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The Ottoman Wars and the Changing Balance of Power along the Danube in the Early Eighteenth Century

Published in Charles W Ingrao, Nikola Samardžić, and Jovan Pešalj eds., The Peace of Passarowitz, 1718. West Lafayette, Ind: Purdue University Press, 2011, pp. 93-108.
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  93 T HE  O TTOMAN  W ARS   AND   THE  C HANGING  B ALANCE   OF  P OWER    ALONG   THE  D ANUBE   IN   THE  E ARLY  E IGHTEENTH  C ENTURY ◆ Gábor Ágoston   ◆ This paper aims to understand the changing military balance between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans at the turn of the eighteenth century and to pro-vide realistic estimates as to the effective military strengths of the Ottoman and Habsburg armies before and during the Ottoman-Habsburg war of 1716–18. Its main argument is that, despite multiple military commitments and its inadequate military, as well as bureaucratic and nancial reforms, Vienna by the late sev -enteenth century had considerably strengthened its military capabilities vis-à- vis the Ottomans. Habsburg forces ghting in Hungary during the Long War of 1593–1606 temporarily achieved tactical superiority over the Ottomans, although this superiority could not yet bring any major territorial gains. By the 1684–99 war, however, the Habsburgs had matched Ottoman military capabilities in terms of numbers of mobilized troops and military hardware, though this came only through their alliance with the other members of the Holy League (i.e., Venice, Poland, and Russia). By integrating central Hungary and Transylvania and, by 1718, the Banat of Temesvár, into the Habsburg monarchy, Vienna considerably extended the pool of human and economic resources at its disposal for mobili-zation in future war efforts. The acquisition of Hungary and Transylvania also meant that Vienna had removed the support bases of the Hungarian nobility, who, in repeated anti-Habsburg insurrections from the late sixteenth century onward, had challenged Vienna’s authority and legitimacy, limited its access to military and economic resources, and compromised its strategy. Moreover, the Habsburg troops were commanded by one of the most talented military leaders of the time,   C  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  ©   2  0  1  1 .  P  u  r  d  u  e  U  n  i  v  e  r  s  i  t  y  P  r  e  s  s .  A  l  l  r  i  g  h  t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e  d .  M  a  y  n  o  t  b  e  r  e  p  r  o  d  u  c  e  d  i  n  a  n  y  f  o  r  m  w  i  t  h  o  u  t  p  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n  f  r  o  m  t  h  e  p  u  b  l  i  s  h  e  r ,  e  x  c  e  p  t  f  a  i  r  u  s  e  s  p  e  r  m  i  t  t  e  d  u  n  d  e  r  U .  S .  o  r  a  p  p  l  i  c  a  b  l  e  c  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  l  a  w . EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 9/12/2013 11:04 AM via GEORGETOWNUNIVERSITYAN: 493408 ; Pesalj, Jovan, Samardzic, Nikola, Ingrao, Charles W..; The Peace of Passarowitz, 1718Account: s8986927  94   ◆  GÁBOR ÁGOSTON Eugene of Savoy. His leadership at the head of the Habsburg War Council was crucial in reforming and modernizing the Habsburg military. Ottoman military, administrative, and nancial developments followed a reverse trend. While in the sixteenth century the sultans had more control over their resources and armed forces than their Habsburg rivals had over theirs, by the eighteenth century the traditional Ottoman military structure had lost its strength. This system was based on two pillars: one, the standing forces of the Porte, known as kapukulu  or “slaves of the Porte,” consisting of the elite Janis-sary infantry and six divisions of central cavalry troops, and, two, provincial cavalry forces remunerated by land tenure ( timar  ) prebends. Since both the stand-ing infantry and cavalry and the provincial troops had deteriorated, the sultans had to rely increasingly on the armed troops raised and nanced by provincial governors and local strongmen, as well as on seasonal forces (known as levend  ,  sekban , or  sarıca ), which were recruited from the subject reaya  population and  paid from the central treasury and then disbanded after the campaign season to save money. By the early eighteenth century, provincial elites had appropriated a good share of the empire’s resources, with which they established and maintained their own private armies. Due to the deterioration of the Ottoman timar system, and, consequently, of the provincial administration that was based on these timar  prebends, the sultans became increasingly dependent on local elites and their troops in administering their empire, maintaining law and order in the provinces, and raising armies for campaigns. This modied Ottoman recruitment and re -muneration system could still mobilize large numbers of troops, although the inated paper gures of ofcial documents and narrative sources, often repeated in the literature, are misleading, as will be seen from the following examples. Similar decentralization, which resulted in diminished production capabilities, can be observed with regard to the production of weapons and ammunition in the Ottoman Empire. However, the lack of adequate weaponry and ammunition would not hinder Ottoman war efforts until the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768–74. Habsburg military strength Following the battle of Mohács in 1526—in which the troops of Sultan Süley- man I (reign 1520–66) killed Louis II of Jagiellon, king of Bohemia and Hungary (reign 1516–26)—the Habsburgs, due to the Habsburg-Jagiellon treaty of 1515 and Ferdinand Habsburg’s election to the Bohemian and Hungarian thrones, be -came kings of Bohemia and Hungary. Along with the Hungarian throne, however, the Habsburgs also inherited the centuries-old struggle with the expanding Otto-man Empire. Partly as a response to the Ottoman threat and to Ottoman military, administrative, and nancial superiority, the Habsburgs embarked on a long pro - gram of military, administrative, and nancial modernization. They strengthened   C  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  ©   2  0  1  1 .  P  u  r  d  u  e  U  n  i  v  e  r  s  i  t  y  P  r  e  s  s .  A  l  l  r  i  g  h  t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e  d .  M  a  y  n  o  t  b  e  r  e  p  r  o  d  u  c  e  d  i  n  a  n  y  f  o  r  m  w  i  t  h  o  u  t  p  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n  f  r  o  m  t  h  e  p  u  b  l  i  s  h  e  r ,  e  x  c  e  p  t  f  a  i  r  u  s  e  s  p  e  r  m  i  t  t  e  d  u  n  d  e  r  U .  S .  o  r  a  p  p  l  i  c  a  b  l  e  c  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  l  a  w . EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 9/12/2013 11:04 AM via GEORGETOWNUNIVERSITYAN: 493408 ; Pesalj, Jovan, Samardzic, Nikola, Ingrao, Charles W..; The Peace of Passarowitz, 1718Account: s8986927  The Ottoman Wars and the Changing Balance of Power ◆   95 and updated Hungary’s outdated forts using Italian military engineers and tech - niques ( trace italienne ), recruited and paid permanent garrison forces to be em-  ployed in these forts, and modernized their nances and administration. Although Vienna remained dependent on the Hungarian, Bohemian, and Austrian estates for the nancing and upkeep of the forts and their garrisons, by the seventeenth century Habsburg rulers had achieved considerable control over the military and related nances. 1 In the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War, the Habsburgs managed to keep some of their regiments together, and thus to establish a standing eld army. From the 1680s on, the  Landrekrutenstellung   or “provincial recruitment” system  became the main method of raising troops in wartime. Although this recruitment still depended on the participation of the estates, unlike in earlier times when the  provinces could commute their obligations to a monetary payment, now they were required to provide recruits, making the system more efcient and less ex - pensive. Estimates regarding the size of the Habsburg standing army vary, but the following chart (see Figure 1) should give the reader some sense as to the ef  -fective and paper strength of the Habsburg military between the second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and the Peace Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718. In addition to from 14,000 to 15,000 garrison soldiers stationed in the Hun-garian forts, in the mid-seventeenth century the size of the effective Habsburg troops uctuated between 14,000 and 53,000 men. However, in the 1680s and 1690s Vienna was able to mobilize troops numbering between 64,000 and 86,000. In 1705 the effective forces numbered over 110,000 men, and during the Austro-Ottoman war of 1716–18 the total paper strength of the Habsburg army reached 160,000 men. Of course, the actual size of the army was much smaller. In 1706, for instance, the army was short 31,000 infantrymen and 13,000 horses, and the following year the infantry still lacked 26,000 men. Heavy casualties further di- minished troop strength. The twenty-ve infantry regiments ghting against the Ottomans in Hungary in the 1716 campaign, for example, needed 17,500 new recruits for the following year’s campaign. 2   During and after the War of the Holy League, the central government gradu - ally assumed stronger control over recruitment, nancing, and supply. This was true even when we consider that with regard to the administration of warfare Vienna did not achieve a measure of centralization comparable to that of its Eu -ropean rivals until after 1740. Still, compared to the Ottomans, the control of the relevant Viennese central governmental bodies (i.e., the Court War Council, Hofkammer, War Commissariat) gave substantially more oversight to the em -  peror, his generals, and administrators than the sultans (or their grand viziers) of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries could ever dream of. This fact did not escape the attention of contemporary Ottoman observers, who noted that the number of ofcers and the ratio of ofcers to rank-and-le were substantially   C  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  ©   2  0  1  1 .  P  u  r  d  u  e  U  n  i  v  e  r  s  i  t  y  P  r  e  s  s .  A  l  l  r  i  g  h  t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e  d .  M  a  y  n  o  t  b  e  r  e  p  r  o  d  u  c  e  d  i  n  a  n  y  f  o  r  m  w  i  t  h  o  u  t  p  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n  f  r  o  m  t  h  e  p  u  b  l  i  s  h  e  r ,  e  x  c  e  p  t  f  a  i  r  u  s  e  s  p  e  r  m  i  t  t  e  d  u  n  d  e  r  U .  S .  o  r  a  p  p  l  i  c  a  b  l  e  c  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  l  a  w . EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 9/12/2013 11:04 AM via GEORGETOWNUNIVERSITYAN: 493408 ; Pesalj, Jovan, Samardzic, Nikola, Ingrao, Charles W..; The Peace of Passarowitz, 1718Account: s8986927  96   ◆  GÁBOR ÁGOSTON higher in the Habsburg armies than in the Ottoman military. As a result, Habsburg commanders were better able to control their armies, which were organized into smaller and more agile units than their Ottoman counterparts. Ottoman military transformation and army strength As late as the 1680s and 1690s the Ottomans could still mobilize large armies of 80,000 to 90,000 men, similar to or perhaps even larger than the armies of Süleyman the Magnicent in the heyday of Ottoman military power, when some 60,000 to 70,000 men accompanied the sultan in his major campaigns. 3  Christian spies estimated the grand vizier’s forces at 90,000 men in the 1698 campaign, and an ofcial Ottoman list recorded the number of mobilized troops for the 1697–98 Hungarian campaign as 95,405 men, including the 8,521 troops and crew of the Danubian otilla. 4  However, these troops were different from their predecessors in the sixteenth century. Like the Habsburgs, the Ottomans also changed the com - Figure 1.  Effective and paper strength of the Habsburg military, 1683–1718 Source: Hochedlinger,  Austria’s Wars of Emergence ,   102–04; 237   C  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  ©   2  0  1  1 .  P  u  r  d  u  e  U  n  i  v  e  r  s  i  t  y  P  r  e  s  s .  A  l  l  r  i  g  h  t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e  d .  M  a  y  n  o  t  b  e  r  e  p  r  o  d  u  c  e  d  i  n  a  n  y  f  o  r  m  w  i  t  h  o  u  t  p  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n  f  r  o  m  t  h  e  p  u  b  l  i  s  h  e  r ,  e  x  c  e  p  t  f  a  i  r  u  s  e  s  p  e  r  m  i  t  t  e  d  u  n  d  e  r  U .  S .  o  r  a  p  p  l  i  c  a  b  l  e  c  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  l  a  w . EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 9/12/2013 11:04 AM via GEORGETOWNUNIVERSITYAN: 493408 ; Pesalj, Jovan, Samardzic, Nikola, Ingrao, Charles W..; The Peace of Passarowitz, 1718Account: s8986927  The Ottoman Wars and the Changing Balance of Power ◆   97  position of their armies, in part as a response to improved Habsburg battleeld repower and tactics, which they rst encountered in the war of 1593–1606 in Hungary. However, the changes that the Istanbul government introduced—most notably the growth of the Janissary army and the recruitment of seasonal levend- infantry armed with hand rearms—had many negative effects on the army, state nances, and the society at large. Ottoman readjustment strategies led to mili - tary decentralization and weakened Istanbul’s control over its armed forces and resources while augmenting its dependence on provincial elites and provincial military forces in war-making efforts. 5  Despite the decline in the military skills of its members, the standing central army—that is, the infantry Janissaries and the six cavalry divisions—remained the Porte’s most important asset. According to the account books of the Imperial Treasury, the Porte paid some 60,000–80,000 men in the late 1680s and early 1690s during its war against the Holy League. The strength of the standing army, at least on paper, climbed to 114,000 men in 1694–95 and stayed just below 100,000 troops in the remaining years of the war. It was substantially reduced after the war, down to its prewar strength of 63,000–66,000 men. In addition to the central troops stationed in Constantinople, there were tens of thousands of soldiers in the fortresses as well. Their number reached 59,094 in 1694–95, and the combined central and garrison troop strength was thus over 170,000 men. This combined army strength, at least on paper, uctuated between 133,000 and 159,000 in the rst decade of the eighteenth century. To these soldiers we should add those garrison soldiers who were remunerated not directly from the treasury  but from specially designated revenue sources, called ocaklık  , the payment of which was allocated by the treasury. However, as will be seen with regard to the Janissaries, who comprised the bulk of the central standing army, the discrepancy  between the army’s paper and effective or mobilized strength was substantial.Of the central standing troops, the sultan’s one-time elite infantry, the famed Janissaries, whose repower in the early sixteenth century repeatedly decided the fate of battles, continued to play a central role in the wars of the late seven- teenth and early eighteenth centuries. As a response to the Habsburgs’ improved repower in battles, the Porte gradually increased the number of its own musket- bearing troops, most notably that of the Janissaries. Whereas in the sixteenth century the Janissaries numbered about 12–13,000 men, in 1609, the treasury  paid 37,627 Janissaries. Their number uctuated between 51,000 and 55,000 in the 1650s until it dropped to 20,467 in 1665–66. It reached its seventeenth-cen- tury peak (i.e., 78,789 men) in 1694–95 during the War of the Holy League. It remained high for the remainder of the century (i.e., 69,620 men in 1696–97 and 67,729 men in 1698–99), only to decrease again after the war (i.e., 42,119 men in 1700). The treasury paid some 40,000 to 53,000 Janissaries in the rst decade of the eighteenth century, but the number dropped to its lowest point just before the   C  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  ©   2  0  1  1 .  P  u  r  d  u  e  U  n  i  v  e  r  s  i  t  y  P  r  e  s  s .  A  l  l  r  i  g  h  t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e  d .  M  a  y  n  o  t  b  e  r  e  p  r  o  d  u  c  e  d  i  n  a  n  y  f  o  r  m  w  i  t  h  o  u  t  p  e  r  m  i  s  s  i  o  n  f  r  o  m  t  h  e  p  u  b  l  i  s  h  e  r ,  e  x  c  e  p  t  f  a  i  r  u  s  e  s  p  e  r  m  i  t  t  e  d  u  n  d  e  r  U .  S .  o  r  a  p  p  l  i  c  a  b  l  e  c  o  p  y  r  i  g  h  t  l  a  w . EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 9/12/2013 11:04 AM via GEORGETOWNUNIVERSITYAN: 493408 ; Pesalj, Jovan, Samardzic, Nikola, Ingrao, Charles W..; The Peace of Passarowitz, 1718Account: s8986927
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