Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Komár

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Komár, Kiskomár, or Komárváros can be found in Hungary on the land of Zalakomár. It played an important role in the history of Zala County as well as on the Borderland, particularly as the fort opposing Kanizsa castle that fell to the Turks, Kiskomár is just 18 km from Kanizsa. As it was behind Kanizsa, it could cut the Ottomans’ logistic lines quite easily. 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The place was first mentioned in 1019 and it belonged to the Monastery of Zalavár. The small town was the first center of Zala County but the Mongols destroyed it in 1241. King Béla IV brought there new settlers in 1263. The settlement became an agricultural town in 1449. The Dominican Order established a monastery in the town which was still in use in 1524. The Marcaly and the Rozgonyi families built their castle in 1540, it was called Kiskomár.

The coat of arms of Zalakomár

The castle went to the king’s hand after 1565 who paid 21 soldiers as a garrison. It was the valiant Lord Thury György who began to increase the number of its garrison in 1568. We know of their complaint from 1573 because of not being paid and about the neglected state of the castle. Its captain, Paradeiser, demanded money and food for the soldiers in 1599, assumably in vain.


It was on the Borderland so their situation wasn’t safe: they paid taxes to the Turks and to the Monastery of Zalavár in 1568 at the same time. After 1600 when Kanizsa fell, the city was only existing as it was defended by Kiskomár castle. Even Kiskomár was abandoned in 1600 so the Turks could take it. Yet, it was taken back the next year. We know that its captain, Farkas Benő asked for 100 infantrymen in 1604 because of the enemy. The strategic importance of Kiskomár castle increased and at times there were more defenders in its garrison (350-400 men) was even larger than the garrison of Egerszeg castle which was the center of that district of the Borderland. 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

 The city was the center of the county’s Reformed church in 1618. Their pastor’s name in 1628 was Pálfy János, a bishop of the  Reformed Church. Sadly, the castle was kept in such poor condition that its guards fled in 1619. One day, the Ottomans stole 600 cattle in 1630 so only that much food was left in the castle that was enough for three days. We know that Lord Batthyányi Ádám of Komár was pleading with the king to give him 120 riders and 210 Hajdú soldiers.

Kiskomárom castle was a constant threat to the Ottomans, no wonder they tried to take it several times.
Once, the Turks attacked the castle at night, four days before the Christmas of 1637. There were nearly one thousand attackers and they destroyed the fence of the outer castle 25-steps-long. The Ottomans could approach the wall because the swamp and the moat got frozen over. Then, they attacked the wooden palisade, next to the beerhouse at the mill, three times during the night and tried to cut the gate through. The enemy finally managed to cut the palisade through but they were beaten back.

Hussar weapons and armor

According to the letter written by its captain, Bessenyei István on 25 December 1637, they could repel the attack just because the captain of Keszthely had sent 100 infantrymen just before the assault. Without them, the outer castle must have fallen, he wrote. He asked for more reinforcement from his commander, Batthyány Ádám. After this, the castle remained in very poor condition though Bessenyei István had the gate mended. A whole section of the palisade fell into the moat in 1645 and it required a very hard job to restore it with earth-work. Bessenyei István was still its captain in 1640 but the plague of 1644 killed 600 people and it chased everybody away from the place. Batthyányi sent 100 Germans to reinforce the castle in 1651 and the next year 150 Hungarian hussars and 240 infantrymen were sent there from Egerszeg.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The siege in 1651 was a lot harder than the previous one. The Borderland warriors of Egerszeg were already informed of the Turks’ coming in July but Captain Kerpachich István of Egerszeg thought they would attack the Muraköz Region. The Ottomans of Kanizsa sent a raiding party in that direction, too. However, it was just a diversion because the enemy attacked the castle of Komár in August 1651. Pasha Hassan of Kanizsa besieged it with 7,000 men on 15 August. Besides his troops, he brought the units of the Sandjak districts of Szekszárd, Mohács, Pécs, Simontornya, Koppány, Fehérvár, and Szerém.

an Ottoman soldier

They had been destroying the gates and the bastions with four howitzers from dawn to afternoon. The water of the moat was drained and because of the mill and other noises, the defenders couldn’t hear each other’s words so the Turks could make a surprise attack. Fortunately, the warriors led by captain Pethő László could stop them but many buildings were burned down along with the settlement around the castle. 


 
The defenders numbered 254 men, led by Captain Gersei Pethő IV. László. Thirteen of them died in the siege, five artillerymen perished out of the six. In the meantime, the reinforcing army set out, under the flag of Chief Captain Batthyány I. Ádám and the Chief Captain of Varasd. By the time they got there, the Ottomans had already gone home. They had huge losses. The defenders found 53 corpses of the enemy in the moat, and the enemy took home many of its dead and severely wounded. The Ottomans buried 113 dead in Kanizsa castle, 23 in Berzence castle (including an Agha), and 16 in Segesd castle (and an Agha). The Agha of szigetvár and one more Agha from Koppány also lost their lives. 

Hungarian Hussars from the 16th century

Allegedly, pasha Hassan also died in the fight. It is supposed that the officers died in the desperate assaults. According to the Hungarian warriors’ knowledge, all the Sandjak districts that were there brought many deads home. No wonder the enemy was very angry and they wanted to take revenge, so Captain Kerpachich István of Egerszeg castle sent reinforcement to Kiskomár. As for the attacking Ottoman beys, due to the considerable losses and the great failure, they had to explain themselves before the Pasha of Buda for breaking the truce.

Kiskomárom in 1569

The reinforcing Christian army that arrived in Kiskomárom was waiting for more warriors to come. The men of the Bishop of Veszprém, and Count Zrínyi Miklós also joined them, along with Count Esterházy László, and German mercenaries. Their leader was General Hans Christoph III. Graf von Puchheim, the vice-commander of the Military Council of Vienna. They targeted Segesd castle and besieged it on 31 August 1651. However, the Viennese court got frightened of breaking the truce and called them back. Later, the Council issued lots of money to reinforce Kiskomárom castle, repeatedly. The Hungarians provided free peasant labor for the constructions. 

Köprülü Achmed, Grand Vizier
Kiskomárom was handed over to the Ottomans on 14 July 1664 by Captain Gersei Pethő László and Vice Captain Sárkány István. Grand Vizier Köprülü Fazil Ahmed found there 34 cannons and a huge quantity of gunpowder. Although Köprülü granted free passage to the defenders, his cavalrymen slaughtered most of them on the way home during the next day. The Vizier had Kiskomárom castle demolished right away. Later, the castle lost its military importance. We know that the Ottoman landlord of the neighboring area was Ali Begh in 1690.

Source: partly from Kiss Csaba, and Szvitek Róbert József: ’Kiskomárom végvár építéstörténete’ in.: ’Castrum 14.’ Bp. 2011. 41-56.p.

Szvitek Róbert József: ’Kiskomárom végvár szerepe a dél-dunántúli védelmi rendszerben’ Doktori disszertáció, ELTE BTK, Bp. 2008.
Kelenik József: ’Királyi vár hódolt városban’
The Borderland castles in the 17th century opposing Kanizsa (by Dr Vándor László)

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