Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

The Long War, Part 33; the third siege of Buda, 1603

Buda (before 1617)

In fact, the third siege of Buda castle has not even taken place. The troops of the Imperial Chief General, Hermann von Russwurm had set out on 17 September and they arrived at Pest three days later. They came to relieve the besieged Pest that had been under siege for a year by that time. Unlike in the previous year, now the Christians have been able to bring together a larger army that boasted 40-45,000 soldiers. This time, they were hoping to take Buda Castle by all means. You can read more about the town of Pest here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/ottoman-occupied-lands/pest/

By the time the Ottomans arrived at Hamzabég (Érd city), the Christians had built out strong fortifications in the northern corner of the Csepel Island of the Danube. The Ottoman army was led by the Serdar, Pasha Lala Mehmed. His camp was near Érd, and he was sending an enormous amount of gunpowder, food, and lots of soldiers to Buda castle, and the Christians could not block his moves. Due to the ongoing battles in Persia and in Anatolia against the Dzselalies, he had just a part of the Port’s mercenaries and of the Ispahies and Janissaries. It is likely that his army hasn’t even reached the number of 40,000 men. 

The siege of Buda in 1603 

The Ottomans were supposed to chase them out of the island if they wanted to transport food by boats to Buda Castle. However, the Christians built a bridge over the Danube at the end of Szentendre Island on 27 September. This bridge was going to have a significant role in the oncoming battle. It could help them to cross to the Island of Tököl but they had to use boats to carry their soldiers to the Csepel Island from there. All in all, the Christians were able to transport their supplies across the bridge much easier and more undisturbed than the Turks could. 


 
The spies of the Habsburgs, more exactly a renegade “pribék” who sneaked across the river by boat informed the commanders about the enemy’s moves so they were able to get ready to answer them. The Turk army numbered fewer soldiers and they were not properly prepared, in addition to this, they were struggling with logistical problems and they didn’t have a route assigned for a retreat. Hurriedly, the Ottomans succeeded in bringing 10-15,000 warriors to Csepel Island, 3-5,000 Janissaries, and 7-10,000 cavalrymen. They were led by the Bosnian Pasha Dervis and Deli Hassan of Djelali. 

Lord Forgách Zsigmond took part in the battle, too

 Russwurm immediately launched an attack against the enemy’s positions on the morning of 28 September. Chief General Russwurm sent several thousands of cavalry and infantrymen across the bridge, under the cover of a great fog. His primary goal was to stop the Turks from building out their bridgehead, and he deployed his troops into four lines, and slowly advanced onward into the middle of the large Csepel Island.

A Hungarian Hussar commander, 1591

The two cavalries clashed around 8 AM. The Hussars of Nádasdy Ferenc were fighting against the Ispahies of Pasha Deli Hasszán. Let me note, that the Hungarian Hussars had been equipped with pistols since 1572 while the Ispahies despised using firearms. About midday, the Hussars of Nádasdy and the cavalrymen of Seifried bumped into a unit of 1,500 riders, they were black men, equipped with curved swords and slings. Soon, the cavalry of Kollonitsch and Heinrich Matthias von Thurn arrived to support the Hungarians so the Hussars were able to overcome the enemy that was steadily defending its position.

an Imperial mercenary

Then, Russwurm sent his musketeers in mid-day who were shooting volleys at the Turks. The most fierce part of the battle took place at about 2:30 P.M., and the Imperial soldiers were ordered not to take captives. The objective was to push the enemy into the river. The cavalry of Kollonitch and Nádasdy could cut the enemy’s cavalry into two parts, and they were slaughtering them in bloody combat. 

Hungarian Hussars in the 16th century

The Ottomans tried to defend themselves but more German infantrymen arrived who finally decided the battle. The Janissaries tried to evade being surrounded by escaping through the river by boats and by swimming but only 2,000 of them could make it. The Turk cavalry withdrew into the inner parts of the huge island. The Pasha of Belgrade was killed, just like the Bey of Szendrő (Smederovo), and Pasha Dervis, the Ottomans’ leader have fallen in the battle, too. The Janissaries have suffered huge losses, about 6-7,000 men. The two chief commanders of the Turk army, Lala Mehmed and Deli Haszán were accusing each other of the defeat.

a Janissary soldier

Despite the great losses, the Ottoman commander did not lose heart but his army was smaller than the Imperials’. Both armies retreated into their camps and they were afraid to launch an attack for several weeks. Although Kollonitsch and Sulz crossed to the Buda side of the river on 11 October with their 600 men, taking themselves into trenches but the Ottomans wiped them out two days later.

 

 
 
Mehmed went to the north on 15 October and made his camp at Kelenföld. General Russwurm crossed the river to the Buda side on 20 October at Szentendre but Lala Mehmed hasn’t accepted to hold a battle against him. After this, Russwurm moved away with his entire army from Buda on 6 November.

General Christoph Russwurm

As the weather was getting colder, the Imperials had no more chance to besiege Buda and they were also running out of food. At the same time, Buda was guarded by a strong garrison. At least, the Christians were able to attack the Castle of Hatvan while retreating home in the middle of November. 

The taking of Hatvan castle

Hatvan castle in 1596

Despite the failure at Buda, Russwurm wanted to show up a success so he turned towards the not-too-strong Castle of Hatvan which was not far away from there. My remark: “Hatvan” means “sixty” in the Hungarian language and interestingly, it is exactly 60 kilometers from Buda. Here is more about Hatvan castle:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/ottoman-occupied-lands/hatvan/


 
Russwurm sent his vanguard to Hatvan on 12 November, it was led by the generals Nádasdy Ferenc, Sulz, and Strasoldo. He also broke camps at Buda on 15 November and went to Hatvan. The siege of the castle took place between 16-19 November and the defenders surrendered it after the three-day-long bombardment. Russwurm left behind 400 men in its garrison then he went to his wintering area with his army. It happened on 19 November 1603 that the city of Hatvan surrendered to the Christian forces but it was no compensation for the failure suffered at Buda. 

Nádasdy Ferenc

As for Lord Nádasdy Ferenc, it was his last campaign. He was already sick when he returned from Hatvan to his Castle of Sárvár. He died there on 4 January 1604 and it was a serious loss to the Hungarian and the Imperial army alike.

Source: Szibler Gábor

You can read the previous part here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/chronologie/the-fifteen-year-war-series-1591-1606/the-long-war-part-32-military-actions-in-the-first-part-of-1603/

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