Honouring our warrior ancestors, glorious!

I'll post one of Croatia's greatest military moments, which was sadly a defeat, though a glorious defeat. I'll leave other battles for other Croats to post.

[img width=700 height=504]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/95/Johann_Peter_Krafft_005.jpg/800px-Johann_Peter_Krafft_005.jpg” />
The Final Charge of Zrinski and his Soldiers

Siege of Szigetvár

In January 1566 Sultan Suleiman I had ruled the Ottoman Empire for 46 years and went to war for the last time. He was 72 years old and, although having gout to the extent that he was carried on a litter, he nominally commanded his thirteenth military campaign. On 1 May 1566 the Sultan left Constantinople at the head of one of the largest armies he had ever commanded.

His opposite number, Count Nikola Šubić Zrinski, was one of the largest landholders in the Kingdom of Croatia, a seasoned veteran of border warfare, and a Ban (Croatian royal representative) from 1542 to 1556.[21] In his early life he distinguished himself in the Siege of Vienna and pursued a successful military career.

Suleiman's forces reached Belgrade on 27 June after a forty nine day march. Here he met with John II Sigismund Zápolya who he earlier promised to make the ruler of all Hungary. Learning of the Zrinski's success in an attack upon a Turkish encampment at Siklós, Suleiman decided to postpone his attack on Eger and instead attack Zrinski's fortress at Szigetvár to eliminate him as a threat.


The advanced guard of the Turks arrived at on 2 August 1566 and the defenders made several successful sorties causing considerable loss to the Turks. The Sultan arrived with the main force on 5 August and his big war tent was erected on the Similehov hill, giving him a view of the battle. The Sultan had to stay in his camp where he received verbal battle progress reports from his Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, the real operational commander of the Ottoman forces.

Count Zrinsky found himself besieged by a hostile army of at least 150,000 soldiers with powerful artillery. Zrinsky had assembled a force of around 2,300 Croatian and Hungarian soldiers prior to the siege. These consisted of his personal forces and those of his friends and allies. The majority of the defenders were Croatian, with a significant Hungarian contingent represented in both the men-at-arms and the leadership.

Szigetvár was divided into three sections divided by water: the old town, the new town and the castle—each of which was linked to the next by bridges and to the land by causeways. Although it was not built on particularly high ground the inner castle, which occupied much of the area of today's castle, was not directly accessible to the attackers. This was because two other baileys had to be taken and secured before a final assault on the inner castle could be launched.

When the Sultan appeared before the Fortress he saw the walls hung with red cloth, as though for a festive reception, and a single great cannon thundered once to greet the mighty warrior monarch. The siege began on 6 August when Suleiman ordered a general assault on the ramparts, although the attack was successfully repulsed. Despite being undermanned, and greatly outnumbered, the defenders were sent no reinforcements from Vienna by the imperial army.

After over a month of exhausting and bloody struggle the few remaining defenders retreated into the old town for their last stand. The Sultan tried to entice Zrinski to surrender, ultimately offering him leadership of Croatia under Ottoman influence, Count Zrinsky did not reply and continued to fight.

The fall of the castle appeared inevitable but the Ottoman high command hesitated. On 6 September the Suleiman died in his tent and his death was kept secret at great effort with only the Sultan's innermost circle knowing of his demise. A courier was dispatched from the camp with a message for Suleiman's successor, Selim. The courier may not even have known the content of the message he delivered to distant Asia Minor within a mere eight days.

[img width=700 height=546]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/57/Szigetv%C3%A1r_a_16._sz%C3%A1zadban.jpg/767px-Szigetv%C3%A1r_a_16._sz%C3%A1zadban.jpg” />

Final Battle
The final battle began on 7 September, the day after Suleiman's demise. By this time, the fortress walls had been reduced to rubble by mining with explosives and wood fueled fires at the corners of the walls. In the morning an all-out attack began with fusillades from small arms, "Greek fire", and a concentrated cannonade. Soon the castle, the last stronghold within Szigetvár, was set ablaze and cinders fell into the apartments of the count.

The Ottoman army swarmed through the city, drumming and yelling. Zrinski prepared for a last charge addressing his troops:

“ …Let us go out from this burning place into the open and stand up to our enemies. Who dies – he will be with God. Who dies not – his name will be honoured. I will go first, and what I do, you do. And God is my witness – I will never leave you, my brothers and knights!… ”

Zrinski did not allow the final assault to break into the castle. As the Turks were pressing forwards along a narrow bridge the defenders suddenly flung open the gate and fired a large mortar loaded with broken iron, killing 600 attackers. Zrinsky then ordered a charge and led his remaining 600 troops out of the castle. He received two musket wounds in his chest and was killed shortly afterwards by an arrow to the head. Some of his force retired into the castle.

The Turks took the castle and most of the defenders were slain. A few of the captured defenders were spared by Janissaries who had admired their courage, with only seven defenders managing to escape through the Ottoman lines. Zrinsky's corpse was beheaded and his head taken to the Emperor while his body received an honourable burial by a Turk who had been his prisoner, and well treated by him.

Powder magazine explosion
Before leading the final sortie by the castle garrison, Zrinski ordered a fuse be lit to the powder magazine. After cutting down the last of the defenders the besiegers poured into the fortress. The Ottoman Army entered the remains of Szigetvár and fell into the booby trap, thousands perished in the blast when the castle's magazine exploded.

The Vizier Ibrahim's life was saved by one of Zrinski's household who warned him of the trap when the Vizier and his troops searched for treasure and interrogated the survivors. While inquiring about treasure the prisoner replied that it had been long expended, but that 3,000 lbs of powder were under their feet to which a slow match had been attached. The Vizier and his mounted officers had just enough time to escape but 3,000 Turks perished in the explosion.

Nikola Subic Zrinski


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