The Long War, Part 23 / Christian ambushes, 1599

An imperial soldier on horseback 1591-93

Spring-summer 1599 – Christian raids and ambushes

By this year, both sides displayed fatigue towards the war. The armies converged slowly with the Imperial army totaling only 16-18,000 men by September.
This brought Pálffy and Schwarzenberg to launch attacks on the Ottoman Turks with smaller scale raids and ambushes. You may recall reading about the notable triumph of Hajdú in Tolna in the previous post: smaller skirmishes of this nature were frequent this year.

A Hungarian Hajdú infantryman

Captain Schwarzenberg and Captain Pálffy Miklós led 8,000 soldiers, including Hungarians, Germans, French, and Walloons, to attack Buda castle. (Note: I use the Hungarian name order where family names come first.) They had already captured Tata and Győr castles in the past two years and were now attempting to take Buda castle using a “petard”, a kind of explosive used for breaking gates.

Three Hungarian standard bearers, 1593

Last year, they unsuccessfully attempted to conquer the capital through a siege. Currently, they are planning a surprise attack. They have received intel that the Ottoman garrison is considerably decreased, and food is scarce. Consider the triumph of the Hajdus, who impeded the Turks’ logistical supply lines.

They attempted to sneak to the walls of the castle on the dawn of April 16 or 17 in secret, but it was not as easy to catch the enemy off guard anymore. This was due to the similar incidents at Tata and Győr, which made the Turk guards more alert. When some alarm shots sounded, the attackers retreated. On their way back, they used a “petard” to blow open the gate of the small Zsámbék palisade castle, and the defenders surrendered the fort the next day. The Christians then burned the palisade to the ground.

Zsámbék (Photo: Civertan)

Three weeks later, they tried to attack Székesfehérvár again but were not successful. They left Komárom on May 9th and arrived at Fehérvár the next day at dawn. They were able to explode the outer city gate and defeat some defenders, but the remaining Ottoman Turks retreated to the inner castle. Since the Imperial army only had about 5,000 soldiers, continuing the siege would have been pointless.

(Székes)Fehérvár in 1601

The “petard,” or in Hungarian, the “petárda,” was a unique explosive made by stuffing gunpowder inside a bronze bell and covering it with a plank. A fuse was installed, and the petárda was either hung on the castle gate or nailed there, using a plank as a support. The key was to achieve the proper mix of explosives since, if there wasn’t enough gunpowder, only the bell exploded and not the gate. (Especially if it was a double door). It was difficult to attach the petárda to the door and required discipline and luck. The method was initially tested at Tata Castle on May 23, 1597, and then used again at Győr on March 29, 1598. Read more about it here:

April 1599: The heroic death of Bey Naszuf, the Ghazi warrior of Szigetvár Castle

Ottoman cavalryman

The renowned Bey of Szigetvár, Naszuf, and his unit were trapped and killed near Babócsa Castle. Consequently, the commander became a “Ghazi,” meaning a martyr, as per the Ottoman tradition of dying in combat. Here is more about Babócsa Castle:

Babócsa castle

The Kanizsa Castle Hussars, under the leadership of their lieutenant Csúzy András, went on a raid along the River Dráva. They were accompanied by the wandering group known as the “free lads” of the area, Hajdú soldiers seeking booty. They approached Babócsa where the Turks of Szigetvár were alerted of their arrival by spies, and they quickly went to meet them at Babócsa, led by Naszuf.

Deli riders, 1590

The Hungarians had a large unit that allowed them to hide some of their soldiers and trap the Turks in Szigetvár. The Ottoman soldiers were scattered and most of them fell, leaving only a few to escape. Bey Naszuf died a heroic death in the battle. The head of the famous Turk was cut off and given to Zrínyi György (Juraj IV Zrinski) who had it preserved before sending it to Archduke Matthias in Vienna. At the time, it was customary in both Istanbul and Vienna. An Ottoman envoy saw Naszuf’s head and tearfully remarked that the Sultan didn’t have many brave soldiers like Bey Naszuf, who was now a “ghazi”.

Hungarian Hussars

Summer, 1599: a new attempt against Buda

Pálffy and Schwarzenberg attacked Buda on August 7, but failed. The Pasha bravely rode out with his cavalry to meet them, but Pálffy and Zrínyi were able to ambush him. They killed more than 400 Turks and captured the Pasha himself. In September, they attempted to use “petard” explosives in an attack on Pest city, but the guards fought them off. Schwarzenberg was wounded in his leg and replaced by Archduke Matthias and Pálffy until the new commander arrived.

The statue of Pálffy and Schwarzenberg in Győr

In September, there were only around 16-18,000 foreign hired soldiers and about 10,000 Hungarian troops stationed in Esztergom. Pálffy, Schwarzenberg, and Nádasdy requested payment for their soldiers from Matthias and asked for at least 5,000 German foot soldiers, plus the arrival of General Basta’s army from Upper Hungary.
The Ottoman army had a similar size. This army was waiting for Pasha Ibrahim’s troops, who had been appointed as Serdar in the meanwhile.

A formation of Hungarian foot soldiers armed with muskets, 1591

Autumn 1599 – Negotiations between the Ottomans and the Imperials

Grand Vizier Ibrahim’s army moved slowly in Hungary, waiting for auxiliary forces and Crimean Tatars to join them. By mid-September, they arrived in Buda. The Sublime Port wanted to end the war by all means because of the huge costs and the uprising of the Dzselali people in Anatolia. They tried to take back Esztergom either by siege or by talks. Tatar leader Gházi Giráj attempted to establish a truce on his own but failed since the Sublime Port demanded too much. They wished to retain control of Eger and add Esztergom and Győr to their territory.

A Hungarian nobleman

Ibrahim started the talks and Pálffy strengthened Esztergom Castle during the ceasefire in case of a siege. Meanwhile, the Ottoman army moved into the deserted Vác castle.

Chancellor Bartholomäeus Pezzen, Archbishop Kutassy János, President David Ungnad of the Military Council, and Chief Captain Pálffy Miklós represented one side, while Turkey’s delegation included Pasha Murad of Diyarbekir, Mehmed kethüda, and the Crimean Tatar Agha Ahmed.
The discussions took place on an island of the Danube River called Helemba, equally distant from both sides. on October 6th.

The situation in the first years of the 1590s

The Christians claimed that Transylvania and Wallachia were Habsburg possessions or at least neutral lands. They asked for Eger, Bihács, and Ripacs castles back and approved the rest of the “status quo.” Rather than sending tax to the Sultan, they proposed both leaders exchange gifts and the truce lasted at least 8-10 years. The Ottomans demanded Esztergom. It was an impossible claim, so the talks ended.

Ibrahim’s army went past Nógrád castle without attacking it. However, they managed to capture the Christians’ empty Drégely Castle. Afterward, they set up camp at Párkány (Sturovo) and sent Tatar-Turk raiders to loot the northern areas of the Danube River. However, they managed to capture the Christians’ empty Drégely Castle. However, they managed to capture the Christians’ empty Drégely Castle. The raiders ravaged as far as Trencsén (Trencin) Castle, and reportedly enslaved at least 10,000 people.

Nógrád castle, by Pazirik Kft

Ibrahim had a new proposal: he would have reconsidered his claim for Esztergom if they had obtained Fülek, Szécsény, Palota, and Veszprém castles. Unfortunately, they couldn’t reach an agreement, so Ibrahim decided to besiege Érsekújvár (Nové Zámky) castle instead. After the end of the war season (the Day of Kászim), he returned to Pest and went to his wintering place on November 3rd. Pálffy and Nádasdy, on the other hand, dispersed a group of Tatars who were burning and pillaging near Szécsény Castle.

The Christians launched another campaign to the south of Lake Balaton, led by Schwarzenberg, Pálffy, and Nádasdy. They captured (Vár)Gesztes Castle, Csesznek Castle, Lak, and Bolondvár (Balatonszemes). The Turks fled from Koppány Castle and Dombó, Ozora. However, the siege of Kaposvár Castle failed because of the cold weather. On November 23, the Christians moved to their wintering locations after a very eventful year.

Sources: Szibler Gábor and Szerecz Miklós

a Christian army on the move, 1596 (the elephant must be a joke)

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