The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 13

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Author: Prince Eugene of Savoy  | Date: A.D. 1717

Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks;
Siege and Battle of Belgrad

A.D. 1717

PRINCE EUGENE OF SAVOY

This struggle marked the disastrous end of a determined effort of the ottoman empire to recover lost possessions. It also resulted in giving all Hungary, with Belgrad and a part of Servia, permanently to Austria. After their last great invasion of Austrian territory and their crushing defeat by Sobieski and the Imperialists (1683), the Turks suffered many losses of territory at the hands of various European powers. In 1696 Peter the Great took from them Azov, an important entrance to the Black Sea. By the treaty of the Pruth (1711) this, with other Russian possessions, was again ceded to the Turks.

The temporary success led them to seek further recoveries. Their aim was chiefly directed against Austria and Venice, which had aggrandized themselves at the expense of the Moslem power. Turkish victories caused the Venetians to call in the aid of Austria. The Austrian intervention not only saved Venice, but once more checked the Turkish arms.

The Emperor Charles VI appointed as leader of the Austrian forces Prince Eugene of Savoy, already distinguished through a long series of wars as one of the greatest soldiers of his time, the companion of Marlborough. In 1716 Eugene defeated the grand vizier at Temesvar, and in the following year took Belgrad and destroyed the Turkish army, as told in his own racy and cavalier style.

FROM all sided men flocked to serve under me. There were enough to form a squadron of princes and volunteers. Among the former a Prince of Hesse, two of Bavaria, a Bevern, a Culenbach, one of Wuertemberg, two of Ligne, one of Lichtenstein, of Anhalt-Dessau, the Count of Charolai, the Princes of Dombes, of Marsillac, of Pons, etc.

The Emperor made me a present of a magnificent diamond crucifix, and strongly assured me that all my victories came, and would come, from God; this was getting rid of gratitude toward me; and I set off for Futack, where I assembled my army toward the end of May, 1717.

It was necessary to possess myself of Belgrade which for three centuries had been so many times taken and retaken. Luckily, I did not find there the cordelier, John de Capistran, who, with the crucifix in his hand, and in the hottest part of the fire during the whole day, defended the place so well: and Hunyady, who commanded there, against Mahomet II in 1456. Hunyady died of his wounds. The Emperor lost Belgrad; Mahomet lost an eye, and the cordelier was canonized.

Unfortunately the Grand Seignior had but too well replaced the wrong-headed grand vizier, who had been killed. It was the Pacha of Belgrad, who supplied the vacancy, called Hastchi Ali, who made the most judicious arrangements for the preservation of the place, and caused me a great deal of embarrassment. On June 10th I passed the Danube: my volunteer princes threw themselves into boats to arrive among the first, and to charge the spahis with some squadrons of Mercy, which had already passed below Panczova, to protect the disembarkation of some, and the bridge constructed for the others, with eighty-four boats. On the 19th I went, with a large escort, to reconnoitre the place where I wished to pitch my camp. Twelve hundred spahis rushed upon us with unequalled fury, and shouted "Allah! Allah!" I know not why one of their officers broke through a squadron which was in front, to find me at the head of the second, where I placed myself from prudential motives, having many orders to give. He missed me, and I was going to obtain satisfaction with my pistol when a dragoon at my side knocked him under his horse. On the same day we had a naval combat, which lasted two hours; and our saics having the advantage I remained master of the operations on the Danube. On the 20th I continued working on the lines of contravallation, under a dreadful fire from the place. Toward the end of June I advanced my camp so near Belgrad that the bullets were constantly flying over my head. A storm destroyed all my bridges: and, but for the courage of a Hessian officer, in a redoubt, I do not know how I should have been able to reestablish the one upon the Save.

Wishing to take the place on the side next the water, I caused a fort at the mouth of the Donawitz to be attacked by Mercy, who fell from his horse, in an apoplectic fit. They carried him away, thinking him dead. He was afterward successfully cured; but, being informed of his accident I went to replace him, and the fort was taken. The Prince of Dombes narrowly escaped being killed at my side by a bullet which made my horse rear. Mardily was killed in bravely defending a post which I had charged him to intrench. He demanded succor from Rudolph Heister, who refused him, and who was deservedly killed as a punishment for his cowardice, by a cannonball which reached him behind his chevaux-de-frise. I arrived, accidentally at first, with a large escort; I sent for a large detachment; I halted, and completely beat the janizaries, leaving, indeed, five hundred men killed upon the field, Taxis, Visconti, Suger, etc. The Pacha of Roumelia, the best officer of the Mussulmans, lost his life also.

On July 22d my batteries were finished. I bombarded, burned, and destroyed the place so much that they would have capitulated if they had not heard that the grand vizier had arrived at Missa, on the 30th, with two hundred fifty thousand men.

On August 1st we saw them on the heights which overlooked my camp, extending in a semicircle from Krotzka as far as Dedina. The Mussulmans formed the most beautiful amphitheatre imaginable, very agreeable to look at, excellent for a painter, but hateful to a general. Enclosed between this army and a fortress which had thirty thousand men in garrison, the Danube on the right, and the Save on the left, my resolution was formed. I intended to quit my lines and attack them, notwithstanding their advantage of ground: but the fever, which had already raged in my army, did not spare me. Behold me seriously ill, and in my bed, instead of being at the head of my troops, whom I wished to lead the road to honor.

I can easily conceive that this caused a little uneasiness at the court, in the city, and even in my army. It required boldness and good-fortune to extricate one’s self from it. The general who might have succeeded me would, and indeed, almost must, have thought that he should be lost if he retreated, and be beaten if he did not retreat. Every day made our situation worse. The numerous artillery of the Turks had arrived on the heights of which I have spoken. We were so bombarded with it, as well as with that from the garrison, that I knew not where to put my tent, for, in going in and out, many of my domestics had been killed. In the small skirmishes which we often had with the spahis, my young volunteers did not fail to be among them, discharging their pistols, though cannon-balls intermingled also. And one day, D’Esrade, the governor of the Prince of Dombes, had his Ieg shot off by his side, and one of his pages was killed. All our princes, whom I have enumerated above, distinguished themselves, and loved me like their father.

I had caused the country in the rear of the grand vizier’s army to be ravaged: but these people, as well as their horses and especially their camels, will live almost upon nothing. Scarcely an hour passed in which I did not lose a score of men by the dysentery, or by the cannon from the lines, which the infidels advanced more and more every night toward my intrenchments. I was less the besieger than the besieged. My affairs toward the city went on better. A bomb which fell into a magazine of powder completed its destruction and occasioned the loss of three thousand men.

At length I recovered from my illness; and, on August 15th, notwithstanding the ill-advice of persons who were not fond of battles, the matter was fixed. I calculated that listlessness and despair would produce success.

I did not sleep, as Alexander did before the battle of Arbela; but the Turks did, who were no Alexanders: opium and predestination will make philosophers of us. I gave brief and explicit instructions touching whatever might happen. I quitted my intrenchments one hour after midnight: the darkness first and then a fog rendered my first undertakings mere chance. Some of my battalions, on the right wing, fell, unintentionally, while marching, into a part of the Turkish intrenchments. A terrible confusion among them, who never have either advanced posts or spies; and, among us, a similar confusion, which it would be impossible to describe: they fired from the left to the centre, on both sides, without knowing where. The janizaries fled from their intrenchments: I had time to throw into them fascines and gabions, to make a passage for my cavalry who pursued them, I know not how: the fog dispersed and the Turks perceived a dreadful breach. But for my second line, which I ordered to march there immediately, to stop this breach, 1 should have been lost. I then wished to march in order: impossible! I was better served than I expected. La Colonie, at the head of his Bavarians, rushed forward and took a battery of eighteen pieces of cannon. I was obliged to do better than I wished. I sustained the Bavarians; and the Turks, after having fled to the heights, lost all the advantages of their ground. A large troop of their cavalry wished to charge mine, which were too much advanced; a whole regiment was cut in pieces; but two others, who arrived opportunely to their aid, decided the victory. It was then that I received a cut from a sabre; it was, I believe, my thirteenth wound, and probably my last. Everything was over at eleven o’clock in the morning. Viard, during the battle, retained the garrison of Belgrad, which capitulated the same day. I forgot that there was no Boufflers there: I played the generous man: I granted the honors of war to the garrison, who, not knowing what they meant, did not avail themselves of them. Men, women, and children, chariots and camels, issued forth all at once, pell-mell, by land and by water.

At Vienna the devotees cried out, "A miracle!" those who envied me cried out, "Good-fortune!" Charles VI was, I believe, among the former: and Guido Stahrenberg among the latter. I was well received, as might have been expected.

Here is my opinion respecting this victory, in which I have more cause for justification than for glory; my partisans have spoken too favorably of it, and my enemies too severely. They would have had much more reason to propose cutting off my head on this occasion than on that of Zenta, for there I risked nothing. I was certain of conquering: but here, not only I might have been beaten, but totally ruined and lost in a storm, for the enemy’s artillery to the left, on the shores of the Danube, had destroyed my bridges. I was, indeed, superior in saics and in workmen and artillerymen to protect or repair them: I had a corps also at Semlin.

Could I anticipate the tardiness or disinclination of the authorities who engaged in this war, where there were so many vices of the interior in administration, and so much ignorance in the chiefs of the civil and commissariat departments? Hence it was that I was in want 0( everything necessary to commence the siege, and to take Belgrad before the arrival of the grand vizier, and which hindered me afterward from checking him on the heights. This, however, I should have done-but for my cursed fever-before his artillery arrived. And then that unlucky dysentery, which put my army into the hospital, or rather into the burying-ground, for each regiment had one behind its camp-could I anticipate that also? These were the two motives which induced me to attack, and to risk all or nothing, for I wad as certainly lost one way as another. I threw up intrenchments against intrenchments: I knew a little more upon that subject than my comrade the grand vizier; and I had plenty of troops in health to guard them. I obliged him for want of provisions-for, as I have already said, I caused all the country in his rear to be ravaged-to decamp, and, consequently, Belgrad to surrender. Thus, if this manuscript should be read, give me neither praise, my dear reader, nor blame. After all, I extricated myself, perhaps, as Charles VI said, his confessor, and the pious souls who trust in God, and who wished me at the Devil, by the protection of the Virgin Mary, for the battle was fought on Assumption Day.

Europe was getting embroiled elsewhere. Some charitable souls advised the Emperor to send me to negotiate at London, reckoning that they might procure for another the easy glory of terminating the war.

I was not such a fool as to fall into this snare, and I set off for Hungary at the commencement of June, with a fine sword worth eighty thousand florins which the Emperor had presented to me.

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Chicago: Prince Eugene of Savoy, "Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks; Siege and Battle of Belgrad," The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 13 in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. Rossiter Johnson (Harrogate, TN: The National Alunmi, 1926), Original Sources, accessed May 24, 2019, http://omegasources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6G4RTXRPEMT6U2N.

MLA: Savoy, Prince Eugene of. "Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks; Siege and Battle of Belgrad." The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 13, in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, edited by Rossiter Johnson, Harrogate, TN, The National Alunmi, 1926, Original Sources. 24 May. 2019. omegasources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6G4RTXRPEMT6U2N.

Harvard: Savoy, PE, 'Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks; Siege and Battle of Belgrad' in The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 13. cited in 1926, The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. , The National Alunmi, Harrogate, TN. Original Sources, retrieved 24 May 2019, from http://omegasources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6G4RTXRPEMT6U2N.