Abbatis
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Basic Information

Abbatis (or variant spellings thereof) is a type of fortification designed to slow and disrupt enemy troop movements. An abbatis is traditionally made from trees and bushes - although some sources may also use it to refer to a barbed wire obstacle1.

The term covers a variety of structures, but the default seems to be an area of trees, felled but not completely cut through so that the fallen trunk remains attached to the stump to impede clearance. The resulting mess provides a significant barrier to wheeled vehicles, cavalry and heavy infantry - although light infantry (especially those armed with ranged weapons) have a tendency to use it as cover2. It is also extremely disruptive to the deployment of siege engines - even as low down the scale as ladders, gabions and fascines. Properly used it can be quite effective in disordering assaults on a position.

Other things that have been called abbatis (besides those using barbed wire) include hedges of wooden spikes3 (especially bamboo ones4) and thorn-bush obstacles, either as a living hedge or as a mass of cut branches.

By its nature, abbatis tends to be a short lived form of obstacle - even if no-one burns or bombards it to clear it away, natural decay will tend to reduce its effectiveness after a relatively short time. Also, unless the obstacle is closely defended, there is the probability that the local population will use it as a source of free timber when the garrison's backs are turned.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Actually quite good cover for covert ops type people sneaking up on a fortification.
  • And a good venue of a battle between skirmishers.
  • Where sufficient trees are to be had, abbatis on its own could make for a relatively quick and easy defensive position for an infantry unit plagued by cavalry of the horse-borne or wheeled varieties.
  • Obviously this makes a poor choice for a permanent part of a fortification … except for the thorn hedge type, which can make a useful obstacle, not to mention a good filler for a dry moat5.
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