1704 – Rákóczi Uprising in Hungary
The campaign lasted from March to December 1704
On 17 December 1703, a decree stated that suburbs of Vienna should be surrounded by walls.
On 18 December 1703, Emperor Leopold I renewed his alliance with the Serbian Patriarch Arsenius Czernovics and the Serbian Voivode MMonasterly.
At the beginning of 1704, Northern and Eastern Hungary as well as part of Southwestern Hungary were in the hands of Rákóczi. He was less popular in several cities, where the burghers feared their compatriots more than the Imperialist soldiers. To the exception of the fortified places of Kaschau (present-day Košice/SK), Sathmar (present-day Satu Mare/RO), Eperies (present-day Prešov/SK), Neuhäusel (present-day Nové Zámky/SK), Pressburg (present-day Bratislava/SK), Skalitz (present-day Skalica/SK), Grosswardein (present-day Oradea/RO), Arad, Szegedin (present-day Szeged/HU), Peterwardein (present-day Novi Sad/RS), Komorn (present-day Komárom/HU, Trentschin (present-day Trenčín/SK), Neutra (present-day Nitra/SK) and Leopoldstadt (present-day Leopoldov/SK), and several small castles, which were occupied by small detachments, the Rebels controlled the left bank of the Danube.
Rákóczi’s forces initially consisted of Polish and of Kuruc from Northern Hungary. However, at the beginning of 1704, they were increased by the arrival of men from all counties who increased the general quality of his army. Furthermore, deserters, Frenchmen and Irishmen also joined the army. The small nobility still filled the highest ranks.
The most important leaders of the Rebels were Count Miklós Bercsényi de Székes, the spiritual leader of the movement; Count Sándor Károlyi, as general of the Iazyges and the Cumans; Lászlo Ocskay; Major-General Simon Count Forgách, who had defected from the Imperial service; and Colonel Count Anton Esterházy.
Rákóczi had his headquarters in Gyöngyös and supervised the siege of Erlau (present-day Eger/HU). Meanwhile, parts of his forces under Ocskay and Baron Senyey were besieging Kaschau and blockading Eperies and Sathmar. Bercsényi was on the left bank of the Danube with the main army, advancing towards the March River (aka Morava River). Károlyi had crossed the Danube between Komorn and Gran (present-day Esztergom/HU)) and was advancing towards the Leitha River (aka Lajta River). Finally, Paul Orosz was posted on the border with Transylvania, fighting the Serbs. The strength of each the various rebel forces constantly fluctuated and varied between 8,000 and 25,000 men, about half of them mounted. Countrymen supplied their own armament; musket were brought in from Poland or captured in imperial arsenals. There was an initial shortage of artillery pieces, but this was gradually remedied with the capture of fortified places.
The Rebels had a marked advantage in guerilla warfare. Defeats at the hands of the Imperialists did not change the situation of the Rebels much. They simply gathered again elsewhere.
At the beginning of 1704, Rebel parties were raiding Lower Austria and Moravia. The towns of Skalitz and Strassnitz (present-day Strážnice/CZ) had fallen into their hands.
Rákóczi sent Franz Déak and Emerich Illosvay against Slavonia. They crossed the frozen Danube near Dunaföldvár and defeated a small detachment of Imperialist troops under Major-General Creutz, before recrossing the river.
The Emperor made some efforts to put a stop to the Hungarian Uprising. He intended to entrust Palatin Paul Esterházy with the negotiations but the Rebels rejected his intercession. Finally, the Archbishop of Kalocsa, Paul Szecsényi, received responsibility for these difficult negotiations.
On 3 January, Colonel Löffelholz set off from Arad with 2 coys of Heister Infantry (151 men) and 199 men of the garrison to relieve Grosswardein. The Rebels dispersed when he approached. These places in southeastern Hungary also received support from the Serbian militia. However, the imperial authorities were only able to obtain this support on the condition that the Serbs would be allowed to undertake raids into Hungarian villages.
On 7 January, FML Count Esterházy was instructed by Vienna to raise 4 Legions in the Hungarian counties on the right bank of the Danube. However, the advance of the rebels compromised their gathering.
On the night of 10 to 11 January, Colonel Viard, who was posted of the Klein Schütt Island with 200 foot and 500 men of Schlick Dragoons and 2 field artillery pieces, attacked the Hungarian Rebels on the Gross Schütt Island. The main part of the rebels then moved against the Raabau while other groups crossed the Danube further east.
On 13 January, Archbishop Szecsényi met with Sándor Károlyi at Szümegh (unidentified location).
On 14 January, a Rebel corps under Count Alexander Károlyi, crossed to the right bank of the frozen Danube and advanced to Pápa. The county soon declared for Rákóczi. The Rebels were now threatening to advance on Vienna by way of Hainburg.
On 15 January, Prince Eugène de Savoie, who had been recalled by the emperor, arrived at Vienna. FML Count Johann Pálffy assumed command in Pressburg. Prince Eugène announced to the emperor that he could not defend Vienna effectively with the troops available, and that he had to rapidly mobilize more men.
Major-General Count Forgács was sent to Raab to pacify the Hungarian counties.
By 21 January, Károlyi’s column was assembled near Wieselburg (present-day part of Mosonmagyaróvár/HU) near Lake Neusiedl. Károlyi sent a manifest, requiring the population to swear loyalty to Rákóczi. However, the few Imperialist troops gathered along the border dissuaded Károlyi to launch an offensive.
On 22 January, the recently promoted Field Marshal Count Sigbert Heister, against Prince Eugène’s advice, was ordered to assume command against the Rebels in Hungary. He was instructed to relieve Oedenburg (present-day Sopron/HU), which was besieged by the Rebels and to cooperate with Field Marshal Count Bussy-Rabutin, who was posted in Transylvania. The Serbs of the right bank of the Danube were also made available to Heister.
Heister’s Army (approx. 6,000 foot, 4,000 mounted and 1,000 dismounted cavalrymen) consisted of:
- a corps on the Leitha River in Lower Austria near Ebenfurth and Schwechat
- Deutschmeister Infantry (473 men)
- Nicolaus Pálffy Infantry (184 men)
- Virmond Infantry (300 men)
- Holstein Plön Infantry (129 men)
- Nehem Infantry (100 men)
- La Tour Cuirassiers (685 mounted and 199 dismounted men)
- Lothringen Cuirassiers (100 mounted men)
- Falkenstein Cuirassiers (100 mounted men)
- Schlick Dragoons (700 mounted and 100 dismounted men)
- Trautmannsdorf Dragoons (70 mounted men)
- a detachment in and around Hainburg
- Bayreuth Dragoons (700 mounted and 100 dismounted men)
- a corps in Pressburg under Major-General Baron Ritschan
- a detachment in Ungarisch-Skalitz
- picked men from various units (mainly Guido Starhemberg Infantry) for a total of 511 foot and 92 mounted men
- on the march in Lower Austria
- Bagni Infantry (300 men)
- Recruits for the infantry rgts Nehem, Virmond and Thürheim (200 men)
- Taafe Cuirassiers (90 mounted men)
- Alt-Darmstadt Cuirassiers (90 mounted men)
- Danish Endens Infantry (537 men)
- Holsteiner Maltzan Battalion (331 men)
- Danish Trampe Dragoons (540 mounted and 273 dismounted men) unidentified unit
- a corps in Moravia
- Vaubonne Dragoons (150 mounted men)
- Visconti Cuirassiers (150 mounted men)
- Danish Ditmersens Cuirassiers (336 mounted and 193 dismounted men)
- Parts of 2 Free Companies (50 men)
- a corps in Silesia under Major-General Hasslingen
- Wobeser Infantry (320 men) unidentified unit
- Hasslingen Infantry (80 men)
- Darmstadt Cuirassiers (300 mounted men)
- a detachment in Trentschin
- Wobeser Infantry (150 men) unidentified unit
- in Oedenburg
- Recruits (400 men)
Heister could also count on various infantry detachments (approx. 1,000 men) in Vienna and the Hereditary Lands.
On 24 January, Rákóczi issued a manifest in a vain attempt to gain the Croatians to his cause.
On 28 January, Archbishop Szecsényi had a second meeting with Miklós Bercsényi near Raab (present-day Győr/HU). These negotiations came to nothing, both parties not trusting each other. Szecsényi unsuccessfully tried to reach an agreement until May.
On 29 January, Captain Count Lengheim with 250 militia dragoons, who had advanced against a Rebel force sent by Károlyi against Csakathurn (present-day Čakovec/HR), was attacked by 2,000 foot and 1,000 horse and driven back to Radkersburg in Styria. Csakathurn surrendered under the condition that the garrison could freely withdraw, and the Rebels got provisions for seven days.
In January, some 5,000 Kurucs had assembled between the Danube and the Drau (aka Drave River) and captured the towns of Fünfkirchen (present-day PécséHU), Stuhlweissenburg (present-day Székesfehérvár/HU) and Kopisch (present-day KaposváréHU).
On 13 February, FM Heister marched with some hastily assembled troops to Ebenfurth where he encamped to oppose Károlyi’s advance. He then waited for the arrival of reinforcements (1st Danske (Gyldenløve) and 3rd Danske (Boyneburg) as well as some Austrian troops).
On 17 February, Károlyi detached 1,200 men to lay siege to Oedenburg. The place was defended by 400 picked men under Captain Blumberg and the burghers under Mayor Ferdinand Dobner. Strong Rebel detachment crossed the border with Austria and burned the village of Wolfsthal. The Imperialists retired from their posts on the frontier and assembled near Pottendorf while the artillery was sent to Vienna.
On 20 February, Károlyi’s main body encamped neat Eisenstadt (aka Kis-Márton). The surrounding cities were asked to pay homage to Rákóczi, but the German residents in particular refused.
Another Rebel corps of some 4,000 men with a few artillery pieces advanced from Upper Hungary, crossed the Danube and marched on Hainburg. It burned down Schwechat.
On 25 February, a large Imperialist cavalry detachment set off from Raab and engaged the Rebels near Kis-Megyer (to the southeast of Raab), driving back the Rebels but losing 7 men killed, 33 wounded and 5 taken prisoners.
Officers were sent from Pressburg, Komorn and Raab to put a stop to the crossing of the Danube by Rebel forces. They had been instructed to destroy all boats.
At the end of February, Captain Hartmann sank all vessels found in the vicinity of Gran. He even managed to destroy vessels assembled in the Schütt islands.
At the beginning of March, Kuruc detachments crossed the Drau and advanced up to Verovitiea (unidentified location). FML Count Johann Pálffy expressed well-founded fears that the population would support them.
FML Pálffy advanced from Warasdin (present-day Varaždin/HR) in Croatia towards the Drau River and defeated the Rebels in four engagements where they lost 400 men and 10 colours. He also drove the Rebels out of the Mur Island.
During this time, Major-General Rabatta had recaptured Csakathurn but he was soon recalled to Styria. Major-General Ritschan, who was posted at Bilnitz (present-day Bylnice/CZ) to cover Moravia, was instructed to advance on the Waag (present-day Váh River), but he was too ill to execute these orders.
On 18 March, FM Heister submitted his plan of operation to the president of the Hofkriegsrath (War Council). He intended to attack and pursue Károlyi’s and clear the right bank of the Danube from Rebel forces. Then to keep these counties under imperial rule, he asked for armed ships to control the Danube on its entire course. The Hofkriegsrath gave instructions to prepare 40 to 50 “Tschaiken” (typical boats of the Danube) in Gmunden. It also instructed FML Pálffy to cross the Mur River (aka Mura River) and to cooperate with Heister.
On 19 March, Simon Count Forgách changed side and joined the rebels.
On 20 March, FM Heister set off from Ebenfurth where he had assembled the Imperialist troops stationed on the Letha and in Lower Austria. He had also been joined by Bagni Infantry and the Danish Endens Infantry and was now at the head of 1,950 foot, 2,355 horse and 17 field artillery pieces. His small corps advanced on Eisenstadt (aka Kis-Márton). Meanwhile, Károlyi with approx. 10,000 Rebels stood carefree in his camp at St. Niclas near Eisenstadt, while he was conducting negotiations with Count Nádasdy.
On 21 March, as Déak’s Rebel forces advanced against Waradia (present-day Vărădia de Mureș/RO), Colonel Löffelholz razed his entrenchments and retired towards Arad.
On 22 March, FM Heister, attacked Károlyi’s camp near Eisenstadt and dispersed the Rebel army. The Rebels lost some 2,000 men killed or wounded and Heister captured 200 wagons with baggage and ammunition and well as few hundreds horses and oxen. However, Károlyi with 4,000 horse managed to escape behind the Raab River.
On 23 March, the burghers of Oedenburg attacked and captured a detachment of 300 Rebels who were on the march to join Károlyi.
Heister then submitted the country on his side of the Raab without meeting serious resistance from the population.
On March 24, Alexander von Kollanekh, the prefect of Slavonia, held an assembly of the voivodes (military commanders) and knyazs (counts) at Požega in Eastern Croatia, where he asked them to fight against the Kuruc Army who had invaded the region of Miholacz (probably Gornji Miholjac/HR). He promised to exempt them from taxes if they participated in the struggle. However, the Slavonians gathered only in small numbers at Nassiez (unidentified location), which had been designated as the assembly place of the army. The country remained agitated and wavered between loyalty to the emperor and sympathy for the Rebels.
On 30 March, through Forgách's intercession, the Castle of Erlau opened its doors to the rebels who occupied it.
At the end of March, work began on the walls of the suburbs of Vienna. At about this time, the Rebel Captain Stefan Bácka advanced against the Serbian militia which took refuge in the mountains. The Rebels then blockaded Arad and Szegedin.
For the coming campaign, the Austrians had raised a contingent of 4,300 Croats and Slavonians. Some 958 men of this contingent were posted in the fortified places of Brood (present-day Slavonski Brod/HR), Gradiska, Kraljeva Velika, Babina Greda, Zupanič-Blato (unidentified location) and others. Another 560 men guarded the Drau River (present-day Drava River) against the Rebels. Only 1,872 men were available in the field. These border militia were increased by about 5,000 men at the request of the new Banus FML Count Johann Pálffy to operate north of the Drau. The magazines of these troops were located at Brood, Kopreinitz (present-day Koprivnica/HR) and Dernye (present-day Deronje/RS).
At the beginning of April, Major-General Herberstein advanced on Fünfkirchen with the Slavonian militia. The town was plundered and some inhabitants taken prisoners. He then retired behind the Drau River without having relieved Szigetvár, which was harassed since three months by the Rebels, who had established themselves in the suburbs of this fortified town. The place was defended by Major-General Count Huyn.
Heister’s First Offensive
On 3 April, Heister went to Raab and sent a detachment to Pápa to submit the vicinity. A garrison occupied Güns (present-day Kőszeg/HU).
On 5 April, Heister concentrated his forces south of Raab, planning to follow Károlyi, who was retiring towards Stuhlweissenburg.
On 6 April, Heister set off towards Kisbér, his infantry being transported in wagons. As his army approached the vicinity of Szt. Márton (St. Martin), it found the north slope of the Martinsberg occupied by Rebels. As the Rebel cavalry attacked, the Imperialist infantry moved around the hill. The Rebel cavalry took flight. The Monastery of Martinsberg was occupied by part of the Imperialist infantry while the cavalry and the rest of the infantry, still transported in wagons, advanced to Kisbér.
On 7 April at 4:00 p.m., Heister’s Corps set off from Kisbér and reached Moor (present-day Mór/HU) around midnight. Heister learned that the Rebels were assembled near Stuhlweissenburg. After a brief rest, Heister resumed his advance.
On 8 April, FM Heister won another victory over the Rebels in the Combat of Stuhlweissenburg. Some 5,000 Rebels tried to take refuge in the city but its commander, Daniel Count Esterházy, closed the doors. The Rebels then fled around the city walls in an attempt to reach the only bridge across the Danube but found it already occupied by Schlick Dragoons. Many rebels drowned in the river, trying to swim to the other bank.
Rákóczi was at Nagykáta when he was informed of the advance of FM Heister on Stuhlweissenburg. He sent Forgách and Count Daniel Eszterházy to Dunaföldvár to organize the resistance.
On 9 April in the morning, the garrison of Stuhlweissenburg surrendered. Imperialist troops entered into the place where 1,200 Rebels, several peasants and the burghers deposited arms and swore allegiance to the emperor. Most of the prisoners were sent back home and a few joined the Imperialist troops. The Imperialists captured several colours, 3 pairs of kettle-drums, a few artillery pieces and a large number of horses and weapons. The same day, Forgách and Count Daniel Eszterházy appealed to the population of the county to take up arms against the Imperialists.
On 11 April, FM Heister sent his son Rudolf to Vienna to announce the victory. Heister hoped that by this victory, all counties on the right bank of the Danube would submit to the emperor. However, he was informed that the Rebels had re-assembled at Dunaföldvár where they had been joined by Count Károlyi. He decided to advance against this place with 1,500 horse. He also instructed the commander of Ofen to send a few “Tschaiken” against Földvár to break the bridge that the Rebels had there.
As soon as Heister’s orders reached Ofen, 13 “Tschaiken” were sent towards Földvár. However, Heister, instead of advancing on Földvár as initially planned, just detached 400 dragoons for this mission.
While Heister was trying to pacify the counties on the right bank of the Danube, Count Miklós Bercsényi had taken position on the Gross Schütt Island, from where he could launch attacks into Austria or against Pressburg. Furthermore the land north of the Danube up to the March River was, with the exception of fortified places, in the hands of the Rebels.
Heister decided that the recapture the Gross Schütt Island would be the target of his next operations, so that he could safely cross to the left bank of the Danube.
On 12 and 13 April, Heister’s Corps marched to Totis (unidentified location), where it was reinforced with a few hundred militia hussars. Meanwhile, Colonel Virmond was sent to Pressburg with instructions to arm “Tschaiken”, which would prevent the Rebels from crossing to the Gross Schütt Island.
Heister’s Second Offensive
Heister’s Corps then rested in a camp before Komorn. Provisions were requisitioned in the neighbouring country.
On 17 April in Slovenia, Colonel Herberstein at the head of 560 Grenz hussars and 200 Hayducks, who had been joined by 100 Imperialist foot from Esseg (present-day Osijek/HR), advanced against the Rebels. However, the latter had already retired across the Drau River, after devastating the area around Veröcze (probably Virovitica/HR). Herberstein, who had been reinforced with 200 Slavonian and Grenzer militia, crossed the Drau, stormed Siklós and pursued the retreating Rebels up to Fünfkirchen. The Slavonians then behaved even worse than the Rebels. They even abducted women and children in Fünfkirchen, with the intention of selling them to the Turks, even though this city had remained loyal to the emperor. They also plundered churches and killed the priests. After a raid on Szigetvár, Colonel Herberstein retired to Slavonia.
FML Nehem then established a line of defence along the Slavonian frontier with 66 Imperialist foot, 470 hayducks and 200 militia hussars, thus putting a stop to incursions of the Rebels in Slavonia:
- Petrievez, Nard, Novo Selo, St. Georgen, Mihalowicz (Miholacz) and Moslavina were each defended by 41 men
- Klen by 20 men
- Szopje, Vaska, Domaszin (Tomási?) and Turanovac, each by 30 men
- 150 men and 100 militia hussars in Miholacz
- 100 militia hussars in Szopje
During this time, the Banus of Croatia and Slavonia, FML Johann Pálffy, who commanded hussars and some Croatian light infantry (Warasdin militia), had given orders to his militia to advance towards the Drau River.
In April, Major-General Hannibal Heister crossed the Mur River with some mounted militia to drive back the Rebels who had appeared before Radkersburg. The Rebels precipitously evacuated Styria and the castles of Lendva and Dobri. Some 1,000 Rebels under Colonel Alexander Nitzky swore allegiance to the emperor. For his part, FML Johann Pálffy with the Warasdiner Grenz militia advanced on Pápa. Everywhere, he demanded allegiance and the payment of contributions.
At the end of April, the Rebels renewed their advance towards the March River. Bercsényi blockaded Trentschin.
At the beginning of May, the Rebels made themselves masters of the entrenchments at the Jablunka Pass and Major-General Hasslingen sent Lieutenant-Colonel Wobeser with a detachment of Hasslingen Infantry to recapture the pass. Wobeser managed to drive the Rebels out of the pass but some parties then caused unrest in Silesia.
On 1 May, an important force of Hungarian cavalry assembled in St. Georgen (present-day Sv. Jur/SK), threatening the vicinity of Pressburg. The Rebels also reoccupied the Gross Schütt Island.
On 3 May, Major-General Georg Adam Baron Ritschan arriving from Moravia with 2,331 foot, 250 horse and 1,000 Movavian militia with 4 guns marched to relieve Trentschin.
Ritschan drove a Rebel party out of the entrenchments defending the Vlar Pass and followed them up to Trentschin. He then drove the besiegers back and resupplied the fortress.
FM Heister then instructed Ritschan to march towards the Waag River to effect a junction with his own corps.
On 9 May, FML Johann Pálffy, who had advanced to Tyrnau (present-day Trnava/SK) with part of the garrison of Pressburg, drove back the Rebels, capturing some of Rákóczi’s administrators. The Danish Major Trampe ran across the Gross Schütt Island and attacked a few Rebel parties.
Heister’s Third Offensive
FM Heister, seeing that Major Trampe had not encountered serious opposition in the Gross Schütt Island, occupied the island, where he requisitioned supply.
On 10 May, Heister’s Corps crossed the arm of the Danube near Neuhäusl (unidentified location) and assembled near Szered (present-day Sereď/SK). Heister had decided to march on Neutra without waiting for reinforcements. At the approach of Heister’s Corps, the Rebels burned the bridge on the Waag.
FML Pálffy then planned to cross the Danube to effect a junction with Heister and Ritschan. However, Ritschan received orders from the Hofkriegsrath to let the recruits destined to the Austrian rgts operating in Italy leave. Ritschan protested that he would not be able to participate in Heister’s planned operations if he sent his recruits away. The Hofkriegsrath finally authorized Ritschan to keep the recruits but operations had been delayed.
On 11 and 12 May, Heister’s Corps re-established a bridge on the Waag River.
On 13 May, Heister’s Corps marched to Motschenok (present-day Močenok/SK), 100 foot had been left behind to occupy Szered. The main Rebel force was posted near Léva (present-day Levice/SK) and Verebély (present-day Vráble/SK) under the command of Count Bercsényi.
On 14 May, Heister sent his infantry back to Neuhäusl while he advanced on Verebély by way of Kér (unidentified location) with his cavalry. As he reached Kér, Heister was informed that Forgách had appeared before Stuhlweissenburg with some 3,000 Rebels and had summoned the small garrison (100 men) to surrender. Furthermore, Colonel Count Anton Eszterházy, who was posted at Pápa, informed Heister that Count Károlyi had resumed his advance towards the Raab River. Heister decided to abandon his current operations and to rush to the support of Vienna, which was threatened by these Rebel corps. He stopped his advance towards Léva.
On 15 May, Heister’s infantry marched to Komorn where he planned to recross the Danube. To mask this operation, Heister sent Colonel Ranoff against Léva with 400 dragoons, 100 mounted militia and 100 Serbians.
On 16 May, Heister marched to Komorn with his cavalry and rejoined his infantry. The same day, as Colonel Ranoff approached Léva, the Rebels evacuated the town. Ranoff let a garrison of 150 foot in Léva and retraced his steps towards Komorn.
On 17 May, Heister’s Corps was reunited near Komorn, In the evening, the infantry was sent to Totis. Heister also sent orders to Major-General Ritschan to march to Gutta (present-day Kolárovo/SK). By that date, Forgách was at the head of 13,000 Rebels.
On 18 May, the Rebels tried to storm the Fortress of Leopoldstadt but were driven back with heavy losses.
On 19 May, Heister was informed by the Hofkriegsrath that Ritschan’s Corps was now subordinated to FML Pálffy. Accordingly, Heister sent orders to Pálffy to advance on Szered and to make a junction with Ritschan’s Corps. Heister’s own Corps was now ready at Kocs, south of Komorn, for a new offensive.
On 21 May, after a small engagement in the Czikling Pass not far from Palota (unidentified location, probably Várpalota/HU), Heister’s Corps advanced towards Lake Platten (present-day Lake Balaton).
While FML Johann Pálffy was advancing towards the Raab River and planned to effect a junction with Ritschan’s small corps near Szered, the garrison of the town of Pápa (400 men) surrendered to the Rebels and Colonel Anton Count Eszterházy swore allegiance to Rákóczi.
On 25 May, Heister’s Corps came to contact with a 2,500 men strong Rebel corps under Anton Esterházy near Palota. Heister launched an attack with 300 Serbians, the Grenz militia and 150 regular foot and the Rebels gave way after a resistance of two hours. Heister then fell on their flanks with his cavalry and they fled towards Wesprim (present-day Veszprém/HU). In this action, the Rebels lost approx. 500 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners. Heister’s Corps then encamped near Berhida on the Sár River. With this manoeuvre, Heister had prevented the junction of Rákóczi’s Army with Forgách’s Corps. However, Rákóczi had managed to capture Heister’s baggage train which had been left between Csákvár and Stuhlweissenburg.
Heister then turned against Rákóczi, who then quickly retired towards Ráckeresztúr and the Danube. 18 “Tschaiken” were sent from Ofen to hinder the crossing of the Danube by Rákóczi’s forces.
On 26 May, Tyrnau surrendered to Count Bercsényi, who had immediately advanced on this town after Heister’s departure. Meanwhile, the commander of Leopoldstadt sent messengers to Major-General Ritschan, asking for support. However, his messengers were intercepted.
The same day, (26 May), Major-General Ritschan finally set off from Ungarisch-Skalitz (present-day Skalica/SK) for Tyrnau, leaving a small garrison (200 men of Jung-Daun Infantry and 2 artillery pieces) behind. He marched to Smolenitz (Smolenice/SK). Ritschan’s forces consisted of:
- Deutschmeister Infantry (473 men)
- Holstein Plön Infantry (129 men)
- Guido Starhemberg Infantry (625 men)
- Kriechbaum Infantry (468 men)
- Jung-Daun Infantry (454 men)
- Maltzan Battalion (182 men) a Holsteiner unit hired by the Danes
- Visconti Cuirassiers (150 men)
- Taafe Cuirassiers (approx. 50 men)
- Vaubonne Dragoons (approx. 50 men)
- Artillery (4 pieces)
- Baggage Train (65 wagons)
Most of Ritschan’s forces consisted of recruits enlisted in Moravia for Italy and were poorly equipped, only some of them were armed with muskets. These forces penetrated, without any supply with the exception of a two-days provision of bread, into a territory entirely controlled by the Rebels. The Moravian estates urged Ritschan to evacuate the country and finally refused to supply provisions. They mentioned that the Rebels had already devastated the country, and that the Imperialist troops should not bleed it white.
On 27 May, the Rebels advanced from Tyrnau to Bíňovce (4 km east of Smolenitz). They had received intelligence about the route of Ritschan's Corps and prepared a trap near Smolenitz. Bercsényi could count on 15,000 mostly untrained men. Commander Ocskay posted his troops across the road leading to Ungarisch-Skalitz while Bercsényi took position behind Trstín with Károly's cavalry and some hayducks.
The same day (27 May), Ritschan’s Corps rested near Smolenitz, awaiting the arrival of additional detachments from Ungarisch-Skalitz. Instead of sending out detachments, Major-General Ritschan contented himself with recalling a few men of Hasslingen Infantry who were posted in the Fortress of Scharfenstein (present-day Záruby/SK). Late in the evening, Ritschan was informed that a large Rebel army under Count Bercsényi and Count Károlyi planned to attack his corps from three sides.
Ritschan immediately held a council of war. He advocated to march to the Castle of Bibersburg (present-day Burg Červený Kameň/SK) to evade the attack of the Rebels. But this movement would have exposed Moravia and it was finally decided to retreat towards Ungarisch-Skalitz.
At 10:00 p.m. on 27 May, Major-General Ritschan, without having made any reconnaissance, gave the orders to retire in two columns towards Ungarisch-Skalitz through bad roads into a heavily wooded area.
In the night of 27 to 28 May, the Rebels defeated Ritschan’s Corps in the Engagement of Smolenitz. Part of Ritschan’s forces surrendered while the rest managed to escape under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wachtendonk.
On 29 May, Wachtendonk crossed the March River with the remnants of Ritschan’s small army and marched to Anger (unidentified location).
By the end of May, the Rebels had built entrenchments at confluence of the Waag with the Danube and re-occupied the Schütt Island. Heister’s Corps retired once more towards Komorn, planning to destroy the entrenchments of the Rebels and to chase them out of the vicinity of Raab and Komorn. However, Heister was soon forced to abandon his design when Forgách’s Corps advanced on Raab. Meanwhile Károlyi had moved back to the Leitha River and Field Marshal Heister received calls for help from Vienna.
In June, Rákóczi decided to take revenge against the Serbs, who had assisted the Imperialists. He penetrated as far as Batsch (present-day Bač/RS) and Titel. Even though the Rebels committed atrocities, Rákóczi vainly tried to win the Serbs over to his cause. Part of the Serbs fled towards Szegedin.
On 9 June, Károlyi’s Corps reached the vicinity of Vienna. The inhabitants rushed to arms, and the walls were quickly manned under the direction of G.d.C Count Gronsfeld, who had been appointed commander of the city. Károlyi set fire to a few neighbouring villages, plundered the Imperial hunting lodge at Simmering. He also had the animals of the menagerie killed with the particular intention of offending the emperor. Károlyi then retired towards Hungary.
On 12 June, FM Heister, who was retiring towards the Leitha River, reached Gyirmόth (unidentified location) near Raab.
The same day (12 June), Forgách reached Pápa with approx. 18,000 men, intending to oppose Heister’s retreat. Forgách did not expect an attack and calmly awaited the return of Karolyi’s Corps, which was only a day's march away.
On the night of 12 to 13 June, FM Heister held a council of war, where it was decided to attack Forgách’s Army. He sent his baggage to Raab and prepared to attack at dawn.
On 13 June, Heister routed the Rebels in the Battle of Raab. Károlyi with 3,000 horse arrived too late to take part in the engagement and immediately retired to Árpás.
Heister then returned to Gyirmóth. Despite his recent victories, rebels had always managed to escape and rally elsewhere. A total victory could not be reached against such a guerrilla tactic. Heister's inconsiderate operations in Hungary prevented to reach any agreement with the rebels. On 20 June, FM Heister arrived at Wieselburg (present-day part of Mosonmagyaróvár/HU) after a slow retreat. He then continued his march towards Ungarisch-Altenburg (present-day Mosonmagyaróvár/HU). Prince Eugène de Savoie considered that, because of the lack of troops, the Imperialists should stay on the defensive and protect the Hereditary Lands until some troops could be spared in Germany and redirected to this theatre of operation.
The Hofkriegsrath ordered a detachment under Colonel Guthel to march towards Hungary to reinforce Heister’s Corps. This detachment consisted of:
- Alt-Daun Infantry (1 bn of 350 men) aka de Wendt
- Jung-Starhemberg Infantry (1 bn of 980 men)
- Königsegg Infantry (1 bn of 735 men)
- Kriechbaum Infantry (1 bn of 470 men)
- Holstein Plön Infantry (208 recruits)
On 26 June, the Hofkriegsrath decided to form a relief army of 10,000 foot and 5,000 horse to join Heister in Hungary. All recruits and remounts already assembled in the Hereditary Lands for the rgts operating in Italy were used to complement units operating in Hungary. This way, it was possible to form an army of 8,017 foot and 5,360 horse. The Hofkriegsrath also wanted to enlist 1,000 recruits from the contingent planned for the next year.
FM Heister planned operations along the Waag River, believing that the Rebels had been demoralized by their defeat at Raab.
Towards the end of June, FM Heister sent Colonel Viard with 500 horse southwards from Ungarisch-Altenburg against Kapuvár and Sárvár to drive the Rebels out of the country west of the Raab River. However, the Rebels under Károlyi opposed such a strong resistance that Viard had to be reinforced with 500 foot, 200 horse and 2 field artillery pieces under Major-General Kratz.
On ???, the Rebels attacked Kratz’s detachment. Major-General Kratz was severely wounded and his detachment retired towards Ungarisch-Altenburg by way of Oedenburg, leaving 200 horse at Oedenburg to cover the peasants harvesting the fields.
Károlyi then turned his attention to the frontier of Styria and took position near Körmend with 8,000 horse. Major-General Rabatta was posted near St. Gotthard (present-day Szentgotthárd/HU) with 1,200 men of Wendt Infantry, recruits of several infantry rgts (including Kratze and Friesen) and 600 dragoons of the Styrian militia.
On 4 July, Rabatta retired from St. Gotthard. The Rebels attacked Rabatta’s column by surprise near Mogersdorf. The Imperialist infantry was taken prisoners or killed, but Rabatta managed to escape towards Styria with the Styrian dragoons.
The Rebels penetrated into Styria and threatened Graz. However, at the news that the southern militia were on the march, Károlyi retreated to Hungary.
During this time, Count Bercsényi had advanced to the March River at the head of 20,000 men, and established his headquarters in Wartberg (unidentified location, maybe Senec/SK).
The Imperialists had once more been driven out of Hungary, leaving garrisons in a few places. The nearest garrisons were recalled to take part in the defence of the Hereditary Lands. Garrisons in castles and fortresses were maintained. However, the rebels controlled the surrounding country. To prevent the Rebels from using Ungarisch-Skalitz as a base of operation, the Imperialists decided to demolish the walls of the place. Ingenieur-Lieutenant-Colonel Gavion was charged of this task.
By July 15, Gavion had prepared a significant part of the ramparts of Ungarisch-Skalitz for demolition. However, the clergy of the town protested against it, and demolition was postponed to July 25. The garrison of the place was then sent to the March River, where it was joined by the remnants of Ritschan’s Corps, and part of Nehem Infantry and Thürheim Infantry, and the dragoons of the Austrian militia. Only the Holsteiner Maltzan Battalion and one Free Company were left in Ungarisch-Skalitz.
During this time, along the entire frontier of Moravia, Rebel bands under Ocskay plundered and burned villages. Peasants were killed while harvesting their fields and their cattle driven away.
The Relief of Trentschin
On 19 July, the Rebels invested Trentschin. The Hofkriegsrath immediately ordered to assemble a relief force in Moravia under the command of Colonel Grumpach. This relief force consisted of some 10,000 men:
- Jung-Daun, Regal and Herberstein infantry (600 men)
- Taafe Cuirassiers, Vaubonne Dragoons, Alt-Darmstadt Cuirassiers and Visconti Cuirassiers (200 horse)
- Moravian Militia Infantry (1,000 men)
- Moravian Militia Dragoons (400 horse)
- Moravian contingent (8,000 men)
On 27 July, Forgách sent a manifest to the Croats, inviting them to join the Hungarians in their revolt.
At the end of July, Colonel Pfeffershofen, who commanded the garrison of Trentschin, reported that he could not withstand a long siege. That was surprising since the fortress had supplies for four months and that the garrison had lost only 4 men until then.
By August, the Imperialists had 4,154 regular foot and 440 regular horse in Hungary.
At the beginning of August, Rákóczi laid siege to Szegedin. He tried three times to storm the “Palanka” (fortress), but was always driven back by the Serbs. He finally received the needed artillery and managed to capture and burn the place, butchering its inhabitants. However, he was unable to capture the castle, which was defended by Imperialist troops.
Bercsényi arrived in front of Trentschin with some artillery pieces and undertook a formal siege of the place.
The Hofkriegsrath sent FML Johann Pálffy to Agram to support Heister’s operation with the Grenzer militia. Heister’s Corps then retired to Sommerein.
On 9 August, Heister arrived at the camp of Sommerein with 1,500 recruits and 50,000 fl.
On 10 August, Grumpach’s relief force crossed the Hrosenkau Pass.
On 11 August, Grumpach’s relief force marched along the Waag Valley. Meanwhile, a detachment (1 infantry coy, 400 Moravian levies) under Captain Krahuletz made a demonstration at the Strany Pass.
As soon as Bercsényi was informed of the approach of a relief force, he advanced against it with 1,000 foot and 3,000 horse. He attacked and drove the vanguard back. However, when the main body arrived, combat turned to the advantage of the Imperialists. They occupied a church on the height (probably near Drjtoma) and repulsed two attacks of the Rebels.
Bercsényi had another 1,000 men brought forward in support. They crossed the Waag River and attacked the left wing of the Imperialists. However, the Rebels were driven back once more, retreating downstream.
Colonel Grumpach left 5,000 men to observe Bercsényi’s force and advanced towards Trentschin with the rest of the relief force. He destroyed the siege works of the Rebels, supplied the fortress with provisions and ammunition, brought 4 of their culverins into the place and replaced Colonel Pfeffershofen by Lieutenant-Colonel Karly as commandant of Trentschin.
At this moment, the Rebels learned that Captain Krahuletz had crossed the Strany Pass, attacked Waag-Neustadtl (present-day Hlohovec/SK) and set fire to two villages. Bercsényi decided to abandon the siege and to return to Neustadtl with his troops.
The same day (11 August), Colonel Grumpach and Captain Krahuletz retired towards Moravia. This success of the Imperialists incited Bercsényi to launch a punitive expedition against Moravia.
Heister’s Fourth Offensive
By mid-August, FML Pálffy had assembled a force of 2,000 Banal-Grenzer militia, crossed the Mur River, and advanced to Fehring in Styria, to free the region from Károlyi’s Rebel parties, which had already withdrawn to Hungary. Pálffy then sent Colonel Vragovich with 400 horsemen to reconnoitre in Hungary. FM Heister expected Pálffy to advance from Mura Szerdahely (present-day Središče, Moravske Toplice/SI) on Sümeg by way of Keszthely to make a junction with his own corps. However, when Heister learned of the retreat of Károlyi and Forgách and realised that Styria was out of danger, he instructed Pálffy to advance in the direction of Paks on the Danube by way of Kanisza and Kaposvár.
On 16 August, Heister’s Corps (600 foot and 2,000 horse with 10 artillery pieces) set off from Sommerein, crossed the Rabnitz near Leiden (present-day Lébeny/HU).
On 17 August, Heister’s Corps reached Barbacs, hoping to catch up Károlyi’s retreating Rebels.
On 19 August, Heister’s Corps advanced to Mihályi.
On 20 August, Heister’s Corps reached Sárvár. However, Károlyi’s Corps had already reached Pápa and escaped the trap.
Heister remained at Sárvár, trying to pacify the country on the left bank of the Raab. He asked to be reinforced with the Landschaft Dragoons of Lower Austria before advancing against the Rebels but Vienna refused to send him these troops.
On 24 August, Bercsényi advanced against Ungarisch-Hradisch (present-day Uherské Hradiště/CZ) at the head of approx. 7,500 Rebels, and devastated the country east of the March River.
On 25 August, Bercsényi’s forces appeared before Neuhäusel (unidentified location) and bombarded the place.
The same day (25 August), the Fortress of Neutra surrendered to the Rebels, but the garrison obtained free withdrawal. The artillery was transferred to Komorn but a large part of the garrison joined the Rebels.
At the end of August, Major-General Hannibal Heister at the head of 2,000 Grenzers attacked and defeated a Rebel party under Forgách at Nagy-Kanisza, killing 400 Rebels, capturing 60 Rebels and freeing 40 Imperialist soldiers. Forgách retired by way of Simontornya to the right bank of the Danube.
Meanwhile FML Johann Pálffy advanced on St. Gotthard, where he attacked a Rebel detachment. A battalion under Colonel de Wendt, which had been sent from Vienna to Graz, then joined Pálffy’s Corps.
At the beginning of September, after a fruitless attempt against Arad, Rákóczi raised the siege of the Castle of Szegedin. He then personally went to Gyöngyös to negotiate with the Emperor.
In September, the entrenchments of the suburbs of Vienna were completed.
On 1 September, a Rebel force under Baron Révay surrounded and blockaded Leopoldstadt.
South of the Danube, the Imperialists could not contain the incursions of the Rebels into Styria. Even Croatia was threatened by Forgách. In Vienna the court wanted to launch an offensive, but trust in FM Heister had declined and G.d.C. Count Herberstein was sent out to assist him. However, Heister’s Corps was in no condition to launch the desired offensive. The Danish rgts refused to march towards Ungarisch-Altenburg as ordered, and remained near Pressburg. They wanted to be transferred to Silesia to conduct recruitment. They were finally persuaded to march towards Ungarisch-Altenburg.
On ? September, FM Heister sent back the Danish rgts to Kittsee, considering that, in their present condition, they were more a nuisance than an asset.
On 2 September, FM Heister marched to Pápa, where he left G.d.C. Herberstein with most of the infantry and part of the artillery. He then advanced with the rest of his corps to Stuhlweissenburg. The Rebels evaded the attack and, for the most part, crossed the Danube.
At the beginning of September, FML Pálffy’s Corps advanced on Sümeg. The Croats then plundered the country between the Raab and the Drau rivers. Pálffy had vainly hoped that they would spare the rest of the properties if he allowed them to steal the cattle.
On 8 September, Heister advanced against Dunaföldvár and the rest of the Rebel force under Károlyi retired to the right bank of the Danube. Heister built entrenchments at Dunaföldvár. He then retired towards Lovasberény, leaving a garrison of 200 foot and 300 dragoons with 2 artillery pieces to occupy these entrenchments. He also sent 374 Serbs aboard 10 “Tschaiken” downstream on the Danube, down to Vörös-Márton (unidentified location) to destroy vessels and mills.
Bercsényi retaliated to Heister’s and Pálffy’s operations by attacking the region of the March River. He penetrated into Lower Austria with approx. 7,000 men, razed the village of Dürnkrut and sent parties far into the country to bring back cattle to Hungary.
When FM Heister was informed of Bercsényi’s raid in Lower Austria, he decided to retreat, recross the Danube at Komorn, and advance towards the Eipel River to force Bercsényi to retire.
On 12 September, the Court of Vienna, which was negotiating with Rákóczi, concluded a truce until the end of September.
Bercsényi then retired from the frontier of Moravia.
At the end of October, negotiations were once more initiated to conclude a new armistice. The parties met in Schemnitz (present-day Banská Štiavnica/SK). Emperor Leopold I sent Baron Seilern, Count Lamberg, Stephan Kohary, Szirmay and the Archbishop Széchenyi. For their part, the rebels were represented by Nikolaus Bercsényi and Alexander Károlyi, one French secretary and one representative of Bavaria. These negotiations failed.
In December, FM Heister with 3,000 foot and 4,000 horse marched from Moravia by Modern (present-day Modrá/SK), St. Georgen and Bösing (present-day Pezinok/SK). Rákoczy decided to accept battle and deployed with his troops (approx. 21,000 with only 4 guns) near Tyrnau.
On 26 December, a great battle took place near Tyrnau. Bercsényi had recommended to occupy Tyrnau and to use the city as a defensive pivot but Rákoczy rejected this plan, preferring to act offensively. Daniel Esterházy with the left wing would march to Hrnčiarovce, Bercsényi with the right to Weisswasser (present-day Biely Kostol/SK) and the infantry would form the centre. The Imperial troops received Bercsényi's cavalry with musket fire. However, Bercsényi's cavalry turned its attention against the camp of the Imperialists which it plundered. This exposed the right flank of the rebel infantry which was attacked by a dragoon regiment. Some of the rebel regiments built from deserters from the Imperial Army then suddenly changed side and opened fire on the neighbouring rebel units. Meanwhile, Bercsényi's horse were attacked in the rear by Imperial cavalry and routed. When the cavalry of the rebel left wing saw the panic stricken right wing fleeing, it broke and routed too. The rebel cavalry managed to escape but the isolated rebel infantry was then slaughtered by the Imperial cavalry. Once more, Alexander Károlyi arrived too late to take part in the battle and precipitously returned to Freistadtl (present-day Hlohovec/SK). For his part, Rákoczy retreated to Sempte (present-day Šintava/SK). Heister's losses are not known. The rebels lost about 2,000 men (including 250 French soldiers), 50 flags, 14 guns, 9 heavy guns and 7 mortars. In Tyrnau, the wounded rebels were killed by Imperial soldiers. In retaliation, Rákoczy let the Imperial soldiers imprisoned in Prievidza (Slovakia) be executed.
FM Heister then marched to Leopoldstadt to relieve the fortress.
Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 6, Vienna 1879, pp. 97-175
Fessler, Dr. I. A.: Die Geschichte der Ungern, part IX. File 19. Leipzig 1825
Vojenské dejiny Slovenska, file II, Bratislava 1995
Harald Skala for the initial version of this article