September 12, 1683: I Came, I Saw, God Conquered

Something for the weekend.  A video clip on the charge of the winged Polish hussars on September 12, 1683, 332 years ago, that broke the back of the Turkish army besieging Vienna.  John Sobieski, the Polish King, fifty-four years old, had been fighting the Turks since his youth.  College educated at a time when that was rare, he had spent two years traveling in Western Europe.  Multi-lingual, in addition to his native Polish he could also speak Latin, German, Italian, French, Tatar and Turkish.  A scholar as well as a fighting man, he made a careful study of Turkish military methods.  His skill on the battlefield and in diplomacy led to him being crowned King of Poland in 1676.

In 1683 he gained immortality in History by literally riding to the rescue of Vienna with his Polish army.  A letter he wrote to his wife in the tent of the defeated Turkish general details what happened:

The Immortal God, (to whom Honour and Glory be Ascribed for Ever) has Blest us with so Signal a Victory, as scarce the Memory of Man can Equal: The Enemy was not only content to Raise the Siege of Vienna, and Leave us Masters of the Field; But also of all their Cannon, and Tents, with Inestimable Treasure, and clim’d over Mountains of Carcasses made by their own Body’s in the Flight. My Eyes were never Blest before with so delightful a Prospect as to see my Soldiers follow here a great Drove of their Sheep and Oxen, and there a much greater Herd of Turkish Captives; Nor my Ear’s e’re Charm’d with so pleasing Musick, as the Howlings and Dying Groans of these Miserable Wretches: So great was their Hast, that the Prime Visier almost alone and forsaken of all, was forc’t without the Ceremony of his Turbant, to take his Flight; But yet he left me Heir to his Tent and Riches whith were shewn me by a Renegado of his own Retinue.

I have Presented the Turkish Standard to His Holyness, who was Instrumental no less by His Money, than His Prayers, to their Overthrow. The Prime Vizor’s Horse with all his Trappings, I reserv’d for my self; And tho he was so Fortunate in his Flight to Escape us, yet his Caymecam, or Lieutenant-General, with some of the most Considerable Bassa’s [Pashas]fell by our Swords; But the approaching Night put a Stop to our Pursuit, and their Slaughter. Those Janizaries which were left behind in the Mines and Trenches, we thought not worth the dulling of our Swords, therefore we made but one Funeral Pile for ’em all, and Burnt ’em.

In the Action there were about Thirty Thousand Turks kill’d; besides Tartars, and One Hundred Thousand Tents taken. Our Souldiers, and the Burghers of Vienna, were Two whole Nights, and One Day, in Rifling their Tents and Body’s, and I believe a Week would scarce suffice to finish it.

The Rarities which were found in the Prime Vizor’s Tent, were no less Numerous than Strange and Surprising, as very curious Parrots, and some Birds of Paradise, with all his Banios,and Fountains, and some Ostriches, which he Chose rather to Kill, than let ’em fall Alive into our Hands; Nay his Dispair and Jealousy transported him so far, as to Destroy his very Women for the same Reason.

The whole Army Attributes the Glory of this Victory to God, and Us, and all the Princes of the Empire, with the Great Officers, as the Dukes of Bavaria and Lorrain, Prince Waldek, etc. were so far transported with my Valour and Success, that their Thanks and Praises were more Numerous, than was their Fears before; and Count Staremberg the Governour, Saluted me with the Title of his Mighty Deliverer. The Common People in my going to and from the Churches, pay’d their Veneration even to my very Garments, and made their Cry’s and Acclamations reach the Sky, of Long Live the King of Poland.

In the battle we Lost some of our Friends, as Prince Halicki, and the Treasurer of our Household. The Reverend Marinus Daviano, heapt on me his Pray’rs and Blessings, and told me he saw a White Dove fluttering o’re the Army, which he look’d upon as an happy Augure of our Victory.

We are now on our March towards Hungary; taking the Advantage of their Distraction, to Defeat the Remainder of their scatter’d Troops, and Surprize Gran or Newheufell. I have all the Princes of the Empire my Companions in this Enterprise, who tell me they are ready to follow such a Leader not only into Hungary, but to the End of the World.

The Prime Vizor being unable to put a Stop to our Pursuit, told his Eldest Son Mahomet Han, That he must now bid Adieu to all his Greatness, and never expect to be in Safety, whilst their Lye’s one Stone upon another in the Walls of Vienna, but withal bid him hasten to the Grand Seignor and Demand a Speedy Succour, to whom his Son Reply’d, That he knew him too well for that, and there was nothing for ’em now to Rely on but their Flight.

I am just now going to take Horse, and all my way for Two Hungarian Miles together, are so strew’d with the Carcasses of Men, Horses, and Camels, that the Stench of ’em would be insupportable to any but a Soldier.

I have sent several Dispatches to Forein Princes to give Notice of this Action, but the King of France was forgotten.

I Rejoice to see our Son Alexander of so Clear and Undanted a Courage who always stuck to me in my most iminent Dangers: and made the first onset on a Body of Turkish Spahn, with that Courage that he put ’em soon to flight, and Receiv’d the Applauses of the whole Army. He has Contracted a very Intimate Friendship with the young Duke of Bavaria with whom he equally devided the spoyl, This Prince has been very Assiduous in his Services to me; therefore I have presented him three of my Horses, the Bassa of Egypt’s Tent and Standard, and ten Pieces of Cannon. To his Sister the Dauphiness, a Locket of Diamonds. Yet there Remains such heaps of their Colours and Symeters in our possession as are not to be numbred.

All my Countrey men March’t with the same Bravery to the Relief of Vienna, as the Souldiers of Godfrey of Bullein did to the Holy Land, and the miraculous Cross that you presented me with [which was his companion in that Expedition]I Believe Contributed no less to our Victory.

Thanks be to Heaven, now the Half-Moon Triumphs no longer o’re the Cross, And ’twas thrown down from St. Stephen’s Steeple in Vienna (whom it had o’retopt so long) immediately on the Defeat: Neither have the Turks any occasion to upbraid us with their Blasphemous Mahometan Proverb. ‘Ye Christians where is Your God?

 

In pursuit, Sobieski destroyed a sizable portion of the remaining Turkish army at Parkany on October 7-8, 1683.  Well might the Pope hail Sobieski as the Savior of Christendom and the Turks begrudgingly refer to him as the Lion of Lechistan (Poland).  As for Sobieski, he sent the green banner of the Prophet to the Pope after Vienna with this simple message:  Veni, vidi, Deus vincit!  (I came, I saw, God conquered!)

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. Some background information for those who may not know –
    1683 was not the first time the Turks had sought to conquer Vienna. They tried and failed in 1529. The Ottoman Empire extended well into Europe in 1683. Present day Serbia, Greece and parts of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, among others, were under the foot of the Sultan in Constantinople (the name was not changed until after WWI). The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a very large state, Poland herself was a larger country at that time, and the Commonwealth included much of present day Belarus and Ukraine and stretched to Bulgaria, where it bordered the Turks.

    France and the Hapsburgs were bitter enemies. France wanted the Hapsburgs to fall, as France herself was once bordered on two sides by the Hapsburgs (Spain and Austria). John Sobieski’s wife was French and the French emissaries tried their best (worst) to urge the Polish nobles not to support Leopold, resorting to bribes. The French failed.

    Sobieski warned Imre Tholoky, Protestant Hungarian and Turk ally, not to cause trouble or he would be crushed, as Poland was almost undefended. Tholoky started trouble and the Protestants were crushed by Jan Kizimierz Sapieha and his Polish troops.

    The Husaria were the most feared and toughest cavalry, well, ever, before the end of the 18th century. They constantly fought Poland’s neighbors, almost always facing superior numbers, and turned their enemies into a big red spot on the ground. You can find out more by reading (syrry, Mr. McClarey) http://www.badassoftheweek.com. That site has as many swear words as a US Navy aircraft carrier during WWII, so you have been warned.

    In the aftermath, Kara Mustafa was rutally strangled ion orders from the Sultan on Christmas Day 1683 in Belgrade. Pope Innocent extended the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, originally limited to some parts of Spain, to the entire Western Church, as Sobieski prayed for Mary”s intercession for a successful outcome to the battle.

    Pope Paul VI removed it from the Novus Ordo Church calendar. Pope John Paul II put it back in 2002. St. Pope John Paul II had a painting of the charge of the Hussars in his papal apartment. Suffice it to say he likely understood at the end of his life that the nature of Islam has not changed from 1683 or 1529 or 711.

    Pacifism is a novelty in the Church, as is what passes for ecumenism. I think we need neither. One of Poland’s mottos is “For our freedom and yours.”. Would that we in the US live up to our motto on our currency – In God We Trust.

  2. These posts are one of many reasons I visit often…..learning and reviewing history is good for mind and soul. And PF—agree 1000%

  3. Sir,
    Where can I find that movie? The preview you posted motivated the snot out of me and gave me chills. Thank you in advance.
    Semper Fidelis.

  4. The movie is called The Day of the Siege. It was made in 2012 and it was not a big budget production. The CGI isn’t the greatest and 115 minutes isn’t really enough time to tell everything that happened. I found a DVD in the bargain bin at Wal Mart and the entire movie was available on YouTube.

  5. Kara Mustafa was strangled on Christmas Day. Was that’s God’s way of reminding him who he really lost the Battle of Vienna to?

  6. Good post. Good background info from Penguins Fan. Both Islam and Liberalism will one day be thrown into hell where they belong.

  7. and I asked where was Joan of Arc, the Maid of Lorrain and she was there in Charles, the Duke of Lorrain. Stories tell that the wings of feathers worn by the hussars made a terrible noise, nothing short of Joshua and the Walls of Jericho. Makes one proud to be Polish.

  8. Thank you for this post. Also thanks to Penguin Fan. An exhibition on the Polish-Lithuanian Empire at the Walters Gallery in Baltimore years ago was an eye opener. The Poles and Lithuanians were ahead of their times in science, medicine, militarily and government. The king was not hereditary, but elected by the nobles. The church artifacts and sacred vessels were beautiful and equalled those from Rome. There were many examples of spoils of war captured from the Turks. Among them was a huge battlefield silk tent embroidered with tulips. The Turks had the drums to terrorize the Christians, but nothing compared to the whistles of the Hussars wings….early psycological warfare. On sale was a 10 video Polish epic the name of which I cannot recall. I wish now I hadn’t been so cheap and had bought it. I did buy a video on the exhibit that I sent to my 1st generation father-in-law.
    Grenada, Tours, Lepanto and Vienna. Now the Muslims are encroaching again. When is Europe going to wake up? Europe is too secular to ask the Almighty for deliverance from this plague. When is the leadership of the US going to wake up?

  9. A Pole told me today that Vienna is still so very grateful for being saved, that if any one is carrying a Polish passport he will be given free access to all public venues, libraries, museums and the like. He also told me that before Pope John Paul II entered Vienna, the statues along the way were gold leafed. Warms the heart.

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