Scots on the battlefields of the „Hungaries”
We have talked about the English heroes in Hungary, now it is time to recall the deeds of the Scots. As for the English Captain John Smith’s adventures in Hungary, you can read more here:
Due to severe famines taking place in Scotland towards the second part of the 16th century, many Scotsmen went to serve as „soldier-of-fortune” to the continent. A lot of them fought in Denmark and in Sweden and it was how some of them ended up in Poland. When Báthory István, the Prince of Transylvania (1533-1588) was the king of Poland, he brought Scottish soldiers into Transylvania.
They were appreciated for their martial skills and received three times higher pay than the local soldiers, a bit more than the German mercenaries. We have to write about Andreas Gaudi, the famous Scottish artillery officer in a stand-alone post as his story deserves a detailed explanation. You can read about him here:
In the picture below, you can see a basket-hilted Scottish broadsword, it belonged to Captain Pál Farádi Vörös of Csobánc Castle near the Lake Balaton, after 1659. Its length is 1,020 mm and it is in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, now. We do not know how he got hold of this blade which has a gilded basket hilt. (Source: Hagyomány és Múltidéző)
Now let us talk of the Scot heroes of Lippa Castle whose descendants are still living with us.
There was a unit of them coming from Sweden who was contracted by Prince Báthory in 1581. The Transylvanian statesman called Jósika invited 200 men of them to Transylvania in 1592. They were the ones who were valiantly defending the Castle of Lippa in 1596 against the army of Begler Bey Soliman of Temesvár; there were 143 of them (other sources mention just 75).
We know a certain Felföldi János from 1611 from Szeben (Sibiu) who got nobility from Báthory in 1611. Felföldi means „Highlander” in the Hungarian language. Many of the surviving Scots got mingled with the local Székely population, establishing Scot-Székely families. I wrote a historical novel about one of them, you can check it out here on Amazon:
More about the Székelys:
In order to understand the role of the Scots at Lippa castle, we have to give an account of its siege. The Pasha of Temesvár Castle (which was not far from Lippa) had set out from Temesvár (Timisoara) with his family and with his treasures to get to Istanbul. Lippa`s new captain, Borbély György has heard of it and híd 2,000 soldiers of Lippa in a forest and ambushed the wagons of the Pasha on 4 March 1595.
He slaughtered 300 Turks and cut down the Pasha, too. He took 300 horses and 13 wagons (according to other sources 75 wagons) where he found a treasure worth 150,000 „scudi”. He also set 160 young women free who had intended to finish their lives in the Harem of the Pasha in Istanbul.
Prince Báthory got very happy when he heard of this ambush but the new Pasha of Temesvár, Soliman „with a big eyebrow” wanted to take revenge for it. He summoned the soldiers from the Turk borderland castles and called the Tatar Khan to aid him, altogether 17,000 men. Suddenly he appeared at Lippa on 28 April, besieging it.
The prince informed the Diet who voted for 4,000 soldiers to send to relieve Lippa and he sent 12 bigger cannons into the castle via the River Maros. General Feuffenbach and Prépostváry were also informed to send reinforcement, cannons, and gunpowder at once. The noble Estates were also ordered to be summoned at Kenyérmező (Breadfield).
In the meantime, the Pasha of Temesvár was able to surround Lippa on 5 May and the bombardment of the fort has begun. The Hungarians sallied out to disturb the Turk artillery but they were repelled; yet, the defenders were able to mend the walls during the night. The Turks moved their cannons to a hilltop on 6 May over the city.
The defenders were busily repairing the walls each night, even the sick and the wounded had to work there. Even the tasty wines were poured from the barrels to the ground so as to load the barrels with earth and build them into the gaps amid burned stakes and pieces of rocks. They built ground mounds on the top of the walls to slow the enemy`s bullets down.
The Turks were sending people to the walls who loudly proclaimed in Hungarian that anybody could go away freely and unharmed if they surrendered; similar letters were thrown in the fort, too. Then, the Turks set everything on fire whatever they could so as to spread havoc, and began a huge bombardment on 7 May in the dawn.
It was the preparation for their assault which commenced at 1 PM but was repelled. It was the fight when the Scottish soldiers distinguished themselves so valiantly; 25 of them died at this time.
Their commander was so strong that he was reputed that he was able to kill a horse with a single blow of his fist. The similarly famous Polish Komorovszky finished his life at this time, too: he was famous to break „thalers” or a horseshoe in two with only two of his fingers. Other officers fighting valiantly shoulder-to-shoulder with the Scots were: Aracsay Mihály, Petky Farkas Vice-Captains, and lieutenants Szilágyi István, Thury Márton and Ferenc, Barabás Péter, Kaptáry János, and Verebélyi János. Lieutenant Galacz István was captured by the Turks; while the Bey of Csanád died on the battlefield.
On the night of 10 May, the Scottish captain recommended to Chief Captain Borbély György to fire all his cannons at the same time. This volley frightened the enemy very much because they thought that reinforcement was coming to Lippa. This news was confirmed by other news: the Pasha of Temesvár received the information that the town of Temesvár was set on fire by Hungarian Hussars. It made him quit the siege in a hurry and return to Temesvár on 11 May.
Soon, Prince Báthory arrived at Lippa where the defenders marched before him; the prince hugged the old captain and praised his valiance, then he highlighted the heroism of the Scottish soldiers and others (Borbély György, Barabás Péter, Thúry Ferenc, Kaptáry János). The Scots took part in his other fights, too.
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