Direct Assault
A direct assault was the most dangerous way for attackers to try to take a castle. Soldiers either scaled walls with ladders or overran castle walls breached by tunnels, battering rams, or artillery.

Sometimes they attacked two or three spots around the castle at once to surprise their foe or divide castle defenses, and sometimes they approached the wall hidden within a trench or tunnel. Archers and crossbowmen would cover soldiers while they tried to break a wall or storm over it.

Defenders, perched on the castle wall or in narrow windows called loopholes, literally had the upper hand. Archers rained arrows down on attackers, while soldiers pushed ladders off the wall with forked poles, dropped rocks or firepots filled with burning tar, or poured scalding water, wine, or hot sand (which could enter armor) down onto those below.

Attacking armies sometimes blockaded a castle instead. Though safer than fighting, starving occupants out of a castle was not always straightforward. Attacking armies, which often had hired mercenaries, were reluctant to wait out a winter in northern climates without permanent housing. Castle dwellers kept stockpiles of food and drilled water wells within the castle's walls. They also had ally troops that could come to their defense, sometimes turning a battle's tide.

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site