Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

The Long War, Part 26/ The siege of Kanizsa Castle, 1600

Kanizsa castle in 1601

While the Imperials had been in a defensive position due to their slowness of getting together, the Ottoman army set out against Hungary. Grand Vizier Ibrahim had his army wintered in Belgrade so he could get to the Szerémség (Sirmium) area on 10 August 1600.

The Szerémség before the Ottoman conquest

They held a council at Eszék (Osiek) where they initially had planned to besiege Esztergom but many Pashas (mainly because of the complaints of the Bey of Szigetvár Castle) advised to go against Kanizsa Castle. The Hungarian warriors had taken too many raids and ambushes and the logistic lines at Eszék were threatened.

Ibrahim sent his 20-25,000-strong-vanguard to besiege Babócsa Castle on 31 August. The siege ended on 4 September because the fort was defended only by 200 Hungarians and 100 Germans, led by Pethő Gergely. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) The Ottomans had been bombarding the fort all day on 3 September and as a result of this, the Hungarians decided to cede the castle under the condition of getting a safe-conduct. Allegedly, the German guards wanted to fight until the last men. The defenders moved away on 4 September, unmolested. It was Nádasdy Ferenc who informed Archduke Matthias about the fall of Babócsa Castle. 

Babócsa castle

The Turks held a new council there and they decided to go and take Kanizsa castle. It is interesting, that it was the Bosnian Pasha Tirjáki Haszán who was sent to Buda by Ibrahim because he was the one who had wanted the attack against Kanizsa so much. At the same time, Ibrahim summoned Beglerbey Lala Mehmed of Rumelia to him from Buda. Pasha Mehmed brought along the 160 renegade Walloon soldiers from Fehérvár Castle; on the way there he besieged and took the fort of Bolondvár and took Lak as well.

The full number of the Ottoman army is controversial but we can make them about 50-60,000 men.
Kanizsa Castle used to be the strongest fort in the Southern Trans-Danubian Region, it was defending not only Zala County but also Styria and Kraina in Austria. The castle was turned into a pentagon-shaped fortress in the 1570-80s when its Italian-style bastions were built, surrounded by the marshland of the Kanizsa Stream.

Kanizsa in 1600, drawing by Fodor Zsolt

Captain Georg Paradeiser was in charge of about 1,000 soldiers in the castle which was not a very high number. As usual, the Treasury was due to pay them several months’ pay and there was not much food nor gunpowder in the fort. Captain Paradeiser summoned the smaller garrisons of the surrounding palisade forts which were under his command (Bajcsavár, Újudvar, etc.) into Kanizsa so as to have more men. Also, he had these smaller forts destroyed at the same time.

Kanizsa (Fodor Zsolt)

The Ottoman army appeared between 7-10 September at Kanizsa Castle and the systematic siege began on 11 September. The northern part of the fort was in the center of the attacks because the wall was weaker there. Also, they were expecting the Christian reinforcement coming from that direction. The cannonade was going on along with the filling up of the moats. The first general assault was launched on 25 September but it was beaten back. There was a serious disaster in the castle the following night, the gunpowder storage has been exploded and most of the gunpowder supplies were gone, 80-100 soldiers died and a part of the wall fell down. The defenders had their only hope in the coming of the reinforcement.

Kanizsa (Fodor Zsolt)

In the meantime, the Christian troops were being assembled at Győr Castle, and Prince Mercoeur, the appointed Chief Commander has also arrived at last. They set out from Győr on 16-17 September and they arrived in Egerszeg on 25 September. There, they were joined by the troops of Nádasdy,  Batthyány Ferenc, Kollonitsch, Thurn, and Hoffkirchen. By the end of the month, the soldiers of György / Jurij Zrínyi, and the men of the Slavonian Chief Captain and Croatian Bán (Duke) Herberstein have also arrived. The muddy roads and the rains were making their movements very slow and difficult. They arrived at Sormás, near Kanizsa Castle on 6 October. 

Prince Mercoeur

The number of the reinforcing army was too low, minimum of 13,000 and a maximum of 20,000 soldiers altogether. They arrived at Kanizsa on 6 or 7 September. As they could not take the reinforcement into the fort because of the marshes, their plan was to attack the besiegers. The Christian vanguard was led by Kollonitsch and Herberstein and they managed to repel the Turk attack at Sormás. Moreover, they took the enemy`s cannons and the low hill near Kanizsa so they could start to make their camp there.

There was a more serious clash on the next day, on 7 or 8 October. Both armies have been deployed against each other and they tried to occupy the fords between their camps so as to take each other`s camps. The Janissaries were repelled when they tried to cross the ford and their positions were also taken over, the Turks` losses were about 2,000 men here. The Christians were gaining ground everywhere and forced the Ottomans back to their camp but Ibrahim sent his reinforcement who could push back the cavalry of Herberstein and Kollonitsch. The overall losses of the Ottoman army were 1,500-3,000 soldiers while the Christians suffered lot fewer casualties. At the same time, the Christians could not hold the newly gained positions and were not able to get any reinforcement into the fort, either.

The Borderland area around Kanizsa in the 17th century

There were some more clashes in the following days but the Christians were running out of food and they were afraid of getting surrounded by the Turks, too. Johann von Tilly had brought 12 wagons of food and 300 horsemen on 9 October but he was attacked by Turk-Crimean Tatar riders who took the wagons from him. Tilly managed to have repelled the attackers three times and even has been wounded by the time Mercoeur sent him soldiers to cut them out.

Johann von Tilly later fought in the 30-Year-War, too

The Turks attacked with great forces on 10 October but it was repelled successfully but the lack of food was getting worse. General Salm was able to bring 200 wagons of supplies but it was enough only for one or two more days. The Ottomans attacked again on 11 October but the cannonade and the musket fire repelled them. Having achieved no serious deeds, the Christians decided to withdraw to the Mura River on 12 October as they were afraid of accepting a grand-scale battle in the open field. They were supposed to return with food to Kanizsa from there. The army set out the next dawn but the Turks attacked the rear guard.

The Hussars of Kollonitsch, Hohenlohe, and Nádasdy hurried to help the soldiers of Thurn and they managed to cut him out. Although they had not suffered severe losses during the withdrawal, the army fell apart in the camp they made at Szemenye. Mercoeur wanted to return to Kanizsa but he could not stop the disintegration of the army.

Kanizsa (Fodor Zsolt)

After the departure of the reinforcing army, the defenders of Kanizsa had no more hope left. It was beside the point that the besiegers were also having difficulties because Captain Paradeiser had no gunpowder nor food left so he decided to surrender the fort. After 45 days of siege, he ceded the castle on 20 October in exchange for getting free conduct. You can read more about Kanizsa castle here:

Ibrahim has turned Kanizsa into a center of a Beglerbey area, making it the headquarters of a new Vilayet. As a result of this, the raiding Turks have become a direct threat not only to the County of Zala but to Styria and Carinthia as well. On top of this, a strong fortress has fallen out from the castle chain of the Hungarian Borderland. The small palisade forts of Zala County could barely substitute the role of Kanizsa. The Ottomans seemed to have been more successful in 1600. The Christians were hit seriously by the mercenary mutiny of Pápa and the loss of Kanizsa was also painful.

Execution of the officers who had surrendered Kanizsa and Babócsa (1601)

The execution of Paradeiser and his officers

Paradeiser and his chief officers were accused of treason and they were executed on 20 November 1601 in spite of the fact that they had no choice except to surrender. Obviously, the Protestant Paradeiser was a scapegoat, and the Court wanted to demonstrate an example. The officers of Babócsa castle were also tried because the defenders of Babócsa, after barely one day of cannonade forced their captain, Pethő Gergely to open the gate before the enemy. However, Babócsa castle, the fort before Kanizsa, could have been defended for a full week. If the Christian reinforcing army could bring soldiers to Babócsa if the defenders had not surrendered so quickly. Then, the Imperials could have been more effective to bring help to Kanizsa, too. 

Babócsa castle in 1664

Paradeiser and his German officers were interrogated in November 1600 in Vienna. The Hungarian officers of Babócsa and the smaller palisade castles’ commanders (Újudvar, Kacorlak, Kiskomárom castles) were also interrogated but not in Vienna but in Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava). They were tried by the Hungarian Chamber of Pozsony. Finally, Georg Paradeiser and his officers, namely Ensign Georg Kugler and Military Judge Pongraz Nusch were executed in Vienna. The German commanders of Babócsa castle were also beheaded: Captain Wilhelm Uhrmüller, Ensign Hugo de Rosso, and Matthhäus Stöckel died, in spite of the fact that many people tried to save their lives. The German infantrymen of Babócsa almost shared in their fate but some of them received life-sentence and the rest were forced to fight against the Turks on reduced pay. 

The Hungarian officers were luckier: Captain Pethő Gergely of Babócsa, Chief Voivode Végh Gergely, and the other commanders and ensigns, as well as the leaders of the smaller palisade castles near Babócsa, were tried in Pozsony. Pethő and Végh were charged with breaking their oath to the monarch, while Chief Voivode Balogh János of Újudvar castle was accused of leaving his palisade castle too soon. However, Balogh exploded Kanizsa castle on the orders of Paradeiser. At first, all of them were sentenced to death, but after the execution of Paradeiser, the verdict was softened. Captain Pethő was obliged to serve three years in the army but finally, he had to serve just a year in the service of Nádasdy Ferenc, Chief Captain of the Trans-Danubian Region. Later, Pethő retired from his military career and became a politician. At the end of his life, he wrote his chronicle about his age. 

Babócsa today…

 We can draw the conclusion that not only foreign mercenaries surrendered castles during the Ottoman wars, and the soldiers who gave up forts were always tried in court. Moreover, the foreign captains often received a harder punishment than the Hungarian officers. As we can see, the Hungarian commanders were tried by a jury delegated by the Hungarian Diet while the foreigners were tried by the Military Jury delegated by the Military Council of Vienna. 

Source: Szibler Gábor and Pálffy Géza: Várfeladók feletti ítélkezés a 16-17. századi Magyarországon (Levéltári Közlemények, 1997.)

Kanizsa in the Ottoman age

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