Hunyadi at Szendrő, 1439

Szendrő castle (Photo: izglad)

While the Hungarian army was idly waiting for reinforcement at Titel, Szendrő castle was desperately defended by Lord Gergely, the son of Barankovics. As King Habsburg Albert, the Hungarian king was the liege-lord of Barankovics, Lord Gergely was waiting for his help.

You can read here why King Albert was not able to send help:

There were only a handful of warriors, led by the young Hunyadi János (1407-1456) and his brother who were harassing the enemy, saving at least some of the reputation of the Hungarian arms. Hunyadi boldly ambushed the Ottomans who were besieging Szendrő and managed to demolish smaller units. Although he could not save the castle, he was able to make a name for himself.

At the siege of Szendrő, Hunyadi had only one hundred heavily armored cavalrymen and he was continuously moving between four Borderland castles, attacking the looting enemy wherever he found them. Later, his small army was doubled and he could mobilize some of the soldiers from the king’s garrisons, too.

After the king left for home, it was almost entirely Hunyadi and his younger brother’s deed that the southern chain of Borderland castles was not overrun by the enemy. Without their desperate efforts, this defense system could have been wiped out.

Although King Albert left behind 6,000 soldiers who were placed into the almost empty forts, they would not have been enough to stop the raiding parties of Sultan Murad. Hunyadi’s mobile cavalry was most needed. Hungarian soldiers had learned in the earlier stages of the Ottoman wars that defending a castle cannot be done by simply sitting behind stone walls. “A castle can be defended only in the field.” – it was their saying. The southern Borderland had to be defended between Orsova and Belgrade / Nándorfehérvár now.

Here is more about the history of Belgrade / Nándorfehérvár:

Also, the Bosnian king had to endure more pressure from the Ottomans. But it was obvious that without Hunyadi’s efforts, a greater disaster would have happened. King Albert quickly appointed him to the Bán (Duke) of Szörény, thus elevating him to the rank of the baron. He became a Flag Bearer of the country, though his properties were very still small compared to the powerful barons like Cillei or Garai.

Having arrived at Buda, King Albert agreed with his barons to attack the Ottomans next year. He had to make a promise to bring in more mercenaries from abroad. Very cleverly, the barons realized that the traditional feudal army which was made up of noblemen was a disaster while only Hunyadi’s mercenary-based troops could achieve anything in the Temes area. The king took their advice and set out to Vienna but as we know, he died before getting there.

Hunyadi was not content with his new rank and wanted to rise higher. He gained more reputation by repeatedly attacking the Sanjak of Vidin with his small army. Vidin was the center where the Ottoman raiding parties usually had set out against Hungary. He managed to clean the area of these marauding irregular and Akindji riders.

These victories are usually not listed and are not mentioned while we are talking about his military career. Yet, after King Albert’s death, they were symbolically speaking great deeds, particularly in the time of feudal anarchy when the noblemen of the kingdom were busily killing each other to find a new king. Hunyadi showed that there is somebody who dares to fight against the enemy. He not only stopped the Ottoman attacks but was able to force them back with his counter-attacks.

Hunyadi’s statue in Buda

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