Spring 1541 Roggendorf besieges Buda but Suleiman takes it
Spring 1541 Roggendorf besieges Buda but Suleiman takes it
The fights around Pest
Let us start with the siege of Pest which began in March 1541. The Turks did not actually intervene in the new war between King Szapolyai János of Hungary and King Ferdinand Habsburg of Hungary until the spring of 1541, but they also led campaigns and attacks on the land of Hungary in 1539 and 1540.
After the death of King Szapolyai János (r. 1526-1540) in 1540, his part of the country should have passed to Archduke / King Habsburg Ferdinand (r. 1527-1564) according to the peace treaty signed two years earlier at Várad. As Szapolyai had a son shortly before his death, he ordered Martinuzzi Fráter György to change his will and named the infant János Zsigmond as his heir, a move supported by Sultan Suleiman I (r. 1520-1566), an ally of the king of East Hungary, who was interested in the disunity of the country.
After the treaty was breached, the Habsburgs launched a war against Szapolyai’s part of the country, during which they had already tried to take Buda once in 1540; Ferdinand then imposed a special tax of 1 Gold Forint and declared an insurrection (calling the noblemen to arms) at the beginning of 1541. For the Habsburgs, the capture of Buda was important because the envoy to Constantinople, Jeromos Laszky, had received news that Suleiman was planning a campaign against Hungary, and the capital was capable of bleeding out the Turkish armies, its modern defenses having been developed through a series of wars.
At the end of 1540 General Fels gave up the siege of Buda, but under the command of Varkócs György, Otto von Dischkau, and Bebek Ferenc he left 2,000 Moravian infantry, 1,000 Austrians, and 300 Hungarian Hussars. On his retreat, he also loaded Tata with guards and the boaters of the Danube remained in the area. You can read more details about this here:
The recapture of Pest was vitally important because it was in the immediate vicinity of Buda. And Queen Isabella, Szapolyai’s widow was staying in the castle with the infant king, János Zsigmond, who had been installed in his father’s place the previous year. Pest was to have been the bridgehead for a further siege, and Isabella, who was not a persistent and determined person, initiated secret negotiations with Habsburg Ferdinand through Bebek, one of Ferdinand’s commanders for the surrender of Buda. The Buda garrison was also tired from the fighting, so Fráter György asked the Turks for help. The Turks had already launched a fleet of 25 ships on the Danube, which was now covering the arrival of land troops marching toward Pest. Did the Sultan know about the Queen’s secret negotiations? You can read more about this here:
Mehmed, the Bey of Szendrő, arrived in Pest on 20 March to prepare for the siege. The castle’s defenders greeted the besiegers with cannon and rifle fire, and three hundred Hungarian cavalrymen charged out and successfully engaged the Ispahies. The guards of Buda Castle tried to help the Turks with fire support, but their troops did not take part in the fight against the town of Pest.
Mehmed had planned to attack from the direction of the Vienna Gate, and accordingly, he gathered a good part of his troops with the support of the Buda cannons. Between 21 and 22 March, the batteries overlooking the Danube, from the round bastion assisted the Turkish movements. The next day, Fráter György went by boat to the Ottoman camp, where he ordered the Turks to dig entrenchments and fire cannons and musketry into the walls, and the defenders counterattacked and could drive the Turks back.
As the Turkish army besieging Pest was not numerous, Perényi Péter, who was in Székesfehérvár, urged Ferdinand to attack as soon as possible. After all, if the Turks were defeated, they could bring the garrison of Buda to their knees. Ferdinand shared Perényi’s vision, but the Habsburg armies were slow to rally for a counterattack, which was not up to him. Here is more about Perényi Péter:
Bey Mehmed set the general attack for 25 March. In order to reinforce his artillery, Fráter György brought over from Buda 8 wall breaching cannons, two mortars, 4 falconets (light cannons) and boat cannons, and 300 hook guns, although not very suitable for shooting castle walls.
At a distance of 180 yards from the Vienna Gate, the Turkish batteries fired seventy-three shots at the wall with cannon balls of various weights. This artillery preparation was also supported by the cannons of Buda, which set fire to a few buildings. However, the artillery fire of that day did not cause any major damage to the walls, but the next day the walls of the fortress in Pest received 157 rounds and they managed to make a major breach.
As this was not enough, 337 shots were fired on 27 March, and six falconets shed fire from Gellért Hill, which helped to bring down a four-and-a-half meter section of the wall. The Turkish army then launched an attack, but the Bohemians managed to repel them from the gap. During the attack, the Vienna Gate was blown up, but mainly because of the determined defense of the Czechs, the Turks refused to attack, even in spite of threats from their commanders.
Between 28 and 31 March, six hundred and six shots were fired, widening the gap. Between 1 and 3 April, several successive attacks were made, and on one occasion they penetrated into the suburbs, where they were repulsed from behind entrenchments by Austrian infantry. After further failed attempts, the order to retreat was issued on 4 April, but before that, the Bey of Szendrő held a meeting with Fráter György at Rákos, where he urged his Hungarian allies to obey unconditionally.
Ferdinand ordered fifty war boats to be equipped in Vienna to help the army which was defending Pest. The squadron set sail with a battalion from Lower Austria under the command of Niklas Salm the Younger and Wilhelm von Roggendorf, but by the time they arrived the army of the Bey of Szendrő had retreated to Kalocsa.
In the first days of April, another army was also preparing in Constantinople for the campaign against Austria. The first wave of this campaign was led by Bey Mehmed, while the second was formed by Rustem Pasha with three thousand Janissaries and a large cavalry troop, joined by the Rumelian army under Ahmed Pasha, and the vanguard was completed by 300 cargo ships and 200 war boats. On reaching the Szerémség (Sirmium) region, they camped and accompanied the siege. The Ottoman army stayed in place and took part in the reinforcement of Buda at the end of August.
Von Roggendorf, in preparation for the new siege of Buda, launched his troops in May. He closed the roads from which food could have been brought into the castle and even threatened the death penalty for anyone who dared to bring food or any other supplies into the Ottoman-Hungarian-held castle. Thus, another struggle started at the beginning of May, which resulted in the capture of Buda, not by the Austrians, but by the Turks: on 4 May 1541, the Habsburg troops led by General von Roggendorf began the siege of Buda against the pro-Szapolyai garrison led by Fráter György.
The fights around Buda
We have seen, that as a prelude to the siege of Buda, Niklas von Salm and his troops from Lower Austria tried to cut off the supply to the castle in mid-April. In the meantime in the northeast, the Upper-Hungarian captain Serédy Gáspár captured Tokaj, so the encirclement of the royal city began. The elderly Wilhelm von Roggendorf was the commander-in-chief of the campaign against the castle, but he was reluctant to take on the task, having already failed to take the castle in 1530. Learn more about the history of Buda here:
In addition, when the siege began on 4 May, Roggendorf was faced with a number of new rondels and bastions, which had also provided a secure water supply for the city since 1530. At the beginning of the siege, Ferdinand traveled to Regensburg to seek Imperial help against the Turkish threat and obtained a promise from the Imperial noble estates to raise an army of 12 000 men. In the meantime, Bey Mehmed’s army of 50,000 men had also marched to support the defenders, but the Turkish army was still stationed in the Szerémség region at the start of the siege, awaiting developments. Roggendorf began firing on the castle from the Vienna Gate and Gellért Hill on 4 May and destroyed the brick tower protecting the water supply in the first days.
The German general had an army of about 27,000 men, consisting of Bohemian and German infantry, Hungarian cavalry led by Perényi Péter, the Venetian boatmen of Záray Jeromos, and about 40 cannons. The castle, on the other hand, had only 2,400 defenders, commanded by Fráter György, but also Werbőczi István, Petrovics Péter, and Queen Isabella, whose estates in the Szepesség (Spis / Zipt) region of north Hungary were attractive enough for her to want to surrender the castle from the start. Roggendorf tried to obtain capitulation through the queen, but to no avail, and May was spent with an artillery battle with no conclusive results.
On 2 June, Perényi and Záray, together with German infantrymen, led three attacks against the southern walls and entrenchments that had been previously destroyed by cannon fire but were repulsed on each occasion. Roggendorf then attempted to use mines, but his plan was foiled by counter-mines from the castle, and on 10 June the Crimean Tatar-Turkish forces arrived and, setting up on Csepel Island, pressed the besiegers, often harassing Ferdinand’s troops with their irregular troops. Meanwhile, Isabella took action and tried to get Roggendorf’s troops into the castle on the night of 14 June, but the citizens recognized the German soldiers’ speech and chased them out of Buda. Read more about the life of Fráter György and find out why he disliked the queen so much:
The Sultan’s army left Constantinople only five days after the queen’s unsuccessful betrayal, while a great epidemic broke out among the castle’s defenders because of the famine. However, in early July, Bey Mehmed managed to get food into the castle, and the siege became hopeless for Roggendorf. In the meantime, the Hungarian defenders of the castle tried to dissuade the Hungarian troops of the attacking army from further fighting, saying that Suleiman’s army would sweep them away (the Hungarian defenders later rescued their compatriots).
In the final days of the siege, after 20 August, Perényi and Roggendorf wanted to launch a general attack, but the old German general held back, saying he wanted to wait for Imperial help. However, the battle had already begun, but the general wanted to regroup his troops in Pest, so he moved them across the Danube by boat bridge. During the march, Perényi’s horsemen broke off from the procession, causing confusion and prompting the Turks to attack. The result was a headlong flight of Bohemian and German infantrymen, resulting in the loss of some 7,000 men, and Roggendorf himself was seriously wounded before reaching Komárom, where he died soon after. Not counting the 7,000 soldiers, the Habsburg army suffered 16,000 casualties during the siege and was virtually annihilated, Suleiman arrived under a liberated Buda on 22 August. He let the Hungarians of Roggendorf leave undisturbed, though. Could the Sultan afford to let the queen betray his Hungarian allies again?
The Turks found 36-40 cannons and 50 barrels of gunpowder in the camp and took the Germans’ entire camp equipment as well. Nevertheless, the armies of the Sultan ravaged Pest, the surroundings of Buda, and even went as far as Nyitra in the north of Hungary, and Suleiman thought that for the third time after 1526 and 1529, he would not be generous enough to give Buda out of his hands: during the negotiations with the nobles of Szapolyai János’s party, on 29 August his Janissaries captured the castle by trickery. The Sultan then gave the eastern part of the country into the hands of Isabella and the minor János Zsigmond, in return for 10,000 Gold Forints a year in taxes, so the ‘laughing third’ benefited from the siege of Buda, making the royal city the key to Hungary and the center of the Ottoman Empire for 145 years. Let us remark, at that time the Turks were not strong enough to conquer eastern Hungary just yet: and anyway, Suleiman wanted to go westward to pick his long-desired Golden Apple, Vienna.
Sources: Ezerszínű világ, Rubicon (Author: Tarján M. Tamás)
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