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Neuf-Brisach enclosure

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Neuf-Brisach enclosure

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Date Posted:July 15th, 2006
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Description: In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia gave France possession of Breisach, on the right bank of the Rhine. This town was fortified by Vauban under the orders of Louis XIV and gave France an important bridgehead on the right bank of the Rhine. Breisach flourished, and so many people came to the town that it spread onto an island in the river, named Ville Neuve (new town). A fort was also built on this island.
However in 1697 the Treaty of Rijswijk stated that Breisach be given to Austria, and the town of Ville Neuve be destroyed and its fortifications razed. Deprived of his strongold on the Rhine, Louis XIV sent Vauban to strengthen French defences on the left bank of the river
Vauban, on seeing that Breisach offered a prime position for the Austrians to bombard the left bank, decided to build fortifications some way back from the river. He considered fortifying Biesheim and Colmar before settling on a new plan - building an entirely new town.
The inhabitants of the recently destroyed Ville Neuve could be persuaded to move to the new town, named Neuf-Brisach (or Neu Breisach in german, meaning new Breisach), by allowing them special priveleges.
Vauban designed the entire town from scratch. It was to be a regular octogon, making use of his 'third system' with tower bastions. and detached bastions. The streets were designed on a grid plan, with a large square in the centre around which the most important civic buildings were built.
Vauban designed the town's fortifications to a plan that is known as his third system, where tower bastions are used at each corner and returning angles are placed half way along each wall, which give extra flanking fire along the wall. In front of the main wall is a line of false brays and detached bastions. The detached bastions are placed in front of each tower bastion, and the false brays in front of each section of wall, so there are 8 tower bastions, 8 detached bastions and 8 false brays.
Beyond each false bray is a demi-lune, and beyond that is the covered way. The four demi-lunes that carry entrance roads are divided into two - a smaller reduced demi-lune and a form of counterguard protecting it.
Situated on flat ground, the defences have the same strength at every point, so this could be said to be the perfect fortress. It was Vauban's last work. In 1870 the French garrison made an impressive stand against the Prussian army, which eventually bombarded the town into submission. The town itself flourished and is well populated even today, in contrast with other fortified towns that were built from scratch, such as Mont Dauphin, which never attracted more than a handful of inhabitants.


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