Part 81: Q&A - February 19
Empire Total War: The Second 80 Years War quick online Q&A
Q: How long did it take to construct field defenses? Was it common to do so, and did they ever do so outside of sieges?
A: Field works had been constructed since at least Roman times. Trenches and earthworks were constructed around enemy fortifications during a siege to prevent the enemy from sallying forth to dislodge the attackers. Christian Spanish pushing the Moores out of the Iberian Peninsula had defended their cannon behind ditches and earthwork barriers. It was very common for armies besieging an enemy to fortify their camp with earthwork walls or ditches.
An earthwork required constant work to both improve and maintain, so the question as to how long an earthwork fortification took is perhaps a question without a definitive answer. A trench could be created within hours, but such a ditch would not be as elaborate, comfortable or defensive as one that had been worked on for months. The Dutch counter fortifications had taken them perhaps a month to finalize, and would not likely have improved any further.
These camps were sometimes erected by armies that were on a static defense in a given area. If they expected to be a defensive long term force, an army would often create a field fortification which was designed to stop an attacker much like a makeshift fort would. The Dutch faced opposite the Polish were dug in in the same manner, prepared to hold their position against any Polish attackers. The Polish army opposite them were exactly the same.
The trench and earthwork defense was mastered by the 1900s creating some of the worst stalemates in combat in history. Soldiers today still have field manual instructions which grant their soldiers the knowledge required to dig various forms of field works. While simple, a well created dirt hole is as much a defense, if not more, than a cement bunker.