OTTOMAN MIL ORG-7
TACTICS AND STRATEGIES IN THE OTTOMAN ARMY
Throughout their history, the Ottomans fought many battles and won a large amount of victories. Their superior tactics and the better technologies they had were one of the main factors that played important roles in their victories. Because the Ottomans were a Turkish empire from the beginning, they usually implied the "Turanid" Tactics, which were composed of surprise moves and the destruction of enemy, in battles. Altough the Ottoman military organization had important differences from the other Turkic empires such as the Gokturk or the Seljuks; the Ottomans re-shaped the Turanid tactics and used them in the best way which was suitible for them.
Before the Ottomans fought a battle, they sent the akinjis to damage the enemies' logistic centers, slow them down, inflict casualties and demolorise them. The damaged enemy army then had to face the main Ottoman army and they usually had a hard time dealing with the Ottomans. Even tough the Safavids implied the same tactic on the Ottomans, the Ottomans were able to defeat them at Chaldiran due to their technological superiorities.
The Ottomans positioned their units differently in each battle; but the most common positioning was like this:
The army was divided into three main parts. The center part was commanded by the sultan or the Grand Vizier; whoever was the commander of the army. The left and right wings' commanding posts were given to either the princes at the earlier times and later the Beylerbeyi grand governors. The azabs were placed on the front rows, the sekbans and other yerlikulus were positioned behind them, and the zirhli nefer yenicheris were positioned behind the yerlikulus. The artilleries were placed behind the zirhli nefers, and the missile troops were positioned behind the artilleries. The Kapikulu cavalries encircled the sultan, and the toprakli cavalries were placed on the wings. The akinjis and Tatars were placed behind the enemy, so that they could attack the enemy's missile troops.
Battle of Mohacz, from S�leymanname, 16th Century. The Sultan stands in the center, while artilleries and T�fekchi yenicheries open fire. Solaks protect the sultan and Toprakli Cavalries charge from bottom.
The battles would usually begin with the charge of the enemy heavy cavalries. They would dive into the azab lines, who would separate into two parts after some resistance, and the sekbans would imply the same tactic. Then, the heavy cavalries would charge to the zirhli nefers, who would put up a strong defence and then separate into two parts, just like the yerlikulus. The enemy would now face the Ottoman artillery lines, who would open fire and inflict heavy damages on them. The yenicheri t�fekchis would then fire salvoes of musket shots, and the shocked enemy would then try to flee. However, the azabs, sekbans and zirhli nefers would trap the flee enemies, and the poor heavy cavalries would be destroyed completely. It would then be the turn of the Ottoman toprakli cavalries to charge. The enemy infantries, weakened by Ottoman cannon fire, would try to resist the Ottoman topraklis but soon their lines would break. The hiding akinjis and Tatars would then attack the enemy missile troops and artilleries from behind, and the enemy army would collapse into a full rout. The fleeing and demolorised enemy soldiers would then be destroyed by the Ottoman cavalries.
This tactic was implied at some of the great battles like Nicopolis (1396), Varna (1444), Chaldiran (1515) and Mohacz (1526). Sometimes, the Ottomans used the tactical mistakes of their enemies to gain superiority at the battlefield like at Nicopolis and Ridaniyah (for example, at Nicopolis, the French knights fought dismounted, and were soon destroyed by azabs and yenicheries). And sometimes, the Ottomans won the battle at the last moment with an unexpected event, just before they were finally defeated; like at Varna and Hachova. But for short, the main Ottoman battle tactic was to eliminate the enemy heavy cavalries who possesed a great danger, and then to launch a final assault to break the enemies' resistance. With these superior tactics and better technologies, the Ottomans were victorious at most of the battles throughout 14th-16th centuries.
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Republic of Turkey Ministry of Defense, Otoman Military Organisation, Ankara, 1999.____________________________________________________________________________
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