1653-1657: A Bittersweet Victory
The peace would only last for less than two months as in early September, Talken decided to press his claims on Ottoman Sieradz.
While the Ottomans had over forty thousand men in their small Polish exclave, generals Franz Brach and August Talken responded with more than seventy thousand men in all as well as their superior leadership abilities. Brach, in particular, was extremely successful.
By early December the Ottoman Polish provinces were occupied and their local military presence eliminated. Also, all of their Mediterranean ports were under Brunswicker blockade.
But despite the strong position, the war was far from over. In fact, there was a bit of a stalemate: the Ottomans had no way of properly threatening Brunswick, but applying any additional pressure was difficult for Brunswick as well.
This changed in the autumn of 1654. Bohemia attacked Krakow, which was under Brunswicker protection, and decided to grant the Ottoman troops passage through their country, presumably hoping that the Turks would keep Brunswick busy.
Bohemia had made a severe miscalculation. The military access ploy only led to more Ottoman casualties, and their own war effort didn't fare much better. Any major Bohemian armies were obliterated by Talken and Brach.
By the end of January 1655 the Bohemian heartland was under Brunswicker occupation and the enemy had no choice but to accept Talken's peace terms. Bohemia would have to give Styria its independence again.
With that war over, Brunswick could only guard the borders, intercepting any Ottoman forces that tried to enter.
Talken wasn't sitting idle however. With Lithuania ravaged by war, many in the capital yearned for Brunswicker rule, and the Syndic was happy to work this into a claim.
Nothing would be done immediately as Talken didn't want to hamper Lithuania's current war effort - it was against Bohemia, and the Lithuanians seemed to be winning. In fact, Bohemia would end up losing Transylvania in the conflict.
But it turned out that the choice between war and peace wasn't Talken's to make. Austria and its allies, including Lithuania, attacked Styria in July despite Brunswick's protection.
This war wasn't much of an issue as the enemy coalition was relatively weak. General Talken took his army to the Austrian front, making sure that the only opposing nation with decent forces was properly taken care of.
Separate peace deals were quickly signed with many of the smaller participants. Most of them consisted of nations giving up claims on Brunswick's lands, but the Lithuanian deal forced the rebirth of Yaroslavl in the province of Pskov.
While the Austrian side didn't seem to stand a chance against Brunswick, a distinct lack of resilience led to a loss of land for Styria. They reached peace with Austria in September, with Austria gaining Lienz, before Brunswick's forces could liberate the province.
The death of Christian Franz Wassman in October left Brunswick's fleet without a skilled leader, but fortunately the Ottoman blockade was going well enough that no new naval planning was needed at the moment.
Important steps were taken in the late month: Austrian king Franz I was humiliated on the battlefield by general Talken, leading to the king accepting a peace deal that gave Brunswick a small indemnity. Perhaps more importantly, general Brach had taken advantage of the Austrian war and marched his men into Ottoman territory in Slavonia.
Osijek fell in early December, and the apparently successful war effort gave Syndic Talken the boost he needed in the imminent election. Minor battles took place in early 1656, and Banat was taken in March. Meanwhile Austria continued its rejuvenation, reconquering Tirol.
General Talken, having snuck through Austrian territory to the Ottoman lands, led Brunswick's troops there into a victorious battle against the combined forces of Serbia and Bosnia. With those armies out of the picture, the province of Bosnia was taken in June, followed by Hum in August.
While the prolonged campaign went on, there were some developments of interest on Brunswick's borders. Most importantly, Novgorod was annexed by Sweden, giving Brunswick a new land border with their perennial punching bag.
By the late year, the Ottomans were starting to run into the same problems that the British had grown to know so well in wars against Brunswick. The mounting casualties and increasing amounts of war-torn land were turning their subjects against them, leading to some unrest in the nation. Syndic Talken tried to talk sense into the Turks, but to no avail.
So the war had to go on. Serbia, Kosovo and Oltenia were occupied in October, November and December, respectively.
However, not all went well in Oltenia. General August Talken, the Syndic's brother, caught a terrible fever in the cold of January 1657 and perished.
The Syndic was furious: if not for the Ottomans' stubbornness, his dear little brother would still be alive. General Brach retook command of the army and pushed through with a new level of purpose. Nis fell in March, followed by Macedonia in April.
It was Macedonia's demise - Brunswick entering their rich heartland, obviously fueled by anger - that made the Ottoman Sultan realize that things could not go on like this or his nation would be in ruins. Ottoman Northern Europe was ceded to Brunswick.
Finally, Brunswick's Baltic holdings were properly connected to the rest of the country. For Karl Talken it was a bittersweet moment. He had accomplished what many before him had striven for, but at a high cost personally.
At least August had not died in vain.