The Long War, Part Three / how it broke out

The prelude to the war

We have to tell how Erdődy Tamás aka Toma Bakač Erdedi was defeated at Petrinja on 19 July 1592. As it was, Pasha Hasszán Telli (Deli) of Bosnia had launched several bigger assaults in 1591 against the Croatian part of the Borderland. The number of his army has been quite larger than a usual raiding unit and he has also brought cannons along. Violating the Truce of Edirne, he had taken several castles.

Sultan Murad III ordered him at the beginning of 1592 not to harrass the Hungarians and the Croatians but Hasszán ignored it and launched an army against the Croatian part of the Borderland. He has taken Hrasztovica by April and he forced the strong Bihács Castle’s guards to surrender in June.
Bihács castle Photo:
The Habsburg Court was upset and protested against the violation of the Truce. They said they would not send the “usual” annual gift (tax) to the Sultan unless the castles were given back. Hearing this, Pasha Mehmed of Buda reacted like this:
„A Mosque has been built in Bihács Castle where prayers are constantly being offered for the good health of the Almighty Sultan so it is an impossible thing to return it to the Christians.”
The Fethija mosque in Bihács (Photo: Julian Nyča)
Right after this, the Ottomans built a new fort between the Kulpa and the Petrinjcia Rivers and called it Yeni Hisar (Újvár / New Castle) and also named it Petrinja Castle. Ban (Duke) Erdődy Tamás of Croatia-Slavonia set out with his 3,000-3,500 men to destroy it. The military clash took place not far from Petrinja, at Brest on 19 July.
The two armies were separated by the river. At first, the Ottoman infantry crossed the river on a bridge and they were joined by the cavalrymen. The Hungarian-Croatian troops could not stop the abrupt attack and the Ottoman cavalry made them flee.
Erdődy lost about 600 men and Hasszán, instead of getting punished by the Sultan, received joyful acknowledgement from the Sublime Port.
Duke Erdődy
Of course, Hasszán tried to describe his actions as if he had been just rightfully defending himself. He claimed that he had taken Bihács Castle without using cannons because there was no resistance. The Pasha had high supporters near to the sultan so he was always able to avoid punishment. As it turned out, his attacks resulted in a major military conflict that was rapidly growing. Eventually, he was the one who caused the outbreak of the 15-Year War with his renewed attack in the following year.

The first stage of the war

The Battle of Sziszek / Sisak in 1593

Begler Bey Telli Hasszán of Bosnia had a fixed idea, he wanted to take Sziszek / Sisak Castle which is 48 km from Zagreb as the bird flies. He launched his third attack against the Borderland of Hungary at the Croatian-Slavonian lands in June 1593. His main objective, like in 1591, was taking this important Borderland fort at the swampy confluence of the Száva and the Kupa, and the Odra rivers. Although he could not take it during the previous year, he did occupy another fort, Bihács / Bihac Castle that inspired him. As we could see, he had already beaten the army of Bán (Duke) Erdődy Tamás and hastily built a palisade fort at Petrija.

According to the report written by Eggenberg Rupprecht on 24 June 1593 to Prince Ernő, the Bey’s army consisted of the following troops:

Hasszán, Pasha of Bosnia had 4,000 cavalrymen and infantrymen;
Bey Ferhád, 1,000 men,
Bey Opardi of Klissza, 3,000 men,
Bey Meszni,  2,500 men,
Bey Zeffár of Szvornik, the brother of the Pasha of Bosnia, 700 men,
Bey Mehemed of Hercegovina, 3,000 men,
Bey Kurd, son of Pasha Ferhád, 1,500 men,
Bey Rusztán of Petrinja, 500 men,
Bey Ibrahim of Likka, 2,000 men,
The Captain of Gradiska had  1,000 men, additionally 2,000 Sipahi and numerous Akindji and 9 larger cannons.” 
(Source: Bánlaky József)

irregular Akinji cavalry

The Pasha besieged the fort with about 15,000-22,000 men and had the walls bombarded for 10 days. As a rule, the Muslims and Christians raged the small war during the Truce with smaller armies, and cannons were forbidden. Now, it was a great violation of these “unwritten” rules. At the same time, in Sziszek, there were only 100 German mercenaries and a couple hundred armed burghers and peasants. They were desperately waiting for the reinforcement to arrive.

Sziszek / Sisak castle (Photo: igor kis)

The siege has come to an end when the Christian reinforcement arrived led by the Croatian-Slavonian Bán (Duke) Tamás Erdődy and Chief Captain Andreas Auersperg of Károlyváros Castle, along with Imperial Colonel Rupprecht Eggerberg, altogether 5,000 soldiers. The Pasha was utterly surprised; he had his army deployed in a peninsula on 22 June, their back pointing at the river. Thus, he got caught between two fires because the defenders of the castle were threatening his back and he had only a narrow wooden bridge for withdrawal. The assaults of Erdődy and Eggenberg along with the fierce cannon fire pushed the Turks back and made them flee.

They tried to get to the opposite bank through the narrow bridge, trampling each other to death. The Christians slaughtered most of them or pushed them into the Kulpa River. The 80-year-old Pasha Hasszán was killed, too, and most of his army was destroyed. According to the mildest Christian guesses, 16,000 of them were slaughtered. Six large cannons were taken from the Ottomans, along with many smaller caliber cannons. The victors took 30 ships, full of food and valuable things, too, according to the Chronicle of Baranyai Decsi János.

It was a great shame for the Sultan and it was Grand Vizier Sinan who gained control in the debate of the Divan where the Pashas were discussing the situation. As a result of this, they declared war against Emperor Rudolf on 4 July. By the way, it was the son of Sinan, Szinánpasazáde Mehmed who managed to take Sziszek Castle a few weeks later.


The battle of Sziszek was painted by Hans Rudolf Miller on the celebration hall`s ceiling of the Ferenc Nádasdy Museum (1653).

You can read more about the Castle of Sziszek / Sisak here:

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