This information is taken from the American Civil War Field Fortifications Website and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the webmaster to whom thanks are due. Copyright, of course, remains with P. E. McDuffie.
Literally translated from the French, the phrase chevaux de frise means 'Frisian horses'. In this context it refers to obstacles erected as a means of defence.
Right: Chevaux-de-frise on Marietta Street, Atlanta, Georgia, USAChevaux-de-frise were useful for the obstruction of roads and intervals between field works where it was undesirable to construct more permanent and unmovable types of obstructions. They could also be used where the ground was either too hard or too soft to erect palisadings or stockades. Chevaux-de-frise could stop cavalry dead in its tracks, but really were not a serious obstacle to the passage of infantry. Because chevaux-de-frise were time consuming to construct and required special tools and some carpentry skill to bore the holes for the cross stakes (called lances) they were generally only used where armies had plenty of time and labor available to develop their field works. Like all wooden field works they could be shattered by artillery very quickly.
Last modified 16 May 2002