The Long War, Part Nine / August-October 1594, the sieges of Győr and Komárom

Győr in 1600, by the Pazirik Kft.

Pasha Sinan had an army of 70-80,000 men but it may have been as large as 100,000. The Ottomans have decided on the military council they held at Dunaföldvár (Dzsánkurtarán) that the target of their campaign would be Tata and Györ castles. The small Tata Castle was defended by only Christian 300 warriors and its siege took place between 19-23 July. Captain Paksi György has surrendered the fort only after a few days of bombardment. Sinan turned the castle into a sanjak center.

Tata castle in 1617

His son, Szinánpasazáde Mehmed, the Beglerbey of Rumelia, and his couple of thousand troops surrounded Szentmárton (Pannonhalma) and took it after a day. A part of the garrison was slain upon leaving the fort. The castle has been made a sanjak center as well. As for Győr castle, the entrance-hall of Vienna, you can read more about its history here:

The entire Ottoman army arrived at Győr Castle by 31 July. Győr was regarded as the most important fort which was guarding Vienna and it had been well reinforced with bastions built in the new Italian style. General Hardegg held it and had 4,000 men at the beginning of the siege. He was able to receive supplies continuously from the camp of the Christians located in the Szigetköz area so he got a further 2,000 soldiers during the siege. The Szigetköz is a huge island on the Danube River, the largest river island in Central Europe.

the Szigetköz, a 375 square kilometers island on a modern map

The army of Archduke Habsburg Matthias, 50,000 men, were staying in the Szigetköz but they were content with sending reinforcement and supplies into the castle and they haven’t even attempted to relieve the siege. When the Ottomans were being deployed, they were successfully attacked from both the castle and the Christian camp. Sinan tried to surround the castle totally so he attacked the camp in the Szigetköz. He was gaining some ground but the Turks were soon forced back by the soldiers of Nádasdy, Pálffy, Huszár Péter, and Erasmus Praun.

The statue of Nádasdy Ferenc in Sárvár

Then, the Crimean Tatar Khan called Gázi Giráj arrived on 14 August with his 20,000-strong-army. Taking heart, Sinan has attacked the camp of the Christians with renewed efforts but suffered serious losses. The systematical siege of Győr has not been successful, either. The continuous sallies of the defenders were hindering the building of siege constructions.

The warriors of the castle launched an overall attack against the Ottoman siege fortifications on 28 August. They were successful in the beginning but later the Christians were forced to withdraw into the fort. Then, the Janissaries built a bridge on the Danube and they attacked the Christian camp on the night of 8 September. The night attack caused some havoc but the Christians were able to organize themselves quite soon. However, the Janissaries were fighting hard and could build out a strong bridgehead. The Christians were not able to destroy it. Luckily, there was a half-demolished water mill that happened to flow that way on the Rába River and it ruined the bridge which was already connected to the castle.

Three imperial foot-soldiers with muskets and three foot-soldiers with halberds; 1593 Etching, British Museum

It was when Archduke Matthias decided to withdraw. The retiring troops were on the verge of panic and the unceasing Turk attacks caused serious losses in men and equipment. Thus, the Turks could surround the fort of Győr completely. On top of that, the departure of the reinforcing army had a negative moral impact on the castle’s defenders.

The next three weeks have been spent with permanent artillery fire and attacks. Both the Ottomans and the defenders had great losses. The walls were in such a bad condition that the besiegers could occupy some sections and it was time for Hardegg and his officers to decide on surrendering the fort. They left the castle on 29 September. As a punishment, Hardegg and Vice-Captain Perlin were beheaded in 1595 by the Habsburg king although they had done everything possible for a soldier. Perhaps their execution was just a cover to hide the military mistakes of Archduke Matthias.

The siege of Győr in 1594

Sinan has turned Győr into the center of a Vilayet and placed 2-3,000 guards in it. The Crimean Tatars occupied Pápa Castle on 3 October as it had been abandoned by Christoph Priam who fled from there despite the fort was not in immediate danger. Sinan has turned Pápa also into the center of a Vilayet. This way, the borders of the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary have been seriously extended.

Pápa castle in 1617

The Ottoman army tried to take Komárom Castle on the way back home and besieged it between 4-24 October. Yet, the well-fortified castle has been defended and the Danube was to their great help as well. The defenders made successful sallies led by Erasmus Praun, and when he got wounded, the sallies were led by Farkas (Wolf) Starsich.

Pasha Sinan quit the siege of Komárom on 25 October. Komárom was the most important castle of the Borderland, it was defending Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and Vienna. You can read the interesting history of this city which now is cut in two by the Slovakian-Hungarian border, and the details of the siege on my page:

Komárom castle

In fact, this year was more advantageous for the Ottomans because they could stop the Christians who were besieging Hatvan and Esztergom castles. Besides, they could take Győr and Pápa which were essential to reach Vienna. Also, they have turned Szigetvár castle into a Vilayet. The Crimean Tatars spent the winter in Hungary which devastated the western Hungarian Kingdom as much as only the Mongols could do in 1241.

A key fort of the Borderland: Komárom castle

The Christians had to re-organize the Borderland castle system after the fall of Győr. The new part of the Borderland was called the “Borderland of Sárvár and Magyaróvár”. As a result of this, the center of Nádasdy Ferenc`s domains, Sárvár Castle has become a royal borderland fort for a few years. Its garrison was paid by the king and their number has been greatly increased.
This year has brought a failure to the Christians with just one exception: Transylvania was going to break up with the Ottoman Empire.

Sárvár castle (Photo: Civertan)

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