Battle of Calugareni 1595 – Long Turkish War

Battle of Calugareni 1595 – Long Turkish War. The death of Suleiman the Magnificent and the Ottoman defeat at Lepanto have often been viewed as turning points in Ottoman history – the beginning of an unstoppable decline that would not end until the empire’s fall in the aftermath of the Great War. Still, the Ottomans remained a major force on the world stage for decades and centuries to come, with vigorous efforts to modernize and adapt to a changing world.

This new mini-series will cover one of the first conflicts that started the Ottoman decline – the so-called Long Turkish War also known as the Thirteen Years’ War, and the battle of Calugareni. The idea of the Ottoman decline was already on the minds of the thinkers of the late 16th century with Bosnian theologian Hasan al-Kafi warning that greed and corruption were bringing ruin to the state, while the failure to adopt Western technologies was crippling the army.

Siege and Attrition

This decline cannot be attributed strictly to military defeats – Lepanto, despite its tremendous scale, had been only a fairly minor setback, as the Ottomans managed to rebuild their fleet rapidly and took back full control of Tunis from the Spaniards in the years to follow. But it is impossible to deny that politics and development in Europe were rapidly transforming the balance of power to the Ottomans’ disadvantage, or that the systems of governance that had served an expanding, conquering empire were breaking down in the face of years of stagnation and stalemate.

The Ottoman military nobility known as the Sipahi, somewhat analogous to Western knights, were primarily paid by being granted small fiefs in the conquered territory called Timars – loyalty or military success would be rewarded with larger tracts of land, a system that required constant military expansion to sustain. In centuries prior, rapid Ottoman conquests in Europe and the Middle East allowed for the Sipahi to be kept loyal and wealthy, but as the frontier in Hungary became ever more fortified fast conquests gave way to endless campaigns of siege and attrition.

Battle of Calugareni

The Timar system quickly became unworkable, with Sipahi nobles turning rebellious or launching unsanctioned raids as the Ottoman state proved unable to provide the ever-growing land demands. As for transformations in European politics, the most obvious development had been the rise of Russia as a major power. Once a backwater nation under the looming shadows of Sweden, Poland, and the numerous khanates to its East and South, Russia had grown to become the Ottomans’ most persistent and belligerent European rival, challenging them in Moldavia, the Caucasus.

And even in power games over foreign thrones. In 1572, just a year after Lepanto, the death of Poland-Lithuania’s monarch Sigismund II would throw the powers of Europe into a mad scramble to place their candidates on the vacant throne, with Ivan IV of Russia being himself a major candidate. Though he would fail in his attempt at the Polish throne, being beaten twice by Ottoman-friendly candidates – first by the French prince Henry of Valois and then by Stephen Bathory, Voivode of Ottoman-dominated Transylvania – Russia would remain a looming threat to the Ottomans for centuries to follow.

Holy Roman Empire

In comparison to Russia, the Holy Roman Empire under the House of Habsburg was having troubles of its own. Though first Maximilian II and, after 1576, his son Rudolf II reigned as Holy Roman Emperors, their authority over their House and Empire was not unchallenged, and the Spanish branch of the Habsburg family jockeyed for influence within the Empire with their Austrian kinsfolk. The deep religious divides within the Empire were exploited masterfully by Spain’s zealously Catholic Habsburg king, Philip II.

Who commanded the loyalty of Bavaria and numerous Catholic Princes while Rudolf sought in vain to stay neutral and preserve religious peace. Internal division and a growing financial crisis meant that, despite signs of Ottoman weakness following Lepanto and the Papacy’s urging for renewed Crusade, neither Maximillian nor Rudolf were eager for a return to war with the Turks, and continued paying sizeable yearly tributes in hopes of avoiding a much more costly war.

History of Sultan Murad III

For their part, the Ottomans under Murad III were similarly reluctant to upset the status quo on the Western borders established in the 1568 Treaty of Adrianople, with Murad’s reign being marked mostly with campaigns in the East against Safavid Persia. The first trade capitulations were signed by Murad in 1580, in an attempt to bring his nation more fully into the European trade economy, demonstrating a significant shift in Ottoman policy towards integration.

But despite the desire of both leaders to maintain the peace, events in 1592 would bring them crashing to war once more, with significant repercussions for both states. Small-scale raiding and conflict along the heavily fortified Hungarian borders had been commonplace during times of peace since the reign of Suleiman, but the previously mentioned collapse of the Timar system had spurred frontier Sipahi to carry out ever more blatant attacks.

Treaty of Adrianople

In 1592, though still bound by the Treaty of Adrianople, Beylerbey Hasan Pasha of Bosnia besieged and conquered the city of Bihac in Habsburg Croatia. Though the uneasy peace was held, the next year he would attempt to replicate the feat by besieging Sisak. Though the fort was lightly defended, by perhaps 800 Croatian soldiers, a relief force of more than 4,000 was assembled under the leadership of Ruprecht von Eggenberg, a career soldier with a long history of service in the Spanish army behind him.

Reaching Sisak on June 21, 1593, Ruprecht found himself facing a far larger force than his own – more than 12,000 Ottoman raiders were camped to his southeast across the Kupa River. But however large it might have been, Hasan Pasha’s raiding force was ill-suited for a proper invasion – assembled as it was by a regional strongman without the support of Constantinople, it lacked the firepower and discipline of a proper Ottoman army.

Long Turkish War

Hodža Memi Bey, a talented commander who had accompanied the Beylerbeyi as an advisor, was well aware of this fact and counseled a withdrawal back to friendly territory. But Hasan Pasha would hear none of his words of caution and marched his army across the Kupa River on hastily constructed bridges the following day – marching straight into the teeth of a significantly better-armed force with no clear lines of retreat. When the battle was first joined, skilled Turkish Sipahi cavalry were able to ward off initial attacks by Eggenberg’s army.

However, the Kupa and Odra rivers restricted the battlefield and made maneuvering difficult for the more mobile Ottoman force. Unable to bring their cavalry to bear against the enemy gun crews, the Ottoman raiders were pounded by artillery fire, with the entry of the fort’s garrison into the battle soon throwing them into a panicked rout. the majority of the Ottoman army was either slain on the battlefield or drowned in the attempted retreat, with Hasan Pasha among the nearly 8,000 dead.

Ottoman Empire’s Army

As a military loss, the Ottoman defeat at Sisak was far from crippling, with the majority of the losses being hastily assembled levies and freebooters. The humiliation of the defeat and Hasan Pasha’s death was a blow the Porte could not ignore, however, and the pro-war voices in Murad’s court soon won him over. Despite the so-called Jelali rebellions of renegade Sipahi and bandits breaking out in Anatolia, the decision was made to annul the Treaty of Adrianople and once again make war against the Habsburgs.

A month after the Battle of Sisak, a mighty Ottoman army under Koca Sinan Pasha marched into Hungary, with Vienna as its long-term goal. However, from the very beginning, setbacks and problems began to mount for the Ottoman army. Gyor and Komárno both fell to the Ottomans in the war’s opening stages after short but brutal sieges, but the Imperial armies evened the scales by capturing Filakovo and Nograd as winter drew near.

The Ottoman State

The return to war inspired more enemies than just the Habsburgs to take up arms against the Ottomans – Sigismund Bathory of Transylvania, though in theory an Ottoman vassal, made no effort to answer his suzerain’s call to arms. Instead, he and the Austrians both provided arms and aid to rebels within Ottoman Europe. In Banat, Orthodox Christians revolted en masse against the Ottoman state in 1594, and though the ragtag rebel bands were no match for Sinan Pasha’s army, and were soon crushed.

They bogged down the Ottoman advance and compounded an already pressing crisis of rebellions empire-wide. Failing to win any decisive victories against the Imperials in 1593 or 1594, the Ottomans were forced to watch their rapid advance into Hungary devolve into a grinding stalemate, while to the West a new Christian coalition was being assembled to confront them. The reigning Pope in 1594 was Clement VIII, who dreamed of a united Christendom driving the Ottomans from Europe.

Ottoman Empire

Despite the failures of numerous Crusades and Holy Leagues made for this purpose by his predecessors, Clement seems to have quite strongly believed that he would be the Pope to make this vision a reality. As Imperial and Ottoman armies clashed in Hungary, Clement sent missions to the courts of Spain, Russia, Poland, and the various Cossack and Slavic nations of the Balkans and Ukraine. As all the nations summoned shared an enmity of the Ottomans, this grand coalition might have seemed a sensible alliance.

Unfortunately for Clement, his religiously focused worldview failed to account for more pressing rivalries. Russia and Poland, having been enemies in the Livonian War little more than a decade ago and seems poised for another round of hostilities, both declined the invitation out of distrust for the other. The failure to win these two important regional powers to the Imperial cause was a major blow to Clement’s Holy League, but the project was not a total failure.

Christian Leader

The Spanish sent 8,000 battle-hardened soldiers from the Netherlands to aid their Austrian allies, the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine joined the Imperial cause and became embroiled in conflict with the Ottoman-aligned Crimean Tatars, and most significantly, Sigismund Bathory of Transylvania renounced his Ottoman vassalage entirely and joined the Holy League as a Christian leader. These new allied powers began scoring major victories almost immediately.

Michael the Brave of Wallachia defeated Ottoman armies in Moldova, conquering Nikopolis, and even pushing as far south as the former Ottoman capital of Adrianople in the late Autumn of 1594. This daring invasion would nearly prove the undoing of both Michael the Brave and his nation, however. While the numerous allied powers were quite effectively harrying the Ottomans on numerous fronts, a far greater force than any of them could match individually.

About Sinan Pasha

After completing the suppression of the Bosnian rebels, the Turkish force marched not towards Vienna, but to Wallachia to end the threat Michael posed and annex the state fully to the Ottoman Empire. Michael was forced to surrender his recent conquests without a fight, retreating back across the Danube River ahead of the Ottoman army in hopes of avoiding a lopsided field battle against the larger force.

When it became clear Sinan Pasha intended to pursue him into Wallachia, Michael was forced to turn and confront the pursuing army. On August 23, 1595, he chose the marshy fields near Calugareni just north of the Neajlov River to make his stand. The Battle of Calugareni would be the first major battle of the Long Turkish War and something of a turning point. On the marshy north bank of the river, overlooking the sole bridge spanning it.

Sinan Pasha’s Army

Michael the Brave organized his 20,000-strong army to meet Sinan Pasha’s force of more than 90,000. After a brief cavalry skirmish that ended in the Wallachian’s favor, Sinan Pasha sent his first major assault over the bridge. After allowing the Ottomans to cross the river, Michael opened fire with 12 large field guns and simultaneously launched a fierce attack with his army. Bogged down in the marsh north of the river, the 12,000-strong Ottoman division took a great many casualties before being forced back across the bridge.

This represented only a minor setback for Sinan Pasha’s army, however. Following the first wave’s defeat, flanking forces of swift cavalry were deployed, with Tiryaki Hasan Pasha, the Beylerbeyi of Rumelia, crossing the river at another bridge to the West while a second detachment under Mehmet Satirghi Pasha found a safe ford to the East. When Sinan Pasha sent his second attack over the river, it was composed of elite janissaries well-versed in siege operations who rapidly lay down log and plank bridges to carry them through the marsh.

Michael and His Army

Though Michael at first attempted to repulse them as he had the first wave, the arrival of the reinforcing cavalry quickly made his position a dire one. Rather than allow his outnumbered army to be surrounded, he prudently withdrew to the north of Calugareni village, abandoning his cannons to the advancing Ottomans. Yet the Janissaries, tasting victory, decided to pursue the retreating Wallachians rather than pausing to gather their forces or secure the enemy cannons for their use.

This overconfidence right when victory seemed assured would rapidly prove their undoing. When the Janissaries caught up to Michael and his army, they were caught off-guard to find them drawn up in battle lines, ready for battle, rather than in full retreat as they had expected. The Janissary force had also broken formation significantly in the difficult trek through the marshy ground and was caught at a disadvantage against the Wallachians. Their attack was repulsed, then driven back in disarray.

Mehmet Satirghi Pasha’s

Mehmet Satirghi Pasha’s cavalry force, moving to engage, was itself set upon by a returning scouting force of 400 Wallachian and mercenary horsemen, with the flankers themselves becoming flanked as Michael’s main force drove back the Janissaries and turned to engage his cavalry. Though the Ottoman forces north of the river outnumbered the Wallachians, with the greater part of the Ottoman army still unengaged to the South, the assault was rapidly collapsing into disarray.

In a desperate attempt to salvage the situation, Sinan Pasha led his guard to restore order to his wavering troops, only for the Janissaries’ earlier carelessness to develop into full-blown disaster – with the Ottomans having neglected to capture the Wallachian cannons previously and now being forced to retreat past them back towards the bridge, the Wallachian gun crews took the opportunity to return to their posts and fire another salvo into the Ottoman ranks.

History Battle

The renewed roar of the guns shattered any hope Sinan Pasha might have had to restore the failing morale, and he retreated with his routing army across the overloaded bridge to the safety of their camp. With the main Ottoman force routed Michael broke off the retreat to engage and defeat Tiryaki Hasan Pasha’s still-intact cavalry force to his West, sensibly opting to secure his position rather than chasing the retreating army across the river and risk having his retreat cut off as had been the case for the raiders at Sisak.

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With the Ottoman Empire losses greater than 10,000, many falling in battle and some drowning in the retreat, the Battle of Calugareni was a significant tactical victory for the Wallachians. On a strategic level, however, it failed to drive the Ottomans from Wallachia or significantly dent their numerical superiority. While Michael’s losses of just over 1,000 had been far less than those of his foes, he could less afford to suffer casualties to his smaller army, and only a portion of the Ottoman army had engaged in the battle.

Another attack by fresh Ottoman troops would be difficult for his battered and exhausted force to withstand. And so, despite his decisive victory on the field, Michael the Brave would withdraw from Calugareni by night, retreating to the North while Sinan Pasha marched to capture Targoviste and the Wallachian capital of Bucharest. Wallachia, however briefly, had fallen largely into Ottoman hands. But Michael’s army remained intact, and his allies were marching swiftly to Wallachia’s aid.

Battle of Lepanto 1571 - The Ottoman Empire
Battle of Lepanto 1571 – The Ottoman Empire
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