Battle of Vaslui - Battle

Battle

The invading army entered Moldavia in December 1474. In order to fatigue the Ottomans, Stephen had instituted a policy of scorched earth and poisoned waters. Troops who specialised in setting ambushes harassed the advancing Ottomans. The population and livestock were evacuated to the north of the country into the mountains.

Ottoman scouts reported to Suleiman that there were untouched villages near Vaslui, and the Ottomans headed for that region. The winter made it difficult to set camp, which forced the Ottomans to move quickly and head for the Moldavian capital, Suceava. In order to reach Vaslui, where the Moldavian army had its main camp, they needed to cross Podul Înalt over the Bârlad River. The bridge was made of wood and not suitable for heavy transportation of troops. Stephen chose that area for the battle – the same location where his father, Bogdan II, had defeated the Poles in 1450; and where he, at an age of 17, had fought side-by-side with Vlad 'the Impaler'. The area was ideal for the defenders: the valley was a semi-oval surrounded on all sides by hills covered by forest. Inside the valley, the terrain was marshy, which restricted troop movement. Suleiman had full confidence in his troops and made few efforts to scout the area.

On January 10, on a dark and misty Tuesday morning, the battle began. The weather was frigid, and a dense fog limited vision. The Ottoman troops were exhausted, and the torrent made them look like "plucked chickens." Stephen fortified the bridge, while setting and aiming his cannons at the structure. Peasants and archers were hidden in the forest, together with their Prince and his boyar cavalry.

The Moldavians made the first move by sending musicians to the middle of the valley. The sound of drums and bugles made Suleiman think that the entire Moldavian army awaited him there. Instead, the centre of the valley held the Székely forces and the Moldavian professional army, which were ordered to make a slow retreat when they encountered the enemy. Suleiman ordered his troops to advance and, when they made enough progress, the Moldavian artillery started to fire, followed by archers and handgunners firing from three different directions. The archers could not see the enemy for the fog, and, instead, had to follow the noise of their footsteps. The Moldavian light cavalry then helped to lure the Ottoman troops into the valley by making hit-and-run attacks. Ottoman cavalry tried to cross the wooden bridge, causing it to collapse. Those Ottoman soldiers who had managed to survive the attacks from the artillery and the archers, and who did not get caught in the marshes, had to confront the Moldavian army, together with the Székely soldiers further up the valley. The 5,000 Székely soldiers were successful in repelling the 7,000 Ottoman infantrymen. Thereafter, they made a slow retreat, as instructed by Stephen, but were later routed by the Ottoman sipahi, while the remaining Ottoman infantry attacked the Moldavian flanks.

Suleiman tried to reinforce his offensive, not knowing what had happened in the valley, but then Stephen, with the full support of his boyars, ordered a major attack. All his troops, together with peasants and heavy cavalry, attacked from all sides. Simultaneously, Moldavian buglers concealed behind Ottoman lines started to sound their bugles, and in great confusion some Ottoman units changed direction to face the sound. When the Moldavian army hit, Suleiman lost control of his army. He desperately tried to regain control, but was later forced to signal a retreat. The battle lasted for four days; with the last three days seeing the fleeing Ottoman army being pursued by the Moldavian light cavalry and the 2,000-strong Polish cavalry until they reached the town of Obluciţa (now Isaccea, Romania), in Dobruja.

The Wallachians fled the field without joining battle and Laiotă now turned his sword against the Turks, who had hoped for a safe passage in Wallachia; on January 20, he exited his castle and confronted some of the Turks that were lurking on his land. Thereafter, he took one of their flags and sent it to a Hungarian friend as proof of his bravery. The Ottoman casualties were counted as 45,000, including four Pashas killed and a hundred standards taken. Jan Długosz writes that "all but the most eminent of the Turkish prisoners are impaled", and their corpses burned. Only one was spared – the only son of the Ottoman general Isaac Bey, of the Gazi Evrenos family, whose father had fought with Mircea the Old. Another Polish chronicler reported that on the spot of the battle rested huge piles of bones upon each other, next to three immured crosses.

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