It is undeniable that the recapture of Buda was the most glorious and spectacular moment of the Hungarian Wars of Reconquest when the Holy League liberated Buda after 145 years of Ottoman occupation. The commander-in-chief of the imperial forces, Charles V, Duke of Lorraine (Lotharingiai Károly), drew the right conclusions from the unsuccessful siege of Buda in 1684 and planned the next siege more carefully. Envoys sent from Vienna tried to convince the German princes to support the campaign with their troops. Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, immediately agreed, promising 8,000 men, while Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, offered 7,000 men. Johann Georg III, Elector of Saxony, agreed to send nearly 5,000 soldiers.
However, there were volunteers from Italy, Germany, Spain, England and even France. The warriors of the castles of the Hungarian borderlands, the “field regiments” and the soldiers of the Hungarian nobility in their battalions also joined in, a total of about 15,000 men. Among their commanders, there were many who left the rebel army of Prince Thököly Imre and sided with the Habsburgs in the hope of liberating Hungary. One of them was Petneházy Dávid. (Please note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians, where the surname comes first).
However, it was not easy to find the target of the new campaign. The allied army was already assembled in the camp at Párkány when Duke Charles finally persuaded King Leopold and the members of the military council to attack Buda Castle. The 45,000-strong army set out from Párkány (near Esztergom) on June 12, 1686. The cannons, equipment, and food were transported by boats on the Danube. The army marched in two columns, the Bavarian troops were led by Maximilian Emmanuel on the left bank of the river. They arrived in Pest at dawn on June 17 and found that the Turks had already emptied the city. Then the Bavarians occupied Pest. When they finished there, they left a garrison and the main part of their army returned to Óbuda and crossed to the right bank of the river through a pontoon bridge. The other part of the Christian army, led by Charles of Lorraine, arrived the next day.
It was the 70-year-old, experienced Albanian pasha Abdurrahman who commanded the Ottoman guards of Buda. his 10,000 men seemed sufficient to defend the castle. they had repaired the fortress after the last siege, and they had enough food and gunpowder. The Ottoman soldiers were determined to defend Buda, they were masters of their trade, not to mention their 400 cannons waiting for the besiegers.
The Bavarians took up positions south of the castle, on the slopes of Gellért Hill. The camp of Duke Charles of Lorraine was in the north, between Óbuda and Pasarét. The units of the Hungarian and allied cavalry raided all over the Great Hungarian Plain, keeping an eye on the possible movements of the Ottoman pashas of the castles of Várad, Temesvár, and Eger. BottyánJános’s hussars found out that the Turks were trying to escape with their women through Csepel Island, so they ambushed the Sipahi horsemen and scattered them, while the Hungarian boatmen captured the women, and all of the soldiers received a huge bounty.
The rest of the German troops arrived at the end of June, including soldiers from Brandenburg, bringing the number of besiegers to 75,000. The cannons placed on the Rose Hill quickly destroyed the walls of the Water Town and the siege trenches were also prepared. On June 24, Duke Charles ordered the first assault. The attack was supported by the boatmen of the Danube, who embarked and opened a gap for the infantrymen. The janissaries poured killer musket fire on the attackers as they pushed through the breach, but it couldn’t stop them. The Imperials occupied the breach. In the evening, the Christians were able to take over the whole of Water Town, on the heels of the retreating Ottoman forces. Pasha Abdurrahman didn’t want to sacrifice too many soldiers to keep this part of the city.
The besiegers immediately started digging new trenches. The cannons also destroyed an important part of the northern wall, the so-called Esztergomi bastion near the Vienna Gate. The round bastions were attacked and the howitzers tried to destroy the houses behind the walls. The Turks could not prevent the construction of trenches and they slowly but surely approached the walls. These trenches were also successful in repelling the Ottoman attacks, although Duke Karl’s soldiers suffered heavy losses in these attacks.
Exploding mines were part of the systematic siege, but the defenders were able to block the besiegers’ attempts. The Bavarians used their cannons against the large southern round bastion (the “Nagyrondella”). They were also busy digging trenches. Slowly the network of trenches surrounded the whole castle. By mid-July, the walls had collapsed in some places. However, the defenders built new lines of earth and planks behind the breaches.
Nevertheless, Duke Charles ordered a general attack on July 14. The day before the attack, a mine severely damaged the wall next to Pasha Sziavusz’s bastion. The cannons concentrated their fire and the walls collapsed. This was the reason why Duke Charles gave the order to attack the day before. The attackers sent three columns against the breaches at 7 p.m. They threw grenades at the defenders, but they could not stand on the wooden palisade behind the breach. In addition, an Ottoman mine exploded, causing heavy casualties among the throng of Christian soldiers: Then the defenders attacked them, covered by rifle fire and bombs from the walls. Finally, Duke Charles was forced to call off the imperial troops. The defenders lost about 600 soldiers, while several hundred of the attackers fell, including many high-ranking officers.
On July 16, the Bavarians attacked the Nagyrondella and managed to take a position in the moat. They set up cannons and broke through the walls at close range, while their musket fire covered the artillerymen. The Ottomans tried to chase them away on July 22 and marched out, but the Bavarians repulsed them in a bloody hand-to-hand fight. It was the moment when 800 quintals of gunpowder exploded where the Turks had stored it in the former palace of King Matthias Corvinus: the eastern wing of the palace and a section of the wall blew up, killing 1,500 defenders on the spot.
Seeing this, Duke Charles sent his chief aide-de-camp to Pasha Abdurrahman and demanded his surrender, which was refused. The Pasha had the damaged sections repaired in two days: the defenders had plenty of gunpowder left, and the effect of the explosion was not as great as thought. Many stories of bravery were recorded during the siege. Here you can read about an Ottoman hero of Buda, Bey Csonka, who later became a famous hussar commander in the Imperial Army:
A long section of the Nagyrondella wall fell on July 25, but the defenders built new lines of palisades behind it. However, the next day the planks were burned by a Franciscan monk named Rafael Babrielly: the Hungarians called him “Tüzes” aka “Conflagrant” Gábor because he was an expert in explosives. The Turks could not extinguish the fire because of the Christian musketmen. At the same time, the use of artillery and mines was going on in the northern part of the wall, but with little success. On July 25, the Turks left the castle and attacked the Brandenburg soldiers. The Germans were attacked from different directions and the Ottomans were driven back only with the help of the Hajdú soldiers of Fiáth János of Győr, but the enemy’s cannon fire caused many casualties among the besiegers.
As for the Hungarian cavalrymen, they were not idle either: At the end of July, they defeated the army of Pasha Osman of Eger near the castle of Eger. The hussars were led by Petneházy, Semsey Pál, and Donat Heissler. The Begler-Bey was also killed in the battle. As a result, the besiegers didn’t have to expect an attack from that direction. However, the main reinforcing army came from the direction of the Dráva River, led by Grand Vizier Suleiman. Therefore, the Christian military commanders agreed to launch a new attack against the walls before the reinforcements arrived. The general attack consisted of 12,000 men, 2,000 of whom were Hajdú soldiers led by Vice-General Esterházy János of Győr Castle: They targeted the part of the wall that had been destroyed by the gunpowder explosion. Another 6,000 soldiers, the Brandenburg troops, attacked from the northern side, while 4,000 Bavarians did the same from the eastern side.
Grenade throwers, sharpshooters, soldiers with bayonets, soldiers with spears, and trench diggers were assigned to each column. The Ottomans were well aware of the attack and they received the Christians in readiness at 6 p.m. when the attack was launched. The Turks detonated hidden mines and their bullets rained down on the attackers. Nevertheless, they managed to take the Pasha Sziavusz bastion for a short time, but they were driven out. A Hungarian flag-bearer, Hajdú from Győr, was able to climb the wall and plant his flag on it. At the bastion of Nagyrondella, as in the south and in the north, the Imperials were able to gain a foothold. Unfortunately, they suffered many casualties, 4,500 Germans and 600 Hungarians fell, especially during the mock attacks made by Esterházy’s men. The defenders lost about 2,500 soldiers.
The reinforcing army of Grand Vizier Suleiman was fast approaching, so Duke Charles had his camp fortified with trenches, and then he called back his cavalrymen from Tolna, Fejér, and Heves counties. They were sent to guard Buda and Pest. On July 31, he sent his surrender demand to the castle again, but it was rejected. In order to show some results before the reinforcing army arrived, Charles ordered another general attack on August 3. As for the units on the northern side of the castle, they did not even start it because the mines did not explode. On the other hand, the Bavarians were successful in their advance and captured part of the former royal palace. It was a pity that they had to be called back because of a Turkish counterattack. All in all, the Duke’s soldiers could not penetrate the Ottoman defenses.
The vanguard of the Ottoman reinforcements appeared at Albertfalva on August 8th, about 3-4,000 horsemen, who were scattered by the 2,500 hussars of Batthyány Ádám. The Duke continued the artillery bombardment of Buda but sent the bulk of his army to stop Suleiman’s troops. The warriors of the Grand Vizier started their attack on August 14th, bypassing the Christian army towards the hills of Buda. They were immediately repulsed by the cavalry of Petneházy and Girolamo Lodron. The units of Pálffy János, Peter Mercy, and Count Dünnewald also came to their aid. The army of the Ottomans was three times bigger, but they were beaten back several times. There was a fierce cavalry battle in Budaörs, in which the Hungarian and German horsemen distinguished themselves equally.
They fought against the elite unit of 3,000 Janissaries and killed 2,700 of them. The Bavarians also joined the fight on the right wing, following the Danube. When Suleiman realized that he could not bypass the Christians, he slowly withdrew his troops. After that, the besiegers turned their attention back to the castle, continuing the cannonade and making more breaches in the walls. Meanwhile, the Grand Vizier made a desperate attempt to send 3,000 horsemen into the besieged castle; 2,000 of them were Janissaries on horseback. They attacked at dawn on August 20 from the direction of the Hűvösvölgy valley, but the heavy cavalry of Caprara and Heissler cut down most of them. Only 2-300 exhausted Ottomans could reach the safety of Buda. The Grand Vizier made a second similar attempt on August 29, this time from the direction of Óbuda. The mounted Janissaries were able to break through the trenches, but all 2,000 of them died in the musket fire, except for 4 soldiers.
The István Tower, located in the southern part of the former royal palace near the Nagyrondella bastion, was captured by the Bavarians on August 22. From there they could fire continuously at the defenders. Three days later the Turks drove them out, but in response, the Bavarian cannons destroyed the tower. Meanwhile, the attackers on the northern side were able to establish a connection between the Esztergomi bastion and the defense lines behind it.
On August 29, the army of Vice-General Scherfenberg arrived from Transylvania, bringing with it 10-12,000 rested soldiers, among them 1,500 Hungarians. Thus the plan for the final general attack could be prepared. The military council was held on August 31 and they agreed to start the attack the next day, but Maximilian Eugene postponed it for one day. Then they made a mock attack at Budaörs while the cannons didn’t stop firing at the walls. The firing stopped at 15:00 on September 2, and by that time the attacking columns had taken up their positions in the trenches.
The troops quickly broke through the second and third lines of the wooden palisade of the Esztergom bastion and reached the streets of the castle. It is true that the Hajdú soldiers, the grenade throwers, and the volunteers who led the attack suffered a lot under the fire of the Janissaries. However, the Ottomans had to retreat to the streets because of the enormous pressure on them. The Brandenburg soldiers also broke through the walls but under great hardship. The two high-ranking officers who led the two attacking columns were killed. Pasha Abdurrahmán was standing in the place that is now called Hess András Square, his bodyguards begged him to flee, but he replied: “If I can’t defend the castle entrusted to me, it’s all right to die in it!” So he drew his sword and attacked the invading soldiers of Prince Karl Eugen de Croy. He died in the melee.
The soldiers of the Allied Christian Forces opened the Fehérvári Gate where the cavalry led by Eugene of Savoy entered, it was at the modern Dísz Square. There was a Hungarian soldier named Ramocsaházy Endre who was among the first to enter the castle, he was captured by the Turks and hanged, but he survived, here is my article about him:
In the south, the Bavarians could advance only slowly among the ruins of the former palace of King Matthias Corvinus. But when they heard that the northern part of the castle had been taken, they renewed their attack, forcing Pasha Ismail’s men out of the buildings in front of them. Many of the Ottomans who surrendered were killed on the spot, as were the civilians, and it was only Duke Charles who was able to stop the bloodshed. Pasha Ismail was captured. Read his story on my link above: he was the one who became the famous Csonka Bey. The sacking continued for three days, Christians, Turks, and Jews alike were slaughtered by the vengeful soldiers, and the corpses of 2,000 people covered the streets. The besiegers captured 6,000 women and children; the women were distributed among the soldiers. Read my article on their fate:
Only one man, the famous Italian engineer Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli, did not plunder the rich houses. Instead, he and his men rescued the surviving copies of King Matthias’s library. In fact, it was Marsigli who, during his captivity, had drawn very detailed maps of Buda Castle: without his drawings, the artillery of the besiegers would not have been so effective. The victors celebrated their victory on September 3, and when the looting stopped, they began to clear the ruins. General Melchior Leopold Beeck and his 5,000 soldiers were appointed to guard the Buda Castle. Pest was guarded by Vice General Koháry István and his 2,000 Hungarians. There were celebrations all over Europe with fireworks, processions, and singing of the “Te Deum”. Commemorative coins were minted and bonfires were lit to commemorate the end of Ottoman rule in Buda after 145 years.
The direct outcome of Buda’s liberation
Let us look back to the year 1683 when Vienna was attacked by the Ottomans. The attack on Vienna would never have taken place without the help of Prince Thököly Imre, who let the Turks approach the Austrian capital. Thököly’s rebellion against the Habsburgs was the result of the Austrian court’s policy since 1664. They alienated and angered the Hungarians so much that Thököly was able to gain large lands in Upper Hungary and then in Transylvania. Thököly thought that the Turks would take Vienna for the time being, and this would have provided him with a better political situation to tear Hungary from the claws of the Habsburgs and the Ottomans alike.
However, thanks to the arrival of King Sobieski, Vienna survived the siege. Then the Habsburgs had to realize that the Hungarians (or the Turks) might attack next time, and Sobieski would not always be there. So they had to start the wars of reconquest of Hungary. Soon almost all the soldiers of Thököly joined the war on their side. The recapture of Buda led to the coronation of the nine-year-old Habsburg Joseph I on December 9, 1687. He was crowned king of Hungary in Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg)…
The Hungarian nobles thought that there would be a real change because the old capital of the Hungarian Kingdom was recaptured after 145 years of Ottoman rule. As a result, they were willing to give up two of their most important rights out of gratitude. One was the right to elect a king of their own free will, and the other was the right to rebel if the king was unfaithful to his people.
In the fall of 1687, the Diet met in Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) and, after hard debates, accepted the rules of succession of the male heirs of the Habsburg dynasty to the Hungarian throne and threw away paragraph 31 of the Golden Bull. This particular paragraph 31 was the one that declared that the Hungarian nobles and high priests had the right to chase away those monarchs who would not keep the rules of the Golden Bull issued in 1222.
On December 9, 1687, Emperor Leopold’s son, the nine-year-old Joseph I, was crowned King of Hungary with great pomp. The greatest Hungarian aristocrats carried the signs of the ruler in the coronation procession: the sword was carried by Zrínyi Ádám alias Adam Zrinski who was the son of the poet and general Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski) and he was also the nephew of Zrínyi Péter (Petar Zrinski) who had been executed in 1671. You can read more about him here:
Everyone seemed to have forgotten that Buda was taken by the Turks in 1541 because the Habsburgs wanted to occupy it by force. Now, after 145 years, when the Habsburg rulers finally fulfilled their promise (with significant international and Hungarian help) and took back Buda Castle, the gratitude of the Hungarian nobility might be a bit exaggerated. It should be noted that it was Palatine Esterházy Pál and Széchényi Pál, Archbishop of Kalocsa, who had been working hard since 1683 to reach this “agreement” with the Habsburgs. On the other hand, Kollovitch Lipót, archbishop of Esztergom, practically wanted to place Hungary in the hereditary lands of the Habsburgs. Obviously, the Diet of 1687 had disastrous political consequences that paved the way for the war of independence of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II.
Source: Szibler Gábor and Szerecz Miklós, and Szántai Gábor
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