Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

1 June 1552 The fall of Veszprém castle

Before taking the castles of Nógrád County one by one, Pasha Ali nicknamed Hádim or the Castrated had made a detour during the end of the spring of 1552 towards Veszprém castle. He had to take care of the western threat before launching his large campaign: he did not want surprise coming from behind…

Pasha Hadim Ali of Buda

The source of this peril was Veszprém castle. The Hajdú soldiers of Veszprém castle made the Pasha of Buda angry in April. These Hajdú soldiers had assaulted the new Sanjak Bey of Székesfehérvár, Bey Hamza. Attacking a newly appointed Pasha was always great fun and good income on the Borderland because the soldiers were very badly paid by the Habsburgs. During their raid, the Hajdús were burning and looting the “Turkish” lands where the inhabitants were basically Hungarians. No wonder they had such a bad reputation in the 16th century.

Székesfehérvár fell in 1543

According to the Ottoman chronicler, Ibrahim Pecsevi: 
„The Padisah had given the Sanjak Bey position of Székesfehérvár to Bey Hamza. When he was heading there with a unit of Janissaries, a Hajdú unit of the Giaours (a derogatory term for a non-Muslim) of Veszprém attacked him near Kodvár. Agha Iliász, the agha of the Janissaries, was killed in the fight and all their baggage was taken. When Pasha Ali got word of the defeat, summoned his troops of Hungary and besieged the castle of Veszprém.” You can read more about the history of Veszprém here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/kingdom-of-hungary/veszprem/

Veszprém in 1593

The Hungarian chronicler, Istvánffy Miklós also wrote about this raid: 
„It was about the same days when the Serbian Hamza was heading to Székesfehérvár to take over its leadership that Suleiman had granted to him. Hamza had 200 riders and the same number of infantrymen and we set out from our post of a guard from Veszprém with our infantrymen against him. The battle was at night and it turned out quite unlucky for him because he was captured and a few decent janissaries were killed, too. There was among them Elezes who was also called the Angry, he was fighting with an enormous ax…he died because of a bullet. Ali was shocked when heard of the unexpected case of his friend Hamza so he called his commanders for a meeting and he decided to besiege the castle of Veszprém…because its garrison used to raid them often, killing the Turks and herding away lots of booties, slaughtering the travelers of the roads.” Note, 96% of the mercenaries who were in Ottoman pay in the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary were not Turkish but Albanian or Serbian, or South Slavic.

A Hajdú infantryman

It was how the Pasha set out to take the Castle of Veszprém for good. He began the siege of Veszprém on 20 May and the defenders surrendered it on 2 June. When the garrison was leaving under the promised safe conduct, they were either slaughtered or captured. 
How could he achieve it? 

 

At this time there was a change of captainship in Veszprém and the leader of the Hajdú soldiers, Vas Mihály, didn’t accept Pető Péter as his new superior officer. Also, they did not expect any Turkish attacks against Veszprém. They thought the enemy would attack the castles of Nógrád County, along with Szolnok and Eger castles. (Which they did in earnest, after taking Veszprém, though.) On top of that, the former Captain of Veszprém, Paksy János was not staying in the castle at the time of handing over the captaincy to Pető Péter. He visited his wife, and he was summoned to take over the command in Komárom castle.

Veszprém castle (Photo: Csendesmark)

It was when Ali arrived there with his 10,000 soldiers on 23 May. The defenders were indisciplined and few in numbers. There were only 30 riders and 200 infantrymen who were Hajdús. We know that the defenders were rather indisciplined, there were brawls and debates between the Hajdús and the castle guards. Let us remark that Veszprém was not among the largest forts and its walls were not too strong, either. 

Veszprém castle now

The Pasha immediately started to bombard the walls with his 10 great wall-breachers but the defenders fired back so effectively that they even hit the Pasha’s tent. So Ali deployed his cannons on another side and launched his attack from a different place. The castle was built on a great cliff and there was not enough earth and timber that the defenders could fill the gaps with. They soon got frightened of the bombardment and began to mutiny and to many of them deserted. They broke up the stores of the castle, stole the hidden treasures of the priests and the noblemen, and dropped the flags from the walls. However, these deserters were all captured and killed by the Ottoman Turks. 

King Habsburg Ferdinand I

King Ferdinand and his son, Miksa (Maximilian), couldn’t send reinforcement and Vas Mihály had only a few soldiers left. It is saddening, that the Viennese court got informed about the siege only on its 6th day. When the king heard of the siege, he kept sending his orders to his commanders, letters were sent to Pallavicini Sforza, Erasmus Teuffel, and to the Chief Captain of the Trans-Danubian Region, Nádasdy Tamás. Unfortunately, they could not summon an army before the end of the siege.

 

The Ottoman cannons made wide breaches on the walls and these couldn’t be repaired. Vas Mihály was frightened because of his rebelling soldiers and he had to start negotiations. Finally, he abandoned the castle under the terms of safe conduct. But the Janissaries attacked the guards when they were marching away on June 01, 1552. Almost all of them were slaughtered or captured. Vas Mihály was captured, too. Only a few of them could escape through the woods of Bakony hill. Székely Tamás, the leader of the negotiations between Vas and Ali was among the lucky ones.

The Borderland castles in 1580

Taking Veszprém, the Ottomans could break up the western line of castles of the Borderland. Their rule was extended over large areas of the Trans-Danubian Region. There were only a few strong forts left between the Ottomans and Vienna, these were Győr and Pápa castles. The smaller Hungarian castles like Csesznek, Ugod, Vázsony, Tihany, Sümeg, Csobánc could protect the land only against smaller raids. It was why King Ferdinand wanted to send an army immediately after the fall of Veszprém to take it back but the military situation crossed his plans.

Hungarian Hussars and Imperial foot soldiers, 16th century

Pasha Hádim Ali broke his oath and it made the members of the Valiant Order upset all along the Borderland. Perhaps it was the reason why Captain Szondy, the hero of Drégely Castle, decided not to surrender the small Drégely but chose to die and fight until the last man just like Losonczy in Szolnok during the same year.

You can read more about the heroic siege of Drégely castle on my page:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/dramatized-historical-writings/the-siege-of-dregely-castle-1552/

(Source: Gábor Szibler )

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