Fort des Tetes

In 1709, an entrenched camp was built on a hill overlooking Briancon across the Durance.  This was done by Marshal Berwick using a Vauban design.  The hill dominates Briancon, so Fort des Tetes was built on the site between 1724 and 1734, a larger fort than Briancon itself.  The fort was connected to Briancon by road and the Pont d' Asfeld.  Contained a chapel, four barracks, an arsenal, and a governor's house among other buildings.  The site of Fort des Tetes was itself dominated by higher ground, so Fort Randouillet was also built, connected to Tetes by a work called Y Communication.

This is the view of the relatively lightly defended rear of the fort, which faces Briancon across a river gorge.  The opposite side has two faces, making the fort roughly triangular in shape.

The view above, from the hills to the front of the fort, shows the difficult terrain and how the fort design was adapted to the terrain.  To the right of the panorama, the ground drops into a valley, then rises to the site of Fort Dauphin, off the panorama to the right, that dominated the road to Italy but also helped protect Fort des Tetes.  The two prominent gates and the winding road to their front was the most approachable face of Fort des Tetes, so this area was protected by a number of outworks.  Visible to the left of this area are rock cliffs to the fort's front.  A relatively simple defense, partly terraced, protected this approach and also descended to Y Communication, a fortification designed to connect Fort des Tetes with Fort Randouillet on the high ground in front of Fort des Tetes.   Particularly steep ground on the left of the panorama made defense here relatively simple.  A Carnot Wall with loopholes and occasionally more complex works rises in a zig-zag trace from Y Communication along the slope to terrain nearly too steep to negotiate.

This view from a slightly different angle, from Fort Randouillet, shows the defenses better.   What appears to be a Carnot Wall, which would have to date several decades after the fort's construction, can be seen in the lower left.  We will walk along the wall to the fort then along the front of the fort.

Walking along the Carnot Wall, you find this open door revealing a corridor with musket loopholes.

 Here the terrain becomes quite rocky, so the wall ends, leaving the defense to nature.  I was able to climb around the wall, but this was not the safest thing that I did in France.  From here you can see the Y Communication which connects Fort des Tetes to Fort Randouillet on the rocky hill in the center of the panorama.

Walking further toward the fort, you can still see Y Communication and Fort Randouillet.  You can also see the cliffs that protect the flank of Fort des Tetes.

Continuing on, we reach the infantry fighting position - the covered way is the flat grassy area in front of the ditch.  The fort's trace to the right is a pretty standard design with bastions and curtain walls, but the area here is not-standard, with a wall to enfilade the ditch projecting forward to the cliff.  The bastion here makes use of pre-existing rock, cutting into it to create much of the wall.  Mining would have been difficult in terrain like this.  Next we walk to the right to the gate that we can see here.


You can descend into the ditch and inspect this odd feature.

Continuing through the ditch there is a tunnel into an outwork, blocked with barbed wire, undoubtedly for safety reasons.  Another gate is visible in the distance.

The ditch descends to a lower level here.

We have walked along the ditch separating the bastion from the outworks.  These two outworks are separated by a shallow ditch that is higher than the ditch surrounding the works.  This helps protect the works by keeping the enemy from getting between them.  The inner of the works is higher so that if the enemy captures the first one, it would be difficult to occupy.

The photo at right shows a feature more common with defenses near water, the pointed cylindrical device prevents an attacker from walking along the top of the wall.  This feature can be seen in the panorama just above the bridge. 

This portion of the fort was the easiest to approach and as a result was given a great deal of depth.  Here you can see the variety of outworks.  The demi-lune itself is an outwork, and it has another outwork to its right.  On the left side of the panorama are the two outworks separated by a shallow ditch.  

Here you can see the two outworks with the beginning of the walls descending to the Y Communication.

Note the musket firing ports within the curved section of the counterscarp.  

From Fort Dauphin

Here you can see this side of Fort des Tetes from a distance.  You can see terracing used as the fort's relatively straight trace descends along the slope.  A redan, which we will see next, is between two bastions.  The right of the two is the terraced feature in the center of the panorama.

This redan is situated between, and in front of, two bastions.  A postern, or sallyport, can be seen in the fort's curtain wall.  This allowed troops to move to and from the redan through the ditch.

Fort des Salettes can be seen in the background behind the embrasures that face in the ditch.


This is where the fort pivots to face Briancon across the distant valley.  The road to Italy can be seen through the valley.  Below you can see a zoomed view of the infantry defenses.

Copyright 2011 by John Hamill

Back to Briancon

Back to John's Military History Tour of Europe