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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

I: The Crusade in the Fourteenth Century,   pp. 2-26 ff. PDF (9.6 MB)

Page 24

 In the first instance, Sigismund urged the French and foreign contingents
to remain in the rear for the decisive blow in the forthcoming battle, but
these protested vigorously against a plan which would in their opinion deprive
them of the honor of leading a victory. Sigismund pleaded that the Hungarians
were more conver sant with Turkish methods of war, and that he wanted to
plant the Wallachians in the van rather than leave them in the rear on account
of their doubtful allegiance, but his plea was without avail. On Monday,
September 25, the French and allied legions occupied the main battle in the
van for the first assault, while the greater masses of the Hungarians, Wallachians,
and other eastern European contingents were stationed in the rear. Whereas
the Christians occupied the plains, the Ottomans arranged their lines on
a southern hill in a very strong position. Bayazid placed his irregular light
cavalry (akinjis) on the hillside facing the Christians with a thick field
of long, pointed stakes behind them. Next above stood the foot-archers (janissaries
and azabs). The French and allied contingents galloped uphill with their
heavy shire horses and had no difficulty in routing the mounted Turkish vanguard.
The survivors fled right and left to regroup their formations behind the
archers in readiness to resume hostilities. Confronted by the stakes and
exposed to Turkish arrows, the Chris tian front lines had to dismount and
pull the stakes in order to reach the Ottoman bowmen for hand-to-hand fighting.
With considerable effort and some losses, they achieved their purpose and
inflicted heavy slaughter on the Turks, who fled for their lives toward the
hilltop pursued by the Christians. On attaining the summit com pletely exhausted,
the latter, to their horror, saw Bayazid's picked cavalry (sipahis), together
with his vassal Serbs under Stephen Laza revich, several thousand strong,
hidden behind the skyline. Thus the pursuers became the pursued and the slaughter
was reversed even more fiercely, while the survivors were carried into captivity.
 The position of the Hungarians and Wallachians had become desperate even
before the Turks descended on the plain. The stam pede of the riderless horses
discarded before the field of stakes was taken in the rear as a sign of discomfiture,
and the Wallachians started to withdraw. Confusion followed in the Hungarian
lines as a consequence, though Sigismund and his loyal feudatories continued
to fight as hard and as long as was humanly possible. In the end, he had
to take to flight with some of his leading men, the grand master of Rhodes,
and the burgrave of Nuremberg. They boarded a small boat and floated down
the Danube to the Black Sea, whence they returned in Venetian galleys to
their respective homes by way of 

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