History of War


Shortly after dawn on 11 September 1697 a high-ranking Ottoman prisoner named Cafar Pasha was brought before Prince Eugene of Savoy, the commander-in-chief of the Hapsburg Imperial army in war-ravaged Hungary.

Although the Ottoman prisoner initially was tight-lipped regarding the location of Sultan Mustafa II’s army, known to be in the vicinity, he quickly changed his mind when threatened with physical harm. The prince declared that if he did not immediately divulge the location of the sultan’s army, a group of Croatians standing nearby would hack him to pieces.

Wanting to save his own life, the prisoner began sharing everything he knew. He told the prince that the sultan’s army was in the process of crossing the Tisza River just below the village of Zenta. The bulk of the cavalry and the sultan’s baggage train had already crossed to the far side of the river, but the foot soldiers had not yet made their way to the east side – leaving them vulnerable to attack.

Eugene knew he had to act quickly to take advantage of the favourable situation. Even though it was the 33-year-old Hapsburg field marshal’s first independent command on the Hungarian front, he had no doubt about what he must do. The information gleaned from the Ottoman officer presented him with a golden opportunity to destroy the Ottoman army and break the stalemate in the Great Turkish War.

The prince resolved at once to lead the Hapsburg cavalry to the river crossing, while the infantry and field guns made a forced march to Zenta. It would take most of the day to reach the enemy’s location, but Eugene had every intention of attacking

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