1558 A concentrated Turkish attack around Lake Balaton

1558 mid-October Concentrated Turkish attack on the Borderland houses around Lake Balaton

In 1558 the military of the Transdanubian Turkish Sanjak centers became active and tried to extend their authority to the smaller castles around Lake Balaton. This was part of the Ottoman strategy of conquest, which gradually pushed out the new frontiers. The area around the enemy’s castles was gradually destroyed, cutting them off from supplies and instilling fear in the population, who were either forced to pay taxes or driven off their land.
Lake Balaton was part of the Borderland…
At worst, they were slaughtered or taken away as slaves. This tactic had never been used in Europe before. Softening up enemy territory was an old strategy before major campaigns, and it usually worked. These small-scale battles were commonplace from the very first appearance of the Turks, whether officially at peace or in open warfare. The difference was that in the case of ‘peace’, the opposing sides could not mobilize as many troops, and the use of artillery and besieging castles was forbidden.
Ottoman raiders in action…
But the Hungarians knew this too. The incessant attacks led to the formation of Hussar units, which proved to be a very capable force against the conquerors. As early as March, Zrínyi Miklós reported to Palatine Nádasdy Tamás that the Turks were fortifying the Mesztegnyő monastery. In the summer they wanted to build a fortress from the church of Ságvár, but the Turkish garrison was ambushed by Captain Takaró Mihály from Tihany, who was crossing Lake Balaton. The palisade was occupied, but the defenders locked in the tower were no match for him, as the Turkish guards of Kőröshegy came to the aid of the people of Ságvár. Takaró and his troops managed to escape across the lake.
Tihany 16th-century Drawing: Pazirik Kft.
Then, perhaps to avenge the previous incident, the Turks of Veszprém, Simontornya, and Koppány took action. Around 13 October, they simultaneously attacked the outlying castles north and south of Lake Balaton. In a single night, the Veszprém troops raided the castles of Vázsonykő, Hegyesd, and Csobánc, and struck at Szigliget. The entire population of the village was taken prisoner. Although the Szigliget garrison fled from the castle, the Turks soon overpowered them. Magyar Bálint, the captain of the castle, almost lost his head, and it was only by the special grace of the Lord that he escaped. More about Magyar Bálint:
Magyar Bálint’s statue in Szigliget
He then wrote a letter of complaint to Nádasdy, blaming the guards of Vázsonykő, Csobánc, and Hegyesd for being taken by surprise by the Turks, who had not signaled the enemy’s approach. In fact, the Hungarian commanders of the surrounding castles were on extremely hostile terms with each other, allowing the Turks to slip through the defenses almost unnoticed.
The Hungarian Borderland castle system in 1580
In the same days, the Turks of Simontornya and Koppány attacked the castle of Fonyód, also under the command of Magyar Bálint. They broke through the outer palisade and set fire to the houses, but were driven out by the guards. Three Turks were captured, nine slaughtered and many wounded. The castle of Tihany was attacked three times by the Turks of Veszprém and Fehérvár, each time with a considerable number of infantry, to take the castle.
Duels had strict rules in the 16th century on the Borderland but they were common in this age
The raids continued in the following years. Fonyód was attacked several times, and in 1561 Hegyesd was also assaulted. This finally brought together the commanders of the surrounding castles and the Transdanubian General Headquarters, and a joint operation drove the Turks out of Hegyesd the following year.

Efforts against further Ottoman raids

The situation has improved considerably in the past. At the Great Military Council of the Imperial War Council in 1577, on the advice of Lazarus von Schwendi, it was decided to focus on active defense rather than offensive strategy. A new Borderland defense line, a system of fortifications on several levels, stood in the way of Turkish expansion:
Deli Riders, 1590
-Main castles, headquarters of general captaincies, usually well-established fortifications with at least 1000 defenders were established. Their task was to hold out for at least a month or a month and a half until the relief army arrived.
Eger castle in 1596 was a main fort
– Secondary castles were built to support the main castle, to hold out for a few weeks, and to delay the enemy’s advance. Their number generally varied between 100 and 500. Their layout varied.
The castle of Nagyvázsony was a smaller outpost

-Fortresses of the third class were also built: Most of them were palisaded, with a guard of about 100 men. Under siege, of course, they had more defenders. Their role was to control raids and support the larger castles. They could only hold off a raiding army without artillery for a few days at most.

Korpona,”haversack” tower Photo: Lánczi Imre
-They built guardhouses surrounded by palisades, called ‘haversack castles’. (They had no kitchen inside, and the few members of the garrison changed weekly, carrying their food in haversacks). They kept watch for raids and reported enemy movements.
You can read more about General Schwendi on my page:


Contemporary drawing of Thury György (in the middle), Schwendi is on the left

(Source: Szibler Gábor and Szilágyi Alp)

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