SEPTEMBER 11 1683

I wrote this back in 2002, and have published it in a couple of places. It remains just as importnant today as is did back then. The Muslims NEVER forget anything.

The Battle of Vienna took place on September 11 and September 12, 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. The battle broke the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, and marked the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Turks and Muslim influence.

The battle was won by Polish-Austrian-German forces led by King of Poland Jan Sobieski against the Ottoman Empire army commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. The battle was the schwerpunkt of the 300-year struggle between Christians and Muslims in Europe. Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Austrians occupied southern Hungary, Transylvania and the Balkans, creating an empire that lasted until 1919 and blocking, petrmanently, Muslim advances into Europe.

In 1681Protestant forces, led by Imre Thököly, were reinforced with forces from the Ottoman Turks, who recognized Imre as King of “Upper Hungary”. The Turks promised the “Kingdom of Vienna” to the Protestants for their help in destroying the Catholic Hapsburgs.

The forward march of Ottoman Army elements began in April 1683 from Edirne in Thracia.

During the winter of 1682, the Habsburgs and Poland concluded a treaty in which Leopold would support Sobieski if the Turks attacked Kraków; in return, the Polish Army would come to the relief of Vienna, if attacked.

The Turkish Army reached Belgrade by early May 1683, then moved towards Vienna. 40,000 Tatars, twice as many as the Austrian forces in that area, arrived at Viena on July 7. After initial fights, Leopold evacuated 80,000 inhabitants of Vienna to Linz..

The King of Poland 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 Protestant leader of Hungary, whom he threatened with destruction if he tried to take advantage of the situation — Thököly did anyway as he was firm in his belief the Turks would hold Vienna long enough for him to move through Poland and Brandenburg..

The siege began on 14 July 1683, by 138,000 Turkish troops. Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, leader of the 11,000 troops and 5,000 citizens and volunteers who remained in Vienna, refused to capitulate.

The Turks had two options: first, an all-out assault, which virtually guaranteed success since they outnumbered the defenders almost 20-1; and second, to lay siege to the city, and this was the option they chose.

While against military logic, assaulting well defended fortifications has always resulted in very heavy casualties for the attackers. A siege was a reasonable course of action to minimize casualties and capture the city intact, and nearly succeeded. The Turks did not take into account that time was not on their side. Their lack of urgency, combined with the delay in advancing their army after declaring war, allowed a relief force to arrive. Historians have speculated 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 such an assault.

The Turks cut every means of food supply into Vienna, and the garrison and civilian volunteers suffered extreme casualties. Increasingly desperate, the forces holding Vienna were on their last legs when in August, Imperial forces under Charles V, Duke of Lothringen beat Imre Thököly at Bisamberg, 5km northeast of Vienna.

On 6 September, the Poles crossed the Danube 30km from Vienna at Tulln, to unite with the Imperial forces and troops from Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia who had answered the call for a Holy League from Pope Innocent XI. Only Louis XIV of France not only declined to help, but used the opportunity to attack cities in Elsass and other parts of southern Germany.

During early September, 5000 experienced Turkish sappers repeatedly blew up large portions of the walls, creating gaps of about 12m in width. The Austrians tried to counter by digging their own tunnels, to intercept the depositing of large amounts of gunpowder in subterranean caverns. The Turks finally managed to occupy the Burg Ravelin and the Nieder Wall on 8 September. Anticipating a breach in the city walls, the remaining Austrians prepared to fight in Vienna itself.

Despite international 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. The motivation was high, as this war was not as usual for the interests of kings, but for Christian faith. And, unlike the crusades, the battleground was in the heart of Europe.

30,000 Polish troops under King Jan Sobieski of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
18,500 Austrian troops led by Charles V, Duke of Lothringen,
19,000 Franconian, Swabian and Bavarian troops led by Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck, and
9,000 Saxon troops led by John George III, Elector of Saxony.
arrived on September 11.

The battle started when Turkish forces tried to interfere with the Holy League’s troop deployment. A move forward was made by Charles, the Austrian army on the left, and the German forces in the center.

Mustafa Pasha launched a counter-attack, with most of his force, but holding back parts of the elite Janissary and Sipahi for the invasion of the city. Turkish sappers had prepared another large and final detonation under the Löbelbastei, to provide access to the city. While the Turks hastily finished their work and sealed the tunnel to make the explosion more effective, the Austrian “moles” detected the cavern and one of them entered and defused the load just in time.

At the same time, the Polish infantry had launched a massive assault upon the Turkish right flank. Instead of focusing on the battle with the relief army, the Turks tried to force their way into the city, carrying their crescent flag.

After 12 hours of fighting, Sobieski’s Polish force held the high ground. About 1700 four cavalry groups, one Austrian-German, and three Polish, totaling 20,000 men, charged down the hills. The attack was led by the Polish king in front of a spearhead of 3000 heavily armed winged Polish lancer hussars. This charge broke the lines of the Turks, who were tired from the long fight on two sides. The cavalry headed straight for the Turkish camp, while the Vienna garrison sallied out and joined in the assault.

The Turkish army was tired and dispirited following the failure of both the sapping attempt and the brute force assault of the city, and the arrival of the cavalry turned the tide of battle against them, sending them into retreat to the south and east. Less than three hours after the cavalry attack, the Catholic forces had won the battle and saved Vienna from capture.

The Turks lost about 15,000 men in the fighting, compared to approximately 4,000 for the Habsburg-Polish forces.

Several culinary legends are related to the Battle of Vienna:

One legend is that the croissant was invented in Vienna, either in 1683 or in an earlier siege in 1529, to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags. Although this version is supported by the fact that croissants in French Language are referred to as Viennoiserie and the French popular belief that Vienna born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770, there is no further evidence that croissants existed before the 19th century.

Another legend from Vienna has the first bagel as being a gift to King Jan Sobieski to commemorate the King’s victory over the Turks that year. The baked-good was fashioned in the form of a stirrup, to commemorate the victorious charge by the Polish cavalry. The truth of this legend is very uncertain, as there is a reference in 1610 to a similar-sounding bread, which may or may not have been the bagel.

After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Turkish 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 or Marco d’Aviano, the Capuchin friar and confidant of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino.

It is also said that when the Turks 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 rest of “Western” countries) acquired Cymbals, Bass Drums, and Triangles.

The behaviour of Louis XIV of France set the stage for centuries to come: German-speaking countries had to fight wars simultaneously in the West and the East. While German troops were fighting for the Holy League, Louis ruthlessly used the occasion to annex territories in western Europe, such as Luxembourg, Eldsaß and Lothringen, (which he renamed Alsace and Lorraine), Strasbourg, etc. Due to the ongoing war against the Turks, Austria could not support the interest of German allies in the West. The biography of Ezechiel du Mas, Comte de Melac illustrates the deliberate devastations of large parts of Germany by France.

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 September 12.

About vonMesser

Retired from the US Navy (21 years) and state (20 years). Recently remarried after being widowed for 5 years. 2 daughters, and a step-daughter, all functioning adults). Graduated from college after the Navy with BA in Education, psychology, Economics, History and Political Science. Teach Hunter Safety for Washington (since 1991) and do historical reenactments for Civil War, WW-1and WW-2.
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One Response to SEPTEMBER 11 1683

  1. Uriel says:

    I am not much military minded. What I found interesting is

    –the September 11 date – which from what I have read appears prominent in Islamic occurrences (I find odd that they seem to always war at that day but suffer mightily during that days fighting – as superstitious and focused on date significances one would think that they would Never war on those days)

    –Poland has seemed to always be one to rise up against Muslims strongly,

    –Christians (Catholic army) also have and will defend or fight but not as a first response.

    –out of terrible circumstances can emerge the oddest and long lasting instances of change and habits. (For instance culinary changes)

    –The Islamic faith was born out of rejection, war, greed, conquest, and brutality. not ONE thing has changed or evolved about it since that time.

    –Other religions while having a similarities especially at times have never been as continually war-like, having changed and matured as civilization did.

    –It seems the greatest pivotal points in religious and civilization history since Islam was founded somehow always is found between them as a religion pitted against Christians yet ultimately after much struggle and a final siege Christians have succeeded in crushing Islam – like a cycle of good and evil.