1710-01-22 – Battle of Romhány

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1710-01-22 – Battle of Romhány

Imperialist victory

Prelude to the Battle

In December 1709, Ferenc II Rákóczi gave orders to his army to assemble at Eger. On 1 January 1710, he himself set off from Magyarböd (present-day Bidovce/SK), east of Kaschau (present-day Košice/SK), and met the same day with General Sándor Károlyi and Lieutenant-General Michael Csáky at Korlát. From 4 to 7 January, Rákóczi held a war council at Halmaj. Meanwhile, his Polish and Swedish troops were marching towards Eger. On 7 January, Rákóczi left Count Miklós Bercsényi at Szikszó and went to Kaschau to speed up the departure of the troops stationed there. Between 9 and 15 January, Rákóczi was in Emöd and Daróc (present-day Šarišské Dravce/SK) and consulted his generals and Colonel Rivière, who commanded his artillery. During this time, Károlyi’s troops, arriving from the other side of the Bükk-hills, marched to join the army. On 14 January, after reviewing his army, Rákóczi marched to Gyöngyös-Halászi.

On 18 January, Károlyi’s Corps made a junction with the main Kuruc army at Ecséd. On 20 January, the Kuruc army encamped outside of Kalló (Rákóczi avoided cities due to a plague epidemic), and the soldiers suffered from the cold weather. Rákóczi harangued his Polish and Swedish troops and promised to take care of them, if ever they were taken prisoners by Imperial troops.

On 21 January, Rákóczi divided his army in three columns, the infantry in the middle and the cavalry on each sides and marched to Bercel, where the army spent the night prior to the battle of Romhány.

During this time, Lieutenant-General Damian Joseph Philipp Baron Sickingen had been informed, that Antal Esterházy had broken through the Imperial defence line with his Kuruc corps and was marching to Érsekújvár (present-day Nové Zámky/SK). Sickingen let part of his cavalry, which had been stationed at Losonc (present-day Lučenec/SK) and Szécsény (present-day Szécsény/HU), at Érsekvadkert. Sickingen intended to follow Esterházy with approximately 1,500 horse. However, when he was informed that Károly was marching with a force of approx. 1,000 horse form Bercel to Romhány, only a two-hours march from Érsekvadkert, and that Rákóczi was following with the Kuruc main army. Sickingen decided to attack Károlyi by surprise before the arrival of Rákóczi’s Army.

Sickingen had obviously received bad information about the strength of the Kuruc forces. Despite the fact that he had 40 cuirassier sqns, 2 hussar rgts and 28 infantry coys in the County of Nógrad, he took with him only 1,000 cuirassiers and dragoons and 500 hussars to take part in the coming battle.

In the morning of 22 January, Sickingen marched with his small corps from Érsekvadkert to Romhány, leaving the 12 coys of Deutschmeister Infantry under Colonel Damian Kasimir Baron Dalberg at Érsekvadkert.

Rákóczi knew nothing about the presence of some Imperial troops near Romhány and only planned to encamp there. He sent a small detachment to reconnoitre the area between Érsekvadkert and Romhány.

Around 1:00 p.m., the Kuruc army arrived at Romhány and Rákóczi was informed of the presence of Sickingen’s Corps near the small forest between Szátok and Érsekvadkert. Rákóczi immediately halted his vanguard (Sennyey Hussars and Draguly Hussars) which were already passing the Lócus stream and sent forward his regular cavalry, the Trans-Theiss troops and the whole infantry led by Bagossy, then the Polish and Swedes and his palace troops towards the place which was originally designated for the encampment. There Rákóczi, deployed his troops in two lines between the northern entrance of Romhány and the mountain range between Bodony and Szántok. Rákóczi posted himself near the ruins of a church on a hilltop from which he could clearly see the entire battlefield.

Map

Battle of Romhány Phase 1
 
Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis
Battle of Romhány Phase 2
 
Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis
Key to the map:
Rákóczi’s Army

 
Lengy. = Polish troops
Sw. = Swedish troops
L.C. = line cavalry
T. R. = units from beyond the Tisza River aka Trans-Theiss troops
Hajd. = hayducks
Dr. = Draguly Hussars
S. = Sennyey Hussars
R. = Rákóczi

Sickingen’s Corps

 
U. = Uhlefeld Cuirassiers
H. = Hohenzollern Cuirassiers
L. = La Tour Cuirassiers
A. = Althann Dragoons
Sav. = Savoy Dragoons
O. = Ocskay Hussars (former Kuruc unit which had changed allegiance)
S.R. = Secula “Raitzen” (Serbian) Militia Hussars
Sck. = Sickingen
Migli = Migli detachment

In Hungary and Slovakia, the engagement is known as the “Battle of Vadkert.”

Description of Events

While the Kuruc army was deploying, Sickingen reached the battlefield. He wanted to interrupt the full deployment of the Kurucs and to attack with his cavalry – the cuirassiers and dragoons in the first line, the two hussar regiments in second. On the right wing, Sickingen was at the head of cuirassiers, while Joseph Albert Count Sainte-Croix led the dragoons deployed on the left wing.

At 3:00 p.m., the battle started. Rákóczi turned the Imperial right wing and his Polish cavalry broke through the Imperial line and attacked Ocskay’s hussars in the rear. The Swedish cavalry together with the regular Kuruc horse attacked the Hohenzollern Cuirassiers and La Tour Cuirassiers and pushed them back towards the marshy area along the Lókus stream.

During this time, on the Imperial left wing, Sainte-Croix attacked with his dragoons the right wing of the Kuruc army and pushed back the Bagossy's hayducks and the Trans-Theiss troops against the marshes. Finally, Sainte-Croix interrupted his attack.

The Polish repeatedly attacked Sickingen’s right wing. Sickingen’s hussars did not intervene and remained in the second line. They soon panicked and intermingled with Sainte-Croix’s dragoons.

At this moment part of Sickingen’s cavalry surrendered, being totally surrounded by the Polish cavalry, while the rest of the Imperial right wing took refuge in the swamp. Sickingen fell from his horse. It looked like Rákóczi had won the battle.

However, the Polish cavalry stopped their attacks against the remaining cuirassiers and turned their attention to Sickingen’s baggage, which they plundered. The Swedish and regular Kuruc cavalry also stopped their attacks. Furthermore, the Trans-Theiss cavalry started to plunder Sickingen’s baggage but also the baggage of the Kurucs! Rákóczi’s silver plates and some religious objects disappeared.

Part of Sickingen’s cuirassiers and most of Ocskay’s hussars had already surrendered and what remained of the cuirassiers had difficulties to extricate themselves from the swamp. However, Sainte-Croix’s two dragoon rgts and the Secula Hussars had evaded enemy fire and managed to rally.

At this crucial moment, Sainte-Croix spotted a gap between the Swedish cavalry and the right wing of the Kurucs and attacked at the head of the Savoyen Dragoons. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Schuhknecht rallied another group of cavalry and, supported by some of Secula Hussars, joined Sainte-Croix attack. The Imperial cavalry broke through the line of the Trans-Theiss infantry and attacked Bagossy’s hayducks in the rear. This unexpected attack shook the whole Kuruc right wing, which panicked and routed towards the Lókus swamp. The hayducks managed to pass the frozen swamp, but not the cavalry. Most of them were captured.

In the afternoon, during the battle, Captain Migli had left Érsekvadkert with a small Imperial detachment to reconnoitre the situation around Romhány. As he reached a small hill west of Romhány, he saw the situation on the battlefield. He immediately ordered his drummers and trumpeters to make as much noise as possible. The Kurucs believed that some Imperial reinforcement troops were arriving and this increased their panic. Not listening to any order, they fled towards the bridge on the Lókus stream.

With this sudden reversal of situation, the Swedish cavalry and part of the regular Kuruc cavalry turned about and retired. The Polish cavalry became aware of the new situation, stopped plundering and retreated to Romhány.

“Ubi est princeps?” shouted the Kurucs. When Rákóczi realised from his observation post that his entire army was routing, he rode to the battlefield and tried to rally his troops. On the bridge on the Lókus stream, Rákóczi met Lieutenant-General Károlyi, who feared that the events of the Battle of Trentschin would repeat themselves (there too Rákóczi had tried to rally his troops but had fallen from his horse and lost consciousness).

That was the end of the battle. Sainte-Croix’s boldness and Migli’s ruse had saved the situation in the most dangerous moment of the battle. Lieutenant-General Sickingen proposed Sainte-Croix and Schuhknecht for promotion.

After the successful attack of Sainte-Croix, Sickingen and his cuirassiers managed to extricate themselves from the swamp and to return to Érsekvadkert. Rákóczi was unable to follow him, his troops being fatigued and not yet rallied. There were of course two Kuruc hussar regiments, which had not yet participated in the battle, but he did not trust them and ordered the whole army to retreat. The regular units and the Swedes and Polish used the bridge, while other troops waded through the Lókus stream. Swedish and Polish officers tried to convince Rákóczi to follow the retreating Imperial troops, but Rákóczi, who had lost confidence in his army, refused. His army marched to Guta where it rallied.

Outcome

Even though the battle had lasted only few hours (from 3:00 p.m. to darkness), the losses on both sides were remarkable. According to Hungarian sources, Rákóczi lost approx. 2,000 men in this battle, the wounded were transported on 50 wagons to Gyöngyös. Many officers, including 7 Swedish captains and 30 men were taken prisoners, 2 guns were lost in the swamp and 27 colours captured by Imperial troops. Gáspar Beniczky mentioned a loss of 200 to 250 foot and 100 horse.

Among the Kuruc officers killed were Brigadier Franz Babocsay, Stephan Horváth Pászthoi, Lieutenant-Colonel Andreas Bécse and Sigmund Andreánsky, in addition to 16 officers and 306 men. Sickingen’s losses are not exactly known. Kuruc sources mentioned that only one third of the Imperial troops were available after the battle. The rest had been killed, drowned in the swamp or taken prisoners. Markó mentions losses of approx. 750 men, nearly 50% of the original strength of the Imperial corps. But these figures seem to be too high.

The Battle of Romhány did not induce further actions by the Imperial troops. Field Marshal Count Sigbert Heister was still in Vienna and refused to start a new offensive until the arrival of fresh troops from the Hereditary Lands. The action of Sickingen was considered as very risky, because he had temporarily abandoned the agreed defence line and attacked Rákóczi with such an inadequate force.

Order of Battle

Imperialist Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-General Damian Joseph Philipp Baron Sickingen

Summary: 1,000 regular horse, 500 hussars

Uhlefeld Cuirassiers
Hohenzollern Cuirassiers
La Tour Cuirassiers
Savoyen Dragoons
Althann Dragoons
Secula “Raitzen” Hussars aka Serbian Hussars
Ladislaus Ocskay Hussars (former Kuruc unit which had changed allegiance)

N. B.: each line cavalry unit and each hussar unit could field between 200 and 250 men

Kuruc Order of Battle

Commander-in-Chief: Ferenc II Duke Rákóczi

Summary: 9,550 men

Rákóczi's Palace Guard (Home troops)

  • Johann Szentiványi unit (600 men)
  • Hans Jakub Dittrich Infantry (200 men)
  • Georg Ordódy Horse Carabiniers (1,000 men)
  • Life Guard (300 men), including
    • Green Carabiniers

Cavalry

  • Sándor Károlyi Hussars (500 men)
  • Paul Orosz Hussars (400 men)
  • Michal Mikházi Hussars (700 men)
  • Michal Nyúzó Hussars (400 men)
  • Farkas Draguly Hussars (350 men)
  • Antal Esterházy Dragoons (250 men)
  • Paul Gyürky Hussars (150 men)
  • Simon Forgách Carabiniers (150 men)
  • Franz Paur Hussars (150 men)
  • Paul Bokros Hussars (300 men)
  • Sennyey Hussars (??? men)

Infantry

  • Ladislaus Bagossy Hayduck

Auxiliary troops

  • Swedish Bielk Cavalry (200 men)
  • Swedish Züllich Cavalry (140 men) this could be part of the "Franska dragonregementet or Grenadjärna till häst (600 men) which had been raised in 1707 through enlistment. A foreign regiment under Colonel G. Zülich 1which remained in Poland under Crassow. It had been broken up after the retreat to Pomerania in 1709. To a certain extent the regiment could be considered in Polish service. [Höglund]
  • Swedish Dragoons (4 coys for a total of 160 men) maybe a part of the Bohus dragonskvadron under Colonel F.G. Bielke
  • Polish troops (3,000 men)
    • Potocki Cavalry
    • Grudzinski Cavalry
    • Lithuanian Cavalry
    • Tartar Cavalry

N. B.: the Trans-Theiss troops are not listed in the order of battle

References

Bánlaky József: A Magyar Nemzet Hadtörténelme

Höglund, Lars-Eric, and Ake Sallnäs: The Great Northern War 1700-1721. Vol. 1, Karlstad 2000, p. 99

Wrede, A. v.: Geschichte der K. und K. Wehrmacht, file I. And II/1, Vienna 1889 and 1901

Acknowledgements

Harald Skala and Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article

Jörg Meier for additional information on the Swedish cavalry