Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

The last stand of Pölöske castle’s defenders, 22 July 1664

The castle of Pölöske on the drawing of Giulio Turco (1572)

It happened on 22 July 1664, after the victorious Winter Campaign of Count Zrínyi Miklós (21 January-15 February), before the great Battle of Saint Gotthard (Szentgotthárd, 1 August) when the Ottomans were utterly defeated in a large-scale battle in the open field; the approaching army of Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed was wiping off several Hungarian smaller Borderland castles on the way to Saint Gotthard. One of them was the small fort of Pölöske: in 1652 there were only 93 soldiers guarding it. They all died defending their tiny palisade castle, perhaps could not even hinder the Ottoman war machine with their death. At least, they didn’t live long to witness the humiliating peace treaty signed in Vasvár on 10 August 1664 that allowed the defeated Turks to keep large territories and newly conquered castles.

Pölöske castle (by Novák Gyula)
Let us read more about the circumstances of this tiny castle’s heroic struggle, according to the research of Szibler Gábor and Dr. Vándor László. Now, we are going to fill the gap between the siege and fall of Zrínyi-Újvár castle that happened on 30 June 1664 and 
1 August, the day of the Battle of Szentgotthárd (Saint Gotthard). What happened before the army of Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed attempted to cross the Rába River at Körmend on 26 July?
Köprülü Ahmed (1635-1676)
The castle of  Zrínyi-Újvár was taken on 30 June 1664, then the Ottoman army led by the Grand vizier marched across Zala County, taking the smaller forts that lay in their path. Let us take a closer look at these forts in Zala County: people have died in them, just like in Drégely castle in 1552 or at hundreds of places along the Military Frontier since the end of the 15th century. The historical events were recorded by Agha Hasszán, the Guardian of Pasha Ahmed’s Seal. Let us recall the findings of Dr. Vándor László who had scrutinized them. 
The wars of Zrínyi Miklós in 1663-1664
The Ottoman army stayed at Zrínyi-Újvár until 12 July because they had to finish the demolishing of the fort. Then, they made a camp at Kanizsa castle. From here, the Grand Vizier released his Crimean Tatar cavalry to plunder the villages of Zala County, Hasszán wrote: “they hit one-or-two hundred villages, then they arrived in the camp with numerous captives.”
a Crimean Tatar (picture: Wacław Pawliszak)
Part of the army went to the castle of Kiskomárom while the rest of them finished the filling up of the Christian siege trenches at Kanizsa castle. They restored the walls and cleaned the moat, too. They arrived at Kiskomárom on 13 July, carrying three siege cannons. Pasha Ahmed demanded surrender from Captain Pethő László who defended the castle. The defenders were not sufficient in numbers and got frightened, so the negotiations began. Ahmed didn’t allow them to take away the cannons and their weapons. Finally, the disarmed defenders agreed and left the castle about midday on 14 July but the Janissaries at the gate assaulted them and slaughtered them on the spot. Only a few of them could flee. The Turks rescued the cannons and the gunpowder from the castle then set the place on fire and burned the fort down, as it was not in the best condition already. Kiskomárom (or Komár) was never built up again. Here is more about the history of this castle:
Then, these Ottoman troops returned to the camp at Kanizsa and joined the Grand Vizier’s army. They all set out toward the north on 17 July. They were marching along the valley of the Kanizsa Creek (today it is called the Principális Channel) and they were approaching Egerszeg castle. According to the Turkish records: “the ford was in an hour’s walk distance. Pasha Kaplan and a few Tatars were sent forward to take a look at the road and to collect information about the area near Egerszeg. The commander has obeyed the order, and as he was instructed, he took a captive who said the following: -Honorable Vizier, our captain called Borosini (?) had fled, and the infidel garrison did the same. I also wanted to run away but I was captured.”
The castle of Egerszeg
As Egerszeg castle was empty, Begler Bey Ismail of Bosnia had a bridge built, then occupied the fort on 19 July. The defenders had been in such a hurry that they left behind their Turkish captives, about 30 people. They also found 9 cannons that were not destroyed. The Turk troops began looting and set the buildings on fire. Pasha Ismail could hardly salvage the cannons from the burning castle. The main Ottoman army arrived only on the evening of 20 July, they made camp at the castle.
The statue of Zrínyi Miklós in Zalaegerszeg (Photo: Pilgab)
From the next day on, smaller units were sent from the main army, their task was to take the fortifications in the neighborhood. Pölöske castle was one of them. The small castle was built in the middle of a marshland fed by the water of the Szérvíz Creek. It was defended by 93 soldiers in 1652. It was Agha Hussein who led his men there on 21 July, he had two smaller units of Croatian Szegbán Janissaries, and 1,000 Albanian musket men, accompanied by the men of Bey Vlora (Vlorë) and Bey Ohrid.
A Jannisary before 1657
According to the records: “This unit crossed the bridge and rushed into the inner castle that included a church {in fact: it was the outer castle}. Well, this palisade castle is located in the middle of a large swamp. But the Islamic troops attacked very fast across the bridge, cut off many heads, and gained a rich bounty. The Giaours were able to remain in the church of the inner fort only for a day and for a night. When our soldiers made a hole on the walls with their grappling irons, they were received by a rain of bullets so they had to withdraw. We could not chase the Giaours out by fire, either because they had removed the roof. So five centners of gunpowder had to be acquired from the honorable miner unit so as to dig mines under the church. But before the miners arrived, the besiegers placed wood and branches all around the wall of the church, then made such a fire that the Giaours were toasted and moved to the fire of Hell.”
A small palace was built on the ruins of Pölöske palisade castle (Photo: Civertan)
 “At the time of the attack of this palisade castle, the Croatian and Albanian Szegbán units distinguished themselves, their bravery was extraordinary. The flag bearer from Dukadjin and 15 Szegbáns died a heroic death. It happened on 27 Zilhidzse {22 July}, Pölöske was burned down, and the Giaours burned inside so the punishment has reached them as it is written: `You will be punished by evil pain`. “
A Hungarian infantryman (a Hajdú soldier) in the 17th century

 As for the heroic defenders, Lord Esterházy Pál also mentioned them but he didn’t go into details about them. The main Turkish army seemed to have gone around Plölöske castle towards the north on 20 July so the defenders didn’t expect to be attacked. Thus, the enemy appeared suddenly on the bridge that was connecting the castle with the western riverbank. The Turks killed many of the defenders who rushed out to stop them, and the rest of them could not get back into the inner castle because of the Jannisaries’ heavy musket fire. They got stuck in the outer castle (in the church) that was burned on them. Then, there was no need to besiege the inner castle.

A Hungarian Hajdú (by Somogyi Győző)
Grand Vizier ahmed sent Pasha Ismail to take Egervár castle (now: Zalaegerszeg) on 21 July. The defenders refused to surrender. The next day, the entire Ottoman army appeared at the castle, and seeing this, “the defenders pulled up two flags of surrender. The Captain came out and begged Pasha Ismail for mercy. {the captain’s name was Landor Péter} The Pasha answered: -Today, the army is not yet commanded by me. Had you come out yesterday, then I was still leading it. But now the Grand Vizier has come in his person, I will send you to him and will say a word in your favor.”
The castle of Egerszeg (Source: https://zalaegerszegturizmus.hu/informaciok/egerszeg-vara/)
“After this, the captain was taken before the Grand Vizier where he threw himself to the ground and begged mercy for the defenders. The Grand Vizier let them go but only the captain was allowed to keep his weapons. The garrison was taken to the fort of Zalabér. Egervár castle was burned but before it, they had taken out the six cannons from it.”

The palisade castle of Kemend (today: Kemendollár) was the next fort to conquer on 25 July. There were only 40 soldiers guarding it in 1652. The order to besiege it was given to Pasha Kaplan: “The Pasha moved his troops there, besieged the palisade, sent his men {envoys} in, they delivered this message: `Surrender the palisade or we will put you to the sword.` The Giaours replied: `We are going to defend it like men, we will not surrender such a fort like this without a fight.`After this, the Islamic troops launch an attack and dag trenches before the walls. They began to dig mines at the same time. But the Giaours planted the flag of surrender before the time of the morning prayer and they were granted a pardon.” The captured defenders were taken also to the fort of Zalabér, and the palisade of Kemend was demolished.
The site of the castle at Kemendollár (Photo: Civertan)
The castle of Kapornak was abandoned before the Turks got there. Nevertheless, the enemy burned down this castle as well. The Ottoman army left Egervár castle on 26 July, heading towards Körmend. Here, Agha Hassan mentions that several Hungarian defenders embraced the faith of Allah, and they were showing the way to the army. However, Agha Hassan doesn’t mention the taking of Zalaszentgrót castle but a historian called Rhoads Murphey (in his book Ottoman Warfare 1500-1700) places this event on 27 July but he is not sure about it. According to Vándor László, the taking of Zalaszentgrót and Zalabér is connected to the same unit that had taken Pölöske on 22 July. The unit had to return to the main camp on 27 July.
The palace that was built on the castle of Zalaszentgrót (Photo: Civertan)
The fortifications that stood between Kanizsa and Körmend were demolished in a few days between 20 July 1664 and 27 July 1664. 
The stone buildings were not utterly pulled down in Pölöske, Kemend, or Kapornak due to the shortness of time, they just burned the roofs and the wooden palisade. Later, they were supplied with garrisons as we can see after the Peace of Vasvár (10 August 1664), except for Kiskomárom.
The COA of Zalaszentgrót (by Kaboldy)
Sources: Szibler Gábor used the study of Vándor László: “Hasan aga krónikája. Adatok az egerszegi és a környékbeli végvárak 1664. évi pusztulásához. In. Zalai évszázadok (Zalai Gyűjtemény 80.). Zalaegerszeg, 2016. 21-37.” and Szvitek Róbert József: Kiskomárom végvár szerepe a dél-dunántúli védelmi rendszerben. Doktori disszertáció. ELTE-BTK. Bp., 2008. 65-66.

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