1521: the fall of Szabács, Zimony, and Nándorfehérvár castles
Daily Hungarian Heroes: Simon Logodi and András Torma
(Written by Gábor Szibler, translated by Gábor Szántai)
Many important forts of Hungary’s southern Borderland were seized during the great campaign of Sultan Suleiman in 1521, fortrests like Szabács, Zimony and Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade). Suleiman’s army was so big that it enabled him to lay siege on two important castles at the same time.
The Rumelian army went to besiege Szabács Castle where were only a couple of hundred Hungarian and Serbian defenders while the Rumelian Begler-Bey, Ahmed, had 25,000 men. Most of them were soldiers from the Balkans and just a small part of them were Turks. According to the habit of the Valiant Order, there were two captains in the castle, Bán (Duke) Simon Logodi and Bán András Torma decided to fight to the last man and they made their soldier swear the same oath.
The siege began on 20 June and soon, the outer castle was so damaged that it became beyond save. The defenders got stuck into the inner castle and during the bloody fight their number was reduced to 70. In the end, they have run out of all their gunpowder, their cannons and guns became silent. They could have escaped towards the Száva River but they chose to make a heroic last stand. The last assault of the Turks was launched on 7 July. The last members ofthe garrisson was getting ready for their last battle on the market of the castle. They all died a heroic death in the following cruel fight.
Suleiman arrived in the last moment so he was able to see the fall of the castle. The Rumelian Army had suffered great losses during the siege of Szabács. It was a nice example to the valiant sacrifice of the Hungarian and Serbian soldiers. We can see similar examples of self-sacrifice in the cases of Drégely and Szigetvár Castle only later in 1552 and 1566.
Daily Hungarian Hero: Balázs Oláh
(Source: Gábor Szibler, translation: Gábor Szántai)
Balázs Oláh used to be the one who held the defence of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) in his hands during the siege in 1521 because the two Báns (Dukes) Ferenc Héderváry and the child Bálint Török had left the fort. As a result of this, the task of the defence went to the two vice-Báns, Balázs Oláh and Mihály Móré.
Grand Vizier Pasha Piri Mehmed arrived to Nándorfehérvár at the beginning of July but the real siege began in earnest only after the taking of Szabács Castle in the middle of the month. By the end of July, Sultan Suleiman has also arrived from Szabács (Sabac) Castle. Nándorfehérvár Castle has been surrounded by all sides by this time.
The number of the defenders was 700 men and the Hungarians were supported by the Serbian inhabitants of the city, along with a unit of boaters on the Danube River. Unfortunately, they had not enough gunpowder, artillery nor food in the fort.
They could hope for only the arrival of King Louis II`s reinforcement but everybody knew that the castle would fall by the time the reinforcement could come together at all.
The defenders were able to beat back the attacks of Pasha Piri. They harrassed the Ottoman artillery by charging out: they nailed in the cannons and once they got hold of some heavy siege-cannons as well. They were digging anti-mines to prevent the Turks` attempts to blow the walls up by their mines. When the neighboring Zimony Castle fell, the Turks could bombard the walls from the side of the Danube River but the defenders repaired the breaches again and again. Their morale was also growing by an by because they repelled the assaults of the Pasha repeatedly.
But the Sultan arrived on 31 July. He sent Pasha Ahmed to take up positions from the Zimony-side of the besieged castle. Ahmed soon took the so-called Cigány-island which was immediately near to the walls and could shot the weaker walls from close range. Thus, he could decrease the efficiency of the defenders because they had to pay attention to a longer part of the walls. In spite of this, the Jannissaries suffered huge losses during the assault on 2 August when they were beaten back again.
Although the Turks could explode two mines and were able to ruin the city wall on the following day, their assault has been repelled again. The Turks launched an overall attack from all sides against the city on 8 August and the defenders could not stop them. The Ottomans took the city and were able to bombard the so-called „water-castle” which fell on that evening. After this, the defenders were desperately fighting them from the inner castle and forced the Jannissaries to withdraw with bloody heads.
The Sultan gave his order to carry out a sistematical siege against the inner castle and the walls were being shot for days and the mines were getting ready. A woman escaped from the castle on 15 August and she betrayed the number of the defenders to the Turks so they launched an attack on the next day. Although the soldiers of Pasha Piri and Pasha Mustafa withdrew, the men of Pasha Ahmed could penetrate as far as the market-place of the castle and they were pushed out from there only after a huge bloodshed.
The situation in the castle was getting worse and they had no water nor food; one of the vice-captain deserted the castle and betrayed the weaknesses of the defenders to the Turks. In the meantime, the Hungarian Palatine and his army had come into the Szerémség Area but didn`t dare to engage into battle with the army of the Sultan. Hearing of this, the Sultan demanded Balázs Oláh to surrender the castle on 25 August. The Captain has refused it. Then, he could face the next assault only with his remaining 400 warriors and he has managed to beat the Jannissaries out of the castle again on the 26 August. Next day, the Turks had a mine exploded under the Kőles tower, breaking a long and huge breach.
The coming assault could have not been stopped, Captain Oláh got wounded and he withdrew with his surviving 72, mostly injured soldiers into the inner palace, along with the remaining Serbian inhabitants. This last Turk attack was beaten back only by the heroism of Miklós Káldi who cut off the head of a Turkish Bey.
Oláh, running out of gunpowder and food, had to agree to negotiate. Suleiman offered him that he could leave unharmed.
He received the heroic captain and his soldiers on 29 August and offered them to join the Sultan’s army. Having received their denial, the Turks had them transported to the opposite bank of the Danube. There, the soldiers of the Bosnian Bey attacked them and slaughtered almost everyone of them. The sultan had the Serbian inhabitants re-settled in Istanbul.
(In the picture: a drawing of Nándorfehérvár, made in 1522, and a picture of Sultan Suleiman when he was executing Serbian prisoners by his war elephants after taking the town.)