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Pentru imbunatatire articol Podul Inalt...[modificare | modificare sursă]

The Battle of Vaslui (also referred to as the Battle of Podul Înalt and Battle of Racova) (January 10 1475) was fought between the Moldavian (Romanian) Prince, Stephen the Great and the Beylerbeyi of Rumelia, Hadân Suleiman Pasha. The battle took place at Podul Înalt (the High Bridge), near the town of Vaslui, in Moldavia (now part of eastern Romania) between Barnaba and Racovica. The Ottoman troops numbered between 60,000 and 120,000, facing about 40,000 Moldavian troops, plus smaller numbers of allied and mercenary troops on both sides.[1][2][3]

Stephen inflicted a decisive defeat on the Ottomans which has been said to be "the greatest ever secured by the Cross against Islam,"[4] with casualties, according to Venetian and Polish records, reaching beyond 40,000 on the Ottoman side. As witnessed by Maraym Khanum (Mara Brankovic), former younger wife of Murad II, to a Venetian envoy, the invasion was the worst defeat for the Ottomans at that time. Stephen was later awarded the title "Athleta Christi" (Champion of Christ) by Pope Sixtus IV. The Polish chronicler, Jan Długosz, hailed Stephen after his victory in the battle:

Praiseworthy hero, in no respect inferior to other hero soldiers we admire. He was the first contemporary among the rulers of the world to score a decisive victory against the Turks. To my mind, he is the worthiest to lead a coalition of the Christian Europe against the Turks.[5]

According to Długosz, Stephen did not celebrate his victory; instead, he fasted for forty days on bread and water and forbade anyone to attribute the victory to him, insisting that credit be given only to "The Lord."

Background[modificare | modificare sursă]

On June 22, 1462, Stephen made an attempt to take the castle of Chilia from the shared Hungarian-Wallachian rulership. The siege failed and Stephen was wounded. In November, the same year, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II invaded Wallachia and tried to subdue it. Stephen's cousin, Vlad III Dracula, repelled the invasion, but after the Ottomans retreated, the boyars allied with Dracula's half-brother, Radu the Handsome, who in turn served the Sultan. Dracula fled to Transylvania where he was imprisoned by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary; the boyars installed Radu as Prince of Wallachia. Three years later, between January 22 and January 26, Stephen successfully besieged Chilia. Since Chilia was then counted as part of Wallachia, the Sultan, having subdued most of Wallachia and made it his vassal, made claims to the town and asked Stephen to handle it back to Wallachia.

The ports of Chilia and Akkerman (Romanian: Cetatea Albā; now known by the Ukrainian name Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi) were essential for Moldavian commerce, hosting Armenian merchants who made trade a very profitable business. The towns developed into rich market centers. The old trade route from Caffa, Akkerman, and Chilia passed through Suceava in Moldavia and Lwow in Poland (now in Ucraina). Both Poland and Hungary had previously made attempts to control the region, but failed; and for the Ottomans, "the control of these two ports and of Caffa was as much an economic as a political necessity",[6] as it would also give them a better grip on Moldavia and serve as a valuable strategic point from which naval attacks could be launched against the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. Stephen refused to give up Chilia and Akkerman and in 1470, he invaded Wallachia and burned down the town of Brăila.[7] In retaliation, the Turks crossed the Dniester and pillaged a few Moldavian towns. In 1474, after defeating an army consisting of 12,000 Ottomans and 6,000 Wallachians, Stephen captured the castle of Bucharest and took Radu's wife and daughter — whom the latter he married[8] — and replaced Radu with the seemingly loyal Prince, Basarab Laiotā. Mehmed gave Stephen an ultimatum of forfeiting Chilia and Akkerman to the Porte and coming to Constantinople with his delayed homage. Stephen refused and in November 1474, he wrote to the Pope, warning him of further Ottoman expansion and asking for assistance.[9]

Preparations for war[modificare | modificare sursă]

Ottomans[modificare | modificare sursă]

Mehmed II by Gentile Bellini

Mehmed ordered his great general, Suleiman Pasha, to end the siege of Venetian-controlled Shkodër[10] (now in Albania), to assemble his troops in Sofia, and from there to advance with additional troops towards Moldavia. For these already exhausted Ottoman troops, the transit from Shkodër to Moldavia was a month's journey through bad weather and difficult terrain.[11] According to Długosz, Suleiman was also ordered that after inflicting defeat on Stephen, he was to advance towards Poland, set camp for the winter, and in spring invade Hungary and unite his forces with the army of the Sultan. The Ottoman army consisted of Janissaries and heavy infantry, which were supported by the heavy cavalry sipahis and by the light cavalry—known as Akinci—who would scout ahead; there were also Tatar cavalry and other troops (such as the Timariots ) from vassal states. Twenty-thousand Bulgarian peasants were also included in the army; their main tasks were to clear the way for the rest of the army by building bridges over waters and removing snow from the roads, and to drive supply wagons.[12] In total, the Ottoman cavalry numbered 30,000.[13] Most documents put the number of Ottoman troops as high as 120,000, while other sources mention anything from 60,000 and 80,000. Of this number, about 40,000 constituted a standing army, while the rest were to be paid in booty. In September 1474, the Ottoman army gathered in Sofia, and from there, Suleiman marched towards Moldavia by crossing the frozen Danube on foot.[14]. Their first stop was Wallachia, in which they entered via Vidin and Nicopolis. The army rested in Wallachia for two weeks, and was later joined by a Wallachian contingent of 17,000 under Basarab Laiotă, who had changed sides in favour of the Ottomans.

Stephen the Great - detail of a dedication miniature in the 1473 Gospel at Humor Monastery

Moldavians[modificare | modificare sursă]

Stephen was hoping to gain support from the West, and more specifically from the Pope. The help that he received was modest in numbers. The Hungarian Kingdom sent 1,800 Hungarians and Poland sent 2,000 horsemen.[15] Stephen recruited five-thousand Szekely soldiers.[16] The Moldavian army consisted of twenty cannon; light cavalry (Călăraşi); elite, heavy cavalry – named Viteji, Curteni, and Boyars – and professional foot soldiers. Each piece of artillery was prepared with powder and ammunition to fire at least 7 times. The army reached a strength of up to 40,000, of whom 10,000 to 15,000 comprised the standing army. The rest of the force consisted of 30,000 peasants armed with maces[17], bows, and other home-made weapons. They were recruited into Oastea Mare (the Great Army), into which all able-bodied free males over the age of 14 were conscripted.

Battle[modificare | modificare sursă]

Map of the battle

The invading army entered Moldavia in December 1474. Stephen had instituted a policy of scorched earth[18] and poisoned waters[19] in order to fatigue the Ottomans. Troops who specialised in setting ambushes harassed the advancing Ottomans. The population, and animals, were evacuated to the north of the country, in the mountains.[20] Ottoman scouts reported to Suleiman that there were untouched villages near Vaslui, and the Ottomans headed for that region. The winter made it difficult to set camp, which forced the Ottomans to move quickly and head for the Moldavian capital, Suceava. In order to reach Vaslui, where the Moldavian army had its main camp, they needed to cross Podul Înalt (The High Bridge) over the Bârlad River. The bridge was made of wood and not suitable for heavy transportation of troops.[21] Stephen chose that area for the battle—the same location where his father, Bogdan II, defeated the Poles in 1450, when Stephen was 17.[22] The area was ideal for the defenders: the valley was a semi-oval surrounded by hills covered by forest on all three sides. Inside the valley the terrain was marshy, which restricted troop movement.[23] Suleiman had full confidence in his troops and made few efforts to scout the area.

On January 10, on a dark and misty[24] Tuesday morning, the battle began. The weather was frigid, and a dense fog limited vision. The Ottoman troops were exhausted and the torrent made them look like "plucked chickens".[25] Stephen fortifed the bridge while setting aiming his cannons at the structure. Peasants and archers were hidden in the forest, together with their Prince and his boyar cavalry. The Moldavians made the first move by sending musicians to the middle of the valley. The sound of drums and bugles made Suleiman think that the entire Moldavian army awaited him there.[26] Instead, the centre of the valley held the Szekely forces and the Moldavian professional army, which were ordered to make a slow retreat when they encountered the enemy. Suleiman ordered his troops to advance and, when they made enough progress, the Moldavian artillery started to fire, followed by archers and handgunners firing from three different directions.[27] The archers could not see the enemy for the fog, and, instead, had to follow the noise of their footsteps. The Moldavian light cavalry then helped to lure the Ottoman troops into the valley by making hit-and-run attacks. Ottoman cavalry tried to cross the wooden bridge, causing it to collapse.[28] Those Ottoman soldiers who managed to survive the attacks from the artillery and the archers, and who did not get caught in the marshes, had to confront the Moldavian army, together with the Szekely soldiers further up the valley. The 5,000 Szekely soldiers were successful in repelling the 7,000 Ottoman infantrymen. Thereafter, they made a slow retreat[29], as instructed by Stephen, but were later routed by the Ottoman sipahi,[30], while the remaining Ottoman infantry attacked the Moldavian flanks.

Suleiman tried to reinforce his offensive, not knowing what transpired in the valley, but then Stephen ordered a major attack. All his troops, together with peasants and heavy cavalry, attacked from all sides. Simultaneously, Moldavian buglers concealed behind Ottoman lines started to sound their bugles, and in great confusion some Ottoman units changed direction to face the sound[31]. When the Moldavian army hit, Suleiman lost control[32] of his army and signalled a retreat. The fleeing Ottoman army was pursued by the Moldavian light cavalry and the 2,000-strong Polish cavalry[33] for three days until they reached the town of Obluciţa (now Isaccea, Romania), in Dobruja.

The Wallachians fled the field without joining battle and Laiotă now turned his sword against the Turks, who had hoped for a safe passage in Wallachia; he took one of their flags and sent it to a Hungarian friend as proof of his bravery.[34] The Ottoman casualties were counted as 45,000, including four Pashas killed and a hundred standards taken.[35] Jan Długosz writes that "all but the most eminent of the Turkish prisoners are impaled"[36], and their corpses burned.[37] Only one was spared — the only son of the Ottoman general Isaac Bey, of the Gazi Evrenos family.[38] Another Polish chronicler reported that on the spot of the battle rested huge piles of bones upon each other, next to three immuned crosses.[39]

Aftermath[modificare | modificare sursă]

After the battle, Stephen sent "four of the captured Turkish commanders, together with thirty-six of their standards and much splendid booty, to King Casimir in Lithuania" and implored him to support him in the struggle against the Ottomans with troops and money. He also sent letters and a few prisoners and Turkish standards to the Pope and King Matthias Corvinus, asking for support.[40] In response, "the arrogant Matthias writes to the Pope, the Emperor and other kings and princes, telling them that he has defeated a large Turkish army with his own forces under the Voivode of Wallachia."[41] The Pope's reply to Stephen denied him help, but awarded him with the "Athleta Christi"[42], while King Casimir pleaded "poverty both in money and men" and did nothing; his own men then accused him of sloth and advised him to change his shameful behaviour or hand over his rule to someone else.[43]

The following year, Mehmed himself invaded the country with an army of 150,000, which was joined by 10,000 Wallachians under Laiotă and 30,000 Tatars under Meñli I Giray. The Tatars, who called for a Holy War, attacked with their cavalry from the north and started to pillage the country. The Moldavians took chase after them, routed and killed most of them. "The fleeing Tatars discard their weapons, their saddles and clothes, while some, as though crazed, jump into the River Dniepr." [44] Giray wrote to Mehmed that he could not wage more war against Stephen, as he lost his son, two brothers, and returned back with only one horse.[45] In July 1476, after killing 30,000 Ottomans, Stephen was defeated at the Battle of Valea Albă. The Ottomans were unsuccessful in their siege of the Suceava citadel and the Neamţ fortress, while Laiotă was forced to retreat back to Wallachia when Vlad Dracula and Stefan Báthory, Voivode of Transylvania, gave chase with an army of 30,000.[46] The Ottoman troops, who suffered from plague and fatigue, were also forced to retreat.

Stephen assembled his army and invaded Wallachia from the north, while Dracula and Báthory invaded from the west. Laiotă fled and in November, Dracula was installed on the Wallachian throne. He received 200 loyal knights from Stephen that were to serve as his loyal bodyguards, but his army remained small. When Laiotă returned in December, Dracula went to battle and was killed. Laiotă again occupied the Wallachian throne, which urged Stephen to make another return to Wallachia and dethrone Laiotă for the fifth and last time, while Dracula's son Ţepeluş, was put to rule the country. In 1484, the Ottomans under Bayezid II, managed to conquer Bessarabia and incorporate it into their empire under the name of Budjak, leaving Moldavia a landlocked vassal of the Porte (that is, the Ottomans) until it was conquered in the late 16th century by Mihai Viteazul. In 1490, Stephen built the church of Saint John the Baptist, in remembrance of his great victory at Vaslui; the Moldavian churches built by Stephen are on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

This battle is a classic example of defensive Moldavian field tactics. The Moldavian army numbered some 40,000 men and included small contingents of Hungarian and Polish troops and some 20 pieces of artillery. The army deployed in a valley through which flowed the river Birlad. The valley floor was mostly water meadow or marshes. To this the Moldavians added several lines of defensive ditches behind which the infantry and artillery deployed. The artillery occupied the ends of the second line, Presumably either flanking the first line, allowing clear field of fire or being deployed higher up the valley sides. The majority of cavalry was deployed further down the valley concealed in or by heavy woods. Stefan deployed light cavalry in advance of the main lines, their job was to lure the Ottomans into the valley and into the prepared infantry positions.

The Ottoman army appears to have outnumbered the Moldavians by quite a significant amount. There are no direct figures mentioned in the sources, although contemporary western writers put the Ottoman dead at over 40,000. This figure is unlikely to be realistic but Ottoman chroniclers do say that the majority of the army was killed and that it was the worst defeat ever suffered by a Turkish army. Given that the Modern estimates of the Ottoman army at Constantinople in 1453 was around 80,000 men and with the increase in territory held by the Ottomans over the following 20 years. I would not think it unreasonable for the provincial army at Vaslui to have numbered something similar. As the cavalry held the centre of the Ottoman line during the battle the majority of the force was probably infantry.

The Moldavian light horse were successful in leading the Ottoman army into the valley. The Ottoman cavalry deployed in the centre with their infantry divided between the two wings. There followed numerous assaults on the Moldavian positions. Although it is likely that the Ottoman cavalry centre merely pinned the Moldavian centre while their infantry assaulted the flanks. The majority of the battle appears to have taken place in a dense mist. The Ottomans eventually took the first line of defences and were assaulting the second when Stefan released the Moldavian cavalry into the flank of the Ottoman right. Simultaneously Moldavian buglers concealed behind the Ottoman lines, possibly in conjunction with light horse sounded the attack. The Ottomans were confused by the Buglers and some units turned to face them rather than their flanks and were hit by the Moldavian cavalry, charging out of the mist, while facing the wrong way. The Ottoman army fled and the Moldavian Light horse pursuit lasted three days.

Ottoman losses although heavy did not prevent the Sultan himself leading a second campaign the following year, with an army larger than this one.

10 January 1475 Refusing to pay tribute to the Ottomans or to cede Cilia to them, Stephen the Great confronted the large Ottoman army of around 120,000 men and artillery. Stephen's own force totaled at least 40,000 and in addition to this he commanded 5,000 Szeklers, 1,800 Hungarian and 2,000 Poles as well as 20 cannons. The battle is described as having taken place 'on a foggy day, in a marshy place'. Stephen drew up his troops in a narrow valley on the flood-plain of the river Birlad, with Moldavian infantry and Szeklers in two lines behind defensive ditches with ten guns on each flank. Most of his cavalry he concealed in reserve in woods behind the left flank, sending a small body of light cavalry out into the fog to lure the Turks on, which they succeeded in doing.

The Ottoman cavalry attacked the infantry in the centre while their infantry attacked the flanks of Stephen's force. After heavy fighting the Moldavians fell back to the second defensive ditch and only when it appeared they were about to break did Stephen launch his counterattack. This involved his heavy cavalry charging out against the Ottoman right flank, preceded by seven volleys from his 20 guns. Simultaneously buglers that Stephen had hidden at various points in the woods started blowing loudly on the trumpets, confusing the Turks as to which direction the attack was coming from through the fog. Turning to face the buglers behind them they were therefore facing the wrong way when the cavalry hit them (now from behind) and before long the Turk's had been utterly routed. The pursuit of the fleeing troops continued for three days.

According to (optimistic, Italian and Austrian sources) the Turks lost 45,000 men which included 4 pashas, 100 standards and all their artillery The Ottoman chronicler Sa's ed-Din actually wrote that the majority of the Turkish army was killed and another contemporary admitted that 'never had a Turkish army suffered such a defeat'.

  1. ^ Kronika Polska mentions 40,000 Moldavian troops.
  2. ^ Gentis Silesiæ Annales mentions 120,000 Ottoman troops and "no more than" 40,000 Moldavian troops.
  3. ^ The letter of Stephen the Great addressed to the Christian countries, sent on January 25, 1475, mentions 120,000 Ottoman troops; source ro ; see also The Annals of Jan Długosz, p. 588;
  4. ^ The Balkans: A History of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Turkey
  5. ^ Historiae Polonicae, libri XIII, vol. II, note 528, Leipzig 1712.
  6. ^ The Ottoman Empire - The Classical Age 1300-1600, p. 129
  7. ^ Nicolae C. Letopiseţului, Ţărîi Moldovei
  8. ^ Nicolae C. Letopiseţului, Ţărîi Moldovei
  9. ^ See the Vaslui letter, November 29, 1474 source ro
  10. ^ The Chronicles of the Ottoman Dynasty
  11. ^ Great Events
  12. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p.127.
  13. ^ Historia Turchesca
  14. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 128
  15. ^ Kronika Polska
  16. ^ Kronika Polska
  17. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare pp. 127, 130
  18. ^ Kronika Polska
  19. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 128
  20. ^ The Ottoman Empire 1326-1699, p.42
  21. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare p. 128
  22. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 129
  23. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 129
  24. ^ The Ottoman Empire 1326-1699, p.42
  25. ^ The Chronicles of the Ottoman Dynasty
  26. ^ Grigore U. Letopiseţului, Ţărîi Moldovei
  27. ^ The Chronicles of the Ottoman Dynasty
  28. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 130
  29. ^ The Ottoman Empire 1326-1699, p.42
  30. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 130
  31. ^ Samuelson, Roumania Past and Present, Chapter XI.
  32. ^ The Chronicles of the Ottoman Dynasty
  33. ^ Grigore U. Letopiseţului, Ţărîi Moldovei
  34. ^ I. Nicolae. Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, pp. 131-32
  35. ^ A Documented Chronology of Roumanian History - from prehistoric times to the present day, Oxford 1941, p. 108
  36. ^ The Annals of Jan Długosz, p. 588
  37. ^ Kronika Polska
  38. ^ I. Nicolae, Istoria lui Ştefan cel Mare, p. 131-32
  39. ^ Stryjkowski, M., Kronika Polska
  40. ^ The Annals of Jan Długosz, pp. 588-9
  41. ^ The Annals of Jan Długosz, p. 589
  42. ^ website: Romania Country study, U.S. Library of Congress.
  43. ^ The Annals of Jan Długosz, pp. 588-9
  44. ^ The Annals of Jan Długosz, pp. 592, 594
  45. ^ source Letter of Giray to Mehmed, October 10-19, 1476 ro
  46. ^ Diary of Ladislav, servant of Dracula; August 7, 1476 ro