One thing I do not get is why Army leaders in the past milleniums weagermess of seizing fortresses instead of going around them. I believe more and more that this paradigm of "We must take this fortress at any cost" included World War I and later. It is just bad leadership.

I want to state two examples here, the Siege of the Alamo and the Battle of Verdun.

In the first case I see no viable reason why General St. Anna let his men storming against the Alamo mission just for capuring a fortress from which no reinforcements could be sent because the defenders were already low on resources and manpower. If the Mexican troops just passed the Mission and proceeded to Textas provisional capital at that time, San Felipe de Austin.

Concerning Verdun I still wonder why no one of the German High Command had the idea to ignore the defenders of the town and its surrounding fortifications like Fort Vaux and instead taking another side route to Paris. The French forces around Verdun were so fixated I do not believe that they could have stopped the mobilised German forces.

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    @user69715: The question deals with modern times, not "castles," and the answer may be that it is a "holdover" from ancient times.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 4, 2017 at 23:42
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    Talking about WWI: history.stackexchange.com/questions/30649/…
    – SJuan76
    Jul 5, 2017 at 1:07
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    @TomAu check out the answers there, you'll see that they're still relevant despite the different period. Especially the argument that going around enemy fortifications would leave your supply line and the rear of your army vulnerable.
    – user69715
    Jul 5, 2017 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


Fortresses took a value out of military importance (in modern times) because sentimental value. The classic example was Stalingrad in World War II.

In the case of Santa Anna and the Alamo, it was pique as much as anything else. It had earlier been a fortress and base for the Mexican army. It had been captured, with 1500 defenders under Santa Anna's brother in law by 300 Texans under a crusty former junior officer named Ben Milam, who recruited these Texas rebels by beating the drum, and yelling 'who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?" The dreaded "no prisoners' posture was a revenge for the humiliation.

In the case of Verdun, Germany's General von Falkenhayn noted correctly that the Allies had a large preponderance of resources and manpower vs. Germany. Instead of drawing the logical conclusion that Germany should fight a war of decision, the German general proposed to "attrite" the Allies and force them into a negotiated peace. So he attacked the fortress of Verdun because it had sentimental value to France from past wars. His strategy at first succceeded, u then he kept expanding the effort, so what originally started as a two to one rate of French to German casualties fell to five to four.

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