7-9 October 1683 The Battle of Párkány

King Sobieski of Poland said about the Battle of Párkány that it was a greater victory than the Battle of Kahlenberg at Vienna. You can learn the details of this grand fight on my page:


The Siege of Vienna, 1683 by Frans Geffels

Before the battle

After the Siege of Vienna in 1683, the triumphant Christian army chased only half-heartedly the fleeing Ottoman troops. When Vienna was relieved, most of the Imperial troops immediately set out for home, and King Leopold had no plans about continuing the war. However, Bounnvisi, the legate of the pope was persuading him every day to go on with the campaign. Finally, Leopold gave in and ordered Charles, Duke of Lorraine to advance. King Sobieski of Poland reacted earlier, though. He had already attacked the retreating enemy. 

King John Sobieski III of Poland

 Pasha Kara Mustafa arrived at Győr castle where he had the Pasha of Buda executed along with other high-ranking officers. Then, he reinforced Esztergom and Érsekújvár (Nové Zámky) and took himself to Buda castle. The Military Council of Vienna made a decision about the goal of the Imperial-Polish army on 2 October: they were to take Párkány and Esztergom. At that time, the combined army had already crossed the Vág River. Due to the bad weather, these goals seemed more achievable than the taking of the strong fort of Érsekújvár. 

Battle of Parkany in 1683, on the wall of Wilanów palace in Warsaw
There were 17-18,000 Polish soldiers in the vanguard of the Christian army, more than half of them were cavalrymen, marching toward Párkány. The men of Duke Charles, about 20,000 soldiers were coming behind them. About two-thirds of them were infantrymen. King Sobieski and his 5,000 Hussars were the first to reach the enemy around Párkány on 7 October.
The Battle of Párkány (by Bánlaky)

On the first day of the battle 

Duke Charles warned him to be cautious but the Polish ruler received such news that there were only fewer than 1,000 Ottoman warriors guarding Párkány castle so he threw himself into the fight, putting aside all cautions. He did not wait for the reinforcement but attacked the enemy headlong. However, the Turks set a trap for them, they herded lots of cattle before them. While the Polish riders were trying to make room and take the cattle away, the Turks ambushed them from the low hills. The surprise was helping the attackers, and they outnumbered the Polish 2 to 1. They were sure of the victory.
a Crimean Tatar (picture: Wacław Pawliszak)
The Polish were so far away from their own main army that they could not expect any help. They had no choice but to flee. Sobieski was almost abandoned, and it was Samuel Mirza Krzeczowski, a Lipka Tatar colonel who saved the life by cutting down the king’s two Ottoman attackers. The Turks beheaded the fallen Polish soldiers and put them on the walls of Párkány castle. The Polish lost about 1,500-2,000 warriors, more than at the siege of Vienna. Yet, King Sobieski could escape and he was able to go on with the campaign.

The decisive fight on 9 October

It was the day when the withdrawing Ottoman troops were utterly beaten in the two-day-long Battle of Párkány, not far from Komárom. As we have read, on the first day, the 5,000 Polish cavalries under King Sobieski were defeated by the Ottoman army led by Kara Mehmed Pasha. More than 1,000 Polish Hussars and dragoons were slain.

Hussars, illustration by Romeyn de Hooghe, 1687 (Rijksmuseum)

The 20-28,000-strong Austrian forces of Charles V, Duke of Lorraine arrived on the next day and together they attacked the Turks who tried to withdraw their army via the boat bridge between Esztergom and Párkány. Now, the full number of the Christian army was about 36,000 soldiers, outnumbering the enemy three or four times. King Sobieski was encouraging his warriors to fight back, and indeed, they all wanted to take revenge for their painful losses.

Duke Charles of Lorraine

There is an interesting history from the second battle of Párkány in 1683. In his letter to the Queen, King Sobieski mentioned that when he was setting up troops on the morning of 9 October, he stood in front of Hussar’s banners and ordered those who were still in possession of lances to move into the first rank. Many of them lost their weapons during the first battle (on 7 October) or abandoned them during the retreat. One of the retainers moved forward with his lance, on which companion of his retinue wanted to take the weapon off him.

The retainer wouldn’t hear about it though, saying ‘My lord, I managed to save this lance for myself from the [previous] encounter. I didn’t abandon it, like the others [theirs].’ King praised the brave retainer and gave him an award of five ducats. While he didn’t mention anything more about it, it is possible that the retainer was allowed to keep his place in the first rank, normally reserved for companions.

The Battle of Párkány

Duke Charles and his units were on the right wing and in the middle, while the troops of King Sobieski stood on the left wing. The Ottomans attacked first, and their cavalry on the right wing assaulted the Polish. Also, their middle turned to the right and targeted the Polish. They thought that the Polish must have been weakened in the previous battle so much that they could be beaten easily. But they were wrong. The Polish were fighting bravely and resisted until Count Dünnewald came to their aid, leading the cavalry of Duke Charles. Now, the Christian main army outnumbered the enemy and forced them back. The Ottomans withdrew under the protection of the cannons of Párkány castle. Yet, it created an impossible situation for the Ottoman left wing. They were abandoned and hopeless, and they had to retire. 

The Battle of Párkány 1683
 The Ottomans tried to flee across the boat bridge (a wooden structure floating on boats) that connected Párkány and Esztergom castle. Seeing this, the Austrians had the bridge bombarded to shreds, besieging and taking the Palisade of Párkány. Thus, the battle was not only a whole-scale battle on the field but it raged on the water and included a siege as well. Soon, the boat bridge collapsed under the weight of the fleeing men, and many soldiers drowned in the cold water of the Danube. The defenders of Párkány castle saw this, and panic broke out among them. Count Louis of Baden dismounted his dragoons who joined the Polish soldier in the assault against the palisade. The Polish were utterly angered by the view of the heads of their comrades put on the ramparts and gave mercy to no one. 
The charge of the Polish cavalry at Párkány

Finally, the men of the Duke and of the Polish King Sobieski won a decisive victory over the Ottomans, killing 8-9,000 of them. Unfortunately, the troops of Prince Thököly Imre were on the Turks’ side in this battle. During the next few days, the Imperials reinforced the fort of Párkány and buried the dead, then built a new boat bridge on 19 October. The Ottomans also sent reinforcement in Esztergom castle but it was in vain. 

The Battle of Párkány 1683

The fall of Esztergom on 28 October 1683

The siege of Esztergom began on 23 October, and the days of the town were numbered. Colonel Schärffenberg led a sweeping assault against the fort on Saint Thomas Hill, and he slew half of the guards and captured the rest of the defenders. When the entire Christian army was on the right bank of the Danube river, the bombardment of the castle began on 24 October. In the meantime, the army of General Mercy was guarding the road toward Buda because he was anticipating the arrival of an Ottoman reinforcing army. The troops of Duke Charles took the town of Esztergom with an assault on 25 October but the castle’s defenders were bravely holding their positions. 

Esztergom, 1683

Then, Pasha Ibrahim, the commander of the castle agreed to start negotiations with the besiegers on 27 October. In the end, Pasha Ibrahim and his 6,000 soldiers surrendered, and he ceded the castle to them on 28 October. They were allowed to leave Esztergom undisturbed but they left behind 50 cannons and 1,000 quintals of gunpowder. Esztergom, the ancient Hungarian royal center was taken by the Turks in 1543 and it used to be one of their most important headquarters in Hungary. They lost it only for a short time between 1595 and 1605 but they could retake it because of the uprising of Prince Bocskai István. But now, the 140-year-long Ottoman rule in Esztergom has come to an end.

Sobieski has a statue in Párkány (why not in Vienna, too?)

After this, King Sobieski set out for home but he had to go through the lands of Thököly where they were not welcome. Additionally, the Polish plundered the entire Nógrád County, punishing “the Turks”. They also took back Szécsény castle from the Ottomans who lost a sanjak center with the castle. Duke Charles returned to the army’s winter dwellings but after this victorious battle, nobody could think of a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire. This battle contributed to the launching of a series of campaigns to reconquest Hungary. In my opinion, the Austrians realized that the Turks could send another army against Vienna anytime, and there would not be ready Polish help to save them. They had to “liberate” Hungary before the Hungarians (like Prince Thököly) could take action and regain their ancient kingdom for themselves. 

The lands occupied by the “kuruc” troops of Thököly (light blue)
Source: Partly from Szibler Gábor


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