It was not a particularly important battle in the sea of struggles of the Hungarian – Ottoman wars between 1369 and 1699 but four high-born sons of the aristocrat Eszterházy family died a heroic death in it. The fight took place on 25-26 August 1652, at the settlement of Vezekény in Upper Hungary. Today, it is called Sárosvezekény (Vozokany), and it can be found in Slovakia, between Nyitra and Aranyosmarót. A bronze lion marks the site of the battle.
The Ottoman Turks set out in August 1652 and they were raiding and destroying the area of Gimes castle (Gimesalja, near Aranyosmarót) and they herded together the local peasants to sell them on the slave markets. Count Forgách Ádám, the chief captain of the Mining Towns (or he was called the captain of Érsekújvár / Nove Zámky ), and his 1,200 soldiers hurried there, and they gained a very costly victory over Mustapha, the Turkish “Robber Bey” of Nógrád castle. According to other sources, Mustapha was a bey of Esztergom castle. The Ottoman Turks had 5,000 men and the battle, and they outnumbered the Hungarians 3 to 1.
Captain Koháry István of Szécsény castle and Count Pálffy Miklós also took part in the fight. The enemy attacked heavily the Hungarian right wing, and despite the desperate resistance, the Turks could push them back. Eszterházy László died on the muddy bank of a ditch where he fell off his horse. Three of his cousins also died in the struggle. When Forgách Ádám saw the fall of the Eszterházy sons, he fled. Yet, the battle was decided by the final attack of the heavy hussar cavalry.
However, some historians say the battle was won by the Turks because they stayed on the battlefield, and only the Eszterházy family claimed it was a victory. It is true, that in the battle, the Eszterházy family had actively taken their share of defending the Homeland not only in this fight but also throughout these centuries. As for the Battle of Vezekény, the sources differ in the number of casualties, both sides lost lots of soldiers. It is thought that the Ottomans had many more dead.
The friend and warrior-brother of Count Zrínyi Miklós aka Nikola Zrinski, the aristocrat Eszterházy Pál gives an account of this battle like this:
“…my brother lord’s army was pushed back by about 2,000 Turks but they were firing back at them very fiercely. Many Turks fell there but eventually, the Hungarians’ order was loosened. There was my brother lord on his horse called Zöldfikár – the one he had promised to give me – and he was going together with my lord Eszterházy János and his page called Marci, along with 20 riders of his.
They were forced into a muddy stream and his horse fell. He was fighting for quite a long time and could even cut down two Turks. Finally, weakened by his many wounds, he gloriously put down his life along with his servants fighting around him. It happened between 6 and 7 in the evening, God rest them in His heaven. The next day, they found my poor brother lord together with the bodies of Ferenc, Tamás, and Gáspár Eszterházy who all fell valiantly for their God and Homeland. There were 45 of my poor lord brother’s servants who fell in that fight and many were wounded. All the bodies were found stark naked, the body of my poor lord brother had only a shirt and trousers on. There were 25 wounds on him, cuts, gashes, and bullet wounds.”
Lippay Gáspár wrote the next about the battle, shortly after it:
“The peril of our poor lord Eszterhás László has been to the great sorrow of all of us. If only he survived the fight, we would not envy the Turks for the victory because according to talks among the people that proved to be true, the Turks lost at least 600 men while our soldiers lost 53 men.”
Chief Comes Csáky István of Szepes castle wrote the following about the case:
“As for my poor lord Eszterhási László, I wanted to say that on this day he was cut down by the Turks, together with his two younger brothers (*mean: cousins), the sons of Eszterhási Dániel, and Captain Eszterhási Ferenc was also slaughtered, his head was taken away by the enemy. Several other decent and young noblemen were cut down as well. As it was written to me, lord Forgách Ádám was the one who caused it, and he left them alone because as a rule, he was the first to flee. This peril took place around the place of Verebély, and the Turks also plundered and burned a lot in that area.”
26 November 1652 The burial of the Eszterházy sons
The burial of Captain Esterházy László of Pápa castle and his cousins Gáspár, Tamás, and Ferenc took place three months after the battle because it had to be carefully organized. It was Count Nádasdy III Ferenc, the brother-in-law of Eszterházy László who organized it because Pál, the younger brother of Eszterházy László was still too young. A painter called Hans Rudolf Miller helped with the decoration of the funeral and the burial. A few months later he painted murals on the ceiling of Sárvár castle’s hall, depicting seven scenes from the 15-Year-War.
Eszterházy Pál made an inventory in Fraknó castle in 1654 where we can read his note: “Here is an old silver bowl, gilded, and we can see in it the death of my poor brother Eszterházy László’s death” We know that Nádasdy had ordered the creation of this bowl to commemorate the death of László. As it was, the Eszterházy family was able to take advantage of the funeral to show the world their greatness and glory, according to the habit of the age. They even paid attention to the numbers: the 26-year-old László died on 26 August, and the burial took place on 26 November. Their heroic death was spread all over the country and their burial ceremony was held with great pomp in Nagyszombat (now Trnava). The battle is each year reenacted by traditionalists from Slovakia and Hungary.
Let us note, that this plate used to be in the treasury of the Eszterházy family in the Károly Palace in Budapest during the siege of Budapest in 1944-1945. When the treasury was bombed, this item also suffered great damage and it was almost unrecognizable but it has been very nicely renovated. Now, it is on display in the Museum of Applied Art in Budapest.
Reenactors of the battle in 2020 (Photo: Roman Mocpajchel)
Source: partly by Szibler Gábor
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