Due to the distance from France to the Ottoman Empire, and, indeed the on-and-off alliance that existed between the two powers throughout the century, battles between the two powers were rare in period (excepting, of course, the invasion of Egypt right at the end of the century, and even then the Mamlukes were the opposition, not the ottoman forces as such).

One of the exceptions to this was the battle of Pluwig, where a proxy French army, acting for the Electorate of Trèves, fought with a marauding turkish force. Why the turks were so far west is unclear; records from the period ascribe motives that are frankly unbelievable, but the fact remains that they were there, and that the battle took place.

flank march

The French infantry move toward the flank.

The French force, consisting of 4 cavalry regiments, 2 batteries, 8 infantry battalions (2 of them guards) and some irregulars under le Comte de Toulouse-Lautrec deployed in standard fashion, with the usual objective of bringing their infantry into range with the utmost dispatch. Toulouse-Lautrec was regarded  by his peers as a workmanlike commander, and here he once more followed standard doctrine.


The ottoman regulars


The Ottoman levies consider their options

The Ottomans, with the usual mob of levies, bolstered by 5 infantry battalions, and 5 batteries, under the guidance of Baker Pasha (an emigre Englishman) deployed in a long line, with the irregular troops on the left, and the regular infantry and artillery on he right. This was to prove his undoing. Interestingly Baker had performed adequately previously with the same army; his failure has been ascribed to stress from the before-battle conference, a vidid, if not entirely believable, account of which appears in Sir Thomas Creasy’s memoirs, “Fifty years with the colors”.

The french infantry surged forward, with the guns and cavalry held in reserve, facing the ottoman levies. The turkish regulars moved forward to cover their guns in a desultory manner, and the french infantry charged forward into them confidently.

Rather to everyone’s surprise, the turkish line held. The melee continued for a considerable time, with the french charging forward, and being driven back. A Turkish infantry battalion broke and a battery was captured, but another battery caused such execution on a guards unit that it retired from the field.

Toulouse-Lautrec (or possibly Creasy, who was in command of the infantry force; both claimed credit) did manage to bring infantry up on the left of the turkish regulars. The turkish levies were fed in against the flanking infantry, but in dribs and drabs, constantly finding themselves outmatched by the regulars, and falling back.  Here was where Baker’s deployment defeated him; by causing the levies to be employed individually, rather than en masse, he ensured their defeat in detail.

With no aid in sight, a lone turkish battalion of Nizam i

The Nizam I cedit hold the line, for a while

The Nizam I cedit hold the line, for a while

cedit stood against three charges of a guard battalion and a battalion of La Sarre. For so long, in fact, that the left flank french infantry battalion was put to flight.

However, a final charge swept the remnants away; with his line in disorder Baker begged for the honors of war, which were granted by de Toulouse-Lautrec.

A noble victory for the french army, though much conversation was caused in the coffee houses and around camp fires by the stoic resistance of one battalion of turkish regulars. Clearly the ottoman army was no longer dwelling entirely in the 16th century.

C. Winehouse

From Louvois to Carnot : The French army in the 18th century

OUP 1994