Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

The Long War, Part 19 / The Battle of Vác-Verőce, November 1597

The siege of Vác in 1597

The Ottoman army has been withdrawn to Óbuda (the town of Old-Buda, north of Buda Castle) where they held a military council. They thought of besieging Esztergom, Komárom, or Vác Castle. The latter was recommended strongly by the Pasha of Buda. As the Day of Kászim was approaching, the last day of the military season, Szaturdzsi Mehmed gave up on attacking Esztergom because of the bad weather and the unrest of the Janissaries. Rather, he moved against Vác Castle.

Vác castle (Photo: Globetrotter19)

Hearing this, Archduke Miksa (Maximilian) has also set out. He was at Esztergom on 22 October and arrived in Verőce on 26, finally, he has come to Vác Castle. (My remark: these are important settlements along the Bend of the Danube.) The Ottomans had to cross the Danube at Pest city so they could get to Vác. They were able to do so only on 2 November. In the meantime, the Christians withdrew to Verőce and built out a very strong defense system between the Danube River and the Börzsöny Mountain. It was necessary because their army has decreased to 20,000 men and the Turks had 40-50,000 soldiers. The Serdar would have faced difficulties if he had wanted to break through the strong defenses. On the other hand, going around it would have been a great waste of time.

Imperial soldiers, 1592

The fight took place between 2-9 November and they were rather clashes than real battles. The Crimean Tatar cavalry got engaged in a fight with the Hungarians on 2 November but the Tatars were defeated. In spite of this success, the Christian defenders exploded the fort of Vác and abandoned it

Vác castle, 16th century

There were several renewed attacks against the reinforced Christian defense lines in the next few days. The biggest fight was going on around the Christians’ camp and their fortifications on the hilltops. The most fierce ones took place on 4 and 5 November.
The Ottoman army lined up on 4 November and launched an overall attack at about 11 AM. Mainly, they were attacking one of the fortifications which were on the top of a hill and they succeeded in chasing the Walloon infantrymen away. The Turks were pushed back only by the arriving Austrian and French cavalry of Kollonitsch. Yet, the Turks attacked again and again so more Christian troops had to be called there.

Imperial cavalrymen

Other fortifications were also attacked but those have been successfully defended. However, there was a strong attack against the Christian camp on 5 November. Again, only two of the fortifications were assaulted by the enemy but the Walloon and the Hungarian infantrymen have driven them back.

The cavalry units have clashed, too. Kollonitsch was able to chase the Turk riders of Buda but the Rumelian cavalry made a counter-attack and the situation has become dangerous. The 1,400 Hussars of Pálffy and Nádasdy arrived in the best minute, driving back the Ottoman riders. Pasha Veli of Rumelia and Pasha Mikhalidzslü Achmed got wounded in the fight. The Christians haven’t won a great victory but they could cause 1,500-3,000 casualties to the Ottomans while they suffered just the loss of about 160 men.

Hungarian Hussar cavalrymen, 16th century

The fights have settled a bit down by 6 November, only the Rumelian cavalry and the riders of the Pasha of Buda clashed with the Christians, suffering serious losses again. Szaturdzsi withdrew his troops to Vác on 7 November, then he recommended talking about a cease-fire. The mercenaries of the Sublime Port were rioting because the Day of Kászim has already gone so they wanted to leave for their wintering places. The talks about the truce took place on the island of the Danube River on 9 November, the Christians sent there Basta, Pálffy, and Nádasdy. The Turks demanded to get the castles of Komárom, Esztergom, and Kanizsa while Pálffy and his fellow generals made their claim to have Eger, Győr, and other forts. Here is more about Kanizsa castle:


Obviously, these talks have not been successful so Szaturdzsi moved his army toward Pest city which stood opposite Buda castle. This was a defensive strategy and it was more advantageous for the Christians who have basically repelled the Turk attack and additionally taken Vác Castle back. In the meantime, Prince Báthori Zsigmond of Transylvania launched an attack against Temesvár (Timisoara) Castle. Borbély György took Arad Castle along with Fellak and Csanád. (Please note, I still use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) 

The location of Kanizsa castle, south of Lake Balaton

Temesvár was besieged on 17 October but it was too strong for them. The Turk defenders sent for reinforcement to the camp of Szaturdzsi but the mercenaries of the Sublime Port didn’t want to fight, it was too cold already. Only 3,000 Ottoman soldiers were sent to relieve Temesvár but it was needless because the Transylvanians had already been gone. Had they waited a bit longer, they would have taken the important stronghold.

The siege of Temesvár in 1552

Finally, the Serdar has moved to his wintering place. There were a few less spectacular campaigns going on in Croatia and in Slavonia, too. All in all, the year 1597 brought just little success for the Christians. They retook Pápa and Szentmárton (Pannonhalma), and for a short time, Tata Castle. The fight at Vác-Verőce has been equally balanced so there was not a real winner.

Source: Szibler Gábor

Pannonhalma (Photo: Hallabalint)

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Three Imperial soldiers, 1593