The Grassalkovich palace in Hatvan (Photo: Globetrotter19)

The city and castle of Hatvan are located sixty kilometers from Buda to the north-east. (Its name, Hatvan stands for “sixty” in Hungarian.) Pasha of Buda, Mohamed was making a campaign against the Hungarian Borderland forts located to the north and to the east of Buda in 1544. After Nógrád and Visegrád castles had fallen to the Turks, the Hungarian captains of the newly built (1523-1544) Hatvan castle decided that they could not take the risk of a siege and put the castle to fire and fled with their soldiers to Eger castle, leaving the burghers behind, unprotected.

Hatvan by Georg Krekwitz

The city became the center of a Turkish Sanjak, an administrative district of the Ottoman Empire that included the cities of Jászberény, Gyöngyös, and Pásztó. The Hungarians gradually became minorities during the 17th century because the Ottoman settlers outnumbered them.

The Ottoman city was surrounded by a more serious fortification. According to the Hungarian poet, Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén, it was Agha Deli Kurt who began building out the fortifications. The palisade castle had got eight bastions and the city was protected by an outer line of a palisade. The palisade was covered by clay to prevent putting it on fire. This kind of fort required frequent repairs because the wood began to rot quite quickly.

Photo: Vadaro

We have the payrolls that say there were 113 infantrymen and 295 riders, along with 13 artillerymen and 32 Balkanian irregular raiders in 1560. During the 15-year war there was a chance to take the fort back in 1594 but the German mercenaries of Chief-captain of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), Christoph Teuffenbach, quit the siege because of the bad weather.


The troops of Archduke Maximilian broke into the castle in 1596 after a three-week-long siege and they put all the defenders to the sword, including the women and the children. They found three bigger and 22 smaller cannons in the fort. This success was only a temporary one because the Austrian troops didn’t stand a battle with the main army of Sultan Mehmed III which was moving towards Eger castle but abandoned the fort and fled towards Esztergom. The Ottomans mended the walls to be prepared for the coming assault of the Imperial forces. 

Photo: Vadaro

November 1603, General Christoph von Rusworm takes the fort for a short time

The Christian forces had besieged Buda Castle three times before 1603, during the 15 Years’ War. This time, too, they failed to take it, and the Imperial army, led by Christoph Russwurm, ended the siege in mid-November. Despite the failure, he wanted to claim success, so he turned his attention to the not-too-strong castle of Hatvan, which was not far away.

Hatvan 1596

Russwurm sent his vanguard to Hatvan on 12 November, led by generals Nádasdy Ferenc, Sulz, and Strasoldo. On the 15th of November, he set up his camp in Buda and went to Hatvan. The siege of the castle took place between 16 and 19 November, and the defenders surrendered after three days of bombardment. Russwurm left 400 men in the garrison and then took his army to his winter quarters.

It was the last military campaign of Nádasdy Ferenc. He was ill when he returned to his castle in Sárvár and died on 4 January 1604. The Ottomans came back and their rule lasted until 1686 when the Turkish defenders left the castle and fled to Eger from the armies of General Heissler and Mercy.

Source: Szibler Gábor

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