However, in the 1638 siege the Ottomans had come well prepared and the Janissaries along with other groups, continually fired at the Persians while the trench diggers and miners ceased the moat, which gave them a huge advantage because the moat was the major defence for them. So it was critically important for the Ottomans to be firstly well prepared and secondly, to capture the moat. 11 Zarain also mentions that a frame was built to act as a bridge on which the canons were able to get closer to the walls and break them.
However, the force of the explosions broke the trenches built to divert the river, which flowed back into the city and the emperor seeing this quickly ordered the barques to sail through. This not only shows a strategy to transport the canons closer to the walls, but also that the emperor had great leadership skills because as soon as he saw the opportunity he ordered the barques to sail through. This shows that leaders would make use of the opportunities that would arise and demonstrates how experienced and skilful they were as leaders. They were also pragmatic because they knew that wars did not always go according to plan.
Once the Ottomans made an important breakthrough, the next step was to build a mile long trench that would allow the army to march through and were then divided into squadrons with each having a commander. Although all these squadrons had a leader, the chief conductor of the war would be the African engineer, who was given this authority by the emperor. This suggests that the army was united under one chief co-ordinator. This was essential because having too many leaders would probably cause confusion and if all the leaders had equal power and they disagreed with each other, which caused resentment, then that could cause problems.
The major factor in not only this campaign but in all campaigns was unity and this was only possible when everyone thought the same and did what they had to do by following one order. The Persians however, lacked in this area as they began to disagree because some felt they should give in to the Ottomans and others were not prepared to do that. The chief General Obet Han made the suggestion of surrendering to the Turks. The commanders told him that he would have to support them till the ” last man” or he would be killed.
Han’s reaction to this proved very beneficial for the Ottomans. He decided to join the Turks who promised him protection and great rewards. He then deceived the commanders and the next day him and three thousand soldiers pretended to lead the first assault against the Turks. The emperor later adorned him and rewarded the soldiers. This shows that renegades like Han, were very valuable to the Ottomans as they could provide immense help in a number of ways. It also gave the Ottomans advantage, as they were one step ahead in planning, as they knew the enemies next move.
The conduct of the 1638 Baghdad siege, as delineated by Zarain Aga, gives the impression that a lot of planning had taken place to make sure that this assault was successful. However, it was down to trial and error and previous mistakes from which the Ottomans learned from and hence planned and prepared more effectively for this assault. Although, as in all wars, no plan is ever concrete and you can never be hundred percent prepared. Depending on the circumstances, different measures have to be taken, which is exactly what the Ottomans did in this siege.
So the Ottomans did take a pragmatic approach when required, which actually proved fortuitous at times. It is also true that there were external factors that helped the Ottomans, namely Obet Han. Overall though, the Ottomans were a strong united force where everyone knew what their role was in the siege and they all worked together to achieve the same objective. It is also true that the Ottomans were a well-provisioned force, which helped them to sustain assaults for a longer period of time. Zarain also briefly touches upon diplomacy in this siege. The Persians were in a state of confusion, as they knew the Ottomans were doing well.
Some of them decided a parley with the Ottomans to see if they could reach a compromise. The Sultan decided that the Persians would have to give up all their arms and to take all their belongings and leave for Persia. However, the Persians did not go quietly and disturbed the Ottoman army, who took matters into their own hands and in the end there was a bloody fight where both sides lost a lot of men and the Ottomans in the end won. Although the Persians pleaded for mercy, the Ottomans showed none as they had already given the Persians a chance before to surrender.
As a consequence the heads of the captured Persians was chopped off. This shows that the Ottomans did actually give their enemy the choice to surrender and that they would not harm them if they did so. However, they also made it quite clear that if they did not give up then they would all be killed in the end. Although it may seem harsh that the Ottomans beheaded those Persians, you have to understand that it was their policy and it had to be maintained in all campaigns because it was a lesson for everyone so that they knew whom they were dealing with and that they were consistent in what they said and did.
Motivation is also apparent from this primary source. The most obvious source of motivation is religion. On more than one occasion religion is mentioned in the text. The leaders or commanders that were killed Zarain would refer to them as martyrs and that they had acquired heaven. In each squadron, a person who could speak eloquently was chosen to give a speech to lift the spirits of the soldiers. Sermons were used to stimulate the soldiers and increase their motivation as they were fighting a heretical group and that they were the rightly guided ones.
Zarain also mentions how these soldiers were ready to die and wanted to become martyrs. Drums were also used in this siege to boost soldier’s spirits and increase their courage. It is also clear that reward and material concerns was also a motivational factor. The soldiers knew that the emperor generously rewarded those who were exceptional and were valiant. This shows that the Ottoman campaigns were not completely religiously motivated, however religion was an effective tool along with material concerns. Zarain Aga has provided a very detailed account of the events leading up to the eventual capturing of Baghdad.
In terms of military technology, the Ottomans realised that they would need to make extensive use of the canons, which meant that they would need sufficient ordnance to sustain the assault. Although the Ottomans were not technologically superior to the West, they did nevertheless make use of firepower when required but did not heavily rely on it. It is also clear that apart from technology, there were other factors that played a major role in the final collapse of the city. Supply was very important, not just for the artillery but for the soldiers and the horses too.
The fact that they sustained such a long offensive shows that they did not have supply problems. Another important factor was experience. The Ottomans had an army that was well trained, disciplined and very experienced. The Janissaries were a strong Special Forces unit that gave the army that extra edge compared to other armies. The whole army itself worked and functioned really well and there was a strong cohesion. It is also clear that there were many opportunities that arose, which the Ottoman armies were able to take advantage of. Bribery and attracting the enemy was also a factor.
Obet Han was in correspondence with the Emperor and eventually provided a lot of help to the Ottoman army by giving them vital information and helping the Ottomans to be one step ahead of their enemy. He was of course generously rewarded for his assistance. In terms of preparation and strategy it seems as though the army generals must have done a lot of preparation and planning because the army took on such mammoth tasks such as diverting the river Euphrates building large trenches to accommodate large canons and building a bridge like frame so that the canons could be crossed so that they were closer to the fortress.
Motivation is also another factor I extrapolated from the text. Zarain seems to put a lot of emphasis on the fact that the soldiers were religiously motivated and that they were prepared to die and the ones who did die were martyrs in heaven. He also mentions how reward and recognition was something that attracted loyalty to the Ottomans. Although he associates this with Obet Han and the soldiers, it was actually part of the military package to be awarded for exceptional achievement.
Although I have used Zarain Aga’s account for the 1638 siege of Baghdad, I know that there are many primary sources that deal with this campaign, which vary slightly in their version of the event. However, I felt that this particular account provides you with a lot of detailed information, such as the size of the army and the figures for each of the different composite forces. It explains all the challenges the army faced and how effectively they were dealt with. It also gives some information about the Persians and their situation.
However, I do realise that this is one person’s version of events and that there is a lot of bias in the text towards the Ottoman side. The reason being that he is writing the letter to his brother, which is quite informal. It is clear that to gain better knowledge of the siege I would have to read a series of contemporary primary accounts to gain a fairly accurate picture of the siege. 1 Zarain, Aga. A relation of the late siege and taking of the city of Babylon by the Turks as it was written from thence by Zarain Aga one of his captains (London, 1639).
2 R. Murphy, Ottoman Warfare 1500-1700, (London, 1999) p 109 3 J. Kelenik, “The Military Revolution in Hungary” in: G. David & P. Fador, Ottomans Hungarians, andHabsburgs in central Europe, (Boston, 2000) p 152 4 Ibid, p117 5 J. F. Guilmartin, “The Military Revolution: Origins and First Tests Abroad” in: C. J Rogers, The Military Revolution Debate (Oxford, 1995) p 304 6P. Sugar, “A near perfect society; the Ottoman Empire”. In War: a historical, political and social study, L. L. Farrar (Santa Barbara, 1978) pp 95-104 7 R. Murphy, Ottoman Warfare, p 109.