Bethlen defeats the usurper Homonnai-Drugeth at Dés, 1616
It happened on 20 November 1616 that the army of the Transylvanian Prince Bethlen Gábor defeated the usurper Lord Homonnai-Drugeth György at Dés…Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first. As for Bethlen Gábor, you can read more about his life here:
The Hajdú soldiers hired by the usurper Homonnai-Drugeth György in 1615-16 broke into the region of the Partium (a large area between Transylvania and Hungary) but they were beaten back in June 1616 at Konyárd by the army of Rhédey, the Chief Captain of Várad, the brother-in-law of Prince Bethlen.
After this defeat, Homonnai didn`t attack for a while but continued his plotting against Prince Bethlen. Unluckily, Bethlen had promised to cede Lippa Castle to the Ottomans before, in exchange for their aid for letting him seize the throne of Transylvania. Having defeated Homonnai at Konyárd, willy-nilly, Bethlen had to give Lippa to the Turks. It has made the Hajdú soldiers extremely upset and they began the gossip that Borosjenő Castle and Várad (Oradea) Castle would be surrendered to the Turks, too.
As a result of this, the Hajdú inhabitants of the Hajdú settlements and towns in Bihar and in Szabolcs counties felt threatened. The fright of the Hajdú people was just instigated further by the letters of Homonnai who spread his propaganda among them. Hearing of this, Prince Bethlen appointed Simoni György to guard the western borders of Transylvania. Simoni, like Homonnai, began to hire Hajdú soldiers under his flag. Simoni tried to recruit his Hajdús from the area of Royal Hungary, thus taking away Homonnai`s resources.
Knowing the savage reputation of the Hajdú soldiers, Rhédey, Prince Bethlen’s brother-in-law was recommended to summon the leaders of the Hajdús, arrest them if needed, and make them swear fealty to him, slaughtering those who would refuse it.
There were many Hajdú soldiers who had sided with Homonnai-Drugeth. One of them, Lónyai András even wanted to assassinate Simoni György just to please Homonnai.
Meanwhile, Homonnai`s other man, Captain Gombos András was waiting for his chance to release his Hajdú soldiers and attack the Szilágyság region of Transylvania. Which he did at the end of October with his 500 men, trying to recruit more while marching on.
Simoni and his 200 soldiers came out to meet him but Gombos hid his men in a forest so the attackers returned to a village called Tarcsa. It was the place where the Hajdús of Gombos assaulted them. They found out in which house Simoni was and surrounded the house.
Sources said: „Simoni György broke out twice from the house and fought hard with the villains. The attackers were persistent and Simoni`s men didn`t come to help their captain. Simoni György was defending himself in the house but the villains began firing at him and a bullet hit him that was fired from the window. He was wounded and captured, then carried to Szatmár and given to Dóczy András.”
In Hungarian: „Simoni György, a házból kétszer kicsapott és erősen megharczolt a latrokkal. Neki felesedvén a sok lator és a maga hada is Simoni Györgyöt meg nem segítvén, a házban a sok lator előtt Simoni György béálla; de az ablakokról reá lövöldözvén, lövéssel lábáról leejték, azután megkötözték és sebben kötözve Szakmárba vivék Dóczy Andrásnak.”
Soon, the wounded man died in captivity.
Then, Gombos moved to the area of Dengeleg and made the local Hajdú captains join him. He had about 800 men by the beginning of November. There were some high lords of Transylvania among them like Sarmasági Zsigmond and his stepson, Jósika Zsigmond, the husband of Báthory Anna. They called upon the Estates of Transylvania to rebel against Prince Bethlen.
In answer to that, the Prince summoned the Estates of Transylvania to join his army in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). In the meantime, his relative, Rhédey was waiting for more Hajdús to come to him to Várad but nobody showed up. It was then, that the Pasha of Buda, Ali threatened the attacking Hajdús, saying if they failed to return home, he would ride out against them with an army. We know that Bethlen had very good connections with the Turks as their army planted him into the throne of Transylvania.
Interestingly enough, Thurzó György, the Palatine of Royal Hungary, the second most important man after the Habsburg king of Hungary, hasn`t supported the attackers, either. On the contrary, he ordered Forgách Zsigmond, Chief Captain of Upper Hungary to attack the army of Gombos. Note, he was helping Bethlen’s case in spite of the fact that the Habsburg king was not a friend of Bethlen.
At last, the battle between Gombos and the Transylvanian forces, strengthened by Székely troops, took place on 20 November at Dés.
The Transylvanians were led by Kamuthy Balázs, who knew all the moves of the Hajdús. Knowing their tactics well, he applied their own military trick, the so-called „Hajdú-snare-and-hit” trick against them and defeated them. He hid his infantrymen at a mill near to Dés and set out with his riders against the army of Gombos.
When the two armies met, they began a conversation like this:
„Brave men! Leave the side of the Prince and you will have a better life here.”
„No, good brave soldiers, it can be done by no means. We had sworn on to our Prince. Rather, we are quite surprised that although our Prince had not done any harm to you, you are turning against him. Besides, we are all Hungarians. Why don`t you rather abandon your evil intentions and join forces with our Prince, you will have a better life with us.”
Saying so, the riders of Bethlen turned tail but looked back and said:
„May God be with you, good brave men! Go back in peace, you too, why should we have each other killed? See, all of us are Hungarians. You had better return as well and let us live in peace with each other.”
The men of Gombos thought that they had been frightened so their leader proclaimed in a loud voice:
„After them, now we have gained the upper hand, we will have a nice gain and profit!”
They set out after the Transylvanians, „they began shooting but the Prince`s men rode all the quicker away, through the market of Dés city.”
Finally, the battle between Gombos and the Transylvanian troops was fought at Dés on 20 November 1616. The men of Kamuthy snared them into a narrow glen, „between the hill and the water”, then turned back against them. The infantrymen jumped out from the cover of the mill and attacked them from behind. „Both in the front and in the back they were being terribly shot at in the glen, falling them in numbers.”
Most of the attackers fell or got captured. Gombos fled, he could only rescue himself with his remaining 150 riders. After this incident, there were no more inner attacks occurring against the rule of the Prince so three years later Transylvania could join in the Thirty-Year-War whereas the majority of the Prince`s soldiers were Hajdús. You can read more about the Hajdú warriors here:
(Source: Szibler Gábor)
Here is the Hungarian text of the conversation between the Hajdú and the Székely Hungarians before the battle:
Amikor a két sereg találkozott, beszédbe elegyedtek:
– „Vitézek! álljatok hozzánk a fejedelem mellől és jobban leszen dolgotok.”
– „Semmiképpen nem lehet, jó vitézek, mert hitesek vagyunk fejedelmünknek! Inkább azon csudálkozunk, hogy a fejedelmünk senkinek sem vétvén és magyar is levén, kegyelmetek ellene törekedik, inkább hagyjon békét kegyelmetek az ilyen gonosz szándéknak, álljon kegyelmetek is fejedelmünk mellé, jobb lészen kegyelmeteknek.”
Bethlen lovasai ezután visszafordultak, de visszanézve még ezt mondták:
– „Isten hozzátok, jó vitézek! Menjetek vissza békével ti is, mit fogyatjuk egymást? Hiszen mindnyájan magyarok vagyunk. Jobb ha kegyelmetek is visszamegyen és békességben élünk egymással.”
Gombosék úgy gondolták, hogy az ellenfeleik megijedtek tőlük, a vezér elkiáltotta magát:
– „Jertek utánok, most vagyon immár módunk a dologban, majd szép nyereséggel járunk!”
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