1577: a serious defeat at Győr castle
A small victory at Győr: the prelude to the defeat
The serious defeat of Christian forces at Győr Castle, on 4 August 1577, during the Truce
As we said, Győr Castle was an important fort in blocking the road to Vienna and has always been a frequented target of Ottoman raids, in particular by the men of the Sanjak Bey of Kara Ali of Székesfehérvár. Ali was a renowned warrior and he had been fighting against the Hungarians for a while but the hostilities had reached their summit by August of 1577.
The Hungarian Borderland warriors had tried to snare him in a trap many times but in vain.
At the time of wheat harvest, Istvánffy István and Szily Tamás laid a trap between Fehérvár and Pákozd and the soldiers of Szily succeeded in capturing three Turks from the castle.
Hearing this, Ali sent 110 cavalrymen from Székesfehérvár Castle, then rode out with 500 horsemen on the next day and joined his men at the village of Almás and they together went on chasing the riders of Szily. Secretly, Ali wanted to hit on Győr town.
He was waiting until evening at Bársonyos and he surrounded the village of Nyúl during the night to prevent the peasants from warning the guards in Győr.
Then, he sent a smaller unit of 20-25 riders, a „bait” to the vineyards where the peasants working there could notice.
It was Sunday, 4 August the next day, and everybody in the town was listening to the preaching in the church of Győr when a peasant arrived and reported the Turks’ arrival.
„Have you seen the Turks?” he was asked and replied: „I have seen them indeed, they have even beaten me.”
The alarm was sounded but Chief Captain Karl Ludwig von Zelking sent out only 32 riders.
However, plenty of noblemen, officers, and other horsemen joined them at the gate. Half of the warriors were missing, though, as they were harvesting the grain as their money was late from the king as always.
(My note: by the unwritten law of the Valiant Order of the Borderland it was not allowed to attack each other during the harvest and it was kept even by the Turks.)
Even though, the small unit was quite eager; a hussar called Tomaskó even rode forward but the Turks captured him.
Led by Vice-Captain of Győr, Gregoróczy Vince, the Hungarians assembled at the gardens of Győr.
Gregoróczy sent 60 hussars with the valiant officer called Vajda Kristóf towards Csanak (Ménfőcsanak) village.
He also sent along Liteuant Rácz Pétert with his men. He ordered them to be precautious and not to chase the Turks too far, though.
Then, a huge cloud of dust appeared from the direction of the villages of Nyúl, Csanak, and Gyirmót, indicating that the hussars may have run into the main Turk force in hiding.
The Ottomans surrounded the Hussars but Vajda Kristóf and his warriors could cut themselves out. They sent a horseman to Gregoróczy, telling him that „this enemy is not fitting to us, there are too many Turks, they are going to smash us into pieces” The captain replied: „I see it myself, too. But how can we withdraw without losing face? We can’t let Vajda Kristóf perish, he is fighting in the first line!”
One of the soldiers cried: „Behold, there is Vajda Kristóf, he has cut himself out with his lads!”
In the meantime, the Captain of the Hungarian infantrymen, Izdenczy Péter arrived with 300 Hajdú soldiers, he also had a couple of dozen German musketmen and many volunteers from the town with him. They marched towards Csanak, and then Gregoróczy sent them towards the guardhouse at Tarisznyavár. It was where the Turks assaulted them.
The infantrymen tried to make a fortification from wagons to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the hussars tried to distract the Turk cavalry’s attention from them and they succeeded in doing so.
Abruptly, the hussars were ordered to withdraw and it was the beginning of the disaster.
Panic broke out and the officers of the infantry began to flee on horseback while the Turks threw themselves on the abandoned infantry.
It was the time when Chief Captain Zelking arrived with 300 riflemen. He had hooked guns fixed on wagons and a few German heavy cavalrymen.
The Turks surrounded him at once but the riflemen of Captain de Malatesta cut themselves out from this hot situation and they fled to the guardhouse at Tarisznyavár.
Ali has already broken the Truce quite seriously (and the honor code of the Valiant Order as I had remarked) and he restrained himself from chasing them. He didn’t want to make more trouble by capturing the captain as well.
Captain Pálffy Tamás of Palota Castle were told about the losses which were 236 men killed or taken.
Ali placed 74 heads on stakes on the walls of Fehérvár Castle. There were 160 men captured, and 24 burghers were among the fallen. The schoolmaster of the Evangelic Hungarian soldiers, Lukács scribe was among them, along with three of his students. Camp scribe Georg Smidt was captured who reported about 316 dead and prisoners from Istanbul.
According to sources: “They brought 95 chained Christian prisoners of war in the early morning on 19 September 1577 (to Székesfehérvár). Eleven of them were Germans, and one of them was the military scribe from Augsburg. The rest of them were Hungarians and a few Croatians. (…) A few Turks rode before them, and the chained prisoners followed them, escorted by Turks armed with maces on both sides. They watched that they could not talk to other Christians. Then, a few wagons came, loaded with the wounded, and there were boys on them, too.
They captured a drummer as well, he had to ride before them, beating the drum all through the city. By the way, it is not a custom among the Turks. After them came a few prisoners, carrying four or five flags, while the remaining seventy were carrying the slaughtered heads of the Christians that were stuffed with hay. Having presented them to the Pasha, the Turkish youngsters who were holding the reins of their lords were playing with them as if they were balls. Then, they were thrown into a deep well where many thousands of Christian heads had been resting (…)”
A few days later, Ali tried to apologize before Vienna and even the Pasha of Buda blamed the break of the Truce on Chief Captain Zelking. Yet, it was quite obvious that the initiator was the Bey of Székesfehérvár.
The Military Council of Vienna sent commissioners to Győr to investigate the case. There were Bishop Fejérkövy István of Veszprém and Lord Illésházy István, Chancellor and Captain Georg Siegfried von Kollonitsch, Imperial Marchal Konrad zu Pappenheim and Captain Erasmus Braun of Magyaróvár Castle among them, including Vice Chief Captain Fernando Samaria de Speziecasa of Komárom Castle.
They wrote down the number of captives and investigated why most of the cavalrymen were away from the fight. They warned the officers to keep order and peace between the German and Hungarian soldiers. Also, they attempted to aid the orphans and the widows of the fallen.
They placed the responsibility on Chief Captain Zelking (who died anyway around 20 August) and on his vice, Jakosith Ferenc for not keeping proper spies in Székesfehérvár.
Gregoróczy was also warned to fill up the numbers of the garrison and make the provisions better.
This incident was important regarding the great military conference taking place in Vienna between 14 August and 24 September where the means of defense along the Croatian-Hungarian Borderland was being discussed.
Sources: Szibler Gábor and Szerecz Miklós
You can read more about the history of Győr here:
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