Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

The Ottoman-Hungarian fights before the fall of Szendrő castle in 1439

Szendrő castle

The Ottoman-Hungarian fights before the fall of Szendrő castle in 1439.


 
In fact, this military conflict began in 1432 but in my opinion, we can talk about a 300-year-long prolonged warlike period. The enemy didn’t rest after the Battle of Nikopolis: the Serbian castle of Galambóc / Golubac fell to them in 1427 on the southern part of the Hungarian Borderland.

Galambóc / Golubac

Following some smaller raids, the Ottomans broke into Transylvania with a mighty army in 1432. According to some historians, it turned out to be the fifth Hungarian-Ottoman war, not the most victorious for us. The Turks outnumbered and crushed King Zsigmond’s 2,000 strong unit which was guarding the mountain passes.


 
The enemy pillaged all over southern Transylvania, taking thousands of slaves to the Balkans. Traditionally, these raids were softening up the attacked country, kind of preparing it for the conquest. So far, this warfare had worked well for the Ottomans in the Balkans. It is sad, that the Hungarian kings had been alienating the Balkanian nations since the age of King Louis I. If it was hard for the Hungarians between the Germans and the Turks, how hard it could be for the Serbians, Croatians, Albanians, and Bulgarians, having been caught between the anvil and the hammer? 

The southern line of Frontier Castles of Hungary in the 15th century

There were many raids in Transylvania in 1435 and in 1436 but the Ottomans’ main army tried to take the castle of Szendrő (Smederevo) in 1437 but the Hungarian-Serbian-Czech reinforcement, led by Szentmimklósi Pongrác chased them away for the time being. (Please, note that I am using the Eastern name order for the Hungarian names.) Also, it was the year when King Zsigmond died. His successor, King Habsburg Albert sat on the throne during the next two years. He was one of the few Habsburg rulers who were loved by his Hungarian subjects. It is important to note that he held his court in Buda, not in Vienna.


 
Seeing the good occasion, the Ottomans attacked again in 1439, broke into Transylvania, and besieged Szendrő (Smederevo) castle at once. Allegedly, Sultan Murad II had a 130,000-strong-army to destroy the first obstacle, Serbia. They could do it all the easier because the Hungarian armies had been weakened and held up by fighting a major peasant uprising started in 1437. That peasant war had so far the biggest in the kingdom’s history.

Szendrő / Smederevo

King Albert (still untouched by the plague that was going to kill him soon after this campaign) ordered the noblemen of the country to take up arms. Lord Hunyadi János and his younger brother were appointed as generals. You can read more about Hunyadi’s military education here: https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/the-military-education-of-hunyadi-janos/


 
While the troops of Sultan Murad were destroying the area as far as Temesvár Castle, the Hungarian army was gathering very slowly and unwillingly at Szeged. The Serbian Despot, György Barankovics had fled from Szendrő to Hungary, bringing along his treasures and wife. However, he left his son, Gergely in the besieged castle of Szendrő.

Durad Brankovic

King Albert moved out from Szeged and made camp at Titel at the end of August but he had only 24,000 soldiers. On top of this, his army was decreased because the Czech and the Polish attacked the northern borders and troops had to be sent back. Also, a disease broke out, decimating the troops. It was when they received the bad news that Gergely Barankovics, after valiantly defending Szendrő for three months, had to surrender on 27 August.

Szendrő / Smederevo

However, Sultan Murad had Gergely and his younger brother blinded, thus breaking his promise, then sent them to Asia. It was lucky for King Albert, that Murad didn’t take advantage of his victory and didn’t attack Hungary. Instead of this, he marched towards the rich city of Novoberdo to seize its silver mines. He forced the Bosnian ruler, King Tvarko II to pay him 25,000 gold as taxes in the future, 5,000 more than before. When autumn came, Sultan Murad returned to Edirne with lots of booty and slaves.


 
In the meantime, the Hungarian camp dispersed: barely 6,000 men remained with the king. Albert sent these soldiers to reinforce the borderland castles of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), Pétervárad, Szalánkemén, and Újlak. 

Hunyadi János (the painting was made in the 16th century)

After returning to Buda, King Habsburg Albert got sick and died in Neszmély on 27 October 1440.  His wife was pregnant with his son. As the king didn’t regard his queen, Erzsébet as a good ruler, he appointed Czech, Austrian and Hungarian guardians to help his heir. This Habsburg king liked the Hungarians and was loved by them.

It was the time when Lord Hunyadi János had to take the power in his hand to save the kingdom.


You can see King Habsburg Albert in the Chronicle of Thuróczi, painted in 1488:

King Albert (1488)

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