Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thirteen Years’ War (1593–1606).

Esztergom (Estergon) became the centre of an Ottoman sanjak controlling several counties, and also a significant castle on the northwest border of the Ottoman Empire – the main clashing point to prevent attacks on the mining towns of the highlands, Vienna and Buda. In 1594, during the unsuccessful but devastating siege by the walls of the Víziváros, Bálint Balassa, the first Hungarian poet who gained European significance, died in action. The most devastating siege took place in 1595 when the castle was reclaimed by the troops of Count Karl von Mansfeld and Count Mátyás Cseszneky. The price that had to be paid, however, was high. Most of the buildings in the castle and the town that had been built in the Middle Ages were destroyed during this period, and there were only uninhabitable, smothered ruins to welcome the liberators.

‘‘The Long War.’’ When dated from 1591 it is sometimes called the Fifteen Years’ War (1591–1606). In either case, it was a protracted border conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian Habsburgs over Balkan territories. Conflict in the Balkans was long marked by small wars as local beys and Austrian nobles fought over control of some castle or valley. Sixty years of relative peace between the Ottomans and Austria was broken in 1591 not by the initiative of the sultan or emperor but by private raiding into the Militargrenze by the governor of Bosnia, Hasan Pasha. Two years later Vienna was late paying its annual tribute of 30,000 ducats. Grand Vezier Kica Sinan Pasha used this as an excuse to follow-up Hasan Pasha’s petty raids with a full Imperial expedition led by his son. The war thus expanded, though still without real enthusiasm in either Constantinople or Vienna. Bitter frontier fighting broke out in the Militargrenze as the two empires fought over ‘‘The Principalities’’ of Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia. Sisak fell to Hasan Pasha in September 1593, but was recovered because the Ottomans were unprepared to resume large-scale warfare on their western front. In May–June 1594, the Austrians besieged the strong fortress of Esztergom.

Caught unprepared for a real war in the Balkans, the Ottomans sent in relief only 2,000 locally recruited Voynuqs, who promptly defected. It took months more for a large Ottoman army to assemble. Before it departed, a vicious and complex fight broke out over the office of the Grand Vezier following the death of Sultan Murad III ( January 1595). One rival candidate undermined the other’s expedition to Wallachia. This split the Kapikulu Askerleri and brought tensions within the capital to a fighting pitch: at one point the Janissary Corps attacked the sipahis, the sultan’s elite cavalry regiments, in their barracks.

The major clash of the war on the frontiers was a three-day fight at Keresztes (or Mezo´keresztes), on October 24–26, 1596. An army led by Muhammad (Mehmed) III bombarded and stormed the Austrian fortress of Eger (Eg¢ri). In 1600 the Ottomans also conquered Kanizsa and annexed the borderlands dividing Croatia from Hungary. The campaign season of 1601 was lost to another court struggle in Constantinople over who should command. The war sputtered on for another five years without major clashes or a real decision. The highwater mark for the Austrians was a failed siege of Buda and Pest (1602). Finally, Sultan Ahmad I forewent tribute from Austria in exchange for Vienna’s recognition of his suzerainty over Transylvania. The terms were codified in the Treaty of Zsitva Torok (November 1606).

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