Today’s installment concludes Turkish Threat on Europe Finally Vanquished,
our selection from Memoirs of Prince Eugene of Savoy by Prince Eugene Of Savoy published in 1811.
Yesterday in Turkish Threat on Europe Finally Vanquished.
I had caused the country in the rear of the grand vizier’s army to be ravaged: but these people, as well as their horses and especially their camels, will live almost upon nothing. Scarcely an hour passed in which I did not lose a score of men by the dysentery, or by the cannon from the lines, which the infidels advanced more and more every night toward my intrenchments. I was less the besieger than the besieged. My affairs toward the city went on better. A bomb which fell into a magazine of powder completed its destruction and occasioned the loss of three thousand men.
At length I recovered from my illness; and, on August 15th, notwithstanding the ill-advice of persons who were not fond of battles, the matter was fixed. I calculated that listlessness and despair would produce success.
I did not sleep, as Alexander did before the battle of Arbela; but the Turks did, who were no Alexanders: opium and predestination will make philosophers of us. I gave brief and explicit instructions touching whatever might happen. I quitted my intrenchments one hour after midnight: the darkness first and then a fog rendered my first undertakings mere chance. Some of my battalions, on the right wing, fell, unintentionally, while marching, into a part of the Turkish intrenchments. A terrible confusion among them, who never have either advanced posts or spies; and, among us, a similar confusion, which it would be impossible to describe: they fired from the left to the center, on both sides, without knowing where. The janizaries fled from their intrenchments: I had time to throw into them fascines and gabions, to make a passage for my cavalry who pursued them, I know not how: the fog dispersed and the Turks perceived a dreadful breach. But for my second line, which I ordered to march there immediately, to stop this breach, I should have been lost. I then wished to march in order: impossible! I was better served than I expected. La Colonie, at the head of his Bavarians, rushed forward and took a battery of eighteen pieces of cannon. I was obliged to do better than I wished. I sustained the Bavarians; and the Turks, after having fled to the heights, lost all the advantages of their ground. A large troop of their cavalry wished to charge mine, which were too much advanced; a whole regiment was cut in pieces; but two others, who arrived opportunely to their aid, decided the victory. It was then that I received a cut from a sabre; it was, I believe, my thirteenth wound, and probably my last. Everything was over at eleven o’clock in the morning. Viard, during the battle, retained the garrison of Belgrad, which capitulated the same day. I forgot that there was no Boufflers there: I played the generous man: I granted the honors of war to the garrison, who, not knowing what they meant, did not avail themselves of them. Men, women, and children, chariots and camels, issued forth all at once, pell-mell, by land and by water.
At Vienna the devotees cried out, “A miracle!” those who envied me cried out, “Good-fortune!” Charles VI was, I believe, among the former: and Guido Stahrenberg among the latter. I was well received, as might have been expected.
Here is my opinion respecting this victory, in which I have more cause for justification than for glory; my partisans have spoken too favorably of it, and my enemies too severely. They would have had much more reason to propose cutting off my head on this occasion than on that of Zenta, for there I risked nothing. I was certain of conquering: but here, not only I might have been beaten, but totally ruined and lost in a storm, for the enemy’s artillery to the left, on the shores of the Danube, had destroyed my bridges. I was, indeed, superior in saics and in workmen and artillerymen to protect or repair them: I had a corps also at Semlin.
Could I anticipate the tardiness or disinclination of the authorities who engaged in this war, where there were so many vices of the interior in administration, and so much ignorance in the chiefs of the civil and commissariat departments? Hence it was that I was in want of everything necessary to commence the siege, and to take Belgrad before the arrival of the grand vizier, and which hindered me afterward from checking him on the heights. This, however, I should have done — but for my cursed fever — before his artillery arrived. And then that unlucky dysentery, which put my army into the hospital, or rather into the burying-ground, for each regiment had one behind its camp — could I anticipate that also? These were the two motives which induced me to attack, and to risk all or nothing, for I was as certainly lost one way as another. I threw up intrenchments against intrenchments: I knew a little more upon that subject than my comrade the grand vizier; and I had plenty of troops in health to guard them. I obliged him for want of provisions — for, as I have already said, I caused all the country in his rear to be ravaged — to decamp, and, consequently, Belgrad to surrender. Thus, if this manuscript should be read, give me neither praise, my dear reader, nor blame. After all, I extricated myself, perhaps, as Charles VI said, his confessor, and the pious souls who trust in God, and who wished me at the Devil, by the protection of the Virgin Mary, for the battle was fought on Assumption Day.
Europe was getting embroiled elsewhere. Some charitable souls advised the Emperor to send me to negotiate at London, reckoning that they might procure for another the easy glory of terminating the war.
I was not such a fool as to fall into this snare, and I set off for Hungary at the commencement of June, with a fine sword worth eighty thousand florins which the Emperor had presented to me.
This ends our series of passages on Turkish Threat on Europe Finally Vanquished by Prince Eugene Of Savoy from his book Memoirs of Prince Eugene of Savoy published in 1811. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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