Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume VI: The impact of the Crusades on Europe
VII: The Ottoman Turks and the Crusades, 1329-1451, pp. 222-275 PDF (18.9 MB)
270 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES a peace agreement after a swift and particularly brutal raid into Karaman in the summer of 1443, and then returned to Rumelia in the autumn. The crusaders' army under Ladislas, the Hungarian king, John Hunyadi, voivode of Transylvania, and George Brankovich, despot of Serbia, crossed the Danube at Belgrade early in October, when the Ottoman provincial cavalry had been scattered and returned home. The crusading enthusiasm inspired by Hunyadi led a great number of volunteers to join the regular forces of the Hungarian magnates. The whole army, estimated to consist of 25,000 men, included an important mercenary force hired with funds given by the Serbian despot, and, in addition, a contingent of 8,000 Serbian and 5,000 Polish soldiers. As in 1396, the bulk of the army consisted of Hungarians, which demonstrates the fact that the "crusade" was basically a Hungarian undertaking. The Ottoman chronicle, Ghazavãt,147 clarifies many important points concerning "the long campaign". In explaining the successes of the Christian army, the Ottoman sources in general emphasize the disagreement and lack of cooperation between the Ottoman frontier forces under Turakhan and the sipahi army under Kasim, beglerbeg of Rumelia. These sources are silent, however, on the most important battle of the whole campaign, which took place at Bolvani in the plain of Nish on November 3, 1443. Here the Ottoman forces mustered under Turakhan and Kasim were defeated in their attempt to halt the advance of the crusaders. Pirot and Sofia soon fell and, according to Ghazavãt, Bulgarians welcoming and helping the invading army elected a "vladika" as their head in Sofia. The sultan, who had been in Sofia, had burned down the city before his retreat. In a letter to the Venetian senate from Sofia dated December 4, 1443, cardinal Cesarini proclaimed the "flight of the sultan". To protect the Maritsa valley leading to his capital, Adrianople, the sultan fortified all the passes through the Balkan range, and met the crusader army at Zlatitsa pass. Exhausted by cold and hunger, the Christian army was beaten at the battle of Ziatitsa and forced to retreat on December 12, 1443. In pursuit of the enemy, the sultan fell upon the Christian army at Melshticha near Sofia on December 24.148 His attack failed mainly because the crusaders sheltered themselves in their camp, surrounded by war-wagons reinforced by guns. It was this tactic which made possible 147. For a comparison of the information supplied by Ghazavât with western sources, see my notes in the edition of the work (Ankara, 1978), pp. 94—110. 148. Ghazavât, 23—25, states that sultan Murad was present at the battle.
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