Battle of Smolenice
|Battle of Smolenice|
|Part of Rákóczi's War of Independence|
|Kurucs (Kingdom of Hungary) with Slovak rebels|| Habsburg Empire
Holy Roman Empire
Kingdom of Denmark
|Commanders and leaders|
| Sándor Károlyi general
László Ocskay brigadeer
Miklós Bercsényi general
| General Johann von Ritschan
Guido von Starhemberg
Duke John Adolphus of Holstein-Plön
Colonel Leopold Maltzan
|ca. 15,000 (5,000-6,000 participated in the battle)||2331 infantries
|Casualties and losses|
|300-400 dead||700 captured, several hundred dead, 3 cannons|
The Battle of Smolenice (Hungarian: Szomolányi csata, German: Schlacht bei Smolenitz, Slovak: Bitka pri Smoleniciach) was a battle between an army of untrained Hungarian peasants, called the Kuruc and the forces of the Habsburg Empire, contingents of the Holy Roman Empire, and auxiliaries of Denmark. The battle occurred on May 28, 1704 at Smolenice in Upper Hungary, where the Kuruc army routed the Imperial forces and captured the Austrian commander. For a short time, the rebels threatened the safety of Vienna, marauding a number of villages in Lower Austria, Marchfeld, and Moravia.
In April 1704, Miklós Bercsényi led an uprising among the Hungarian and Slovak peasants in Upper Hungary, promising freedom to serfs on behalf of Rákóczi. Bercsényi's goal was the destruction of the army led by the Austrian general Johann von Ritschan. General von Ritschan left Moravia with the aim of reaching Pressburg (present-day Bratislava).
The Kuruc force had approximately 15,000 untrained fighters. Bercsényi commanded the light horsemen, a small number of infantry, as well as Slovak and Hungarian peasant rebels. The majority of the peasants used agricultural tools as weapons along with low-grade rifles.
Ritschan opposed Bercsényi's force with imperial forces from Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Denmark, and Germany. Although significantly outnumbered by the Kuruc forces, they were elite, highly trained and well-equipped. The imperial army, which consisted of 2331 infantry, 250 cavalry and 4 cannons, was composed of the following contingents
- 473 infantry under von Deutschmeister from Vienna
- 129 infantry under John Adolphus, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön
- 625 infantry under Guido von Starhemberg
- 468 infantry under Baron Georg Friedrich von Kriechbaum
- 454 infantry under command of Jung-Daun
- 182 Danish infantry under Colonel Leopold Maltzan
- 150 Cuirassiers under Captain Giordani Visconti
- 50 Cuirassiers under Graf Francis Taaffe
- 50 Dragoons under Marquis Captain Joseph-Paul de Vaubonne
The Austrian army moved to Smolenice and camped there on the 26th of May, to recover from fatigue after crossing the Carpathian Mountains. Ritschan wanted to wait at Smolenice until reinforcements arrived from another Austrian-Royalist army under the command of János Wolfy.
The Imperial Army hesitates
Ritschan was not aware that the rebel Kuruc army was gathering in the forest and was uprepared for an attack. When the Kuruc attack was reported, Ritschan called a council and proposed an advance by Červený Kane. However, Colonel Maltzan, Captain Visconti, and Deutschmeister, Ritschan's officers, all rejected his plan as the region was firmly controlled by the Kurucs and they feared for the safety of Moravia and Vienna.
The Kurucs attack
In the first stage of the battle, Brigadier László Ocskay and the Slovak rebels attacked Starhemberg's Austrian force, stopping his advance. The cavalry followed under Sandor Károlyi. Ocskay's Hussars were on alert near Smolenice as the most of the Slovaks remained in the forests and the Kuruc infantry were on their way to Smolenice.
The Austrians counterattack
Ritschan launched a counterattack by the skirmishers, and the Kuruc fusiliers retreated to the woods. Then, 2,000 Kuruc horsemen arrived; pushing back the Austrian cavalry. Starhemberg's forces were totally confused by the surprise attacks and his commanders recalled von Deutschmeister's regiment and the Danish infantries. In this clash, von Deutschmeister forced the Kuruc cavalry to retire after one and a half hours.
Nevertheless, the Kuruc surprise attacks had disrupted the Austrian army, which split into two. This allowed the Kuruc army to rout the Austrian, German, and Danish contingents one by one. Ritschan was wounded in the battle and tried to escape the encircling Kuruc forces with the Danish and Kierchbaum troops. Subsequently, the Danish contingent was caught and tried to back the Jung Daun troops.
Ritschan had made a tactical error. After the success of von Deutschmeister's regiment, he concentrated on the defense of equipment and skirmishers. But his soldiers were exhausted in crossing the mountains between Trnava and Jablonica.
The surprise Kuruc attack and movement disrupted the Austrians, allowing the Kurucs to surround and defeat the enemy forces. von Ritschan and a small force escaped and reached Jablonica, but von Ritschan himself was eventually captured.
Casualties and captives
Several hundred soldiers in the Austrian army were killed and 700 captured. The Hungarians lost 300-400 soldiers either injured or killed.
After their success in the Battle of Smolenice, Ocskay invaded Moravia and Károlyi took Lower Austria. Leopold I was forced to cancel his vacation in Laxenburg. On Leopold's birthday on 9th June 1704, Károlyi's cavalry set fire to German and Croatian villages near Vienna (at that time few Chakavian Croatians lived in Lower Austria). Károlyi's men also destroyed the Imperial Zoo near Vienna.
On 10 June, Károlyi returned to Hungary with a significant haul of war spoils. Károlyi and Forgách's armies tried to unite against Heister, but Heister was faster and defeated Forgách in the Battle of Koroncó. Thus, the victory near Smolenice became inconsequential and the Kurucs were defeated in Transdanubia. It was not until 1705, in the battle of Szentgotthárd that Bottyán the Blind regained the region.
- Háromszáz éve történt – a szomolányi csata (National Geographic)
- Bánlaky József: A szomolányi ütközet. 1704. május 28.-án
- R. Várkonyi Ágnes. Megújulások kora. Magyar Könyvklub. ISBN 963-548-471-2 (2001)