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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume VI: The impact of the Crusades on Europe

VIII: The Crusade of Varna,   pp. 276-310 PDF (2.6 MB)

Page 310

leaving the king with his household troops as a reserve force. This attack
resulted in a forward movement of the Hungarian force, driving the entire
right wing of the Ottoman cavalry from the field and leaving only the janissaries
with Murad in the center. 
 Chalcocondylas relates Vladislav's Polish troops urged him to attack the
janissaries and not to allow Hunyadi all the glory of victory.98 Vladislav
charged into the janissaries, who unhorsed him and beheaded him, placing
his head on a lance held above the army. Hunyadi was unable to come to Vladislav's
aid quickly enough, and when the news of the king's death spread the army
panicked and fled the field. The wagon barricade may not have been taken
until the next day, when Stephen Báthori was killed. The Turks did
not follow the retreating crusaders; Murad remained for three days on the
battlefield and then returned to Adrianople. Sometime during the battle or
soon thereafter Cesarini was killed. Various reports of his death circulated;
the only certain fact is that he did not leave the area alive.99 Hunyadi
fled and reached the Danube, where he was taken prisoner by Vlad Dracul,
who released him after some time. 
 Incredibly, the crusading army had nearly carried the day. Had Brankovich
and his 8,000 Serbs been at Varna with Vladislav, it is possible that the
victory might have been a Christian one. The Turks had suffered heavy losses,
and had turned possible defeat into victory through the reckless act of the
king. Even then the triumph was not immediately evident when, at the day's
end, both armies withdrew to their camps. Indeed it was reported that Murad
was not sure that he was the victor for three days. But if the Turks had
suffered heavily, the crusaders had been crippled. They could not have withstood
another battle. At Varna the Turks had employed muskets for the first time.'°°
 The failure of the crusade sealed the fate of Byzantium nine years later.
Varna brought the Turks to the walls of Belgrade in 1448 and to the walls
of Vienna in a generation. 
 98. Chalcocondylas, ed. Bekker, p. 337. 
 99. Callimachus, ed. Kwiatkowski, p. 159, states that Cesarini was killed
while fleeing the battlefield. Wavrin, ed. Hardy, v, 57, says that Cesarini
made it to the Danube where he was drowned by the Wallachians; Thurocz, op.
cit., p. 257, says merely that he was killed. On June 1, 1445, Aeneas Sylvius
wrote to Guiniforta Barziza in Milan that Cesarini was killed by the Hungarians
(in Wolkan, Der Briefwechsel, LXI-2, 506); D~ugosz, Historia polonica, XII,
col. 810, says that he was killed by the Wallachians. By November 13, 1444,
news of the battle had reached vienna, since on that date Aeneas Sylvius
wrote to the duke of Milan reporting that the fleet was being accused of
treachery. They were, however, not able to keep guard because of a lack of
provisions, and Murad was able to cross into Europe with forty thousand men.
He reported that there was no certain news about vladislav and that Cesarini
had been killed (in Wolkan, Der Briefwechsel, LXI-2, pp. 487—490).
 100. Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, p. 21. 

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