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Battle of Mohács
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe and Ottoman-Hungarian Wars
Battle of Mohacs 1526.png
Battle of Mohacs 1526 by Bertalan Székely
Date August 29, 1526
Location Mohács, Baranya, south of Budapest, Hungary
Result Decisive Ottoman victory; End of Ottoman-Hungarian Wars, Start of Ottoman-Habsburg Wars
Belligerents
 Ottoman Empire War Flag of Hungary.svg Kingdom of Hungary

Croatian Chequy3.png Kingdom of Croatia
Flag of Bohemia.svg Kingdom of Bohemia
 Holy Roman Empire

Flag of the Papal States (pre 1808).svg Papal States

PB Piast2 CoA.png Kingdom of Poland

Commanders
Suleiman I Louis II of Hungary
Pál Tomori
György Zápolya
Strength
~55,000-65,000[1][2]
  • 45,000 regulars
  • 10,000 irregulars
  • 160 (cast type) cannons[3][4]
~35,000-40,000 (in reality 26,000 arrived) [1][2](bore type) cannons (85 initial) with explosive cannonballs and arquebusiers
János Szapolyai[5][6]'s 10,000, Croatian count Frankopan's 5,000 men-strong army and the Bohemian troops all did not arrive to the battlefield in time.
Casualties and losses
1,500[1][2] ~ 14,000 to 20,000[1][2]

The Battle of Mohács (Hungarian: mohácsi csata or mohácsi vész; Turkish: Mohaç savaşı or Mohaç meydan savaşı; Croatian: Bitka na Mohačkom polju) was fought on August 29, 1526 near Mohács, Hungary. In the battle, forces of the Kingdom of Hungary led by King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia were defeated by forces of the Ottoman Empire led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The Ottoman victory led to the partition of Hungary for several centuries between the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria, and the Principality of Transylvania. The death of Louis II as he fled the battle marked the end of the Jagiellon dynasty, whose dynastic claims were absorbed by the Habsburgs via the marriage of Louis's sister.

Contents

Background

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Decline of Hungary (1490-1526)

Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, the young king, who died at the Battle of Mohács

By the early 16th century, the Ottoman Empire had become the second most populous state in the world; this enabled the creation of the largest armies of the era.

After the death of king Matthias Corvinus, the Hungarian magnates who did not want another heavy-handed king, procured the accession of Vladislaus II (reigned 1490-1516), king of Bohemia (Ulászló II in Hungarian), because of his notorious weakness: he was known as King Dobže, or Dobzse in Hungarian orthography (meaning “Good” or, loosely, “OK”) from his habit of accepting without question every petition and document laid before him[7]. Under his reign the central power began to experience severe financial difficulties, largely due to the enlargement of feudal lands at his expense. The Black Army - which was the largest standing mercenary army in Europe - was dissolved by the aristocracy. The magnates also dismantled the national administration systems and bureaucracy throughout the country. The country's defenses sagged as border guards and castle garrisons went unpaid, fortresses fell into disrepair, and initiatives to increase taxes to reinforce defenses were stifled.[8] Hungary's international role declined, its political stability shaken, and social progress was deadlocked.

In 1514, the weakened old King Vladislaus II faced a major peasant rebellion led by György Dózsa, which was ruthlessly crushed by the nobles, led by János Szapolyai. The resulting degradation of order paved the way for Ottoman pre-eminence. In 1521, the strongest Hungarian fortress in the South, Nándorfehérvár (modern Belgrade) fell to the Turks. The strongest nobles were so busy oppressing the peasants and quarrelling with gentry class in the parliament, that they failed to heed the agonized calls of king Louis II against the Turks. The early appearance of protestantism further worsened the relations in the anarchical country.

The Hungarians had long opposed Ottoman expansion in southeastern Europe, but the fall of Nándorfehérvár(hu), (present-day Belgrade, Serbia) and Szabács in 1521 meant that most of southern Hungary was left indefensible. King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, King of Hungary and Bohemia, entered into marriage with Mary of Habsburg in 1522. The Ottomans saw that growing alliance as a threat to their power in the Balkans and worked to break this alliance. After Suleiman I came to power, the High Porte made the Hungarians at least one and possibly two offers of peace. It is unclear why Louis refused the offer. It is possible that King Louis was well aware of Hungary's situation (especially after the Battle of Chaldiran and Polish-Ottoman peace from 1525) and he believed that war was a better option than peace. Even in peacetime the Ottomans raided Hungarian lands and conquered huge territories (with border castles), but a final battle still offered a glimmer of hope. To such ends, in June 1526, an Ottoman expedition advanced up the Danube River.

European events, and the Franco-Ottoman alliance

French king Francis I of France was defeated at the Battle of Pavia on February 24, 1525, by the troops of Habsburg H.R. Emperor Charles V. After several months in prison, Francis I was forced to sign Treaty of Madrid.

In a watershed moment in European diplomacy, Francis came to an understanding with the Ottoman Empire, which transformed into a Franco-Ottoman alliance. The objective for king Francis I was clearly to find an ally against the powerful Habsburg Emperor Charles V, in the person of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The Ottoman-French strategic and sometimes tactical, alliance lasted for about three centuries.[9] This first "alliance" in World history, between a Christian and a Moslem country caused quite a scandal at the time in the Christian world.

To relieve the Habsburg pressure on France, Francis asked Suleiman to make war on the Holy Roman Empire. The road from Turkey to the Holy Roman Empire led across Hungary.... The request of the French king nicely corresponded to the ambitions of Suleiman in Europe, and gave him an incentive to attack Hungary in 1526, leading to the Battle of Mohács.[9]

Preparations

General Pál Tomori in his golden armour, 1526

The loss of Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár) in 1521 caused great alarm in Hungary, but the too-late and too-slowly-recruited 60,000 strong royal army – led by the king - forgot to take food along, so therefore the army disbanded spontaneously under the pressure of hunger and disease without even trying to recapture Belgrade, the Southern key of Hungary, from the newly installed Turkish garrisons.

In 1523 Archbishop Pál Tomori, a valiant priest-soldier, was made Captain of Southern Hungary. The general apathy that had characterized the country forced him to lean on his own bishopric revenues when he started to repair and reinforce the second line of Hungary’s border defense system.

Three years later, a huge Ottoman army set out from Constantinople on April 16 1526, led by Suleiman the Magnificent personally. The Hungarian nobles, who still did not realize the huge dimensions of the approaching danger, did not heed their King's call to the colours. Louis II ordered them to encamp on July 2, but no one reported on that day – not even the King. Only when Louis himself furnished an example with his appearance in the camp did things start to move.

The Hungarian war council – without waiting for their reinforcements only a few days march away – made a serious tactical error by choosing the battlefield near Mohacs, an open but uneven plain with some swampy marshes.

The Hungarian army was divided into three main units: the Transylvanian army under John Zápolya, charged with guarding the passes in the Transylvanian Alps, with between 8,000 and 13,000 men; the main army, led by Louis himself (beside numerous Spanish, German, Czech and Serbian mercenaries); and another smaller force, commanded by the Croatian count Christopher Frankopan, numbering around 5,000 men. Due to geography, the Turkish army's ultimate goal could not be determined until it was crossing the Balkan Mountains. Unfortunately for the Hungarians, by the time the Ottoman army had crossed, the Transylvanian army was further from Buda than the Ottomans were. Contemporary historical records, though sparse, indicate that Louis preferred a plan of retreat, in effect ceding the country to Ottoman advances, rather than directly engaging the Ottoman army in open battle.

The Hungarian forces chose the battlefield, an open but uneven plain with some swampy marshes near Mohács leading down to the Danube. The Ottomans had been allowed to advance almost unopposed. While Louis waited in Buda, they had besieged several towns and crossed the Sava and Drava Rivers. Louis assembled around 25,000 to 28,000 soldiers (with Croatian and Polish contingents and ca. 800-1000 soldier of the Papal States) while the Ottoman army numbered around 50,000 to 65,000.[3][4][10] The Hungarian army was arrayed to take advantage of the terrain and hoped to engage the Ottoman army piecemeal.

The battle of Mohács, on an Ottoman miniature

The battle

Hungary had an expensive but obsolete army, structured similarly to that of King Francis I at the battle of Pavia.

Like the uncertainty over the number of actual combatants, there is debate over the length of the battle. Its starting time is generally placed between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM, but the endpoint is difficult to ascertain. While some historians have placed the length of the battle at two to three hours, this seems unlikely given several important factors. The Ottoman army did not retreat from the field and enter camp after the battle; instead, they remained on the field all night without food, water, or shelter. Given that the Ottoman historians all note that it was raining, it seems likely that had the battle been short and ended early in the afternoon, by 5:00 PM at the latest, the Sultan would have ordered his army to camp or at least to return to their baggage. The few reliable sources indicate that Louis left the field at twilight and made his escape under cover of darkness; since the sun would not have set until 6:27 PM on August 29, 1526,[11] this would imply that the battle lasted longer than two to three hours (perhaps as long as four or five).

As the first of Suleiman's troops, the Rumelian army, advanced onto the battlefield, they were attacked and routed by Hungarian troops led by Pál Tomori. This attack by the Hungarian right was successful in causing considerable chaos among the Ottoman ranks, but even as the Hungarian attack pressed forward, the Ottomans rallied with the arrival of more Ottoman forces. While the Hungarian right advanced far enough at one time to place Suleiman in danger from Hungarian arrows that struck his cuirass, the superiority of the Ottoman numbers and the timely charge of the Janissaries, the elite troops of the Ottomans, probably overwhelmed the attackers, particularly on the Hungarian left. The Hungarians took serious casualties from the skillfully handled Turkish artillery. The Hungarians could not hold their positions, and those who did not flee were surrounded and killed or captured. The king left the battlefield sometime around twilight but was thrown from his horse in a river at Csele and died, weighed down by his heavy armor. Some 1,000 other Hungarian nobles and leaders were also killed. It is generally accepted that more than 14,000 Hungarian soldiers were killed in the initial battle.[1][2]

In the aftermath, Suleiman gave orders to keep no prisoners. Next day he wrote in his diary: "The Sultan, seated on a golden throne, receives the homage of the viziers and the beys, massacre of 2,000 prisoners, the rain falls in torrents." Reportedly among those 2,000 were several notable Hungarian leaders.[12]

Aftermath

Hungary around 1550
The largest expansion of Turks (1683)

The victory did not give the Ottomans the security they wanted. Though they entered the unguarded evacuated Buda and pillaged the castle and surroundings, they retreated soon afterwards. It was not until 1541 that the Ottomans finally captured and occupied Buda (see main article). However, to all intents and purposes, the Battle of Mohács meant the end of the independent Kingdom of Hungary as a unified entity. The Ottoman occupation was contested by the Habsburg Archduke of Austria, Ferdinand I, Louis's brother-in-law and successor by treaty with King Vladislaus II. Bohemia fell to Austria, who also dominated the Northern and western parts of Hungary and portions of today's Croatia (Royal Hungary), while the Ottomans held central Hungary and suzerainty over semi-independent Transylvania. This provided the Hungarians with sufficient impetus to continue to resist the Ottoman occupation, which they did for another seventy years.

The subsequent near constant warfare required a sustained commitment of Ottoman forces, proving a drain on resources that the largely rural and war torn kingdom proved unable to repay. Christian armies besieged Buda several times during the 1500s, and Suleiman himself died of natural causes in Hungary during the Battle of Szigetvár in 1566; there were also two unsuccessful Ottoman sieges of Eger, which did not fall until 1596, seventy years after the Ottoman victory at Mohacs. The Turks proved unable to conquer the Northern and Western parts of Hungary which belonged to the Habsburg monarchs.

Legacy

Battle Monument in Mohács

Mohács is seen by many Hungarians as the decisive downward turning point in the country's history, a national trauma that persists in the nation's folk memory. For moments of bad luck, still say: "more was lost at Mohács" (Több is veszett Mohácsnál). Hungarians view Mohács as marking the end of an independent and once powerful European nation. While Mohács was a decisive loss, it was the aftermath that truly put an end to independent Hungary. The ensuing two hundred years of near constant warfare between the two empires, Habsburg and Ottoman, devastated the Hungarian countryside and decimated the population.

The battlefield became an official national historical memorial site in 1976 on the 450th anniversary of the battle. The memorial was designed by architect György Vadász.[13]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Turner & Corvisier & Childs, A Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War, pp. 365–366 "In 1526, at the battle of Mohács, the Hungarian army was destroyed by the Turks. King Louis II died, along with 7 bishops, 28 barons and most of his army (4,000 cavalry and 10,000 infantry)."
  2. ^ a b c d e Minahan, One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups, p. 311 "A peasant uprising, crushed in 1514, was followed by defeat by the Ottoman Turks at the battle of Mohacs in 1526. King Louis II and more than 20,000 of his men perished in battle, which marked the end of Hungarian power in Central Europe."
  3. ^ a b Stavrianos, Balkans Since 1453, p. 26 "The latter group prevailed, and on August 29, 1526, the fateful battle of Mohacs was fought: 25,000 to 28,000 Hungarians and assorted allies on the one side, and on the other 45,000 Turkish regulars supported by 10,000 to 20,000 lightly armed irregulars."
  4. ^ a b Nicolle, David, Hungary and the fall of Eastern Europe, 1000-1568, p. 13 "Hungary mustered some 25,000 men and 85 bore cannons (only 53 being used in actual battle), while for various reasons the troops from Transylvania and Croatia failed to arrive. The Ottomans are said to have numbered over twice as many — though this figure is exaggerated — and had up to 160 cannon."
  5. ^ The nobleman arrived late in the day and retreated to claim the throne,
  6. ^ Stephen, Turnbull (2003). The Ottoman Empire 1326 - 1699. New York: Osprey. pp. 49.  
  7. ^ "Hungary - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/276730/Hungary#tab=active~checked%2Citems~checked&title=Hungary%20--%20Britannica%20Online%20Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-11-21.  
  8. ^ http://geography.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/hutoc.html
  9. ^ a b Merriman, p.132
  10. ^ Molnár, A Concise History of Hungary, p. 85 "We know fairly accurately that his army, though numerically superior, was not more than double the size of the Hungarian army: 50,000 men against 25,000."
  11. ^ Cornwall, C., Horiuchi, A., and Lehman, C. Sunrise/Sunset Calculator. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Accessed August 31, 2008, using the Gregorian date of the battle, September 8, 1526. Also entered were the coordinates 45° 56′ 29″ N, 18° 38′ 50″ E and a "time zone" of 1.243 hours before Greenwich, since at the time of the battle, time zones had not been invented.
  12. ^ PRE-20TH CENTURY GENOCIDE AND MASS MURDER
  13. ^ Historical Memorial at Mohács

References

  • Stavrianos, L.S. Balkans Since 1453, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2000.
  • Nicolle, David, Hungary and the fall of Eastern Europe, 1000-1568, Osprey Publishing, 1988.
  • Stephen Turnbull, The Ottoman Empire 1326–1699, Osprey Publishing, 2003.
  • Molnár, Miklós, A Concise History of Hungary, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Minahan, James B. One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups, Greenwood Press, 2000.
  • Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire (1977) ISBN 0688080936
  • History Foundation, Improvement of Balkan History Textbooks Project Reports (2001) ISBN 9757306916
  • John Killson, "The Sublime Porte" (2002) ISBN 0075434536776

External links

Coordinates: 45°56′29″N 18°38′50″E / 45.94139°N 18.64722°E / 45.94139; 18.64722


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