The Chukchi warriors

On July 14, 1728 – three and a half years after leaving St. Petersburg – the explorer Vitus Bering’s newly constructed ship, the St. Gabriel, stocked with enough food to sustain its crew of forty for a year, sailed from the mouth of the Kamchatka River. Following the coast of the peninsula northward for five days, Bering turned northeast, and on the next day encountered land again just above 60 degrees north latitude. This was the underside of the Chukchi Peninsula (not clearly delineated on his map), and with some perplexity he coasted along it for about two weeks. On August 1, he lingered to explore a bay, but a week later encountered eight Chukchi, who approached the ship in a hideskin boat. “When we invited them to come aboard,” recalled Bering, “they inflated the bladder of a large seal, put one man in it and sent him out to us to converse.” Later, the Chukchi brought their own boat alongside and through the two interpreters Bering had brought with him learned that the land, trending in a northeasterly direction, soon turned back to the west, and that there was an island nearby in the sea. On August 10, Bering sailed past it, noticing dwellings but no people, and named it St. Lawrence, “since it was his feast day.”

By August 13 the ship had rounded the southwesternmost point of the Chukchi Peninsula. A few days later, without realizing it, Bering passed through the narrow strait between Asia and America which now bears his name. Although in clear weather (at the strait’s narrowest point) it is possible to glimpse both continents at the same time, on that historic day fog hid the American coast, and as far as Bering knew, it was 1,000 miles away. Without pause he steered due north (into the Bering Sea), but after the Asiatic coast disappeared from sight on the 15th, he decided to consult with Spanberg and Chirikov as to whether to continue the voyage or return to Kamchatka before cold weather set in. It was Spanberg’s advice that the expedition sail on for no more than two days, “because we have reached 65 degrees 30’ of the northern region and according to our opinion and the Chukchi’s report have arrived opposite the extreme end and have passed east of the land.” And so, “what more needs to be done?” Chirikov, on the other hand, argued that they could not know with certainty whether America was separated from Asia unless they went “to the mouth of the Kolyma River,” or at least until their path westward around the peninsula was blocked by ice. So they ought to follow the land, if possible (and as their instructions required), to see if it led to America.

Bering agreed with Spanberg. The Chukchi had told him the coast turned north, then west, and was surrounded by the ocean – and in fact, as Bering could see, the coast bent away to the west as he proceeded farther north. It seemed pointless to him to verify the obvious, at mortal risk to his ship and crew. Further delay might oblige him to winter among the Chukchi on the peninsula’s forbidding coast, which, so far as he could tell, consisted of nothing but great ridges of snow-covered rocks quite bare of trees with which to build winter huts.

Bering turned south. Once again the coast of Asia came into view, but by an unlucky chance, as he threaded the strait, Bering failed a second time to see America through the mist, though he discovered one of the Diomede Islands. Four days later the crew bartered rather profitably with forty Chukchi who came out to the ship in boats – the Russians trading pins and needles for “a good Quantity of dry’d Flesh, Fish, Water contain’d in Whale Bladders, 15 Fox Skins, and four Narval’s Teeth.” Without further incident, on September 2, the St. Gabriel returned safely to port.

Despite apparent confidence in having accomplished his mission, Bering had misgivings, and throughout the winter he consulted with a number of Cossack veterans and others knowledgeable about the local geography. Advised by several that land was supposed to lie not far off the coast – as evidenced by birds flying eastward and unfamiliar trees floating in the sea – toward the end of June 1729 he steered the St. Gabriel due east from the mouth of the Kamchatka River, and explored the seas for a radius of about 130 miles. He might have ventured farther, but storms cut short his quest. That done, from Nizhnekamchatsk he sailed around Cape Lopatka at the peninsula’s southern tip – “which Thing was never done before” – crossed over to Okhotsk, and began the long overland trek back to St. Petersburg, where he arrived on March 1, 1730.

While Bering and his men had been in Kamchatka, a companion expedition of sorts, with tasks resembling those given originally to the Great Kamchatka Command, had been authorized by the Senate and the newly created Supreme Privy Council. Led by Afanasy Shestakov, a Cossack leader based in Yakutsk, it involved an army of fifteen hundred men (huge by Siberian standards) in a bid to strengthen Russian control over the entire northeast. Part of the force was placed under the command of Dmitry Pavlutsky, captain of dragoons in Tobolsk and Russia’s foremost Chukchi fighter, but the results of the expedition were not commensurate with the efforts made. Quarreling between Shestakov and Pavlutsky hindered the operation, and Shestakov’s attempts to pacify the Koryaks ended in disaster when he was killed in a battle in March 1730, and a contingent coming to his support was wiped out. Shestakov’s dried head was preserved long afterward by the natives as a trophy of their victory.

Encouraged by these developments, some Kamchadal leaders also began to consider ways to drive the Russians from their land. Bering, it seems, had left Kamchatka just in time. Although the area had never been free of lawlessness and misrule, the transport burdens placed upon the native population by his expedition had certainly contributed to the unrest. In 1731, rebellions occurred in the vicinity of Bolsheretsk and Verkhnekamchatsk; and then, around Nizhnekamchatsk, the Kamchadals coalesced under a baptized native named Fyodor Kharchin and captured the fort. A few survivors managed to make their way to a Russian ship about to sail for the Anadyr, and the crew hastily disembarked and dragged their cannon to the fortress walls. When the Russians began blasting through, the defenders panicked, and Kharchin himself made his escape disguised as a girl. Others, however, fought on, until a shot ignited the powder magazine and the entire fort blew up. Enraged by the rape of their women (mostly native concubines), the Cossacks killed their prisoners to a man. A month later Kharchin himself was seized, but some of his accomplices and their families chose mass suicide rather than fall into Russian hands.

In St. Petersburg, the authorities decided that Kamchatka was too remote from Yakutsk to remain under its effective jurisdiction, and transferred responsibility for the peninsula to Okhotsk. An official was also dispatched from Tobolsk to restore order; after investigating the causes of the revolt, he executed and otherwise punished with impartial justice a number of Russians as well as Kamchadals.

Meanwhile, after Shestakov’s death, Pavlutsky had taken over the expedition’s command and had made Anadyrsk his base for a conquest of the Chukchi. Although the Russians defeated these indomitable warriors in several battles, they could not subdue them, and the most tangible (yet elusive) result of the expedition turned out to be geographical – the search for the “Big Land” supposed to lie opposite the East Cape of the Chukchi Peninsula. Pavlutsky organized an expedition to find it, and placed the expedition under the direction of Mikhail Gvozdev, a metallurgist, with Ivan Fedorov as pilot. They appropriated Bering’s St. Gabriel for the purpose and assembled a crew of thirty-nine. Sailing from the mouth of the Anadyr in July 1732, they paused briefly at one of the Diomede Islands, and then continued eastward, apparently coming within sight of Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska. Drawing near, they saw that it was quite large and covered with forests of poplar, spruce, and larch. After skirting the coast for several days, they found “no end to it in sight.” At one point, “a naked native paddled out to the vessel from shore on an inflated bladder,” and through their interpreter asked them who they were and where they were going. They replied that they were lost at sea and were looking for Kamchatka. The native promptly pointed in the direction from which they had come. They did not make a landing, however, and because after their return they failed to collate their notes and make an adequate map, their voyage did not come to official attention until a decade later, in 1743. By then the priority of their discovery had become a technicality, since far more momentous events had transpired.

The natives in the Siberian northeast, moreover, were restless. Although the Kamchadals lacked heart for further resistance (and suicide had begun to compete with disease in reducing their ranks), between 1745 and 1755 the Koryaks carried out a number of successful raids on Russian outposts and burned the fort of Atlansk to the ground.

The Chukchi were harder to tame. They rejected yasak, survived numerous campaigns (led by Major Dmitry Pavlutsky) against them, virtually exterminated the Yukaghirs (whom they despised as Russian allies), drove off herds of reindeer kept by the Russians for transportation and food, and so forth. On the night of March 12,1747, Pavlutsky gathered ninety-seven Cossacks and thirty-five Koryaks together for a retaliatory strike, and at dawn on the 14th sighted six hundred Chukchi camped on a mountainside. Without waiting for reinforcements, he attacked. In a sort of Russian version of Custer’s Last Stand, the famous Chukchi fighter was quickly encircled and trapped. By evening he had fallen, along with most of his companions, as the attackers captured all their arms, a cannon, the company flag, and Pavlutsky’s marshaling drum.

Tribesman had about 500 men against Pavlutsky’s ninety-seven Cossacks. It was “bows against guns”, but the bows and spears were victorious. Most Russians were killed or wounded.

Pavlutsky covered the retreat and was among the last soldiers to die. He fought in close combat with a rifle in one hand and a saber in the other hand. When he was overpowered and thrown to the ground, he accepted defeat and opened up his steel cuirass to allow the enemies’ spears to pierce his heart.

When news of the defeat reached St. Petersburg, the Siberian Department dispatched five hundred dragoons to the Anadyr Basin, and their repeated onslaughts at last obliged the Chukchi to give way. In 1756, a Chukchi delegation came to Anadyrsk to sue for peace, and agreed to a token yasak of one fox skin per man. This was acceptable to the government, and gave it an excuse to abandon the fort at Anadyrsk, which had long been prohibitively expensive to maintain. Between 1710 and 1764, it had earned only 29,152 rubles, yet had cost the Treasury 1,381,000 rubles, including 841,760 just for supplies. In 1770, it was reduced to the status of a trading post.

Moldavia, Tatars and Cossacks I

When Bartolomeo Bruti travelled from Istanbul to Moldavia in the spring of 1580 he was not moving outside the Ottoman Empire, but he was entering a territory very different in kind from that empire’s directly governed heartland. Many histories of the Ottomans concentrate heavily on the heartland, because it was the central territories of Anatolia and the Balkans that were ruled in accordance with the classic ‘Ottoman system’, with the military-feudal estates of the spahis, the local kadis administering justice, the sancakbeyis governing their large districts, and the beylerbeyis governing groups of sancaks. Yet at the same time the Ottoman system of imperial rule, in its broadest sense, involved incorporating many other kinds of polity without directly administering them at all. The case of Dubrovnik has already been discussed; the three Romanian principalities of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia were also self-governed; the Khanate of the Crimean Tatars, while in some ways acknowledging Ottoman suzerainty, was ruled by its own Khans; the corsair states of North Africa were essentially self-administering territories with rulers appointed from Istanbul; a dynasty of sharifs of Mecca continued to govern the Hijaz; in the Yemen the application of Ottoman rule was often little more than nominal; in parts of eastern Anatolia populated by Türkmen and Kurdish tribes there were hereditary sancaks held by traditional ruling families; and when the Ottomans acquired much of Georgia in the sixteenth century they mostly left local princes in place as tribute-paying vassals. Altogether, the Ottoman Empire was not a monolithic structure at all; the secret of its huge and rapid expansion, indeed, is to be found not only in its military strength but also in its adaptability to local conditions and traditions in the territories where it took power. As one modern historian has emphasized, some of the commonest normative phrases in the Ottoman official documents of the centuries of conquest are ‘customary practice’ and ‘the way things were done during the rule of the kings’.

In the case of Moldavia – a territory encompassing much of the modern country of Moldova, together with the north-eastern part of Romania that bears the same name – the process of absorption into the Ottoman Empire had been a very lengthy one. Its ‘voivods’ or princely rulers had paid tribute to the Sultan since 1455–6, and its two most valuable ports on the Black Sea coast, Kiliya (Rom.: Chilia; Trk.: Kili) and Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi (Rom.: Cetatea Alba; Trk.: Akkerman) had been seized by the Ottomans in 1484. The Ottoman conquest of much of Hungary, after the crushing defeat of the Hungarian army in 1526 at the Battle of Mohács, shifted the entire strategic balance in the region, strengthening the dominance of the Sultan over the Romanian principalities. In 1538 an ambitious maverick voivod of Moldavia, Petru Rareş, who defied Süleyman the Magnificent, was forced to flee by an invading Ottoman army. This was a turning-point in Moldavian history: a new voivod was brought in by the Sultan and installed with an Ottoman ceremony, and in the same campaign Süleyman seized the town of Bender (Rom.: Tighina; an important customs post on the river Dniester) and turned the entire coastal strip of Moldavia, including the two previously captured ports, into a directly ruled sancak. Ottoman attitudes had hardened since Mohács: whereas the tribute paid by Moldavia had originally been a kind of ransom payment for a temporary peace, it was now viewed as implying submission, like the poll-tax paid by non-Muslim subjects within the central territories of the empire. But although the military invasion of 1538 was sometimes used to imply that this was just another conquered territory, the legal-political status of Moldavia remained ambiguous for quite a long time. The whole issue is necessarily a murky one, as there is a three-way mismatch between the concepts available to the Moldavians themselves (who talked in Byzantine style about ‘bowing’, or ‘prostrating’ themselves, to an emperor), the Islamic legal theory of the Ottomans (which, in the tradition they followed, distinguished starkly between countries in the enemy ‘house of war’ and those within the ‘house of Islam’ – a territory such as Moldavia being rather obviously in neither), and Western European concepts, whether feudal (‘vassalage’) or modern (acknowledging ‘sovereignty’). What can be said is that from the mid-1560s onwards there was a definite shift in Istanbul towards seeing Moldavia and Wallachia as integral parts of the empire, within what were officially called its ‘well-protected domains’. Significantly, in 1572 Sultan Selim ordered the voivods of Moldavia to mint Ottoman coins for internal circulation. In 1574 there was a further tightening of the screw, after an anti-Ottoman revolt by the Voivod, Ioan cel Cumplit (‘John the Terrible’), was punitively suppressed by Ottoman forces. Uncertainty about the future of Poland, after its newly crowned French king absconded in that year, also made Istanbul anxious to strengthen its hold over Moldavia, Poland’s neighbour. Up until this time, the voivods had been drawn from those who belonged to, or at least claimed descent from, Moldavia’s own noble and princely families. Now the Ottomans imposed a member of the Wallachian ruling dynasty, Petru Şchiopul (‘Peter the Lame’), who had spent much of his time in Istanbul; he experienced instant unpopularity in Moldavia because he had no essential connection with that country at all.

By this stage, the degree of autonomy enjoyed by Moldavia and Wallachia was as follows. They had their own administration, their own Church and their own army. The voivod was appointed by the Sultan and could be dismissed by him, but would normally be chosen on the basis that he was of suitable lineage. He dispensed justice, and governed with his own divan or governing council – in Moldavia, an eight-member group which included leading noblemen and the Metropolitan, who was the head of the Orthodox Church in that country. There were no mosques in Moldavia, and no significant Muslim presence, beyond a few ‘scribes’ or officials seconded from Istanbul, a small guard of janissaries sent very exceptionally to assist Petru Şchiopul during his first, unpopular, period of rule, and at any given time a small number of Muslim merchants. (A sultanic decree in 1577 said that Muslims should not settle in Moldavia or Wallachia; they were forbidden to marry infidels there, and should leave when they had finished their business.) Moldavian merchants, on the other hand, were permitted to trade freely within the Ottoman Empire. Among the major duties of the voivod of Moldavia, the first was to pay the annual tribute: by the 1570s this was the equivalent of 35,000 ducats, but it underwent some fluctuations thereafter, with higher payments being promised by, or extorted from, incoming voivods, and unintended reductions following from debasements of the Ottoman coinage. Another duty was to supply troops when called upon to do so – reports in this period refer to 10,000 cavalry – though only for campaigns in the region; and at all times the voivod was naturally expected to repel any hostile forces entering his territory. He was also required to provide Istanbul with intelligence, both political and military. (A sultanic order to the Voivod in January 1566 said: ‘We have received a letter from you concerning what the spies in Germany have communicated about the gathering of the German army; in this situation do not cease to be vigilant, and make the necessary preparations against the enemy’s attack.’) The voivod was forbidden to conduct his own foreign policy – though most did keep up direct relations with their important non-Ottoman neighbours – and was not allowed to marry a foreigner without permission.

The duty to supply Istanbul with goods and provisions was less clearly defined, but it grew in importance during the sixteenth century. In wartime, Moldavia and Wallachia could simply be ordered to provide foodstuffs for the Ottoman army; for the Hungarian campaign in 1552, for instance, the Moldavian voivod was told to send 30,000 sheep, and the Wallachian one 3,000 oxen. But as the population of Istanbul grew during this century, rising from half a million in the 1550s to perhaps 700,000 by 1580, the demand for food from these fertile territories constantly increased. In 1566 the Sultan decreed that the Voivod of Moldavia must send 1,000 sheep and 1,000 head of cattle every month to the imperial capital. Official orders also went out for large quantities of grain, and for timber. Generally these products were paid for; the Ottoman system of celeps, state-appointed contractors who bought sheep locally and sent them to Istanbul, extended as far as Moldavia, where in 1591 they bought 24,500 from just one part of the country. (In the late 1580s an observer estimated that 100,000 Moldavian sheep went to Istanbul every year.) An attempt by the Sultan to impose the normal Ottoman tariff of fixed maximum prices was made, but then quickly abandoned, in the late 1570s. But the Ottomans did, in a sense, try to rig the market, by prohibiting the export of sheep, cattle and various other commodities – on the sometimes spurious basis that they were of military value – to non-Ottoman lands. No sooner had the newly appointed Voivod, Iancu Sasul (Bartolomeo Bruti’s candidate), arrived in the Moldavian capital of Iaşi, than he received a stiff decree from the Sultan complaining that the Moldavians were still engaging in the forbidden practice of selling sheep and cattle to Hungary and Poland – and, for good measure, that Iancu himself had just sent to Austria 24,000 head of cattle that he owed to creditors in Istanbul. Huge numbers of cattle were in fact sold via Poland; they were taken, on the hoof, as far as Venice, where their meat was prized more than any other. All the ‘boyars’ (nobles) of Moldavia traded livestock from their own estates, and the voivod was both the greatest landowner and the greatest trader of them all.

The wealth of these principalities came, in the first place, from their own tremendous fertility. Stefan Gerlach recorded a comment made by his ambassador in Istanbul in 1575: ‘today my gracious lord said that nowadays Moldavia and Wallachia are nothing other than the dairies of the sultans and pashas; and their princes, as they call themselves, are their dairy-farmers.’ Moldavia exported not only the ‘dairy’ products of meat, cheese and tallow, but also grain, honey, wax, fur, wine, beer, and huge quantities of fish: a Jesuit traveller in the 1580s was amazed to discover that you could buy a quantity of dried fish as big as a man, and the equivalent of a barrel of caviar, for just one scudo. The other source of Moldavia’s prosperity was the fact that it lay on an important trade route from Anatolia and Istanbul to Poland. Goods passed from Istanbul either overland to Galaţi or by boat to Kiliya, and were then taken via Iaşi to the important Polish border town of Kamyanets-Podilskyi (Pol.: Kamieniec Podolski). From there they went to Lviv (Pol.: Lwów; now in the Ukraine, like Kamyanets-Podilskyi, but then a Polish-Lithuanian city), and on either to Kraków, for further transit to southern Poland, Austria and the Czech lands, or to Poznań, for Germany, or to Gdańsk (Germ.: Danzig), for the Baltic region, or northwards to Brest, and thence either to Vilnius or even to Moscow. Spices formed an important part of this trade for much of the sixteenth century, coming from south-east Asia via Persia. Other high-value commodities from the east included pearls and jewels, and luxury textiles such as silk, mohair and camlet.

Muslim merchants brought many of these goods to Poland. They would then travel as far as Muscovy to spend the proceeds on furs, which were greatly prized by the Ottomans. Poland was the only Christian country to be quite thoroughly penetrated by Muslim traders; mostly their presence was accepted, though sometimes they were suspected of espionage. But there were other nationalities and religions taking part in this east–west trade: Armenians, Jews, Ragusans and Greeks. In Iaşi, the Moldavian capital, there was a significant Armenian colony. Jews and Armenians were prominent traders in Lviv, where, from the second half of the sixteenth century, there were resident Spanish Jews with close links to Jewish merchant families in Istanbul. In the 1580s the Polish Chancellor arranged for a number of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to move from Istanbul to the town of Zamość, which he had recently founded, to boost its trade. The omnipresent Ragusans were involved in this commerce, especially in Iaşi and on the Black Sea coast. And Greeks, not only from Galata, Chios (Ottoman territory from 1566) and Cyprus (Ottoman from 1570–1), but also from Venetian Crete, dominated the trade in strong and sweet red wines from the Mediterranean; these commodities, much valued during the cold Central European winters, came mostly via Moldavia. There were also a few Albanian traders; and some of the ‘Greeks’, from Pogon, may have been from the territory of present-day Albania, with Vlach – a language usefully similar to Romanian – as their mother tongue.

Much has been written about the so-called ‘closing’ of the Black Sea during this period. The phrase refers only to the discouragement or prohibition of non-Ottoman traders – who, in an earlier period when important Crimean ports had been run by the Genoese, had been frequent visitors. This process seems to have been a gradual one, beginning in the 1550s or 1560s and becoming formalized only at the end of the century. Istanbul’s growing hunger for the products of the Romanian lands – and of the Tatar Khanate – was the main cause; that meant that there was less and less for foreign traders to buy. And while the Moldavians were formally forbidden to sell various commodities to non-Ottomans on their north-western borders, it would have been illogical to allow non-Ottoman merchants to come and buy them on their eastern ones. Nevertheless, some foreign traders were active. Cretans who brought wine took back cargoes of hides and caviar; in the latter part of the century French ships sometimes penetrated the Black Sea; some Venetian merchants traded there using Ottoman ships or business partners; and the Ragusans, who had an important outpost on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, were often taking the goods they acquired to Ancona and other Italian ports. If foreign traders shied away from the area in the 1590s, that was as much to do with security concerns (thanks to a new Ottoman–Habsburg war, from 1593, and the growth of piracy by Ukrainian Cossacks) as with any prohibition. What must be emphasized, at all events, is that the ‘closing’ of the Black Sea did not mean stagnation. On the contrary, the decades up to the 1590s seem to have witnessed a positive boom in the trade that passed through Moldavia.

Thanks to taxes, customs dues and his own revenues as both producer and trader, the voivod had a large income, estimated in the 1580s at between half a million and a million thalers (333,000 to 666,000 ducats). Military and other state expenditure had to come out of this, in addition to the tribute to Istanbul, but the rulers of both Moldavia and Wallachia were still rich men; it is not surprising that Venetian jewel-sellers gathered around them like wasps round a jam-jar. The high revenues, together with the increasing appetite for cash at the Ottoman court, also explain the development of the practice – in which Bartolomeo Bruti took part so successfully – of merchants and other investors paying for the deposition of one voivod and the installation of another: so long as the new one remained in power for a few years, the investors could be confident of recouping their money handsomely. But this does raise the question of why these territories, which were of such economic and strategic importance to the Sultan, were not taken over and ruled directly. The threat of turning them into beylerbeyliks was deployed from time to time, and at a moment of crisis in wartime, in 1595, it was briefly carried out; but general Ottoman policy was firmly in favour of indirect rule. One important reason must have been the cost of garrisoning such a territory with janissaries; in Ottoman-ruled Hungary in the mid-century, for example, there were at least 20,000 occupation troops, who all had to be paid for. An interesting comment was made by the Imperial Ambassador in Istanbul, David Ungnad, in January 1578: noting a rumour that the former pasha of Timişoara would be declared beylerbeyi of Moldavia, he wrote that ‘in that case Poland would be well on the way to becoming an Ottoman possession; but it seems to me virtually unbelievable, because Moldavia is the main supplier to this city of meat, lard and other foodstuffs, and the population here would be partly or mostly deprived of them, if Moldavia were possessed by Ottomans’ – meaning that the Ottoman administration would consume more of the local production, and perhaps also that agricultural efficiency would go down. His remark about the implications for the Poles is perhaps even more important. Poland’s objections to the full Ottomanization of that principality were very strong: militarily, it required Moldavia to act as a buffer state, and in political terms the Poles wanted a neighbour that they could continue to influence and manipulate on its own separate basis.

Modern histories of the Ottoman Empire in this period, written mostly by West Europeans, tend to pay very little attention to Poland. There are various reasons for this: the dominance of West European sources and secondary literature is one, and the fact that Poland was at peace with the Ottomans from 1533 onwards is another. But Poland mattered very greatly to the Ottoman Sultans; that they maintained peaceful relations with it is itself testimony to that fact. After the Union of Lublin in 1569, which united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into a single ‘commonwealth’, the Polish state covered a huge stretch of Europe from the Baltic coast to the borders of the Crimean Khanate, embracing most of present-day Poland, all of modern Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus, and the western half of what is now the Ukraine. Thanks to its constitution, with an elective monarchy and a fractious, veto-ridden parliament of nobles, it could not and did not undergo all the processes of centralization of power that were beginning to take place in several West European states; but with the help of its powerful regional lords it could raise large military forces, which in this period were mostly directed against its eastern rival, Russia. Poland mattered to Ottoman geopolitical strategy not only because of its size, but also because it was situated between two potentially or actually anti-Ottoman powers, Russia and the Holy Roman Empire. If it conquered Russia, or was taken over by the Habsburgs, or underwent any other kind of merging or close alliance with either of those, it would pose a huge threat to the security of the Ottoman Empire. As Giovanni Barelli commented in his intelligence report from Istanbul in 1575, the Ottomans thought that Poland, being ‘rather divided’, could be defeated by them in war. But they feared that this would force the Poles to choose the Russian Tsar as their king, which would ‘give excessive power to one of their [sc. the Ottomans’] chief foes’.

Hence the concern felt in Istanbul each time an election to the Polish crown was impending. The Sultan was happy to support Henri de Valois in 1573, in view of the long-standing Franco-Ottoman alliance and French hostility to the Habsburgs. However, when Henri decamped so abruptly soon after entering his kingdom in the following year, there were real fears that the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II, might obtain the Polish crown. The upper house of the Polish parliament did vote for him, but the lower one chose Stephen Báthory, the Catholic Hungarian Voivod of Transylvania, who cemented the deal by promising to marry the late king’s 52-year-old sister. Stephen became King of Poland in early 1576; one of the reasons why many nobles had voted for him was that they wished to avoid a war with the Ottoman Empire (a strategy which, so long as Russia remained the primary enemy, was logically required). The Sultan was very content with this election. Stephen had been a reliable vassal ruler in Transylvania; he was a known quantity, and the fact that his accession to the Polish crown created a personal union between Transylvania and Poland – even though he passed the administration of the former to his brother Christopher – gave Istanbul a pretext for demanding more influence over Poland. His election also had negative consequences for the onward march of the Counter-Reformation in Central Europe; although he was a sincere Catholic, Stephen Báthory did promise at his coronation to respect the Warsaw Confederation, a recent pledge of mutual toleration by all the major Christian confessions, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, in the Polish–Lithuanian commonwealth. The Papacy was seriously wrong-footed by Stephen’s accession to the throne, not least because it had openly backed his Habsburg rival. With some grinding of gears, it now began to concentrate on promoting peace between Poland and Russia, in order to create the conditions for an anti-Ottoman alliance. Gradually, too, it began to insinuate the idea that if Poland did join a war against the Sultan, it could take Moldavia as its prize.

Cossacks WWII

General Helmuth Pannwitz and his Cossack body guard regiment.

During the Second World War, ethnic Cossacks fought on both sides of the conflict. Cossacks who had emigrated to the USA and the UK served with their military forces. Many Cossacks joined the Resistance. Though some Cossacks joined German armed forces, they did so usually to defect either to the western allies or to the Resistance, to liberate their co-patriots and family members from Nazi work and concentration camps.
The vast majority of the ethnic Cossacks fought against the Nazis in the ranks of the Red Army and of the Red Navy on all war theaters. Their service was crucial on the Southern theater of the Eastern Front. They were used for frontal patrols and logistics on the open prairies (steppes), which they knew well. The first Cossacks units were formed as early as 1936; by 1942 there were 17 Cossack corps units in the Red Army (as opposed to two in the German forces). Later these corps units were increased in size and reduced to eight. Their distinction in battle eventually led all to be merited as Guards. Oka Gorodovikov formed 49 Cossack cavalry divisions during the war. Many ethnic Cossacks served in other divisions of the Red Army and in the Navy, including Boris Shaposhnikov, Markian Popov, Aksel Berg, Arseniy Golovko, Oka Gorodovikov, Lev Dovator, Pavel Belov, General Dmitry Karbyshev, Dmitry Lavrinenko, pilot Grigory Bakhchivandzhi and engineer Fedor Tokarev. A Cossack detachment of the 4th Guards Corps marched in Red Square during the Moscow Victory Parade of 1945.
A substantial number of Cossacks served with the Germans, in response to the harsh repressions and genocide that their families had suffered under the policies pursued by Joseph Stalin. Like other people of the Soviet Union who suffered persecution under Stalin, some Cossacks mistakenly greeted the advancing German army as “liberators” from Stalinism.
While some Cossacks in German service were former White Army refugees or related to them, many Soviet citizens, including rank-and-file Cossacks, defected from the Red Army to join the “Cossack units” of German armed forces. Native Cossacks usually served as officers. As early as 1941, the German leadership formed the first Cossack detachments from prisoners of war, defectors and volunteers. The Dubrovski Battalion formed of Don Cossacks in December 1941 was reorganised on July 30, 1942 into the Pavlov Regiment, numbering up to 350 men. The Germans used Cossacks for anti-partisan activity in the rear of the German army.
The Cossack National Movement of Liberation hoped to gain an independent Cossack state, to be called Cossackia, after the war. In 1943, after the 1st Cossack Division was formed under the command of General Helmuth von Pannwitz, Cossack émigrés such as Andrei Shkuro and Pyotr Krasnov took leading positions in the movement. The 2nd Cossack Division, under the command of Colonel Hans-Joachim von Schultz, formed in 1944, existed for a year. Both Cossack divisions were made part of the XV Cossack Cavalry Corps, totalling some 25,000 men. They wore regular Wehrmacht uniforms and not Waffen-SS ones, as has occasionally been incorrectly alleged. Although in 1944 General von Pannwitz accepted loose affiliation with the Waffen-SS in order to gain access to their supply of superior arms and equipment, together with control over Cossack units in France, no pagan SS features had ever been implemented to respect the Christianity of Cossacks and the Corps command, structure, uniforms, ranks, etc. remained firmly Wehrmacht.
The Corps contained regiments of different Cossack groups, who were Don, Kuban, Terek and Siberian Cossacks who had been fighting Tito’s guerrillas, the Ustashi and Domobranci in the former Yugoslavia. At the end of the war in 1945, they conducted a fighting retreat north-eastwards over the Karavanken Mountains into Carinthia, where they surrendered to the British Army in Allied-administered Austria. They hoped to join the British to fight Communism. At the time the Cossacks were seen as Nazi collaborators and they were reported to have committed atrocities against resistance fighters in Eastern Europe. As part of Operation Keelhaul, the British returned Cossack prisoners of war to Russia.
On 28 May 1945, told they would be resettled in Canada or Australia, the Cossacks were transferred to SMERSH custody at the Soviet demarcation line at Judenburg. Also included in the transfer were civilian members of the Kazachi Stan, consisting of old folk, women, and children, as well as about 850 German officers and non-commissioned officers of the Corps. At the end of the war, the British repatriated between 40 to 50 thousand Cossacks, including families of military, to the Soviet Union. Many of those were reported as never having been Soviet citizens. An unknown number were subsequently executed or imprisoned. This episode is widely known as the Betrayal of the Cossacks.

Caesar – British destroyer class



Ordered in February 1942, The Caesar Class was the 11th destroyer flotilla of the emergency war programme. They were of the same design as the earlier ‘Emergency’ flotillas and almost identical to the preceding ‘Z’ or Zephyr Class in which the traditionaI4.7-in (120-mm) gun had been replaced by a new weapon of 4.5-in (114.3-mm) calibre. Having reached the end of the alphabet with the 10th Flotilla the new group were initially given names beginning with a variety of letters, but it was then decided to give them ‘c’ names as the original ‘c’ Class had been transferred to the RCN and renamed. The final three emergency flotillas were also given ‘c’ names, and to distinguish between them they were designated the ‘Ca’ (Caesar), ‘Ch’ (Chequers), ‘Co’ (Cossack) and ‘Cr’ (Crescent) Classes.

They were designed to carry a close-range armament of one twin 40-mm (1.57-in) Hazemeyer mounting amidships, two twin 20-mm (0.79-in) abaft the funnel and two single 20-mm in the bridge wings. However, the Caprice was completed with a quadruple 2-pdr porn-porn in place of the twin 40-mm and the Cassandra mounted twin 20-mm guns in her bridge wings instead of singles. In 1945 the majority had their 20-mm mountings replaced by four 2-pdr pom-poms but Cassandra was not altered, while Caesar mounted two 2-pdrs and one 40-mm gun and the Cavendish was fitted with three 2-pdrs only. These alterations were made to increase their firepower for defence against kamikaze attacks.

The class completed between April 1944 and February 1945, the Caprice being the first 4.5-in (114.3-mm) gunned destroyer to enter service, as the first of the ‘Z’ Class did not complete until July 1944. Initially they served with the Home Fleet as the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and operated mainly in northern waters where both Cassandra and Cavalier covered Russian convoys. On December 11, 1944, while escorting RA62, the Cassandra was torpedoed by a U-Boat, about 7.62 m (25 ft) of her bow being blown away. She was towed to Murmansk, stern first, where temporary repairs were carried out by the Russians. She returned to the UK in June 1945 but home dockyards were fully occupied. The remainder of the class were transferred to the Far East and Pacific during 1945 but the majority arrived too late to take an active part in the war against Japan. All returned to Britain in 1946 and were placed in reserve until the 1950s.

In 1953 the Carron was taken in hand at Chatham dockyard for a two-year modernization. A new bridge, similar to that in the Daring Class, replaced the original structure and a new director and remote power control were provided for the main armament. The after bank of torpedo tubes was replaced by a deckhouse on which a twin Mk V Bofors was mounted and X 4.5-in (114.3-mm) mounting was supplanted by two ‘Squid’ antisubmarine mortars. All of the original close range AA weapons were removed. The rest of the class were modernized in the same manner between 1954 and 1963 the only major variation being in the last four (Caesar, Cambrian, Caprice and Cassandra) which were fitted with enclosed frigate-type bridges instead of the open destroyer type.

In 1963 the Cavendish became the first ship to be fitted with the ‘Seacat’ GWS which replaced the twin 40-mm (1.57-in) gun mounting. The Cavalier was similarly fitted in 1966. In 1971 a race was held between the Cavalier and the frigate Rapid to settle an argument over which was the fastest ship in the navy. The Cavalier won by a very narrow margin after averaging 31.8 knots over 64 miles. Most of the class were sold for scrap between 1967 and 1975, but the Cavalier which is one of the last examples of her type, has been preserved and is permanently moored at Southampton.

Caesar, Cavendish (built by J Brown)

Cambrian, Carron (built by Scotts’)

Caprice, Cassandra (built by Yarrow)

Carysfort, Cavalier (built by White).

Displacement: 1710 tons (standard), 2530 tons (full load)

Length: 110.5 m (362 ft 9 in)

Beam: 10.9 m (35 ft 9 in)

Draught: 3.04 m (10ft) mean

Machinery: 2-shaft geared steam turbines, 40 000 shp=34 knots

Armament: 4 4.5-in (114.3- mm) (4×1); 2 40-mm (1.57-in) (1 x2); 6 20-mm (0.79-in) (2×2+2×1); 8 21-in (53-cm) torpedo tubes (2×4)

Crew: 186


Ottoman Redoubts at Balaclava, 25 October 1854


True Heroes of Balaklava

A4, 20pp., illustrated, published by the Crimean War Research Society, 1996.

A review of the role of the Turkish forces at the Battle of Balaklava. Treated as cowards at the time, and blamed for many of the reverses of the battle, this work re-evaluates the contribution of the Turkish troops and concludes that their stubborn defence of the redoubts along the Causeway Heights, no less than their often-ignored contribution to the Thin Red Line, makes the Turks the true heroes of Balaklava.
“a reasoned attempt to revise and sharpen our perceptions of the Turks and their conduct at the battle [of Balaklava]… well-illustrated with diagrams and maps… a valuable reassessment.” – Andrew Sewell in the War Correspondent.


Battle of Balaclava. Ryzhov‘s cavalry attacks over the Causeway Heights at approximately 09:15. Both branches of the attack happened almost simultaneously.

The Ottoman guns from No.1 redoubt on Canrobert’s hill fired on the Russians at around 06:00 – the Battle of Balaclava had begun. Lucan despatched Captain Charteris to inform Raglan that the redoubts were under attack. Charteris arrived at around 07:00, but those at the British headquarters had already heard the sound of the guns. Lucan himself rode quickly back towards Kadikoi to confer with Colin Campbell, commander of the Balaclava defences. The two men agreed that this was not another Russian feint, but an attack in force with the intention of taking the British base. Campbell prepared his 93rd Highlanders to meet the enemy, whilst Lucan returned to the cavalry. Leaving the Light Brigade where it stood, Lucan led the Heavy Brigade towards the redoubts, hoping his presence might discourage any further Russian advance on Balaclava. Realizing his show of strength had little impact, however, Lucan led the Heavies back to their original position alongside the Light Brigade. The Ottoman forces were left to face the full force of the Russian assault almost alone.

Whilst Gribbe’s artillery continued to shell No.1 redoubt, the Russian columns under Levutsky, Semyakin, and Skyuderi began to move into the North Valley. Although the Heavy Brigade had pulled back, the British did send forward their available artillery to assist the Ottoman forces on the Causeway Heights. Captain George Maude’s troop of horse artillery, I Troop, unlimbered its four 6-pounder and two 12-pounder guns between redoubts 2 and 3, whilst Captain Barker’s battery, W Battery, of the Royal Artillery, moved out of Balaclava and took its position on Maude’s left. However, the artillery duel was a very one sided affair. The heavier Russian guns (some 18-pounders), particularly No.4 battery under Lieutenant Postikov, together with the riflemen of the Ukraine regiment, took their toll on both men and ordinance. Running short of ammunition and taking hits, Maude’s troop was forced to retire, their place taken by two guns from Barker’s battery (Maude himself was severely wounded). As the British artillery fire slackened, Semyakin prepared to storm No. 1 redoubt, personally leading the assault together with three battalions of the Azovsky Regiment under Colonel Krudener. “I waved my hat on both sides.” Recalled Semyakin, “Everybody rushed after me and I was protected by the stern Azovs.” The Ottoman forces on Canrobert’s Hill resisted stubbornly. Although the attack had begun at 06:00, it was not until 07:30 when No.1 redoubt fell. During that time the 600 Ottoman defenders had suffered from the heavy artillery bombardment; in the ensuing fight in the redoubt and subsequent pursuit by the Cossacks, an estimated 170 Ottomans were killed. In his first report of the action for The Times, William Russell wrote that the Turks ‘received a few shots and then bolted’, but afterwards admitted that he had not been a witness to the start of the battle, confessing, ‘Our treatment of the Turks was unfair … ignorant as we were that the Turkish in No.1 redoubt lost more than a fourth of their number ere they abandoned it to the enemy’. Later Lucan and Campbell too acknowledged the firmness with which the assault on No 1 redoubt, which was not visible from their vantage point, had been resisted; it was not until this had been overwhelmed did the defenders abandon redoubts 2, 3 and 4. Of the estimated 2,500 Russians who took part in the assault the Azovsky Regiment lost two officers and 149 men killed.

The remaining redoubts were now in danger of falling into the hands of the oncoming Russians. The battalions of the Ukraine Regiment under Colonel Dudnitsky-Lishin, attacked redoubts Nos.2 and 3, whilst the Odessa Regiment under Skyuderi, advanced on redoubt No.4. The Ottoman forces in these positions, having already watched their compatriots flee the first redoubt and realizing that the British were not coming to their aid, retreated back towards Balaclava, pursued by the Cossacks who had little trouble dispatching any stray or isolated men; the few British NCOs could do nothing but spike the guns, rendering them unusable. The Ottoman forces had gained some time for the Allies. Nevertheless, by 08:00 the Russians were occupying redoubts 1, 2 and 3, and, considering it too close to the enemy, had razed redoubt No.4.


The role of the Ottoman division during the initial stage of the siege is not clear. Most probably it also took part in the costly French attack. Additionally, thanks to the miscalculation and neglect of allied quartermasters, it suffered further casualties because of poor diet and lack of provisions. But, its role in the Balaclava (Balýklýova) battle is well known, albeit not with glory. The Russian main army group attacked the relatively weakly defended allied security perimeter around Voronzov Ridge. At least four Ottoman battalions reinforced with artillery gunners, some 2,000 men (more or less) manned five poorly fortified redoubts that established the forward defensive line. What happened at these redoubts during the early morning of October 25 is still shrouded in mystery. According to the commonly accepted version, the Ottoman soldiers cowardly fled when the first Russian shells began to land, leaving their cannons behind. The day was saved thanks to the British Heavy Cavalry Brigade and the famous ‘‘thin red line’’ of the 93rd Highlander Regiment. The alleged cowardly behavior then became so established in the minds of the allied commanders that Lord Raglan refused to assign Ottoman troops to reinforce his weak defensive forces at Inkerman Ridge just before the battle of the same name.

Recent research, however, including battlefield archeology, provides a completely different story and corresponds to the version of events contained in the modern official Turkish military history. According to these recent findings, the Ottoman battalions in the redoubts, especially the ones in Redoubt One, defended their positions and stopped the massive Russian assault for more than two hours with only their rifles; the British 12 pounder iron cannons located there could not be used without help. Their efforts gained valuable time for the British to react effectively. The battalion in Redoubt One was literally annihilated and the others, after suffering heavy casualties, were forced to retreat. They did not flee, because we know that some of them regrouped with the 93rd Highland Regiment and manned the famous ‘‘thin red line.’’ It is evident that Ottoman soldiers were also heroes at Balaclava. However, because of factors including racial xenophobia, language barriers, and lack of representation at the war council in Crimea, their valor was tarnished, and they were chosen as scapegoats and blamed for many of the blunders that occurred during the battle.

Austro-Hungarian Cavalry WWI



Pack-horse of a cavalry machine gun detachment; members of these and the telegraph detachments were the only cavalry troops to wear the pike-grey field uniform in 1914. The machine gun is the standard Schwarzlose M07/12; the tripod Is attached on the far side of the pack saddle, and note ammunition boxes for the 250-round belts on top. Infantry MG sections used pack mules.

In Vienna, there was a large gap between ideals and reality when it came to war. The poorly equipped Austro-Hungarian army was recruited from a great variety of ethnic groups, often with doubtful loyalty to the emperor. Mobilisation posters in 1914 came in 15 languages for an army that was 44% Slav, 28% German, 18% Hungarian, 8% Rumanian and 2% Italian, which created command problems between the German-dominated officer corps and the men. But the main difficulty in 1914 was the over-ambitious plans of the Austro-Hungarian commander, Conrad von Hötzendorf, whose lament that he deserved a better army was echoed by his men’s complaint that they deserved a better commander. Life in the Austro-Hungarian army is well described in Jaroslav Hašek’s book The Good Soldier Švejk.


The cavalry was the most traditionalist and conservative arm on the Austro-Hungarian armed forces, some of the regiments tracing their lineage back as far as the Thirty Years’ War of the 17th century. The greatest modernizing reform of the cavalry units was instituted after 1867 when the heaviest arm, the Cuirassiers, were disbanded and these regiments were convened to Dragoons. Furthermore, the practical distinctions between heavy and light cavalry vanished, and the remaining three types of regiment – Dragoons, Hussars and Ulans (the Austrian spelling) – continued carrying the same arms consisting of carbines, revolvers (later semi-automatic pistols) and sabres only.

In 1914 they still wore their distinctive uniforms with helmets, shakos and czapkas, blue tunics, Attilas and Ulankas, all with red trousers (for Hussars, in Hungarian style). The Dragoon units were identified by different facing colours and buttons, while Hussars and Ulans were distinguishable by their shako and czapka colours. In the case of the Hussars half the regiments wore light blue uniforms (Attilas) and half dark blue; again, buttons in white or yellow metal made further distinctions. The Ulans all had madder-red collars and cuffs, and made further distinction by the top colours of the czapka and the button metal.

During the early years of the 20th century machine gun and telegraph detachments had been formed and specially trained. To some extent, the machine gun detachments of the Dragoons and Ulans were the only cavalry troops to wear a pike-grey field uniform in 1914.

The peacetime organisation counted 15 regiments of Dragoons, 16 regiments of Hussars and 11 regiments of Ulans (Nrs.1-8 and 11-13). The normal strength of a cavalry regiment comprised six squadrons with 900 horses. In wartime the regiments were organised in Kavalleriedivisionen, each consisting of four regiments separated into two cavalry brigades.

In addition to the Common Arm)’ cavalry, the k.k. Landwehr had six regiments of Ulans, a division of mounted Tyrolean Landesschützen and another of mounted Dalmatian Landesschützen (each of two squadrons). The Hungarian Honved included ten Hussar regiments, and additional squadrons of Hungarian Landsturm Hussars.

It became evident during the early stages of the war that these formations were destined to suffer great losses, Hastily, at least some field items were created, sometimes ‘on the pot’; the helmets of the Dragoons were either over-painted in grey or covered, with grey linen, as were the shakos of the Hussars and the czapkas of the Ulans; sabre scabbords were also sometimes over-painted grey. Paradoxically, many Ulans still wore the high horsehair plume and brass chin chain with their field-covered czapkas. A further step was the ‘overpainting’ of the trumpeters’ traditionally white horses; this led to some strange effects, like black-over-painted horses shining violet after the first contact with rain.

As the war continued it became difficult to supply remounts to keep up with the casualties among the horses, and each year a larger proportion of the cavalry were dismounted to serve as infantry in the trenches. Altough they were issued field-grey uniforms from the second half of 1915, photographs show officers and men still wearing the winter overcoats of their old coloured uniforms. In reality the summer and autumn of 1914 saw the swansong of this old arm of service. It was on 21 August 1914 at Jaroslavice that the Dragoons and Ulans of the 4.Kavalleriedivision fought with distinction against Cossacks, Dragoons, Hussars and Ulans of the Russian 10th Cavalry Division in what was later called the last true cavalry battle in history.



The Battle of White Mountain (1620), where Spanish-Imperial forces under Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly won a decisive victory.

The Habsburg Offensive

Ferdinand’s offensive involved six separate armies. Bucquoy left Dampierre to hold Vienna with over 5,000 men against Bethlen, and advanced from Krems with 21,500 to eject Anhalt from his foothold in Lower Austria. Maximilian placed 8,600 men to guard his frontier with the Upper Palatinate, and accompanied the main army of 21,400 drawn from the troops that had blocked the Unionists at Ulm to enter Upper Austria on 24 July. Spain joined in by invading the Lower Palatinate, leaving Johann Georg no choice but to start operations against Lusatia in September. These moves were the necessary preparatory steps to the final assault on Bohemia itself.

The Confederates’ lacklustre campaign during the first half of 1620 disillusioned the Lower Austrians whose homes were being wrecked in the fighting. Ferdinand split the opposition by giving the verbal assurance he would respect the religious privileges of individual nobles provided they paid homage: 86 Lutheran lords and knights joined 81 Catholics and the representatives of 18 crown towns in accepting Ferdinand as the legitimate ruler of Lower Austria on 13 July. The remaining 62 Protestant nobles fled to Retz on the Moravian frontier from where they issued a declaration of defiance. The peasant militias offered only minimal resistance in the Upper Austrian mountains as the Bavarians poured in, capturing Linz on 3 August. Tschernembl and the radicals fled, leaving the moderates to surrender on 20 August, placing their 3,500 regular troops at the Liga’s disposal. Ferdinand now declared 33 of the Retz signatories outlaws. A couple of Austrian regiments remained with Anhalt’s army, but effectively both provinces had been lost to the Confederate cause. Adam von Herberstorff was left to hold Upper Austria with 5,000 men, while Maximilian and Tilly headed east along the Austrian–Bohemian frontier to join Bucquoy. Despite the Protestant majority among their inhabitants, both Austrian provinces had been recovered permanently for the Catholic Habsburgs without a single battle.

The situation grew even more serious for Frederick along the Rhine where his supporters were collecting to oppose Spain. After leaving Ulm, Ansbach marched north-west to Oppenheim, between Mainz and Worms, to cover the right half of the Lower Palatinate that protruded west of the Rhine. Together with 5,700 local militia, he now mustered 21,800 troops, and was joined by a further 2,000 English volunteers under Sir Horace de Vere in October, convoyed south by 2,000 Dutch cavalry under Prince Frederick Henry, Maurice’s younger brother. Sir Horace was one of the ‘Fighting Veres’ family with long experience of the Dutch wars, including the siege of Jülich. His regiment was the second British contingent, arriving five months after Grey’s regiment. Despite his numerical superiority, Ansbach was reluctant to fight, pinning his hopes of British mediation.

Luis de Velasco and 18,000 men were concentrated in Flanders to deter the Dutch, while Spinola left Brussels on 18 August with another 19,000, heading east through the electorate of Trier. Having secured Koblenz, Spinola rapidly overran Palatine territory west of the Rhine, taking Kreuznach and Alzey. Apart from brief skirmishes between the cavalry, Ansbach avoided contact. Nonetheless, Spinola remained concerned at the possibility of more substantial Dutch intervention with only a few months remaining until the end of the Truce, while his Italians refused to undertake another siege given the lateness of the season and the worsening weather. Ansbach retained the principal fortresses of Oppenheim, Heidelberg, Mannheim and Frankenthal as both sides retired into winter quarters in December. The Dutch went home, disgusted with the lacklustre Union leadership.

These operations dispelled Johann Georg’s hopes of a mediated settlement and he began his own advance, despite the obvious lack of enthusiasm among his officers. Count Wolfgang von Mansfeld, a distant relation of Frederick’s general, concentrated 8,300 soldiers and 3,000 militia at Dresden, prompting the Bohemians to halt grain sales to Saxony. Having summoned the Lusatian Estates to meet him, Johann Georg finally invaded on 3 September 1620, overrunning the western half of the two provinces. The margrave of Jägerndorf still held the east and had put 2,000 men into Bautzen. A Saxon defeat would destroy Johann Georg’s remaining credit in Protestant Germany and give the Bohemians a much needed boost. Despite obstruction from his subordinates, Wolfgang Mansfeld pressed on, forcing Bautzen to surrender on 5 October after a short bombardment that destroyed most of the town. Most of the Lusatian nobles and towns now accepted the Saxon guarantee for their privileges in return for renouncing the Confederation, but Jägerndorf still held out in Görlitz in the south-eastern corner of the province and it was now too late in the season to begin operations against Silesia further east.

The main Confederate army had been paralysed by three pay mutinies from the end of June, which finally ended on 2 August when the government extorted more money from the Prague Jews. This denied Anhalt the last opportunity to crush Bucquoy before Maximilian joined him. Abandoning his positions in Lower Austria, he retreated north into Moravia, thinking his opponents were heading in that direction. This had been Bucquoy’s intention but Ferdinand overruled his own general, placing him under the command of Maximilian who followed Tilly’s advice to march directly on Prague. Maximilian had received 5,000 additional Liga troops, but his army already had 500 sick before it left Bavaria and was now gripped by ‘Hungarian fever’, a form of typhus or cholera depending on the contemporary diagnosis, that would kill 12,000 Catholic troops before the year was out.

The epidemic is an indication that the full horrors of war were present from the outset, and were not a product of escalating barbarity. The irregular forces on both sides were already infamous for their cruelty. The first group of Cossacks crossing Moravia in January 1620 had disrupted a wedding, kidnapping the bride after murdering the groom. Ferdinand informed the Saxon elector after the siege of Vienna that

the Hungarians had devastated, plundered and burned everything where they had stayed, and (it is said), stripped the people to their last threads, ruined, cut them down and dragged a large number of them as prisoners, subjected them to unheard of torture to find money and property, dragged away numerous lads of twelve to sixteen years old, and so ill-treated pregnant women and others, that many of them were found dead everywhere on the roads. They pulled ropes around the men’s necks so tight that their eyes popped out of their heads.

Ferdinand concluded with a remark that became the standard refrain throughout the war: ‘Indeed, the enemy has behaved so terribly everywhere, that one can almost not remember whether such tyranny was ever heard of from the Turks.’

The Liga troops behaved terribly during their invasion of Upper Austria, despite being well-supplied. The violence may partly have been revenge for the peasant resistance along the frontier, but there was already disorder on the march through Bavaria and the targets were indiscriminate, the men plundering Catholic monasteries and convents as well as Protestant homes. Catholic diarists depict such breaches of discipline as divine punishment for the heretical rebels, and clearly many senior figures used this as an excuse, ignoring the duke’s efforts to maintain order, like his courtiers who helped ransack Schloss Greilenstein in Lower Austria. Religious hatred was fanned by a large crowd of priests accompanying the combined imperial-Bavarian army, including the superior general of the barefoot Carmelite order, Domenico à Jesu Maria. Born Domingo Ruzzola in Aragon, he already had a reputation for prophesy and had won Maximilian’s confidence after curing an eye infection and other ‘miraculous’ acts.

Realizing his mistake, Anhalt hurried west to block the invasion from a position at Tabor as the imperial-Bavarian army reached Budweis. Thurn was still sulking at being replaced by Anhalt, while Count Mansfeld resented Hohenlohe’s promotion to field marshal and refused to cooperate, marching south-west in a futile attempt to distract Maximilian by threatening Bavaria. The duke bypassed Tabor to the west, storming Prachatice on 27 September, and moving through Pisek to reach Pilsen on 5 October. Mansfeld raced back, arriving just in time, while Anhalt followed to Rokycany a short distance to the east. Mansfeld opened the first of what would prove an almost continuous series of secret talks over possible defection. Maximilian and Bucquoy thought it was a ploy to gain time – supplies were running short and the duke was allegedly reduced to eating black bread while Tilly snatched an apple from a passing Dominican friar. It grew so cold that some soldiers froze to death at night.

Determined to maintain momentum, Tilly had no intention of being stuck outside Pilsen all winter and, backed by Maximilian, overruled Bucquoy to march north towards Prague. Marradas was left to blockade Pilsen, while Wallenstein was sent with a small imperial detachment into north-west Bohemia to establish contact with the Saxons still beyond the mountains. Anhalt dashed north to block the way to Prague, to an important road junction at Rakovnic. Possibly influenced by Maximilian’s example, Frederick now joined his troops, confirming Anhalt’s authority and temporarily boosting morale. The soldiers agreed to suspend another pay protest and dig into a wooded ridge behind a marsh. Maximilian was stuck in front of this position from 27 October. Bucquoy was badly injured in a skirmish on 3 November, but a supply train arrived the following day, reviving morale. Maximilian and Tilly knew they had only a short time to force a battle before winter suspended operations and gave Frederick a reprieve. Covered by morning mist and some noisy musketeers left to distract the Confederates, the army slipped round the ridge on 5 November and raced towards Prague. Anhalt only realized the danger later that evening, but force-marched his men to overtake his opponents and reach the White Mountain, about 8km west of the city, at midnight on 7 November.

The Battle of White Mountain

The coming battle was the first major action of the war and proved to be the most decisive. Anhalt’s position was relatively strong. The White Mountain ridge, taking its name from chalk and gravel pits, ran north-east to south-west for about 2km, rising about 60 metres from the surrounding area. It was strongest at the northern (right) end where the incline was steepest. This end of the ridge was covered by a walled, wooded game park containing the Star Palace, a small pavilion where Frederick and his wife had stayed prior to their triumphal entry to Prague a year earlier. The marshy Scharka stream lay about 2km in front of his position, but was deemed too far from the hill to be defended.

Anhalt had 11,000 foot, 5,000 cavalry and 5,000 Hungarian and Transylvanian light cavalry. He wanted to entrench the entire length of the ridge, but his mutinous soldiers were exhausted and said digging was only for peasants. Frederick went on to Prague, persuading the Estates to find 600 talers to buy spades, but it was too late and the soldiers managed to make only five small sconces. Most of the artillery had not caught up, and the ten cannon with the army were distributed along the line. Johann Ernst of Weimar held the Star Palace with his infantry regiment, while the rest of the Confederate army drew up along the ridge in two lines in the Dutch manner, interspersing cavalry squadrons in close support between the infantry battalions. The light cavalry were dispirited, having been surprised earlier that night and most were positioned fairly uselessly as a third line in the rear, while some covered the extreme right. Despite obvious shortcomings, Anhalt remained optimistic, believing the enemy would simply stall in front of his position as at Rakovnic, and Frederick remained in Prague to eat breakfast.

Thick fog obscured the imperial-Bavarian approach on the morning of Sunday 8 November. The advance guard secured the two crossings over the stream, followed by the rest of the army that deployed from 8 a.m. The Liga regiments drew up on the left opposite the northern end of the ridge, while Bucquoy’s Imperialists took station on the right. Together, they had 2,000 more men and two more cannon than their opponents, and they were in better spirits. Both halves of the army deployed in the Spanish fashion, grouping the 17,000 foot into ten large blocks, accompanied by small cavalry squadrons.

The commanders conferred while their men took up their positions and heard mass. Bucquoy wanted to repeat the earlier trick and slip past to Prague, but Maximilian and Tilly were convinced it was time for the decisive blow. The dispute was allegedly resolved by Domenico bursting in and brandishing an image of the Madonna whose eyes had been poked out by Calvinist iconoclasts. If this is true, it was a calculated act, because the Carmelite had found the icon in a ruined house over three weeks before. The Catholic troops were elated when they received the order to attack; they were tired of chasing the Confederates across Bohemia and savoured the prospect of plundering Prague.

The artillery had been firing for some time to little effect. At about fifteen minutes after midday all twelve guns fired simultaneously to signal the advance. The Imperialists had less ground to cover to reach the ridge than the Bavarians who also faced a steeper climb. Anhalt decided on an active defence, sending two cavalry regiments down the slope to drive off the imperial cavalry screening the flanks of the Italian and Walloon infantry spearheading the assault. Thurn’s own infantry regiment then moved down to engage the enemy foot as they laboured up the slope. Seeing their own horsemen retiring, the Thurn regiment fired a general salvo at extreme range and fled. Anhalt’s son tried to retrieve the situation with his own cavalry regiment from the Confederate second line, his men using their pistols to blast their way into one of the imperial tercios. For a brief moment it looked as if the Confederates might yet snatch victory, but more imperial horse came up, and even Bucquoy arrived, despite his earlier wound, to rally the infantry. Anhalt junior was captured and within an hour of the main action starting the Confederate horse were in full retreat, many units pulling out of the line without even engaging the enemy. The Bohemian foot followed soon after, while the Hungarians fled, some dismounting in order to escape through the vineyards covering the way to Prague. Despite claims of their being spooked by Domenico’s sudden appearance through the smoke, the panic stemmed from reports that Bucquoy’s Polish Cossacks had ridden round the south-west end of the ridge and were already at the rear. Schlick’s Moravians on the right lasted longer, largely because of the time it took Tilly to reach them, but they too gave way around 1.30 p.m. A few survivors resisted for another half hour in the Star Palace before surrendering.

Frederick stayed in Prague all day and was tucking into lunch when the first fugitives arrived. Many drowned in the Moldau in their desperation to escape. The imperial-Bavarian army lost 650 killed and wounded, mostly to young Anhalt’s brave attack. The Confederates left 600 dead on the field, with a further 1,000 strewn on the way to Prague, as well as 1,200 wounded. The losses were severe, but most had escaped. Prague was a large, fortified city and it was unlikely the enemy could besiege it with winter approaching. It was here that Tilly’s strategy of relentless pressure paid dividends, transforming a respectable battlefield success into a decisive victory. Already weakened by Tilly’s vigorous campaign, Confederate morale collapsed. Even Maximilian was surprised at the extent of the enemy’s demoralization, expecting defiance when he summoned Prague to surrender. Confederate leadership was utterly pathetic. Tschernembl and Thurn’s son, Franz, tried to organize a defence on the Charles Bridge to stop the Bavarians crossing the river. Frederick hesitated, but Anhalt and the elder Thurn thought the situation hopeless. Queen Elizabeth, heavily pregnant with her fifth child, left early the next morning. Her husband feared angry citizens might prevent him escaping if he took the crown with him, so he left it behind, along with his other insignia and numerous confidential documents, and joined the refugees streaming eastwards out of the city.

Collapse of the Confederation

Imperialists were already entering the western side of the city, catching the tail of the royal baggage train. Many Confederates were still loitering, demanding their back pay, but they dispersed once Maximilian granted them amnesty on 10 November. Those foolish enough to remain were murdered over the next few days. The city was stuffed full of valuables, cattle and other property brought there for safekeeping prior to the battle and now abandoned in the precipitous retreat. Along with empty mansions and houses, it was too tempting for the victorious troops who began seizing what they found in the streets, then breaking into homes, and finally robbing with violence. ‘Those who have nothing, fear for their necks, and all regret not taking up arms and fighting to the last man.’

Under these conditions, further pursuit was impossible. The winter was also exceptionally cold, with even the Bosporus said to have frozen over. Mansfeld still held most of western Bohemia, while Jägerndorf was in Silesia and Bethlen in Hungary. Yet nothing could slow the collapse of Frederick’s regime as moderates distanced themselves from the revolt. The Moravian Estates already paid homage to Ferdinand at the end of December. Frederick fled east over the mountains into Silesia in the middle of November, but was given a frosty welcome by a population angry at his perceived Calvinist extremism. Fearing the Saxons would block his escape to the north, Frederick hurried on down the Oder into Brandenburg in December, leaving the Lusatians and Silesians to surrender to Johann Georg after prolonged negotiations completed in March 1621.

Bethlen had finally renounced his truce with the emperor on 1 September, advancing again with 30,000 horsemen to overrun Upper Hungary and retake Pressburg, where he intended to hold his coronation with the St Stephen’s crown he had captured the year before. Most of the Polish Cossacks arriving during 1620 had been attached to Dampierre’s command and deployed to cover the harvest against Transylvanian raiders. A Liga regiment arrived at the end of September 1620, as well as Croats and the private retainers of Magyar magnates tired of Bethlen’s depredations. The Inner Austrian Estates mobilized 2,500 men, while their Lower Austrian counterparts sent a Protestant regiment that had not joined the Confederate army. Dampierre advanced to disrupt Bethlen’s coronation, and though he was to be killed on 9 October he had managed to burn the Pressburg bridge, denying access to the south side of the Danube. Bethlen sent another 9,000 troops to help Frederick, but these arrived too late for White Mountain and retreated rapidly through Moravia in November.

Though the grand vizier ratified the alliance agreed with Frederick in July, it became clear that the sultan was only using this to pressure Ferdinand to adjust the 1606 truce. News of White Mountain reached Constantinople in January, removing any doubts about the wisdom of avoiding a breach with the emperor. Meanwhile, the Ottoman pasha of Buda seized the Hungarian border town of Waitzen long claimed by his master. This alarmed the Magyar nobility, exposing the consequences of their internecine struggle and Bethlen’s inability to protect them from the Ottomans. The leading families either declared for Ferdinand or at least joined the French ambassador in pressing Bethlen to reopen talks at Hainburg in January 1621.

Ottoman Naval Tactics


During the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the invading Turks faced a major challenge. The Byzantines had erected a giant chain across the Golden Horn, a stretch of water that connected Constantinople to the sea. This chain effectively blocked the Ottoman navy from making their way to the enemy capital.
In order to overcome the chain, the Ottomans moved their navy overland using log rollers. This allowed the Ottomans to bypass the chain and attack the Byzantines from multiple fronts, ultimately aiding in the capture of the city that’s now called Istanbul.


An Ottoman galley. Using sails and oars, the galley could keep moving regardless of weather. The banners with the downward crossed swords at the bow and stern are the colors of Barbarossa while the one depicting three crescent moons is the Ottomans’ imperial flag.

The pattern of Ottoman, and indeed all Mediterranean naval warfare, was very similar to the pattern of war on land. The most typical form of combat was not the major fleet engagement, but rather a continuous kleinkrieg of attacks on enemy coasts and shipping. This was the form of warfare which Ottoman fleets engaged in between the late fourteenth and the mid-fifteenth centuries. It was plunder from Christian shipping and settlements that sustained the Ottoman provinces in North Africa, and in particular provided a source of wealth for the Ottoman outpost of Algiers. The Knights of St John played a similar role in the Christian Mediterranean, and it was against these and other Christian predators that the admiral made his annual tours, even during years of formal peace.

When the Ottoman imperial fleet engaged in an action, it was typically an amphibious assault on a coastal or insular fortress, rather than a battle in the open sea. Almost all Ottoman naval victories, from the conquest of Mitylene in 1462 to the capture of Chania in 1645, were of this sort. Engagements between fleets on the open sea, like major field battles on land, were infrequent and, unlike field battles, rarely decisive in determining the course of events. The Venetian naval victory in 1416 was perhaps a factor in delaying the creation of an effective Ottoman war fleet until after 1450. The more famous victory at Lepanto did not, however, prevent the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus or the conquest of Tunis three years later. The Venetian victory outside the Dardanelles in 1656 caused severe problems for the Ottomans, but did not bring to an end the invasion of Crete. From the mid-fifteenth century, therefore, the most typical functions of the Ottoman fleet were sieges and raids on enemy shores. The fleet also served to protect Ottoman shipping and coastlines, and sometimes to restore the sultan’s authority in outlying provinces.

The nature of the galley limited the Ottoman fleet’s range of action. Galleys were long vessels, low in the water, with a shallow draught. They were not able to withstand heavy seas, and could not, therefore, put to sea in the winter, setting out in principle, if not often in practice, at the vernal equinox, and returning in October or early November. It was possible to risk keeping small flotillas or single vessels at sea during the winter, but not whole fleets. During the first half of the seventeenth century, Ottoman shipwrights started to build galleys broader and longer, with `melon sterns’ in order to withstand storms better, but this did not prolong the campaigning season. The limited sailing season in turn limited the operational range of the fleet. The other constraint on the range of a galley was the size of its crew.

In 1656, Katib Chelebi estimated that a galley carried 330 men, including 196 oarsmen and 100 warriors. An Ottoman galeass, he says, carried a crew of 600, and a heavy galley a crew of 800. In the previous century, numbers had been smaller, since galleys had three rather than four oarsmen to each bench, and 50 rather than 100 warriors, but numbers were still very large. At the same time, storage space on a galley was limited. It was not possible, therefore, to store on board more than about ten days’ supply of food and water. Water was available from springs and rivers ashore, and knowledge of their location was presumably traditional within the Ottoman navy. In addition, the Mediterranean map of Piri Reis, completed in 1526, but still in use in the mid-seventeenth century, identifies water sources around the shores of the Mediterranean. Food supplies were a greater problem.

Since a galley could not carry victuals for a whole season, it was necessary to supply the fleet from prearranged points on the shore or, as at Malta in 1565, or Crete in 1651, to transport food by ship. This required careful planning in advance. The basic, and probably the only food that the government supplied, was biscuit and the fleet’s requirements were enormous. For example, the treasury accounts record 2305 tonnes of biscuit for the fleet which recaptured Herceg Novi in 1539. To purchase the wheat, mill it, bake it into biscuit and transport it to the shore was therefore a major operation and a major expense. The Treasury raised the money locally, and distributed the work over a wide area. In 1566, for example, it ordered biscuit for the fleet from Arta, Patras, Navplion, Farsala, Trikkala and Gjirokaster in Albania and central and southern Greece, and from Thessaloniki in the north. 85 In the seventeenth century before 1645, when the size of the fleets was more predictable, Istanbul and Gallipoli were the major centres for baking, but the sixteenth-century practice of distributing the work around the provinces also continued. In this respect, Volos was particularly important. It served not only as the quay for the export of grain from central Greece, but also as a centre for the preparation of biscuit for the fleet. For example, in his tour of the Archipelago in 1618, Chelebi Ali took on a consignment of biscuit which had been baked at Volos and transported to Evvoia for collection by the fleet.

A consequence of this need to take on food at frequent intervals was that galley fleets could not operate safely if they were far from their own shores or if the sea lanes were insecure. This, combined with the short campaigning season, limited their range. For this reason, the Ottoman fleet could not dominate the western Mediterranean without a base for the winter and a supply of provisions. This was possible only briefly when, in cooperation with the King of France, the Ottoman fleet, in 1543-4, was able to overwinter in Toulon. For the same reason, Christian galley fleets could not gain command of the eastern Mediterranean. Even after the great victory at Lepanto, the fleet of the Holy League had no choice but to return to its home bases before the onset of winter.

The galley determined the nature of Mediterranean warfare as much as it did the operating range of the fleets. As an oared vessel with a shallow draught, it did not rely on the wind and could operate close to the shore. For caulking, oiling or carrying out repairs, it was easy to pull ashore on a sandy beach. These characteristics made it especially useful as a pirate vessel, particularly on a windless day, when its prey might lie becalmed. Its ability to come close to the shore was also useful when bombarding coastal fortresses, one of the major functions of a galley fleet. Equally, if an enemy attacked such a fortress, an inshore squadron of galleys could provide a line of defence against the attacking fleet, while itself finding shelter beneath the guns of the fort.

Before the introduction, some time in the late fifteenth century, of artillery, the basic method of galley warfare was ramming and boarding. Artillery did not change this practice. A galley carried cannon on its prow and approached the enemy head on, hoping to fire at least one salvo before the men on the forward fighting platform attempted to board. It was important not to allow the enemy to attack the sides of the vessel, where he could inflict the greatest damage. The vulnerability of the galley’s flanks and the disposition of the guns gave commanders no choice but to adopt a line abreast formation, with all the ships’ prows facing forward at the enemy fleet or fortress. Success depended on maintaining this formation and, when facing the enemy fleet, outflanking it and breaking its ranks. In 1656, Katib Chelebi described the ideal Ottoman battleline: `In battle, the galleys should be arranged in rows. The Admiral’s ship should be in the rear, with five vessels to accompany it, three in the rear and two in front.’

The Ottoman fleet, therefore, from the late fourteenth century onwards, adopted the prevailing techniques of Mediterranean warfare. It seems, however, that Ottoman shipbuilders and seamen tended to be less competent than their western European rivals, notably the Venetians. In the fifteenth century, the fleets of Mehmed II, particularly the one which attacked Negroponte in 1470, relied on overwhelming superiority in numbers of ships, not on superior tactical skills. Even at the height of Ottoman naval power in the mid-sixteenth century, observers sometimes commented on the inadequacies of the Ottoman fleet. In 1558, for example, the Venetian bailo noticed a lack of skill, evidently by comparison with Venetian shipwrights, among the craftsmen in the Imperial Arsenal, and described the galleys themselves as `not lasting more than a year, and when they come to disarm, it is pitiful to see them in a state of disrepair.’ Some Ottomans, too, were aware of shortcomings. Writing after 1541, Lutfi Pasha comments on the importance of maritime affairs, but also notes that `in the organisation of naval expeditions, the Infidel is superior to us’.

In the seventeenth century, too, Katib Chelebi mentions further problems, albeit ones that were probably common to all Mediterranean fleets. He warns in particular about the use of prisoners- of-war and convicts as oarsmen. These, he says, are liable to mutiny, and `countless ships have been lost in this way’. The skippers should always mix prisoners with `more reliable Turks’ from the annual levy. In this respect, he commends Jigalazade Sinan Pasha, who was twice Admiral between 1591 and 1605, for placing every three prisoners with three `Turks’, so that the ships were safe. He also gives advice on how to attack the enemy. A sea battle, he warns, is a `death trap’, and if the fleet attacks when it is inshore off the Ottoman coast, the troops on the galleys will swim ashore to escape the combat. The fleet should never give battle in these circumstances. If, on the other hand, the enemy is inshore off the Ottoman coast, then it is safe to attack, as the men cannot escape. The only way to save their lives was to stand and fight.

The advantage which the Ottomans enjoyed in naval warfare was not, therefore, in shipbuilding, seamanship or fighting ability, but rather in the abundance of materials, money and men, which allowed the rapid construction of new fleets. It was perhaps, too, the ease with which they could replace ships that explains the apparently forlorn appearance of their galleys on their return from sea. It was an advantage which they enjoyed from the fourteenth to the late seventeenth centuries.

During the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Ottoman fleet had adopted the standard galley tactics of the Mediterranean. After 1600, it faced two new strategic problems. The first of these was temporary. The other was to render galley warfare obsolete.

The first problem was the appearance of Cossack raiders on the Black Sea, from which the Ottomans had excluded foreign fleets since the conquest of Caffa in 1475. From the late sixteenth century, the Cossacks on the Dniepr and the Don began to make frequent and destructive raids on coastal settlements and, to counter these, the Ottoman government fortified towns and villages along the coast, sent forces overland to engage the raiders, and sent the imperial fleet, or detachments of it, to encounter them at sea. In naval warfare, however, the Cossacks enjoyed an advantage. On their raids they used shaykas; that is, portable rowing boats with flat bottoms and no keel, which they could use in shallow waters and reed-beds. The Ottoman galleys also had a shallow draught, but far less so than the shaykas, and the Cossacks used this difference to their advantage. In 1614, ships of the imperial fleet pursued the Cossacks after these had attacked Sinop, but were unable to follow them down the Dniepr. In the following year, when the Admiral, Jigalazade Mahmud Pasha, attacked the shaykas, the Cossacks lured him towards the shore until his galleys ran aground. For this reason, Katib Chelebi advised that a galley fleet, in an encounter with the Cossacks, should always drive the shaykas out to sea, and should not attack close to the shore. In this case, the galleys would run aground. In the open sea, however, shaykas were no match for galleys. The ability of shaykas to hide in reed beds also presented problems. The galleys could stand in deeper water and besiege them, but their bombardments were useless against an invisible enemy that could slip away in the darkness. To counter these tactics, from the 1630s, Ottoman fleets themselves began to use flat-bottomed rowing boats, carrying troops and artillery to send into the reeds. This was the tactic that the Warden of the Arsenal, Piyale, used in 1639 in his fight with the Cossacks in the Strait of Kerch. This tactic, together with the recapture of Azov in 1642 and the refortification of Ochakov at the mouth of the Dniepr eventually brought the Cossacks under control.

In the long term, the more significant problem for the Ottoman fleet was the changing nature of naval warfare. For the first forty-five years of the seventeenth century, there had been no major wars in the Mediterranean, and the function of the Ottoman fleet had been to keep the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean free of predators and occasionally to suppress rebellions. A galley fleet had been adequate for this task. It was during this period, however, that northern European ships began to appear in the Mediterranean in increasing numbers, and although their purpose was trade, they carried heavy armaments. The technique of casting iron cannon, which were cheaper than the bronze ordnance that they displaced, had made this possible. These vessels, with their high sides and the ability to fire heavy broadsides were superior in combat to the Mediterranean war galley.

The Venetians, but not the Ottomans, had mastered the techniques of building and manning war galleons, with the result that when war broke out with Venice in 1645, the Venetian fleet enjoyed a clear advantage in battle. The only galleons in the Ottoman fleet came from Algiers which, in 1645, provided a squadron of 20 vessels. Apart from these, the Ottoman government also rented sailing vessels from the Dutch and, in the late 1640s, began to build their own. Katib Chelebi tells how the grand vizier took the decision after discussions with `certain people’ who told him that the enemy galleons could use the wind to run down the Ottoman fleet, forcing it to scatter. Equally, they could anchor outside the Dardanelles, preventing the exit of the Ottoman galleys. The galleons’ firepower was clearly overwhelming. Katib Chelebi also records how, when discussions were in progress, the Chief Mufti Abdurrahim, had summoned him and asked him if the Ottoman fleet had used galleons in past naval wars. He had replied that, in large scale campaigns, it had used galleons for transport, but only galleys for combat. He added that building galleons was not a problem: the difficulty was to find skilled crews and gunners. Katib Chelebi reinforces his scepticism about the introduction of galleons by giving instructions on how a galley should fight a galleon, giving examples of successful engagements in the past. A galley, he writes, should not immediately engage a galleon, but should first immobilise it by destroying its rudder and rigging, taking advantage of the fact that the broadside guns on a galleon had a shorter range than the artillery on a galley.

Events were to prove Katib Chelebi right. The adoption of the galleon by the Ottoman fleet was not a success. The galleons in the fleet of 1656 could not prevent an overwhelming Ottoman defeat and, in 1662, the grand vizier brought the experiment to an end. In 1669, the Cretan war ended in victory for the Ottomans, but the inadequacy of the fleet had been a major factor in its prolongation.