After crossing the Danube on 4 June, the Sultan proceeded northwards, in the direction of Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia at that time. Before reaching it, Dracula’s night raid on the Sultan’s camp occurred on the night of June 16-17, 1462. One of the key moments in Dracula’s wars with the Ottoman Empire during 1461-1462, the great Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga called this assault, “one of the most interesting episodes in the military history of the Ottomans.” It was a bold, desperate effort by the Wallachian prince to turn back the invaders by capturing or killing Sultan Mehmed II.
The Wallachians launched the famed night attack using torches for light and the sounds of horns to indicate places to be attacked. The Byzantine chronicler Laonikos Chalkokondyles recounted the bold assault: “As to Vlad, it is said that he entered the Emperor’s camp as a spy, and that, going around, he found out how the camp was set up. But I cannot believe that Vlad himself would take such a great risk, having so many spies at his disposal; I think this is an invention to accentuate his courage. He would also come in the daytime close to the camp and watch the Emperor’s tents, Machmut’s tent, and the market. Having less than 10,000 cavalrymen, some say he had no more than 2,000 cavalrymen with him, he started out at the end of the first night watch, and he invaded the Emperor’s camp. At first there was a lot of terror in the camp because people thought that a new foreign army had come and attacked them; scared out of their wits by this attack, they considered themselves to be lost as it was being made using torch-light and the sound of horns to indicate the place to assault. But the camp, truth to say, stayed in place without moving; the armies of these people are in the habit of never moving at night, even if a thief got inside or some trouble had started. And then the Turks, though seized with fear, stood their ground and sent word around that no one should move or they would be put to death on the orders of the Emperor. The Emperor’s heralds encouraged them in this manner and urged them to stay in the places where they had been assigned, telling them the following words: “Muslims, be calm! You will soon see that the camp is under our control and that the Emperor’s enemy is being punished for his daring behavior towards the Emperor.” They would repeat such things after because if the army stood its ground the enemy would soon be […], but if they […] about all of them would certainly be killed because the Emperor would put them to death if they […]. When Vlad invaded the camp so quickly, the Asian army was the first to […] him and, after a short battle, they fled, trying to save their lives. But he [Vlad], using torch-light, proceeded with his army in closed ranks, and in good order they headed directly for their Emperor’s tents. Missing their target, they fell upon the tents of vizier Machmut and vizier Isaac; and here there was a great battle and they killed the camels, donkeys, and other pack animals. Fighting in closed ranks, they had no losses worth mentioning, but if one of them went astray he was immediately killed by the Turks. The men around Machmut, being brave, fought remarkably well, all of them being infantrymen. The men in the camp also mounted their horses, except for the soldiers in the Emperor’s Court. They fought here for a long time, but then, turning back, they headed for the
Emperor’s Court where they found the soldiers around the Emperor’s tents in good fighting order. And, after fighting here for a short time, they [Vlad’s army] turned back toward the camp market, plundering, and killing anyone who came their way. As it was nearly daybreak, they left the camp having suffered few losses that night. As for the Emperor’s armies, they are also said to have suffered few losses. At daybreak, the Emperor summoned the best soldiers of the governors, and placing them under the command of Ali, Michal’s son, he ordered them to pursue the Dacians [Wallachians] as quickly as they could. So, Ali took this army and immediately led it against Vlad; after learning of his whereabouts, he rode fast and caught up with Vlad’s army and attacked it, killing many of them. Capturing about 1,000 Dacians, he took them to the camp of the Emperor. The Emperor had them all taken away and killed.”
An account from the Ottoman perspective is provided by Asik Pasha Zade who wrote: “For a while the Sultan wandered all over Wallachia. On one night he was unexpectedly attacked, but his brave soldiers were ready to fight. When they realized that the attack was made by the devilish Kazîklu [Vlad the Impaler] and that he himself led it, the soldiers remained still, allowing him to get closer to the Turkish army. When he was right in the middle of the army, the soldiers shouted “Allah be blessed!” and slaughtered them so badly that more than half of the Infidels were killed. The slaughter lasted until dawn and Kazîklu voivode barely got away alive.”
Another Ottoman chronicler, Tursun Beg, added, “Not even a quarter of
his [Vlad’s] army survived. The captured were divided into three groups. The heads of those belonging to the first were cut off to nourish the swords, and then were placed on top of the spears. …A second group of soldiers was taken prisoner… 3,700 Infidels were brought to the Sultan alive and then cut in two. A third group was formed of those who had left the battlefield wounded, nearly dead. Those whose chests were pierced by swords died and their abject souls flew through the woods toward the valley of hell. Thus, they were saved from the torments of their serious wounds. A few Infidels, but not many, saved themselves by fleeing with Vlad the Impaler.”
Dracula’s night attack was a bold, daring, and deperate attempt to defeat the mighty conqueror of Constantinople and to turn the tide against the Islamic invaders. Having failed to achieve his goal of capturing or killing the Sultan and forcing the Ottomans to flee in disarray, Vlad had no choice but to retreat to the mountains bordering Transylvania where he waited in vain for assistance from his ally Matthias Corvinus. Meanwhile, Mehmed II proceeded on to Târgoviște and installed Vlad’s younger brother Radu the Handsome on the throne of Wallachia.
For more on the campaign of 1462, including documents and different perspectives, see Dracula: Essays on the Life and Times of Vlad the Impaler, edited by Kurt W. Treptow, available on Amazon and at HistriaBooks.com.
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