Medieval Painting of a Traction Trebuchet
and Crew During a Siege
Besiegers employ a traction trebuchet against a castle, while the besieged
take cover and drop rocks in defense.
Unlike the counterweight trebuchet , the traction trebuchet
uses men, the traction crew, pulling on ropes attached to the short end
of the trebuchet beam, as motive force. Lacking in range and projectile
capacity, as compared to the larger, wall-breaching counterweight trebuchet
, the traction trebuchet was used primarily as light artillery against
enemy personnel and unfortified structures within the castle walls.
Once fired, the traction crew released tension on the ropes and the
beam returned to cocked or ready position. This allowed an increased rate
of fire over the counterweight trebuchet , which needed to have the beam
and attached counterweight winched back into the cocked position. The sling
crew then reset and reloaded the sling and the trebuchet was ready to fire.
When using smaller projectiles, one or more crewmembers could take hold
of the sling prior to firing. This imparted increased tension to the sling
and beam and increased range. On command, the sling crew would release
their grip just after the traction crew began their pull.
Adding or removing men from traction crew allowed some adjustment for
range and projectile weight, but large increases required a disproportionate
amount of manpower. As the traction crew increased, the angle of each added
rope increased, reducing that rope's resultant force. Consequently. each
man added contributed less than the man before.
As projectile weights and fortress size increased, the traction trebuchet
evolved into the hybrid trebuchet and eventually the counterweight trebuchet
. Massive fortresses encountered during the Crusades required enormous
trebuchets and set new standards for siege engines .
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