Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

19 July 1580 The victory at Nádudvar

During the so-called “small war” between the Ottomans and the Hungarians along the 1,000-mile-long Borderland, many raids and ambushes took place. On one hand, “softening up” the enemy’s hinterland has always been a very successful Ottoman military tactic because the villages around the Hungarian castles got depopulated and the fortifications were cut off from their supply lines. The peasants perished or fled, and the garrison got isolated and starved. Spreading terror and havoc was working well. However, the Ottoman raiding units often ran into the traps of Hussar cavalrymen. These units were equally mobile but they had larger horses and heavier armor than the Ottomans, and unlike the enemy, after 1572 they were supplied by pistols, too. 

Hungary in 1590

Let us not forget that the Hungarian light cavalry units sent raiding parties to the “Turk” territories to burn, plunder, and collect booty. Of course, the “Turk” lands were the Occupied Lands of Hungary, and the enemy’s conquest was not really accepted by the local peasants. They sent their taxes (sometimes just a symbolic sum or a pair of boots) to their landlords who had long ago fled to northern or western Hungary. At the same time, their lords never gave up their ownership and sent their men to collect taxes whenever they could. Was it greed, or resistance? Anyway, the attitude of ignoring borders (or regarding them as just temporary lines) saved Hungary to survive the 150-year-long partition. Think about it.

This map is not perfect but it shows the modern borders of Hungary (pink dots)

As we said, the Hussars tried to collect taxes from the Hungarian villages controlled by the Turks. (Note: the mercenaries hired by the Ottomans, the ones who guarded their castles in the Occupied Lands of Hungary were not Turkish at all. According to their payrolls, 96% of them were Albanians, Serbians, or other South Slavic people.) If the local peasants did not cooperate, the Hussars took away what they needed. If the judge of the village cooperated, the returning Turks had him impaled or skinned alive. The whole sorrowful situation derived from the fact that the Hungarian soldiers were not regularly paid by the Habsburg king and they had to prevent starvation by raiding the countryside controlled by the enemy. Eventually, it was how the famous Hussar warfare was developed. More about Hussars:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/horses-in-the-battle-of-mohacs/

 

The “small war” limited the military actions to smaller clashes where cannons were not allowed to be used, and serious sieges were forbidden, just like duels. As a rule, the Habsburg king received a part of the booty and showed a blind eye to the complaining Ottomans – when the fight was victorious. However, the king scolded the “violators of the truce” if the Hussars got defeated, and even imprisoned the commanders for a few days…You can read about dozens of similar raids and ambushes on my page – these nameless fights kept the expanding Ottoman Empire at bay and saved the western part of Europe from getting invaded. However, the inhabitants of Hungary (Hungarians and non-Hungarians alike) paid a very high price for this.

Look at the area around Buda in 1490 and after 1699, note the destructions

Before the victory of Nádudvar, a series of events had taken place. One of the favorite hit-and-run actions of the Hussars was ambushing great agricultural fairs. The warriors of Ónod, Eger, and Szatmár castes succeeded in attacking the fair of Hatvan city on 21 April 1580 where they gained a huge booty and captured many high-ranking Turks. Ransom was one of the most important incomes. We know that the famous Hungarian warrior poet, Balassi Bálint was among the ambushers at Hatvan. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) You can read more about this event on my page:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/1541-1699/the-hussars-ambush-the-fair-of-hatvan-in-1580/

Hatvan castle at the end of the 16th century

The case of Hatvan’s fair was a scandal for the Ottoman beys, and they used this event to report Pasha Kara Üvejsz of Buda to the sultan because they all hated the pasha heartily. As a result of this, the pasha was removed from his office. Note, the pasha of Buda was a very high rank in the Ottoman Empire, perhaps only the Grand Vizier was above him. The Bey of Szolnok was the main figure in the removal of the pasha, his name was Sehszüvár (Sásvár) bey. He was a Hungarian renegade and his desire was to become the pasha of Buda by all means. As it was, Pasha Kara Üvej was so much disliked by the beys because he tried to collect more taxes for the Treasury and in order to achieve it, he needed peace. He was hindering the Ottoman raids against Royal Hungary. We know that Sehszüvár bey was one of the Ottoman beys who always went raiding whenever he could. He had a wicked reputation, you can read more about his life here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/bey-sasvar-the-renegade/

  After Pasha Üvejsz had been gone, weeks were spent before his successor, Kalajlikoz Ali arrived in Buda castle. During this time-between-time it was Sehszüvár bey who was in charge of the office, he was the “kajmakán”. He decided not to wait for the arrival of his new supervisor and launched an attack to take revenge on the cheeky Hungarian warriors of Eger castle. His raid took place in the middle of July and he targeted the village of Maklár which was near Eger castle but still inside the Ottoman Occupied Lands. They marched there and captured the Reformed priest and the teacher, then slaughtered them.
Sásvár’s soldiers were heading to Szolnok castle through Nánás, Böszörmény, Nádudvar, Karcag, and Balaszentmiklós. At that point, Sásvár bey was already marching back home, herding along 3,000 stolen cattle and 600 Hungarian captives. Suddenly, his troops ran into a unit of German mounted riflemen who stopped the troops of Sásvár / Sehszüvár. He had to expect a hard way to get home.
Szolnok in 1617
The raid of Sasvár bey alarmed the warriors of the Borderland castles in the region, and they were fast to launch a counterattack. There is a contemporary historical song written by Szepesi György (Historia cladis Turcicae ad Naduduar) where we can read the story of the battle as well as the life of Sásvár bey. According to Szepesi, the counter-attack was led by Captain Geszthy Ferenc of Diósgyőr castle but another historian, Ács Pál thinks Geszthy could have been only one of the commanders of the army consisting of the warriors from Eger, Diósgyőr, and Kálló castles. At large, there were about 1,000-1,200 Hussars facing the army of Sásvár bey’s 3,000 men.
A Hungarian Hussar, 16th century
It was Vice Captain Balázsdeák István of Eger castle who took his 400 men into a marshy land near Nádudvar, hiding them there among the reed. Then came the bulk of the army, and the rearguard consisted of the unit of Basó Farkas and his 50 Hussars. They sent 100 German riflemen to the right wing, and there were Hungarian riflemen and “drabants” on the left wing. According to the chronicle, they ambushed the Ottomans’ rearguard at Balmazújváros, and immediately took the cattle back from them. They cut down many Turks and captures 22 of them. The Chronicle of Sárrét says it happened on 19 July 1580 but we have a report from Prague that dates the time of the battle to 16-17 July and sets its location near Nádudvar.
a German broadside illustrating the Ottoman invasion of Hungary
 Soon, the bulk of the Christian army that came from Baémazújváros caught up with the main army of Sasvár bey, and the hidden unit of Balázsdeák also joined in the fight, attacking them from the other side. The Ottomans were fighting between two fires but they defended themselves bravely and desperately. Particularly bloody close combat developed but it was finally decided by the volleys of the German riflemen, according to the chronicle of Istvánffy Miklós. The Ottomans lost 300 men, and a further 400 of them were captured. The Hungarians who had been enslaved by Sásvár bey’s troops were freed.
Ottoman soldiers
 The Hussars captured Ali, the merchant of Sultan Mehmed, and Captain Geszthy demanded a ransom of 11,000 gold Forints for him. The Ottoman beys and voivodes were also valuable prisoners of war. The Hungarians gained ten Ottoman flags and the entire military supplies of the enemy. Sásvár bey and his younger brother fled on horseback and they could escape to Püspökladány only with the collaboration of the Hungarian judge of Makkod village. The rest of the Ottoman army was scattered in the marshland and died there. Many of the Ottomans were beaten to death by the angered peasants of the area. According to Szepesi, the peasants lynched 900 soldiers of the enemy.
an Ottoman soldier
The fallen Hungarian Hussars were buried by the locals at the wall of the church of Nádudvar. As for Sehszüvár / Sásvár, he has never become a pasha, most likely because he was a renegade. They could not trust them because of this. Perhaps his failure was the reason why he continued his cruel raids but finally, he was defeated at Kacorlak in the summer of 1587. He could barely save his life there. It was enough, he was soon made to resign, and according to gossip, he was assassinated by the Sublime Porte before long. 
Hungarian Hussars and Imperial foot soldiers, 16th century
Sources: Szibler Gábor; Ács Pál: Sásvár bég históriája. Historia cladis Turcicae ad Naduduar, 1580. In. Hadtörténelmi Közlemények. 2002/2.
Balázs Sándor: Nádudvar története. Bp., 2001.

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