The Long War, Part 32; military actions in the first part of 1603

A Crimean Tatar rider

Prelude to the campaigns

The year 1603 began in February-March with destruction made by Crimean Tatar raids in Hungary, on the lands of Lord Ferenc Nádasdy… We can have a small insight into the nature of these raids from the letter written by Achmed Defterdar to the Council of the Sultan:

„This is the letter of Achmed, the Chief Defterdar who is the collector of the Treasury’s income in Belgrade.
He is providing the following information:
On the 20th day of this Sábán month (02. February 1603), the private messenger of the Tatar Khan arrived here. He delivered a reliable verbal message and a letter from the Khan.
The Tatar Beys called Pasha Achmed and his brother Bey Arslan together with the soldiers of the Sultan in Pozsega (Požega), altogether more than 12,000 Tatars. They had managed to get some skilled spies (guides) from Kanizsa. They entered the infidels’ country on the 6th day of Sábán month (19. January 1603) and succeeded to return to Szigetvár Castle unharmed, loaded with booty on the 12th day of Sábán (25. January). They were burning in the domains of Nádasdy (Nedazs oglu) and Batthyány (Pañani) the outer settlements of the castles called Moroni [Moson?], Szonbu Tahl [Szombathely] and Lindok [Alsólendva], broke down the scum and took captives, herded their animals away, and set 800 nearby villages on fire; they took the captives and the animals to Belgrade.
The number of slaves was 10,000 and the number of animals was 20,000. As nobody has ever cast a look at the slaves or the animals in Belgrade and in Kanizsa, they took them to Buda for sale. (…) 
The reply of Sultan Mehmed – be the mercy of Allah on him – was the next: ‘I have acknowledged it, it was a great job.’ “

Raiders in action…

Spring-Summer 1603 – Preparations for the campaign 

This year clearly showed how exhausted the two parties had been. The Ottomans were in a more disadvantageous situation because the uprising of the Dzseláli in Anatolia had tied down serious forces and they suffered huge losses and destructions. On top of this, even the Ispahies rioted in the capital. Additionally, the Persians declared war during the spring. The Persian Sah Abbasz has been taking away large lands from the Ottoman Empire with the help of his army which had been updated to the military level of the age.

Grand Vizier Jemiscsi Haszán could come up with partial success. He appointed the strongest Dzseláli commander, Deli Haszán as the Beglerbey of Bosnia who had brought along about 100,000 of his soldiers to the Balkan Peninsula. Yet, it couldn’t stop the uprising entirely. The Vizier fulfilled some of the demands of the Ispahies but later he put them down with the aid of the Janissaries. He had to send an army against the Persians, too, so they had to fight on three frontiers at the same time.

Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617)

Sultan Mehmed III died at the end of the year and his son, the 14-year-old Ahmed became the Sultan. He was a weak ruler and was not able to achieve results on all three fronts. The goal was to make peace with the Imperials but the Ottomans had very high demands which finally made the truce impossible to conduct. The talks had already begun in 1602 via French negotiators and they were re-started during the summer of the following year. They began in July, near the Castle of Komárom. The Imperials sent the Bishop of Eger, Szuhay István, the Chief Captain Nádasdy Ferenc, and the Military Advisor Johann Molard as well as Colonel Adolf Althan, the Chief Captain of Esztergom.

The Ottomans were giving in and they were willing to accept that Pest and Esztergom would remain in Imperial hands but they refused to give back Eger and Kanizsa castles. Now, it was the Imperials’ turn to refuse these terms so the talks have come to an end by the end of August.

Komárom castle

In the meantime, preparations for the campaign were going on. Archduke Matthias had wanted to launch an attack against Buda as early as spring came but there was no chance to carry it out. On the other hand, General Basta could not dare to move out of Transylvania so it was the reason why they appointed again Russwurm as the Chief Commander. They wanted to get the troops together by August but this aim has been unsuccessful due to the lack of money and gunpowder. Yet, smaller clashes were going on.

The Imperial artillery of Pest had been shooting Buda so hard in March that the gunpowder storage of the Turks was blown up. Colonel Althan tried to take advantage of the havoc but his night assault was not successful. The musketeers of Sulz and Althan’s Hajdú soldiers attacked the Turk boats at Szerdahely (near Szekszárd) which were carrying supplies. They slaughtered 5-700 soldiers of the 6-8,000 Ottoman troops who guarded the boats.
At last, Russwurm set out on 17 September from Esztergom to start the third siege of Buda: you can read about it in the next part…

The attacks against Bolondvár and Lak castles

The units of Nádasdy and Kollonitsch attacked and took the castles of Bolondvár (in Balatonszemes) and Lak (Öreglak) in the summer. Both castles stood on the southern bank of Lake Balaton, and they not only guarded the lake and the districts of the Ottoman South-Trans Danubian Region but were excellent for sending raiding parties to the northern part of Lake Balaton. 

The area of Kanizsa Castle at Lake Balaton
The two small castles had been taken and retaken four times during the 15-Year War. The Imperials took Bolondvár and Lak (Öreglak) in November 1599, their leaders were Chief Captain Nádasdy Ferenc of the Trans-Danubian Region and Chief Captain Adolf von Schwarzenberg of Győr, along with Captain Pethő Kristóf of Keszthely castle. Yet, the fortifications were seized the next year by the Ottoman army that was marching towards Kanizsa castle. Then, Pethő Kristóf was defending Bolondvár castle and he made a heroic last stand where he lost his life. 
Balatonszemes, Bolondvár castle (Source: Szöllösi Gábor
The Military Council’s target for 1603 was again the taking of Buda castle. However, the year began not very well for the Christians living in the Trans-Danubian Region. The Crimean Tatars stayed over the winter around Pécs in 1602 so they could overrun the Kemenesalja area at the end of that year, then they attacked the Mura River Region twice in January-February 1603. In April, they were still pillaging Slavonia, imposing cruel destruction, and taking plenty of slaves. The Christians wanted to take an act of revenge and they came up with the plan of attacking the southern part of the Trans-Danubian Region. The plan must have been created by Nádasdy because the Tatars caused lots of damage to his domains. After all, he had successfully fought against them four months before this.
Nádasdy Ferenc, the Black Bey
 This attack seemed to be promising and the success would have been useful in the peace talks that were supposed to begin in July in Komárom. Seigfried von Kollonich stayed at Körmend at that time and he also joined Nádasdy with his men. Kollonich set out on 6 June, he had an army of 5,500-6,000 soldiers. There were mainly German and Vallon mounted riflemen with him, and 4 units of Dragoons. Nádasdy’s own army was joined by two members of the Bánffy family, and Széchy György, of course, brought their troops as well. The noblemen of the nearby counties must have been there, too. Also, there were those Hungarian Hussars and infantrymen who had been hired four months before. The success of the previous campaign was their deed, after all. 
Seigfried von Kollonich
  The army arrived at Kiskomárom on 8-9 June where supplies for four months and their pay for one month had waited for them. They reached Lak (Öreglak) castle at noon, on 10 June. There were 150 Ottoman guards in the small fort who decided to fight. Kollonich deployed Hajdú soldiers armed with rifles in the gardens of the village to prevent the sally of the Ottoman guards. Yet, the Hajdús did not obey and moved to the walls of Öreglak where they engaged in shooting with the defenders. As Kollonich had the village set on fire, all the defenders withdrew into the castle. They did not want to surrender and Kollonich ordered the Hajdús to attack but the dense cannon and musket fire repelled them, and their ladders were also too short. 
Öreglak castle

 Then, six cannons were deployed and fired at the walls. According to the report of Matthias Gattermayr who took part in the fight, the attackers even tried to break the gate with a “petard”, an explosive. The third assault was launched around 5 P.M. and it was successful. The intruders could get into the fort and slaughter everybody they found there. They spared the lives only of three Turk Aghas, along with the women and children. According to Kollonich, he had twenty dead and fifty injured soldiers. The castle was heavily damaged in the siege, and Kollonich did not mend the walls. He found there four cannons, one of them from the age of King Ferdinand I. They were carried to Körmend. Kollonich did not leave guards in the castle.

Balatonszemes (Source: Szöllösi Gábor
The Christian army began its march towards Bolondvár (“crazy castle”) castle at 8 A.M. on 11 June. The Ottoman guards did not want to die like the soldiers in Öregvár castle so they fled before them. The forty riders could escape quickly but the infantrymen and their family members tried to flee on longboats (or rather a fast, light galley). They did not damage the castle before running away. Three hours after their departure, the army of Kolllonich got there. They found four leaking “sajka” boats next to the castle, repaired them and 200 Hajdú soldiers took to the oars and set out after the Ottomans. They could get them after three miles from the bank, and a fierce battle developed on Lake Balaton. The fight lasted for two hours, it is likely to have been the largest such battle on Lake Balaton.
A boat similar to the “sajka” (16th century)
The Hajdús won, they captured many soldiers but they cut down those who did not want to surrender, including an Agha (officer). Many of the enemy soldiers jumped into the water to swim across the lake. The Hajdús returned to Bolondvár castle with more than 100 captives, mostly women and children. They took the enemy’s boats and seized five flags and two drums, too. After this, Kollonich wanted to go on and take Koppány castle as well but he could not do so because of the lack of supplies. Then, they made haste to return to Royal Hungary.
Kollonich left behind a garrison of Hungarian soldiers in Bolondvár, under the command of Balog János. Captain Balog had to face the counter-attack of the Ottomans who assaulted his castle ten days later. The Ottomans had 900 men, they came from Koppány and Kaposvár castles. Their attack was repelled, the enemy had many injured soldiers and they lost an Agha, too. Captain Balog revenged on this attack soon, they besieged the palisade fort of Endréd in the first days of July. They used four “sajka” boats, siege ladders, and a gate explosive (“petard”) in this fight.
The use of the “petard” at the siege of Győr (1598)
Unfortunately, Bolondvár castle was an isolated fort on the southern bank of Lake Balaton, surrounded by Ottoman fortifications. It was the time when the palisade castle of Siófok was built by the Turks, on top of this. There were only 200 Hajdú soldiers and 50 Hussars in Bolondvár, with an additional three artillerymen. However, these soldiers agreed to serve in this dangerous outpost until a fixed time. Captain Perneszy György of Keszthely castle was appointed to command Bolondvár but he seemed to have refused this task. As a result of this, the garrison of Balog János had to stay there even in 1604. It was Captain Ruprecht von Eggenberg of Győr castle who supervised Bolondvár castle but he objected to sending soldiers there from his own forts.
A Hungarian Hussar from 1591
Grand Vizier Pasha Lala Mehmed failed to take Esztergom back in October 1604, and his troops were withdrawing home. He wanted to show up some results so he ordered the Anatolian Begler-Bey Kezsdahán Ali to take Bolondvár castle. The small and unpaid Hungarian garrison did not want to diet like Pethő Kristóf so they fled from the castle when the Ottoman army was approaching. It took place about the end of October or in the first part of November. The Turks left a garrison in Bolondvár and they also mended the palisade castle of Öreglak. This way, Ottoman rule has been restored on the southern bank of Lake Balaton.
Bolondvár castle

Source: Nádasdy Ferenc Bandérium, and Szibler Gábor

You can read the previous part here:

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