13 April 1690 The retaking of Kanizsa castle

Kanizsa castle in the 17th century

Kanizsa castle used to be a very important Borderland castle of the South Trans-Danubian Region. It was taken by the Ottoman Turks in the autumn of 1600 and became the center of an Elayet, an Ottoman administrative district. In Hungary, there were six Elayets: Buda (1541), Temesvár (1552), Eger (1596), Nagykanizsa (1600), Várad (1660), Érsekújvár (1663). You can read more about the fall of Kanizsa here: 


The castles in Ottoman hands in Hungary
The conquerors launched many raids from Kanizsa, targeting the lands of the Muraköz, the land around the Mura River which was owned by the Zrínyi (Zrinski) family. They also reached Slavonia and Zala-Vas counties but they often ventured to send raiding parties to the inner parts of Austria, too. We know that these military actions were an integral part of Ottoman warfare: the enemy had to be deterred by plundering and burning. It was how the enemy’s land was “softened up” before conquering it. As the villages around a Borderland castle were wiped out, the Christian castle was isolated and cut from its supplies. Besides, it was a good income.
Raiders in action…
Kanizsa was so important that after a year of its fall, Archduke Ferdinand of Styria (later King Habsburg Ferdinand II) tried to take it back. However, his campaign failed. As we can recall, the famous Winter Campaign of Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski) in 1664 was launched because he wanted to set the circumstances of the siege of Kanizsa by burning the bridge of Eszék (Osiek), thus cutting the Ottoman logistic lines.
We know, that the Emperor sabotaged it because he issued his order of attacking Kanizsa too late. Then, the Christian army quit the siege of Kanizsa after a month because the Ottomans succeeded in rebuilding the bridge of Eszék and their reinforcement was coming. Here is more about the siege of Kanizsa in 1664 and Zrínyi’s famous war which is still being taught in military faculties all over the world:
After this, military activity ceased for a few decades around Kanizsa. It was attacked again only during the Reconquest Wars of Hungary, after taking Buda, Belgrade, Székesfehérvár, and Eger castles. Kanizsa was firmly held, though, even though the Trans Danubian Region had been liberated as far as the Dráva River. Even Szigetvár castle fell to the Imperials in the spring of 1689. Here you can watch a short video with English subtitles about the Reconquest War:


The Reconquest Wars of Hungary

The Viennese Military Council began to discuss the retaking of Kanizsa after 1689. They did not want to lose many soldiers so they decided to starve the castle out. The Emperor sent General Heister and Batthyány II Ádám, Chief Captain of the Captaincy of Trans Danubian Region, along with Colonel Zichy István and Colonel Inkey János against Kanizsa in January 1690. They had about 60,000 men under their command. They took the smaller fortifications around Kanizsa, then the blockade began.

Donat Heister (1648–1696)
The Ottoman defenders could receive no more food, and their supplies were rapidly declining. When they sent a letter for help to the Bosnian Pasha and to the Grand Vizier, the Christians caught the messages. This way, the Imperials were well informed about the defenders’ morals. Batthyány wanted to quicken the process a bit and he sent a letter in the Turkish language to Pasha Mustapha who was in command of Kanizsa castle.
In his letter, he outlined the real military situation, revealed how hopeless the Sublime Porte was, and pointed at the victories of the Christian armies. He described how futile it was to defend the wooden fort of Kanizsa anymore. He added, that the Turkish garrisons of Eger, Fehérvár, and Szigetvár were allowed to march away in peace but he did not deny that the stubborn defenders of Érsekújvár, Buda, and Vidin were all put to the sword.
Batthyány Ádám (1662-1703)
 But the Turks of Kanizsa replied with cannon fire to the letter. The besiegers duly shot back but the captured Ottoman letter careers were all returned to the castle just to show how hopeless their mission had been. The defenders disregarded all demands of surrender and sallied from the castle, trying to send one more envoy to the Grand Vizier and to the Bosnian Pasha. Yet, the Hussars captured Hussein, the envoy.
They learned from the letter he carried that Kanizsa would be doomed before Easter if they did not receive any help. Hussein did not want to betray any information about the castle and he was beheaded as a punishment. His head was placed on a stake at the gate of Kanizsa, with the following script on it: “You, Agha of Kanizsa had sent me out to bring help to this besieged castle. As I could not find any help on this Earth, I left for the other world to seek it.”
Kanizsa (now: Nagykanizsa)
The Ottoman Turks noticed their unfortunate fellow soldier’s head at dawn, and it was very saddening to them. They understood that they could send no envoy anymore. The soldiers and the inhabitants were on the fringe of rebelling. To save more food, the Pasha released most of the Christian prisoners of war. The captives arrived in the Christian camp and they said that the defenders could not keep the castle for long. Hearing this, the general repeated to demand for the surrender. In answer to this, the Turks attempted the last sally but it was beaten back.
Then, Pasha Mustapha had no choice left, and he began negotiating the terms of surrender. He sent two Agha officers to Heister’s camp on 20 March, they had a letter with 10 conditions in it to cede the castle. The talks lasted for several days. New Imperial officers arrived on 24 March to make things happen faster. The next day, Pasha Mustapha released the remaining 72 Christian prisoners.
Pasha Mustapha finally set out to Vienna on 26 March with two Agha officers to sign the document with the members of the Viennese Military Council. In this document, the defenders were allowed to go away freely. Emperor (and king) Leopold approved the terms, and the pasha returned to Kanizsa on 8 April. To help the process, Heister placed German and Hungarian soldiers at the gate of the castle. Then, Pasha Mustapha and his family moved to the outer town called Rácváros (Serbian town) on 12 April.
Here, we should note that according to the Ottoman payrolls, 96% of the mercenaries who served in the castles of the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary were not Turkish at all: they were Albanians, Serbians, and other South-Slavic people. You can read lots of stories about the deeds of many aghas and pashas in Serbian ballads, in the Serbian language.
Ottoman soldiers
An old Jannissary Agha officer was waiting for Batthyány on 13 April 1690 at the gate of Kanizsa castle, and he was the one who handed over the castle’s keys to him. Batthyány accepted it on horseback, and he wasn’t willing to dismount when the Agha was pleading with him to do so. Then, the Agha gave him the keys that were hanging on a gold chain, saying: “Behold, I am handing over the keys of Kanizsa, a castle that is matchless in the Ottoman Empire.” After this, Batthyány and the Imperial officers took a look at the defenses, then they went to the Rácváros where they held a luxurious feast in the fruit garden, accompanied by Ottoman officers.
 After lunch, the Ottomans set out with their wagons, guarded by 800 Hungarian Hussars. They went to Légrád where they boarded ships and were escorted to the border. There were a few Christian women among them who did not want to leave their Muslim husbands. However, 200 Ottomans (Turks or Serbians?) stayed back in Kanizsa. They converted to the Christian faith and settled in the town. In the castle, the Imperials found 279 smaller and bigger cannons and 3,900 hundred pounds of gunpowder left behind.
 The Military Council had the fort mended and placed 1,200 Hungarian soldiers in it, they were under the command of Batthyány. Later, they were replaced by German troops. Battyány protested against the order but it was in vain. He got upset and resigned.  Emperor Leopold ordered the demolishing of the castle in 1702 in fear of a possible Hungarian uprising. Colonel Schenkendorff forced 1,500 Hungarian peasants with their wagons who had to do the job.
The Colonel had orders to pull down the defenses of (Zala)Egerszeg, and Körmend as well. He sent all the military equipment from these castles to Buda. By the time the anti-Habsburg Revolution of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc reached Kanizsa during the winter of 1704, Kanizsa castle had ceased to exist.
Kanizsa in 1858

At the beginning of the 18th century, German, Croatian, and Serbian settlers came into the deserted town. A particularly mixed ethnic group lived in a suburb called Kiskanizsa.

Source: Szibler Gábor
You can read more about the history of Kanizsa Castle here:



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