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Glossary of Terms

A Glossary in alphabetical order of terms used in the context of Martello Towers, and related armaments, the military etc in the times of the Napolleonic Wars, with the definitions for those terms and links to more information, when available.
Courtesy of Wellington's Military Machine by Philip J Haythornthwaite, England Heritage Guide to Martello Tower No. 24 and the Towers of Strength by W H Clements


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Abatis: barricade of felled trees.
Aide-de-Camp: junior staff officer attached to a general.
Ammuzette/Amusette : large-bore firearm or 'wall piece'.
Armed Association: local volunteer corps raised for the protection of its own locality.
Ashlar:  Square-hewn stones

Ball (as in 'ball ammunition'): musket-ball or cartridge.
Banquette: firing-step behind a parapet.
Barbette: position in which guns are mounted to fire over a parapet rather than through embrasures in           the parapet wall
Bastion: (1) a four-sided fortification; (2) a design of uniform-lace, following the same shape.
Batardeau: dam to retain water in a fortress-ditch.
Battalion company: 'centre' company of an infan­try battalion.
Batter:  Backward slope of the surface of a wall.                                                                   
Battery: gun-emplacement; later came to refer to an artillery unit of 6 guns.
Bengal lights: carcass composed of saltpetre, sul­phur and red orpiment.
Blacking ball: blackening-agent for equipment.
Bomb: mortar-shell; loosely applied to all explosive projectiles.
Bombardier: junior NCO, Royal Artillery.
Breastplate: small metal badge worn on a shoulder-belt.
Breastwork: protective parapet or barricade.
Bricole: (1) rope or strap used for manhandling a cannon; (2) a cannon fired 'en bricole' when the shot          struck a sloping revetment.
Brigade: (1) tactical formation of two or more bat­talions; (2) artillery company.
Brown Bess: affectionate name for British military musket; `to hug Brown Bess': to serve as a soldier.
         Find out more
Brown George: an 'ammunition' loaf, or military issue of bread.
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Battery of Cannons
Battery of Cannons






'Brown Bess' Musket
'Brown Bess' Musket

Cacadore: Portuguese light infantry (lit 'hunter').
Canister: artillery ammunition comprising lead balls in a tin.
Cap: general term for military head-dress.
Caponniere: covered communication-trench from an enceinte to a detached work, or a casemated                fortification projecting across a ditch for delivering flanking-fire.
Capsquare: metal plate securing the trunnions of a cannon to the carriage.
Captain-lieutenant: officer commanding the com­pany nominally led by the battalion colonel. Carbine:            short cavalry musket.
Carcass (or carcase): incendiary or illumination-shell.
Carronade: large-calibre, short-range cannon.
Cascabel: knob at sealed end of a cannon-barrel.
Casemate:  a fortified gun emplacement or armoured structure from which guns are fired.
Case-shot:  numerous small metal balls packed into a canister that bursts when fired from a
        muzzle-loading gun. Used as an anti-personnel  weapon
Cavalier: raised battery, usually inside a bastion. Centre company: 'battalion company'.
Chemin des Rondes: sentry-walk around the top of a revetment.
Cheval-de-frise: barricade made of stake- or blade-studded beams.
Chinese light: illumination-flare composed of nitre, sulphur, antimony and orpiment.
Chock: quoin -  wooden block used for elevating a cannon-barrel.
Chosen man: lance-corporal.
Chute: sloping channel on the first-floor entrance of a Martello Tower where the removable entrance ladder fitted.
Citadel: four- or five-sided strongpoint.
Clash pans: cymbals.
Clinometer: an instrument for measuring the incline upon which a cannon stood.
Club: hair-dressing used by grenadiers, a queue doubled-back upon itself.
Coehorn (or Coehoorn): small mortar.
Colour-sergeant: senior NCO, rank instituted 1813.
Commissary: supply-officer.
Company-sergeant: Colour-sergeant, Royal Artil­lery.
Comrade: one of a pair of light infantrymen.
Corbel:  Projection of stone, timber, etc. jutting out from a wall to support its weight
Cordon:  Stone string course at the top or partway up a wall
Cornet: cavalry second-lieutenant.
Corps: (1) a tactical unit of two or more divisions;
             (2) the generic term for any military unit.
Counterscarp:  Outer wall of a ditch
Counterscarp Gallery:  Vaulted chamber constructed in the counterscarp scarp in order to defend the          ditch
Countersign: password.
Covered way: fire-step along a ditch.
Crapaud: British nickname for Frenchmen.
Croppy: Irish rebel; 'croppyism', support for United Irishmen. 
Cunette: narrow moat in the middle of a dry ditch, built to act both a drain and an obstacle to attackers
Curtain:  main wall of a fortified place which runs between the towers, bastions or gates
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Chute on the first floor entrance to a Martello Tower



Death or Glory men: nickname for Brunswick Oels corps (from their badge).
Desagulier: light fieldpiece named after its de­signer.
Dispart: half the difference between the diameter of a gun-barrel at the base-ring and the swell of the            muzzle; generally 1/56 of the length.
Division: tactical formation of two or more bri­gades.
Dolphin: lifting-handle on a cannon-barrel.
Draft: system of breaking-up a unit to transfer personnel to other corps.
Dumpling: short-barrelled pistol. 

Embrasure: opening in a parapet to allow gunfire through the wall.
Enceinte: fortress-wall or perimeter.
Enfilade: fire from a flank.
En flute: a ship-of-the-line with most guns re­moved.
Ensign: infantry second-lieutenant. Enthusiastics: nickname for 4th Division, Penin­sular War.
Envelope: continuous enceinte.
Evolution: drill-movement.
Expense magazine: small magazine placed near a battery.

Family: general's staff.
Fascine: bundle of brushwood used in fortification.
Fausse-braye: low outer rampart.
Felloe (or felly): curved segment of a wheel.
Fencibles:  Volunteer force first raised in 1794 by the War Office for home service (including Ireland)             and paid on a regular basis
Flint-lock:  Mechanism on musket in which a spark from a flint ignites the priming powder and fires the         weapon.   Find out more
Fighting Division: nickname for 3rd Division, Peninsular War.
Fire Ball: illumination-flare comprising rosin, sul­phur, alum powder, starch, saltpetre, mealed powder             and linseed oil.
Firelock: musket.
Fireworker: artillery technician.
Fixed ammunition: artillery projectile with pro­pellant and wooden 'sabot' attached.
Flank company: grenadiers and light infantry of a line battalion.
Fly: rapidly-moving infantry waggon.
Forlorn hope: first storming-party into a breach.
Frizzen:  An L-shaped piece of steel hinged at the rear used in flintlock firearms, positioned over the             flash pan so to enclose a small priming charge of black powder next to the flash hole that is drilled          through the barrel, such that when fired the flint scrapes it so as to create a  spark.   Find out more
Fugelman: soldier during drill from whom the remainder took their time.
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Dolphin on a cannon







Flintlock on a musket
Flintlock on a musket
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Gabion: earth-filled wicker basket used in forti­fication.
Gallery: mine-tunnel.
Galloper: light, shafted fieldpiece without a limber.
Garland: wooden framework holding round shot.
Gentleman's Sons: nickname for 1st Division, Peninsular War.
Glacis: slope descending from a fortification.
Gorget: decorative crescent-shaped plaque worn by officers around the neck.
Grand Rounds: main nightly inspection of sen­tries.
Grapeshot: artillery ammunition of a number of medium-sized iron balls.   Find out more
Grog: a mixture of rum and water.
Guerite: sentry-box, originally one sited on ram­parts.
Gun-metal: 'brass' of cannon, generally 8 or 10 parts tin to 100 parts copper.

Half-brigade: half an artillery company.
Half-pay: pay accorded an officer who held a com­mission but had no employment.
Handspike: lever used to manoeuvre a cannon.
Housings: horse furniture.
Howitzer: light short-barrelled cannon  which fired a heavy projectile with considerable accuracy at a             high angle of elevation

Instrument (or Desagulier's Instrument): device for discovering internal cracks in cannon-barrel.

Jaggers: nickname of 5/60th (anglicization of German lagers = riflemen). 
Jingling Johnny: musical instrument of bells on a pole.
Johnny Newcombe: a newly-enlisted soldier or one unused to campaigning.
Junk Wad:  Rope wad which was inserted into muzzle-loading gun between the gunpowder and the             shot

Keep: Central tower of a fort or castle serving as a position of last defence
Knapsack: infantry pack.

Laboratory: room or tent where the powder was made into cartridges.
Langridge: coarse grapeshot.
Light Ball: illumination-flare.
Light Bobs: nickname for light infantry.
Limber: two-wheeled carriage connecting cannon with gun-team.
Linstock: pike holding slow-match.
Lobster: colloquialism for a soldier (from the red coat).
Local Militia: part-time 'home guard' formed in 1808.
Lunette: triangular fortification on or beyond a glacis.
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'Lobster' Red Coat Soldier
'Lobster' Red Coat Soldier

Machicolation:  gallery projecting from the wall of a tower with openings between the corbels                    through which fire can be brought on an enemy at the base of the tower
Musket:  standard smooth-bore hand-gun used by armies, until made obsolete by the introduction of              the rifle in the nineteenth century
Magazine: (1) storage-place for ammunition; (2) extra cartridge-box.
Marching Division: nickname for 6th Division, Peninsular War.
Match: impregnated burning-cord for igniting cannon.
Marquis: large tent, now 'marquee'.
Militia: home-defence force raised partly by ballot.
Mongrels: nickname for 7th Division, Peninsular War.
Mosquito trousers: breeches and gaiters in one piece.
Mother Shipton: tall 'round hat' named after Yorkshire witch.
Music: regimental band.
Musketoon: light musket.

Nature: weight or classification of an artillery piece.
Necessaries: personal kit.

Observing Division: nickname for 2nd Division, Peninsular War.
Old Trousers: British nickname for French drum-call Pas de charge'; thus 'here comes Old Trousers' =          'the French are charging'.
Ordenanca: Portuguese militia.
Outpost: outlying picquet; scouting-work in general.
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Parallel: siege-trench running parallel to enemy fortification.
Parapet: stone breastwork designed to give the defenders on a wall or tower cover from fire and                  observation
Pas de souris:  staircase giving access to a ditch
Park: artillery reserve.
Parole: (1) system of releasing prisoners-of-war from confinement on their promising not to escape;
             (2) password.
Pelisse: (1) furred hussar jacket; (2) officer's braided frock-coat.
Petard: an explosive device for blowing-in a gate.
Picker: wire needle for clearing musket touch­hole.
Piece: any cannon (originally 'fieldpiece').
Pioneer: regimental artificer or carpenter.
Pioneers: nickname for 5th Division, Peninsular War.
Picquet: infantry outpost or sentinel.
Portfire: holder for a slow match.
Post: outpost, sentinel.
Pounder:  definition of the power of a muzzle-loading gun by the weight of the shot fired
Prepared ammunition: ball and propellant in a cartridge.
Present: to 'present fire' = to aim.
Prog: colloquialism for food.
Prolonge: rope attaching cannon to team to obviate unlimbering.
Provisional Cavalry: similar to Fencible Cavalry.
Provisional corps: composite units formed from detachments.

















Queue: (1) pigtail-hairstyle; (2) tobacco plug shaped like a pigtail.
QF:  quick-firing
Quatrefoil:  four-cusped figure resembling a leaf with four branches (e.g., a four-leafed clover)
Quick-match: quick-burning match.
Quoin: wooden block used for elevating a cannon-barrel.

Racer:  Circular or semi-circular, horizontal metal rail along which the traversing platform of a heavy             gun moves.
Rampart: earth or masonry wall forming main defence of fortress.
Ravelin: triangular detached fortification in front of a fortress-wall.
Recruiting regiment: one formed to be split up immediately and the men drafted to other regi­ments.
Redan: V-shaped fortification.
Redoubt: detached fortification, or a redan in a bastion.
Reinforces: reinforcing-bands on a cannon-barrel.
Render (to):  To cover with a coat of plaster
Revetment: retaining-wall of a fortification. Round hat: short 'topper' with wide or upturned brim.
RML:  Rifled muzzle loader: type of gun in use between 1850 and1890, just before the advent of modern breech-loading (BL) guns
Running ball: musket-charge without wadding. Sabot: wooden shoe on 'fixed ammunition'.
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Sallyport: Passage giving access to the ditch for use by the defenders making a counterattack or               sortie
Sap faggot: fascine eight inches thick, three feet long.
Sap roller (or `gabion farci'): gabion rolled in front of a sapper to shield him from enemy fire.
SB: Smooth-bore
Sea Fencibles: naval home-defence volunteers based in sea-ports. Find out more
Sentinel: sentry.
Serpent: woodwind musical instrument.
Shell: (1) explosive artillery projectile; (2) sleeve­less jacket.
Shot:  Non-explosive solid projectile fired from a muzzle-loading gun
Skilly: thin, watery soup.
Slow-match: rope fuse which was slow burning.
Smoke Holes or Vents:  small circular holes above windows in forts/Martello Tower that dissipate                   musket smoke in times of siege.
Spadroon: straight-bladed, light sword. Spatterdash: long gaiters.
Spherical case: shrapnel shell.
Spontoon: half-pike.
Stirabout: stew or stock-pot.
Stock: leather strip worn around the neck.
Storm-poles: palisade planted on a scarp, pro­jecting horizontally or slightly downwards.
Stucco:  Coarse plaster or cement used to cover the exterior surfaces of walls
Subdivision: one artillery-piece, crew and waggon.
Substitute: militiaman paid to serve in place of one selected by ballot.
Suffocating pot: sulphur/nitre composition, when ignited causing distress to the enemy, or used for                 fumigation.
Sugar-loaf: any tall, cylindrical head-dress.
Supporting Division: nickname for 4th Division, Peninsular War.
Sweeps: (1) nickname for 95th Rifles (from dark uniform); (2) (nautical): oars.

Quatrefoil Martello Tower
Quatrefoil Martello Tower




Sea Fencible
Typicla Sea Fencible

Tarleton: fur-crested light dragoon helmet, named after General Banastre Tarleton.
Terreplein:  area on top of a rampart or tower and surrounded by a parapet where guns are mounted
Tete de point: fortification defending the approaches to a bridge
Tin helmet: lightweight cavalry helmet for tropi­cal use.
Toise: old French unit of measurement, used for measuring fortifications; = 6.395 English feet.
Tow Rows: nickname for grenadiers (from the chorus of the march British Grenadiers).
Trefoil: Three-cusped figure resembling a leaf with three branches (e.g., a shamrock)
Triangle: framework of spontoons to which a prisoner was tied before flogging.
Truck: small, solid wheels for artillery carriage.
Trunnions: projecting-lugs on a cannon-barrel. fitting onto the carriage.
Turban: cloth strip around a helmet.
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Valenciennes composition: an incendiary mixture of saltpetre, sulphur, antimony and Swedish                  pitch.
Vedette: cavalry scout.
Volunteers: (1) part-time 'home guard'; (2) aspi­rant officers serving in the ranks until a commission                became vacant.    Find out more    

Wadmiltilt: waterproof tarpaulin made of wool. retaining the natural oils of the sheep.
Wallpiece: Small, muzzle-loading gun usually mounted on the wall of fortress and traversed by means           of a swivel (sometimes called a swivel gun)
Waterdeck: waterproof, painted canvas saddle-cover.
Water fascine: fascine weighted with stone :c make it sink into marshy ground.
Watering cap: cylindrical shako worn by cavalry in undress uniform, orig when watering horses. Watchcoat: greatcoat.
White light: see 'Chinese light'.
Wing: (I) half an infantry battalion (or more loosely any element of a battalion);
           (2) shell-like epaulette worn by flank companies.
Whiskers: facial hair, moustaches, etc; also used as a colloquialism for grenadiers, who at times wore               moustaches.
Wolf-pit: cone-shaped pit used as anti-personnel: trap; also trou de loop.
Worm: corkscrew-device for extracting an unfired charge from a gun-barrel.

Yeomanry: volunteer cavalry.

Zigzag: approach-trench in siege warfare.

Terreplein on Martello Tower




'Watering Cap' British Army Shako 1806
'Watering Cap' British Army Shako 1806


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