The Long War, Part 18 / taking Pápa Castle, losing Tata, and the siege of Győr

The Hungarian Borderland castle system after  1580: the Long War was mostly about sieges…

Summer, 1597 – The re-taking of Pápa Castle

Having taken Tata Castle, the Christians went on preparing the campaign of 1597. Despite his failure last year, Archduke Maximilian (aka Miksa) has become the chief commander again but it was Count Charles of Burgau who was in fact, leading the army as he was also the Field Master. They held a military council in Vienna on 30 June where only Nádasdy and Pálffy were invited from among the Hungarians. General Basta and Schwarzenberg still wanted to focus on building out the defenses around Vienna while the Hungarian lords and Aldobrandini, the commander of the Pope’s mercenaries were against this defensive strategy.

Count Charles of Burgau, Field Marshal, son of Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria, born from a morganatic marriage

As the military council was quite indecisive, they welcomed the suggestion of Nádasdy Ferenc who told them to try to take back Pápa castle which had been in Ottoman hands since 1594. (Please note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) They were glad to hear it because it seemed like an easy victory and Nádasdy could get rid of a recently established Ottoman Vilayet center which was just next to his lands. The troops were being assembled in the camp of Mosonmagyaróvár on 1 August where a new military council was held; they set the taking of Pápa as their goal. Here is more about Óvár castle:

There were 23-24,000 men in the army, Italians, Swabians, Bayern, Wallons, French and Lotharingians, Franks, and of course Hungarians. They set out on 9 August and they arrived at Pápa Castle on 13 August. Here they were joined by the troops of Zrínyi György aka Juraj Zrinski, Batthyány Ferenc, and Török Ferenc who had taken not only the troops from the Trans-Danubian Region but wagons loaded with food, too.

Zrínyi György / Juraj IV. Zrínski

Pápa Castle was defended by Beglerbey Szemender who had just 700-800 men. The castle was divided into two parts, the city and the palace which was surrounded by a palisade. The bastions were built in old-Italian style but there was a wide moat around the fort.
The besiegers took their positions on 14 August and spent two days digging the siege trenches. The defenders tried to disturb them with artillery fire. The walls were being bombarded from two directions on 16-17 August, then an unsuccessful assault was launched by Mörsperg and Russwurm against the round bastions at the lakeside. The cannonade intensified on 18 August and it was followed by an assault on the next day. While the walls were attacked from two sides, other units were trying to fill the moat up with earth. Although the Turks resisted bravely, the attackers could break into the round bastions after two hours of hard fighting.

Pápa, 1597

Soon, the round bastion on the southeastern side has fallen, too. The defenders had to give up the city and withdrew into the palace. The Christians began to shell the inner castle from the city and it made Bey Szemender surrender in that very evening, in exchange for getting safe conduct. The Ottomans began to leave the fort in the afternoon of 20 August but while the 400 guards were going away, the Walloons and the Italians attacked them and killed a part of them. The looting of the castle has begun which was ended only by the explosion of the gunpowder stores in the fort. The leaders could save the lives of Bey Szemender and a handful of guards who were set free a couple of days later.

Archduke Miksa left 2,000 guards behind in the castle and he summoned the soldiers of Sárvár Castle back to Pápa. (The ones who had been sent to Sárvár in 1594.) Georg Andreas von Hoffkirchen has been appointed as the Captain of Pápa but the real work of commanding the fort fell on his Vice-Captain Maróthy Mihály. Maróthy’s liege lord was Nádasdy, he used to serve him in Sárvár before. He was appointed as Chief Captain later in 1598. The Christian army suffered serious losses because of starvation and the epidemics so they rested for a week and went back to their camp at Mosonmagyaróvár (Óvár) Castle on 27 August.

Nádasdy Ferenc (1555-1604), the lord of Sárvár castle, husband of Lady Báthori Erzsébet

September 1597 – The siege of Győr Castle and the loss of Tata Castle

The siege of Győr back in 1594: read my previous articles

Having taken Pápa Castle, the Christian troops who withdrew to Mosonmagyaróvár (Óvár) Castle were quite without advice about the future. Pálffy suggested besieging Buda Castle but Basta and Aldobrandini were thinking about taking Eger or Győr. Finally, their advice was taken because they had received the news that the Ottoman defenders had barely any food and gunpowder, and the number of the guards was not enough, either. Only 2,000 soldiers were serving under Beglerbey Mahmúd in this important fort.

The Christians set out on 7 September and arrived there on 9 September. Their number was not too big, they had about 26,000 men. Although the castle has been restored since the siege of 1594, the Turks have failed to re-bury the siege trenches the Christians had left behind themselves after the previous siege. Thus, the attackers could surround the castle quite easily.
The siege was disturbed by the charge of the Ottoman guards of Szentmárton (Pannonhalma) Castle but Archduke Miksa sent Johann Bernstein and 4,500 soldiers against them. The Turks fled and the Imperials took hold of Szentmárton Castle as well.

Pannonhalma (Photo: Thaler Tamas)

Yet, Győr Castle has proved to be a harder nut to crush. The defenders have charged out several times and caused serious losses to the Christians. Time was pressing, the Turk reinforcement was approaching. The Imperials tried to block the sallies of the defenders so they set the bridges of the gates on fire. The bridge of the Fehérvár Gate was destroyed on 27 September but they were not successful at the gate called Vienna (Bécs). Moreover, the explosion expert Bernstein was killed and Kinsky died, too. The rain was also hindering military actions. There was just a little food in the camp but the epidemic was killing the soldiers more and more. Archduke Miksa was forced to withdraw on 3 October because he didn’t want to be caught between the castle and the coming main Ottoman army. The troops took shelter on the Danube island of Komárom, in the Csallóköz area.

Komárom in 1594

As for the Ottoman army, they set out for this campaign too late and neither the Sultan nor Grand Vizier Ibrahim took part in it. Ibrahim was made to resign in November and his successor became Hadim Hassan, the trusted man of Dzsigalazáde. The Serdar of this campaign was the Fifth Vizier, Pasha Szaturdzsi Mehmed. They set out from Istanbul on 9 June and arrived in Belgrade only in mid-August. They were taking a rest there for three weeks to wait for the troops from the Vilayets. Only a few Tatar soldiers came from the Crimea because Gázi and Feth Giráj were fighting with each other for the throne at home. Altogether, there have been 40-50,000 men under the flag of Szaturdzsi.

Marching Ottoman army, 1566

They held a military council at Gölbasi (Lakehead aka Tófej) near Buda and decided to relieve Győr Castle from the siege. However, the Imperials had gone by this time away from Győr so the Ottomans moved against Tata Castle instead. The siege of the small fort took place between 8-13 October. The captain, Vajda Kristóf, and his 250-300 men have been fighting to the last, causing serious losses to the Serdar’s army. There was a mine explosion that blew up the Fernando Bastion but many more Turks were killed in it than defenders. They have counted about 500 dead bodies of the Ottoman army just there. 

Tata in 1617

Yet, Archduke Miksa didn`t make haste to reinforce Tata Castle so the defenders left the castle in secret in the dawn of 13 October. Pasha Szaturdzs had been waiting for 8 days at the castle while the walls of Tata and Győr could be restored. He moved away only on 20 October.

Source: Szibler Gábor

Tata Castle (Photo: Civertan)

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