Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Kaposvár

Kaposvár today (Photo: Civertan)

The city of Kaposvár (Ruppertsburg) is located 50 km from Lake Balaton in Hungary. It was first mentioned in 1009 and had been the center of Somogy County since 1061. Its earth castle was built in the 13th or in 14th century, presumably by the members of the Rupuli family. The four stone bastions and the stone wall were built in the 16th century.

The small fort was hard to approach so it offered a good shelter against the Ottomans and it had gained importance. In fact, the enemy could attack it only from the East because of the swamp. We can see there the ruins of an Abbey of(Kapos) Szentjakab, too. It was a kind of outer fort of Kaposvár, surrounded by a palisade. Here is a reconstruction video of Kaposvár castle, made by Pazirik Ltd.:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrrruAjWpyA&feature=emb_imp_woyt


 
In the decades after the Battle of Mohács, the neighborhood was prowled by the troops of Sultan Suleiman. The Ottomans, led by Pasha Tojgun, set out to take the southern Trans-Danubian castles including the castle of Kapos in September 1555. Taking Kaposvár was important because it was defending the way to Szigetvár and the line of the Dráva river’s region. The Pasha was called “Gólya” aka “Stork” in the Hungarian sources but according to Gévay Antal his name was “Hawk’s son”. He had 4,000 riders and 5,000 infantrymen but the 311-400 Janissaries were his elite troops. Also, he herded several thousand Hungarian peasants before him to aid his troops in the siege with their forced labor. It was the time when the same villagers built the Turks’ castles, then they were forced to build the Hungarians’ castles a year later. 

A Memorial Plaque in Kaposvár, commemorating the castle (Photo: Globetrotter19)

The fort of Kaposvár stood literally in a muddy lake in a very good location. There was an inner castle with a tower in it, and a wall was built around it in the 16th century. Each wall was 150 meters long, with a round bastion at the corners. The small town was to the East, it was surrounded by earthen and palisade defenses. There was a moat between the town and the castle. There were 250 guards and 150 Hajdú soldiers inside Kaposvár, and there were some soldiers of a landlord called Dersffy and some mercenaries of the king, too. At the time of the siege, the captain, Dersffy István was away in Kanizsa castle, under the pretext that he would get more gunpowder and cannons but we would never know if it was true. In his absence, his vice-captain, Torma Márton was in charge of the defense. Torma’s officers were Zoltai István and the castle’s judge called Akasztó Miklós, Lituenant Nagy Imre, and Szél Péter who commanded the Hajdú soldiers. Zoltai made all of them swear to defend the castle until the last man.

Picture: Pazirik Ltd.
Pasha Tojgun (he was also the Begler-Bey of Buda) set out from Buda castle on 30 August 1555 and he summoned the troops of the Sanjaks from Esztergom, Nógrád, Hatvan, Fehérvár, Simontornya, Szekszárd, Pécs, Görösgál, and Siklós castles, not to mention the soldiers from the Vilajet of Temesvár, altogether he had about 8-10,000 men. The troops from Temesvár were led by Pasha Gázi Kászim, the Begler-Bey of Temesvár castle. Tojgun’s goal was to take the Hungarian forts guarding the Dráva river’s region, and originally he had wanted to set out in 1554.
Nádasdy Tamás (1498-1562)
At that time, it was Palatine Nádasdy Tamás who was supervising the Borderland and he could not bring together a proper army so quickly. He received the news of the Ottomans coming near Kaposvár only on 5 September when Pasha Kászim made camp at Bát. Nádasdy was in Vienna at that time. The defenders of Kaposvár castle were quite unprepared and they knew that there would be no reinforcement coming before long. 

 The garrisons of the smaller palisade castles that stood in the path of the Ottomans abandoned their posts and fled to Kaposvár. We know that the soldiers of Póka and Kaposmérő castles (near Zselicszentjakab) appeared in Kaposvár. The Ottoman vanguard arrived on 6 September at Kaposvár and they clashed with the defenders at once because the Hungarians tried to help some of their soldiers to get into the castle. This first fight was won by the Turks. At that time, the 40 smaller cannons and 8 large cannons of Tojgun have not arrived yet. 

The main Ottoman army arrived the next day and surrounded the castle on 7 September. There was a Hajdú unit that tried to get into the castle on 8 September but their spies were captured by the besiegers so the rest of the Hajdús could not enter the castle. The siege began on 9 September in earnest. The Ottomans could drain the water quickly from the moat and built an earth tower for bombarding the fort. After three days of cannon fire, the gate and a bastion were down and they could launch the first attack on 11 September but it was repelled. During this first attack, only four Hungarian men were lost and two injured while the Ottomans had many more casualties. Then, the Pasha had the fort bombarded for further 7-8 days. Then, Szél Péter, on behalf of the Hajdú soldiers who defended the outer palisade, began negotiations with the Ottomans on 16 September. Finally, they agreed but Szél’s soldiers opposed the agreement so instead of ceding the castle, the Hajdús fled the fort during the night.

Picture: Pazirik Ltd.

The 150 Hajdús took along Dersffy’s armor and money, too. Pasha Tujgon recognized their escape too late but sent 5,000 riders after them, under the command of Bey Dervis of Pécs but the Hajdús scattered and got away in many small groups. As a result of the betrayal, the outer castle has fallen. The next day, the Pasha launched the final attack against the defenders who numbered already less than 100 soldiers. The fight lasted from dawn to late afternoon. The last of the soldiers of Torma Márton had to withdraw into the inner castle and resisted for three more days.

Picture: Pazirik Ltd.

They tried to negotiate with the enemy but in vain. At last, they attempted a sally on 20 September when the Ottomans were launching their final general assault. The breakout has failed and more than 60 of them got killed (including all the officers) and 34 warriors were captured. Torma Márton and his men were heroically defending the fort until they could lift their swords. When garrisons of the smaller castles in the neighborhood heard of the fall of Kaposvár, they abandoned their forts. Thus, the small palisade castles of Korotna, Mesztegnyő, and Bajom were also captured by the Ottomans.

Picture: Pazirik Ltd.

Let’s pay tribute to Torma Márton and the 250 defenders who heroically fought against the 10,000-strong enemy while their landlord, István Dersffy, had intentionally kept himself away from his fort. Even his armor and money were recovered by the unfaithful Hajdus. All in all, their death was not in vain. As a result of the siege, 18 days were gained which had significantly influenced and delayed the Ottoman campaign and could hinder the collapse of the Hungarian Borderland in Zala and Somogy counties. The noblemen of the Trans-Danubian Region were called to arms, they assembled in Kanizsa, Vasvár, and along the Dráva river. Palatine Nádasdy was given just enough time to raise an army and take it to Kanizsa castle.

Kanizsa castle

When Tojgun heard of them, his troops were at Szenyér. Besides Kaposvár, Pasha Tojgun was able to take only Babócsa castle and Korotna because the 5,000-strong unit of Bey Dervis joined his army. But he could not even think of taking Szigetvár castle, even though he besieged it on 4 October. All in all, the heroic last stand of Kaposvár’s defenders saved the castles of Szenyér, Komár, Kanizsa, and Szigetvár.


 
 As for the renegade Szél Péter and his Hajdú soldiers who had disgracefully fled from the castle, they were harassing the area for several years. Palatine Nádasdy Tamás received lots of complaints from Lord Csányi Ákos about the bandits.  Finally, it was Lord Török Ferenc who caught them and hanged them in Pápa castle. Read more about Hajdú soldiers here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/the-hungarian-hajdu-warriors/

Evilja Cselebi, the great Turkish chronicler wrote that the Pasha immediately turned the Christian church into a mosque and began rebuilding the captured fort. However, a year later the Hungarian “free” Hajdú soldiers, led by Louis of Baden took Kaposvár back for a short time in 1556. They destroyed the castle to prevent the enemy from using it. Soon, the Ottomans took it back and rebuilt it. After this, the Ottomans ruled the area: the traditional Muslim prayer of Friday was told even in 1664 by the Khádi who was holding a sword in his hand. Their occupation has lasted for 131 years. During this time, Kaposvár, despite being a small administrative center, worked rather than as a military camp. There were 2-300 Ottoman soldiers in it.

Picture: Pazirik Ltd.

The Hungarians attacked it in 1599 but could not take it. There were 8 villages and 23 destroyed villages attached to Kaposvár in 1622. Next to the castle, a second city grew up, inhabited by Balkanian people. Finally, the Christian troops liberated the castle of Kapos. The city and the surrounding area were freed from Ottoman rule in 1686. Emperor Habsburg Leopold had it ruined down in 1703 but it is more likely that the wooden palisade was simply disassembled and taken away in 1702. Had it been not destroyed, the inhabitants may have been able to take shelter behind the walls in 1704 when they were attacked by the Serbians.


 
The remains of the castle were pulled down and built over in the 20th and in the 21st century. However, according to the latest news, the small medieval brick-castle of Kaposvár has been excavated and the outline of its basic walls is displayed to the public. It is part of a playground now. As for the palisade castle from the Ottoman age, only a few sections of it can be traced down.

The reconstructed section in Kaposvár, 2021 (Source: www.kapos.hu)

 Source: partly by Szibler Gábor

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Picture: Pazirik Ltd.
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