The Long War, Part 19 / The Battle of Vác-Verőce, November 1597
The Ottoman army retreated 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 strongly recommended by the Pasha of Buda. When Kászim, the last day of the military season, approached, Szaturdzsi Mehmed decided not to attack Esztergom because of the bad weather and the unrest of the janissaries. Instead, he moved against Vác Castle.
When he heard this, Archduke Miksa (Maximilian) also set off. He was in Esztergom on 22 October, arrived in Verőce on 26 October and finally reached Vác Castle. (The Ottomans had to cross the Danube at Pest to get to Vác. They could only do so on 2 November. In the meantime, the Christians retreated to Verőce and built a very strong defense system between the Danube and Börzsöny Hill. This was necessary because their army had dwindled to 20,000 men and the Turks had 40-50,000 soldiers. It would have been difficult for Serdar to break through the strong defenses. On the other hand, going around it would have been a large waste of time.
The fighting took place between 2 and 9 November and was more of a clash than a real battle. The Crimean Tatar cavalry engaged the Hungarians on 2 November, but the Tatars were defeated. Despite this success, the Christian defenders blew up the Vác fortress and abandoned it.
Over the next few days, there were several renewed attacks on the reinforced Christian defenses. The biggest battles were fought around the Christian camp and its hilltop fortifications. The fiercest ones took place on 4 and 5 November.
The Ottoman army formed up on 4 November and launched an all-out attack around 11 a.m. They mainly attacked one of the fortifications on the top of a hill and managed to drive the Walloon infantrymen away. The Turks were only pushed back by the arrival of Kollonich’s Austrian and French cavalry. However, the Turks kept on attacking and more Christian troops had to be called in.
Other fortifications were also assaulted, but these were successfully defended. On 5 November, however, there was a major attack on the Christian camp. Again, only two of the fortifications were hit by the enemy, but the Walloon and Hungarian infantrymen drove them back.
The cavalry units also clashed. Kollonich managed to chase the Turkish horsemen from Buda, but the Rumelian cavalry counterattacked and the situation became dangerous. Pálffy and Nádasdy’s 1,400 hussars arrived at the last minute and drove the Ottoman riders back. Pasha Veli of Rumelia and Pasha Mikhalidzslü Achmed were wounded in the battle. The Christians didn’t win a big victory, but they were able to inflict 1,500-3,000 casualties on the Ottomans, while they only suffered the loss of about 160 men.
By 6 November the fighting had subsided somewhat, with only the Rumelian cavalry and the Pasha of Buda’s horsemen clashing with the Christians, but the Turks again suffered heavy losses. Szaturdzsi withdrew his troops to Vác on 7 November, and then recommended that a ceasefire be discussed. The mercenaries of the Sublime Port revolted because the Day of Kászim had already passed and they wanted to go to their wintering places. The armistice talks took place on 9 November on the island of the Danube, where the Christians sent Basta, Pálffy, and Nádasdy. The Turks demanded the castles of Komárom, Esztergom, and Kanizsa, while Pálffy and his fellow generals claimed Eger, Győr, and other fortresses. Read more about Kanizsa Castle here:
Obviously, these talks were unsuccessful, so Szaturdzsi moved his army towards the city of Pest, which stood opposite Buda Castle. This was a defensive strategy and was more advantageous for the Christians, who had basically repelled the Turkish attack and also recaptured Vác Castle. Meanwhile, Prince Báthori Zsigmond of Transylvania launched an attack on Temesvár Castle. Borbély György took Arad castle together with Fellak and Csanád. (Please note that I still use the Eastern order of Hungarian names, where the surname comes first).
Temesvár was besieged on 17 October, but it was too strong for them. The Turkish defenders sent reinforcements to the camp of Szaturdzsi, but the mercenaries of the Sublime Port didn’t want to fight, it was already too cold. Only 3,000 Ottoman soldiers were sent to relieve Temesvár, but it was unnecessary because the Transylvanians had already left. Had they waited a little longer, they would have taken the important fortress.
The Serdar has finally moved into its wintering grounds. There were also some less spectacular campaigns in Croatia and Slavonia. All in all, 1597 was a year of little success for the Christians. They retook Pápa and Szentmárton (Pannonhalma) and, for a short time, Tata Castle. The battle of Vác-Verőce was equally balanced, so there was no real winner.
Source: Szibler Gábor
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