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Danube Flotilla - Early History

Danube FlotillaBudapest, known as the "Pearl of the Danube" has adapted to cosmopolitan life without sacrificing its traditions and charms - making it a fascinating and vibrant place to visit. The Danube (Donau in German) is the second longest river in Europe (after the Volga). It rises in Germany's Black Forest and flows southeast, through Ingolstadt and Regensburg, into Austria and through Vienna, and to the Black Sea. It flows through the countries of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, and Romania and borders Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine.

The Danube River drains an area of about 320,300 square miles (829,580 square kilometers) and has a total length of 1,770 miles (2,850 kilometers). Its course can be divided into three parts. The upper course from its source to Vienna, stretches eastward through the hills of southern Germany and Austria. Its middle course runs from Vienna to the Iron Gate gorges on the border of Serbia and Romania, and it flows across lowlands and through mountain ridges. The lower course lies across the plain of Romania and Bulgaria, but before it reaches the Black Sea it swings to the north, turns again to the east, and divides into the many channels of the delta.

In the early fifteenth century a line of defense against the Turks was formed at a distance of 50-100 km south of the Hungarian border, stretching from Belgrade to Klissa. There was a second line to the rear, already on Hungarian territory, along the southern border of Transylvania, through Karansebes and Temesvar, then along the Danube, the Sava, and the Drava.

The Ottoman army could not do without the Danube as its main line of supply. Thus it was quite certain that the army would advance along the Danube to occupy Buda, one of the objectives of the campaign. It was also very unlikely that it would advance on the left bank of the river, i.e., the area between the Danube and Tisza rivers. The Hungarian army wasjust as dependent on the Danube as its opponents.

The Hungarian Danube flotilla was far weaker than the Ottoman. Considering the geography of the Hungarian theater of operations, the Danube flotilla and its sailors were crucial. Their maintasks were to control the waterways, to secure the routes of reinforcement and supply, and, furthermore, to provide support for theland forces. The rapid deterioration of the country's economy maybest be measured by the decline of this branch of service. At the timeof King Matthias their effectives were still around 10,000, but in theJagellonian period they dwindled to 1000. Presumably, the number of boats declined correspondingly; thus, if there were 360 of themunder Matthias, there could not have been more than 50 at this time.

The Ottoman objective in 1526 was not to absorb the country into the empire. The objective, rather, was to compel the government to accept the peace offered on two previous occasions. This political objective could not be achieved by a war of annihilation, but only by a war with limited objectives. What the leaders of the Ottoman state feared most came to pass with the death of King Louis; the Habsburgs laid claim to Hungary, by right of inheritance.

Carnuntum, a Celtic town of Pannonia, on the Danulie, was important in Roman days as a station of the Danube flotilla. Only ruins of the town, which was destroyed by the Magyars in the 9th century, now remain, about 16 miles E. of Vienna.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2012 19:23:05 ZULU