1649 Pentecost: the Turks attacked the market of Egerszeg

The Valiant Order of the Military Borderland loved to ambush fairs and markets in the hope of winning a rich bounty. Both Hungarians and Turks liked to “hit” on each other’s fairs, usually held in agricultural towns. In 1649, the Ottoman garrison of Kanizsa castle tried to “hit” the fair held at (Zala)Egerszeg but their plans didn’t work out as they had wanted to. Here you can read more about the history of Zalaegerszeg which is situated in the southern part of Hungary:



Egerszeg castle in the 17th century

The story was researched by Takáts Sándor (1860-1932), one of the first historians who had piled up tons of information about the Ottoman wars. Let us fall into his footsteps and investigate the case, with a few additions I made to his story-telling…

Attacking a fair was a very profitable action, so not only the Hungarians but the Turks were doing it willingly. It was a great peril to poor merchants. They have had enough troubles in those dangerous times: they had to travel on wicked roads and proceeded always very slowly. On top of this, when they arrived at their destination, they were the first who start looting. Also, they were the first who were plundered when cities and castles were taken.

Looting Ottoman soldiers in Hungary

 It was commonly known, that the larger cities of Royal Hungary where fairs were held, were located quite far away from the Turk-occupied castles of the Military Borderland. It was the reason why the Turkish warriors could not really attack the major fairs and markets. The Turks could not have traveled that long distance without attracting the attention of the Hungarian Borderland guards. It was hard to sneak through the watchful Hungarian warriors because they were longing to catch the random Ottoman raiding parties. The king’s soldiers were unpaid most of the time and they made a living by capturing Turks in the hope of getting a ransom for them. As the Turkish Borderland warriors (who were ethnically speaking 92% Albanians, Serbs, or other South-Slavic people) were better paid, it explains why they made fewer attacks against markets than the Hungarian Hussars.

However, the Turks gave it a try once in a while. As usual, the agricultural fair of Egerszeg began on Pentecost Day in 1649, too. It was not a particularly large market but the Turks of Kanizsa Castle decided to “hit it decently”. 

Kanizsa castle in the 17th century

  The people of Egerszeg came to know the Turks’ plot so they sent for reinforcement from the neighboring Borderland castle. It was Captain Francsics Gáspár of Körmend castle who brought them about 500 Hussars and a few Hajdú infantrymen. Including the soldiers of Egerszeg, there were 700 Hungarians altogether who were getting ready to receive the visiting Turks. The defense was led by Francsics Gáspár. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

Zalaeegeszeg in 1763

When Francsics arrived, he took his men to the valley of the Vineyard Hill and he hid them well. He planned to attack the Turks from behind, expecting that they would ambush the market. Indeed, the Ottomans came and paused at the village of Lengyel where they were torturing the peasants: they wanted to know if there was any Hungarian reinforcement at Egerszeg. The peasants admitted the presence of the Hussars but at the same time, some of them sneaked out and warned Captain Francsics about the approaching enemy.

Hungarian Hussars

Upon hearing about the reinforcement, the Turk army immediately decided to go home. Seeing their withdrawal, Francsics sent after them 60 picked Hussars, led by Captain Fülöp András. As we can read in the report written by Francsics, he told them “not to be afraid about the number of the Turks, just bite into them”: if they “push” them, Francsics promised to come to their help with his men. Then, Francsics deployed the warriors of Ságódy, along with some of the Hussars of Captain Hertelendy and Káldy in the reinforcing unit. As for himself, he stayed with the Hussars of Körmend castle.

Hungarian Hussar reenactors

In the meantime, the seasoned Hussars of Fülöp András were tracking down the Turks in full gallop. The bulk of the army, led by Francsics was right after them, following the 60 Hussars in a trot. Then, the 60 Hussars bit into them before the village of Magyarád. Seeing how few Hussars attacked them, the Turks thought they were just the warriors of Egerszeg castle so they accepted the battle. However, when they recognized the flags, they fled at once. The Hungarians were chasing and slaughtering them until the crossing place of a small river at Szentszaniszló. There, the Turks crossed the water and dispersed in all directions. Instead of getting a big bounty, they were shamefully beaten.

 The Hungarians collected the dead warriors’ heads as it was the habit of the age, captured 14 Turks alive, and took 35 horses, and lots of other items. According to Francsics, he had the bounty sold on an ad-hoc market in Egerszeg but before it he had them write a report about the valuables. (These ad-hoc markets were called “kótyavetye” in the Hungarian language, the word derives from the Croatian words ko će veće, ko hoće veće datyi? = Who wants to give more?) At the end of his report, Francsics happily remarked that there were a few Turk musicians among the captives who were made to play the lyre, fife, and lute.

A lute (Hungarian: koboz, Slavic: Kobza)

Takáts concluded that it was the way how the Hungarian warriors were making merriment, unlike poor merchants. The less pay the soldiers received, the bigger of soldiers’ poverty became, and more markets were “hit”. In the second part of the 17th century, it was not safe to travel for the Turk and the Hungarian merchants alike, not even on the main royal roads. Hungry soldiers were waiting for them everywhere. After a while, the number of trade was so much decreased that there was hardly anyone that they could loot. Hungary was devastated and many historians blame the Turks for it but they are wrong. The reason for the destruction was the penniless soldiers’ misery, and the lack of their discipline.

Hungarian Hajdú soldiers

 Source: Szerecz Miklós found it in the book of Takáts Sándor: “Bajvívó magyarok”, 1979 reprint

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