Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

October 1570: the Hungarian Borderland warriors defeated the Ottomans at Alsóörs

We know from the contemporary payrolls that 95% of the Ottoman soldiers garrisoned in the castles of the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary were ethnically not Turks. In fact, there were many Southern Slavic and Albanian mercenaries among them. Most of the time they were regularly paid and not as poor as the Hungarian warriors.

Ottoman riders

It is also known that there were other mercenaries employed by the Ottomans who were not regularly paid. These irregular soldiers were usually sent to carry out raids deep behind the Hungarian lines in order to soften the defense up. They made the living from plunder.

In this particular case, we know only that the badly paid Ottoman soldiers of the Sanjak Bey of Székesfehérvár, 900 riders in all, attacked the Highlands of Lake Balaton area. Their goal was to loot and plunder.

The news of the attack alarmed the Hungarian soldiers of Pápa and Veszprém castles. Bornemissza János and Török Ferenc set out from Pápa at once, leading 200 Hussars and 100 infantrymen (Hajdú soldiers). Thury Márton joined him from Veszprém castle but we do not know the size of his unit.

Soon, the Hungarian scouts reported to them that the bulk of the Ottoman army, about 700 riders were staying in their camp at the village of Alsőörs on the bank of Lake Balaton. They said that Alaj-Bey Mustapha, the Vice-Bey of the Bey of Székesfehérvár was with them, along with other Aghas, namely Amhát, Dzsafer, Murat, Kizefer, Alega, Bertham, and Hamza, not to forget Chief-Voivode Murat.

Captain Bornemisza János and Captain Thury Márton set out to attack them with 100 Hussars and 100 infantrymen. Chief Captain Török Ferenc of Pápa Castle stayed back with 100 hussars in reserve.

The Coat of Arms of the Török family from Enying, 1507

It was towards the evening and it was cold, too. The Hungarians saw that the 700-strong Ottoman main army was between the gardens of Alsóörs and Lake Balaton. Bornemisza sent ten of his Hussars as bait („martalék” in Hungarian) to lure the Turks out of their camp. Yet, the enemy didn’t follow them. They got deployed in battle order, waiting for the Hungarians’ attack.

A Hungarian Hussar, 16th century

As the evening was getting darker, the Hungarians sounded a terrible battle cry and rushed at the Ottoman line. After an hour-long bloody close-combat, the Turks were still standing like a stone wall. It was the time when 100 Hajdú soldiers ran to the side of the Ottomans and attacked the riders with a lethal musket volley. The enemy’s line got scattered and the Ottoman riders began to flee.

The Hussars of Pápa, led by Bornemissza were chasing them for two miles, cutting many of them down. Many of the fleeing enemies were forced into Lake Balaton.

Turk-Hungarian clash by Isaac Major

There were 200 Ottoman riders who were not there because they were busily looting the villages nearby. When they heard of the defeat, they left behind their captives and plunder and tried to escape.

In the meantime, 25 Ottoman scouts who were just returning from their mission, ran into the 100 Hussars of Török Ferenc who had been in reverse. The surprised enemy riders were slaughtered on the spot. The whole battle lasted until the middle of the night but the Hungarians lost nobody but had many wounded soldiers. The chase continued on the next day when the scattered riders of the enemy were pursued.

The Hussars of Pápa returned with 22 captives, many horses, and lots of severed heads. The soldiers of Veszprém took 7 captives. Agha Amhát died in the battle but Agha Dzsafer and agha Murat could flee on foot.

Hungarian rider, 16th century

The captured soldiers said that they were just poor lads and they went raiding only because of hunger. Bornemissza János and some of his officers were sent to the Habsburg king. They gave four flags and a Turk officer to him. There was a Hungarian officer called Pribék Imre who had distinguished himself in the fight so he received a 50 gold Forint reward from Archduke Charles Habsburg for his deed.

(Sources: Szibler Gábor and Veress D. Csaba: „Várak a Balaton körül. 122-123”)

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