Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

John III Sobieski and the battle against the Ottomans

Posted by Fredsvenn on May 7, 2016

John III Sobieski (17 August 1629 – 17 June 1696), from 1674 until his death King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, was one of the most notable monarchs of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Sobieski’s military skill, demonstrated in wars against the Ottoman Empire, contributed to his prowess as King of Poland. Popular among his subjects, he was an able military commander.

His greatest success came in 1683, with his victory at the Battle of Vienna, in joint command of Polish, Austrian and German troops, against the invading Ottoman Turks under Kara Mustafa.

The Battle of Vienna took place in Vienna on 11-12 September 1683 after the imperial city of Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. After his victories over them, the Ottomans called him the “Lion of Lechistan”; and the Pope called him the savior of Christendom.

The battle was fought by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations under the command of King Jan III Sobieski of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Holy League) against the invading Muslim Ottoman Empire and chiefdoms of the Ottoman Empire, and took place at Kahlenberg Mountain near Vienna.

The battle marked the first time Poland and the Holy Roman Empire had cooperated militarily against the Turks, and it is often seen as a turning point in history, after which “the Ottoman Turks ceased to be a menace to the Christian world”.

In the spring of 1683, royal spies uncovered Turkish preparations for a military campaign. Sobieski feared that the target might be the Polish cities of Lwów and Kraków. To counteract the threat, Sobieski began the fortification of the cities and ordered universal military conscription.

In July, the Austrian envoy asked for Polish assistance. Soon afterward, the Polish army started massing for an expedition against the Ottoman, and in August was joined by Bavarians and Saxon allies under Charles of Lorraine.

Upon reaching Vienna, with the Ottoman army close to breaching the walls, Sobieski ordered a full attack on 12 September. On early morning of that day, the united army of about 65,000–76,000 men (including 22,000, 25,000 or 27,000 Poles) attacked a Turkish force of about 80,000–115,000 men.

At about 5 pm, after observing the infantry battle from the hilltop, Sobieski led the Polish husaria cavalry along with Austrians and Germans in a massive charge down the hillside. Soon, the Ottoman battle line was broken and the Ottoman forces scattered in disarray. At 5:30 pm, Sobieski entered the deserted tent of Kara Mustafa and the Battle of Vienna ended.

The Pope and other foreign dignitaries hailed Sobieski as the “Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization.” In a letter to his wife, he wrote, “All the common people kissed my hands, my feet, my clothes; others only touched me, saying: ‘Ah, let us kiss so valiant a hand!'”

The war with Ottomans was not yet over, and Sobieski continued the campaign with the Battle of Párkány on 7–9 October. In the ensuing war that lasted until 1698, the Turks lost almost all of Hungary to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.

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