Ancient history

The largely unknown and great destruction of the Turkish army

The Ottoman Empire, which the Turkish "neighbors" have been very proud of lately, dreaming of reviving it at the expense of Greece, has never been the powerful war machine they want to present. Equally, her military system, which in the beginning raised her against powerless, in any case, opponents, later became a brake. The Turkish army in the 18th century was big, very big. Numerically only, but because in terms of quality it was lagging behind especially against the Europeans, but as it turned out also against Eastern opponents. There were many conflicts between Persians and Turks over the centuries. In the 18th century the Turks seemed to have the upper hand after the decline of the Persian Safavid dynasty.

In 1730 the Turks had invaded the Persian zone of influence attempting to break up the Persian state. But the Persians reacted and under their excellent general and military reformer (and later shah) Nander declared war on the Turks. The war began well for the Persians while Nanterre was in command. When the incompetent Shah Tahsmap took over, however, the Persian army suffered a terrible defeat at Yerevan, Armenia. However, the drunken shah was forced to resign and Nanter took over the actual administration of the state, immediately changing the course of the war.

Persian counterattack

Nader struck the Turks in what is now western Iran and Iraq and defeated them. However, in the region of Tabriz and the southern Caucasus the Turks were still strong. Nanterre moved there with the intention of crushing and capturing the enemy-held city of Ganja, in present-day Azerbaijan. The Turks, not wanting to lose control there, sent a new army under the Albanian origin Abdullah Koprolu Pasha. The army numbered 50,000 cavalry, 30,000 infantry and was supported by 40 cannons.

Nanter arrived outside the walls of Ganja in early November 1734. But the city was so well fortified that he did not venture a raid against it. Instead he decided to besiege her. So he left part of his forces to besiege the city and he moved towards Yerevan and Tiflis which he also besieged. In the meantime, Koproulou had gathered his forces in Kars and moved against the Persians with the first objective of lifting the sieges of the cities in question. Nanter seems not surprised.

The Greek-Armenian Catholic Abraham III from Crete, a contemporary and also a chronicler of the events, reports that when Nanterre heard that the Turks were coming against him, he exclaimed "thank God, I have waited a long time for this moment". Nanterre, however, had only 15-18,000 men at his disposal as the others were devoted to the sieges. Facing an opponent who outnumbered him by at least 4:1 he should not have felt very comfortable unless he had so much confidence in his army that he had recreated by introducing European tactics especially in artillery.

Combat maneuvers

On the evening of June 18, 1735, Nanterre encamped on a small plateau in the region of Gevard, Armenia, with an unobstructed view of the plain to his southwest where the Turks were expected to appear. At the edges of the plain, at an angle of about 90 degrees to the plateau, there was another wooded hill. There Nanter sent part of his forces into an ambush with the task of attacking the Turkish left flank and rear when engaged head-on with the main Persian body.

The Turks in turn reached the plain and camped. The next day the two armies remained facing each other for several hours. The Turks hesitated to attack even though they had not noticed the Persians in ambush. Nanter then decided to challenge them. He put himself in charge of 3,000 of his men and descended from the plateau attacking the Turkish left flank precisely with the intention of luring it away so that his reserve units could attack the exposed Turkish flank.

The Turks at that moment, not expecting a Persian attack, were trying to line up their guns sufficiently on a small hill opposite the Persian right flank. But they did not have time as Nanterre threw against the unprepared Turkish gunners 2-3,000 of his elite musketeers (Zajaier) who easily slaughtered the Turkish gunners and captured almost all the Turkish guns. Something similar also happened on the Turkish right, when with a lightning attack of the elite Persians, the Turkish cannons in front of the right horn of the Turks were overwhelmed.

It is surprising the non-reaction of the Turkish cavalry against the Persian infantry who took their cannons unmolested! It seems that the morale of the Turks had already fallen dramatically. So Nader moved on to the next phase of the plan. It was the turn of the zaburaks. Zamburaks were small-caliber light guns mounted on camel saddles. It was therefore highly mobile and tactically versatile artillery, and Nanterre had about 500 zaburak camels at his disposal.

Artillery dominates infantry conquers

The zaburaks, out of danger since the Turkish artillery had been neutralized, fearlessly approached the Turkish lines and began to spread death. Nanterre's heavier guns also entered the fray, firing over 300 shells in a short time. The Turkish faction immediately showed signs of shock which of course Nanter took advantage of by rushing with their forces to the Ottoman center where the "elite", supposedly janissaries, were also lined up. The fire and momentum of the Persians forced the overwhelmingly outnumbered Turks to retreat.

Nanter also expected this and signaled his men in reserve to attack, placing himself in charge. It was a force of only 1,000 but truly elite horsemen that made the difference.
It was the end for the army of Cioproulus who was killed by a Persian soldier, along with many more of his officers and thousands of his soldiers. In total of the Turkish army of 80,000 at least half were killed, wounded or captured. Some sources put Turkish losses even higher. After such a crash the Turks asked for peace by handing over Ganja, Tbilisi and Yerevan.