland of the Dutch Republic (i.e. the province of Holland) had been freed of Spanish troops. Maurice of Orange Nassau planned to protect it with a line of flooded land protected by fortresses that ran from the Zuiderzee (present IJsselmeer) down to the river Waal.

In 1629 prince Fredrick Henry of Orange Nassau started the execution of the plan. Sluices were constructed in dikes and forts and fortified towns were created at strategic points along the line with guns covering especially the dikes that traversed the water line. The water level in the flooded areas was carefully maintained to a level deep enough to make an advance on foot precarious and shallow enough to rule out effective use of boats (other than the flat bottomed gun barges used by the Dutch defenders). Under the water level additional obstacles like ditches, trous de loup and later barbed wire and mines were hidden. The trees lining the dikes that formed the only roads through the line, could be turned into abatis in time of war. In wintertime the water level could be manipulated to weaken ice covering, while the ice itself could be used when broken up, to form further obstacles that would expose advancing troops longer to fire from the defenders.

The Dutch Water Line proved its value less than forty years after its construction during the Dutch War (or Third Anglo-Dutch War) (1672) when it stopped the armies of Louis XIV from conquering the Dutch Republic. And in 1794-1795 the revolutionary French armies only overcame the obstacle posed by the Dutch Water Line due to the heavy frost that had frozen solid the flooded areas.





Other than Waterlinie fortresses.

Brielle / Den Briel, the town I grew up.





Menno van Coehoorn

Menno, baron van Coehoorn (1641 – March 17, 1704), Dutch soldier and military engineer. He made a number of weaponry inovations in siege warfare and fortification techniques.

He was born at Leeuwarden in Friesland. He received an excellent military and general education, and at the age of sixteen became a captain in the Dutch army. In Anglo-Dutch Wars he took part in the defence of Maastricht in 1673 and in the siege of Grave in 1674, where the small mortars (called coehorns) invented by him caused the French garrison considerable trouble. He was made a colonel for his gallant conduct at the battle of Seneffe (1674), and was present also at the battles of Cassel (1677) and Saint Denis (1678).

The circumstances of the time and the country turned Coehoorn's attention to the art of fortification, and the events of the late war showed him that existing methods could no longer be relied upon. His first published work, Versterchinge de Vijfhoeks met alle syne Buytenwerken (Leeuwarden, 1682), at once aroused attention, and involved the author in a lively controversy with a rival engineer, Louys Paan (Leeuwarden, 1682, 1683; copies are in the library of the Dutch ministry of war). The military authorities were much interested in this, and entrusted Coehoorn with the reconstruction of several fortresses in the Netherlands. This task he continued throughout his career; and his experience in the work made him the worthy rival of his great contemporary Vauban. He formulated his ideas a little later in his chief work, New fortress Construction (Nieuwe Vestingbouw, Leeuwarden, 1685), in which he laid down three systems, the characteristic feature of which was the multiplicity and great saliency of the works, which were calculated and in principle are still eminently suited for, flat and almost marshy sites such as those in the Low Countries.

He borrowed many of the details from the works of his Dutch predecessor Freytag, of Albrecht Dürer, and of the German engineer Speckle, and in general he aimed rather at the adaptation of his principles to the requirements of individual sites than at producing a geometrically and theoretically perfect fortress. Throughout his career he never hesitated to depart from his own rules in dealing with exceptional cases, such as that of Groningen. Subsequent editions of Nieuwe Vestingbouw appeared in Dutch (1702, and frequently afterwards), English (London, 1705), French (Wesel, 1705), and German (Düsseldorf, 1709).

In War of the Grand Alliance (1689–1697) Coehoorn served as a brigadier. At the battle of Fleurus he greatly distinguished himself, and in 1692 he defended Namur, a fortress of his own creation. Namur was taken by Vauban; but the Dutch engineer had his revenge three years later, when the place, on which in the meantime Vauban had lavished his skill, fell to his attack. Coehoorn became lieutenant-general and inspector-general of the Netherlands fortresses, and the high-German peoples as well as his own countrymen honored him. He commanded a corps in the army of the Duke of Marlborough from 1701 to 1703, and in the constant siege warfare of these campaigns in the Low Countries his technical skill was of the highest value. The swift reduction of the fortress of Bonn and the siege of Huy in 1703 were his crowning successes. At the opening of his following campaign he was on his way to confer with Marlborough when he died of apoplexy at Wijkel.

His first system was applied to numerous places in the Netherlands, notably Nijmegen, Breda and Bergen op Zoom. Mannheim in Germany was also fortified in this way, while the second system was applied to Belgrade and Temesvar in eastern Europe.

His son, Gosewijn Theodor van Coehoorn, wrote a biography (re-edited Syperstein, Leeuwarden, 1860).

Andrzej Sapkowski, polish fantasy writer, used Menno van Coehoorn's name for one of the Nilfgaard marchals in the five book "Saga" aboutThe Hexer.

Rick Bakker
5,340 Posts
Nice overview! But since when is Brielle near the Waterlinie or part of it?;)

Here's a map of the 'old' Waterlinie, used from 1629 till 1830 or so:

The white dots are fortresses.

And the 'New' one, which is located more to the east, notice the ring of water around Amsterdam, know as the 'stelling van Amsterdam':

Both had another smaller Waterlinie in front of them, the Grebbelinie:


2,579 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
@CBorg, waar en is dus veranderd. :)

Ideal fortress out of a Dutch study book.

More Dutch fortified towns




Amsterdam defense works 17th century.

17th cent. Schans Oudeschild

17th cent. Schans Grolle

Napoleontic Schans at 's-Hertogenbosch

Schans at Coevorden


Map of plan for defense works for a French city by a colleague of Coehoorn; Vauban.

Gustavo Naufel
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