1708-08-03 – Battle of Trentschin
Prelude to the Battle
The battle of Trentschin (aka Trencsén in Hungarian and Trenčín in Slovakian) was the most important battle in the confrontation of the Kurucs (rebels) of Ferenc II Rákóczi and the Imperialist troops of FM Siegbert Count Heister.
In the summer of 1708, Rákóczi intended to occupy the Fortress of Leopoldstadt (present-day Leopoldov/SK), however his generals opposed his plan and proposed to occupy Trentschin. The Kuruc army (8,000 foot and 7,000 horse) marched from Pistyan (present-day Piešťany/SK) by way of Beckov along Waag River (present-day Váh/SK) towards Trentschin.
After the expected capture of the place, Rákóczi intended to proceed through Moravia to Silesia. FM Heister, informed about Rákóczi’s movements, marched with around 5,200 horse, 2,800 foot and 3,000 militia from Pressburg (present-day Bratislava/SK) to Trentschin.
In the evening of 31 July 1708, Rákóczi’s Army arrived at Beckov and rested there the next day. On August 2, Rákóczi with his staff rode to Trentschin to find a suitable place for an army camp. In the afternoon, his army arrived at Nagybiróc (present-day Velké Bierovce/SK) and, around 9:00 p.m., took position between Szedlicna (present-day Sedličná/SK), Torna (present-day Trenčianská Turna/SK), Hamn (present-day Hámre/SK), Barát Lehota (present-day Mníchova Lehota/SK) and Szoblahó (present-day Soblahov/SK).
The battlefield extended on an area of approx. 16 square km between Rozvadz (present-day Rozvadov/SK) , Szedlicna (present-day Sedličná/SK) , Nagy Biróc (present-day Velké Bierovce/SK) and Bella (present-day Belá/SK) to the south-southwest of Trentschin.
|Old village names
In Slovakia, the engagement is known as the “Battle of Hámre.”
Description of Events
In the morning of 3 August, Heister’s cavalry advanced in two columns from Beckov to Trentschin. A brief skirmish took place between the Imperialists and the vanguard of the Kurucs (150 horse under Colonel Orbán Czelder) near Rozvadz. This engagement alarmed Rákóczi, who immediately deployed his troops in order of battle.
Around 6:00 a.m., a detachment of Imperialist dismounted dragoons marched from west to Turna, where they fired on the Kuruc left wing. Its mission accomplished, the detachment rejoined its regiment. In the meantime, Heister’s two columns made a junction, bypassed the Kuruc left wing between Turna and Bella and arrived in front of the Kuruc positions.
Heister reconnoitred Rákóczi’s positions and realised that the Kurucs were numerically superior. He then tried to march along the Kuruc battle line to take position under the guns of the Castle of Trentschin.
FM Heister observed Kuruc troops deployed on the slopes of a range of hills. His idea was to lure them out of their entrenchments.
Around 7:00 a.m., Rákóczi gave orders to Pekry’s cavalry to “follow the retiring Imperialist army.” Furthermore, 3 of his bns left their entrenchments on the range of hills and went down to the village of Hamn village. These manoeuvres of the Kurucs were exactly what Heister was looking for.
Pekry’s dragoons and hussars launched an attack against the Imperialists. Stephan Ebecky drew Pekry’s attention to the risk of such an approach and suggested that it would be better to retire, but Pekry ignored his advice. Pekry’s forces reached a very narrow dike. Pekry then hesitated and finally started a retreat which soon turned in total chaos.
At 7:30 a.m., G.d.C. Johann Count Pálffy realised that Pekry’s troops were completely disorganised and initiated an attack with the Althann Dragoons and the Demetri Militia Hussars. At the second attack (around 15 minutes) of Pálffy's cavalry, Pekry's cavalry routed.
Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., Pálffy achieved victory over Pekry's cavalry, which fled in panic towards Barát Lehota and the forest between this village and Szoblahó.
Heister interrupted his advance towards the Castle of Trentschin, formed line and attacked the centre of the Kuruc positions. Meanwhile, the Kuruc recruits forming the right wing were attacked by Pálffy and started to flee.
Rákóczi sent some German and Polish carabiniers to stabilize his right wing but they were unable to put a stop to the attack of the Imperial troops. Rákoczy personally joined the fray but he fell, when his horse stumbled, and lost consciousness. With their leader out of combat, panic spread among the Kurucs and most of them turned and fled. Only the Perényi, Celder, Andrássy, Csajághy and Nyáry regiments along with the artillerymen and the Fierville and Bonefous French grenadiers fought till the end. Most of them were killed (Fierville grenadiers lost half of their soldiers) including La Motte, the commander of the French artillery.
Three coys (500 men) of Kuruc infantry under Johann Istványi, which occupied the village of Hamn at the beginning of the battle, arrived too late to take part in the battle but were all taken prisoners. The unconscious Rákoczy was rescued by Ladislaus (Lázslo) Bercsényi from his Life guard. He was the son of Miklós Bercsényi, commander of Rákóczi’s troops.
By 11:00 a.m., the battle was finished.
In this disastrous action the Kurucs had lost around 3,500 men killed and 600 (including 25 officers) taken prisoners, a loss of approx. 27 % of their original strength, all their guns, their complete train with ammunition, 50 colours and 2 kettle-drums belonging to Rákóczi’s Lifeguard. Heister lost only 200 men. The impetus of Rákoczy's uprising was broken in this battle. It was the beginning of its tragic end.
The defeated rebels retreated by way of Groß-Topoltschan (present-day Topolčany/SK). Jahrmarkt (present-day Balašské Darmoty/SK) and Szécény (present-day Sečany/SK) to Erlau (present-day Eger/HU). Rákoczy could not avoid that Heister’s troops occupied the towns in the mountain region and Neutra (present-day Nitra/SK) and besieged Neuhäusel (present-day Nové Zámky/SK). Some of his best general deserted. His troops lost the regions north of Upper Hungary (present-day Slovakia).
Order of Battle
Imperialist Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Count Sigbert Heister
Summary: 5,200 horse, 2,800 foot and 3,000 militia
Cavalry under G.d.C. Johann Count Pálffy ab Erdöd
- Hohenzollern Cuirassiers
- La Tour Cuirassiers
- Steinville Cuirassiers
- Althann Dragoons
- Wolfskehl Dragoons unidentified unit
- Jung-Esterházy Hussars
- Johann Demetri (Dimitrovič) Militia hussars
- Secula Militia hussars
- Deutschmeister Infantry
- Nicolaus Pálffy Infantry (2 coys)
- Arnant Infantry (2 bns)
- Jörger zu Tollet Infantry
- 1st Danske Infantry under Erhard Wedel-Jarsberg
- 2nd Danske Infantry
- 3rd Danske Infantry
- 4th Danske Infantry under Detlev Reusch (aka Ruesch)
- 3,000 Warasdiner Grenzer Militia
Remark: all Danish regiments had only the strength of small battalions
Kuruc Order of Battle
- Seneschal Adam Vay. commander of Rákoczy's Palace Guard (Home troops)
- Field marshal Laurinc Pekry, commanding the right wing)
- Nikolaus Perényi (infantry)
- Georg Ottlyk (cavalry)
- Georg Ordódy (cavalry)
- Stephan Ebecký (cavalry)
- Franz Babocsay (hussars)
- Ladislav Ocskay (hussars)
- Stephan Petröczy
- Paul Andrássy
- Paul Gyürky
Summary: 8,000 foot and 7,000 horse
Regular infantry regiments (some units had only 450 to 500 men)
- Paul Andrássy
- Nikolaus Perényi
- Urban Celder
- Johann Istványi
- Franz Babocsay
- probably some others
- French Louis Fierville d’Hérissy Grenadiers (400 men)
- French Charles Bonafous Grenadiers (400 men)
Cavalry under Georg Ordódy
- Horse Carabiniers (French, Polish and German) under Jean Jaques Charriéres
- La Frerier Dragoons
- Fierville Dragoons
- Duke Rákóczi Palace Guards under Seneschal Adam Vay
Militia (name of regiments and strength not known)
Artillery and engineers under the French Colonel Antonio de La Motte
Bánlaky, József: A Magyar Nemzet Hadtörténelme
Landesbibliothek Oldenburg Digital – Oldenburger Jahrbuch
Sándor, Dr. Márki: Rákóczi Ferencz, 1676-1735, Harmadik Kötet
Trenčianska Turná – Bitka pri Hámroch (3.8.1708)
Wikipedia Polish Edition – Powstanie Rakoczego - Armia powstańcza
Wrede, A. v.: Geschichte der K. und K. Wehrmacht, file I., Vienna 1898
Harald Skala and Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article