Military Wiki
Uskok War
Uskok War.png
Locations of important locations in modern-day Europe.
LocationNorthern shores of the Adriatic Sea
Result Many Uskok pirates executed or exiled, Austrian garrison installed to check Uskoks

 Republic of Venice
 Dutch Republic

 Kingdom of England

 Holy Roman Empire

  • Flag of Croatia Landesfarben.gif Kingdom of Croatia
Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
Pompeo Giustiniani
Don Giovanni de' Medici
Johan Ernst van Nassau-Siegen
Adam von Trautmannsdorf
Baltasar Marradas

The Uskok War, also known as War of Gradisca, was fought between the Austrian and Spanish on one side and the Venetians, Dutch and English on the other. It is named for the Croatian soldiers known as Uskoks used by the Austrians for guerrilla warfare.

Since the Uskoks were checked on land and were rarely paid their annual subsidy, they resorted to acts of piracy. Uskoks did not limit their attacks to Turkish vessels but also Venetian merchantmen were often attacked by the Uskoks (and later also attacked by Spanish corsairs). The Venetians tried to protect their shipping with escorts, watchtowers, and other protective measures, but the costs became too high: 120,000 Thalers annually in the 1590s, 200,000 in the 17th century, and 360,000 by 1615.[1] In December 1615, Venetian troops laid siege to Gradisca, located on the Isonzo River. Venetian-Habsburg tension increased and escalated into the Uskok War (1615–1618). The conflict was provoked by the activities of the Uskok pirates, stationed by the Habsburg rulers along their frontiers as part of their military border system. The pirates raided Venetian ships from harbours on the eastern Adriatic coast, within the domain of Ferdinand, Archuduke of Styria and future Holy Roman Emperor. Ferdinand was unwilling to stop their attacks, but instead used the Uskoks to exert pressure on Venice in an attempt to hinder the republic's ambitions in northeastern Italy. Ferdinand was aided by Spain, while Venice attracted Protestant assistance from, among others, the Dutch Republic. After the Uskok War, the bond between Venice and the United Provinces was finally formalized in an alliance. Ambassador Francois van Aerssen visited Venice in 1620 to ratify a treaty, signed the year before in The Hague, which entailed mutual assistance if one of the two republics were to enter into war with the Habsburg powers. Venetian relations with the Habsburgs grew less strained during the second half of the seventeenth century.[2]

The Venetians launched a major diplomatic campaign for allies, since the Uskoks were vassals of then-Archduke Ferdinand of Inner Austria, who was likely to seek help from the Holy Roman Emperor Matthias (his uncle) and King Philip III of Spain (his brother-in-law). In September 1616, Count John Ernest of Nassau-Siegen agreed to raise 3,000 men in the Dutch Republic for Venetian service. They arrived the next May, followed six months later by another 2,000 with a contingent of English volunteers. Support from the Spanish was prevented on sea by a flotilla of 12 Dutch and 10 English warships, and on land by the war in Mantua.[3]


First military events

The first military events started in January 1616 in Collio, where a garrison of Uskok and Segani was in favour of the Austrian faction. After the faction of Veneto gained an advantage in Mariano and after they placed the cavalry, they moved forward to Gradisca on 24 February 1616 and they encamped in Farra. The Venetian Republic, being powerful at sea, was the absolute master of the Adriatic, while Austria had only a small part of the coast of Trieste and Croatia, which was blocked by the Republic of Venice. Any vessel could pass this border without paying taxes and without holding a Venetian residence. In January 1616 in Collio, which was guarded by a Uskok and Segnana in Vipulzano and San Martino of Quisco. The Venetian troops left a detachment in the field of Mariano, and arranged the chivalry in Romans and Medea, who camped near Farra and were advancing on 24 February 1616 towards Gradisca. The siege lasted twenty-nine days. The Venetian fleet crashed in Trieste, whose garrison was reinforced by Captain Sebastian Zuech. The castle of San Servolo, the Karst Edge, had sacked two of Venetians infantry insignia are intercepted at the Rio Ospo from 240 German musketeers that causes them among a dozen killed and wounded. The administrator Benedict Lezze with 1,000 cavalry and infantry occupied the Venetian castle of San Servolo. Uscocchi and Croatian troops led by Wolfang Frangipane, Count of Tersato vicegeneral of Croatia, commandant of a military expedition came to Monfalcone on 26 November 1615 and plunder its territory.[4] The Venetian garrison that was restricted to shoot some guns from the fortress. On the Carso, Slovenia, and between Corgnale in today in today's Piedimonte, gathered 1,200 Croatian soldiers, 500 horsemen and 500 Uskoks, fronted by 3000 the Venetians led by Benedict Lezze administrator. The Duke of Savoy in Venice offered an alliance but the Senate refused. Carry out the raids and fires on the Karst of Trieste and Istria. The administrator of today Palmanova mobilize militias Savorgnan and Friuli and has 3,000 men with whom stood on the Isonzo and the raids began around the fortress of the Habsburg Gradisca. In the first phase of the war, action in Venice (troops left Palma) was characterized by the use of offensive forces, their mobility and surprise. The Archduke actively renounced to defend a number of cities (Cervignano, Aquileia, Castelporpetto, Maranutto, Mariano, Romans d'Isonzo, Cormons, Medea Sagrado), castles and villages - some of them surrendered to Venice to be attacked before - to stand stronger and more defensible positions. At this retreat, we must note, however, the offensive in Istria, where the Austrians broke easily going up to Pola, Duecastelli and Sanvincenti. Since rejected, the Uskoks plundered and destroyed the surrounding villages. The Venetian Loredan administrator then asked, and received, substantial reinforcements to defend the South from the incursions of Uskoks Istria. Parenzo e Rovigno sent the artillery, and weapons in Pola Valley and Duecastelli food and weapons. The militias were concentrated in Barbano (Istria) and Sanvincenti.

Battle of Zaule

Provveditore Benedetto da Lezze with a galley and a few smaller ships landed in the valley of Muggia. Venetians, with 6 squads guided by captain Fabio Gallo, occupies the saltpans Zaule and begins to destroy them. From the plateau karst intervenes Captain Daniel Francol, followed by the count of Trsat and the musketeers under Captain Sebastian Zuech. Venetians, caught by surprise, fled to the ships. The administrator Lezze cuts the saline bridges behind him, blocking the escape of his troops. The Venetian galleys opened fire with cannons, hitting both enemies and friends. Venetians lost some man, killed in action, some drowned and they lost also a flag. The Austrians had 10 casualties, including the voivoda Verdonoviz, leader of the Croats, who was killed by a cannon shot from a galley.

First Siege of Gradisca

Gradisca: View of the castle.

In 1616 the Venetians started defensive works for the siege in Farra and Gradisca. The archducal disturbed them with the chivalry from Gorizia and Lucinico. With three major culverins, four guns and three children culverins and other pieces on the side of Farra, damaging the walls and the buildings; and silenced the enemy artillery, except colubrina "Cerberus" from the castle. The assaults on the breaches were repulsed with heavy losses. The Venetians launched another futile assault in which only the courses differed. Giustiniani lifted the siege and retreated to Mariano. In September, Johan Ernst van Nassau-Siegen agreed to raise 3,000 men from the Dutch Republic for Venetian service. They arrived the next May, followed six months later by another 2,000 with a contingent of English volunteers. Support from the Spanish was prevented on sea by a flotilla of 12 Dutch and 10 English warships, and on land by the war in Mantua. Ferdinand only had 4,000 soldiers to defend Gradisca, but received military, political and financial support from the Spanish as part of a larger deal: Philip agreed to give aid against the Venetians and support Ferdinand as the next Holy Roman Emperor in return for the cession of Alsace, Finale Ligure and Piombino. This led to a negotiated settlement between Ferdinand on the Venetians in which many Uskok's pirates were executed or exiled, and a permanent Austrian garrison was installed in Senj.[5]

Battle of Lucenico

Pompeo Giustiniani was flanked by Francesco Ferrante and Martinengo de Rossi. Marcantonio of Manzano, the squadrons of cavalry Camillo Trevor and a group of Albanians resumed raids on the neck, killing 60 fighters and citizens of the castle of St. Florian and the surrounding area. Adam von Trautmannsdorf, received reinforcements, passed the Isonzo and strengthened Lucenico and Gradisca. The Venetians attacked Trautmannsdorf at dawn on three columns from Mariano, Corona, San Lorenzo and Mossa, led by Orazio Baglioni. Albanians left in the middle of the mercenaries Ferrante de Fulvio Rossi and Count of Porcia, the cavalry on the right of Francis Camillo Martinengo and Trevor, for a total of 4,000 men. The Albanians occupied the trenches on Lucinico but instead of advancing they plundered the dead soldiers, while the other columns were welcomed by a large fire, suffering heavy losses and were forced to retreat. The Venetians reduced military activities while the Austrians received reinforcements.

War in the Alpine Range

The superintendent Barbarigo was replaced by Antonio Priuli on the 2nd of June and obtained fresh Friulian and Dalmatian troops, strengthens the field fortifications and conducts diversionary raids in Istria, attracting opposing forces. The Austrians responded with other raids in Monfalcone. In Monfalconese armies face each extending the entrenchments. Choices and Albanian troops ran a strong Venetian attack Stella, on the heights in front of Fogliano, so named for its hexagonal shape, but are rejected by serious losses. The war extends over the mountains. The Venetians plunder the territories of Kobarid and Tolmin, Schmit, an English mercenary captain with 400 men, hired by the bishop of Bamberg, with as many regular Austrian took Pontebba on August the 8th. A counterattack led by Marcantonio of Manzano retook Pontebba e Malborghetto on August the 13th. Pontefract dealing with a sleight of hand, ed by militias and resume Pontebba Malborghetto, obtained by the cavalry led by James Antonini that plunders the surroundings of Tarvisio. The Venetians then fold up to Pontefract and strengthen defenses. Camillo Tevigiano with numerous Stradioti Cividale make a foray into the valley to Kobarid and Tolmin Soca. The Austrians, affected by the disease, lose a third of the militian, then retire on the left bank of the Isonzo. The Venetians occupied Lucenico, abandoned by their opponents. Even the last outposts repass the Austrian Isonzo infiltrating at night between the Venetian locations. Pompeo Giustiniani puts 4 guns and 2 culverin against Fort San Pietro (on Mount Fortin) and the bombardment began, prompting the captain Sibel to give the yield. The defense comes out with the honors of war.

Second Siege of Gradisca

In Monfalcone landed the Count John Ernest of Nassau with 4,000 Dutch mercenaries, bringing the Venetian effectives to 20,000 men. There arrived also some British volunteers. The Venetians were preparing for a massive advance on 1 June: Giovanni de Medici, and his head quarter moved to Monfalcone; Govanni Martinego from Mariano through Cassegliano reached San Pier d'Isonzo, the right wing of the cavalry led by Ferdinand Scotus from Mariano through Fratta and Monfalcone, reached Vermegliano, where he was0 joined by the infantry of Orazio Baglioni, the Dutch mercenaries advancing towards the heights of the Carso, the brothers Francis and Charles Strassoldo with 200 armor, 300 arquebusiers, two squadrons of horse and one of infantry took place between Farra and Mainizza and, joined by two large companies of horses, one from Cividale and one from Udine. At dawn on 2 June the Dutch occupied San Martino del Carso. The Austrians abandoned all positions between Gradisca and the heights, which were occupied by the Venetians. Camillo Trevigliano with a thousand men committed the Austrians in Gorizia. Six galleys bombed the castle of Duino. The following day on 3 June the Dutch overran forte delle Donne (on Monte San Michele) and after the arrival of artillery of Martinego they opened a gap. Afterwards, the 42 defenders surrendered. Two days after also the 400 men of the Fort Imperial surrendered to the Dutch in exchange for their free passage. The Venetians erected a few small reduits, placing forty pieces, and were prepared to launch the final assault to the park of Rubbia where the Austrians had their headquarters. Captains and civil began to evacuate the city of Gorizia, but on 6 June Henry of Nassau, refused to continue the assault because of the fatigue of his men. The Austrians revived and strengthened their defenses, but during an inspection on 7 June, Trautmansdorf was killed by a shot of artillery. He was succeeded by the Spanish Baltasar Marradas who made false matches to capture the Venetians, saying them that Gradisca was well equipped. The Austrians rejected an assault on the park of Rubbia on 9 June, tried again and again rejected on 12 June with Henry of Nassau, which is among the wounded, meanwhile, was able to bring food in Gradisca. There were also rejected the third slaught on 20 June and the attempt of winding through Merna, because of the resistance to the passage of the captain Melgruber Vipava. on 22 June.

The Venetians refrained from further offensive and intensified the blockade of Gradisca. The diseases reduced losses and their effects, the Dutch were halved. Austrian reinforcements arrived, led by Albrecht von Wallenstein. The Austrians advanced in three columns from Farra, Gradisca, and Gorizia and assaulted the camp of the Albanian militias of Camillo Treviglio, inflicting them heavy losses, including the commanders Marcantonio Manzano, Leonardo and Pietro Avogadro Gualdo. An Austrian column attacked the Venetians that blocked Fort Stella killing Orazio Baglioni. The Austrians also took over the trenches on Monte San Michele. Lando was saved with difficulty. Giovanni de Medici left the command for health reasons, replaced by Prince Luigi d'Este. During the night the Venetians raised other forces and batteries around Fort Stella, but Albrecht von Wallenstein managed to bring reinforcements and supplies to fort Stella.

[6] He used his wealth to win favour, offering and commanding 200 horses for Archduke Ferdinand of Styria for his war with Venice in 1617, thereby relieving the fortress of Gradisca from Venetian siege.[7] The aids already arrived in Gradisca, that was still besieged. Don Giovanni, in order to block the enemies' supplies coming from the "Vallone" (a valley), wanted to occupy Sdraussina and Fogliano (south of Gradisca), to cut the Austrian communications. The occupation of these villages, was planned in detail by Giovanni de' Medici on 25 August 1617, but was not carried on since it was reputed dangerous. So, the Austrians managed to bring relief to fort Stella from the Karst. [8]

Ferdinand only had 4,000 soldiers to defend Gradisca, but received military, political and financial support from Spain as part of a larger deal: Philip agreed to give aid against the Venetians and support Ferdinand as the next Holy Roman Emperor in return for the cession of Alsace, Finale Ligure and Piombino.[9] This led to a negotiated settlement between Ferdinand and the Venetians in which many Uskok pirates were executed or exiled, and a permanent Austrian garrison was installed in Senj.


Archival study of Istrian circumstances at the time of this warfares documents and supports a thesis that in the clash between Austrians and Venetians" a squadron ( banderijska ), and not an ethnic, consciousness was dominant; this was not sort of progressive struggle against foreign rule but an unfortunate manipulation of our people by foreign camps, " which subordinated the local warriors " to the interests of foreign powers and pushed the Croatians ( and to a lesser extents Slovenes and Italians ) into a brutal brother-killing-brother war ". Bertosa goes on to say that in the warfare of 1615-1287: 30-50 percent of Istria's inhabitants were killed or hauled off as captives, 90-99 percent of the livestock was destroyed, 60 - 90 percent of the houses were burned and destroyed, and 90 - 98 percent of the land was abandoned.[10]


At the front there was fighting but both sides yearned for peace. Ferdinand, already in anticipation of problems in Germany, wanted to break away from the commitment of the war with Venice. Venice although has not really been fully engaged in the conflict because of fear and of direct intervention by the Spanish - did not think the conflict would contribute to his cause.

The truce was signed on November 6 and the armies began to demobilize on 28, but the prolongation of the peace talks and their uncertain outcome suggested that the Netherlands were recruiting new contingents of soldiers would arrive in Venice.

In the "Treaty of Peace concluded through the mediation of Philip III of Emperor Matthias de 'Romans and King of Bohemia and Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and the Republic of Venice" (now known as the Preliminary Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Madrid) is resolved that the pirates are driven from the maritime areas belonging to the House of Austria. The Venetians, returned to their Imperial and Royal Majesty all the places occupied by them in Istria and Friuli.

The Venetians, however, emerged from the conflict head-on, getting what they wanted, namely the expulsion of Uscocchi by Mark and at the same time, the recognition of sovereignty over the Gulf, but the overall picture was bleak and the press indicate that during the first seventeenth century Friuli was in misery, famine, fever, livestock diseases and incursions of wolves.


  1. Parker, Geoffrey. The Thirty Years' War, 2nd edition. 1997. p. 36. ISBN 0-415-12883-8
  2. Trading places: the Netherlandish merchants in early modern Venice. brill. 2009. p. 32. ISBN 90-04-17543-1. 
  3. Parker, ibid. p. 36
  4. Carlo Morelli di Schönfeld (1856). Istoria della contea di Gorizia. Paternolli. p. 94. 
  5. "About: Uskok War". 
  6. Ripley, George & Charles Anderson Dana. (1858) The New American Cyclopaedia, D. Appleton and Company. pp. 185-189.
  7. Di Bert, Marino Vicende storiche gradiscane, Società Filologica Friulana, Udine, pp. 65-104.
  8. Caimmi Riccardo, La guerra del Friuli, Altrimenti nota come la guerra di gradisca o degli Uscocchi, ed. Goriziana 2007, pp. 164-165.
  9. Parker, ibid. p. 37
  10. Van Antwerp Fine, John (2006). When ethnicity did not matter in the Balkans: a study of identity in pre-nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the medieval and early-modern periods. University of Michigan Press. p. 219. 

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