Andy's Reviews > The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe

The Enemy at the Gate by Andrew Wheatcroft
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Aug 04, 2009

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Read in July, 2009

Warfare in seventeenth century Europe was exceedingly brutal, and from Andrew Wheatcroft’s account of the 1683 Battle of Vienna, it must have been quite terrifying to behold. Wheatcroft describes a siege of overwhelming force, a mass of men thrown recklessly against Vienna’s armaments. Tactical weaponry was still very crude by modern standards, but combatants overcame accuracy limitations by sheer volume, a nearly constant hail of bullets, grenades, and mortars thrust at the enemy.

Sappers (miners) played a surprisingly pivotal role in warfare, tunneling under city walls or toppling them by detonating massive mines underground. Men rush into the breach. And because seventeenth century prisoners of war could typically expect to be massacred or, at best, enslaved, the fighting was exceedingly feverish.

Wheatcroft’s description of the last moment rescue of Vienna is breathtaking, but the aftermath of the invasion is rather less captivating, with pursuit of the fleeing Turks into Hungary by the victorious Polish-Austrian-German forces, and then for the Ottoman Empire 300 years of protracted warfare and decline.

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