Vlad the Impaler the second reign – Part 4

To assure himself that Vlad the Impaler doesn’t cross the Danube River again, the Sultan Mehmed II sent ahead an army of 18,000 men under the command of Mahmud Pasha the Greek. But Mahmud invaded Wallachia, plundered and enslaved.

Vlad The Impaler gathered 4000 men (his mercenary and servant army) and waited for him near the Danube. He surprised Mahmud Pasha and defeated him. Only 8,000 Turks got away, leaving behind the slaves and goods they had taken. This defeat caused another wave of panic (for the Turks) and agitation (for the Christians) in the Balkan.

The guerilla war
Mehmed II was forced to leave the siege of Corinth and take personal command of the situation. He amassed a sizeable force and headed for the Danube. The figures for this army go as high as 150,000 (Mikhail Doukas), 250,000 (Laonic Chalcocondil) or 300,000 (Tursun Bey). More close to the truth is probably Pietro of Thomassis with 60,000 soldiers and 20,000 auxiliaries. A fleet of 175 ships set sail for Chilia (Kilyia), the important port-fortress of Wallachia.

To this threat Vlad the Impaler responded by mobilizing all manpower he could. Figures for his army are situated between 24,000 (Pietro of Thomassis) and 30,000 (Domenico Baldi). But keep in your mind that this wasn’t a professional army like the Ottoman army was. It was an army formed mainly from armed peasants. It was clear that such an army couldn’t win in an open field direct confrontation.

At the end of May the Ottoman army arrived at Nicopolis. They tried for several days to cross the river, but Vlad repulsed every attempt. The Janissaries finally managed to cross during a night, dug in, installed their artillery and waited for the sun to rise. Vlad attacked the fortified position the next day, but was forced to retreat, as the flow of reinforcements to the bridgehead had become pretty steady and threatened to overwhelm him. Also the artillery caused many casualties among his cavalry. Reportedly 300 Janissaries were killed.

In the meanwhile, Vlad the Impaler was forced to send 7,000 men to Chilia to secure it from the attacks of his cousin Stephen the Great, which wanted to make sure that it does not fall into Turkish hands. Thus he had to retreat. The pursuers, even though they were some of the most able Ottoman commanders could not catch his forces.

Vlad had devastated the earth in front of the Turkish advance and evacuated the civilians. He was also fighting a guerrilla type war against a thirsty, hungry and tired enemy, striking the small Ottoman units that ventured away from the main army. But still the Sultan pushed on to the capital Targoviste, after passing Bucharest.

The Night Attack
So Vlad decided to strike. He chose to do it in his personal style, during the night of 17/18 June. Between 7,000 and 10,000 Wallachian cavalry stormed the Turkish camp. They entered first in the Anatolian army sector, which was either killed or put to flight. But not knowing the camp’s organization, Vlad could not take advantage of the surprise to kill the Sultan.

By the time he was done with the Anatolians, the Janissaries had already surrounded Mehmed’s tent and the Wallachians only got as far as the tents of Mahmud Pasha and Isaac Bey. As the sun was preparing to rise, Vlad the Impaler retreated. Mehmed II sent Ali Bey Mikhaloglu after him and the two armies clashed.

Vlad’s men were tired after one night of fighting and suffered heavy casualties, losing apparently 1,000 men, before escaping to the safety of the woods. The victory in the camp could have been almost total if a second army, under the command of spatar (the equivalent of the Western constable) Gales, would have attacked from a second direction, as Vlad ordered. Gales was, of course, impaled for his failure to carry out the orders.

Another result of this attack was that Mehmed ordered that every night earth walls and ditches to be built around the camp, for protection. Slowly the Turks reached Targoviste, where a horrible sight awaited them: the forest of impaled comrades. The Sultan decided to retreat.

The end of the war
Another night attack took place on 23 of June. Vlad the Impaler had to go to Chilia, but he left 6,000 men to harass the retreating enemy. The commander decided to attack the Turks once again. They surprised the rear-guard of Iosuf Bey, which soon was put on the run. But Turkhanbeyoglu Omer Bey came to his aid and forced the overwhelmed Wallachian army to retreat into the woods, leaving 2,000 men on the field.

It seems there was another battle near Buzau in the same period, when approximately 15,000 Wallachians (most likely under Vlad’s command) crushed the akingies (Turkish light cavalry) of Evrenos Bey. On 29 June Mehmed II reached Braila, which he burned to the ground and then crossed the Danube, with the army in a terrible state.

But Mehmed II found a very good way to get rid of Vlad: his brother Radu the Handsome. He left him north of the Danube, with a part of his troops, so that he would try to gather supporters. Vlad defeated another ottoman army in July 1462, killing 4,000, probably part of Radu’s troops. But many boyars had grown weary of war and of Vlad and joined Radu. Others had their families taken hostage by the Turks and also joined the younger brother.

Wallachia was divided into two parts. Vlad Dracula controlled the north and the east, while Radu the south and the west. Until 8 September, Vlad obtained another 3 victories. But he soon ran out of money and could not keep his mercenaries. Also the peasants and townsfolk started to leave him and he could no longer fight.

So, Vlad the Impaler went to ask help from his former ally, Matthias Corvin, the King of Hungary. But instead of help he found himself arrested.