21 September 1695: the Battle of Lugos, the heroic death of General Veterani
Sultan Achmed II died in February, and his son who had been in prison so far has become the new ruler called Sultan Mustafa II.
He thought that the numerous Ottoman defeats suffered by the Imperial armies had been due to the carelessness and effeminacy of the previous drunken sultans. His beau ideal became Sultan Suleiman the Great and Mustafa took the command of his army into his own hands.
He had Grand Vizier Ali strangled and appointed the warlike Pasha Elmász Mehmed as his Grand Vizier. The Ottoman army took encouragement from the personal presence of the sultan. Before soon, 50-60,000 have come together with the goal of retaking Pétervárad castle. On the other hand, the Habsburg military command at this time was not able to appoint such a good general. He was August II the Strong (1670-1733). Augustus’ great physical strength earned him the nicknames “the Strong” but as a general, he was just too young and inexperienced in 1695. He was rather infamous for his drinking and womanizing habits. He was willing to give 8,000 well-supplied Saxon soldiers to the army of the Holy League only under the condition that he was appointed as the General of the whole army.
The Habsburg Military Council had no choice and accepted his terms. Thus, 50,000 soldiers were under his command, their main goal was to retake Temesvár castle. In order to aid his efforts, the commander of the Imperial troops of Transylvania, General Friedrich Veterani was appointed, too. The young and talented Italian general was envied by General Carpara for his quick advancement and Carpara was under the command of August the Strong. The Transylvanian army of Veterani consisted of 7,000 cavalrymen and 800 infantrymen but later more soldiers joined it, like the men of the Serbian vice-Colonel Antonije Znoric.
August the Strong arrived at the military camp at Pétervárad on 10 August. The sultan happened to arrive in the Ottoman camp next to Belgrade on this very day, too. Mustafa set out at once against Lippa castle, instead of Pétervárad because the Christian army seemed to be a bit strong to his liking. Sultan Mustafa’s new goal has become to retake Lippa and Várad castles. In the case of unsuccessful sieges, his “B” plan was to enter Transylvania and Wallachia and destroy the land on the way home. He crossed the Danube River on 25 August and his army was marching on Lippa castle. More about Lippa (Lipova) castle:
The main Christian army was just lagging behind him, quite slowly. Hesitating much, they have changed their directions several times. At times, they got lost in the marshlands of the Maros River and had to take detours. In the meantime, General Veterani came out of 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 with a fast assault on 7 September. 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 who was coming from the west and Veterani’s army that was approaching from the east. He was panicking and put his booty and his baggage wagons on fire then withdrew his army towards Temesvár castle.
August the Strong sent an order to Veterani to join his army. However, the Italian general disagreed because he would have liked it if the army of August had joined the Transylvanian army. Obviously, Veterani wanted to defend Transylvania from overrunning, he knew that the Crimean Tatars in the Ottoman army had such plans. He had no idea that the main Christian army was marching in the opposite way. In the meantime, Mustafa came to know that August had returned to the Tisza River and Veterani was left alone with his 10-15,000 soldiers. Veterani didn’t even have enough power to scatter the 12,000-strong-army of Pasha Arnaut who deployed his men in a fortified camp at Bogcsavára (Bogsa), as it was surrounded by marshlands. Yet, he could achieve that Pasha Arnaut withdrew his unit.
The Sultan threw himself at the army of Veterani which was a lot weaker than his. Veterani, hoping that the main army of August the Strong might arrive at any hour, was getting prepared for the battle. He knew that he had to keep this terrain unless Transylvania would be lost. He deployed his troops that were supported by the marshes of the Temes River. The Italian general arranged his soldiers in two lines and placed two wagon-forts on the left and the right sides. They built trenches around the camp, too. The Ottoman vanguard was harassing the army on 20 September and Veterani thought that the irregular riders were just covering the Ottoman main army’s withdrawal towards Temesvár.
The next day, he was having his lunch when his men reported to him that the main army of the sultan had arrived. The general hurried to the right wing and stood in the first line, without putting on a breastplate. According to the historian Cserei Mihály (1667-1756), he was prepared for death but he was cursing General Caprara and General Heister, blaming them for his coming death. (In fact, General Heister had been doing his best to urge August the Strong and he was begging him to let him hurry with his cavalry to Veterani’s help but it was in vain.)
The Ottoman army was attacking with great momentum but the cavalrymen of Veterani repelled them twice. The musket-men spread a killing fire over the attackers but they soon ran out of ammunition. The cannons have also made great destruction to the attackers. Vice-General Truschsess was leading the left-wing, he stopped the Turks with canister shots. The Ottoman warriors fled and allegedly Sultan Mustafa had killed a few of them, some of them high-ranking officers, so as to stop the runners. At this point, the Ottoman cavalry assaulted the Imperials from two sides, causing them major difficulties. Veterani could beat them back on the right wing, then he rode to the left wing to bring aid there.
It was when Pasha Arnaut led his men against the Christians’ right wing for the second time. He managed to take the cannons and repelled the cavalry led by Veterani himself. Personal bravery was not enough against the Ottomans’ over-power. The general ordered Truchsess to take 300 riders through Karánsebes (Caransebes) to the Vaskapu (Iron Gate) so as to secure his withdrawal. Then, he ordered an attack that collapsed after some initial success. It was already afternoon and Veterani was also wounded. At 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 next to him, he said that the Italian cut down 9 Turks before he fainted.
His men put him on a wagon and 500 of them tried to get him out of the meleé but the vehicle got stuck in marshy land. The Turks quickly surrounded him and slaughtered everybody. Allegedly, Veterani was on one knee but he was still fighting on. After killing him, his head was brought to the Sultan. According to others, he was captured alive but later nobody heard about him. The historian Bethlen Miklós said that the Transylvanians even offered a huge ransom for him because they loved him as much as they had hated General Basta.
After Veterani’s injury, the Imperials’ resistance hasn’t held for long. Before soon, the Ottomans broke into the fortified camp and bloody close combat was raging. The surviving Christian cavalrymen fled, and about 2,500 Imperial soldiers perished. The enemy took the entire camp, along with the cannons. The Serbian vice-Colonel Antonije Znoric also lost his life but Pasha Arnaut fell, too. The Begler Beys of Rumelia and Diyarbekir were slain and some sources say the Ottomans lost 10,000 men that might be an exaggeration. However, Sultan Mustafa II decided not to overrun Transylvania, with another Christian army on his back. He returned home where great celebrations took place because of the taking of Lippa, Karánsebes, and Lugos castles. There were 300 prisoners of war in the triumphal promenade in Istanbul, with generals and high-ranking officers among them. 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 full victory. Although he took Lippa but soon he emptied it and abandoned it. Regarding Karánsebes and Lugos, the Turks took them without a fight because their defenders had fled. Neither Pétervárad castle nor Várad castle was attacked by him. It was lucky for him that August the Strong failed to launch an attack when he withdrew, a more talented general might have taken advantage of the situation.
But Veterani’s heroic last stand has saved Transylvania from the Crimean Tatars and the Turk troops.
Source: Szibler Gábor
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