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The Price for Austria's Security: Part I.

Joseph II, the Russian Alliance, and the Ottoman

War, 1787-1789
Author(s): Matthew Z. Mayer
Source: The International History Review, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 257-299
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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The Price for Austria's Security:

Part I -Joseph II, the Russian Alliance, and the

Ottoman War, 1787-1789

fought three wars against the Ottoman Empire in the

eighteenth century. The first and second (1716-18 and 1737-9) have
been studied in detail,1 but the third, begun under Joseph II in 1788
and ended by his successor, Leopold II, in 1791, has been largely ignored.
Nonetheless, its outcome has been widely misinterpreted, most recently b

Paul W. Schroeder, who argues that after Joseph brought the Habsbu

Monarchy to the brink of dissolution, Leopold rescued it by taking a mo

sophisticated approach to international affairs.2 The opposite is true

Joseph's armies won stunning victories over the Ottomans in 1789 th
Leopold squandered.

Oskar Criste, who wrote the standard work on the war, restricts himsel

to the tactical operations.3 He ignores the campaign of 1790 and explains

neither Austria's grand strategy (the political objectives to be gained fro
the war) nor its strategy (the particular aims of the individual campaign
Recent works by Karl A. Roider, Jr. and Paul Bernard add little;4 the mo

accurate summary, a few pages in T. C. W. Blanning's biography of J

seph II, is limited to the campaigns of 1788-90.5 The campaign of 1788 is

usually portrayed as a failure.6 Roider criticizes Joseph for his 'mediocre

I thank T. C. W. Blanning, Michael Hochedlinger, Derek Beales, H. M. Scott, P. G. M. Dickson, a

Philip Loneworth for helpful criticism.

1 For 1716-18, see the biographies of Prince Eugene: M. Braubach, Prinz Eugen von Savoyen. Eine B

graphic (Munich, 1963-5), iii. 311-79; D. McKay, Prince Eugene of Savoy (London, 1977), pp. 161-5; an
N. Henderson, Prince Eugen of Savoy: A Biography (London, 1964), pp. 222-31. For 1737-9, see K. A.
Roider, The Reluctant Ally: Austria's Policy in the Austro-Turkish War, 1737-9 (Baton Rouge, 1972).
2 P. W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 87-8.
3 O. Criste, Kriege unter Kaiser Josef ii (Vienna, 1904).

4 K. A. Roider, 'Kaunitz, Joseph II, and the Turkish War', Slavonic and East European Review, l
(1976), 538-56, and Austria's Eastern Question, 1700-90 (Baton Rouge, 1982); P. Bernard, 'Austri
Last Turkish War', Austrian History Yearbook, xix-xx (1983-4)* 15-31-

5 T. C. W. Blanning, Joseph //(London, 1994), pp. 176-82, 186-8.

6 P. Mitrofanov, Joseph II. Seine politische und kulturelle Tatigkett (Vienna, 1910), 1. 193. Blanning
the exception in Joseph II, p. 179.

The International History Review, xxvi. 2: June 2004, pp. 237-472.

cn issn 0707-5332 The International History Review. All International Rights Reserve

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258 Matthew Z. Mayer

military ability', and Schroeder targets 'irresolute Austrian

'Joseph's shortcomings as a field commander';1 neither a

dence. Derek Beales, Joseph's biographer, who argues t

decisive leadership in 1778 at a key moment in the war of th

cession, has yet to judge his performance in the Ottoman wa

The campaign of 1789, by contrast, was one of the most su
history of the Habsburg Monarchy. At the beginning of N

burg armies held Belgrade, Bucharest, parts of Bosnia an

most of the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and W

scholars assume that what transpired in 1789 should have h

beginning, as the allies were bound to defeat the inferior O
Thus, the failures of 1788 become an example of Austrian m
ciency; the successes of 1789 were the natural consequence
ity of 'Western' armies.3
This article gives a detailed account of the war from the
spective. Notwithstanding the numerous works on Joseph I
reforms, his foreign policy has received short shrift. Most
him as excessively belligerent and expansionist. Of Austria'

to war in 1788, the nineteenth-century British historia

wrote that 'Joseph [was] eager to signalise his arms, and

spoils of a feeble enemy.'4 Early in the twentieth century, P

believed in a 'josephinische Eroberungspolitik', or 'Joseph's

quest'.5 Henri Pirenne argues that Joseph wanted to mak

Monarchy 'the greatest power in Europe',6 and, more recen

Szabo, Prince Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg's biog

the specious claim that the problems facing the monarchy

in the Netherlands and the threat of a combined Prusso-Otto
were the result of Joseph's 'belligerent foreign policy'.7

Although Beales argues that Joseph II may have been m

than previously thought, his biography only covers the year

and 1780. Until the second volume appears, we lack a det

his sole rule after his mother's death in 1780. Nor has Beale

prevented Simon Sebag Montefiore from branding Joseph a

and militaristic autocrat'.8 Despite Charles Ingrao's warning

1 Roider, 'Turkish War', p. 547; Schroeder, Transformation, p. 59.

2 D. Beales, Joseph II: I: In the Shadow of Maria Theresa (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 4
3 Schroeder, Transformation, p. 59; Roider, 'Turkish War', p. 547.
4 W. Coxe, History of the House of Austria (London, 1847), iii. 516.
5 Mitrofanov, Joseph II, i. 118.

6 H. Pirenne, Histoire de Belgique (Brussels, 1920), v. 386.

7 F. A. J. Szabo, 'Prince Kaunitz and the Balance of Power', International Hist

8 S. S. Montefiore, Prince of Princes: The Life ofPotemkin (London, 2000), p. 224

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 259

be unwise to exonerate Joseph II of any expansionist motives,'1 his correspondence with ministers and diplomats reveals modest aims compared to

those of his contemporaries Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine II of

Russia. Even though keen to increase the monarchy's size and prestige
when a suitable opportunity presented itself, he was wary of expansion.
His reluctant participation in the Ottoman war is not attributable to acquisitiveness: it was the price to be paid for security.
The dominant theoretician and practitioner of eighteenth-century Habs-

burg foreign policy was Kaunitz, chancellor between 1753 and 1792. 2
Although he often referred to the need to restore the balance of power, by

which he meant stable relationships among Austria, France, Russia, and

Britain (he pined for the days before one had to include Prussia), of greater

importance was his distinction between 'real' and 'relative' power. Real
power derived from internal resources - human, natural, and economic while relative power derived from comparisons with other states.3 Austria's
real power was formidable; its relative power was much less so. Despite a
population of twenty-five million - slightly less than France's twenty-six
million and five times Prussia's five million - ample natural resources, a
developing industrial and commercial base, and the largest and, possibly,
best army on the Continent, Austria's scattered holdings made it difficult
to defend. Also, it was the only great power whose main enemy threatened
its territorial core. Thus Kaunitz aimed both to increase its real power by
promoting manufacturing and trade, and to weaken the relative power of
its rivals, in particular Prussia.4 Notwithstanding Szabo's claim that domestic policy was his primary concern,5 foreign policy took precedence.
The notion of relative power was linked to 'consideration', the combination of the ruler's personal prestige and the respect his state commanded
among the other great powers. Consideration was affected by the state's

size, geopolitical situation, economic and fiscal potential, quality and

numerical strength of the army, success in war and diplomacy, political
stability, and its ruler's personality and abilities. The outcome of the Seven
Years War lowered the consideration of both France and Austria while

raising that of Britain, Prussia, and Russia: the last two were both victorious in battle and led by able rulers. Although increases in territory that
added population and raised revenue were a vital component of the power
1 C. Ingrao, 'From the Reconquest to the Revolutionary Wars: Recent Trends in Austrian Diplomatic
History, 1683-1800', Austrian History Review, xxiv (1993), 216.
2 L. Schilling, Kaunitz und das Renversement des Alliances (Berlin, 1994 ), pp. 303-9.
3 Ibid., pp. 218-23.
4 Ibid., p. 222.

5 F. A. J. Szabo, 'Wenzel Anton Kaunitz-Rietberg und seine Zeit: Bemerkungen zum 200 Todestag des
Staatskanzlers', in Staatskanzler Wenzel Anton Kaunitz-Rietberg, 1711-94, ed. F. A. J. Szabo and G.
Klingenstein (Craz, 1996), p. 12.

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260 Matthew Z. Mayer

of eighteenth-century states, expansion was the constan

only of Frederick II, who ruled a relatively small one. Jose

schemes for aggrandizement have been exaggerated. Both h
were convinced that preserving a weak neighbour like the
was preferable to the acquisition of impoverished lands like

Wallachia. Vague plans for acquiring Albania and Monte

even the Dalmatian coast, had been discussed since the 1

only serious territorial ambition was the acquisition of Bav

German, and rounding out Austria's core lands. Its acquisiti
prove Austria's geopolitical situation in relation to Prussia.
The key to Austria's foreign policy in the mid- and late e
tury was its loss to Prussia of Silesia in the war of the Aus
(1740-8). The attempt first to recover, then to find compen
loss of, Silesia, and to ensure Austria's security against a se
invasion, governed the formulation of policy through the t
war: it led to the Diplomatic Revolution (which exchanged a

French alliance in 1756), the Seven Years War (1756-63),

Bavarian Succession (1778-9) (in which Austria tried to take

ances with Russia in 1746 and 1781 (both of them directed
the Scheldt crisis with Holland (in which Joseph IPs attemp

Scheldt River almost led to an Austro-Dutch war), and

Bavarian Exchange of 1784-5 (by which Joseph trie

Netherlands for Bavaria).

To contain Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz the head of the Habsburg bureaucracy between 1749 and

reform Austria's chaotic administrative system in order to a

tion: how was Prussia, with only one-fifth the population,

larger and more effective army than Austria?2 Althoug

touched everything from justice to central government, th

to provide for a standing army of 108,000 men drawn from

Bohemian lands and Hungary by persuading the provin

agree to fixed rates of war taxes (Kontribution) for ten-yea

return, the central government would meet all addition

penses. Despite fierce resistance from prominent nobles, th

introduced in Austria and Bohemia between 1748 and 1750;
Netherlands, and Italy were, for the time being, left unrefo
for the compromise had to be paid when the Austrian army
the Balkans.

1 See, e.g., an anonymous history of the campaigns of 1736-7 in [Vienn

S[taats]a[rchiv], N[achlaB] L[acy] IX/8, fos. 231-65.

2 See P. G. M. Dickson, Finance and Government under Maria Theresia, 1740-8
esp. i. 222-56 (changes to the central government), and ii. 1-79 (financial reform).

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 261

The loss of Silesia had profound economic consequences: with it went
its one million inhabitants, the motor of Austria's economy, and a crucial
source of revenue amounting to as much as 3 million florins.1 Even more

serious, however, was the effect on Austria's security. From advanced

posts in Silesia, Prussian troops directly threatened Bohemia, at the core of

the Habsburg lands. The threat became more imminent in 1764, after
Frederick II made an alliance with Russia. Henceforth, Kaunitz not only
feared the threat of a combined Prusso-Russian attack, but also the results
of trying to limit or to obtain compensation for the expansion of Prussia in

Poland and Germany, and Russia around the Black Sea.2 Maria Theresa's
reluctant participation in the first partition of Poland in 1772, which she
was militarily incapable of preventing, exemplified Austria's predicament.
The need to match the territorial acquisitions of rivals was equalled by

the need to maintain a claim to status: as H. M. Scott emphasizes, great

powers were expected in the eighteenth century to act the role.3 Joseph IPs

mobilization along the Wallachian border limited Russia's gains at the

expense of the Ottomans by the treaty of Kutchuk Kainardji. It also forced
the Porte to cede to Austria the Bukovina, which controlled communica-

tions between Transylvania and Galicia.

Joseph IPs repeated attempts to acquire Bavaria should not be treated as
an aspect of what Brendan Simms calls the struggle with Frederick II for

mastery of Germany.4 For Joseph and Kaunitz, who saw cdas Reich als
Kampfplatz, nicht als Hauptziel',5 the contest with Prussia, one between
two dynastic states for 'consideration', merely happened to be fought out,
for the most part, in Germany but not for Germany. Having lost Silesia,
Austria pursued two goals: preventing further Prussian expansion and ac-

quiring compensation. Although, for geopolitical considerations, the

struggle was extended to other German lands, it was also extended to the
Ottoman Empire.

The Habsburgs' possessions in Germany were also not the sole reason
for their disappointing alliance with France. Joseph II persisted with the
alliance because, as Kaunitz put it after France remained neutral in the war
of the Bavarian Succession, 'fortunately, our ally is more useful to us for
the harm that it does not cause us, which it might otherwise be tempted to
do if it was [our enemy].'6 In a word, the alliance with France was useful in

1 Dickson, Finance and Government, ii. 99.

2 H. M. Scott, The Emergence of the Eastern Powers (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 217-19.

3 Ibid., p. 22.
4 B. Simms, The Struggle for Mastery in Germany, ijjg-1850 (New York, 1998), p. 2.
5 The phrase is Michael Hochedlinger's, Krise und Wiederherstellung (Berlin, 2000), p. 147.

6 Kaunitz to Mercy, 30 Jan. 1779, CforrespondanceJ sfecretej du Comte de Mercy-Argenteau avec

VEmpereur Joseph II et le Prince de Kaunitz, ed. A. Arneth and J. Flammermont (Paris, 1891), ii. 537.

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262 Matthew Z. Mayer

enabling the Habsburgs to station only a few troops alon

frontier in order to station more along the frontier with Pr

support against Prussia, Joseph looked to Catherine II, not

The performance of the Russian army was the surpris

Years War; its victories over Frederick II at Zorndorf (25 A

Kunersdorf (12 August 1759) gave it the reputation of bein

powerful on the Continent.1 Thus, after 1763, the Habsb

renew their close ties with their 'natural' ally. The Austroof 1781, concluded in the early months of Joseph IPs reign
proved by Maria Theresa as an attempt to woo Russia away

Presumably she deferred to her three principal advisers

military affairs: Kaunitz, Joseph, and Field Marshal Franz M

of them fervent proponents of the alliance from the mid- 1770

Joseph II, who had opened the way for the rapprochement
to Russia in the summer of 1780, authorized the ambassado

burg, Count Ludwig Cobenzl, to open negotiations shortly a

sion on 30 November 1780.3 A secret defensive alliance taki

an exchange of letters dated 21-24 May 1781 was conclu

months.4 The first letter committed Austria to assist Russi

infantry and 2,000 cavalry, if it were attacked by a third par

in Asia. Russia, in return, agreed to assist Austria to th

except in Italy.5 The second letter contained a secret clause

the Ottoman Empire that guaranteed the previous acquis

states and stipulated that, if either were attacked by the O

other would declare war within three months and field as lar
Thus, when the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia on 17 August
1787, Joseph II had to honour the greater rather than lesser commitment.
His involvement in the war is misunderstood by historians like Bernard

who misread the terms of the treaty.6 They argue that, as the treaty
1 See H. M. Scott, 'Katharinas Russland und das europaische Staatensystem', in Katharina ii.}
Rufiland undEuropa, ed. C. Scharf (Mainz, 2001), pp. 16-24.
2 See Hochedlinger, Krise, pp. 106-8.
SJfoseph II. Und Graf] LfudwigJ CfobenzL Ihr] Bfriefwechsel], ed. A. Beer and J. Ritter von Fiedler
(Vienna, 1901), i. 97-9.
*J[oseph it. und] Kfatharina von Russland. Ihr] BfriejwechselJ, ed. A. R. von Arneth (Vienna, 1869),
pp. 72-90. Apart from Joseph II and Catherine II, only a few intimates, such as Kaunitz and Prince
Potemkin, knew of the treaty. Its existence was confirmed in 1783: 1. de Madariaga, 'The Secret Austro-

Russian Treaty of 1781', Slavonic and East European Review, xxxviii ( 1959-60), 114.
5 JKB, pp. 73-4,83.

6 P. Bernard, 'Turkish War', p. 20. See also H. Haselsteiner, Joseph II. und die Komitate Ungarns
(Vienna, 1983), p. 110. Even Leopold claimed to have ignored its existence until January 1789. 'II n'y a
que deux mois, que je sais que l'alliance avec la Russie nous obligeoit outre le contingent stipule a la
secourir avec toutes nos trouppes en temps de guerre': Leopold to his sister Marie Christine, 8 March

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 263

stipulated that Austria need only to supply 12,000 troops, Joseph was
foolish to mobilize 200,000. But he agreed to supply such a large number
of troops in the hope that Russia would come to Austria's defence in the
aid of a Prussian attack; that the day would come when the alliance could

be turned westwards. Catherine II and her most trusted adviser, Prince

Grigory Potemkin, ensured that it first turned eastwards to support Russia's aim to expand its territory around the Black Sea. The first manifestation of their opportunism was Catherine's so-called 'Greek Project', which
became a dominant issue in Austro-Russian relations in the autumn of

The project consisted in the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire and the
establishment of an Orthodox Christian successor state to Byzantium ruled
by Catherine's grandson Constantine. Other regions would be given their

independence or partitioned among the collaborating powers. Isabel de

Madariaga calls the project 'an aim, a direction, a dream' rather than a
'concrete, well-thought-out policy'.2 What matters here is whether Joseph
made an alliance with Catherine II in order 'to share with Russia the spoils
of the Turkish Empire'.3
Joseph IPs unwillingness to criticize Catherine H's Greek project should
not be construed as tacit support for it. He feared that objecting to Catherine's plans for the partition of the Ottoman Empire might lead her to
terminate the Austrian alliance and renew close ties with Prussia. Although

the Russo-Prussian alliance did not end until 1788, Catherine's relations
with Frederick II had grown increasingly distant since the partition of
Poland and the subsequent reorientation of Russian foreign policy towards

the Crimea. The Austrian ambassador at Paris, the comte de MercyArgenteau, explained to the French foreign minister, the comte de Vergennes, in June 1783 that Austria aimed to maintain peace, if possible, in
the Near East; not to antagonize Catherine, so as not to drive her into the
arms of Prussia; and to obtain compensation for Russia's expansion in the
Balkans.4 In the Crimean crisis of 1783-4, Joseph tried to persuade both the
Russians and the Ottomans not to fight over their conflicting claims to
territory along the north coast of the Black Sea. Although he mobilized the

army, he was relieved when the Ottomans relinquished the Crimea to


Joseph IPs apparently aggressive foreign policy was driven by necessity

1789, Leopold ii., Franz ii., und Catharina. Ihre Correspondenz, ed. A. Beer (Leipzig, 1874), p. 209.
1 Catherine to Joseph, 10 Sept. 1782, JO, p. 154.
2 De Madariaga, Catherine the Great (London, 1981), p. 384.

3 See Coxe, Austria, iii. 513. E. Wangermann, The Austrian Achievement (London, 1973), p. 145,
describes the alliance as 'Joseph's aggressive alliance with Catherine II of Russia1.
4 Mercy to Kaunitz, 17 June 1783, GS, i. 191.

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264 Matthew Z. Mayer

rather than dreams of acquisition. Compelled to compete

Russia - two states with less compunction in resorting to
swam with the sharks or was eaten. His overriding object
pensation for the loss of Silesia in order to re-establish A
power in relation to Prussia. One cannot overestimate Jos
tion with Prussia: it governed every aspect of his foreign p

attempts to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bav

tinued alliance with France, to the willingness to make wha

be an unequal alliance with Russia. Harvey L. Dyck's ass

nitz's policy in the 1770s is equally applicable to Joseph II

of Austrian statecraft remained what it had been sinc

mentally conservative quest for security and survival, no

grasp for dominion in either eastern Europe or the Germ
if Joseph makes a strange bedfellow for George Canning, b
Russia in the hope of controlling it. Joseph during the thi

like Canning during the Greek revolt of the 1820s, tri

alliance of restraint: to contain Prussia in central Europe

Russia in the Near East.







outbreak of war in the Near East

and the Ottoman Empire were st
eignty in the area surrounding t




take a stronger line in negotiatio

violating the terms of the treat
sian spies, the Ottomans had str





were trying to arouse opposition

peoples of the Caucasus.2
Since the humiliation of 1784, S

the Ottoman army to be better

threat of force.3 His senior offic
course of action. The capitan pas





1 H. L. Dyck, 'Pondering the Russian Fa

Canadian Slavonic Papers, xxii (1980), 468.

Montefiore, Potemkin, pp. 383-5; de Mada

A. I. Bagis, Britain and the Struggle for t






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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 265

YusuPs view prevailed, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia on 17

August 1787, despite offers from both France and Britain to mediate.1

Abdul Hamid decided that as another war with Russia would have to be

fought, it was preferable to strike while Potemkin's plans for the Crimea,
which included a powerful fleet, were incomplete.
Joseph IPs own behaviour complicated the task of trying to dissuade the
Ottomans from risking war.2 Personal visits between sovereigns, or high
court dignitaries, were so rare in the late eighteenth century that they were
used as effective diplomatic tools. In late May 1787, as Joseph reluctantly

accompanied Catherine II on a tour of the Crimea, he reported that she

was dying cto start up with the Turks again'.3 Their tour of the Crimea
aroused fears among Ottoman officials that he shared her dream of empire
building at Ottoman expense.4
Joseph II was more irritated than surprised by the outbreak of war.5 He
knew that the climate and geography of the Danube basin posed a logistical

nightmare, but not how Prussia and France would respond to Austria's

involvement in a Balkan war. Would Frederick William II wait until the

Habsburg army was tied down in the Balkans to invade Bohemia or annex

another chunk of Poland? France's stance was critical: as an attempt to

drive the Ottoman Empire out of Europe was an attack on one of France's
long-standing associates, Joseph feared that France, despite being nominally an ally, might resurrect its alliance with Prussia and threaten Austria's
existence as it had in 1741. Throughout the early years of his sole rule, he

had tried to reassure Louis XVI that he not only opposed Catherine IPs
Greek Project, but had also tried to convince her not to aim for the partition of the Ottoman Empire.6 If she ignored his advice, however, Austria
would be forced to join in and to offer Egypt to France in compensation.
By the end of 1787, Joseph and Kaunitz, satisfied that the political turmoil
in France would prevent it from interfering,7 agreed that the best way to
ensure its neutrality was to re-create the triple alliance of 1756. They hoped
that France's accession to the Austro-Russian treaty of 1781 would frustrate
a Prussian attack on Bohemia.8

1 Bagis, Ainslie, pp. 23-46. See also A. B. Cunningham, Anglo-Ottoman Encounters in the Age of
Revolution: Collected Essays: I, ed. E. Ingram (London, 1993), pp. 5-7.
2 Report of Mittrowsky, 2 April 1787 [Vienna, Kriegsarchiv], Aflte] F[eld] A[kten, Kartonl/816.
3 Joseph to Kaunitz, 25 May 1787, JKB, p. 292, n. 1.

4 Bagis, Ainslie, p. 32.

5 Joseph to Leopold, 30 Aug. 1788, J[oseph II. und] Lfeopold von Toscana. Ihr] Bfriefwechsel von 1781
bis 1790], ed. A. Ritter von Arneth (Vienna, 1872), ii. 115.

6 Joseph to Kaunitz, 12 Dec. 1787 [Vienna, Haus-Hof-und Staatsarchiv], S[taatskanzlei] V[ortrage,

7 Joseph to Mercy, 9 Dec. 1787, GS, ii. 143.
8 For Joseph, see ibid.; for Kaunitz, ibid., p. 145, n. 1.

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266 Matthew Z. Mayer

Joseph II failed to reassure Louis XVI and Vergennes, w

him and believed the Prussian propaganda that painted h
expansionist.1 The Austro-Russian alliance and Austria's sup
sia's annexation of the Crimea confirmed their suspicions t
to join Catherine II in breaking up the Ottoman Empire.
may explain their decision in 1784 to send a team of milita
by Andre-Joseph de Lafitte-Clave, one of a number of F

missions to the Ottoman Empire, to help the Ottomans to st

defences. Predecessors such as Alexandre de Bonneval and the baron de

Tott had improved the sultan's artillery and refurbished the fortresses
along the Bosporus.2 Lafitte-Clave spent four years in Ottoman service,
from January 1784 to June 1788, and his final responsibility was to
strengthen the fortifications of Ochakov, located to the west of the mouth

of the river Dniepr. Possession of Ochakov enabled the Ottomans to impede incoming and outgoing Russian trade, and its capture constituted
Catherine's principal war aim in the Crimea.
Upon arrival at Ochakov in May 1787, Lafitte-Clave found a citadel un-

suited to its vital strategic role. The too-small entrenchment could be

turned easily at its extremities, and on the south-east side, the citadel was
exposed to attack from the sea.3 The attempt to repair these defects was

hampered by a lack of workers and material. In the spring of 1787,

Joseph II, who inspected the progress of the work, sent a detailed description to Lacy: CI also took a close look at Ochakov . . . The lower part of the
city has just been palisaded and surrounded by some kind of entrenchment

. . . [The work] is continuing under the direction of a French engineer

named Lafite [sic] ... At water level, there are two bastions with strong,

walled batteries, which, I believe, cut off the mouth of the Dniepr and
protect the entrenchment.'4
While it is unclear whether Lafitte-Clave's efforts prevented Russia from

capturing Ochakov in 1787, both his superiors in France and the Ottomans

were pleased. The foreign minister, the comte de Montmorin, told the
minister of war, the comte de Brienne, on 17 August 1788:

l See, e.g., Vergennes to Louis XVI, 5 and 6 Dec. 1774, Louis XVI and the comte de Vergennes:
Correspondence, 1774-87, ed. J. Hardman and M. Price (Oxford, 1998), pp. 170, 172. See also A.
Tratchevsky, 4La France et PAUemagne sous Louis XVP, Revue Historique, xiv (1880), 264-70.
2 G. Bodinier, 'Les missions militaires francaises en Turquie au XVIIIe siecle', Revue Internationale
d'histoire militaire, lxviii (1987), 157-80; A. Boppe, 4La France et le "militaire turc" au XVIIP siecle',
Feuilles d'histoire, iv (1912), 386-402; V. Aksan, 'Breaking the Spell of the Baron de Tott: Refraining
the Question of Military Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1760-1830', International History Review,
xxiv (2002), 253-77.

3 [Vincennes,] M[inistere de la] G[uerre], Archives] H[istoriques, Carton]/i486, 'Reconnaissances,

Plans et Projets, Russie, de 1724 a 1811'.
4 Joseph to Lacy, 16 June 1787, JKB, p. 374.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 267

I have already had the pleasure, Sir, of telling you about Mr de la Fitte's mission to
Turkey, and of the way in which this officer won both the esteem and trust of the

Turks. He has accomplished more than could have been expected and has done
much to enlighten that nation and provide it with the ability to defend itself ... [it
has therefore been decided] that he receive a reward [for his work], which would
prove to one of France's old friends that the purpose of his mission mattered to the

Despite the technical assistance from the French, the Ottomans failed to
make significant gains from the campaign of 1787, partly because the grand
vizier may have squandered the element of surprise. Lafitte-Clave claimed
to have devised a sure-fire plan of attack in October on the Russian fortress

of Kinburn, but it failed owing to poor execution and lack of naval support.2 Fortunately for the Ottomans, the Russian army, too, was unpre-

pared that autumn and storm damage to several Russian warships prevented the navy from taking the offensive.3

Meanwhile, Joseph II was trying to decide when to enter the war. Had

he done so in November 1787, he would have fulfilled the terms of the

alliance with Russia, which stipulated that Austria should come to Russia's
assistance within three months of the commencement of hostilities. But

November was too late in the year to open a campaign. He eventually

agreed with Kaunitz's suggestion that he should postpone a declaration of

war as long as possible to prevent the Ottomans from retaliating along

Austria's southern frontier.4 On 30 August 1787, after consulting Kaunitz,
Joseph drafted a letter offering Catherine II his help, and meanwhile tried
to keep the Ottomans guessing about his intentions.5

Joseph II hid from both friend and foe the bold plan that Habsburg
officials had devised for a coup de main against Belgrade under cover of
night. That the operation had been planned as early as 1778 and revised in

1783 suggests that Austria had also made contingency plans for dealing
with the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.6 The success of the operation
depended on the collaboration of two Muslim spies and a disguised Habsburg officer already inside the city, who were to open two of the gates

to a strike force of 15,000 men made up of twelve Hungarian infantry

1 MG, Fiche personnelle/26, Lafitte-Clave.

2 MG, AH/249, Expeditions etrangeres, 1775-89.
3 De Madariaga, Catherine, p. 397.
4 Kaunitz to Joseph, 8 Oct. 1787, SV/144.

5 Joseph to Kaunitz, Kaunitz to Joseph, 30 Aug. 1787, SV/144, fos. 90, 92; Joseph to Leopold, 30 Aug.
1787, JLB, ii. 2996 For the original plan, by Lieutenant Colonel Jeney, submitted to Lacy on 25 Jan. 1778, see NL IX. For

the second, presented by General Zechenter on 23 Jan. 1783 in a document entitled 'Summarischer
Entwurf zu einer Surprise der Festung Belgrad', see AFA/815, fo. 7.

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268 Matthew Z. Mayer

battalions.1 As it left Banovce in the late evening of 2 Dec

weather was said to be 'perfect', only to change an hour la
the boats in a fog that reduced visibility to six paces. The
dispersed, forcing the commander, General Joseph Alvinz
attack. A second attempt, planned for 17 January 1788, wa
bad weather.2 Joseph resigned himself to a costly siege.
* * * * *

In the declaration of war that Baron Peter Herbe

on 9 February 1788, Joseph II claimed that, by a

had obliged him to live up to his alliance with

truth, however, to Roider's claim that 'the Habsb

sives from the Adriatic to Galicia.'4 According to

only Joseph's forces near Semlin and Prince

Croatia would take the offensive; the other cont

defensive. Prince Josias von Sachsen-Coburg

Khotyn, but not lay siege to it unless the Rus
Michael von Fabris in Transylvania would bloc
Carpathian mountains; General Count Wilhelm W
would block an Ottoman invasion from Wallac

Danube near Old Orsova; General Count Jo

defend Slavonia; and General Peter Langlois at

Adriatic coast from Aquilea to Senj.5

Joseph II left Vienna for the front on 1 March
heavily on the advice of his chief of staff, Lacy,
mander-in-chief.6 Not a brilliant tactician, his ex
raphy, combined with his experience of combat,
strategist. According to Beales, Joseph had been
an early age' and, after 1765, when he became co
took responsibility for military affairs.7 He had

forces against Prussia in 1778, and though de

played a prominent role in the successful de

Lacy, his greatest strength was as a military org

1 Joseph to Alvinzy, 4 Nov. 1787, AFA/815, fo. 1787.11.7.

2 Joseph to Alvinzy, 8 Dec. 1787, SV/71, fo. 1787.12.2 2/4; Alvinzy, re

3 See F. Martens, Recueil des traites et conventions conclus par la

(St Petersburg, 1874-1909), ii. 108-9, ar|d JKB, P- 80.

4 Roider, Eastern Question, p. 180. See also, G. E. Rothenber

(Chicago, 1966), p. 71.
5 Joseph to Leopold, 14 June 1788, JLR, ii. 182.

6 Bernard, 'Turkish War', p. 23, mistakenly supposes that Lacy wa

7 Beales, Joseph II, pp. 66, 414-15.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 269

introduced a more efficient system of conscription, enlarged the army, and
improved its training.

In 1788, Joseph II, owing to his fear of an Ottoman breakthrough along

Austria's extended southern frontier, confronted the formidable logistical
requirements of supplying the largest Habsburg army yet to take the field.1
At the height of the campaign, it numbered 294,173 men and 64,914 horses

-who required 1,230,004 Zentner of flour, 4,530,384 Metzen of fodder,

and 307,891 hundredweight of straw2 - and was larger than both the Russian and Ottoman armies.

The Russians fielded two main armies: the Yekaterinoslav army, commanded by Potemkin, of 82,000 men, and the 50,000-strong Ukrainian
army commanded by Field Marshal Count Peter Alexandrovich Rumiantsev, who was to guard Potemkin's right flank while he attacked Ochakov.3
The Russians, unready for war in the autumn of 1787, had yet to benefit

from Potemkin's military reforms. Nonetheless, according to Cobenzl,

Potemkin's forces, when fully mobilized, would be stronger than in the
preceding war with the Ottomans.4
It is difficult to establish the complement of the Ottoman army. In the
previous Russo-Ottoman war, its size may have fluctuated between 80,000

and 5OO,ooo.5 Lafitte-Clave, one of the most reliable contemporary

sources, estimated the number of regular troops at i84,5OO.6 The infantry
was formed of 150,000 janizaries, the cavalry of 12,000 spahis and 12,000

silahdars (cavalry guard corps), and the corps of artillery was 10,500
strong. Any Austrian estimate must be treated with caution, as the Austrians lacked accurate intelligence in 1787 not only of the Ottoman army's

size but also of its disposition. They only assessed the enemy's numbers
fairly accurately when they confronted it head-on.7

Although ostensibly fearful of being outnumbered, the Austrians may

have been contemptuous of the Ottomans. In December 1787, Joseph II

told the prince de Ligne that 'anything is possible with the negligent and
inept Turks.'8 Lacy, who had neither fought against them nor studied their
methods, claimed that Austria could defeat them in a single campaign.9 He
1 For the distribution of the complement, see Table i.

2 AF A/818, fo. 1788.1.1; a Zentner was equivalent to 100 Vienna pounds, a Metze to 61.487 pounds. See
Dickson, Finance and Government, ii. 371.

3 De Madariaga, Catherine, p. 396.

4 L. Cobenzl to Kaunitz, 22 June 1787, JLCB, ii. 174.
5 V. Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman in War and Peace: Ahmed Resmi Efendi, 1700-8$ (Leiden, 1995), p.

6 MG, AH/1616, Reconnaissance - Turquie, 1676-1784, 'Notes sur l'Etat actuel des forces de terre et de
mer de Tempire Ottoman'.
7 See, e.g., Kray's report from 17 May 1788, AFA/830,fo. 1788.5^ 2d.
8 Joseph to Ligne, 8 Dec. 1787 [Vienna, Kriegsarchiv], L[acy] A[rchiv, Karton]/i92, fo. 13.

9 Lacy to Hofkriegsrat, 20 Jan. 1769, AFA/813, fo. 1787.13.1; A. Beer, Die orientalische Politik

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270 Matthew Z. Mayer

was echoed by a Habsburg officer who had witnessed

Ottoman campaign against the Russians in 1769 and des

man troops as utterly disorganized: by the end of August,

rancid food and deserting in huge numbers, and their com

apparently so deficient that the grand vizier had aske

commander of Semlin to sell him a supply of corn.1

Joseph II, notwithstanding his low opinion of the ene

what Clausewitz would later call 'friction', the ways in wh

military plans can go awry, especially against an enemy w

dox tactics,2 and when fighting over difficult terrain

climate. Joseph's grand strategy was influenced by intern

speed at which he had introduced reforms, especially

Netherlands and Hungary, had caused unrest among t

months before the outbreak of war, the Netherlands had b

of revolt. The situation in Hungary was more worryin

relying on Hungary to provision the army. He knew that a

not only drain the treasury, but weaken his hold over

subjects;3 that concentrating such large forces against the

him with insufficient resources to quell a revolt in the N

domestic as well as foreign considerations seemed to re

ations commence as soon as possible. Instead, the Austr

fought a defensive campaign that historians have never pro

At the beginning of April, Joseph II arrived at the main A
Semlin, upriver from Belgrade. On 24 April, he oversaw t
Sabac, a small but key fortress situated on the southern b
Sava, which he planned to use as a base from which to rai

supply line between Bosnia and Belgrade. He might ha

follow up the victory by laying siege to Belgrade, of which

reportedly only 5,000 strong, poorly supplied, and isol

vizier's army, which reports claimed had only just left Ista
several weeks to arrive. But as the Habsburgs' own lines of
over the Sava were incomplete, Joseph chose to wait.5
Oesterreichs seit 1774 (Prague, 1883), p. 36.

1 'Journal von der tiirkischen Campagne Ao 1769, vom 25te Juny bis inklu
Internal evidence suggests that it was written by a Major Steinbacker.

2 Instead of the square formation, the Ottomans either advanced in the shape of

in disorganized waves.
3 Joseph to Ligne, 8 Dec. 1787, LA/191, fo. 13.

4 Report, Brentano, AF A/818, fo. 1788.2.7b; report, Liedersoron, 19 April 178

ad 37. Joseph may have exaggerated the size of the garrison, when he reported
15,000 men. See Joseph to Leopold, 13 May 1788, JLB, ii. 178.

5 Joseph II, 'La campagne de 1788 , ibid., p. 328, corroborated by an anonymou

la guerre contre les Turcs en 1788, 1789, 1790', AFA/824, fo. 1788.13.10. The au

been an officer in the war.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 271

Even though this obstacle was overcome a month later, by 26 May,
Joseph II postponed the siege until the autumn, on Lacy's advice. In a
written report unanimously approved at a council of war, Lacy compared

the situation in 1788 to Prince Eugene's in 1717 - caught between the

Ottoman field army and the garrison of Belgrade - and concluded that, in
such circumstances, the siege was more likely to fail than to succeed as it
had for Eugene, who had masked Belgrade with 10,000 men, defeated the
Ottoman army with 60,000, and then captured the city.1 The uncertainty
was due not only to lack of intelligence of the whereabouts of the grand
vizier's army but also to distrust of Russia, which one chronicler of the
campaign treats as the deciding factor in the postponement of the siege.2
On 23 May, Joseph received a dispatch from Coburg, who reported that
Rumiantsev had recalled four battalions of infantry designated to support
an Austrian attack on Khotyn. As Joseph worked on the assumption that
joint allied action in Galicia would prevent the main Ottoman army, com-

manded by the grand vizier and based in Rumelia, from reinforcing

Belgrade, Rumiantsev's decision may have persuaded him to wait until the
autumn before attacking it. According to Lacy, Ochakov might have fallen

by then, which would enable the Russians to advance into Wallachia and
Moldavia and compel the grand vizier to divide the Ottoman main army.
Lacy added local reasons for the postponement. As the campaigning season wore on, the Ottoman army would be weakened by desertions; the
floods would subside, improving the terrain; and the arrival of reinforcements would improve the chances of success.3 In the interim, the Austrians
could weaken the garrison's resolve by cutting off its supply line by way of

the Danube.

The Ottomans, however, did not allow Joseph II to make his preparations uninterrupted. They tested Austria's defensive cordon at various
points along the Danube, and launched numerous sorties from Belgrade.
They were equally effective in Croatia, where Liechtenstein's attack on
Dubica in April ended in defeat. Uncertainty about the enemy's strength

and movements, added to the stifling heat, weakened the morale of the
troops. One of the key reasons for Joseph's inaction in the early summer of

1788 was the dearth of accurate intelligence. A memorandum on the

Ottoman army prepared by the Hofkriegsrat the previous year sets out the
Austrians' understanding of the reasons.4 The penalties for desertion in the

Ottoman army, though undefined, were thought to be so severe that they

discouraged traitors. Anyone brave enough to act as a spy had difficulty in
1 Joseph II, 4La campagne de 1788', JLB, p. 331. For Eugene, see D. McKay, Eugene, pp. 161-5.
2 Anonymous, 4De la Guerre de 1788, 1789, 1790', AFA/824, fo. 1788.13.10.
3 Joseph II, 4La campagne de 1788', JLB, ii. 332.
4 Criste, Kriege, pp. 272-82.

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272 Matthew Z. Mayer

obtaining accurate information, as Ottoman troop mo

depended on the whim of the individual commander. I
1788, Major Paul von Kray, stationed in the Banat, com
people living along the border were too afraid to ven

Danube to spy on the enemy, he had to rely for intelligen

returning from Ottoman territory.1

The obvious way to weaken the enemy was to persuade t

create a diversion. But there seemed little likelihood of one.

June, Ligne reported that Rumiantsev lacked infantry, an

were running out of provisions.2 Moreover, Russia's inabil
the Ottomans by moving a fleet from Kronstadt to the M
decisive in prolonging the war, a development attributable
ference. The lack of British assistance, and later a challeng

pinned down Russia's fleet in the Baltic and allowed th

who need not worry about a repeat of the Ottoman defeat

1770, to reinforce the fleet at Ochakov in order to keep o
lines. Despite complaining about Potemkin's slow progress,
and Kaunitz recognized that, lacking superiority at sea, th
unlikely to try to take Ochakov by storm.3 On 17 June 17
fided to Cobenzl at St Petersburg: 'I am well aware . . . tha
kin cannot cross the Bug and march on Ochakov with all hi
the Crimea is still threatened by the whole fleet of the ca
[This is because] the Russian fleet has not even left Krons
has not forced the capitan pasha to divide his naval forces .
up to the army of Marshal Rumiantsev to advance.'4
Given the Russians' failure to capture Ochakov, the Aust

support in Moldavia. They assumed that after taking Kh

forces under Rumiantsev and Coburg would advance so

Danube in the hope of forcing the grand vizier to divide hi

would attack the smaller Ottoman force in the west an

would immediately lay siege to Belgrade.5

Rumiantsev's support had always been in doubt. In March
that, owing to his need to protect his supply lines across P
not risk an advance into Moldavia until the Austrians had
themselves.6 Two months later, he revealed that he had or

between the Bug and Dniestr rivers to protect Potemki

1 Kray, report, 17 May 1788, AF A/830, fo. 1788.5. ad 2d.

2 Ligne to Joseph, 18 June 1788, AFA/851, fo. 1788.6.59.

3 On Russia's need to appease Britain, see Kaunitz to Joseph, 21 March 1788, SV

4 Joseph to L. Cobenzl, 17 June 1788, JLCB, ii. 273.

5 Ibid.

6 Rumiantsev to Coburg, 7 March 1788, AFA/838, fo. 1788.3.16.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 273

Joseph II commented caustically to Cobenzl: 'Prince Potemkin is the last
man for the task [of beating the Ottomans]. His mind is too busy with
court intrigue to lead an army. Moreover, the discord that exists between
him and Marshall Rumiantsev means that the latter will also become in-

active, which suits his indolent nature and avarice.'1 In June, notwithstanding Joseph's criticism, Rumiantsev sent General Count Nikolai
Soltikov with 14,670 infantry and 6,423 cavalry to join Coburg in the siege
of Khotyn, leaving himself with 23,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry.2 The
allied forces met near Ruda on 23 June and collaborated throughout the
summer,3 even when Gustvavus III of Sweden made an unsuccessful attack

on St Petersburg in July. A second Russian detachment under Baron

Elmpt helped the Habsburg army to capture Iasi in September.4 Thus,
even if Potemkin did not create the diversion Joseph had counted on, it
would be inaccurate to claim, as Joseph did to the Archduke Leopold, that
he did nothing in 1788 to help Austria.5

By late July, as Joseph II prepared for the siege of Belgrade, disease

depleted the Habsburg ranks. On the 29th, the sick at the main hospital
near Semlin numbered 7,000; the sick-list for the entire army numbered

23,312, of whom 5,029 were away convalescing and 749 had died.6 The
most important casualty was the emperor himself. After touring military
hospitals in mid-July, he first mentioned the symptoms - a violent, dry
cough, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing - of the disease that would kill him
in February 1790. His condition deteriorated so rapidly that by the time
the Ottomans invaded the Banat in August, he was suffering great pain.7
* * * * *

Joseph II had foreseen the frustrations of the firs

including the Russians' inaction. Having failed to

1 Joseph to L. Cobenzl, 11 Dec. 1787, 7LCB, ii. 231.

2 Herbert to Cobenzl, 4 May 1788 [HHSA], S[taaten]a[bteilungen

1785-93. For Soltikov's complement, see AFA/850, fo. 1788.4.16
Joseph, 24 July 1788, AFA/852, fo. 1788.7.95. See also A. Bode, D

die Konflikte mit Sckweden und der Tiirkei (1768-92) (Wiesbaden, 1

3 For the campaign, see Anonymous, ''Precis des operations d'un Co

d'abord lesfrontieres de Gallicie et de Bukowina, puis agissant offens


4 Herbert to Joseph, 24 June 1788, AFA/851, fo. 1788.6.76b; same to same, 29 Sept. 1788, AFA/854, fo.

5 Joseph to Leopold, 30 April 1789, 7U9, ii. 241.

6 Joseph to Leopold, 29 July 1788, JLB, ii. 186. In Joseph's army, there were 11,908 casualties,
including 389 dead and 2,423 in convalescence; AFA/820, fo. 1788.7.4.
7 His fatal illness has never been properly explained. The most recent discussion is . Schmuttermeier,
'Der Tod Josephs ii.', in Osterreich zurZeit Kaiser Josephs ii. (Melk, 1980), pp. 279-81. 1 thank Derek

Beales for the reference, and Michael Hochedlinger for supplying a copy. See also G. Wolf, 4Die
Krankheit Kaiser Josef 's ii.', Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, viii (1875), 155-8.

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274 Matthew Z. Mayer

and facing an army he believed to be much larger than his

on the defensive. He hoped that his patience would be r

advent of cool weather to improve his own and his troops'

usual desertions among the Ottomans owing to lack of f

sapping of the garrison of Belgrade's morale owing to the b

Danube. But he knew he might have to pay a high price: 'If

do not advance in strength towards the Danube and forc

divide their troops, I will stay on the defensive. This will p

and make it very costly, and one could not be held account
which could then occur.'1

However, the grand vizier, Yusuf Pasha, had set his si

trating Austria's defensive cordon and Joseph II, despite

preparing to meet the threat. On 22 July, he wrote to Lacy

circumstances may require us to move, from one moment to

the largest part of the army into the Banat, I ask you to pre

that is necessary immediately.'2 Within a week, everything

but the main army stayed put.3 On 6 August, as Joseph

about to set out to inspect the Banat's defences, the Ottom

paring to break through the Habsburg cordon.

Joseph II, despite being aware of the Banat's vulnerabi

taken no action to protect it because he suspected the

oeuvres along the south bank of the Danube of being a dive

to draw his army away from Belgrade. An intelligence repo
tensleben dated l August contained the misleading intelligenc
that Yusuf's army, encamped near Vidin with 80,000 men,
from a rising rate of desertion compounded by a shortage
and that the Porte had ordered him not to cross the Danube.4 One cannot
know how much attention Joseph paid to this report: he may have stayed
at Semlin to focus his attention on the storming of Belgrade. In his own
words: 'although everything is ready for a march into the Banat with part of
the army, our main intention must still be the siege of Belgrade.'5

Joseph IPs plans were disrupted by what he later called the 'decisive
event of the campaign'.6 On 7 August, the Ottomans routed General
Joseph Papilla's forces at Szupany. Having bombarded the Habsburg
post in the early morning, the main contingent of janizaries, whom the

1 Joseph to Ligne, 8 Dec. 1787, LA/191, fo. 13.

2Joseph to Lacy, 22 July 1788 [HHSA], F[amilien] A[kten]/72.

3 Joseph to Leopold, 29 July 1788, JIB, ii. 186.

4 Wartensleben to Joseph, 1 Aug. 1788, AFA/853, fo. 1788.8.2.
5 Joseph to Wartensleben, 8 Aug. 1788, LA/201, fo. 28.

6 See Joseph IPs account in 4La campagne de 1788', JLB, ii. 334; Papilla, report, 7 Aug. 1788,
AFA/853, fo. 1788.8.22c

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 275

Austrians estimated at 12,000-13,000, advanced hidden behind a screen of

spahi cavalry and crossed to the north bank of the Danube before engaging. Papilla's attempt to withdraw northwards to Mehadia failed when
overturned artillery and baggage carts blocked his escape route.
The defeat was attributable to poor intelligence, for Papilla appears to
have been ignorant of the Ottoman advance. At the beginning of June, he
complained to Wartensleben of the impossibility of finding a spy to send to
Vidin,1 and towards the end of July, he reported that he was assuming that

Yusuf was at Sophia.2 In one of his last dispatches before the Ottomans
attacked, he sounded surprisingly confident for someone who lacked information of the enemy's whereabouts. Yusuf, he believed, would not leave
Sophia because Russia's victories at sea over the Ottoman fleet on 18 and

28 June left Istanbul exposed to a coup de main?

However annoyed with 'that old imbecile Papilla' whom he placed

under house arrest,4 Joseph II tried to limit the damage. On 12 August, he
sent the 20,400 troops under his personal command - fourteen infantry

battalions, seven grenadier battalions, five cavalry regiments, and one

division of hussars - towards the Banat. And he summoned ten infantry
battalions from Linz, who were expected to arrive before the end of the


Having taken steps to ensure that the main road along the north bank of
the Danube was properly defended, Joseph II set out from Semlin to join
Wartensleben at Mehadia. On the 25 th, he learned that eight days earlier
Wartensleben had retreated before an Ottoman attack 16,000 strong.6 The
Ottomans had concentrated their efforts on the tambour in front of War-

tensleben's left flank. An advanced post repelled two of their onslaughts

until the palisades supporting its position gave way, forcing it to withdraw
in confusion.7 It was the turning point of the battle: as the Ottomans could
now attack Mehadia from the rear, Wartensleben had to retreat.

While crossing the mountains that lie north of the Almas valley, Joseph II, still unaware of Wartensleben's retreat, received alarming news
from Vienna. It implied that the military setback might by compounded by

a political challenge. Two intercepted dispatches from the Prussian

minister, Count Ewald Hertzberg, to the Prussian ambassador at Istanbul,
1 Papilla to Wartensleben, 8 June 1788, AFA/851, fo. 1788.6.26I1.
2 Same to same, 23 July 1788, AFA/842, fo. 1788.7. ad 4.

3 Same to same, 1 Aug. 1788, AFA/852, fo. 1788.8.1.

4 Joseph to Wartensleben, 9, 11 Aug. 1788, LA/201, fos. 33, 37. Joseph II pardoned Papilla at Wartens-

leben's request. See Wartensleben to Joseph, 18 Aug. 1788, and Wartensleben, report, 21 Aug. 1788,
AFA/853, fos. 1788.8.76 and 1788.8.91.
5 De Madariaga, Catherine, p. 337.
6 Wartensleben to Fabris, 18 Aug. 1788, AFA/845, fo. 1788.12.107.
7 Joseph II, 'La campagne de 1788', JLB, ii. 339.

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276 Matthew Z. Mayer



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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 277

Baron Heinrich von Dietz, revealed that Prussia was planning to propose
the so-called 'Hertzberg Plan' to the Porte. This grandiose scheme consisted of the following: if the Russians captured Ochakov and Bender, and
the Austrians captured Belgrade and the Danubian Principalities, Prussia
would offer the sultan, in return for ceding them, a guarantee of Ottoman
territory south of the Danube. As the price for Prussia's intercession, Aus-

tria would return Galicia to Poland which, in turn, would cede Danzig,
Thorn, and the palatinates of Posnania and Kalisch, to Prussia.1
Joseph II and Kaunitz had known of the plan since mid-December 1787
at the latest. Joseph dismissed it as ludicrous and, initially, Kaunitz had not
treated it as a threat, as he doubted whether the Porte would agree; he even
wondered whether by spurring on the Russians, it would shorten the war
and lessen the likelihood of foreign interference.2 By the end of August
1788, the opposite had occurred: after both allies had fought cautious campaigns, Joseph was struggling to contain an Ottoman breakthrough likely

both to prolong the war and invite foreign interference, especially by


Joseph II had two principal aims: to defend the monarchy against Prussia and to contain Russia's expansion on Austria's south-eastern frontier.
Of the two, the more important was preventing Frederick William II from
acquiring territory, especially if this meant ceding Galicia and allowing the

Prussians to take the commercially valuable cities of Danzig and Thorn.

Belgrade and the Danubian Principalities were scant compensation for the
increase in relative power that the fulfilment of the Hertzberg Plan would
bring to Prussia. And the Prussian threat was not confined to Poland.

In the autumn of 1787, the Prussian army had conquered the Dutch
Republic in a few weeks, leaving Joseph II fearful that Frederick William II
might invade the Netherlands while he was preoccupied with the Balkans.
In August 1788, after Prussia, Britain, and Holland made a triple alliance,

Frederick William could reinforce his own troops, in case of need, with
George Hi's Hanoverian troops and could draw on British and Dutch subsidies to pay for them. While the Habsburgs were dragged deeper into the
Balkans, their Prussian rival appeared set to profit from his ascending influence in central Europe. Later the same month, on the assumption that
an imminent two-front war - against the Prussians in the north and the
Ottomans in the south - would destroy the monarchy, Joseph told Kaunitz

that he would make a separate peace with the Ottomans rather than
witness inevitable ruin'.3 Henceforth, despite Kaunitz's attempts to re1 Hertzberg to Dietz, 26 April 1788, quoted in Kaunitz to Joseph, 26 Aug. 1788, SV/145.
2 Joseph to L. Cobenzl, 11 Dec. 1787, JLCB, 11. 230; Kaunitz to Joseph, 30 Jan. 1788, SV/145.
3 Joseph to Kaunitz, 26 Aug. 1788, SV/145.

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278 Matthew Z. Mayer

assure him, fear of Prussia was to play an increasingly imp

Habsburg grand strategy.
For the first half of September, the belligerents sought wa

deadlock in the Banat, where the Ottomans occupied th

Armenis and the Austrians guarded the southern appro

Joseph II faced a difficult choice: should he stay at Illova to

that passed through Hateg to Transylvania, or should h

troops stationed along the Danube, which seemed incapable

attack by a superior force. By 10 September, he had decide
army to Versecz, whence he could respond to a challenge in
But news from the southern front disrupted his plans. Yu
tached a strike force from the army facing Joseph II and se
an Austrian battery that blocked the advance of Ottoman s
Danube. The battery, having resisted for twenty-one days,
the first week of September; a second battery, posted on M
impede the passage of enemy vessels near the town of Mold
the Ottomans. By seizing control of the Danube, the Ottom
up the routes into the southern plain of the Banat.
Once Joseph II learned of the threat to his line of supply,

Lugoj, where he spent the first week of October, while

massed to the south of Caransebes. Events now turned in his favour. On

the 9th, he learned that General Joseph von Stader had repelled an Ottoman attack on Hateg.2 The same day, a Jdger who had escaped from Ottoman captivity reported that YusuPs forces were withdrawing to winter
quarters on the south bank of the Danube; only a small number remained
at Mehadia.3 When General Richard d'Alton confirmed this intelligence,

Joseph II left Lugoj and headed north then south along the river Timis
with the aim of expelling the Ottomans from all Habsburg territory.4 He
advanced with caution, for he knew that between 10,000 and 12,000 spahis
remained near Pancevo.5
Yusuf paid a price elsewhere for his success in the Banat. While he was
forcing Papilla and Wartensleben to retreat, Field Marshal Ernst Gideon
von Loudon,6 who had taken over from Liechtenstein in August, was
making steady progress in Croatia. He followed up the capture of Dubica
in August with the capture of the important fortress of Novi on 3 October.
1 Joseph to Brechainville, 10 Sept. 1788, LA/202, fo. 30.

2 Joseph to Stader, 9 Oct. 1788, LA/203, fo. 40.

3 Joseph to d'Alton, 9 Oct. 1788, LA/203, fo. 37.
4 Joseph II, 4La campagne de 1788', JLB, ii. 351.
5 Joseph to d' Alton, 9 Oct. 1788, LA/203, fo. 37.

6 The correct spelling of his name is Loudon, not Laudon, according to Biographisches Lexicon des
Kaiserthums Oesterreich, ed. C. von Wurzbach (Vienna, 1867), xvi. 80. Loudon himself always spelled

his name thus.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 279

His preparations for the siege of Gradisca were interrupted by reports that
the main Ottoman army was threatening Semlin; by the time the reports

turned out to be untrue, the lateness of the season put a stop to operations.1 In Galicia, too, the Habsburg forces had distinguished themselves.

With the support of the Russians, the Habsburg army recaptured Iasi,
which Fabris had briefly occupied in July, and on 19 September, Coburg
captured Khotyn.

As the campaigning season drew to a close, an ailing Joseph II found

some comfort in the strategic situation. On 4 November, after General Karl

Clerfayt had dislodged the Ottomans from Mehadia, Joseph announced

that the army should withdraw to its winter quarters, and set about organ-

izing accommodation and planning the next campaign.2 This involved

persuading Catherine II to agree to a joint advance into Moldavia and Wallachia.3 On 18 November, he left the front, travelling by way of Pest to

Vienna. Three days later, the truce he offered was signed by General
Count Franz Joseph Kinsky and the seraskier of Rumelia. It covered only
the frontier of Serbia, lasted six months, and might be terminated at tendays' notice.4
Apart from Blanning, historians have dismissed the Austrian campaign
of 1788 as a failure. This is a slight exaggeration. The Habsburg armies had
captured Iasi, Khotyn, and 150 villages in the surrounding area, as well as

Sabac, Dubica, and Novi; the Habsburg state had acquired 100,000 new
inhabitants to be resettled along the military frontier. On the other hand,
the Ottoman breakthrough had devastated the south of the Banat: villages
were burned, cattle driven away, and some inhabitants sold into slavery.
Although Yusuf had withdrawn, his extension of the campaign at a time of

domestic and foreign threat was more damaging than the material loss.
Seen in this way, Austria was clearly the loser in the first year of the war.
* * * * *

The campaign of 1788 provides a telling example of

on the effects of unpredictability in war: 'countles
kind you can never really foresee - combine to low
performance, so that one always falls far short of
1 Joseph II, 4La campagne de 1788', JLB, ii. 348, 352.

2 Joseph to Leopold, 4 Nov. 1788, JLB, 11. 209. Bernard claims that Jo
he exercised only 'intermittent control over the direction of affairs1.

from Joseph to his brother refutes this: '[I still have] difficulty breathing

stable. I am able to look after my business and even to spend a few hou
season': 19 Oct. 1788, JLB, ii. 207.
3 Joseph to de Ligne, 4 Nov. 1788, LA/204, fo. 37.
4 Joseph to Kaunitz, 24 Nov. 1788, SV/145.

5 Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Princeton, 1976), p. 119.

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280 Matthew Z. Mayer

surprise attacks on Belgrade, in December 1787 and Januar

because of bad weather, and in May, the siege was post

flooding, unsecured lines of supply, and distrust of t

August, YusuPs troops broke through the Habsburg cordon

ravaged part of the province, and diverted the Austrian arm
of the campaigning season in October. Thus, Joseph II fail
primary objective, the capture of Belgrade, despite enorm
of men, materiel, and money.
In late August, Kaunitz criticized Joseph IPs strategy.
are important because they reflect the assumption, domina

literature, that Austria's difficulties in 1788 are attr

generalship.2 Kaunitz begins by revealing his contempt fo

along with the rest of Europe, he rightly (so he claims) co
horde of barbarians incapable of facing a disciplined army
latest military tactics. He replies to Joseph's stress on the
waging war along the Danube, that one should either figh

not at all; previous Habsburg armies, he argues, had acc

with fewer resources and often without the help of allies.

matter was strategy: instead of trying to maintain an ext
defensive cordon, the army should seek out the enemy's m
force a decisive engagement in order to bring the war quick
The opening to Joseph IPs reply,3 that strategy is more e
one's study than in the theatre of war, shows that, in milit

was not willing to defer to Kaunitz, whose arguments

refusing to allow him to compare the current war with pas

Eugene's time, most of the Banat and large parts of Hung
inhabited, had not needed protection. In the intervening fi

ization and economic development, which had require

investment, had changed their character. If the Habsburg

their forces, as they had in the 1730s and as Kaunitz deman
leave thousands of their subjects at the Ottomans' mercy.

disparage the Ottoman army, which had markedly im

1730s, especially its artillery, thanks to French and Br
although the figures for 1788 are lacking, in 1789 Brit

Ottoman Empire with 614,300 pounds of gunpowder.4 In J

treat the Ottoman army as a rabble would prove an exp

1 See Kaunitz's comments on Dickwan to Joseph, 26 Aug. 1788, SV/145.

2 Among others, Montefiore, Potemkin, p. 407; Schroeder, Transformation,
War', p. 72. Of the few who have seen the campaign as a partial success, see Blann
and P. Wittichen, Die polnische Politik Prevfiens 1788-90 (Gottingen, 1899), p. 7
3 Joseph to Kaunitz, 15 Sept. 1788, SV/145.

4 Bagis, Ainslie, p. 69.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 281

their recent exploits had shown that an attempt to repulse them demanded

vigilance and discipline. Finally, none of his predecessors had faced the
prospect of a combined Prusso-Ottoman attack. The Ottomans had not
attacked Maria Theresa while she was fighting Frederick II: he had helped
her against them.

Joseph II has received much of the blame for the army's difficulties.
Bernard attributes the Austrians' reverses to Joseph's lack of self-confidence and indecisiveness.1 If the evidence suggests that caution and preference for the status quo led to an ineffective campaign, there were also other
causes, one of them being the lack of discipline shown in an incident near

Slatina in September 1788, when a retreating column panicked in the

night.2 Yet the Austrian troops had distinguished themselves in both
offensive and defensive operations: Joseph had captured Sabac after three

days, Loudon had captured Dubica and Novi, and Coburg had captured
Khotyn and Iasi. The army's defensive manoeuvres and valiant stand at
Hateg prevented the Ottoman breakthrough from turning into a disaster;
instead, by the third week of October, Austrian troops had expelled the
enemy from all Habsburg territory.
As commander-in-chief and head of state, Joseph II had to weigh the

costs of reaching the military objectives against the political objectives.

Every battle entailed the loss of men, horses, and equipment costly to
replace. Given the costs of the war at a time of increasing political uncertainty, his reluctance to seek decisive battle and his decision to postpone the storming of Belgrade until every condition favoured success,
seems more understandable. His conduct, in fact, was the rule rather than
the exception among the army commanders of the day.3 Before reaching a
decision on strategy or tactics, Joseph sought advice from his generals,
Lacy being the most influential: he accepted his advice, endorsed unanimously at a council of war, that the capture of Belgrade would be less
costly in the autumn.

The decision was based on a rational assessment of terrain, climate,

logistics, and the probability of success. Nevertheless, Roider goes to great
lengths to prove that Joseph IPs chances of defeating the Ottomans had
never been greater.4 Theoretically, the Austrian and Russian armies were

better trained, equipped, and supplied than the enemy; however, the
superiority of professional standing armies is often exaggerated and their

weaknesses glossed over. In a pitched battle on favourable terrain, the

1 Bernard, 'Turkish War', p. 19.
2 See M. Z. Mayer, 'Joseph II and the Austro-Ottoman War, 1788-91' (Ph.D. dissertation, Cambridge,

2002), pp. 77-8.

3 M. Howard, War in European Society (Oxford, 1976), p. 71.
4 Roider, Eastern Question, p. 177.

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282 Matthew Z. Mayer

combination of well- trained infantry and heavy and light c

by light field artillery may have given the Austrians the

Yusuf chose to advance in mountainous terrain that negat
by preventing Joseph from deploying his artillery and ca
in the narrow defiles.

Joseph II also had difficulty in keeping open his lines of

and supply over bad roads and swollen rivers. One of

postponing the storming of Belgrade was fear of being trap

Danube and forced to retreat across the bridges over the S

the withdrawal of the Habsburg troops stationed along th

September forced Joseph to withdraw from his camp at I
his plan to attack the Ottoman main army. Had he not don
mans could have isolated him by cutting his line of commu

Kaunitz's confidence in the ease of attacking the main

was misplaced, as was his claim that the Habsburg army
natural obstacles owing to its abundant resources and supp
sia. In fact, the Austro-Russian alliance was characterized

disagreement: each ally hoped that the other would advance

the Ottoman main army, and make its own operations less

The precondition for opening the attack on Belgrade w

advance into Moldavia. When the postponement until July

attack on Ochakov, due to begin in May, held Rumiants

ardized Joseph IPs strategy. Nonetheless, at the end of
1788, the Austrian armies had improved their strategic
themselves up in 1789 for one of the most successful c

Habsburgs' history: they would capture both Belgrade and

advance far into Wallachia and Moldavia.
* * * * *

The campaign of 1789 is best understood by

among the peace negotiations at Constantinople, t

of war, the influence of external forces - both

invasion and the political troubles in France
Confined to Vienna and often to bed, he delegate
commander-in-chief, first to Field Marshal Coun

of the Hofskriegsrat, and from 28 July to Loud

cising a pervasive influence over strategy. He ha
who asked to be excused owing to his own ill heal
days for dispatches to arrive from the main arm
1 Lacy to Joseph, 16 Feb. 1789, AFA/856J0. 1789.2.40.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 283

Coburg in Moldavia,1 the commanders of the Habsburg armies were left
with considerable independence.
When Joseph II returned to Vienna on 4 December 1788, he could take
comfort from the political gains he had made. The campaign may have
been one of the most expensive ever for the monarchy - P. G. M. Dickson
estimates the cost at 66.3 million florins2 - but fourteen million remained
in the treasury.3 Thirty thousand troops may have died from disease or
been killed in battle, but 200,000 remained. Even if Belgrade had escaped
capture, the Austrians had made greater gains than their ally. While Potemkin waited before Ochakov, Coburg's capture of Khotyn strengthened
the defences of Galicia. Similarly, in Bosnia, Loudon's capture of Novi and
Gradisca strengthened the right wing of the Austrian cordon. Most important, Habsburg grand strategy had succeeded: the alliance with Russia had
held and Frederick William II had not risked trying to take advantage of

the war.

The Russians9 capture of Ochakov on 17 December 1788, however,

wiped out most of these gains. The turning point of the first campaign, the
victory is usually relegated to a footnote. The siege itself had lasted from
early July. An Ottoman sortie later in the month had led to several hundred
Russian casualties and the demotion of General Count Alexander Suvorov

to a command in the Ukrainian army.4 Only after the Ottoman fleet had
withdrawn to Istanbul at what it took to be the end of the campaigning
season, had Potemkin risked a costly but successful attack: probably 1,000
Russian soldiers died, a further 1,000 were wounded.5
The victory at Ochakov transformed the war for all three of the belligerents. It most markedly affected Austrian and Russian morale and perceptions, two intangible but essential components of warfare. When Potemkin returned in triumph to St Petersburg, having restored both his own
and his army's reputation, Joseph II, in Vienna, felt inadequate for having
failed to capture Belgrade. The victory heightened fears among Habsburg
officials about the baleful effects of prolonged war. As Joseph told Kaunitz,
'the capture of Ochakov is very advantageous for the continuation of the
war but not for peace, since the Russians will never want to return this

1 In exceptional cases, the distance could be covered in three. The delay was ten days for the Banat,
and between twelve and fourteen days for correspondence with Coburg.
2 Dickson, Finance and Government, n. 155.

3 Undated, unsigned memo, probably by the chancellor of Bohemia, Rudolf Chotek, in answer to
Joseph's HandbiUet of 15 Dec. 1788 [HHSA], NachlaB Leopold Kolowrat, Karton 16, fo. 1075.
4 Montehore, Potemkin, p. 405. Cf. P. Longworth, The Art of Victory: The Life and Achievements of
Field Marshal Suvorov, 1729-1800 (New York, 1965), p. 149.
5 Potemkin to Rumiantsev, 6/17 Dec. 1788, in Herbert to Joseph, 28 Dec. 1788, AFA/855, fo. 1788.


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284 Matthew Z. Mayer

town and the Turks will not want to let them have it.'1 On

closest advisers, the vice-chancellor, Count Philip Cobenz

gloom of early January 1789:

In our distress, it is nonetheless comforting to know that the E

on concluding peace at any price, his goal being to reap the benefit

pation in the war] as soon as possible. The important event o

Ochakov is thus only agreeable to the Emperor if it can bring pe

that it might be a further obstacle worries him terribly . . . absolu
he fears both the strength of his enemies and the perfidy of his
try to lift his spirits, nothing has any effect on him.2

Joseph II had cause for concern. As the acquisition of

stituted Catherine IPs principal war aim, she was unlikely t

the Ottomans in exchange for peace; Potemkin might stay o
and wait. Similarly, the Ottomans, owing to Ochakov's stra
controlling access to the Black Sea, would prolong the war ra
with it.3 As Joseph and Kaunitz concluded that only the ca
grade could provide the monarchy with a symbolic and str

similar magnitude, they agreed about the need for a m

strategy if the war continued in 1789.

Joseph II would have preferred to make peace during

Knowing that a direct approach to the Porte would be cons

ness,4 he entrusted the task to the French ambassador a

comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, who was to imply that the
from France.5 The.Austrians offered to make peace on
possidetis:6 they should keep Khotyn and the surroun
Orsova in the Banat; Sabac in Slavonia; and Dubica and No

well the lands occupied by Habsburg troops along the Unna

By the beginning of February, Joseph II and Kaunitz reco
second campaign was inevitable.7 Although talks continued
ople, Choiseul offered an insightful analysis of the reasons
mans' resistance to the allies' demands:

1 Joseph, marginal minute on memo by Kaunitz, 2 Jan. 1789 [HHSA], D[iplo

pondenz,] Preussen/66.
2 P. Cobenzl to L. Cobenzl, 5 Jan. 1789, JLCB, ii. 315-16.
3 Joseph to Kaunitz, 2 Jan. 1789, SV/146.

4 See Kaunitz, memo, 'Observations sur le parti a prendre relativement a la paix

reponses de Petersbourg seront arrives sur ce sujet', SV/146.

5 Kaunitz to Choiseul-Gouffier, 5 Feb. 1789, DK Preussen/66.

6 Joseph to Kaunitz, I4jan. 1789, DK Preussen/66. Cf. H. Haselsteiner that Joseph

Belgrade, Little Wallachia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Hercegovina; Joseph II. und d
(Vienna, 1983), p. 112.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 285

Ochakov and its territory, Khotyn . . . such a uti possidetis is [a high price to pay]
but it is [an opportunity] that must be seized by the Turks, if they understand
their true interests . . . but the latter will answer, that in the last war against Russia

[1768-74], after four to five miserable campaigns, when their enemy had crossed
the Danube, burnt their fleet in the Morea, and threatened the capital, [that] all of

Moldavia and Wallachia was returned, [as well as] Bender and Khotyn; they will
add that, despite the losses which they have just suffered, they were still able to
wage a damaging campaign against the Emperor; [they will thus] expect further
success, and [especially since] they have the king of Prussia [to assist them], who
promises to attack their enemies before the end of the upcoming campaign, if they
agree not to sign a peace agreement without his mediation.1

On 6 April, Choiseul warned Kaunitz that as the fall of Ochakov had

strengthened the war party at the Porte, Austria should try to exploit the

Ottomans' preference for a separate peace.2 Although Kaunitz had

authorized Choiseul to explore the terms for one, Joseph II feared to
hazard the Russian alliance:3 if Catherine II learned of the negotiations, she
might make a similar offer. After the death of Abdul Hamid I in April and
the accession of his bellicose nephew, who took the name Selim III, Joseph

accepted Kaunitz's advice not to make new offers, as this 'would only . . .
feed the presumption of the current sultan, and would gravely compromise
the reputation of our Court'.4 The Ottomans' response, which arrived in
July, demanded the cession of all conquered territory; the abrogation of the

commercial concessions granted by the treaty of Belgrade and other

convenants in the 1780s; and the payment of reparations.5 Joseph had no
choice but to risk an offensive: to attempt to capture Belgrade to make can
impression' on the Ottomans.6

The peace talks, however fruitless, may have had other purposes. One
was to try to delay the beginning of the next campaign, as the flooding of
the Sava and Danube rivers meant that the investment of Belgrade was only
feasible in the autumn. A second was to counter Dietz's attempts to entice
the Ottomans into an alliance with Prussia.
Joseph IPs grasp of the realities of Danubian warfare was reflected in the
plan of campaign designed to turn the tables on Potemkin, whom he felt
had made use of him the previous autumn.7 Although Belgrade was still the
7 Kaunitz to Joseph, 5 Feb. 1789, DK Preussen/66.
1 Choiseul-Gouffier to Noailles, 14 March 1789, SA RuBland [II, Correspondenz, Karton]/215.

2 Choiseul-Gouffier to Kaunitz, 6 April 1789 [HHSA], S[taatskanzlei] F[riedensakten 1787-90,

3 Kaunitz to Choiseul-Gouffier, 15 May 1789, SF/71.
4 Kaunitz to Joseph, 25 June 1789, SV/146.
5 Joseph to Loudon, 3july 1789, AFA/861, fo. 1789.13.1.
6 Ibid.

7 See Joseph to Kinsky, 25 March 1789, AFA/856, fo. 1789.3.25. See also Loudon's comments on the

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286 Matthew Z. Mayer

Table i. Supply Requirements: 17891
Wheat and Other Barley and Oats

Cereals (Metzen)2 (Metzen)

Requirements for the campaign of 1789 2,046,155

German provinces are responsible for Vs of

111610131 682,051% 1,538,052 Vs

Hungary will provide the remaining % 1,364,103 Vs 3,076,104









Syrmia 445,6oo 1,573,125
















only a portion of its obligation 1,168,046 2/s 2,545,726 %

Supply Inspector baron von Schroeder
has raised the following in Italy, to be sent




Deficit 196,056 23/24 5*8,377 22/24

Austrians' main objective - they mistakenly asssu

would be the quickest route to peace - the siege w
long as possible by the extension of the truce, co
that covered the Serbian border. The offensive w
where Loudon was ordered to continue his advan
groups were to remain on the defensive, unless th
inforce Coburg. The army eventually numbered 2

40,000 cavalry; the only significant difference was th


No longer telling his generals that problems attributable to bad weather

campaign of 1789, n.d. [April 1789], AFA/856, fo. 1789.4. ad 24.
1 S. von Lovacs, 'Summarischer Ausweis iiber die Natural ErforderniB fur den Feldzug 1789', 7 March

1789, AFA/862, fo. 1789.3^ 11b.

2 One Metze equalled 61.487 Vienna pounds according to Dickson, Finance and Government, ii. 371.
3 AFA/858, fo. 1789.13.7 1/2-

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 287

could be solved by greater exertion, Joseph II conceded that the only way

to manage the floods was to open the campaign as late as possible, while
hoping that the soggy terrain would discourage the Ottomans from violating the armistice.1 Thus, while the main army waited until the autumn to
invest Belgrade, Loudon in Bosnia should advance as early as possible. His

first objective was Bihacz, the key to securing the western part of the
province,2 of which the capture would not only facilitate an advance on

Banjaluka, but also allow the Austrians to join up with Colonel Joseph
Philipp Vukasovich's Serbian Freikorps before pushing south into Herzegovina in order to cut off an Ottoman force sent to reinforce Belgrade.

This ambitious plan had to be abandoned because of the late arrival of

supplies from Hungary for which Joseph II was quick to blame the Hun-

garians. The problem, though, was more complex. Though complaints

were widespread in Hungary,3 no evidence points to attempts to sabotage
the war effort. The inability to meet the Hofkriegsrat's targets may be
attributable to systemic inadequacies.4 Joseph admitted to General Joseph
Kinsky, who commanded the troops at the front during the winter, that
supplies were difficult to levy in Hungary for a constitutional reason:5 as
king of Hungary, he could not impose a quota on each county (Comitat),
as the nobility granted its Kontribution (war tax) in cash or kind, mostly
the latter, voluntarily. Although Joseph had reorganized the kingdom into
ten administrative districts that encompassed more than fifty traditional

counties, the collection of taxes and supplies remained piecemeal and

varied widely among counties.6 Habsburg officials seem to have regarded
the system as a licence to extract as much as they could from the kingdom:
half of the army's food and two-thirds of its fodder came from Hungary and a disproportionate number of draught animals - and only half of the
food and one-third of the fodder from the Austro-Bohemian provinces that
contained the same number of inhabitants.7 The figures for 1789 are found
in Table 1. They show that by the summer, the Hungarian chief sheriffs

(foispdn) had failed to meet their quotas of both grain and forage, by
196,057 and 518,378 Metzen, respectively.8
1 Joseph to Hohenlohe, 6 April 1789, AF A/860, fo. 1789.13.1.
2 Loudon to Joseph, 19 Feb. 1789, AFA/856, fo. 1789.2.39; same to same, 25 April 1789, AFA/856, fo.

3 Hadik to Joseph, 9 May 1789 [Budapest, Military Institute Archives], H[adtortenelmi] L[eveltar,
Personalia,] H[adik-leveltar], microfilm 2337/87.
4 See Dickson, Finance and Government, ii. esp. pp. 255-60; H. Marczali, Hungary in the Eighteenth
Century (Cambridge, 1910), pp. 18-37.
5 Joseph to Kinsky, 10 Jan. 1789, AFA/856, fo. 1789.1.7.
6 Counties that could bring their goods to market in Vienna with greater ease paid more tax: Pozsony,
Nyitra, Mosony, Sopron, and Vas. Marczali, Hungary, p. 21.
7 Referred to in the sources as the 'deutsche Provinzen'.

8 Dickson, Finance and Government, i. 33, 35.

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288 Matthew Z. Mayer

Geography offers part of the explanation: the Hungar

closer to the main theatre of war than either Austria or Bo

were supplying the troops stationed in the north to defend

sian threat. There is evidence, however, to support Henry M
that Joseph II sought to punish the inhabitants of Hungary
was their refusal to pay their fair share of taxation.1 Whe
Zichy, president of the Statthalterei, the senior civilian offi
suggested that the ratio should be changed, to make Hunga
for one-half of the supplies and the Erbldnder for the oth
fused. He is said to have argued that as the army was mainl
protecting Hungary, people living there should bear the he

In a letter to Joseph II on 15 May, Zichy explained t

detail.3 The delays were attributable mostly to overtaxed p

carts and draught animals, and the crippling expense of wa
To spare their horses and oxen, some peasants hired barges,
mium to avaricious boatmen. As an example of the toll whi
sitions had taken on the peasantry, Zichy related the story o

hay that had left Arad destined for the lower Banat to b
route by needy peasants. In conclusion, Zichy tried to c
that obstruction only partly accounted for the slowness of
solution was to purchase more boats to alleviate the transpo
the interval, food was bought in Italy and more supplies dr

Erbldnder. 4

Although the Hungarian high commissariat supplied as mu

could, the army sometimes lived from hand to mouth, a con
both the military planners and Joseph II.5 To measure the

tent among the troops is difficult, but desertion rates offer

Apart from the garrison of Khotyn,6 in the winter of 1788not significantly affect performance. Nor did the inefficien
affect it other than temporarily in Croatia, until the financ
winter of 1789-90.

Owing to shortage of supplies, the flooding of the Sava n

difficulty of the terrain, and the stubborn resistance from

tiersmen, by the end of May Loudon abandoned the atta

1 Marczali, Hungary, p. 31.

2 As reported in an unsigned document entitled 'Anordnungen die Verpflegung d
Korps mit Naturalien und mit Geld betreffend', which runs to eighty-eight pages.
on various aspects of the supply system for 1789 are supported by several tables

3 Zichy to Joseph, 15 May 1789, AFA/870,fo. 1789.5.40.

4 Zichy to Joseph, 3 May 1789, AFA/871, fo. 1789.5.9/93.

5 See, e.g., Joseph to Loudon, 9 Sept. 1789, AFA/858, fo. 1789.13.17.

6 Coburg to Joseph, 5 March 1789, AFA/869, fo. 1789.3.7.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 289

which he had chosen instead of Bihacz,1 and shifted his attention to the
more strategically important target of Berbir. Its capture would give the

Habsburgs control of the Sava. After Berbir fell on 9 July, Loudon set
about repairing its fortifications and preparing for the siege of Czettin until

new instructions from Vienna gave him a more important task.

Meanwhile, the main army under Hadik was encamped at Bela Crkva
preparing to lay siege to Belgrade by the end of August. Although Hadik

showed both energy and ability despite being seventy-eight years old,2
Joseph II, when relieving him of command on 28 July, gave as the reason
Hadik's failing health.3 The explanation is unconvincing. According to the
British envoy at Vienna, George Hammond, Hadik's family claimed that
his 'health and faculties were unimpaired': Loudon, his successor, was too

weak to stand and had to postpone taking over the command while he
regained his strength at Gradisca.4 The replacement of Hadik proves that
nothing, not even the honour of one of Austria's ablest officials, would be

spared in the quest to capture Belgrade; Joseph's correspondence with

Loudon, whose advice he had been seeking since February, shows that he
had greater confidence in him than in Hadik.5 He had been preparing for

the switch since late June, when he asked for Loudon's advice on grand
strategy and explained to him the importance of capturing Belgrade.6
The timing of the switch is explained by the worsening political situation, especially in France. Throughout the second half of 1789, Joseph IPs

stance towards the Bourbons' mounting problems was ambiguous.

Although Mercy had warned him in January that revolution was imminent,7 when Kaunitz apologized in July for bearing the bad news of the
fall of the Bastille, Joseph replied, coldly: 'my health is not so disturbed
that I am affected by events in which I have no stake.'8 However, he was
soon troubled by the revolution's political and personal repercussions. On
3 August, he expressed fears not only for the safety of his sister, the queen,
Marie Antoinette, but also that the events in Paris might provoke a revolt in
the Netherlands.9 By late September, his attention turned to international
politics, as he recognized that France would be unable to help Austria to
1 Loudon to Joseph, 3 June 1789, AFA/870, fo. 1789.6.1.
2 For Hadik's letters to Joseph, 21 Feb. to 23 July 1789, see HLH, microfilm 2337/87.
3 See Joseph to Hadik, 28 July 1789, AFA/871, fo. 1789.13.1.

4 Hammond to Leeds, 19 Aug. 1789 [Kew, United Kingdom National Archives, Public Record Office],
F[oreign] O[ffice Records] 7/17, fo. 254; Loudon to Joseph, 5 Aug. 1789, AFA/871, fo. 1789.8.10.

5 Loudon to Joseph, 19 Feb. 1789, AFA/856, fo. 1789.2.39. See also Loudon, 'Kurze Betrachtungen
iiber die anfangende Campagne von 1789', n.d. [April 1789], AFA/856, fo. 1789.4^ 24.
6 Joseph to Loudon, 21 June 1789, AFA/856, fo. 1789.13.1.
7 Mercy to Joseph, 6 Jan. 1789, CS, ii. 217.

8 Joseph to Kaunitz, 25 July 1789, Correspondances intimes de VEmpereur Joseph II. avec son ami le
comte de Cobenzl et son premier ministre le prince de Kaunitz, ed. S. Brunner (Vienna, 1872), p. 142.

9 Joseph to Mercy, 3 Aug. 1789, CS, ii. 259-60.

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290 Matthew Z. Mayer

fend off a Prussian attack.1 After the October Days, he wr

duke Leopold that 'the latest news from France is atroc

for the Queen.'2 But even at this juncture, he refused
feelings dictate foreign policy: he replied to the comte d'A
military intervention that the events in France were an in

between the king and his subjects.3

Had he wanted to lend support, the war in the Balkans a
hood of a threat from Prussia would have prevented him:

that the ideas of the revolution would spread thro

prompted his bid for peace in the Balkans. As he wrote to M

ember: 'The bewilderment [vertige] that has stricken almo

[so] strong, and the example of everything that has so far
in France with impunity [and what might still follow], is,
tempting for the lowest class of people . . . [that under the
everyone should desire peace.'4

Joseph IPs fear of Prussia dominated his thinking, des

evidence of a direct threat. In December 1788, he authoriz

ment of fifty-eight infantry battalions and thirty-five c
across Bohemia, Moravia, and Galicia.5 As these units were

adequate to repulse Prussia's main army, Austrian officials t

what preparations, if any, Prussia was making. The Austri
Berlin, Prince Reuss, was of little assistance: his reports, c
gossip, reveal nothing of military value. For instance, in M
reported that Frederick William II was displeased with his

cially the foreign regiments.6 By November, he admit

nothing to report about Prussia's supposed preparations fo

Although the lack of intelligence doubtless increased Jos

Frederick William II decided, to Hertzberg's chagrin, to

tack on Austria until the spring of 1790.8 It was late in th

preferred to buy time to foment rebellion in the Netherl

and Galicia, and to negotiate alliances with the Poles an

Although the alliances would be aimed ostensibly at Russia

tria, weakening the latter was Frederick William's main aim

Joseph to Mercy, 28 Sept. 1789, GS, ii. 264-5.

Joseph to Leopold, 19 Oct. 1789, JLB, ii. 281.

Joseph to Artois, 30 Oct. 1789, GS, ii. 277-9.
Joseph to Mercy, 3 Nov. 1789, CS, ii. 274-5.

5 'Vorbereitungs-Anstalten zur Zusammenziehung einer Armee in Bohmen, Mah

Winter 1788/89', AF A/858, fo. 1789.13.7 1/2.

6 Reuss to Staatskanzlei, 23 May 1789, DK Preussen/67.

7 Reuss to Staatskanzlei, 28 Nov. 1789, DK Preussen/67.

8 For Prussian policy, see R. H. Lord, The Second Partition of Poland (Cambridg

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 291

In a political climate in which Joseph II needed to preserve the Russian
alliance, his distrust of Potemkin was inopportune. After the victory at
Ochakov, when Catherine II gave Potemkin control over the whole army,

he replaced his rival Rumiantsev with Prince Repnin at the head of the
Ukrainian army. Joseph feared that Austria might suffer as a result. On 6
April, he cautioned Coburg - whose area of command was adjacent to
Repnin's which made him more dependent than other Austrian generals
on Russian collaboration - that 'one could expect neither activity nor good
will from Prince Potemkin.'1 He added in July:
I doubt very much that Prince Potemkin will grant your wish and allow a Russian
division to join up with you. Partly because [your area] is not his main interest,

but also because the more one asks something of him the less inclined he is to
grant it ... however, through flattery and deference, you must try to remain on
good terms with him, so as not to give him grounds for complaint ... for one can-

not even begin to comprehend how highly this man is esteemed, [which has
placed him] in a position of supremacy.2

The resentment was mutual. The Russians had complained in February

about the Austro-Ottoman truce.3 And Potemkin may have held Joseph II
in contempt as a soldier. He is believed to have told Catherine II that, 'as
for our ally . . . whenever he is around, everything goes wrong.'4

Despite the strained relations, each side valued the alliance. It was so
crucial to Austria's security that, on 10 May, Joseph II and Kaunitz sent
Leopold a memorandum explaining why.5 He, in his reply, described the

alliance as 'useful, necessary, advantageous, and indispensable'.6 In an

exchange of letters between Joseph and Catherine II dated 20 and 30 May,
it was renewed for another eight years,7 to the disappointment of Kaunitz,
who had hoped to renew it for longer. Events were to show that Joseph
had underestimated Potemkin. Russia's collaboration with Austria in late
July prompted a series of victories that transformed the course of the war.
* * * * *

To borrow Joseph IPs expression, 'time and cir

out the enemy. In late July, Yusuf 's replacemen

1 Joseph to Coburg, 6 April 1789, AFA/86i,fo. 1789.13.1.
2 Joseph to Coburg, 3 July 1789, AFA/ 861, fo. 1789.13.1.

3 Coburg to Joseph, 9 Feb. 1789, AFA/861, fo. 1789.13.1.

4 Montefiore, Potemkin, p. 407.

5 'Memoire Uber die Rathlichkeit, Nutzlichkeit und Nothwendigke

nun zu Ende gehende Allianzsistem nicht nur unverzoglich zu

mogliche Art fortan bestens zu cultivieren1, 10 May 1789, SV/146.

6 Leopold to Joseph, 18 May 1789, JL5, ii. 247.

7 See JKB, p. 333 Joseph, and p. 335, Catherine.

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292 Matthew Z. Mayer

Pasha, decided to try to breach the hinge that linked the al

Coburg and Suvorov near Focsani. For the first time, the
strategic goal of preventing the breakthrough; the Austrian
Transylvanian passes, the Russians to protect their commu

the Ukraine. On two separate occasions, Coburg and Su

defeated vastly superior enemy forces.1

On 26 July, Coburg, encamped at Parawa, received in

Osman had sent 20,000 men to reinforce the hospoda

Prince Mavrojeni. Fearing that his own army, with a nom

13,244 infantry and 5,735 cavalry, was too small to resist su

Coburg appealed to Suvorov at Burlad for support. As Repn

authorized Suvorov earlier in the month to collaborate with

he joined up with Coburg near Aschud - 40 kilometres

and 45 south-west of Burlad - during the night of the 28th

After a skirmish cost the lives of a few Russian irregulars

allied army advanced unhindered to the river Putna o

crossed it the next day. The Ottomans attacked immed

aside a screen of Cossacks and threatening Suvorov's centr

judicious use of field artillery and the support of a small Au

Russians recovered and put their attackers to flight. When

persisted, spahi cavalry that tried to break through the R

guard's right wing were repulsed, again thanks to the

artillery fire.

When Suvorov spotted the main Ottoman army num

which had set up camp at Focsani, he and Coburg decid

without delay and advanced south-westwards in a concave

itself was brief. A pre-emptive spahi attack on the Austrian

repulsed by counter-attacking hussars. Meanwhile, Suv

janizaries out of their trenches on the Ottoman right wing

of Panile. After Coburg evicted the remaining enemy infan
astery, the allies had won the day: the Ottomans scatter
towards the Rimnik river, most of the surviving janizaries
doning most of their artillery, ammunition, and tents. W

mans may have lost 1,500 men, the allies, in a typical

reported twenty-five dead and seventy wounded. While Co

an opportunity to engage Osman himself, the Ottomans shi

tion westwards in the hope of repeating their successf

previous year at Szupany.

1 The following is based on Coburg's account, l Aug. 1789, AFA/861, fo. 1789.8.
2 AFA/858, fo. 1789.13.8.
3 See Coburg to Joseph, 14 July 1789, AFA/871, fo. 1789.7.14.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 293


Under cover from the island-fo

a constant threat to the Banat; t





Szupany valley. But in the early

they had already devastated the
nothing to gain.1 Given the lack






the Ottoman invasion, who plan

When Yusuf, based at Czernetz,








under General Siegbert Vecsey

Mehadia. At dawn on the 4th,

truce in Serbia by probing Vecse

confronted with the fire of sha
Regiment. Meanwhile, the main
and janizaries, tried to break th
the face of Austrian artillery fi
bombardment must have been in
southwards into the defiles, foll
the end of the five-hour battle m
The effects of the boost to Aus
defeat were shown when Yusuf




















attack, it could immediately be r

flexibility to seize opportunit


With the opening of the siege o

ity of an Ottoman attack on Cle
instructed General Count Joseph
chief pending Loudon's arrival f

out the enemy instead of wai

sketches of the small square f
























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294 Matthew Z. Mayer

enemy encamped near Old Orsova.1 Loudon, who at fi

operation too risky, approved it on the 22 nd after Clerfa

him of its feasibility.2

In the event, the Ottomans attacked first, on the 28t

mander, Mechamkt Pasha, launched a full-frontal assault,

zaries and supported by field guns which fired on the Hab
and fortifications. But after sustaining the attack through

the Ottomans broke it off and fled, allowing Clerfayt

attacked from the east, to force them to retreat to their c

Although the enemy suffered few casualties - perhaps fou

victory was of vital importance. Not only had the Habsbu
enemy force that may have been 15,000-strong, but they
their own defeats the year before. The Ottoman force was

one the allies would defeat at Martinesci, but at Meha

attribute the victory to the brilliance of Suvorov. By t

September, Clerfayt had consolidated his position by clear

mans from their camp at Old Orsova where they threa

Loudon's attack on Belgrade. The victory was so decisive t

to leave a small contingent in the Banat while he crossed
Pancevo to join up with Loudon.
* * * * *

Loudon took over the chief command on arriv

August with orders from Joseph II to spare nothi

He himself seriously doubted whether he had eno

Belgrade and to protect the Banat,5 but, on th

detailed new instructions designed to leave hi
began by describing the damaging political con

active campaign to both the army's and the mona

by exposing the monarchy to foreign invasion bu
allies. The waste of millions of gulden and thousa
cause internal unrest. After ruling out the altern
the season to besiege Bihacz or Banjaluka; the sieg

require Habsburg control of both banks of th

Loudon a direct order 'to cross the Sava, go on th

1 Clerfayt to Loudon, 19 Aug. 1788, AFA/871, fo. 1789.8.47b.
2 Loudon to Clerfayt, 22 Aug. 1789, AFA/871, fo. 1789.8.47b.

3 The following is based on Clerfayt's account, 31 Aug. 1789, Criste,

4 Loudon to Joseph, 18 Aug. 1789, AFA/871, fo. 1789.8.38; Joseph t

fo. 1789.13.17.
5 Loudon to Joseph, 18 Aug. 1789, AFA/ 871, fo. 1789.8.38.
6 Joseph to Loudon, 23 Aug. 1789, AFA/8s8,fo. 1789.13.17.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 295

The task was daunting. Protected on two sides by the Danube and Sava

rivers, Belgrade could be attacked only from the south-east. The Habsburgs' supply line relied on the use of bridges across the Sava near
Zabresh, although they had prepared a line of retreat across the Danube
near Pancevo. Loudon's first challenge was to feed his 45,000 soldiers, in

addition to the 10,000 peasants recruited as a labour corps.1 His siege

artillery consisted of more than three hundred guns of different calibre,

and to blockade the Danube and protect his bridgeheads, he deployed a

fleet of thirty vessels of all sizes, from an eighteen-gun warship, by way of
floating batteries, to caiques.2 The complexity of the operation is shown by
Map 1.
The main army advanced westwards from Bela Crkva along the north

bank of the Danube to the meeting point at Banovce. Loudon, who

reached Semlin on 3 September, immediately prepared to cross the Sava.
Led by Prince Christian Waldeck, the advanced group crossed unopposed
by pontoon bridges and the so-called 'Zigeuner InseP on the night of the
10th. Four days later the army laid siege to Belgrade.

The comparison with the exploits of Prince Eugene was inescapable.

His victory in August 1717, won from roughly where Loudon stood, had

marked the pinnacle of Habsburg power in the Balkans. While Loudon

sought inspiration from Eugene, he hoped nonetheless to avoid his
predicament of being caught between the garrison and a relieving force
that outnumbered his own. Eugene's influence on the events of 1789 was
not confined to his heroic example. The vestiges of his siege were palpable
in his lines of circumvallation; reusing them saved time and effort. Heavy
rainfall both delayed the preparations and led to increased sickness within
the ranks: in the first half of September, 11,995 men were hospitalized;
19,389 by the end of the month.3 As Loudon struggled before Belgrade, the
allied armies were poised to win a major victory in the east.





At the beginning of September, Cobu

Pasha, encamped at Braila on the nor








Imperial et Royal du Genie durant le Siege de Belg

troops is consistent with Loudon's order of battle
batallions (at roughly 900 men per batallion = 45

62,670 men (Kriege, p. 202) is probably too high

than 27,000 men for the storm must be accepte
AFA/871, fo. 1789.8.62.


report, 22 July 1789, AFA/857, fo. 1788.7

AFA/865, fo. 1789.9.24.

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296 Matthew Z. Mayer

ahead towards Focsani.1 In a bid to attack him before he had time to as-

semble on the river Rimnik, Coburg asked as he had in July for Suvorov' s

assistance. Suvorov, who agreed straightaway, met Coburg at Focsani on

the 21st. They planned to attack Osman's left flank as he advanced on


Osman, who hoped to catch the allies before they were ready, attacked
Suvorov' s right flank in a 'big swarm' of janizaries who were repulsed with
the bayonet followed by a counterstrike aimed at the Ottomans' flank and
rear.2 About the same time, the Ottomans launched a cavalry charge up to

18,000-strong, which might have tipped the scales in their favour but for
the effectiveness of the Austrian artillery. It slowed the charge and, combined with the tenacity of the Russian infantry, forced the Ottomans to

retreat. When the attack Osman ordered to turn the Austrian left flank also

failed in the face of Coburg' s artillery, the Ottomans withdrew. Osman and
the main body of his army recrossed the Rimnik and fled south.
The battle of Martinesci was the most costly of the war for the Otto-

mans, even if casualty figures should be treated, as always, with caution.

Coburg reported that the Ottomans fielded between eighty and one
hundred thousand men, a highly questionable figure, as the allies fielded at
most 25,000. As for casualties, Coburg admitted that his estimate of 5,000
enemy dead and wounded was a guess. The official total of five hundred

allied dead seems unbelievably small given the intensity of the fighting.
The victory may not have delivered a decisive blow to the Ottoman war
effort, but it had immediate effects: Osman's retreat helped Potemkin to
capture Bender and Akkerman, but, more important here, the victory met
Joseph IPs condition for an assault on Belgrade.
% * * * *

At the end of September, Loudon was worried by repo

of a relieving force from Nis under Abdi Pasha. Jo

ignore them, as Abdi would hesitate to expose his supp

and Vidin.3 The calculation proved correct. By the 27t
relieving force, and the return of clement weather, L

preparations for the assault that began three days l

vanced in four columns under General Count Georg

group quickly penetrated the wall after effective use of

up a small breach that was quickly exploited. The Otto

briefly: by midday, they had retreated within the

1 Based on Coburg's account, 25 Sept. 1789, Criste, Kriege, pp. 325-32.
2 Longworth, Suvorov, p. 214.
3 Joseph to Loudon, 23 Sept. 1789, AF A/858, fo. 1789.13.17.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 297

troops stood within the city's walls. Even more surprising than the swiftness of the victory was the lack of casualties. Fewer than two hundred men
were reported killed.1
Although Loudon's troops had accomplished the first of their tasks, the

citadel remained in enemy hands as the end of the campaigning season

drew near. Massive batteries built on both sides of the Sava opened fire on

5 October. The next day, the Ottoman commander, a different Osman

Pasha, asked for a fifteen-day truce, which Loudon refused, instead increasing the rate of bombardment. On the 7th, the Ottomans discussed
terms of capitulation and, on the 8th, surrendered. The Habsburgs had recaptured Belgrade after a fifty-year hiatus.

Upon hearing the news, the dying Joseph II was cheered by the enthusi-

astic welcome given to the victory in Vienna.2 The Wiener Zeitung reported:
As His Majesty approached a religious service [at St Stephen's Cathedral] on the
afternoon of 14 October, he was acclaimed by thousands of people who surrounded him. Again that evening, His Majesty was greeted by sustained applause
as he arrived at the National Theatre [which must have included people from all
classes as entry was free that night]. A further proof of public jubilation was that all

houses were lit up, which was a spontaneous action that had not been ordered [by
the state].3

Blanning cites the celebration as evidence that the victories of 1789 had

transformed the public's perception of the war, even in Pest, where

Loudon was hailed as a hero on his way back to Vienna, and rightly gives
much of the credit to Joseph II.4 The relative ease with which Belgrade was

captured is testimony to the Habsburg army's professionalism and discipline. But the victory was worthless unless it expedited peace with
Selim III. In his haste to make peace, Joseph urged Loudon to capture
New Orsova, partly to humour Potemkin,5 who had recently laid siege to
Bender and Akkerman and was keen that the Austrians should not go into
winter quarters before they had helped him to pin down the Ottomans,
and whose goodwill might be needed when negotiating peace. Lastly, the

capture of New Orsova would strengthen the defences of the Banat and
give the Habsburgs control of the Danube as far south as the Iron Gates.

By the beginning of November, Loudon doubted whether he could

1 See Loudon to Joseph, 30 Sept. 1789, enclosing his account of the attack on the Belgrade suburbs,
AFA/872, fo. 1789.10. 5a.
2 Joseph to Leopold, JLB, ii. 280.
3 Wiener Zeitung, lxxxiii (17 Oct. 1789), 2649-50.
4 Blanning, Joseph //, pp. 182, 186-7.

5 Joseph to Loudon, 12 Oct. 1789, AF A/858, fo. 1789.13.17.

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298 Matthew Z. Mayer

capture New Orsova before the end of the year.1 On the n

the idea of taking it by storm as too risky. Instead, he bloc
turing on the 10th and 16th the small fortresses of Clado
situated on the south bank of the Danube; New Orsova, no

would be more easily starved into submission. Joseph II

pointed at the postponement, congratulated Loudon on
contributed to a 'glorious campaign'.2
The Ottoman army, surprisingly effective in 1788, seem
On 7 and 8 October, the Ottomans had attacked Prince Fri
Hohenlohe's advanced troops at Vaideni and Portseni, w
forcing their way into Transylvania through the Vulkan P
attempt failed, Osman appears to have abandoned the attem
Wallachia, allowing Coburg, following up the victorie
Martinesci, to capture Bucharest after little resistance
Not only had most of the garrison fled, but he was given

by the clergy and aristocracy.4 From east to west, the Aust

all of Wallachia, parts of Serbia, and a part of Bosnia. The
Prince Eugene's in 1718 by the peace of Passarowitz.
* * * * *

The collapse of the Ottoman war effort and

armies in 1789 has yet to be adequately explain
balance tipped in the allies' favour when Yus

vizier by Osman, 'a man of a rash and presumptu

in military skill'.5 However, he ignores Yusuf 's
1789. Had his attack on Clerfayt been successful,
Austrian campaign as it had in 1788.

The success should be attributed to the Austr

accompained by a change in tactics that shows ho

been put to good use. Instead of trying to disr

climate of the Balkans, Joseph II and his comm

ployment and movement to take advantage of th

salubrious than Semlin, surrounded by swam

Serbia allowed the Austrians to conserve their st

main Ottoman thrust against the Russians. Finall
attack on Belgrade - unchanged from 1788 - wer
1 Loudon to Joseph, n Nov. 1789, AFA/873, fo. 1789.11.24.
2 Joseph to Loudon, 18 Nov. 1789, AF A/858, fo. 1789.13.17.

3 See Hohenlohe's account, 15 Oct. 1789, Criste, Kriege, pp. 345-7.

4 Coburg to Joseph, 12 Nov. 1789, AFA/873, f- 1789.11. ad 27.
5 Coxe, Austria, iii. 521.

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Joseph II and the Ottoman War 299

of Mehadia, coupled with Coburg and Suvorov's advance, prevented the
Ottomans from trying to relieve it. Its capture was a triumph for both the
men in Vienna who organized it, and for the men in Serbia who carried it

The victories, far from solving Joseph IPs geopolitical problems,

prompted his enemies to gather for the kill. For reasons unknown, the
Austrians failed to recognize that Selim HI would sue for peace only in dire
circumstances, not owing to the loss of fortresses like Belgrade and New
Orsova. They failed to learn the lesson of the Russo-Ottoman war of 176874: that the sultan only submitted to Russian demands after the battle of
Kozludzhi, in which Rumiantsev annihilated the Ottoman army and threatened to march on Istanbul. The Russians had taken six years to reach this

point. To achieve as dominant a position might take Joseph as long, and he

had little time left. With mounting troubles in the Netherlands, resistance
to the new land-tax elsewhere in the monarchy, and the increasing likeli-

hood of a Prusso-Polish invasion, the victories in the south and east

seemed to have provoked the threat of defeat in the north and east.

As the second part of this article will show, the threat turned out to have
been exaggerated. Despite Austria's failures during the campaign of 1788,

and Russia's failures until the belated capture of Ochakov, the AustroRussian alliance held firm. In 1789, it met Austria's strategic requirements
by drawing the Ottoman main army away from the Banat and supplying
the conditions Joseph II had set for an attack on Belgrade. Just as important, the alliance, while operating effectively in the field in the Balkans, also
met Austria's political needs: it enabled Leopold II to prevent Prussia from

using the Ottoman war to weaken Austria in central Europe, and to reestablish Habsburg control over the Netherlands. Lastly, the alliance enabled Austria, in 1791, to manage the potentially threatening results of Russia's empire building at the expense of the Ottoman Empire by obtaining

compensation from the Ottomans by the terms of the peace of Sistova.

Even if the alliance failed to restrain Russia in the east to the degree Joseph
would have preferred, it did achieve his principal goal: the containment of

Prussia. The terms of the Russo-Ottoman peace of Jassy in 1792, which

ceded Ochakov to Russia and confirmed its acquisition of the Crimea,
were a reasonable price to pay for Austria's security.

Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade

1 On a recent visit to the Kriegsarchiv, a prominent Austrian archivist raved about 'the great Eugene's'
victory at Belgrade in 1717. By contrast, Loudon's accomplishment was hardly mentioned.

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