Modern History Sourcebook:
Sir William Eton:
A Survey of the Turkish Empire, 1799
It is undeniable that the power of the Turks was once formidable
to their neighbors not by their numbers only, but by their military
and civil institutions, far surpassing those of their opponents.
And they all trembled at the name of the Turks, who with a confidence
procured by their constant successes, held the Christians in no
less in contempt as warriors than they did on account of their
religion. Proud and vainglorious, conquest was to them a passion,
a gratification, and even a means of salvation, a sure way of
immediately attaining a delicious paradise. Hence their zeal for
the extension of their empire; hence their profound respect for
the military profession, and their glory even in being obedient
and submissive to discipline.
Besides that the Turks refuse all reform, they are seditious and
mutinous; their armies are encumbered with immense baggage, and
their camp has all the conveniences of a town, with shops etc.
for such was their ancient custom when they wandered with their
hordes. When their sudden fury is abated, which is at the least
obstinate resistance, they are seized with a panic, and have no
rallying as formerly. The cavalry is as much afraid of their own
infantry as of the enemy; for in a defeat they fire at them to
get their horses to escape more quickly. In short, it is a mob
assembled rather than an army levied. None of those numerous details
of a well-organized body, necessary to give quickness, strength,
and regularity to its actions, to avoid confusion, to repair damages,
to apply to every part to some use; no systematic attack, defense,
or retreat; no accident foreseen, nor provided for...
The artillery they have, and which is chiefly brass, comprehends
many find pieces of cannon; but notwithstanding the reiterated
instruction of so many French engineers, they are ignorant of
its management. Their musket-barrels are much esteemed but they
are too heavy; nor do they possess any quality superior to common
iron barrels which have been much hammered, and are very soft
Swedish iron. The art of tempering their sabers is now lost, and
all the blades of great value are ancient. The naval force of
the Turks is by no means considerable. Their grand fleet consisted
of not more than seventeen or eighteen sail of the line in the
last war [Russo-Turkish war of 1787-92], and those not in very
good condition; at present their number is lessened.
The present reigning Sultan, Selim III, has made an attempt to
introduce the European discipline into the Turkish army, and to
abolish the body of the Janissaries. [He has] caused a corps to
be recruited, set apart a branch of the revenue for their maintenance,
and finally declared his intention of abolishing the institution
of Janissaries. This step, as might be expected, produced a mutiny,
which was only appeased by the sultan's consenting to continue
their pay during their lifetimes; but he at the same time ordered
that no recruits should be received into their corps. The new
soldiers in the corps are taught their exercise with the musket
and bayonet, and a few maneuvers. When they are held to be sufficiently
disciplined, they are sent to garrison the fortresses on the frontiers.
Their officers are all Turks and are chosen out of those who perform
their exercise the best.
From: Sir William Eton, A Survey of the Turkish Empire (London, 1799), pp. 61-62, 68-75, 98-101.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton
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