1704 – Rákóczi Uprising in Transylvania

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1704 – Rákóczi Uprising in Transylvania

The campaign lasted from March to December 1704


At the beginning of 1704, G.d.C. Rabutin, military governor of Transylvania was in a very critical situation. He was threatened on all sides and was too far away to expect support or reinforcement from the Hereditary Lands. His few, ill paid forces had to withstand not only to the Kurucs (rebels) commanded by Captain Paul Orosz operating Northern Transylvania but also the threat from the Turks goaded by Imre Thököly, woe were considering to advance against Transylvania or to let the Hospodar of Wallachia do so. The inhabitants of Transylvania, to the exception of the Saxon colonists, had not remained loyal to the Empire and Rákoczy received reinforcements from this region.

In January, Rabutin wanted to organise the nobility and the Székelys militia. He charged Count Lonrenz Pekri and Count Michael Mikes of this task. However, instead of fulfilling their orders, they followed Hungarian parties to Rákóczi’s camp and rallied to the Kuruc’s cause.

Furthermore, Chancellor Count Ladislaus Bethlen didn't seem entirely reliable. He intended to lead a deputation to Vienna in January to present the requests of the Transylvanians to the emperor. Count von Secau, present in Transylvania, was instructed by Rabutin to travel ahead of the deputation in order to describe the existing conditions before their arrival – while Count Bethlen tried to prevent Bethlen’s departure in order to have easier negotiations in Vienna.

On 26 January, Rabutin was promoted to field marshal.

Count Nicolaus Bethlen, Michael Mikes and Pekri were trying to convince the local nobility to elect Rákóczi as prince of Transylvania.

In the Spring, Rabutin planned to assemble the country militia and to place them under the command of Count Lorenz Pekri and Michael Mikes. However, both joined the Rebels. Rabutin's forces (5,570 foot and 1,500 horse with only 1,100 horses) consisted of:

Castles were mainly garrisoned by Wallachian militia. Finally, a force of 2,500 Wallachian foot and 2,500 horse had been deployed around Hermannstadt (present-day Sibiu/RO). The troops had not been paid for a long time so that mutinies broke out in some places and the troops went over to the Kurucs because of food shortages.

In March, Franz Déak advanced against the Maros County (present-day Mureș/RO) in Transylvania with 1,000 Rebels to attack the Serbian militia. He took the fortified place of Petschka (present-day Pecica/RO) and burned down most of the Serbian villages along the Mureș River. The Serbs retaliated by raiding Hungarian villages and towns north of Arad.

On 21 March, as Déak’s Kuruc forces advanced against Waradia (present-day Vărădia de Mureș/RO), Colonel Löffelholz razed his entrenchments and retired towards Arad.

At the beginning of July, the emperor sent Count Sigmund von Lamberg to the Archbishop von Kalocsa to enjoin him to obtain a new truce, fixing a temporary demarcation along the Waag, Danube and Sárviz rivers, and declaring the region between the Waag and Neutra as neutral.

On 6 July at Karlsburg (present-day Alba Julia/RO), under the vehement protest of the Saxon colonists, the State Parliament elected Rákoczy as sovereign of free Transylvania and dethroned Leopold I.

Field Marshal Rabutin advanced on Karlsburg and the parliament quickly dissolved.

During the summer, Bistritz (present-day Bistrița/RO) surrendered to the Kuruc leader Michael Telcki and 170 men of the garrison joined the insurgents. Similarly, the Castle of Hunyad was handed over to the Kurucs and part of its garrison joined them. In Kövár the soldiers murdered their commander because he could not pay them. Most of these garrisons consisted of soldiers of Thürheim Infantry and the Hofkriegsrath decided to initiate an investigation into these incidents, even considering to disband the regiment.

On ???, Count Mikes marched to Szegedin (present-day Szeged/HU) with 6,000 men, to escort Rákóczi to Transylvania as its newly elected prince. However, Rákóczi was too busy with his campaign in Hungary, to be able to come to Transylvania. He received the Transylvanian deputation in Viknye (unidentified location). After this meeting, he suffered of a violent fever. He appointed Count Simon Forgács as his deputy in Transylvania. In a country so notoriously proud of its privilege, Rákóczi’s affairs instantly suffered from this nomination and the Transylvanians soon regretted their decision to elect him as their prince. Nevertheless, Rákóczi had now acquired a new title, which he intended to use in his negotiations with the emperor. Above all, after his free election by the Transylvanians, he demanded to be officially recognized as prince of this country.

As time passed, the number of Rákóczi’s followers in Transylvania increased without Rabutin doing anything, because dissatisfaction steadily grew in the garrison of Hermannstadt. Furthermore, the soldiers discovered that some Hungarian inhabitants were conspiring against the Empire. Rabutin severely punished the conspirators. He then wrote to Vienna, arguing that the emperor would lose Transylvania if no reinforcements were sent.

By the middle of the year, Rabutin only controlled a diminishing region around Hermannstadt.

At the beginning of September, Pekri and Toroczkay approached Hermannstadt from two sides, hoping to lure FM Rabutin and his troops out of the fortress.

On 7 September, ignoring that Toroczkay was approaching with a second corps, Rabutin came out of Hermannstadt with his 3 cavalry rgts to attack Pekri’s Corps.

On 10 September, unable to locate Pekri’s Corps, which had retired, Rabutin retraced his steps towards Hermannstadt. Meanwhile, ignoring that Rabutin was on his way back, Toroczkay decided to make an attempt against the fortress.

On 11 September, approx. 450 Kurucs advanced on the outworks of Hermannstadt on the left bank of the Zibin River and stole cattle. Toroczkay followed this vanguard with 6,000 men. While the Kurucs occupied the entrenchments and made preparation for their defence, Rabutin attacked them by surprise with his 3 cavalry rgts. The Kurucs fell back in confusion but were stopped by to a deep muddy ditch and we forced to make a stand. The rest of the garrison of Hermannstadt joined Rabutin’s cavalry and together they attacked the Kurucs, who now routed. Several of them got stuck in the ditch and were killed or captured. Rabutin pursued the routing Kurucs. Toroczkay was wounded, 800 Kurucs killed and 56 taken prisoners. Rabutin’s troops captured 4 pairs of kettle-drums and 20 flags. The Imperial troops suffered only a few losses.

FM Rabutin now intended to exploit this success. The Castle of Déva was blockaded since nine months by a Kuruc force under Captain Csáky and the garrison was running short of provisions. Rabutin marched with 400 foot, 1,500 horse and 4 cannon towards Mühlenbach (unidentified location) where he dispersed a Kuruc party. When Csáky heard of Rabutin’s approach, he raised the blockade. Rabutin then resupplied the Castle of Déva and relieved its garrison. He then returned to Hermannstadt. After the harvests, he was able to stock provisions.

The Kuruc commanders Stephan Toroczkay, Michael Teleki, Paul Cassus, Ladialaus Vay, Daniel Mihal and Stephan Csáky assembled their forces around Klausenburg (present-day Cluj/RO), which contained large magazines of military equipment and supply, and laid siege to the place, hoping that the great distance from Hermannstadt would dissuade Rabutin from undertaking the relief of the place. The garrison counted 700 men.

In September, 50 French engineers and artillery officers arrived in Hungary by way of Belgrade.

When Rabutin was informed that the Kurucs were besieging Klausenburg and that they had already begun to breach the wall, he decided to come to the rescue of the place, even though this would extend his line of communication.

Combat of Pata

On 4 October, Rabutin set off from Hermannstadt with 700 foot, 1,800 horse and 8 field artillery pieces and marched in the direction of Klausenburg, encamping for the night near Stolzenburg (present-day Slimnic/RO).

On 5 October, Rabutin’s corps crossed the Kokel River (present-day Târnava River) and encamped near Langenthal (present-day Valea Lungă/RO).

On 6 October, Rabutin’s Corps marched to the Maros River (present-day Mureș River). Along this river, Rabutin found a recently abandoned camp and sent parties to locate the Kurucs. They came to grip with a small Kuruc party.

On 7 October, Rabutin’s reconnaissance parties discovered a large Kuruc unit (some 2,500 men under Paul Cassus), which had been sent forward to reconnoitre the country. Cassus’ party retired towards Thorda (unidentified location). Rabutin’s vanguard pursued the Kuruc while his main corps crossed the Maros at Sankt Emmerich (present-day Coșlariu/RO). After reconnoitring to the north of his positions, Rabutin advanced by way of Egerbegy (present-day Agârbiciu/RO) to Mezö-Ör (unidentified location).

On 8 October, Rabutin received intelligence that the Kurucs (approx. 14,000 men with 12 artillery pieces), informed of the approach of his corps, were advancing on Pata to trap them in the defile.

The Kurucs had deployed across the valley, north of Pata. Their infantry (including deserters of Thürheim Infantry) and artillery were in the centre and their cavalry on both wings. 800 men were kept in reserve behind the flanks.

In the morning, FM Rabutin inspected and harangued his troops. His corps then prudently advanced by way of Boos (unidentified location) on a road leading through forests and mountain defiles. Rabutin rested his troops south of Pata before emerging in the valley and marching to the enemy. His infantry was in the centre and his cavalry on both wings and in second line.

Without hesitation the vastly superior Kuruc cavalry of both wings advanced, almost surrounding Rabutin’s Corps. The Imperial artillery was not very effective and the situation did not look very promising for Rabutin. He had no choice but to launch an attack against the numerically superior Kuruc cavalry.

Colonel Grave, commanding the Imperial right wing advanced and, after a brief combat, drove back the Kuruc left wing. Two of Grave’s sqns then turned against the Kuruc infantry, which, with the exception of the deserters of Thürheim Infantry, gave way.

The still unshaken Kuruc right wing sent cavalry detachments to support the crumbling left wing. Lieutenant-Colonel Tige, who commanded the Imperial left wing, noticed that the Kurucs were weakening their right wing and launched his own attack, putting the Kuruc cavalry of the right wing to flight.

The Kuruc infantry, now deprived of the support of its cavalry, could not withstand the attacks coming from all sides and routed. Only the deserters of Thürheim Infantry stood their ground and were almost entirely annihilated (survivors were brought back to Hermannstadt where they were executed (quartering)).

Rabutin’s troops did not pursue the Kurucs on a very long distance.

In this combat, Rabutin lost 3 officers killed; and 86 men killed or wounded. The Kurucs lost more than 4,000 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners, 4 artillery pieces, 40 flags, 2 pairs of kettle-drums and 400 horses.

On 9 October, Rabutin resumed his march towards Klausenburg. It turned out that the siege of the city was well advanced; the breach in the wall was already 9 m. wide.

The Kurucs continue to make progress

Rabutin realized that this type of expedition was dangerous with such a small army. There was always the possibility that other Kuruc armies would seize the opportunity to attack in other quarters. He soon received news that Pekri was assembling a Kuruc force near Karlsburg. Rabutin finally decided to abandon Klausenburg and to bring back its garrison ans stores with him to Hermannstadt. Before leaving Klausenburg, he had the breach in the walls widened to 46 m. to make sure that the Kurucs could not use the place as a stronghold.

When Rákóczi was informed of the defeat of Pata, he instructed Count Forgács to annihilate Rabutin’s Corps. Forgács had already entered in Transylvania with some 6,000 horse, but he was still busy assembling the various Kuruc detachments under his own command.

On 14 October, Rabutin’s Corps retired from Klausenburg and marched to Neuschloss (present-day Gherla/RO), which was resupplied for several months.

On 17 October, Rabutin’s Corps set off from Neuschloss and marched in the direction of Karlsburg.

On 21 October, Rabutin’s Corps reached Karlsburg. Pekri had already retired to Zalatna (present-day Zlatna/RO). Rabutin ordered to create a 58 m wide breach in the walls of Karlsburg.

On 25 October, Rabutin’s Corps arrived at Hermannstadt.

On 4 November, Colonel Grave, who had been ordered to resupply Kronstadt (present-day Brașov/RO), assembled detachments coming from Hermannstadt and Mediasch (present-day Mediaș/RO) near Fogarasch (present-day Făgăraș/RO). He was now at the head of 900 horse.

Grave managed to resupply the castle and the town of Kronstadt, but he failed to rally the Székelys to the Imperial cause. The inhabitants called Pekri to the rescue. When Pekri arrived with 2,000 men, Grave withdrew towards Fogarasch.

On 27 November, Pekri caught up with Grave’s detachment near Schirkanyen (present-day Șercaia/RO). In the ensuing engagement, Grave’s detachment repulsed the Kurucs, suffering heavy losses (40 men killed and approx. 100 men wounded).

On 3 December, Grave’s detachment arrived at Hermannstadt.

Rabutin had more and more difficulties to maintain his line of communication with Vienna. To send messages to Vienna, he had to provide an escort of 100 horse, which had to travel by way of Slavonia and the Turkish Banat to Ofen (present-day Buda/HU).

Forgács, assisted by French engineers and officers, laid siege to Mediasch.

By the end of the year, Rabutin was only master of Hermannstadt, Déva, Mediasch, Kronstadt and Neuschloss.


Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 6, Vienna 1879, pp. 148, 175-180, 201-206

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