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The Siege Of Vienna
by [?]

Once more the Grand Turk was afoot. Straight on Vienna he had marched, with an army of more than two hundred thousand men. At length he had reached the goal for which he had so often aimed, the Austrian capital, while all western Europe was threatened by his arms. The grand vizier, Kara Mustapha, headed the army, which had marched straight through Hungary without wasting time in petty sieges, and hastened towards the imperial city with scarce a barrier in its path.

Consternation filled the Viennese as the vast army of the Turks rolled steadily nearer and nearer, pillaging the country as it came, and moving onward as irresistibly and almost as destructively as a lava flow. The emperor and his court fled in terror. Many of the wealthy inhabitants followed, bearing with them such treasures as they could convey. The land lay helpless under the shadow of terror which the coming host threw far before its columns.

But pillage takes time. The Turks, through the greatness of their numbers, moved slowly. Some time was left for action. The inhabitants of the city, taking courage, armed for defence. The Duke of Lorraine, whose small army had not ventured to face the foe, left twelve thousand men in the city, and drew back with the remainder to wait for reinforcements. Count Ruediger of Stahrenberg was left in command, and made all haste to put the imperilled city in a condition of defence.

On came the Turks, the smoke of burning villages the signal of their approach. On the 14th of June, 1683, their mighty army appeared before the walls, and a city of tents was built that covered a space of six leagues in extent.

Their camp was arranged in the form of a crescent, enclosing within its boundaries a promiscuous mass of soldiers and camp-followers, camels, and baggage-wagons, which seemed to extend as far as the eye could reach. In the centre was the gorgeous tent of the vizier, made of green silk, and splendid with its embroidery of gold, silver, and precious stones, while inside it was kept the holy standard of the prophet. Marvellous stories are told of the fountains, baths, gardens, and other appliances of Oriental luxury with which the vizier surrounded himself in this magnificent tent.

Two days after the arrival of the Turkish host the trenches were opened, the cannon placed, and the siege of Vienna began. For more than two centuries the conquerors of Constantinople had kept their eyes fixed on this city as a glorious prize. Now they had reached it, and the thunder of their cannon around its walls was full of threat for the West. Vienna once theirs, it was not easy to say where their career of conquest would be stayed.

Fortunately, Count Ruediger was an able and vigilant soldier, and defended the city with a skill and obstinacy that baffled every effort of his foes. The Turks, determined on victory, thundered upon the walls till they were in many parts reduced to heaps of ruins. With incessant labor they undermined them, blew up the strongest bastions, and laid their plans to rush into the devoted city, from which they hoped to gain a glorious booty. But active as they were the besieged were no less so. The damage done by day was repaired by night, and still Vienna turned a heroic face to its thronging enemies.

Furious assaults were made, multitudes of the Turks rushing with savage cries to the breaches, only to be hurled back by the obstinate valor of the besieged. Every foot of ground was fiercely contested, the struggle at each point being desperate and determined. It was particularly so around the Loebel bastion, where scarcely an inch of ground was left unstained by the blood of the struggling foes.

Count Ruediger, although severely wounded, did not let his hurt reduce his vigilance. Daily he had himself carried round the circle of the works, directing and cheering his men. Bishop Kolonitsch attended the wounded, and with such active and useful zeal that the grand vizier sent him a threat that he would have his head for his meddling. Despite this fulmination of fury, the worthy bishop continued to use his threatened head in the service of mercy and sympathy.