Monday, August 28, 2017

Kabinettskriege Update/Hessian Podcast Appearance

Some light summer reading.
Dear Reader,

As you might have noticed, Kabinettskriege has been rather quiet lately. I have been preparing for my comprehensive exams at West Virginia University, which involves a great deal of time spent in reading, study, and deep thought. I appreciate you all bearing with me, and I promise to return to writing after my exams are finished, hopefully on September 12th.

As you may or may not be aware, at the Ph.D level, comprehensive exams involve reading a number of books in your areas of research/interest, and then taking written exams on those fields, followed by an oral exam in front of a panel of historians. I begin my exams tomorrow, and would appreciate all the thoughts, prayers, and good energy you have time to send my way!

After the exams conclude, I'll be returning to work on my dissertation, and hope to write more on here. If any of you are interested in seeing what I've read, I am going to add a "book list" page to the top bar.

Fear not: Kabinettskriege will return.

In the mean time, I'd like to share a podcast I was on recently, in which we discussed Hessian troops in the American War of Independence. It is called the "History to War Games" Podcast, and is hosted by Rob Rhodes.

You can find the Podcast here.

As ever, thanks for reading.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

"The Rest Set about the Enemy and Hacked Them to Pieces.": the Erzherzog Carl/Ferdinand Regiment

Image of an Austrian Grenadier, possibly from No. 2
Copyright Royal Trust Collection and Lessing Archive
Reproduced here for educational purposes only.
It may seem odd that the first regiment I choose to focus on is an Austrian unit. Indeed, when I suggested this series on facebook, one commenter suggested that Austrian units were mediocre. However, not all Austrian units were created equal. The Austrian army was divided into a number of "national" contingents, and of these, one of the best groups were the Hungarian infantry regiments. Today, we are going to look at one of the best of those Hungarian troops: the Erzherzog Carl infantry regiment.

When examining the Austrian Army of the Seven Years' War era, Dr. Christopher Duffy is the master, and this case is no different. Please refer to his two volume study of the Austrian Army in the Seven Years' War if you have further questions about this capable and oft-maligned fighting force. In his concise and insightful manner, Duffy records that the regiment was "distinguished at Kolin, Breslau, Lethen [and] Hochkirk." He also indicates that at Torgau it took the heaviest losses of any regiment involved, "resulting from its repeated counterattacks."[1]

So- how does the regiment fair under our criteria? Duffy asserts that the regiment had, "a fine reputation," and that it was "crack" infantry regiment, but little has come down to us by way of other Austrian army commentators on the regiment's reputation.[2] However, in two categories, specifically their performance on campaign and the reputation of their commander, we shall see the men of Erzherzog Carl developed a stellar name for themselves.

No. 2's service record was exemplary in the Austrian service. Its officers were distinguished at Kolin, and it displayed remarkable self-control in containing the disaster at Leuthen. When a group of blue coated infantry rushed the regiment's position, the men displayed perfect self-control, waiting to receive them with, "good platoon fire."[3] It quickly came to light that these were allied Würtemburg troops, not Prussians. The men quickly opened holes in the ranks, and then played a vital part in the rearguard defense of the fleeing Austrian army. This was difficult to do in the stress of battle, and the Prince de Ligne commented on the fortitude of regiments who withheld their fire in similar circumstances.

The men of Erzherzog Carl also displayed a great sense of initiative in the face of the enemy. During the advance at Hochkirk, No. 2 had the misfortune to attack a number of heavy enemy entrenchments. Prince de Ligne recalled the scene: "The cries of the Hungarians and of the enemy who were being taken by surprise, and the horror of the night, illuminated only by the musket shots, had something really terrifying about it."[4] After initial repulse and resulting confusion, officers such as Major Jerky rode throughout the regiment, quickly restoring order, and allowing 2nd Lt. Dezier to move forward with sixty volunteers, and clear the redoubts.[5]

A drawing of the regiment taken in 1762
The regiment fought with great determination at the Battle of Torgau, even after it was completely surrounded by Prussian forces. It refused to surrender for some time, resulting in the highest single unit casualties of the engagement. Some men cut their way out, others were forced to surrender. After this massive loss of men, the regiment was placed in reserve duty, in order to recover its strength. A portion of the regiment were placed in the fortress of Schwiednitz in order to protect it from a Prussian siege in 1762. In the course of the siege, the regiment once again made a name for itself, when 1st Lt. Waldhütter and thirty men of the regiment spearheaded a successful sortie against the besieging Prussian forces. Franz Guasco, the fortress commandant, left this description of the sortie:
"Waldhütter and his troops jumped inside without hesitation and found the Prussians on their guard.Some of the opened fire, while some knelt on the floor and raised their muskets, the bayonets fixed to the muzzles. Our men flung themselves blindly among them, sabre in hand; some of them were skewered on the bayonets, but the rest set about the enemy and hacked them to pieces."[6]
So, clearly, these men were not afraid to snuff some powder. Observers praised the regiment's ability to deliver "effective musket fire."[7] It is possible that this ability stemmed from the regimental commander Joseph Siskovics' frequent practice of having the men fire at targets.[8] Jacob Cogniazzo, a veteran of the regiment, described Siskovics as "an excellent drillmaster."[9] It appears that Siskovics placed a high importance for language training among his officers. The Prince de Ligne, another Austrian veteran, marveled at Siskovics ability to exercise and maneuver 4 different regiments at once, when each of those regiments spoke a different national language.[10] Siskovics sponsored language training for some of his officers and was not shy about publicly rating individuals in his officer cadre, "Good" or "Poor" depending on their service with the regiment.[11] He maintained an excellent reputation among the Austrian military, largely because he drilled his regiment into a highly competent fighting force.

As a result of their performance on campaign, the reputation of their commander, and the opinions of historians, the Erzherzog Carl Regiment deserves to be considered one of the best regiments in Austrian service during the Seven Years' War, and perhaps one of the best regiments of the eighteenth century.

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

[1] Duffy, By Force of Arms, 429.
[2] Ibid, 126,; Duffy, Instrument of War, 65.
[3]Cogniazzo, Gestaendnisse eines oesterrichishen Veterans, Vol 2, 419.
[4] Prince de Ligne, Melanges Militaires, Vol 14, 168-169.
[5] Duffy, By Force of Arms, 136-137.
[6] Kriegs Archiv, Vienna, HKR Memoires 1762  880/12, Guasco, Relation du Siege de Schweidnitz, 31 October, 1762.
[7] Anon., Neues Militaerisches Zeitschrift, Vol 4, (1811), 99.
[8] Duffy, By Force of Arms, 427.
[9] Cogniazzo, Gestaendnisse eines oesterrichishen Veterans, Vol 3, 15.
[10] Prince de Ligne, His Memoirs, Letters, and  Miscellaneous Papers, 93.
[11] Duffy, Instrument of War,  65, 173.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Vampires, Hajduks, and Austrian Military Reform

A Hajduk: and potentially: a Vampire? 
Dear Reader,

In the early to mid eighteenth century, the Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire waged a see-saw battle for control of the Balkans. Historians traditionally see the eighteenth-century as a time of sharp Ottoman decline, but that is not entirely fair, considering Ottoman success in 1711 and 1739 at places such as Prut and Grocka. On the other hand, the Ottomans were defeated quite soundly by Prinz Eugen in 1717, and by the Russians at numerous points throughout the century. See the map below for further details.

A Map of Ottoman Decline
Our story begins in the aftermath of Prinz Eugen von Savoyen's victory at Belgrade in 1717. It may greatly enhance your enjoyment of this post if you listen to this commemorative song while reading it.  After this victory and the resulting Treaty of Passarowitz, the Austrian government ruled most of Serbia and northern Bosnia via direct military control. Communities of refugee Serbs, who were induced to resettle the acquired territory, form the heart of our story.

These Serbian communities were protected by militiamen in addition to regular Austrian military forces. These militiamen are occasionally referred to as "hajduk" (today "Hajduci") a term possibly derived from the Ottoman word ""hajdud" meaning Polish or Hungarian soldiers.[1] These soldiers served as border guards against renewed attacks from the Ottoman Empire. One of these Hajduks, Arnold Paole, was one of the first of a series "reported" vampires in the region in the 1720s and 1730s.

Arnold Paole, a Hajduk and former refugee, claimed that he had been visited/attacked by a vampire near Kosovo, before traveling to the village of Meduegna, near modern Trstenik, in Serbia. Likewise, another Serbian, Petar Blagojevich, possibly from the modern town of Kisiljevo, reportedly died and then began to prey upon his family members as a vampire. In both cases, Blagojevich in 1725, and Paole in 1732, Austrian local government officials responded to the events as a serious crisis. Austrian Kameralprovisor Frombald, (first name, alas, unknown), traveled to the village in order to deal with the crisis. Local peasants petitioned Frombald and the parish priest to permit the exhumation of the body, which after some initial hesitation, they permitted.
Hajduks, from the late 17th century

Frombald explained in a report:

"Since I could not persuade them otherwise, by promises or threats, I went to the village of Kisiljevo, taking along the priest from Gradisk, and viewed the freshly exhumed body of [Petar Blagojevich], finding in accordance with thoughtful thoroughness, that first of all I did not detect any odor which normally accompanies the dead, and the body except for the nose... was completely fresh. The hair and beard, and even the nails, of which the old ones had fallen away- had grown on him; the old skin, which was somewhat whitish, had peeled away, and a new fresh one had emerged under it... Not without astonishment, I saw some fresh blood in his mount, which, according to local belief, he had sucked from the people he had killed."[2]
The stunned Frombald looked on as, perhaps unsurprisingly, the villagers took the sane precaution of driving a sharpened stake through Petar's heart, and burning his body. [Of course, I jest. Modern medical analysis indicates that such signs in a recently deceased corpse are rather normal.] However, in the borderland between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires, numerous fears regarding death and violence trumped the rational concerns of the Kameralprovisor.

Around the same time, Serbian Hajduk Arnold Paole reported being menaced by a vampire, but that he had employed folk remedies to free himself of its dark influence. In 1725, shortly after returning to his home village, he died after falling from a hay wagon. Almost immediately, villagers began to complain of being visited by Arnold in vampire form. Four villagers died under mysterious circumstances, and the local village Hadnack ordered an exhumation of Paole. His body displayed almost the same symptoms Blagojevich, and the villagers performed the same remedy, repeating it on the four individuals who were supposed to be his victims.

The matter was considered closed, until around 6 years later, villagers in Meduegna once again began to die under mysterious circumstances. 13 villagers died after brief illnesses, and their deaths were reported to Lt. Colonel Schnezzer, the local Austrian army officer. He sent for Imperial-Contagions-Medicus Glaser, who ignored the vampiric assertions of the villagers. According to the villagers, both of the young women who had initially died were infected during their time on the Turkish side of the border. According to the villagers, in the Turkish lands, "Vampires were everywhere, in great strength."[3] Glaser began to investigate the deaths and concluded that the deaths were a result of malnutrition and extreme Eastern Orthodox fasting.[4]

Austrian Infantry in the 1740s, by David Morier

The villagers would not budge and demanded that the vampires be exhumed and executed. Consenting to an exhumation, Glaser discovered that those who died earliest were in a perfect state of preservation, while those who died later had partially decomposed. Glaser reported these findings to Botta d'Adorno, the vice-commandant in Belgrade, who organized a secondary commission, consisting of five army officers:  a Lt. Colonel, Ensign, and three military surgeons.

These military men concluded that a number of the villagers who had died were indeed in "vampiric condition," (Vampyrenstand) and ordered that those in such condition were to be executed via stakes, burned, and ashes scattered over water. The villagers concluded that Arnold Paole must have been feeding on local cattle, which were then consumed by the new victims, transmitting vampirism to them. [5] While doubtless pleasing the local villagers, the conclusions of the military men had annoying repercussions for Austrian army reformers.

Gerhard van Swieten, a figure of the Austrian enlightenment, railed against army physicians who allowed themselves to be taken in by superstition. He argued, "the stories about vampires in Moravia are still recent, and too much in need of rebuttal, for me to have a favorable opinion of the local physicians, who would never have allowed themselves to be taken in by these fables if they had been good doctors."[6] For van Swieten, rationalism and education needed to trump superstition, in order for Austrian military medicine to compete with other leading states of Europe.

So, even as Ottoman pressure and Serbian fears created stories of vampiric activity, Austrian officials were divided on the response. Should local beliefs and the vampire threat be taken seriously, as the military commission suggested, or should superstition be banished in the name of education and efficiency? All of these sentiments were at war, as the Austrian army and state attempted to control the Balkans in the mid-eighteenth century.

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Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns


[1] Aleksandar Petrovic, The Role of Banditry in the Creation of National States in the Central Balkans During the 19th Century, MA thesis, 2003, Section: Terminology.
[2]Frombald, Wienerisches Diarium, July 21, 1725, 11-12.
[3] Klaus Hamberger, Mortuus non mordet: kommentierte Dokumentation zum Vampirismus, 48.
[4] Ibid, 46.
[5] Don Augustin Calmet, Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. (2015), 333-335.
[6] Quoted in Christopher Duffy, Instrument of War, 332.