Ur-Tepes (viii)

DRACULA, PART THREE

We speak of the conflict between Vlad III Dracula and the Powers.

In 1460 the treaty signed between Vlad and Corvinus was to unite the kingdoms through marriage – namely Dracula to Corvinus’ sister, princess of Hungary. This was to occur in 1462. It was a change in the power balance to which the Ottomans could only have objected.

In the fall of 1461 emissaries from the Porte came to Targoviste. Two versions of this story are recorded.

The first is that they were haughty and rude, and demanded both earth and water and gold: an acknowledgment of Ottoman suzerainty, and payment of tribute. They are recorded as being particularly insolent, as might befit the representatives of the Sultan when speaking to a petty lordling. They would not doff their hats in the prince’s own hall, nor show obeisance, nor even common courtesy.

The second is that they intrigued to have Vlad go to Adrianople, where he would, like his father, be imprisoned; and that, failing this, they plotted to have him captured and kidnapped back to the Porte. Their trap was sprung, but did not catch their prey; Vlad hacked down those he could catch, and the others were at length caught, and brought before him.

In either case: Vlad had the the emissaries, and their attendants, impaled on spikes outside his hall. This according to the Turkish custom. It is also recorded that he placed Hamza Beg, the leader of the emissaries, on the highest stake: either in deference to his rank, or because, thinking he would not be so treated, he made a comment about the smell of the voiding bowels, and so Dracula, despite Hamza Beg’s protests that it was an act of war, impaled him too, putting him on the highest stake so the smell might not offend him.

Thereafter Dracula knew that war was inevitable. So he launched an attack into Bulgaria, burning crops, burning towns, killing garrisons, defiling wells, felling bridges, capturing all he could, and holding as many of the Danube fortresses as his army could man. He was preparing for war, and such a war as would determine the fate of his country.

Dracule relates that, in all, 23,884 Turks and Bulgarians were killed in this raid. This figure is suspect, as it was related to Matthias Corvinus, who lusted for tales of bloodshed. Yet it is not impossible. No records exist of any impalings among the dead.

In June of 1462, Mehmed crossed the Danube with 60,000 men. Among them was Radu cel Frumos, brother to Dracula. They camped on one side of the Danube; Dracula’s troops camped on the other, waiting to repulse their landing. At night they muffled their oars and moved miles down the river, crossing in stealth and establishing a beach-head. During the day there were skirmishes, including Dracula’s employ of cannon, but he could not break the Turkish lines nor the Turkish artillery.

Dracula’s army – nearly 22,000 men, all he could raise or borrow or beg – harried the Ottoman force from every side. They fought a guerrilla campaign; so unbalanced were their numbers that asymmetric warfare was the only practicable option for them.

Before the Ottomans could reach Targoviste, Vlad launched what came to be known as The Night Attack. It is perhaps the first major nocturnal military campaign in Western history. Its goal was the assassination of an Ottoman Sultan and the disabling and demoralizing of the Turkish army.

The attack occurred at midnight. Dracula led it in person. The Wallachians came in closed ranks and completely overran the enemy camp. They threw torches to tents, snapped swords, killed every Turkish animal (destrier or donkey), and slaughtered those Janissaries and Sipahis they could catch. So long as they stayed in close formation they suffered minimal casualties; those who fell away from their groups were killed quickly.

Mehmet was not killed; the wrong tent was attacked. The Wallachian losses were not large. The Turkish losses were larger. The attack was daring, and effective in its way. It was not successful.

It is recorded by Chanlondykles that one of Dracula’s men was captured alive by the Sipahis. The Sultan bid him be brought into his presence. The man held his head high, knowing he would not long wear it, and spoke honestly to the Sultan: he gave his name, his place of birth, and his allegiance to his Prince. The Sultan inquired as to the whereabouts of Prince Dracula; the man replied that he knew them, but would not betray his Prince. They threatened him with the Question; he shrugged his shoulders. They threatened him with death; he squared his shoulders, and stood tall, and stood silent. For his bravery Mehmet gave him both his life and his freedom. Mehmet remared that if such a leader as this Prince Dracula had a large enough army he could achieve great things indeed.

As the army marched north, they were further harried by Dracula’s men. At the gates of Targoviste they encountered men who had been impaled before the city gates. Some record that they encountered no more than the few dozen Turkish ambassadors, killed many weeks before. Some record that they found hundreds, or even thousands of men.

The boyars began to defect to the Ottomans and Radu. The Ottoman fleet, sailing up the coast of the Black Sea, met with the armies of Stephen the Great of Moldavia; he joined the Ottomans in their assault on the fortress of Chilia, keeper of the Danube gates. It was put to siege, along with its Wallachian keepers. Vlad was forced to split his force, sending half to the relief of the citadel.

Vlad accompanied the relief army to Chilia. He left behind six thousand men to act as partisans. They decided to take open battle to the Ottomans. They were cut down. The Ottomans used this opportunity to take Targoviste and place Radu cel Frumos on the throne. The boyars, one by one, bent the knee to him. Vlad was left fighting a war for a kingdom that did not belong to him.

The Ottomans, content in their victory, and short of supplies, crossed the Danube and departed. Their war had lasted just over three weeks.

Dracula fought a partisan war until the winter, waiting for relief from the troops of Matthias Corvinus. They did not come. It was not until Christmas that Corvinus and his Black Army reached Brasov; here they seemed content to winter. When Dracula went to him, and insisted that he be reinstalled to the throne, he was arrested as a traitor and sent to Buda in chains.

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~ by davekov on 26 May 2011.

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