Siskovics, Josef Baron

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Siskovics, Josef Imperial Count

Austrian General Feldwachtmeister (1757-59), Feldmarshall Lieutenant (1759-66), Feldzeugmeister (1766-83)

Commander Cross of the Maria Theresien Order

born July 2, 1719, Szegedin (present-day Szeged), Hungary, Habsburg Domain

died December 28, 1783, Prague, Bohemia, Habsburg Domain

Description

Portrait of Josef Imperial Count Siskovics - Copyright MILAK Wiener Neustadt

Josef was born on July 2 1719 in the Hungarian city of Szegedin in a family who was probably of Croatian origin. His father, András Siskovics, was a rich patrician and a senator of the city; his mother was Mária Saracs. Josef was the youngest child of the family.

In 1741, at the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession, Josef entered into the “k. k. Armee” (Austrian Army) and joined the newly formed Haller Infantry.

At the end of May 1742, the Leib battalion was assembled. It was sent to Kaschau (present-day Košice), Leutschau (present-day Levoča) and Eperies (present-day Prešov). As soon as the battalion of the lieutenant-colonel was completed, it was stationed in Dioszég. In July, this battalion marched to Peterwardein. During this march, the troops mutinied, broke their muskets, tore up their uniforms and turned against their officers. After a gunfight Captain Catozzi was killed. The rebels then passed by Csibakháza where they terrorized the population. There were no regular troops in the neighbourhood and the Prefect of the County of Csongráder, Count Andrássy had to arm the county militia. With these militia, he fell upon the camp of the rebels and defeated them. Afterwards, 150 men were tried by a military tribunal, many of them executed and the rest sentenced to many years of imprisonment. The battalion was then completed with new recruits and, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas von Papp, finally arrived to its Peterwardein, its initial destination. The same year, the name of Josef Siskovics is mentioned in the État of the regiment where he served as captain in this unlucky battalion. Therefore, the assertion that Siskovics had begun as a simple cornet in Haller Infantry, as stated by C. v. Wurzbach in his book “ Biographischen Lexikon des Kaiserthum Österreich“, is false.

In Spring of 1744, two battalions of Haller Infantry were sent to Bavaria. In August, the order of battle of the Austrian army mentions these two battalions in the first line, along with Wurmbrand Infantry and Platz Infantry in the area of Amberg. By October 5, after several manoeuvres, both battalions reached the camp of Čimelice.

In the campaign of 1745, the battalion where Siskovics served was initially sent to Vienna. In August, it was assigned to Field-Marshal Fürst Esterházy, who had been charged to raise additional Hungarian troops (the so-called “Insurrection Troops”), and marched to Jägerndorf (present-day Krnov). When Esterházy's Corps was attacked by the Prussians, the battalion covered its retreat. After most of the Hungarian “Insurrection Troops” had refused to continue to serve in the field, Esterházy ceded command to General Kheul who retired towards Libau (present-day Libava). After receiving reinforcements, Kheul marched back to Jägerndorf. After the conclusion of peace with Prussia on December 25, the battalion marched towards Peterwardein. Siskovics must have distinguished himself during this campaign because, on December 19, he was promoted to major.

During its march towards Peterwardein, the battalion received new orders redirecting it towards the Netherlands. In mid April 1746, it arrived at Hasselt where the entire regiment was reviewed by FML Batthyányi. On October 7, Haller Infantry took part in a first combat beyond the Jaar River between Liege and Houtain where the Allied Army, commanded by Charles de Lorraine, engaged a French force. Haller Infantry suffered heavily from artillery fire, losing 33 dead and 25 wounded. The next battle took place at Rocoux on October 11. After this defeat, the Allied Army had to retire to Maastricht and to winter on the Meuse.

The campaign of 1747 began only in July when the Allies, still under the command of Charles de Lorraine, were once more defeated in the Battle of Lauffeld on July 2. In this battle, two battalions of Haller Infantry were deployed in the first line. The Allies then retired to Maastricht. The regiment did not take part in any other combat. In November it was posted on the Meuse to guard the border.

In 1748, the battalion of Siskovics was assigned to the corps of FML Batthyányi. At the end of April, it joined the main army at Roermond and was attached to FZM Gaisruck's Corps along with the grenadier companies of the army. By June 18, the entire regiment (only 1,068 men fit for service) was reunited at the camp of Boxtel. In October, after moving back to Roermond, the entire army marched back towards the Habsburg Hereditary Lands. Even though soldiers had not been paid for several months, the march proceeded without major incidents. In December, Haller Infantry arrived in Prague where it assumed garrison duty. At the end of December, Colonel Thomas Papp was appointed Head of the Invalides in Pest and Lieutenant-Colonel Josef Bakits was transferred to Andrássy Infantry as colonel.

On December 31 1750, Josef Siskovics was promoted from major to colonel, jumping the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

On January 15 1753, Siskovics was transferred to Erzherzog Carl Infantry.

On March 15 1756, Siskovics was ennobled, receiving the title of baron.

On June 18 1757, during the Prussian invasion of Bohemia, Siskovics distinguished himself at the head of his regiment in the Battle of Kolin. Before the battle, he had told Vettes, his lieutenant-colonel: “Dear friend, today we will fight for a decoration...” During the battle, his regiment repulsed five attacks of the Prussians. During the last attack, Siskovics was severely wounded. However, he remained with his regiment till the Austrians gained a shining victory. In this battle, Erzherzog Carl Infantry lost 2 captains and 37 men dead and 13 subalterns and 100 men wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Vettes was charged with the honorable task to bring the message of victory to Vienna. He was promoted to colonel, every man of the regiment got a Douceur (gift) of 20 ducats from Maria Theresa. For his part, Josef Baron Siskovics was retroactively to June 6 1757 promoted to Generalfeldwachtmeister (GFWM) and proposed by the officers of his regiment for the Maria Theresa Order. After Siskovics' promotion, Colonel Vettes replaced him a commander of Erzherzog Carl Infantry (he fell on October 10 1757 in an engagement againt Prussian Jägers near Meuselwitz in Saxony). On November 22, Siskovics commanded a brigade at the victorious Battle of Breslau.

At the beginning of 1758, based on positive experiences in the previous campaigns, a Grenadier Corps was established. It consisted of 72 grenadier companies originating from various regiments converged into 9 battalions. GFWM Siskovics received overall command of this corps. He was assisted by Colonels Buttler and Browne, by 2 lieutenant-colonels, 2 majors and additional subaltern officers. Siskovics' new elite corps was first tested from June 27 to 29, during the Prussian invasion of Moravia, in the Combat of Domstadl where a large Prussian convoy was intercepted and annihilated. During these combats, Siskovics' grenadiers were supported by other units. Only part of these units can be easily identified. In the attack proper, Siskovics' Corps consisted of::

GFWM Siskovics was supposed to set off from Prerau (present-day Přerov) with his corps early on June 27. However, the two battalions of Haller Infantry got lost on their way from Kojetin to Prerau and finally arrived completely exhausted at Prerau only on June 27 at 8:00 a.m., after a march of 14 hours. Siskovics had to let them some time to recover before setting off from Prerau. He reached Alt-Libau (present-day Stará Libava) on June 28 in the evening. Therefore, Loudon had to sustain the first combats with the Prussian alone. On June 29, the combined corps of Loudon and Siskovics managed to destroy the Prussian convoy. This resounding success forced Frederick II, now deprived of proper supplies, to lift the Siege of Olmütz and to retreat, constantly harassed by Loudon's and Siskovics's Corps. On July 6, Siskovics reached Hohenmaut (present-day Vysoké Mýto) where he left his artillery pieces who could not be horse-drawn further. To guard his artillery, Siskovics left Haller Infantry (2 bns) and a battalion of converged grenadiers in Hohenmaut. Weather was very bad and continuous rain had made many roads impassable. Siskovics' troops had not received any bread ration since July 1. Siskovics wrote to FM Daun: “...Your Excellency can not imagine the distress of some unit...” On July 10, Loudon and Siskovics made a junction with a cavalry corps led by GFWM Saint-Ignon. Loudon and Siskovics then advanced to Borohrádek, leaving Haller Infantry (2 bns), a battalion of converged grenadiers and their heavy artillery behind in Chotzin (present-day Choceň) under Saint-Ignon. The Prussians marched in the direction of Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové) while Siskovics adanced towards Tinischt an der Alder (present-day Týniště nad Orlicí) with part of the infantry.

On August 1 of the same year, Siskovics, as part of the second promotion of the Maria Theresa Order, received the Knight Cross of this military order.

Siskovics got another opportunity to gain fame in the Autumn of 1758. On October 7, FM Daun's Austrian army encamped near the Saxon village of Kittlitz while Frederick II did the same in the neighbouring town of Hochkirch. In the early hours of October 14, launched a surprise attack against the Prussians in the Battle of Hochkirch. By 9:00 a.m., FM Daun had won one of his greatest victory. GFWM Siskovics' converged grenadiers formed part of the first line of the left column of the main army. They stormed the Prussian batteries planted in front of Hochkirch. During the heavy fighting which took place in the cemetary of Hochkirch, Siskovics was severely wounded once more and had to be carried by his grenadiers to the field hospital. After his recovery, Siskovics returned to the army and received command of the troops charged to guard the frontier in the area of Arnau (present-day Hostinné) during winter.

On January 9 1759, Josef Siskovics married Barbara Baroness Haurucker in Vienna. Their marriage produced no child. At the beginning of the campaign of 1759, Siskovics once more received command of the Grenadier Brigade. On November 20, his brigade formed the vanguard of Sincère's Corps at the Battle of Maxen. His vanguard consisted of:

During the battle, Siskovics' grenadiers climbed the icy slopes near Hausdorf, drove back the Prussians occupying the position, and made themselves masters of a few guns which they redirected against the Prussians. Maxen had to be evacuated. General Finck and 13,740 Prussian soldiers were taken prisoners. On November 9, Josef Baron Siskovics was promoted to Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (FML) in recognition of his successes of the last two years.

In 1760, Siskovics was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the General Staff and replaced [Lacy, Count Franz Moritz|Count Franz Moritz Lacy]] in this function, the latter having taken command of an army. In this function, Siskovics supervised the Stabsdragoner whose commander was Lieutenant-Colonel Friedrich Baron von Zeschwitz. Furthermore, Siskovics became Inhaber (owner) of the Jägerregiments zu Pferde established by Lacy in 1759. The latter regiment was under the command of Major Karl Baron Enzenberger. It belonged to the Pioneer Corps and was disbanded in 1763.

Till the end of the Seven Years' War, FML Siskovics served in the staff of FM Daun. On October 15 1762, upon the death of Josef Count Esterházy, Siskovics became Inhaber of the Joseph Esterházy Infantry. However, he did not join his regiment, preferring to leave command to Colonel Lumaga.

In 1763, FML Siskovics became member of the Hofkriegsrat (Court War Council). In the following years he mostly worked as military-political commissary in Transylvania, assisting the Military Governor Count Buccow (and later Count Andreas Hadik). Since 1762, Adolf Nikolaus Count Buccow was indeed in charge of the reorganisation of the Grenzer regiments. This reorganisation also included the integration into the system of the Székelys, a sub-group of Hungarian people inhabiting the Székely Land in present-day Romania who had till then enjoyed great privileges. This ultimately led to their rebellion in the winter of 1763-64. Siskovics was charged to suppress it. Even though he originally pleaded that only insurgents armed with muskets and pistols should be brought to justice, his angry soldiers slaughtered more than 400 civilians, including women and children, when they stormed the camp of the Székelys on January 7 1764. This massacre became known in history as the "Siculicidium". Many Székelys fled to the nearby Moldavia.

When Emperor Josef II created the new class of the Maria Theresia Order, Siskovics was one of the first of the tenth promotion, held on October 15 1765, to receive the Commander Cross of the order.

On January 25 1767, Siskovics was promoted to Feldzeugmeister (FZM) retroactively to December 18 1766.

In 1769, Siskovics was appointed General-Inspector of the border regions and entrusted with the reorganisation of the Grenzer regiments (reduction of strength, disbandment of the grenadier companies...). However, he did not sojourn at Karlovac like his predecessor but remained in Vienna, where he still had to assume his responsibilities as member of the Hofkriegsrat.

On October 13 1775, for his services during the reorganization of the Grenzer regiments, Siskovics was raised to the title of Imperial Count and simultaneously appointed military commander of Galicia.

On April 30 1779, Siskovics became military commander of Bohemia and established himself in Prague.

Josef Imperial Count Siskovics died in Prague at the age of 64. He was buried in the Chapel of St. Sigismund in St. Vitus Cathedral of the Hradschin in Prague where his beautiful tomb can still be seen nowadays.

Memorial stone of Imperial Count Siskovic in the Chapel of St. Sigismund in St. Vitus Cathedral of the Hradschin in Prague – Copyright: Správa pražského hradu, photo Jan Gloc
Text on the Memorial Stone
D. O. M.

MEMORIAE IOSEPHI COMITIS A SISKOWICS EX MAGNATIBVS HUNG.
ADOLESCENS BELLO TVRCICO ARTIS MILITARIS TIROCINIUM POSVIT
POSTEA OMNES MILITIAE GRADVS CVM LAVDE EMENSVS
BELLO BORVSSICO TERTIO LEGIONEM PEDITVM DVXIT
HOSTIBVS AD PLANIANUM VICTIS ET OLOMVCIO OBSIDIONE LIBERATO
MAGNUM VIKTORIAE INSTRVMENTVM FVIT
MOX SVMMIS IN MILITIA HONORIBVS ET INTER ORDINIS THERES. EQQ.
COMENDATORIS DIGNITATE AVCTVS
NOVIS SVBINDE IN REM PUB. MERITIS SVAM FIDEM ET PRUDENTIAM
M. THERESIAE AUG. ET IMP. CAES. JOSEPHO II. AUG. ITA PROBAVIT
VT EVM SIBI ESSE A BELLICIS ET SECRETIORIBVS CONSILIIS
DEINDE REI TORMENTARIAE SVISQVE IN GALICIA TANDEM IN BOHEMIA
EXERCITIBVS PRAEFECTUM VOLVERINT
VIXIT ANNOS LXIV. ALIIS MAGIS QVAM SIBI
HEROI CIVIBVS AEQVE AC MILITIBVS CARO
CHRISTIANI HOMINIS OFFICIUS EGREGIE FVNCTO
CONIVGI SVO DILECTISSIMO
BARBARA L. B. AB HARRUCKERN MAERENS PONI CVRAVIT


References

Janko, W. Edler v.: Laudons Leben, Vienna, 1869

Zum Säcular-Gedächtniss von 1758, Der Feldzug in Mähren, Frankfurt a. M., 1858

Thürheim, A.: FM Carl Joseph Fürst de Ligne, Vienna, 1877

Wrede, A. v.: Geschichte der k. und k. Wehrmacht, Vol. II., Vienna, 1898

Finke, E.: Geschichte des k.u.k. ungarischen Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 37 Erzherzog Joseph, Vienna 1896

Blazekovic, K.: Chronik des K. K. 31. Linien-Infanterie-Regiments, Vienna, 1867/69

Wurzbach, C. v.: Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Österreich, Vol. 35, Vienna 1877

Hungarian Wikipedia Siskovics József

Portrait: Collection of MILAK, Wiener Neustadt

Acknowledgements

Harald Skala for the initial version of this article