Prince Eugene - George Upton

Turkish Campaigns

Although there were no telegraph stations at that time nor any railroads, it soon became known in Versailles and Paris that the "little abbe"  had fought very gallantly, and that his bravery had received recognition from the Emperor. What must Louis have felt when he heard this news? He was too crafty to betray himself; but Louvois was less self-contained, and cried in his wrath: "This fellow shall never again enter France." It was easy for this presumptuous minister to issue his commands, but the fulfilment of his purpose was not in his power. Eugene had now gained an assured position. His commanding officer, the Field-Marshal General, Margrave Louis of Baden, a man for those times very well informed and an accomplished soldier, possessed far more discrimination than the King of France displayed in that memorable audience at the Louvre; he recommended Eugene to the Emperor with the words: "In time this young Savoyard will be the equal of all those whom the world considers great generals."

The campaign of 1684 was quickly opened, but without particular success. It is a long distance from Vienna to Stamboul, and there was much to be done before the enemy could be despatched thither. They still had their strongholds in Hungary, and such neighbors were dangerous. It was necessary above all to seize Buda.

At first this was unsuccessful; indeed, the Germans were obliged to go into winter quarters without having accomplished anything; then they had to put the city in a state of siege and to resist the advance of the Turkish army of relief. Starhemberg proposed to take Neuhausel first, this being the only way to approach Buda. The good advice of this experienced soldier was disregarded, and therefore unfortunate consequences had to be endured. It was not until the next year that the situation improved. Other powers had gathered their forces under the banners of the Austrian Emperor, including Bavaria, Saxony, Brandenburg and twenty thousand Hungarians who were opposed to Tokely and chose to adhere to the Emperor rather than to this impostor.

Since the siege of Vienna, by the enemies of Christianity, there had been an awakening among the German princes; the common danger had called for common defence. Of course Prince Eugene with his regiment was not wanting. His post was on the left wing of the imperial cavalry commanded by the Prince Salm. Everything prospered so that Buda was soon as completely surrounded as Vienna had previously been by the Turks.

Eugene, with his dragoons, held a ravine road on the south side of the fortress, which led between two mountains into a broad plain. From this quarter the Turks in' Buda were expecting their relief forces; and nearly every day there were skirmishes, in which, however, the Turks always got the worst of it. How dangerous these engagements were, is shown by the fact that once Prince Eugene's horse was shot under him, and another time he was wounded by an arrow.

The Turkish supporting army at last arrived, but was completely vanquished, and the city was then taken by storm. Eugene very nearly missed this fun, for he was on sentry duty and was commanded to remain at his post. But when he heard the thunder of the field-pieces, great and small, the clash of swords and the sound of the trumpets, he could no longer contain himself. He quickly ordered a part of his dragoons to mount, battered down a gate with axes, and in a moment was in the thick of the fray beside his victorious German brothers.

Now began the second rout. Valiant Eugene had the honor of chasing the enemy over the Danube. Ha! that was merry work! Besides this, Funfkirchen was taken by Eugene's unmounted dragoons. Once started, he would have done still more, had not a very deplorable misunderstanding and jealousy among the Emperor's commanders stopped all important operations for some time to come. None wished to obey another. Margrave Louis of Baden dared to tell the Duke of Lorraine to his face; that he was not obliged, as a German Prince, to take orders from him. The young Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian Emanuel, also made trouble.

This was a great disadvantage to the Germans, and grieved Eugene deeply. The situation did not improve until the Turks became more and more menacing, and this danger brought the malcontents to their senses. At last, on the twelfth of August, 1687, it was determined to attack the Turks at Mohacz.

Here, almost on the same spot where, one hundred and sixty years earlier, King Louis the Second of Hungary had lost empire and life to Suleyman, he was at last avenged. The battle lasted only a short time, but the victory was a decisive one. Like a wall of brass the Germans slowly advanced. There was no break of which their opponents could take advantage. The attacks of the enemy's cavalry broke against it, like the breaking of the sea against the rocks. Again and again the Turks attacked, and were driven back each time. Added to this, a steady fire of musketry raked their lines, and the cannon did their duty also. At last there was no possibility of restraining the soldiers; and the time had come, too, for Eugene to let loose his dragoons. Like a whirlwind they threw themselves on the Turks, whole regiments were ridden down and others taken prisoners. Once more the Turks made a stand behind their entrenchments; they thought Eugene could not get at them there. But how mistaken they were! Like lightning his dragoons were off their horses, drew their sabres, stormed the barricades, and cut down all who did not save themselves by instant flight.

Thus the battle was decided; the lion's share of the victory and of the glory was Eugene's. This, no doubt, was appreciated by the Duke of Lorraine; for as a reward for his daring dash at Mohacz, he sent him in person to bear the news of victory to Vienna. It was certainly a proud commission for the valiant Prince! Arrived at the castle, he instantly received audience and was presented by the Emperor with his portrait richly set in diamonds.

After the battle of Mohacz Eugene's fame was assured, his name was on every tongue. The king of Spain bestowed upon him the Order of the Golden Fleece; and his cousin, the reigning Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus the First, delighted with the brilliant success of his young relative, supplied him royally with money.

How the gentlemen in Paris and Versailles must have opened their eyes at all this! Their historical works, as one can well believe, do not tell of any distinction that Eugene received. King Louis must have been thoroughly ashamed of his shortsightedness; he had taken the rough diamond for a common pebble. Prince Eugene became Lieutenant-Field-Marshal in his twenty-fifth year. This was certainly an unusual distinction. What is more important, he became Lieutenant-Field-Marshal not through the favor of the king, but on his own merits.

It was now most important for the Emperor to regain possession of Belgrade. The last bulwark of the Germans could not be allowed to remain in the hands of the Turks. The Emperor commanded; there was no hesitation. The Elector of Bavaria, the Emperor's son-in-law, was now commander of the imperial army after the valiant Duke Charles of Lorraine had been diplomatically removed.

The affair went splendidly. When the German cannon had shot but two breaches in the walls, the assault was made. Two columns advanced to the fortifications, led by the Elector and Eugene. The cry was: "Long live the Emperor; long live Germany!" They advanced quite a long distance and thought they had already won the day. But they were mistaken; for a deep moat protected the real fort and made a dangerous obstacle. There was little time to consider; it was do—or die! In spite of the continuous fire of the Turks, young Count Starhemberg, nephew of the heroic Vienna Mayor, called out: "Follow me, he who loves the Emperor and his country!" He then sprang into the moat up to his belt, his whole regiment following him. But this was by no means the end. As they climbed out of the moat, dripping wet, they had to take the entrenchments. The Turks defended themselves desperately, for they knew what it meant to lose Belgrade. But the Elector and Eugene followed hard upon the heels of the Starhemberg regiment. There was a terrible hand-to-hand fight, while large and small missiles fell right and left among the attacking army. The Elector received an arrow-wound in his face, a janissary gave the Prince of Savoy a sword cut that clove his helmet. Eugene, turning quickly, plunged his sword deep into the Turk's breast. At that instant a musket-ball penetrated his leg just above the knee, and he dropped, still urging the attacking troops on to victory. He was removed from the field, and soon the joyful news was brought to him that Belgrade was taken.

The Prince's wound was extremely dangerous, for the ball could not be found for some time; and several months afterwards splinters of bone were removed from the leg. Everything was done that science could accomplish; Duke Victor Amadeus the Second sent his own physician to Vienna. Later a lung trouble developed; and it was not until January of the year 1689 that the Prince could journey to Turin to thank his cousin personally for all the kindness and sympathy which had been shown him.

The victories of the Austrian Emperor over the Turks had aroused tremendous jealousy at the court of Versailles. Louis, "the Most Christian King," instead of assisting in the defence, was much cast down at the defeat of the Turks, for he could not bear to see a powerful German Emperor as a rival. He now conceived a new plan and suddenly attacked the Emperor and his strongholds. As both were unprepared, he was very successful. Philippsburg fell; Mayence opened its gates to him; and with the connivance of the traitor Furstenberg, coadjutor of the Cologne bishopric, Bonn, Kaiserswerth, and other fortified places passed into the hands of the French. After these great victories over the Turks, Emperor Leopold should have made peace with them and turned all his energies against the French, an opinion shared by all the princes of the empire. Incredible as it may seem, he did not do this, and as a consequence suddenly found himself between two enemies. Now he had all he could do to save his skin. It was a desperate situation; the hearts of German patriots, and there were plenty at this unfortunate time, were very heavy.

While Louis let loose in the Rhine provinces his marauding bands, which plundered and burned more than a hundred villages (the empty window-frames of Heidelberg Castle still testify to the shameful deeds of the French), he allied himself also with the Duke of Savoy. He believed it possible to make that country a point of vantage for attacks on the Germans, although it was a somewhat roundabout route. This was a very unpleasant surprise to the Duke of Savoy. He would much have preferred to keep quiet, a neutral observer of the bloody game of war. But there was no choice. He was obliged to decide and place himself either on the Austrian side or else to make common cause with the French. With a heavy heart, as is natural with weak characters, he decided for the former. Eugene had labored hard with him—had represented to him all that the family of Carignan had suffered from the French, and what would befall him should he become a vassal of King Louis.

That decided him. A small German army (5,000 men) under the leadership of Caprara, Eugene with them, entered Savoy; and as Spanish troops soon came to their assistance, they confidently hoped to discipline the arrogant French. But it turned out differently. The Duke of Savoy played false, was bought by French money, and betrayed all the plan of the imperial leaders to the French general Catinat He permitted the dangerous bandit warfare of the Piedmontese, the notorious sharp-shooters of modern times, against the Austrians. The soldiers were given poisoned food, several were murdered, small groups of them were attacked, and even the life of Eugene, who meanwhile had become a general of cavalry, was conspired against. A troop of at least one thousand men attempted to overwhelm his camp, but were bravely routed by the Taaffe regiment.

It was difficult for Eugene to believe in the perfidy of his uncle, whom he had truly loved and honored. But the proofs accumulated. At last he had an understanding with him, reproached him with his treachery, and begged him urgently to desist and to remain firmly attached to the Emperor's cause. The Duke, who wished to aggrandize his domain, and saw more advantage to himself through alliance with France rather than with Austria, did not listen to this advice but remained, as before, the secret ally of the King of France; thus he did more harm to the Austrian cause than a strongly armed enemy would have done.

The war continued with varying success until the year 1696. But it brought one real satisfaction to Eugene; he kept his promise to himself and from the Savoy mountains he entered France sword in hand, at the head of an army. He had occupied many Tench towns, when he received orders to retire to Milanese territory. He obeyed with a light heart, for an open-hearted, honest man is always at a disadvantage against cunning, malignity, treachery, and assassination. In Vienna an exceedingly gracious and brilliant reception awaited him. No one thought of blaming him for the ill success in Savoy. He had done all that it was possible to do. He became more and more devoted to the Emperor and to the German cause; he wished to give loyalty for loyalty.