Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Ottomans in the Kabinettskriege Period (الامبراطورية العثمانية التحليل العسكري)

Al-Niẓām Al-Jadīd parade before Selim III
Dear Reader,

In a previous post, I examined the military units of the Ottoman Empire in the Kabinettskriege period. At the beginning of the Kabinettskriege period, the Ottoman empire stretched from Saudi Arabia to the gates of Vienna, and from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. It was the largest empire in Europe, or Africa, during the Kabinettskriege period. At the beginning of the Kabinettskriege era, the Ottoman Empire was the undisputed master of south eastern part of Europe, known as the Balkans. None of the European powers alone could challenge the Ottoman Empire, so in the late part of the 17th century, several of them joined forces- the Austrian Habsburgs, the Poles, and the Russians. This alliance was known as, "the Holy League," though there was little "Holy" in what they set out to do- dismantle the lands of the Ottoman Empire.

Map of the Ottoman Empire in 1683
This conflict became known as "the War of the Holy League." The combined forces of the three Christian nations proved to much for the Ottomans, and they began to lose the war. 1683 was a significant year for the Ottomans- it marked their last attempt at domination in central Europe. The massive battle of Vienna, (German: Schlacht von Kahlenburg) on the 11th and 12th of September, 1683, blunted an Ottoman offensive towards Vienna.

The Germans wrote a song, "Prinz Eugen der elde Ritter," to commemorate this victory. You can listen to a modern rendition of it today, here. Please be aware that the song presents a very biased version of events.

This loss enabled the Holy League to accomplish its goals. Much of the Balkans returned to Habsburg control, the Poles gained significant parts of the Ukraine, and the Russians took the coastal fortress of Azov on the Black Sea. Here, they were led by a young man, known as Peter I of Russia. He would eventually become Peter the Great.

A young Ottoman soldier trains with a Snapchance Musket
The next major war between the Ottomans and the powers of Europe occurred in the 1730s. Austria and Russia joined forces, (as the Poles had gone into a deep decline) and attempted to conquer more of the Ottoman lands.

Here, the Ottomans recovered, and they were able to deal the Austrians several defeats. The battle of Banja Luka, on the 4th of August, 1737, was an Ottoman victory, despite being outnumbered by the Austrian forces. On July 22nd, 1739, the Ottoman army took up ambush positions near Grocka, and decisively defeated the Austrians, decimating the Austrian cavalry with musket fire. When the Austrian infantry came up, the Ottomans fought until nightfall, and the Austrians withdrew. This battle was even more significant, as it prevented the Austrians from lifting the siege of Belgrade, which fell shortly after the battle. This combination of factors forced the Austrians to sign a separate peace.

Despite these successes, the Ottoman Empire was on a downward slide from power for most of the 16th century. Why? There are a variety of factors. Some include inadequate leadership, failure to keep up with European tactical reforms, and a focus on individual bravery, rather than unit cohesion.

Here is another reason:
Ottoman Weapons of the 18th Century
See these muskets? The majority of the infantry long firearms are snapchance muskets. (I explain muskets in this post.) These muskets are not as reliable as the flintlock muskets employed by the Europeans. In addition, none of these muskets seem to have a bayonet lug. Without a way to attach a bayonet, Ottoman infantry would have been more vulnerable to European cavalry attacks, even if the soldiers were proficient in the use of the sword.

With inferior firearms, and inadequate reforms, the Ottoman Empire was unable to maintain its cutting edge, which had enabled conquests for most of the early portion of its existence.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

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