21 September 1695: the Battle of Lugos, the heroic death of General Veterani
Sultan Ahmed II died in February, and his son, who had been in prison, became the new ruler, named Sultan Mustafa II.
He thought that the numerous Ottoman defeats suffered by the imperial armies were due to the carelessness and effeminacy of the previous drunken sultans. He adopted Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent as his role model, and Mustafa took the command of the army into his own hands.
He had the Grand Vizier Ali strangled and appointed the warlike Pasha Elmász Mehmed as his Grand Vizier. The Ottoman army was encouraged by the personal presence of the Sultan. Soon 50-60,000 men were gathered with the aim of retaking the castle of Pétervárad. On the other hand, the Habsburg military command was not able to appoint such a good general at that time. Their leader was Augustus II the Strong (1670-1733). Augustus’ great physical strength earned him the nickname “the Strong,” but as a general in 1695 he was simply too young and inexperienced. He was notorious for his drinking and womanizing habits. He was willing to give 8,000 well-equipped Saxon soldiers to the Holy League army, but only on the condition that he would be appointed general of the entire army.
The Habsburg military council had no choice but to accept his terms. Thus, 50,000 soldiers were under his command and their main goal was to retake the castle of Temesvár. To support his efforts, the commander of the imperial troops in Transylvania, General Friedrich Veterani, was also appointed. The talented Italian general was envied by General Carpara, who was under the command of Augustus the Strong. Veterani’s Transylvanian army consisted of 7,000 cavalrymen and 800 infantrymen, but later more soldiers joined it, such as the men of the Serbian vice-colonel Antonije Znoric.
August the Strong arrived at the Pétervárad military camp on August 10. The Sultan happened to arrive at the Ottoman camp near Belgrade on the same day. Mustafa immediately set out against Lippa Castle instead of Pétervárad, because the Christian army seemed too strong for him. Sultan Mustafa’s new goal was to take back the castles of Lippa and Várad. If the sieges were unsuccessful, his “B” plan was to enter Transylvania and Wallachia and destroy the country on his way home. On August 25, he crossed the Danube and his army marched towards Lippa Castle. More about Lippa (Lipova) castle:
The main Christian army lagged behind him, very slowly. They hesitated a lot and changed direction several times. Sometimes they got lost in the swamps of the Maros River and had to make detours. Meanwhile, General Veterani arrived from Transylvania and took up defensive positions at Lugos Castle. Neither he nor August the Strong could save Lippa Castle, which was taken by the Ottomans in a quick attack on September 7. Captain Daróczy Endre and all his men, the heroic defenders of Lippa, were put to the sword.
Then Sultan Mustafa realized that he was between August the Strong coming from the west and Veterani’s army approaching from the east. He panicked and set fire to his booty and baggage wagons, then he retreated to the Temesvár Castle.
August the Strong sent an order to Veterani to join his army. However, the Italian general did not agree, because he would have liked the army of August to join the Transylvanian army. Obviously, Veterani wanted to defend Transylvania from being overrun, he knew that the Crimean Tatars in the Ottoman army had such plans. He did not know that the main Christian army was marching in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, Mustafa learned that August had returned to the Tisza River, leaving Veterani alone with his 10-15,000 soldiers. Veterani didn’t even have enough power to disperse the 12,000-strong army of Pasha Arnaut, who was stationed in a fortified camp at Bogcsavára (Bogsa), surrounded by swamps. However, he managed to make Pasha Arnaut withdraw his troops.
The Sultan threw himself at the army of Veterani, which was much weaker than his own. Veterani, hoping that the main army of August the Strong would arrive at any moment, prepared for battle. He knew that he had to hold this territory or Transylvania would be lost. He deployed his troops, supported by the swamps of the Temes River. The Italian general placed his soldiers in two lines, with two wagon fortresses on each side. They also dug trenches around the camp. The Ottoman vanguard harassed the army on September 20 and Veterani thought that the irregular horsemen were just covering the retreat of the main Ottoman army towards Temesvár.
The next day, he was having lunch when his men reported that the Sultan’s main army had arrived. The general hurried to the right wing and stood in the first line without putting on his breastplate. According to historian Cserei Mihály (1667-1756), he was prepared to die, but he cursed General Caprara and General Heister, blaming them for his impending death. (In fact, General Heister did his best to urge Augustus the Strong and begged him to let him hurry with his cavalry to help Veterani, but it was in vain).
The Ottoman army attacked with great vigor, but Veterani’s cavalrymen repulsed them twice. The musketmen spread a killing fire over the attackers, but they soon ran out of ammunition. The cannons also wreaked havoc on the attackers. Vice-General Truschsess led the left wing, he stopped the Turks with canister shots. The Ottoman warriors fled, and it is said that Sultan Mustafa killed some of them, some of them high-ranking officers, to stop the runners. At this point, the Ottoman cavalry attacked the Imperials from two sides, causing them great difficulty. Veterani was able to push them back on the right wing, then rode to the left wing to bring help.
It was when Pasha Arnaut led his men against the Christians’ right wing for the second time. He managed to capture the cannons and repel the cavalry led by Veterani himself. Personal bravery was not enough against the overwhelming power of the Ottomans. The general ordered Truchsess to lead 300 horsemen through Karánsebes to Vaskapu (Iron Gate) to ensure his retreat. Then he ordered an attack, which failed after some initial success. It was already afternoon and Veterani was also wounded. First his left arm was shot and he lost a lot of blood. Then he received a head wound from a sword. General Glöckelsperg was fighting beside him, he said that the Italian killed 9 Turks before he fainted.
His men put him on a cart and 500 of them tried to get him out of the melee, but the cart got stuck in the swamp. The Turks quickly surrounded him and slaughtered everyone. It is said that Veterani was on his knees, but he continued to fight. After he was killed, his head was taken to the Sultan. Others say he was captured alive, but nobody heard of him after that. The historian Bethlen Miklós said that the Transylvanians even offered a huge ransom for him, because they loved him as much as they hated General Basta.
After Veterani’s injury, the Imperial resistance didn’t last long. Soon the Ottomans broke into the fortified camp and a bloody hand-to-hand fight ensued. The surviving Christian cavalrymen fled, and some 2,500 Imperial soldiers perished. The enemy captured the entire camp, including the cannons. The Serbian Vice-Colonel Antonije Znoric also lost his life, but Pasha Arnaut fell as well.
The Begler Beys of Rumelia and Diyarbekir were slain and some sources say the Ottomans lost 10,000 men, which may be an exaggeration. However, Sultan Mustafa II decided not to invade Transylvania with another Christian army on his back. He returned home, where there were great celebrations for the capture of the castles of Lippa, Karánsebes and Lugos. On the triumphal promenade in Istanbul, there were 300 prisoners of war, including generals and high-ranking officers. Later, the common soldiers were executed while the officers were sent to the galleys and perished there.
As for the Sultan’s victory, it was not a complete victory. Although he took Lippa, he soon emptied it and abandoned it. As regards Karánsebes and Lugos, the Turks took them without a fight because their defenders had fled. Neither Pétervárad Castle nor Várad Castle were attacked by him. It was lucky for the Sultan that August the Strong did not attack when he retreated, a more talented general might have taken advantage of the situation.
But Veterani’s heroic last stand saved Transylvania from the Crimean Tatars and the Turkish troops.
Source: Szibler Gábor
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