Battle of Trenčín
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (April 2010)
|Battle of Trenčín|
|Part of the Rákóczi's War of Independence|
Memorial of the Battle of Trenčín
|Kuruc Army of Francis II Rákóczi
House of Benyovszky
House of Revay
|Habsburg Imperial Army
Serbs from Vojvodina
House of Ocksay
|Commanders and leaders|
|Francis II Rákóczi
Antoine de La Motte
|15,000 infantry and cavalrymen, 12 cannons||around 5,000 infantry and cavalrymen, 3,000 Serbian valiant|
|Casualties and losses|
|3,000 dead or wounded, 500 POW
12 cannons captured
|200 dead or wounded|
The Battle of Trenčín (German: Schlacht bei Trentschin, Hungarian: Trencséni csata, Slovak: Bitka pri Trenčíne) was a battle between the Hungarian Kuruc forces of Francis II Rákóczi and the Imperial Army of the Habsburgs. It was part of Rákóczi's eight-year-long War of Independence.
The battle caused great losses for the Kuruc army, forcing them to give up their plans of obtaining allies in the War of the Spanish Succession against the Habsburgs. The battle also meant that the Habsburgs maintained their positions as the Kings of Hungary.
In the year 1708, Francis II Rákóczi decided to march his troops into Silesia, to pave the way for the plans of Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia to take the Hungarian crown, thus reinforcing the Silesian Protestants as well. His army started to march down the Váh river, and planned to pass by the town of Trenčín on their way to Moravia. However, Trenčín was in the hands of a reinforced Habsburg garrison. At first, Rákóczi had no intention to besiege Trenčín, as to not weaken his army, but under pressure of other Kuruc commanders, he decided to do so. The commander of the garrison, Sigbert Heister, found out about the moves of the Kuruc army, and started preparing his soldiers for the attack.
At the morning of 3 August 1708, 8,000 Habsburg-Serbian soldiers faced 15,000 Kuruc soldiers, with 12 cannons. The right wing of the Hungarian Kuruc army was composed of light cavalry and part of the infantry under command of Lőrinc Pekri. The middle was composed by the artillery, protected by the German cavalry, as well as with the Polish and German carabiniers under command of colonel de la Motte. The left wing was made out of the rest of the infantry. The terrain ahead of them, however, was unclear, with moats going through it. When Sigbert Heister saw the number of Kuruc troops, and their advantageous standing, he decided to retreat into Trenčín Castle. At the moment of giving this order, the Kuruc artillery started firing, with Pekri's wing advancing to attack the Habsburg soldiers while they were still organising.
But the terrain was unsuitable for attack. The terrain was rugged, with two man-made ponds being next to each other, with an embankment between them. Pekri's cavalry started to go through the embankment at the trot. Meanwhile, Pekri was warned that the narrow passage might cause difficulties; he therefore decided to retreat from those positions. While his cavalry started to turn back, it became disorganized, of which the troops of Imperial commander János Pálffy - a loyalist Hungarian - took advantage; they counter-attacked, and caused the disorganized horsemen to flee.
The middle and left wing meanwhile fought off Imperial mercenaries, but the flight of the right wing brought about uncertainty among the troops. Rákóczi tried to impress his soldiers and personally entered the fight. When jumping one of the moats, however, he fell from his horse and lost consciousness. Rumours about his death started to spread between his soldiers, and even the fighting troops started to flee. Heister's cavalry broke the originally three times bigger Kuruc army during the next three hours. As a result, around 3,000 Kuruc soldiers died or were wounded, 500 were captured, along with all of their 12 cannons; Habsburg royalist losses were small in comparison.
The Kuruc troops were heavily defeated in the Battle of Trenčín, revealing that they had smaller fighting capability than their foes. Heister's troops chased the remainder of Rákóczi's soldiers, captured North-Hungarian mining towns, took Nitra, and started to besiege Nové Zámky. By the end of the year 1708, the Kuruc rebels had lost all of North-western Hungary and part of the Kuruc soldiers joined the Habsburgs army. Soon, the rebels lost Bars, Hont, the town of Zvolen and at the beginning of 1709, had to retreat from Liptov.
In December 1708, Rákóczi tried to save the situation of his declining army by promising freedom and land grants to the peasants who fought by his side. However, this failed to have any notable effect, as peasants and nobles continued deserting from his army.
The growing defeatism and moral decline provoked by the defeat at Trenčín therefore marked the beginning of the ultimate defeat of Rákóczi's War for Independence and the perpetuation of the Kingdom of Hungary remaining subjugated to Austrian rule.