Battle of Tarcal

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Battle of Tarcal
Part of the Hungarian campaign of 1527-1528
Date 27 September 1527
Tarcal, near Tokaj, in Hungary
Result Habsburg victory
Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, Serbs Habsburg Monarchy
Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg-party Hungarians
Commanders and leaders
John Zápolya Archduke Ferdinand of Austria,
Niklas Graf Salm,
Bálint Török
7-8,000 18,000
Casualties and losses
5,000 Minimals

The Battle of Tarcal or Battle of Tokaj (Hungarian: Tarcali csata) was a battle fought on 27 September 1527 near Tokaj between the Habsburg-German-Hungarian forces of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and an opposing Hungarian army under the command of John Zápolya. Ferdinand completely defeated Zápolya.


In 1526, King Louis II of Hungary was killed at the Battle of Mohács. The Hungarian Diet elected Zápolya as their new king. Archduke (and future Holy Roman Emperor) Ferdinand also claimed the crown, and was elected by a rump Diet. This conflict resulted in war between the rivals. In 1527, Ferdinand invaded Hungary and captured Buda while Zápolya was distracted by a peasant uprising. Zápolya quickly turned to meet Ferdinand, but could only bring limited forces to the field.

The battle

Zápolya's army numbered around 7,000-8,000 men, drawn mainly from eastern Hungary, Transylvania, and Serbia. Ferdinand's army numbered 18,000 men, mostly German mercenaries, but also some of his western Hungarian supporters. 6,000 were under the command of Niklas Graf Salm and Bálint Török. On 26 September Zápolya encamped near Tokaj. Ferdinand's forces engaged with, and defeated a small Zápolya contingent in a skirmish near Sajólád.

On 27 September, Zápolya attacked Ferdinand's main force, bringing on a full-scale battle. Ferdinand's left-flank troops (from Styria) overwhelmed the Serbian troops of Zápolya's right wing, while German and Austrian mercenaries swept through Zápolya's cavalry. Ferdinand's Hungarian hussars then broke through Zápolya's center, seized his camp, and drove his remaining soldiers to the river Tisza.


Zápolya retreated to Nagyvárad (now Oradea), and Ferdinand thought he had conquered all of Hungary. But Zápolya raised a new army, and in 1528 marched against Ferdinand from Transylvania. At the Battle of Szina Ferdinand once again defeated Zápolya, who fled to Poland. Zápolya allied with the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who in 1529 drove the Germans out of Hungary and besieged Vienna.



  • Szilágyi, Sándor. A Magyar Nemzet Története' ("History of the Hungarian Nation")
  • Liptai, Ervin (editor). Military History of Hungary Budapest: Zrínyi Military Publisher (1985) ISBN 963-326-337-9

Recommended readings

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