2 February 1642: The Raid at Igal

In fact, it was not just a small raid, it was a major counter-attack. At that time, Batthyány Ádám was the Chief Captain of the Trans-Danubian Region of Royal Hungary and this is the story of how he led his raid against the Ottoman Turks at Igal of Somogy County, leading his Hussars from Vas, Zala, and Veszprém. Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first…

Batthyány Ádám (1610-1659)

Despite the truce between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, the “small war” was raging. The Hungarian villages of Vas and Zala County had been continuously harassed by Ottoman Turkish raiders and plunderers. It was the ancient Ottoman warfare, the local warriors were “softening up” the enemy’s countryside, trying to isolate the Christian-held castles from the villages that were supplying them. These attacks had to be answered, and the continuous fights and ambushes gave birth to mobile Hussar warfare. As the contemporary saying went, “a castle can be defended only in the field”.

Hungarian-Turk duel, 1612 (on a glass cup)

This situation was the reason why Batthyány Ádám, the Chief Captain of the Trans-Danubian Region wanted to take revenge on the Turks by preparing a major campaign at the beginning of 1641. Let me remark, the mercenaries serving in the Ottoman-held castles of Hungary were not Turk at all, they were Serbs, South Slavs, or Albanian soldiers, mostly Orthodox Christians in 98%. Here is more about them:


Batthyány was facing the Turk-occupied Kanizsa castle, and it was Palatine Esterházy Miklós who gave him the order to teach the truce-breaking Ottomans a lesson. This time the weather was „hard, strong weather prevailed with ceaseless snows”. It was going to be a major counter-attack so it had to be organized in secret. Batthyány’s mother, lady Lobkowitz Poppel Éva had just passed away, she was an outstanding figure of the century because of her skills and knowledge in medication. Her funeral was a “cover story” for the Hungarian noblemen and Hussars to assemble for the raid, without attracting much attention.

Palatine Esterházy Miklós (1582-1645)

Besides the Chief Captain’s army, there were about 2,700 warriors from the Borderland castles. Among other soldiers, there were the 112 hussars of Count Nádasdy Ferenc III and altogether 4,000 warriors took part in the campaign. The soldiers were coming together around the castles of Körmend, Csákány, and Rábahídvég. The landowners who had domains in Somogy County also took up arms and joined them. They hoped that they could collect their taxes from their villages in Somogy County.

The lay of the land to the south of Lake Balaton

Note, that Professor Várkonyi Ágnes had remarked upon the fact that Hungarian landowners never really gave up their ownership “just because” of the Ottoman occupation. Whenever they could, they sent their men to the enemy’s territory to collect taxes from their peasants, even if the collected tax was just a very symbolic gift or sum. It is even more interesting, that the peasants cherished this tie to their old lords and tried to send them gifts annually, in deep secret, sometimes from long distances.

Coins were hidden before the Turks and unearthed 500 years later…

We also know that rulers, princes, and monarchs did not really care about the Turks’ presence, either: they often rewarded their subjects with lands that were located deep behind the Frontier. According to Várkonyi, this “insistence on the property” ignored the borders and contributed to the survival of Hungarians. Imagine, it is a crazy thing: it is as if I sold my grandfather’s house to somebody, even though the house had been taken away by the Czechoslovakian state in 1946. Or, as if my wife was sending people to harvest her grandparents’ fruits in the garden taken away from them in 1938 by the Romanian state…But strange enough, this thinking had worked during the 150-year-long Ottoman occupation.

The pink dots indicate the modern borders of Hungary, the new map is placed above the 16th-century map (Note, there is no perfect map.)

The assembled Hungarian warriors marched to Tapolca where they were joined by 1,715 cavalrymen coming from the Borderland castles of Lake Balaton’s region and Zala County. Altogether there were about 6-7,000 soldiers who took part in the military action. They crossed the frozen lake Balaton in a „wolf-howling” cold on 2 February and assaulted the fort of Igal which was defended by a wooden palisade, 40 kilometers from there. We have to remark, that the palisade fort of Igal was built in the 1630s, it was an open violation of the truce. Now, the Hussars destroyed it and raided four more settlements as well which were populated by Serbian settlers who were the relatives of the Serbian mercenaries who served the Ottomans. These villages were Dada, Örs, Kér, and Kovászna. The surprise attacks were entirely successful. Agha Malkocs, the commander of Igal castle fled but his family was captured. The Hungarian Hussars of Sümeg castle took Agha Abdi while Agha Ibrahim died as a hero with a sword in his hand.

a Hungarian Hussar in the 17th century

The attacking Hungarians took about 400-600 captives, plenty of weapons, a broadcloth, and all kinds of horses and cattle. Batthyány’s Hussars were selling the spoils on ad-hoc sales at Körmend city on 3 February while Nádasdy’s men were at Sárvár castle. In the Hungarian language, these ad-hoc sales were called „kótyavetye”. Perhaps it stands for the word “auction”. The origin of “kótyavetye” is from the South Slavic language: ko će veće, ko hoće veće datyi? = Who gives more for it?) The rest of the warriors sold their spoils at Veszprém, Sümeg, Kiskomárom, Kapornak, Pápa, or Devecser.

Batthyány Ádám

On these sales, the „főkótyavető”, the man who was in charge of the sale, declared the price of the „item” and his apprentices displayed the thing. Whoever offered more, could buy it. Not only the soldiers but their family members and even strangers could take part in the business, from far cities like Rohonc. At Körmend, the greatest profit had gone to Batthyány who gained more than 3,000 Hungarian gold Forints on the sale. Mainly, this sum came from the ransom of 8 high-ranked captives that Batthyány got.

Gold coin of Sultan Suleiman, 1520

His officers and soldiers got a 10,000 gold Forints business done for their benefit. The warriors of the court along with the lieutenants could spend more and thus they bought mainly cattle and prisoners of war, they didn’t spend much on buying weapons. The infantrymen preferred buying equipment and weapons, on the other hand. The soldiers were allowed to spend as much as they wanted: their debts were recorded and later they tried to collect them. The total income that came from the sold properties was spent to cover the expenses of the injured and the dead. It included the compensation that was due to the relatives, widows, and orphans of the fallen.

Silver coins: the Zrínyi family had the right to mint coins…

The total sale of the „kótyavetye” of Igal’s raid was 14,257 gold Hungarian Forints and 36 denars (silver coins). This amount was equally distributed among the participants of the raid. Accordingly, everybody received 4 gold Forints and 60 silver denars.
My remark: a Hungarian Borderland warrior was paid 2-3 Forints a month, 4-5 Forints if he had to keep a horse. It was barely enough for wine. A Western mercenary received 10-15 Forints at this time. The pay of a Turkish Janissary was not much higher, they earned 3-5 ache (silver coins) a day but they got their pay more or less frequently. At this time, 54 Ottoman Ache was equal to an Ottoman-minted gold coin. It must be mentioned, that the Habsburgs were generally 2-3 years late with paying the Hungarian Borderland warriors, we know of a castle where the men’s pay was 9 years behind.

The gold Forint of Prince Rákóczi György I of Transylvania from 1646
Pasha Musza of Buda Castle sent a letter of complaint to Palatine Eszterházy Miklós about the raid at Igal. He wrote the next:
“…Batthyány [Bakjan-ogli] was there in person and he summoned many soldiers and crossed the Balaton, then, in the presence of some Christian landlords (mean: Catholic Christians, the original landowners who accompanied Batthyány), he vanished a few Christian (mean: Orthodox Christian, Serbian) villages that belonged to the Ottoman Empire. They took the poor Christian villagers away as captives, and they herded their cattle and all kinds of animals away, too. Some of the poor Christians got into a palisade castle called Igal [Ipgal párkán] to defend themselves but they were burned and slaughtered in it. Our brave warriors [Gázi] set out to pursue the attackers and could cut some of them. They captured an officer of Batthyány and if the enemy had passed one more hour in Igal, we could have got their spoils, with the help of God.”
Ottoman Sipahi, by Melchior Lorch (1646)
There was another similar case in 1643. We can read in the letter of the Sandjak Bey of Koppány castle that Batthyány was leading 5-6,000 soldiers in person who burned and took the palisade castle, taking 1,000 people as captives, herding away several thousands of animals. They took away the cannons, destroying those that they could not carry away. Allegedly, four Turkish Sipahi officers were taken to Sümeg castle: Agha Abdi, Fárisz Selim, Hassan, and Csirkin. Hassan and Csirkin were ransomed for 800-800 Thallers.
Sümeg castle in the 17th century (by Pazirik Ltd.)
Palatine Esterházy also sent a letter to Lippay György, Archbishop of Esztergom, Chief Chancellor of Royal Hungary. In his letter, he gave an account of the Raid of Igal:
“According to my order that I issued to Lord Batthyány, namely that he should summon his troops under the pretext of his mother’s funeral and cross the ice of the Balaton right after it, he obeyed and raided the Serbian villages, taking captives and cattle. We wanted to ransom the captives that the Turks had taken from us, using the price we could gain from this raid. He has done the job like a man, and he had good luck, without any damage. He took a Turk castle called Igal between Koppány and Kapos, a palisade that had been built as a violation of the truce. They slaughtered the old Turks and took the women, the young ones, and the children, along with their cattle. they burned the place to the ground. In addition to this, he did the same with four Serbian villages in the neighborhood, he had these villages smashed to dust, the villages of mercenary Serbs, taking the inhabitants into captivity. All in all, about 550 Turks and Serbs perished or were captured.”
a Hungarian Hussar, 17th century

(Source: Nádasdy Ferenc Bandérium, and Szibler Gábor)

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