|Saving Europe: Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, Native of Graz
|The Great Turkish War began in 1683 with a grand invasion of 200,000 troops marching toward
Vienna, supported by Hungarian noblemen rebelling against Habsburg rule. Another Holy League
comprised of Austria, Poland, Venice and Russia was formed to stop them. On July 16,1683, the
Turks were standing in front of Vienna's gates again. Horrible stories were told in Vienna about the
people who were not able to escape from the enemy. All of the inhabitants of Perchtoldsdorf were
beaten to death by Turkish soldiers, and in the villages of Lilienfeld, Wilhelmsburg, Hainfeld, and
Türnitz most of the citizens were murdered, while hundreds of women were kidnapped and taken
to Turkey as slaves. The Turkish soldiers were likewise motivated, not from self defense, but by the
rich booty Vienna offered. Turks were attacking the terrified city in wave after wave, and the
situation inside the city became dire, with a scarcity of ammunition and food combined with rampant
dysentery. Turks were shooting with artillery day and night and there were fires everywhere.
Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, 1638-1701, military commander of Vienna was born in Graz.
Left with less than 20,000 men against 300,000 besieging Turks he refused to capitulate,
relying on the army of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor to relieve him and on the strength of the
Vienna city walls, which were soon breached by the Turkish Sappers who had dug tunnels
underneath the wall and detonated explosives. Vienna was soon teetering on collapse, but Von
Starhemberg's troops were well organized and disciplined. He organized companies of firefighters to
defuse bombs and concentrated the city's artillery at the point of Ottoman attack. However, the
Ottoman siege cut virtually every means of food supply into Vienna, and the garrison and civilian
volunteers suffered extreme misery and high casualties. Fatigue was such a problem that von
Starhemberg ordered any soldier found asleep on watch to be shot.
On September 5th, rescue was close. Kara Mustapha expected to take Vienna in five hours, but
made several tactical errors. He did not fortify his army or secure the hills of the Viennese woods.
The main battle took place at "Kahlenberg" hill.
The siege itself began on July 14, 1683, with the Ottoman Empire army numbering approximately
150,000 men, including 12,000 Janissaries with an observation army of approximately 70,000 men
watching the countryside. The decisive battle took place on September 11-12 , after the united relief
army of approximately 80,000 men had arrived.
On September 12, 1683, Christian forces included Duke Karl V von Lothringen with 8,000 men
on foot, 12,000 men on horses and 70 cannons. The Saxons under the command of Duke Johann
George III brought 7,000 men on foot, 2,000 on horses and 1,400 men with 16 cannons. The
Bavarian Count Max Emanuel came with 7,500 men on foot, 3,000 on horses and 26 cannons. The
Franken and Swabian troops under Count Georg Friedrich contributed 7,000 men on foot 2,500 on
horses and 28 cannons. The total Christian forces had 75,000 troops and 150 to 170 cannons. The
Turks had 30,000 men in the trenches around Vienna and 107,000 troops and 300 cannons to
oppose the Christian armies. Lastly, King Jan Sobieski III of Poland arrived with a force of 10,200
men on foot, 14,000 on horses and 28 cannons.
At four o'clock in the morning the Imperial soldiers were praying in a ceremony in open field. They
had been fighting for hours with grave losses while the Polish King waited on high ground watching,
the Germans having failed to persuade him to move forward and intervene earlier. Finally, the army
was divided into three groups: Imperials and Saxons on the left wing, Bavarians center, and the
Polish taking the right. Ibrahim, the Pascha of Ofen, broke forth upon the Poles and several troops
ran away. Count Ludwig of Baden then attacked with two of his Imperial dragoon regiments, and
succeeded in rolling back the Turkish line thanks in part to brilliant Prinz Eugen von Savoyen.
Duke Charles of Lorraine gained the victory by undertaking a daring wheeling movement with
doubling and flanking movements. They totally destroyed the Turkish Army and the road to Vienna
was now opened. Rüdiger von Starhemberg had heroically defended the city of Vienna with 10,000
men. The Turks lost at least 15,000 men with at least 5,000 men captured and all cannons, while the
Habsburg-Polish forces lost approximately 4,500 dead and wounded. Kara Mustafa was executed in
Belgrade later that year by order of the commander of the Janissaries. From this point on, European
confidence grew and the battlefield success of the Turks waned. After winning the Battle of Vienna,
the Europeans gained advantage and led the reconquest of Hungary which ended with the Treaty of
Karlowitz in 1699. Within the Ottomans, infighting developed, however, they still had immense
power as they had gained great wealth by their control over shipping and trade routes.
Poland, Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia all answered the call for a Holy League
supported by Pope Innocent XI.to save western civilization. Only Habsburg rival Louis XIV of
France declined to help, thus weakening the Emperor's forces in the east. Instead, he used the
opportunity to ruthlessly and greedily annex territories in western Europe such as Luxembourg and
Alsace with Strasbourg, just as France had done in the Thirty Years' War. Had the Ottomans won,
France would have immediately been the strongest nation in Europe. Because of the ongoing war
against the Turks, Austria could not lend support to her German allies in the West, and France
pounced at the opportunity.
It was not until later, when the combined Austrian and German forces of the “Empire of German
Nations” under the leaders Karl V von Lothringen, Max Emanuel von Bayern and Ludwig Wilhelm I
von Baden defeated the Turks at Harsany (Harschan) near Mohács in 1686-1687 that the Islamic
threat to the Christian Civilization finally came to a halt. Once again, France took advantage of the
situation to further raid, burn and plunder Germany. The repulsion of the Turks constituted the
climax of the Turkish Wars and to most Europeans, the salvation of Christianity. To commemorate,
church bells rang daily at noon and six throughout parts of Europe for many decades.
|1683: The Battle of Vienna, also known as The Second Siege of Vienna