Little Bits of History

June 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2017

1462: The Night Attack takes place at Târgovişte. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Mehmed II, the Sultan, thought it would be possible to add more lands to his Empire and went northwest in order to bring more lands under his command. Mehmed issued a Jizya over Bosnia, this was a tax imposed on all non-Muslims. Wallachia, located north of the Danube River, was in control not only of the lands there, but the northern side of the waterway. Mehmed sought to control the river, the people, and the income stream. The West continued to fight against the invaders and even the Pope sent out a Crusade to help defeat the Ottomans. There was little European backing for the Crusade, which Mehmed took as a chance to invade northwards. The ruler of the Wallachia had one ally, Mihály Szilágyi, and he had been captured in 1460. His men were tortured and killed and he was sawed in half.

The leader of Wallachia had not paid the Jizya for years. The yearly tax of 10,000 ducats was only part of the debt as Mehmed also insisted on payment for 1,000 boys trained as janissaries or soldiers. Mehmed crossed the Danube to exact revenge and teach his opponent a lesson. He called for armies to be assembled and amassed troops numbering between 100,000 and 120,000 men. But his opponent was not an ordinary soldier. The Wallachia leader had invaded Bulgaria and impaled over 23,000 Turks which gave him his name, Vlad the Impaler. Vlad III Țepeș was also called Vlad Dracula, the son of Vlad Dracul. He led his troops numbering around 30,000 to 35,000.

Mehmed’s estimate of his troops was as high as 500,000 while Vlad was unable to amass anything near that number. The Hungarian king had promised support but did not deliver. The majority of Vlad’s army were peasants and shepherds. The men on horseback were few in number and properly armed as were Vlad’s personal guards. The Turks approached lands and tried to disembark their boats only to be overcome by arrows. They withdrew and tried again landed in sections downstream until their army was on the north side of the river. Vlad fought a scorched earth pattern, poisoning waters and setting traps in the marshes. Mehmed’s army advanced for a week until this night. Vlad had used the time to send the sick and dying into the midst of his enemy’s troops, especially people with bubonic plague. During the night, as Mehmed’s troops were encamped south of the capital, Vlad struck.

Vlad entered the camp in disguise and was unchallenged. He learned where the Sultan was and how his defense was set. Vlad knew it was Mehmed’s policy that soldiers must remain in their tents at night. The Wallachian troops used the information their leader had gathered and sent several forays into the camp. Documents differ on how many losses were incurred. All agree Vlad sustained few losses while Mehmed suffered considerable casualties, one account listing 20,000. Vlad had hoped to assassinate Mehmed, but came to the wrong tent and attacked two viziers instead. Mehmed continued his move north only to find Vlad had gone before. He found another 20,000 impaled Turks lining the road. Mehmed, capturing slaves and goods, returned home.

War alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies and imposes the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to make it.- Benito Mussolini

Against war one might say that it makes the victor stupid and the vanquished malicious. In its favor, that in producing these two effects it barbarizes, and so makes the combatants more natural. For culture it is a sleep or a wintertime, and man emerges from it stronger for good and for evil. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The god of war is impartial: he hands out death to the man who hands out death. – Homer

Wars grew and mutated, finding ways to stay alive; they hung on with the grim tenacity of a weed growing in a crack in a wall, feeding on whatever nutrients their roots and tendrils could find. – K. J. Parker