S. Khlebovsky. "Battle of Varna"
Article "Sultan Bayezid I and the Crusaders" was told about the battle at Nikopol that took place in 1396. It ended with the complete defeat of the Christians, but after 6 years the Ottoman army was defeated by the troops of Tamerlane near Ankara. Bayazid himself was captured and died in 1403. For 11 years, the Ottoman state was the scene of brutal internecine wars waged by the four sons of Bayezid. The youngest of them, Mehmed I elebi, won the victory. You can read about this in the article "Timur and Bayazid I. Ankara battle of the great commanders".
Mehmed I and his son Murad gradually regained control over the lost territories, including on the Balkan Peninsula. The European neighbors of the Ottomans watched with concern the strengthening of this power. It was clear that sooner or later the Ottomans would again lead their troops to the north, and therefore in 1440 the king of Poland and Hungary Vladislav III Varnenchik (in Hungary he is known as Ulaslo I) began a war in which his opponent was the grandson of the deceased in captivity by Timur Bayazid - Murad II.
Marcello Bachiarelli. Portrait of Vladislav III, between 1768 and 1771
K. Kapidagly. Portrait of Sultan Murad II
The main Christian commander of that war was Janos Hunyadi (father of the Hungarian king Matthias Hunyadi Corvin).
Janusz Hunyadi, portrait by an unknown master, XNUMXth century
The nationality of this commander remains a mystery, since he was a native of Wallachia, but it is known that his grandfather bore the name (or nickname) "Serb". There were also rumors (unconfirmed) that he was the illegitimate son of King Sigismund I of Luxembourg. The surname of Janos' parents received from the Hunyadi castle, located on the territory of modern Romania in the city of Hunedoara.
Portrait of Janos Hunyadi on the stained glass window of the Hunedoara castle
In 1437, Janos Hunyadi fought against the Hussites. The tactics of combat operations in Wagenburg borrowed from them were actively used in campaigns against the Turks.
He managed to inflict a number of defeats on the Ottomans, liberate Nis and Sofia, pushing back the enemy troops across the Danube. In Anatolia at this time, Ibrahim Bey, from the family of the Karamanids, who competed with the Ottoman sultans, spoke out against Murad II. In these circumstances, the Sultan agreed to conclude the Szeged peace treaty, which was beneficial to the Christians, according to which the Ottomans relinquished power over the Serbian lands bordering Hungary. The Serbian despot Georgy Brankovich, expelled by the Ottomans from his possessions in 1439, returned to power, but continued to pay tribute to the Ottomans, and the demand for a 4-thousandth detachment at the request of the Sultan was preserved.
The border now ran along the Danube, which the parties pledged not to cross for 10 years. This treaty was signed at the beginning of 1444.
The beginning of a new war
It seemed that nothing boded trouble, but in August 1444 Murad II unexpectedly decided to retire, passing the throne to his 12-year-old son, who entered history as Sultan Mehmed II Fatih (Conqueror): from 1451 to 1481 he increased the territory of his state from 900 thousand to 2 million 214 thousand square kilometers. The boy loved to draw (some of his drawings have survived), knew Greek, Latin, Arabic and Persian well, and could speak Serbian. It was he who was destined (besides other lands) to seize Constantinople, but this will happen only in 1453.
K. Kapidagly. Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II
And at that time Mehmed was an inexperienced and inexperienced teenager in state and military affairs, and King Vladislav could not resist the temptation: it seemed to him that the time had come to strike the last blow at the Ottomans, driving them out of Europe and, perhaps, even from western Anatolia. A peace treaty had just been signed with the Ottomans, but the papal legate - the influential Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini, who had previously headed the commission for negotiations with the Hussites, persuaded Vladislav to apply for permission for a new war from Pope Eugene IV.
Pope Eugene IV
Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini
The pontiff fully supported the king and the cardinal, stating that "the oaths given to Muslims may not be kept." He not only blessed a new war, but also called for a Crusade against the Turks, which was joined by the knights of the Teutonic Order and the Bosnians, Croats, Wallachians, Transylvanians, Bulgarians and Albanians, vitally interested in further weakening the Ottoman state. The Hungarians led by Hunyadi went on a campaign, but there were few Poles: the Seim did not allocate either money or troops to Vladislav. But in the army of the crusaders there were many Czech mercenaries - former taborites and "orphans" who were forced to flee after the defeat in the Battle of Lipany (it was described in the article "The end of the Hussite wars").
In the army of Vladislav, there were more than a thousand combat and cargo carts, which could not be effectively used due to the insufficient number of former Hussites who knew how to correctly build Wagenburg and fight in it.
On the way to the crusaders were joined by several thousand Wallachian cavalry under the command of Mircea, the son of Vlad II Dracula, who is often confused with Vlad III the Impaler, who became the prototype of the famous novel by B. Stoker. Vlad III also bore the nickname "Dracul", but it only meant belonging to the Order of the Dragon founded by Emperor Sigismund. One of the commanders of Mircea's detachment was Stephen Batory - the ancestor of the king of Poland Stephen Batory.
The troops of the Papal States were led by Cardinal Cesarini. But the Serbian ruler Georgy Brankovich (his daughter became the wife of Murad II) was quite satisfied with the terms of the Szeged peace treaty. He did not want a new war and tried to mediate between the Ottomans and Vladislav III. George refused to participate in the Crusade and did not even allow the Christian army to go to Edirne through his lands.
The total number of the crusader army, according to modern estimates, ranged from 20 to 30 thousand people.
The Venetians sent their fleet, which blocked the Black Sea straits.
Murad II had to again lead the Ottoman troops (which was an unpleasant surprise for the crusaders). And the Genoese, the eternal enemies of Venice, transported his army on their ships to the Rumelian (European) coast. At the same time, he managed to approach the army of the crusaders from the west, pushing it to the Black Sea coast near Varna.
Janos Hunyadi again became the de facto commander in chief of the Christian army. At the council of war of Christians, many tended to defensive tactics, offering to meet the enemy in the great Wagenburg, but Hunyadi insisted on a field battle.
This commander knew perfectly well the tactics of the Ottomans, according to which the units of the center held back the enemy, while the task of the flanks was to encircle the enemy troops bogged down in the battle. Therefore, he tried to impose a frontal battle along the entire line on the Turks, in which the more heavily armed crusaders had the advantage.
The right flank of the Crusaders was led by the Oradsk Bishop Jan Dominek. Under his command were the Wallachians, the Bosnians, the troops of Cardinal Cesarini, Bishop Simon Rozgoni and Ban Tallozi. This flank was adjacent to a swamp and a lake, which, on the one hand, covered it from the enemy's detour, and on the other, interfered with maneuver. The divisions of the center were commanded by Vladislav: here were his personal guards and mercenaries of the royal domains. According to Hunyadi's plan, these units were to act according to the situation: to deliver a decisive blow if one of the flanks succeeded, or to come to the aid of a defeated flank. On the left flank, commanded by the Ban Machwa Mihai Silavii (his sister was the wife of Janos Hunyadi), were Hungarians and Transylvanians.
Murad took command of the Ottoman troops.
Sultan Murad II with bow
His army consisted of three parts. First, these were professional warriors personally loyal to the sultans - "slaves of the Port" (kapi kullari). The most famous of them are the Janissaries, but there were also cavalry units, as well as artillerymen ("trample").
The second important part of the Ottoman army was the sipahs (spahis) - in these parts people settled on state land, and were obliged to participate in military campaigns, served in these units. Since these plots were called Timars, the Sipahs were sometimes called Timarls or Timariots. The third part consisted of auxiliary units - these were azabs (or azaps, literally "bachelors"), serahora and martolos.
The Azabs served in light infantry units recruited in the Sultan's lands.
Azap. Engraving by C. Vecellio from the book "Ancient and Modern Costumes of the World", 1590
The Serahoras, mainly, carried out non-combatant service - they erected bridges, repaired roads, and served as porters. Martolos were called recruits from the Christian provinces, who in peacetime formed the detachments of the local guard.
It is believed that Murad was able to collect from 35 to 40 thousand soldiers. Anatolian (Asian) troops, commanded by Karadzha bin Abdulla Pasha, the son-in-law of Sultan Murad, stood on the right Ottoman flank. It was also attached to the detachments of two Rumelian beys - from Edirne and Karasa.
The total strength of the right wing forces is now estimated at 20-22 thousand horsemen.
The left flank (about 19 thousand people) was led by Beylerbey (governor) of Rumelia Sehabeddin Pasha (Shikhabeddin Pasha). The sanjak-beys of Crimea, Plovdiv, Nikopol, Pristina and other European regions were subordinate to him.
The sultan with the janissaries stood in the center.
The image of Murad's headquarters at the battle of Varna in the chronicle of Marcin Belsky, edition 1597
According to a number of authors, there were 500 camels next to him, loaded with expensive goods and even bags of gold: it was assumed that in the event of a breakthrough, the crusaders would stop to plunder this caravan, and the sultan at that time had to leave his headquarters. However, the camels played a different role in the battle: they claim that they were frightened by the horses of a detachment of knights of King Vladislav, who tried to personally attack Murad II. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
In order to demonstrate the treachery of Christians, on the eve of the battle, a peace treaty confirmed by an oath on the Gospel was carried in front of the Ottoman troops, the terms of which were violated by the crusaders. Then this agreement was attached to a spear dug in at Murad's headquarters. Later, it was the perjury that many Christians called the main reason for the defeat of the crusaders, and even two centuries later Bogdan Khmelnitsky remembered it, convincing the Crimean Khan Mehmed IV Giray to keep his word and keep peace with the Cossacks.
Battle of Varna
This battle began on the morning of November 10 with an attack by the Ottomans against the right flank of the Crusaders. An eyewitness to those events recalled:
“The sounds of artillery shots were heard from everywhere, the innumerable trumpets of Christian troops were thundering, and the sounds of the timpani were heard from the Turkish army, raging and deafening. Everywhere there was noise and screams, blows and clinking of swords ... From the innumerable bows there was such a clatter, as if storks that had flown from all over the world were clicking their beaks on the field ”.
After a long and stubborn fight, the detachment of the Pristina bey Daud managed to bypass the crusaders: the detachments of Jan Dominek, Cardinal Cesarini, Ban Talloci and Bishop Eger fled south to Lake Varna, where they were subsequently almost completely destroyed. Cardinal Cesarini died here, Bishop Dominik drowned in a swamp, Bishop Rozgoni disappeared without a trace - his fate is unknown.
Daoud's warriors also fought their way through the carts of Wagenburg, however, as planned, the troops of the center, led by Hunyadi, came to the rescue, and then part of the forces from the winning left flank, which were able to throw Daoud back to their original positions.
On the left flank of the Crusaders, where the advantage was on their side, the situation was very favorable: the blow of the Hungarian cavalry upset the Anatolian order. Karadzhi Pasha, with the last reserve units, rushed into a desperate attack and died along with all his cavalrymen. And on the right flank, the crusaders, thanks to the reinforcements that approached, began to press the Ottomans. True, the units standing next to the Sultan have not yet entered the battle. And now Murad II threw selected units of the center of his army against the crusaders. However, the advancing Hungarians on the courage continued to press the Ottomans, and at some point it seemed to everyone that the Christians were winning. They say that Murad II was already ready to give a signal to retreat, but then King Vladislav decided to take the initiative, who suddenly wanted knightly exploits. He decided to personally fight the Sultan himself: to capture or kill him in a duel.
King Vladislav in the painting by J. Matejko "The Battle of Varna"
Vladislav rushed forward at the head of 500 knights. Surprised janissaries first parted, letting them in, and then closed their ranks. The king's horse was wounded, and Vladislav, who fell from him, was killed and beheaded. His head was then kept for a long time by the Ottomans in a vessel with honey - as a war trophy. All the knights who went into this attack together with Vladislav were killed or taken prisoner. In one of the Greek chronicles of that time it is directly written that "the king was killed in Varna as a result of his stupidity."
S. Khlebovsky. "Murad with his retinue at the body of Vladislav"
The crusader army did not know about the death of the king, hoping that he would return, and the battle continued until sunset, ending in a "draw". But Vladislav's death inspired the Ottoman army. And in the morning the king's head was shown to the crusaders. And this demoralized the Christians, whose army actually collapsed: the Christians now had no recognized commander, and each detachment fought for itself. The battle resumed and ended with the defeat of the Crusaders. Hunyadi managed to withdraw his units in an organized manner, but many other units became easy prey for the Ottomans when retreating to the north. Some of the soldiers who tried to hide in Wagenburg died, the rest surrendered.
Thus, the Crusade, which was supposed to be a triumph of Christians, ended in a humiliating defeat that canceled out all the successes of previous years. In addition to a huge number of ordinary soldiers, two initiators and organizers of this campaign, the highest leaders of the crusaders, perished. Poland fell into anarchy, and a new king in this country was elected only three years later. But Janos Hunyadi was still alive, who in 1445 was elected prince of Transylvania, and in 1446 became the regent of Hungary under the minor king Ladislav Postum von Habsburg. And in 1448 Janos Hunyadi and Murad II met again on the battlefield. This was the so-called "Second Battle of the Kosovo Field". We will talk about it in the next article.