Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

The Long War, Part 13 / Upper Lands, and Transylvania 1595

Archduke Matthias, later Emperor Matthias I (1557-1619)

Autumn, 1595 – The Army of the Upper Lands of Hungary attacks on the Great Hungarian Plain

After Archduke Matthias has declared the campaign finished, his younger brother Maximilian III (Miksa) launched an attack with the army of the Hungarian Upper Lands. He went from Esztergom to Eger Castle, then he made a few maneuvers to confuse the Turks and moved to Szolnok. Hearing the Christian army`s approach, the Ottoman garrisons of Törökszentmiklós, Szarvas, and Békés set their castles on fire and fled. Maximilian / Miksa arrived at Szolnok castle on 17 October and deployed his cannons for bombarding the fort. Yet, the cold has come too early and they have received (fake) news about the coming of the Ottoman reinforcing army so the Christian army forced its leader to quit the siege. So, there has been no result after this short siege.

Szolnok castle in 1552, reconstruction drawing, Pazirik Kft.

Summer and autumn, 1595 – The victories of the Transylvanian troops

While the Habsburg troops were fighting at Esztergom quite successfully, the military machine of the Transylvanian-Moldavian-Wallachian alliance has come into action, too. (Note, I use the Oriental name order for Hungarian names where family names come first, and Wallachians and Moldavians are Romanians.) It was Borbély György, the Captain of Lugos Castle who launched an attack in the Temesköz (Temes River area) during the summer. The Turks surrendered the castles of Bokszeg, Varsánd, Tótváradja, and Facsád (Facset), these were the landmarks of the Transylvanians’ success. Borbély defeated the smaller army of the Pasha of Temesvár (Timisoara) Castle near Facsád on 12 August. Also, the Ottoman guards of Solymos and Eperjes forts have fled. The Transylvanian army has even besieged the strongest fort along the Maros River, Lippa Castle. Lippa`s garrison finally surrendered on 18 August. Hearing the news, the Ottoman defenders have abandoned the castles of Világos, Pankota, Siri, Csanád, and Arad. Here you can read more about Lippa castle:

The area around the Maros River has been liberated and on top of this, Bán (Duke) Békés István of Lugos has succeeded in taking the next strongest fort of the area, (Boros)Jenő Castle, by the end of October, after a month-long-siege. As it was, Békés surrounded Jenő castle on 16 September with his 1,000 soldiers. They were joined by the army of Vice-Captain Király György of Várad castle on the next day. As a result of the heavy bombardment, the defenders had to abandon the town and they withdrew into the castle.  

Jenő castle

The Körös river made the castle’s siege more difficult. The Transylvanians had to dig a channel and tried to alter the river from the castle’s moat. Then, they tried to fill it up with earth but the autumn rains were ruining their efforts. After this, they went on with the artillery fire and launched a general attack but it was repelled by the defenders. Finally, the Transylvanians received reinforcement and the defenders decided to cede the fort on 22 October. This was how the region along the Maros river of Transylvania was liberated from the Ottomans’ rule. 

Jenő castle
There is an interesting addition to the history of Jenő castle: the Sandjak district of Jenő castle was led by Bey Ibrahim between 1588 and 1591. In fact, he was a Hungarian renegade called Márkházi Pál, and he was trying to usurp the throne of Transylvania during the reign of both Prince Báthory István and Prince Báthory Zsigmond. He was lobbying in Istanbul and became a Muslim to achieve his goal. As the Bey of Jenő castle, he was eagerly trying to prove his worthiness by plundering and conquering the Hungarian villages of the Trans-Tisza Region. Those villages used to belong to Transylvania at that time. Here is more about Jenő castle’s history:
Borosjenő castle (Photo: Gr33nPixelz-1)

In the meantime, the main army of the Ottomans had come to the Lower Danube area but the Grand-Vizier Ferhád was ordered to return to Istanbul where he was made to relieve his office, and then he was killed. The new Grand Vizier has become Sinan again but obviously, it has caused a delay. Let us recall, this was the delay that made it possible to the Habsburg Imperial troops to take the Castle of Esztergom after a long siege. More about the siege of Esztergom:

Pasha Sinan

Soon, Sinan had a bridge built over the Danube in August and crossed to Wallachia. Let us not forget that Voivode Mihail Vitez of Wallachia (aka Mihai Viteazul) and Voivode Stefan Razvan of Moldova have joined the Christian Coalition. Thus, there had been Transylvanian auxiliary forces staying in Wallachia for a year already who began their campaign during the winter with their Wallachian allies. They slaughtered the Turk garrisons and defeated the Crimean Tatar and Ottoman armies. Yet, they were not strong enough to resist the troops of the Grand Vizier at the Danube.

Voivode Mihail was withdrawing his troops toward Bucharest. He had a smaller army but he took up positions at a narrow pass called Calugareni where he stopped and defeated the Ottoman army, however, he could not eliminate it. Yet, the Turk attackers suffered great losses and Sinan himself was in peril. Unfortunately, this victory was not enough to stop the Turks entirely. Voivode Mihail had to withdraw into the Transylvanian mountains. Thus, Sinan could retake Bucharest and the capital, Tirgovistye. Sinan intended to turn the previously vassal state into a Vilayet, and even assigned a Pasha to lead Wallachia. At this point, the Voivode asked for help from Prince Báthory Zsigmond.

Voivode Mihai Viteazul (1558-1601)

The Ottoman commander hasn’t expected the attack of Prince Báthory Zsigmond’s, though. Hearing the peril, Prince Zsigmond set out to give help to his ally. Telling the truth, it was not the young Báthory but rather Bocskai István, the seasoned soldier, the faithful supporter of the prince who led the army. Yet, he had only 10,000 men, including the auxiliary forces from Silesia and Moldova when they set out from Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) on 27 August. Upon reaching the border of Transylvania, the prince was forced to grant the Székely guardsmen their ancient freedom back. Here is more about the Székely warriors of Transylvania:

The flag of the Székelys

This way, the Hungarian Székely warriors joined his army and the whole Transylvanian-Moldavian army has become 30-35,000-strong. The total army, including Voivode Mihail, numbered between 40-60,000 soldiers. Sinan wanted to avoid the battle and set out to get to his wintering dwelling places in October. The Christian Coalition was following his tracks and took Trigovistye on 18 October with a sudden assault, capturing Pasha Hassan who had been placed there as the leader of Wallachia. Bucharest was abandoned and set on fire by its Ottoman defenders. After this, the allied forces moved to Gyurgyevó because Sinan’s army was supposed to cross the river there.


The Battle of Gyurgyevo (Giurgiu, Гюргево, Yerkoekoe, Fekete Gyergyó)

Besides the taking of Esztergom, it was the greatest deed of the year because the Transylvanian-Wallachian armies defeated the retreating army of Grand Vizier Sinan at Gyurgyevo. The Castle of Gyurgyevó is located on the island of the Danube, with a bridge to both banks. Most of the Pasha’s army has already crossed the river when the Christians arrived. Only the Akindjis, the wagons, and the booty (including the slaves who had been captured) were left on the left bank.

irregular Akinji cavalry (1526)

The Ottoman artillery tried to disturb the allied forces but with little success because they rushed at the Akindjies and slaughtered them or pushed them into the water. The Christian troops practically crushed them, taking the supplies and freeing the captives at the same time. It happened on 25 October. Two days later, they ambushed the Castle of Gyurgyevó and took it, too, killing the guards. The battle was an important turning point in the Ottoman army’s history because the irregular Akinji cavalry was so much eliminated that they were replaced by Crimean Tatar cavalrymen after this time. They proved to be even more effective and lethal in burning the countryside and taking slaves than the Akinji had ever been. 

Voivode Stefan Razvan of Moldova

Moldova had to leave the alliance because Polish and Crimean Tatar troops intruded into its territory and Razvan was removed by them. The new Voivode became Jeremiás Movila, nominated by the Polish who placed him into power. Thus, Moldova has fallen out of the Christian coalition at the end of 1595. All in all, the vain and ambitious Prince Báthory Zsigmond could play the role of the “victorious Christian ruler” in which role the young man took great delight. He needed this success badly because he got disappointed in his marriage. The year 1595 has brought along squarely the success of the Habsburg-Transylvanian coalition. They didn’t know yet that the Ottomans would launch an attack next year with an even greater army.

Bocskai István (1557-1606)

Source: Szibler Gábor and Szerecz Miklós

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A Crimean Tatar archer (by Somogyi Győző)