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

XVII: The Crusades Against the Hussites,   pp. 586-646 ff. PDF (24.0 MB)

Page 597

of two wooden forts, whose main purpose was to keep the defenders in constant
readiness and to warn Zizka's Taborite army in case of an attack. 
This offensive strike did indeed occur, on July 14 (1420), when several thousand
troops, largely cavalry from Meissen and Thuringia, as well as some from
Hungary, crossed the Vitava river at its easternmost point and attacked the
Vitkov hill from the east, at its least steep slope. While they occupied
part of the fortifications, Zizka with his Taborite soldiers climbed the
southern slope and made a surprise flank attack. The crusaders fled after
a number of them, apparently about five hundred, had been killed. Zizka followed
up his victory by building stronger fortifications on the hill. 
The defeat on the VItkov was, in itself, only a limited one. Most of the
crusaders' army had not seen action and might still have been used in renewed
assaults. However, the Czech Catholic lords in Sigismund's entourage tried
to convince him that, after the failure of the VItkov battle, he would have
a better chance of winning Prague by political means. They persuaded him
not to bombard the city with heavy artillery, as he had planned, and assured
him that within one month Prague would be in his hands. When the king expressed
doubts, they promised him that as a first step he would be crowned by archbishop
Conrad in St. Vitus's cathedral on the Hradcany. In Sigismund's eyes this
seemed to be a substantial success: the official coronation which, traditionally
and in the eyes of the high nobility, would make him legally the king of
Bohemia. The coronation took place on July 28, 1420. 
This, however, soon proved to be the only success that Sigismund would achieve
during this phase of the crusading war against the Hussites. The general
morale deteriorated rapidly. The crusaders did, whenever they had a chance,
catch and kill people who were sus pected of being heretics, regardless of
their age and sex, whereas the Czechs were, with rare exceptions, careful
to spare the lives of women and children all through the Hussite wars. However,
since the killing and burning took place in the crusaders' camp within sight
of the Praguers, who were separated from the enemy only by the limited width
of the Vitava river, the Czechs decided to burn sixteen German prisoners
within view of the enemy. In the crusaders' en campment, during an unusually
hot summer, epidemics killed men and horses in large numbers. The German
princes and their soldiers became even more impatient, and the suspicion
spread that the king was in secret agreement with the Hussites. 
For Sigismund the situation became doubly difficult. His cash 

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