Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

13-15 September 1526, the Battle of Pusztamarót

Pusztamarót

It is very important to understand the historical period after the battle of Mohács (1526) and before the fall of Buda Castle (1541) that marked the Tripartition of Hungary that led to the creation of the formation I call the “Hungaries”: the Habsburg-ruled Kingdom of Hungary, the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary and the Principality of Transylvania. You can have an insight about the year 1526 if you read my article that explains how the Renaissance candle-holders of the Matthias Church of Buda ended up in Istanbul, in the Hagia Sophia that the Turks had turned into a mosque:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/masterpieces-of-art/the-renaissance-bronze-candlesticks-in-hagia-sophia/


 
Let us begin with a battle of Pusztamarót that was almost as big as the Battle of Mohács, and it is said that more Hungarian and Ottoman people had perished during this fight than at Mohács, just a few weeks before it. The Battle of Pusztamarót is worth talking about, not just because of the well-known and sad history of Dobozi Mihály and his wife, Lady Farmosi Ilona. (Note, that I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) There is a question that arises from this event taking place on 15 September 1526: would someone be able to kill his wife just as to save her from rape and slavery? That was what Dobozi did when fleeing after the battle. 

Dobozi Mihály and his wife (by Madarász Viktor, 1868)

Also, one may wonder why those 25,000-30,000 (or 16,000?) Hungarian peasants and noblemen fled to the hill of the Gerecse/Vértes Mountain instead of getting behind the walls of Buda castle? (Now, the exact location of the battle is still debated: previously it was thought that the battle was fought among the Pilis Hills, not far from Buda.)

Ottoman Deli riders

Was a wagonburg safer than the king’s castle? What if Queen Maria Habsburg hadn’t fled so rapidly from Buda after learning the bad news of the Battle of Mohács? Would she have opened the gates before the fugitives? Perhaps Sultan Suleiman’s troops could not have been able to take Buda without a fight. Or, seeing how the Turks struggled with putting down those fugitives at Pusztamarót, maybe the enemy couldn’t necessarily take Buda at all. Both Mohács and Pusztamarót might divert our thoughts toward seemingly far-fetched and unorthodox ideas.

The Vértes and Gerecse mountains in modern-day Hungary; in that time, Pusztamarót was told to be part of the Vértes, though

One might speculate how could the Queen have sent her husband, King Louis II to certain death? There are a few people who even think that Queen Maria Habsburg, albeit begging him not to go and to take her along with him, did want to see him dead. She insisted to give him her best bodyguard, the Czech knight called Ulrich Czettritz. Wasn’t he the knight who witnessed the death of the king and after the battle, led the Queen’s men to his swallow grave? Late posterity knows everything about King Louis’ death based on his tale. Wasn’t he murdered in 1526 on the Queen’s order? Didn’t Ferdinand Habsburg, Maria’s brother usurped the Hungarian throne shortly after this?

Ottoman conquest of Hungary before 1541

The Dual Kingship tore the kingdom apart between the Habsburg usurper and king Szapolyai, in the age of Ottoman peril. Hungarian historians are quite divided in telling who was the better king of the fatal Dual Kingship period, whether King Szapolyai or King Ferdinand Habsburg? One thing is for sure, Sultan Suleiman left the country in 1526 and returned in earnest only in 1541.

Habsburg Ferdinand attacks Hungary in 1527

But let us not run so forward with the events. After the battle of Mohács (29 August), the army of Sultan Suleiman set out on 2 September towards the Hungarian capital, Buda that they reached on 12 September. In the meantime, the Ottoman irregular troops, the Akindjis were destroying and burning the area around the River Danube. So far, the inhabitants have just known the Ottoman peril from hearsay but the sudden appearance and ruthlessness of these looters and raiders must have been a horrible experience. Note: many of the “Turks” were ethnically speaking not Turks at all. Read more about them here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/who-were-the-turks/

Akindji Deli Sinan’s duel with a Hungarian knight in 1526 at Mohács

Very few of the locals chose to fight back and resist, most of them fled or perished on the spot. The fleeing peasants tried to defend themselves in wagonburgs in the Mátra Mountain and in Bács but they were slaughtered. Only the fugitives at Pétervárad (Petrovaradin) were able to repel the Ottomans. Castles like Esztergom or Visegrád could also repel the enemy. In addition to this, there were several Hungarian, and Croatian armies still intact, not to mention the Transylvanian forces who had not been able to join King Louis II at Mohács. These troops were harassing Suleiman’s victorious army from all directions. after all, Hungary was not such an easy nut to crack.


The Ottomans were also stopped at Pusztamarót, a village near Esztergom that has long been missing from the map now. The peasants and city dwellers of the area, along with a few soldiers came together, bringing their families and valuables, animals. They built a wagon-fort (wagonburg) from their wagons and reinforced it with trees cut from the forest. It was connected to the fortified hunting palace of the Archbishop, many of them were hiding behind its weak walls as well. They dag trenches around the ad-hoc fortification that they flooded with water. It was an easily defendable place. They knew that the Ottomans had slaughtered another peasant camp at Herégy, not far from there already, and gave mercy to nobody. So they decided to fight until the last man.

wagons of the age

Many of the people fled from Buda and there were peasants from the villages of Tinnye, Zsámbék, Tárnok, Etyek, Bicske, Gyermely, and Csolnok. Many came from Fejér, Pilis, or Esztergom counties: peasants, burghers, and petty nobles alike. One of them was a nobleman from alcsótdoboz, he was called Dobozi mihály. Similar to him, most of the people had their wives and children with them. As for their number, we have two data available: Brodarics István mentions a crowd of 25,000 people while we can read in the letter of Zárai Jeromos, written at the end of October 1526, that there were 6,000 peasants. If we consider the latter information valid and add the family members to it, the approximate number could be 13-16,000 people which is also a significant number.


 
It was presumably the 12 September when the raiding Akindji riders discovered the camp. First, they offered free leave unhurt to those who would come out but it was not successful. Then, they attacked them but the number of the Turks was just a fragment of the defenders’. Moreover, the Hungarians had rifles and fought hard so the Akindjis were easily repelled. When the Turks received further reinforcement, launched a second attack but they were bloodily beaten back. Also, the Hungarians sallied more than once and killed many of the foes while doing so.

the Ottomans had many modern western cannons

The Turks launched several more assaults but in vain. Finally, they have asked for help from the main army of the Sultan which was in Buda. Their envoy must have arrived in Buda in the evening of 13 or in the dawn of 14 September because a strong Ottoman unit was marching out in the early morning towards Marót. The Sultan gave an order to take the fort by all means and gave 500-600 Janissaries and 5-10,000 cavalrymen along with some lighter cannons. These cannons were so-called Scorpions that could fire a cannonball that was 1.4 kilogram. This army arrived at the wagonburg about the time when the Sun rose on 15 September. They joined the Akindjies and attacked the camp at once. The artillery fire of the cannons and the shots of the Janissaries have been soon successful and the infantry took the wagonburg with a charge, suffering significant losses while doing so.

the Memorial Park at Pusztamarót

Gyöngyösi Gergely wrote a chronicle about the history of the Hungarian Paulinian monks and he mentions a high-ranked Turkish officer who died during this assault. He may have been the leader of the unit; Zárai Jeromos also mentions that the nephew of Grand Vizier Ibrahim was killed in this fight. The corpse of this popular officer was carried to Buda and he was buried there; his death was bitterly mourned by the Sultan, too. This, and many other casualties must have been the reason for the Turks to take revenge on the peasants: they gave no mercy and slaughtered everybody without exception. Only a few of them could break out and hide in the forest. Yet, captives were taken because they meant good money. The Ottomans looted and burned the wagonburg, just like the Archbishop’s palace and the village, then they returned to Buda.

Buda in 1530

According to a Hungarian legend, the case of Dobozi Mihály and his wife is connected to this event. Dobozi was a nobleman from  Alcsútdoboz (or Tabajd?), a village from the neighborhood. When the wagonburg was taken, he sat in his saddle with his wife and fled. He, like many others, was able to cut himself through the enemy. Yet, the horse was getting tired under the double burden and the pursuing Turks have almost got them. It was the time when Farmosi Ilona, the wife of Dobozi began to beg his husband to kill her. First, Dobozi didn`t want to hear about it but when there were only a few steps between them and the Turks, the woman suddenly jumped off the horse. It was why finally the husband has fulfilled her request; he stabbed his wife, then he faced his pursuers and died with a sword in his hand. The famous Hungarian poet Kölcsey Ferenc wrote a ballad about this in the 19th century and there were several Hungarian painters who created paintings about it.

Dobozi Mihály and his wife (by Székely Bertalan)

The Ottomans and the Hungarians suffered losses that were told to be larger than at Mohács. Many peasants and noblemen alike were slaughtered in the surrounding area, there are geographic names witnessing of it until today: Csonthalom (Bone-pile), Csontos oldal (Bony side), Halál völgy Death Valley), Leánytemető (Virgins’ cemetery), Véres föld (Bloody earth), Gyilok-földek (Killers’ grounds). Let us think of them when we visit those hills.

Source: partly from Szibler Gábor and Turista Magazin, Szádeczky-Kardos Géza, Kádár Tamás

Dobozi Mihály and Ilona, unknown painter

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