Did you know that as a teenager Vlad the Impaler was a hostage of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan, and learned Turkish during this time. Later, while fighting the Ottomans, Vlad would disguise himself as a Turk, infiltrate and destory a series of fortresses.
The Night Attack of Târgovişte (Romanian: Atacul de noapte de la Târgovişte) was a skirmish fought between forces of Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia and Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on Thursday, June 17, 1462. The conflict initially started with Vlad’s refusal to pay the jizya (tax on non-Muslims) to the Sultan and intensified when Vlad Ţepeş invaded Bulgaria and impaled over 23,000 Turks and Bulgarians. Mehmed then raised a great army with the objective to conquer Wallachia and annex it to his empire. The two leaders fought a series of skirmishes, the most notable one being the Night Attack where Vlad Ţepeş attacked the Turkish camp in the night in an attempt to kill Mehmed. The assassination attempt failed and Mehmed marched to the Wallachian capital of Târgovişte, where he discovered another 20,000 impaled Turks and Bulgarians. Horrified, the Sultan and his troops retreated.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, Mehmed set his target on other campaigns. In Anatolia, the Greek Trebizond was still resisting the Ottomans, and to the East the White Sheep Turkomans of Uzun Hasan, together with other smaller states, threatened the Ottomans. In the West, Skanderbeg in Albania continued to trouble the Sultan, while Bosnia was sometimes reluctant in paying the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims). Wallachia controlled her side of the Danube and Mehmed wanted to have control over the river, as naval attacks could be launched against his empire all the way from the Holy Roman Empire. On September 26, 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans and on January 14, 1460, at the Congress of Mantua, the Pope proclaimed the official crusade that was to last for three years. His plan, however, failed and the only European leader that showed enthusiasm for the crusade was Vlad Ţepeş, whom the Pope held in high regard. Because of a lack of enthusiasm shown by Europeans for the crusade, Mehmed took the opportunity to take an offensive stand. Later that same year (1460), he captured the last independent Serbian city, Smederevo, and in 1461, he convinced the Greek despot of Morea to give up his stronghold; soon thereafter, its capital, Mistra, and Corinth followed suit and surrendered themselves without struggle.
Vlad Ţepeş’s only ally, Mihály Szilágyi, was captured in 1460 by the Turks while traversing in Bulgaria. Szilágyi’s men were tortured to death, while Szilágyi was killed by being sawn in half. Later that year, Mehmed sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay the delayed Jizya (tax on non-Muslims). Vlad Ţepeş provoked Mehmed by having the envoys killed and in a letter dated September 10, 1460, addressed to the Transylvanian Saxons of Kronstadt (today: Braşov), he warned them of Mehmed’s invasion plans and asked for their support. Vlad Ţepeş had not paid the annual Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) of 10,000 ducats since 1459. In addition to this, Mehmed asked him for 500 boys that were to be trained as janissaries. Vlad Ţepeş refused the demand, and the Turks crossed the Danube and started to do their own recruiting, to which Vlad reacted by capturing the Turks and impaling them. The conflict continued until 1461, when Mehmed asked the Prince to come to Constantinople and negotiate with him.
At the end of November 1461, Vlad Ţepeş wrote to Mehmed that he could not afford to pay the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims), as his war against the Saxons of Transylvania had emptied his resources, and that he could not leave Wallachia and risk having the Hungarian king take over his domains. He further promised to send the Sultan plenty of gold when he could afford to and that he would go to Constantinople if the Sultan would send him a pasha to rule over Wallachia in his absence. Meanwhile, the Sultan received intelligence reports that revealed Vlad’s alliance with Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus. He sent the bey of Nicopolis, Hamza Pasha, to stage a diplomatic meeting with Vlad at Giurgiu, but with orders to ambush him there; and thereafter, take him to Constantinople. Vlad was forewarned about the ambush and planned to set an ambush of his own. Hamza brought with him 1,000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad launched a surprise-attack. The Wallachians had the Turks surrounded and fired with their handgunners until the entire expedition-force was killed. Historians credit Vlad Ţepeş as one of the first European crusaders to use gunpowder in a “deadly artistic way.” In a letter to Corvinus, dated February 2, 1462, he wrote that Hamza Pasha was captured close to the former Wallachian fortress of Giurgiu. He then disguised himself as a Turk and advanced with his cavalry towards the fortress where he ordered the guards in Turkish to have the gates open. This they did and Vlad Ţepeş attacked and destroyed the fortress. In his next move, he went on a campaign and slaughtered enemy soldiers and population that might have sympathized with the Turks; first in southern Wallachia, then, in Bulgaria by crossing the frozen Danube. While in Bulgaria, he divided his army into several smaller groups and covered “some 800 kilometers in two weeks,” as they killed over 23,000 Turks and Muslim Bulgarians. In a letter to Corvinus, dated February 11, 1462, he stated:
I have killed peasants men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, up to Rahova, which is located near Chilia, from the lower Danube up to such places as Samovit and Ghighen. We killed 23,884 Bulgars without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers…Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace with him (Sultan Mehmet II).
The Christian Bulgarians were, however, spared; and many of them were settled in Wallachia. His precise numbers were counted as such: At Giugiu there were 6,414 victims; at Eni Sala, 1,350; at Durostor 6,840; at Orsova, 343; at Hârsova, 840; at Marotin, 210; at Turtucaia, 630; at Turnu, Batin, and Novograd, 384; at Sistov, 410; at Nicopolis and Ghighen, 1,138; at Rahova, 1,460. When hearing about the devastation, Mehmed — who was busy besieging a fortress in Corinth — sent his grand vizier, Mahmud, with an army of 18,000 to destroy the Wallachian port of Brăila. Vlad Ţepeş turned back and defeated the army, and according to the Italian chronicle de Lezze, only 8,000 Turks survived. Vlad Ţepeş’s campaign was celebrated among the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope. A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus on March 4, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad Ţepeş’s successful campaign. An English pilgrim to the Holy Land, William of Wey, passing through the island of Rhodes while on his way home, wrote that “the military men of Rhodes, upon hearing of Vlad Ţepeş’s campaign, had Te Deum sung in praise and honour of God who had granted such victories….The lord mayor of Rhodes convened his brother soldiers and the whole citizenry feasted on fruit and wine.” The Genoese from Caffa thanked Vlad Ţepeş, for his campaign had saved them from an attack of some 300 ships that the sultan planned to send against them. Many Turks were now frightened of Vlad and left the European side of their empire and moved into Anatolia. Mehmed, when hearing about the events, abandoned his siege at Corinth and decided to go against Vlad Ţepeş himself.