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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)

Page 270

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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