1704-12-26 – Battle of Tyrnau
Throughout the campaign of 1704, Field Marshal Heister had conducted four consecutive offensives against the Kurucs (rebels) in Hungary but, despite his victories, had been unable to put a stop to their steady progress.
During the autumn, Rákóczi was encamped at Freistadtl (present-day Hlohovec/SK). His aim was to capture Leopoldstadt (present-day Leopoldov/SK) and Neuhäusel (present-day Nové Zámky/SK). The latter place surrendered on 17 November. After this victory, Rákóczi decided to lay siege to Leopoldstadt, which was defended by Colonel Schwarzenau.
At the end of November, Rákóczi had laid siege to Leopoldstadt (present-day Leopoldov/SK).
Around mid-December, the Court at Vienna gave orders to FM Siegbert Count Heister to resupply the Fortress of Leopoldstadt with food and ammunition.
On 20 December, FM Heister, reinforced by some troops from Bavaria and Styria, set off from Zistersdorf. He then crossed the March River (aka Morava River) and proceeded by way of Gayring (present-day Gajary/SK), Stampfen (present-day Stupava/SK), Ratzersdorf (present-day Rača/SK) and Modern (present-day Modrá/SK) towards Leopoldstadt.
After successful action near Marienthal (present-day Marianka/SK), FM Heister continued his advanced on Ziffer (present-day Cifer/SK) on 25 December. During the march, his army was constantly harassed by parties of Kuruc cavalry.
At the news of the approach of an Imperial army, Rákóczi became anxious. He was quite inexperienced in the command of an army in the field and had never fought regular Imperial troops in an open battle. He called on Bercsényi for advice and assistance. The latter promised to join him with the entire Kuruc cavalry and designated Farkashíd (present-day Vlčkovce/SK), near Leopoldstadt, for the planned junction.
Rákóczi decided to accept battle and, leaving part of his infantry under the Captain La Motte before Leopoldstadt, he marched with the main body of his army to Farkashíd, where he made a junction with Bercsényi’s Cavalry.
Description of Events
Rákóczi and Bercsényi decided to advance by way of Tyrnau (aka Nagyszombat in Hungarian, present-day Trnava/SK) and attack Heister’s Army by surprise between Tyrnau, Weisskirchen (present-day Biely Kostol/SK) and Gerencsér (present-day Hrnčiarovce nad Parnou/SK).
On the clear and cold night of 25 to 26 December, the Kuruc army marched towards Tyrnau, reaching its destination at dawn. However, Heister had been informed of Rákóczi’s advance and had set off from Ziffer (present-day Cifer/SK) and marched in four columns, with his baggage in the centre, to engage the Kuruc army. During his advance, he was followed on both flanks by Kuruc cavalry forces under Ocskay and Ebeszky, which staid out of musket range. Heister camped at Rosenthal (present-day Ružindol/SK). The distance between both armies was approx. 15 km.
Upon their arrival at Tyrnau, the Kurucs saw the Imperial army on the march on Gerencsér).
Rákóczi held a council of war, where Bercsényi advised to occupy Tyrnau with infantry to form a defensive pivot in the centre of the Kuruc positions while the cavalry would be deployed on both wings, ready to advance. However, Rákóczi rejected Bercsényi’s clever advice and decided to act offensively. He gave orders to Daniel Esterházy to advance towards Gerencsér at the head of the left wing; and Bercsényi to advance on Weisskirchen with the right wing. Meanwhile the infantry would form the centre.
Heister’s Army deployed in two lines with cavalry and infantry intermingled, with the baggage between these two lines, and marched up to the Parna stream. He extended his battle line from a stone mill to Gerencsér in front of the Parná stream. Heister’s little army was organized in four brigades led by colonels Viard, de Wendt, Wachtendonk and Dillher. Heister’s lines had barely reached the stream when the Kuruc cavalry attacked.
Heister’s artillery opened on the attackers.
On the Kuruc right wing, Bercsényi’s Cavalry (Ebecky Hussars, F. Deák Hussars, J. Deák Hussars, Ilosvay Hussars and others) came to contact with the first line (Hasslingen Infantry, Virmond Infantry, Wendt Infantry, Schlick Dragoons, Alt-Darmstadt Cuirassiers, Montecuccoli Cuirassiers) which fell into disorder. Bremer’s German and Fierville’s French grenadiers attacked attacked at the point of the bayonet, supported by the Palace Battalion led by Bercsényi, the Miskolc militia, and the Farkas and Sréter Hayducks. At the moment Heister’s guns fired, but the Kurucs took shelter in a hollow and cannonballs flew above head. Bercsényi’s troops renewed the attack and captured some of Heister’s guns. Most of the artillerymen were killed.
When Heister’s Reserve came to the rescue, the Miskolc militia distinguished themselves, sustaining a hard fight against the Babocsay Hussars and Simonyi Hussars.
Bercsényi’s troops, which broke through Heister’s battle line, turned their attention to the baggage, which they plundered.
Heister’s right wing (Bagni Infantry, Virmond Infantry, d’Arnant Infantry, Wobeser Infantry, Cusani Cuirassiers, La Tour Cuirassiers, Visconti Cuirassiers, Bayreuth Dragoons and Serényi Dragoons) was attacked by Ocskay’s cavalry (Ocskay Hussars, Andrássy Hussars, Buday Hussars, Goda Hussars and Balogh Hussars). From the 5 Imperial bns, Wobeser suffered the highest losses.
However, this combat had exposed the right flank of the Kuruc infantry. FM Heister seized this opportunity to hurl one of his dragoon rgt against this flank. The attack threw the Kuruc infantry into confusion. Bremer’s German infantry routed, Scharudy’s German infantry changed side and opened fire on the neighbouring Kuruc unit (Nyáry Hayducks)), increasing disorder in their ranks. Meanwhile, Bercsényi’s Cavalry was attacked in the rear by the Imperial cavalry. After a brief combat, the Kuruc cavalry broke and routed.
When the left wing of the Kuruc army saw the panic stricken right wing fleeing the battlefield, Esterházy Dragoons, Ocskay Hussars, Andrássy Hussars and Balogh Hussars also started plundering Heister’s baggage but they later managed to escape.
The isolated Kuruc infantry was overtaken by the Imperial cavalry and slaughtered. The Kurucs threw away their weapons and hurried back across the Waag River.
As soon as the fate of the battle had been decided, the Kuruc leaders had fled the field. At this moment, Sándor Károlyi reached the battlefield with several thousand horse, but it was too late to overturn the situation. He precipitously returned to Freistadtl (present-day Hlohovec/SK), where he was joined by the former besiegers of Leopoldstadt. Another part of the Kuruc army retired by way of Sellye (present-day Šaľa/SK) and Vecse (present-day Veča/SK) to Neutra (present-day Nitra/SK) and Kis Tapolcsán (present-day Topoľčianky/SK). For his part, Rákóczi retreated to Sempte (present-day Šintava/SK).
Heister's lost lost about 600 men. In the battle proper, the Kurucs lost around 400 me (other sources mentioned 2,000 Hayducks and 200 French grenadiers). During the battle and the ensuing pursuit, they also lost 30 flags, 14 field artillery pieces, and their siege park (9 heavy guns and 7 mortars).
Colonel Hannibal Heister was sent to Vienna with the news of the victory. He was accompanied by Kuruc prisoners (including Colonel Chevalier de Fierville).
In Tyrnau, the wounded rebels were killed by Imperial soldiers. In retaliation, Rákóczi let the Imperial soldiers imprisoned in Privigye (present-day Prievidza/SK) be executed.
FM Heister advanced towards Leopoldstadt and occupied the passage across the Waag River, relieving the place.
On 1 January 1705, 30 captured colours were presented to Emperor Leopold I.
Order of Battle
The strength of both armies was nearly identical.
Imperial Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Count Sigbert Heister
Summary: 10,000 foot, 6,800 horse (not counting some supporting troops sent from Bavaria and Styria) and 24 guns
|unidentified cavalry units
Max Starhemberg Infantry
|unidentified cavalry units
Simonyi Hussars unidentified units
|unidentified cavalry units
N. B.: in some order of battle Neuburg Infantry is mentioned. In fact, it was a battalion of d’Arnant Infantry.
Kuruc Order of Battle
Summary: approx. 7,800 foot and 12,000 horse (mostly light horse)
According to Rákóczi’s diary, the order of battle of the Kuruc Army was as follows:
Cavalry Right Wing under Count Miklós Bercsényi seconded by István Ebeczky
- Stephan Ebeczky Hussars
- Emerich Ilosváy Hussars
- Franz Deák Hussars
- Johann Deák Hussars
- Somody Hussars
- Palace Garde Carabiniers
- Gabriel Géczy Hussars
- Onódy Militia Hussars
Centre under Rákóczi seconded by Fierville
- Scharudy (German) Infantry
- Nyáryi Hayducks
- Miskolc Militia Hayducks
- Palace Battalion personally led by Bercsényi
- Alexander Farkas Hayducks
- Johann Sréter Hayducks
- Bremer (German) Infantry
- Fierville (French) Grenadiers
- Thomas Ecze (vacant) Hayducks
- Rákoczis Palace Life Guards
- Paul Bokros Infantry
Cavalry Left Wing under Daniel Esterházy seconded by László Ocskay
- Esterházy Dragoons
- Jasyí Szentmiklóssy Dragoons
- Stephan Buday Hussars
- Stephan Balogh Hussars (Bossányi)
- Stephan Goda Hussars
- Georg Andrássy Hussars
- Lászlo Ocskay Hussars
- 6 guns served by French artillerymen
Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 6, Vienna 1879, pp. 198-200
Bánlaky, József: A magyar nemzet hadtörténelme
Dobrotkova, Prof. Dr. M.: Bitka pri Trnave v roku 1704 a František Rákoci UDK 94 (437.6) 17/18 Izvorni znanstveni rad.
Markó, Árpá: Les Soldats Français dans la Guerre d’Indépendace du Prince François II Rákóczi (1703-1711), p. 284
Nováková, Veronika: Ročenka Štátneho Archívu v Bratislave – Pobočka Šaľa
Harald Skala for an initial summary of the engagement and for additional info on the orders of battle and events