Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

26 September 1542 The Siege of Pest began

The army of Sultan Suleiman occupied the castle of Buda on 29 August 1541. In fact, the Turks had decided to seize the capital of Hungary because King Szapolyai János died and his newborn son, János Zsigmond was under the care of Queen Isabela who was attempting to side with the Habsburgs. Suleiman didn’t trust her and after defeating the Austrian army that was besieging Buda, he marched into the castle in order to oppose the Habsburgs’ future attacks. Here is my short dramatized writing about this tragic event where you can learn the details of Buda’s fall:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/dramatized-historical-writings/suleiman-before-buda/

 

Buda before 1541

Now, let us read about the next siege of Buda (and Pest) according to the research and summary of Szibler Gábor. (Please, note that I still use the Oriental name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) The Hungarian capital fell to the Turks and the Christian world was shocked. There was a Hungarian statesman, Fráter György aka Georg Utiessenovicz-Martinuzzi who had called the Ottoman army of Suleiman to Hungary in 1541 to defend the castle against the besieging German army. Now, he escorted Queen Isabella back to Transylvania. He felt really bad about the fall of Buda, he thought it was his mistake. 

Fráter György (1482-1551)

As it turned out, Fráter György, driven by his twitch of conscience, signed a treaty with King Habsburg Ferdinand at the end of the year 1541. According to the secret treaty of Gyalu, Ferdinand was supposed to get Transylvania, including the entire Kingdom of Hungary in case he managed to take Buda back from the Turks. In this case, the baby king, János Zsigmond, and his mother, Queen Isabella would resign from their titles.

The “Hungaries” in 1550 (Royal Hungary; Eastern Hungary aka Transylvania; Ottoman Occupied Lands)

The German princes and the rulers of the small states of Italy were shocked by the loss of Buda, the Pope was particularly stunned. They were urging the retaking of it. The Imperial Assembly in Speyer the Germans offered soldiers, the Bohemians voted taxes and soldiers, similar to the Hungarian Diet in case a campaign was organized to liberate Buda. Many other European monarchs were asked for aid but finally, it was only the Pope who sent troops. However, other gifts were also received: Voivode Petru of Moldova sent 30,000 cattle to the Christians’ camp at Esztergom. Lots of food were amassed from other places as well, it was carried by boats. 

Here is the history of Buda if you wanted to read more about its history:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/ottoman-occupied-lands/buda/


 
The allied Christian army was led by the young and inexperienced Prince Joachim II of Brandenburg. Because of his black armor, he was also called the “Black Prince”. He managed to arrive in Esztergom only in the middle of August 1542, and the mercenary units were arriving quite slowly, too. The Austrian and the Styrian soldiers (10,000 men) were led by Johann von Ungnad, while the troops of the German princes (20,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalrymen) were under Joachim’s flag. 

Joachim, the “Black Prince”
He was accompanied by the Saxon Elector Moritz (1521-1553), and there was Alessandro Vitelli who was in charge of the Pope’s contingent of 2-3,000 soldiers. Also, Milano Sforza Pallavicini brought along 600 soldiers and the Hungarian troops were commanded by Perényi Péter. There were several Hungarian aristocrats like Nádasdy Tamás, Thurzó Elek, Batthyány Ferenc, and Báthory András, they had about 10,000 Hussars, 1,000 Hajdú soldiers, and 5,000 infantrymen, along with 1,000 peasants who were supposed to dig the trenches. They were hired from the money voted by the Bohemians.
Elector Moritz of Saxony
At the town of Pest, Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski) joined them with his 600 Croatian cavalrymen. there was also a fleet on the Danube where Venetians, people from Raguzza, Hungarians, and Serbians rowed 200 ships. However, we could not find any soldiers in the army coming from Fráter György from Transylvania, and the Moldavian troops were missing, too. The Spanish soldiers were not allowed to come and there were no Czech soldiers, either. 
Zrínyi Miklós aka Nikola Zrinski (1508-1566)
In the meantime, the Ottoman guards of Buda were getting ready to prepare for the siege. During the pestilence in the winter, Pasha Suleiman of Buda died, and the new Begler-Bey called Jahjaoglu Báli took his place, doing his best to defend successfully the castle. He increased the garrison of Buda to 10,000 men, summoning troops from the southern garrisons of the Occupied Lands of Hungary. At the same time, he was reinforcing the walls, too. Nevertheless, the defense of Pest was weaker so Prince Joachim targeted it at first, though King Ferdinand wanted him to attack Buda. Here you can read more about the castle and town of Pest:

The Christian army set out on 5 September from Esztergom. They were very slow and could get to Pest only on 26 September, after crossing the Danube river at Szentendre. The Turks saw them coming and sallied from Buda to ambush them but fortunately, they were repelled by the Hussars of Lord Perényi who led the vanguard. The heavy cavalry of Ungnad also arrived there in time so the Ottomans had to flee.
Lord Perényi Péter (1502-1548)
The Ottomans defenders of Pest had not much food supplies but they were being told that the Sultan’s reinforcement was coming soon. However, Sultan Suleiman was not ready to send his army because the Viennese court sent him a delegation to make peace, to confuse him. Thus, only the Ottoman units of the Borderland could hurry to Buda. The Christian army made camp north-east to Pest, quite far away from the town. In the meantime, the ships of Melgnani occupied the Margaret Island of the Danube, securing this side of the river. The cannons of the Black Prince began to bombard the not-too-strong walls of Pest on 28 September 1542.
The siege of Buda and Pest in 1542
Commander Vitelli was looking for a good place to dig trenches on 30 September, accompanied only by a couple of hundred infantrymen and a few riders when the Janissaries sallied and a fierce fight commenced. The Ottomans were repelled but the besiegers suffered heavy losses.  The next day, Vitelli attacked the town’s northern wall with 1,200 infantrymen but the Ottomans counter-attacked with 3,500 men. The Italians defended themselves in a pike-and-shot formation but they were being shot by the Turk cannons from the Gellért Hill. More and more Ottoman units assaulted them and Vitelli feinted to withdraw his soldiers, luring the attackers after him. At a given signal, the cavalrymen of Perényi, Ungnad, and Prince Moritz ambushed the Turks. The horse of Moritz was shot under him and he almost died on the field. The Turks were about to win the fight when the Croats of Zrínyi attacked them. It inspired Perényi’s hussars to renew their attack, too. Together, they managed to push the Ottomans into the Danube river, many of the enemy soldiers died in the water. It was the most important military clash during the siege, its heroes were Vitelli and Zrínyi.
Pest in 1616
The bombardment of the walls was renewed on 3 October but the defenders always managed to mend the breaches, and Pasha Báli also sent reinforcement from Buda. The besiegers launched a general attack at noon on 5 October but they ran into a vehement and staunch defense. Vitelli has led his men repeatedly against the walls but the German and Hungarian soldiers withdrew so the Italians had to follow them. Seeing this, the defenders sallied and slaughtered the injured. Also, the cannons of Pest caused huge losses to the Christians, about 700 German and Hungarian soldiers were shot. 
The wall of Pest (Photo: Szöllősi Gábor)
The military commanders were debating: the Germans wanted to go home while the Hungarians and the Italians wanted more attacks. Finally, their council on 7 October decided to quit the siege and the army set out the next day towards Esztergom. Hungarian Hussars were covering the marching army and they could force the Turks back to Buda who tried to sally. The Hussars of Perényi beat the second sally back, too. The Christian fleet began to go home on 9 October, carrying the sick and the wounded. Many soldiers were so weak that they were abandoned and taken to board. They were later either captured or killed by the Ottomans. The besiegers’ casualties were great, the main reason was the disease and not the battles. Prince Joachim was obviously not an experienced general and the task of running this sizeable army was simply too big for him. finally, the army was dissolved at Esztergom, amid fury and anger.
Buda and Pest during Ottoman rule
 It became also obvious that this kind of hastily raised army that was made up of so many nationalities, was inept to achieve serious success. Fráter György had to go in pains to talk himself out from this situation in front of the Sultan because of the Treaty of Gyalu with Ferdinand. So he rather sent the annual taxes to the sublime Port to please the Sultan. However, from the siege, Suleiman realized that Buda could be easily lost if it is not surrounded by a belt of Ottoman castles. As a result of this, he led a strong army to Hungary the next year and took Esztergom, Pécs, and Székesfehérvár castles. Buda has remained in Ottoman hands for 144 more years.
The campaigns of Sultan Suleiman to Hungary

To learn what has happened to Lord Perényi Péter as a result of this siege, you can read more about his story here:

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