The Siege of the Moles

The Siege of the Moles

The high tide of Ottoman expansion to the west saw the Turks burrowing underground in an attempt to take Vienna. Not in the better known siege of 1683, but over 150 years earlier.

During the chill, rainy summer of 1529, they represented the gravest peril Europe had faced in a thousand years, worse even than Attila’s Huns in the 5th century. Attila’s hordes had been barbarian primitives – these new invaders were more advanced and sophisticated than the Western nations in many dangerous ways, particularly in the military sphere.

Icy fear gripped Vienna as the Turks drew closer. Ferdinand – whose actual title was archduke of Austria, king of Hungary and Bohemia – appealed to his mighty brother, Charles V, emperor of Germany and king of Spain. But Charles was engaged fighting the French in Italy and did not have the resources for a two-front war. Ferdinand, probably remembering King Lajos’ fate, scuttled off to the safety of Bohemia, leaving the Viennese to fend for themselves.

Fortunately for the Austrian capital, some help did arrive. The most valuable came in the person of Nicolas Graf von Salm, a cool, thoroughly experienced professional soldier, 70 years old but steady as a rock. Salm was too low on the nobility scale to be given top command – that went to a Duke Frederick, who gladly let Salm do all the work involved.

With him arrived about 1,000 German Landsknechte – formidable, well-trained mercenary pikemen – and 700 Spaniards who were armed with the new-fangled wheel-lock muskets, which fired faster than the old Turkish matchlocks.