Battle of Vienna
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|Battle of Vienna|
|Part of the Great Turkish War, the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, and the Polish–Ottoman War|
Battle of Vienna on 12 September 1683
|Poland|| Ottoman Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
| Jan III Sobieski (commander)
Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg
Charles of Lorraine
John George III of Saxony
Georg Friedrich of Waldeck
| Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha
Kara Mehmed of Diyarbakir
Ibrahim of Buda
Abaza Sari Hussein
Pasha of Karahisar
15,000 soldiers+ 8,700 volunteers
50,000 Germans and Austrians
A total of around 110,700
130 field guns + 19 medium-caliber cannons
|Casualties and losses|
Relief force: 4,500
Among other losses:
|Battle: 60,000 20,000 during siege 40,000 during battle|
The Battle of Vienna (German: Schlacht am Kahlenberg, Polish: Bitwa pod Wiedniem or Odsiecz Wiedeńska, Turkish: İkinci Viyana Kuşatması) is a battle that took place on 11 and 12 September 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. It was a battle of the Holy Roman Empire in league with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Holy League) versus the Ottoman Empire and chiefdoms of the Ottoman Empire, and took place at the Kahlenberg mountain near Vienna. The battle marked the beginning of the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty in the Holy Roman Empire and Central Europe.
The battle was won by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the latter being only represented by the forces of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (the march of the Lithuanian army was delayed, as a result of which they arrived in Vienna after it was relieved). The Viennese garrison was led by Ernst Rüdiger Graf von Starhemberg, subordinate of Leopold I Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor. The overall command was held by the commander of the Polish Crown's forces, the King of Poland, Jan III Sobieski.
The alliance fought the army of the Ottoman Empire and those of Ottoman fiefdoms commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. The siege itself began on 14 July 1683, by the Ottoman Empire army of approximately 90,000–300,000 men. The besieging force was composed of 60 ortas of Janissaries (12,000 men paper strength) with an observation army of c.70,000 men watching the countryside. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of approximately 84,000 men had arrived.
It has been suggested by some historians that the battle marked the turning point in the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, the 300-year struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. However, an opposing view sees the battle as only confirming the already-decaying power of the Ottoman Empire. Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Habsburgs of Austria gradually occupied and dominated southern Hungary and Transylvania, which had been largely cleared of the Ottoman forces. The battle is also notable for including the largest cavalry charge in history.
The capture of the city of Vienna had long been a strategic aspiration of the Ottoman Empire, due to its inter-locking control over Danubean (Black Sea-to-Western Europe) southern Europe, and the overland (Eastern Mediterranean-to-Germany) trade routes. During the years preceding the second siege (the first one was in 1529), under the auspices of grand viziers from the influential Köprülü family, the Ottoman Empire undertook extensive logistical preparations this time, including the repair and establishment of roads and bridges leading into the Holy Roman Empire and its logistical centers, as well as the forwarding of ammunition, cannon and other resources from all over the Ottoman Empire to these logistical centers and into the Balkans. Since 1679 the plague raged in Vienna.
On the political front, the Ottoman Empire had been providing military assistance to the Hungarians and to non-Catholic minorities in Habsburg-occupied portions of Hungary. There, in the years preceding the siege, widespread unrest had become open rebellion upon Leopold I's pursuit of Counter-Reformation principles and his desire to crush Protestantism. In 1681, Protestants and other anti-Habsburg Kuruc forces, led by Imre Thököly, were reinforced with a significant force from the Ottomans, who recognized Thököly as King of "Upper Hungary" (eastern part of today's Slovakia and parts of today's northeastern Hungary, which he had earlier taken by force of arms from the Habsburgs). This support went so far as explicitly promising the "Kingdom of Vienna" to the Hungarians if it fell into Ottoman hands. Yet, before the siege, a state of peace had existed for twenty years between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, as a result of the Peace of Vasvár.
In 1681 and 1682, clashes between the forces of Imre Thököly and the Holy Roman Empire (of which the border was then northern Hungary) intensified, and the incursions of Habsburg forces into Central Hungary provided the crucial argument of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha in convincing the Sultan, Mehmet IV and his Divan, to allow the movement of the Ottoman Army. Mehmet IV authorized Kara Mustafa Pasha to operate as far as Győr (the name during Ottoman period: Yanıkkale, German: Raab) and Komárom (Turkish: Komaron, German: Komorn) castles, both in northwestern Hungary, and to besiege them. The Ottoman Army was mobilized on 21 January 1682, and war was declared on 6 August 1682.
The logistics of the time meant that it would have been risky or impossible to launch an invasion in August or September 1682 (a three-month campaign would have got the Ottomans to Vienna just as winter set in). However this 15 month gap between mobilization and the launch of a full-scale invasion allowed ample time for Vienna to prepare its defense and for Leopold to assemble troops from the Holy Roman Empire and to set up an alliance with Poland, Venice and Pope Innocent XI. Undoubtedly this contributed to the failure of the Ottoman campaign. The decisive alliance of the Holy Roman Empire with Poland concluded a treaty in which Leopold promised support to Sobieski if the Ottomans attacked Kraków; in return, the Polish Army would come to the relief of Vienna, if attacked.
On 31 March 1683 another declaration, sent by Kara Mustafa on behalf of Mehmet IV, arrived at the Imperial Court in Vienna. On the next day, the forward march of Ottoman army elements began from Edirne in Thrace. The troops reached Belgrade by early May, then moved toward the city of Vienna. About 40,000 Crimean Tatar forces arrived 40 km east of Vienna on 7 July, twice as many as the Imperial troops in that area. After initial fights, Leopold retreated to Linz with 80,000 inhabitants of Vienna.
The King of Poland Jan III Sobieski prepared a relief expedition to Vienna during the summer of 1683, honoring his obligations to the treaty. He went so far as to leave his own nation virtually undefended when departing from Kraków on 15 August. Sobieski covered this with a stern warning to Imre Thököly, the leader of Hungary, whom he threatened with destruction if he tried to take advantage of the situation — which Thököly tried to. Jan Kazimierz Sapieha the Younger delayed the march of the Lithuanian army, instead devastating the Hungarian Highlands (now Slovakia), and arrived in Vienna after it was relieved.
Immediately tensions rose between the Polish, various German states, and Austrians over the relief of the city. Payment of troops' wages and supplies while marching was predominant among these. Sobieski demanded that he have to pay nothing for his march to Vienna since it was his efforts that would save the city. The Viennese government could not neglect the German troops marching as well. The Habsburg leadership scrambled to find as much funding as possible to pay for the troops, and arrange deals with the Polish to limit their costs.
|Troops||Infantry||Cavalry and Dragoons||Cannons||Total|
|Holy Roman Empire forces total relief:||29,600||17,800||124||47,250|
|Swabia & Franconia||7,000||2,500||12||9,500|
|Crown of the Kingdom of Poland||16,450||20,550||28||37,000
|Habsburgs and their confederates estimated total:||46,050||38,350||152||84,400|
Events during the siege
The main Ottoman army finally laid siege to Vienna on 14 July. On the same day, Kara Mustafa sent the traditional demand for surrender to the city.
Ernst Rüdiger Graf von Starhemberg, leader of the remaining 15,000 troops and 8,700 volunteers with 370 cannons, refused to capitulate. Only days before, he had received news of the mass slaughter at Perchtoldsdorf, a town south of Vienna whose citizens had handed over the keys of the city after having been given a similar choice.
The Viennese had demolished many of the houses around the city walls and cleared the debris, leaving an empty plain that would expose the Ottomans to defensive fire if they tried to rush the city. Kara Mustafa Pasha solved that problem by ordering his forces to dig long lines of trenches directly toward the city, to help protect them from the defenders as they advanced steadily toward the city.
The Ottomans had 130 field guns and 19 medium-caliber cannons which were insufficient against the defenders' 370 cannons. The fortifications of Vienna were very strong and up to date, and the Ottomans had to find a more effective use for their gunpowder: mining. Tunnels were dug under the massive city walls to blow them up with substantial quantities of black powder.
The lack of urgency by the Ottomans at this point, combined with the delay in advancing their army after declaring war, eventually allowed a relief force to arrive. Historians have speculated that Kara Mustafa wanted to take the city intact for its riches, and declined an all-out attack in order to prevent the right of plunder which would accompany an assault.
The Ottoman siege cut virtually every means of food supply into Vienna, and the garrison and civilian volunteers suffered extreme hardships. Fatigue became such a problem that Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg ordered any soldier found asleep on watch to be shot. Increasingly desperate, the forces holding Vienna were on their last legs when in August, Imperial forces under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine beat Imre Thököly of Hungary at Bisamberg, 5 km northwest of Vienna.
||This article appears to contradict the article War of the Reunions. (January 2013)|
On 6 September, the Poles under Jan III Sobieski crossed the Danube 30 km north west of Vienna at Tulln, to unite with the Imperial troops and the additional forces from Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia. Louis XIV of France declined to help its Habsburg rival, having just annexed Alsace.
The result of an alliance of John III Sobieski and the Emperor Leopold I was help from Poland and joining the allies by the army of Polish Hussars. The Command of the forces of European allies was entrusted to the Polish king, who had under his command 70 thousand soldiers, against a 100-thousand Turkish army. The exquisite command abilities and courage of John III Sobieski was already known in Europe. After saving Vienna, Pope Bl. Innocent XI instituted the feast in Mary's name on the day of 12 September, which played a decisive role in the battle. The pope also upgraded the papal coat of arms by adding Polish White Eagle with a crown. After the victory in the Battle of Vienna, the Polish king was also titled by the pope as "Defender of Faith" ("Defensor Fidei").
During early September, the experienced 5,000 Ottoman sappers repeatedly blew up large portions of the walls, the Burg bastion, the Löbel bastion and the Burg ravelin in between, creating gaps of about 12m in width. The Viennese tried to counter by digging their own tunnels, to intercept the depositing of large amounts of gunpowder in subterranean caverns. The Ottomans finally managed to occupy the Burg ravelin and the Nieder wall in that area on 8 September. Anticipating a breach in the city walls, the remaining Viennese prepared to fight within the city walls.
Staging the battle
The relief army had to act quickly to save the city and to prevent another long siege. Despite the bi-national composition and the short time of only six days, an effective leadership structure was established, centered on the King of Poland and his heavy cavalry (Polish Hussars). The Holy League settled its issues on payment by using all available funds from the government, taking loans from several wealthy bankers and noblemen, and receiving large sums of money from the Pope. Also, the Habsburgs and Poles agreed that the Polish government would pay for its own troops while still in Poland, but would be paid for by the Austrian government once into imperial territory. However, the Habsburgs had to concede to Sobieski and guarantee him first rights of plunder in the event of a victory.
Kara Mustafa Pasha, on the other hand, was less effective, despite having months of time to organize his forces, ensure their motivation and loyalty, and prepare for the expected relief army attack. He had entrusted defense of the rear to the Khan of Crimea and his cavalry force, which numbered about 30–40,000.
There are serious questions as to how much the Tatar forces participated in the final battle at Vienna. Their Khan felt humiliated by repeated snubs by Kara Mustafa. He reportedly[according to whom?] refused to attack the Polish relief force as it crossed the mountains, where the Tatar light horse would have had an advantage over the Polish heavy cavalry. Nor were they the only component of the Ottoman army to defy Mustafa openly or refuse assignments.
This left vital bridges undefended and allowed passage of the allied forces, which arrived to relieve the siege. Critics of this account[who?] say that it was Kara Mustafa Pasha, and not the Crimean Khan, who was held responsible for the failure of the siege.
Also, the Ottomans could not rely on their Wallachian and Moldavian allies. The Romanians resented the Ottomans, who extracted heavy tributes from their countries. The Ottomans also intervened in the internal politics of these countries, seeking to replace their ruling princes with mere Ottoman puppets. When George Ducas, Prince of Moldavia and Şerban Cantacuzino, Prince of Wallachia learned of the Ottoman plans, they tried to warn the Habsburgs. They also tried to avoid participating in the campaign, but the Ottomans insisted that they send troops. There are a great number of popular legends about the Wallachian and Moldavian forces in the siege. Almost invariably, these legends describe them loading their cannons with straw balls, in order to make no impact upon the walls of the besieged city[dubious ].
On arrival of the confederated troops on the Kahlenberg above Vienna, they signaled their arrival with bonfires. In the early morning hours of 12 September, before the battle, a Mass was held for the King of Poland and his nobles.
The battle started before all units were fully deployed. Early in the morning, at 4h, the Ottomans attacked, seeking to interfere with the deployment of the Holy League troops. Charles of Lorraine moved forward with the Imperial army on the left and the other Holy Roman Empire forces in the center.
Mustafa Pasha launched a counter-attack with most of his force, but held back some of the elite Janissary and Sipahi units for a simultaneous assault on the city. The Ottoman commanders had intended to take Vienna before Sobieski arrived, but time ran out. Their sappers had prepared another large and final detonation under the Löbelbastei, to breach the walls. While the Ottomans hastily finished their work and sealed the tunnel to make the explosion more effective, the Viennese "moles" detected the tunnel in the afternoon. One of them entered and defused the load just in time.
At that time, above the "subterranean battlefield", a large battle was going on, as the Polish infantry launched a massive assault upon the Ottoman right flank. Instead of focusing on the battle with the relief army, the Ottomans continued their efforts to force their way into the city.
There was a moment during the battle where Kara Mustafa personally ordered the execution of 30,000 Christian hostages.
After twelve hours of fighting, the Poles held the high ground on the right. On the flanks, it is recorded that out of the forest the Polish cavalry slowly emerged and received a cheer from the onlooking infantry who had been anticipating their arrival. The Holy League cavalry waited on the hills, and watched the infantry battle for the whole day. At about 17h, the Polish King ordered the cavalry attack in four groups, one of the Holy Roman Empire and three Polish. Twenty thousand horsemen charged down the hills (the largest cavalry charge in history). Jan III Sobieski led the charge at the head of 3,000 Polish heavy lancers, the famed "Winged Hussars". The Lipka Tatars who fought on the Polish side wore a sprig of straw in their helmets to distinguish themselves from the Tatars fighting on the Ottoman side. The charge broke the lines of the Ottomans, who were tired from the long fight on two sides. In the confusion, the cavalry headed straight for the Ottoman camps, while the remaining Vienna garrison sallied out of its defenses and joined in the assault.
The Ottoman troops were tired and dispirited following the failure of both the sapping attempt and the brute force assault on the city. The arrival of the cavalry turned the tide of battle against them, sending them into retreat to the south and east. In less than three hours after the cavalry attack, the Christian forces had won the battle and saved Vienna.
The Ottomans lost at least 20,000 men during the siege and up to 40,000 during the battle with Sobieski's forces (Ottoman accounts record it lower due to them not counting soldiers lost from Ottoman vassal/allied states and other Muslim volunteers)
The loot that fell into the hands of the Holy League troops and the Viennese was as huge as their relief, as King Sobieski vividly described in a letter to his wife a few days after the battle:
Ours are treasures unheard of... tents, sheep, cattle and no small number of camels... it is victory as nobody ever knew of, the enemy now completely ruined, everything lost for them. They must run for their sheer lives... Commander Starhemberg hugged and kissed me and called me his savior.
Starhemberg immediately ordered the repair of Vienna's severely damaged fortifications, guarding against a possible Ottoman counter-strike. However, this proved unnecessary.
Soon the Ottomans had disposed of their defeated commander. On 25 December 1683, Kara Mustafa Pasha was executed in Belgrade (in the approved manner, by strangulation with a silk rope pulled by several men on each end) by order of the commander of the Janissaries.
Despite the victory of the Christian allies there was still some tension between the various commanders and their armies. For example, Sobieski demanded that the Polish troops be allowed to have first choice at the spoils of the Turkish camp, since he believed it was his efforts entirely that saved Vienna. The German and Austrian troops were left with much smaller portions of the loot. Also the Protestant Germans, specifically Saxons, who had arrived to relieve the city were apparently subjected to verbal abuse by the Catholic populace of the Viennese countryside. The Saxons left the battle immediately, without partaking in the sharing of spoils and refusing to continue on any pursuit.
The victory at Vienna set the stage for Prince Eugene of Savoy's reconquering of Hungary and (temporarily) some of the Balkan lands within the following years. The Ottomans fought on for another 16 years, losing control of Hungary and Transylvania in the process, before finally giving up. The Holy Roman Empire signed the Treaty of Karlowitz with the Ottoman Empire in 1699.
The battle marked the historic end of the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into Europe.
In honor of Sobieski, the Austrians erected a church atop a hill of Kahlenberg, north of Vienna. The train route from Vienna to Warsaw is also named in Sobieski's honour. The constellation Scutum Sobieskii (Sobieski’s Shield) was named to memorialize the battle. Because Sobieski had entrusted his kingdom to the protection of the Blessed Virgin (Our Lady of Czestochowa) before the battle, Pope Innocent XI commemorated his victory by extending the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, which until then had been celebrated solely in Spain and the Kingdom of Naples, to the universal Church; it is celebrated on 12 September.
After the battle of Vienna, the newly identified constellation Scutum (Latin for shield) was originally named Scutum Sobiescianum by the astronomer Johannes Hevelius, in honor of Jan III Sobieski. While there are some few stars named after non-astronomers, this is the only constellation that was originally named after a real non-astronomer, who was still alive when the constellation was named, and that is still in use (three other constellations, satisfying the same requirements, never gained enough popularity to last until today).
The feast of the Holy Name of Mary is celebrated on 12 September on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church in commemoration of the victory in this battle of Christian Europe over the Muslim forces of the Ottoman Empire. Before the battle King Jan had placed his troops under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the battle Pope Innocent XI, wishing to honor Mary, extended the feast to the entire Church.
It is said[according to whom?] that when the Ottomans were pushed away from Vienna the military bands left their instruments on the field of battle, and that is how the Holy Roman Empire (and therefore the other Western countries) acquired cymbals, triangles, and bass drums.
One legend is that the croissant was invented in Vienna, either in 1683 or during the earlier siege in 1529, to celebrate the defeat of the Ottoman attack of the city, with the shape referring to the crescents on the Ottoman flags. This version of the origin of the croissant is supported by the fact that croissants in French are referred to as Viennoiserie, and the French popular belief that Vienna-born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770.
Another legend from Vienna has the first bagel as being a gift to King Jan Sobieski to commemorate the King's victory over the Ottomans that year. It was fashioned in the form of a stirrup, to commemorate the victorious charge by the Polish cavalry. The veracity of this legend is uncertain, as there is a reference in 1610 to a bread with a similar-sounding name, which may or may not have been the bagel.
After the battle, the Viennese discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Ottoman encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna, where, according to legend, Kulczycki himself added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino. There is no contemporary historical source connecting Marco d'Aviano, the Capuchin friar and confidant of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, to this spurious creation.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Vienna.|
- Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Army in 17th century from kismeta.com
- The Battle of Vienna at the Wilanów Museum Palace
- (German) German TV: Türken vor Wien
- (German) Arte TV: Türken vor Wien