26 August 1696: the battle at Hetény

The Reconquest Wars of Hungary

The battle at Hetény occurred during the Reconquest Wars of Hungary, between the Imperial and Ottoman armies. Although Emperor Leopold had a vested interest in acquiring Hungary, he did not share a friendly relationship with the Hungarians. The liberation of Hungary by Zrínyi Miklós aka Nikola Zrinski (1664) or later Thököly Imre would have resulted in a significant loss for the Habsburgs.

Emperor Leopold aka Lipót
Emperor Leopold I wanted to recapture Temesvár Castle, which was the goal of his army for that year. His general was the inexperienced Augustus, Elector of Saxony, who had made many mistakes and failures.
Elector Augustus
By now, the Empire had shown many signs of crisis due to the prolonged war, famine, and poverty. Their goal was to raise a military force of 50,000 men, but by the summer only 30,000 troops could be assembled at Buda Castle.
Leopold’s 10-Ducat gold coin
The situation wasn’t any better in the Ottoman Empire. Struggles with money and rebellions made it hard to gather an army. Eventually, the Ottomans could form a force of 50-60,000 soldiers, and Sultan Mustafa II chose Elmász Mehmed as Grand Vizier.
Sultan Mustafa II
The Imperial army left Buda Castle in early June and reached Csanád on the 26th of the same month. Subsequently, Elector Augustus dispatched scouts to Temesvár Castle, who had a confrontation with the Turk guards. The Hungarian Hussars conducted raids in the region, and the primary Imperial Army arrived in Temesvár on 3rd August. They were reinforced by the soldiers of General Jean-Louis Rabutin de Bussy and General Pfeffershoven, who had arrived from Transylvania.
Temesvár, 1656
The Ottoman army departed from Edirne on 18th June and reached Belgrade on 25th July, where they stayed for two weeks.
The slow progress of the siege of Temesvár persisted. The destruction of the walls didn’t start until mid-August when the siege cannons were deployed. The fort housed 10,000 Muslim defenders who were under the leadership of two Pashas.
Sultan Mustafa II
The Ottoman army sent reinforcements to attack Titel Castle in order to divert Elector Augustus’s attention from the ongoing siege, and they succeeded in doing so. On 18th August, the Elector dispatched cannons to Arad Castle and set his own army in motion against the Turks. However, due to his lack of battle experience, he had a difficult time in the fight.
Emperor Leopold I
The Turkish vanguards persistently attacked the advancing Imperial army. On 22 August, Elector Augustus came across trenches full of Janissaries between Párdány and Ittebe, forcing the Imperials to retreat 3,000 paces. to retreat 3,000 paces. The Sultan issued the command to advance on 24 August. The two armies confronted each other on the open field, and a fierce cannonade heralded the start of the battle. However, the Imperial artillery, positioned on higher ground, proved to be more potent.
a Jannisary elite soldier
Elector Augustus, on 25th August, made the decision to withdraw his army further in order to entice the Turks out of their locations. Despite this effort, he was unsuccessful and retreated as far as Hetény.
A German soldier from 1686; notice his plug-bayonet on his belt (picture by Somogyi Győző)
The Imperial generals awoke on the morning of 26th August to find that the entire Ottoman army was advancing towards them. The Turks pushed with such strength and intensity that they quickly took positions behind the Christian army. Thus, the deployment of the Imperial troops was altered, with the Saxon infantry regiments positioned on the right wing of the first line. The cavalry now stood in the middle and on the left wing.
The map of the Battle of Hétény (by Bánlaky)
The infantry soldiers under Prince Vaudemont were positioned on the right side of the second line, while General Polland’s cavalry stood on the left. Next to them, a wagon fort was constructed. The attack began with the right-wing assaulting the side of the Turkish army that was being deployed at that time. By 5 P. M., the Saxon infantry had successfully penetrated the enemy’s lines.
Turkish muskets
They encountered heavy rifle fire and the Ottomans dispatched 12,000 cavalrymen to confront them. This counter-attack resulted in significant losses for the Imperial forces. Only the Christian cavalry, which rushed to the aid of the Saxons, was able to push back the Turkish cavalry.
Johann Donat Heissler
In the meantime, General Heisler’s cavalry successfully dispersed the Janissary defenders of a wagon fort. After capturing the Turkish fortification, the enemy bombarded it ferociously with cannons and rifles. A counterattack by Turkish cavalry forced Heisler to abandon the wagons.
A Dragoon from 1686 (by Somogyi Győző)
The reinforcement, Vaudemont’s dragoons could not salvage the situation; two dragoon regiments were lost in the battle. Even Prince Vaudemont sustained severe injuries. Then, General Heiderscheim led his 1,000 cavalry soldiers into battle on the left wing, forcing the Turks to retreat until they reached the wagon fort. Despite his valiant efforts, the general was badly wounded and his cavalry began to retreat.
Guido von Starhemberg
Help came from General Rabutin, whose dragoons charged the enemy and rescued Heiderscheim’s horsemen.
Furthermore, a cavalry regiment was deployed to counter the Turkish forces who were compelled to retreat to their initial positions.
General Rose dispatched the Danish and Saxon infantry, who made skillful use of their rifles to considerable effect. In certain areas, they managed to penetrate the Turkish trenches, compelling the Sultan’s troops to retreat as far as the wagon fort.
a ring-bayonet
Their brave attack on the fort was ultimately unsuccessful due to the Janissaries’ deadly rifle fire, which resulted in significant losses for them. Despite taking 24 cannons, General Rose attempted a side attack and successfully surrounded and killed 1,000 Ottoman riders with his cannons, with a few managing to escape to the wagon fort.
Night has fallen: Elector Augustus has sent his cavalry to protect the infantry, confusing the Turks who feared another attack. They hastily retreated, yet the Sultan commanded his cannons to mercilessly strike down his own fleeing soldiers. Due to the darkness, the battle remained inconclusive.
Austrian cuirassiers
The Elector intended to launch a fresh attack the next day, however, upon hearing from the fugitives that the enemy was constructing elevated embankments around the wagon fort, he abandoned his strategy. Fearing a potential Turkish attack, he directed his forces to be positioned in battle formation the following morning.
Sipahies, 17th century
As for the Sultan, he chose not to attack due to the loss of 8,000 men and numerous high-ranking officers, which he considered a defeat. The Imperial Army also suffered casualties, including the death of General Poland, with 2,500 men lost, including many officers. Subsequently, both armies departed from the battlefield. Elector Augustus went to Zsomboly, while the Sultan marched to reinforce Temesvár Castle, resulting in a drawn Battle of Hetény.
Aeneas von Caprara
The Saxon Elector, also known as Augustus the Strong, ascended to the Polish throne the following year and withdrew from the Ottoman wars. He then faced numerous challenges from the Swedish king, Charles XII, who launched an attack on Poland.
Let me note that, strategically speaking, the Battle of Hetény may have been more beneficial to the Turks as they were able to retain the crucial fort of Temesvár.
Temesvár in 1910 (Now Timisoara, Romania)
You can read more about Temesvár on my page:

Source: Szibler Gábor

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