The main purpose for studying history is not to see who ruled over what lands and when, or who fought against whom, how many they were, or who won in the end. This way of looking at things today will only flare up spirits between otherwise peaceful people, making them hate others who they haven’t even met. The purpose for studying history should be to see what made a society work, what didn’t, and learn from our past for a better tomorrow.
With that being said, there are some instances of conflict in the past which deserve a mention, not because they teach us something particularly useful for our own betterment, but because they were ingeniously implemented during some really hard times. One sure thing we can gather from most of these examples is that those who did not have the advantage of superior numbers on the battlefield, were forced to come up with some clever strategies to somehow even the odds, and if possible, even win the battle.
10. Vlad the Impaler and his Night Attack
Our first story takes us back to the 15th century and to a particular conflict between two of the most fascinating historical characters of Eastern Europe. Nine years after Constantinople fell to the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Mehmed the Conqueror set his sights on Wallachia, one of the three Principalities that make up present-day Romania, after Vlad the Impaler refused to pay the annual jizya (the tax on non-Muslims). As a region, Wallachia had always been regarded as a “buffer zone” between the Ottoman Empire to the South and the Hungarian Kingdom to the North, constantly forced to pay tribute to one or the other.
In the early spring of 1462, Mehmed gathered a force of roughly 90,000 soldiers, in an attempt to overthrow the rebellious Wallachian ruler. Throughout this time Vlad Dracula was ravaging the Bulgarian banks of the Danube, capturing Turkish prisoners. Hearing of the imminent attack and because of his inferior force of maybe 30,000, he retreated to the capital city of Targoviste, enforcing a “scorched earth” policy along the way. The Wallachian troops began a guerrilla war against the advancing Turkish forces, keeping them off balance. Peasants suffering from plague, tuberculosis and leprosy were disguised as Turkish soldiers and sent into the Ottoman camp, igniting an epidemic.
On June 16, 1462 the Turks made camp several miles south of the capital city. Dressed as an Ottoman soldier himself, and with intimate knowledge of the Turkish language and customs, Vlad the Impaler infiltrated the camp, scouting for the Sultan’s tent. During that same night, the Wallachian ruler organized a raid consisting of some 10,000 mounted forces, many also dressed in Turkish military uniform, in an attempt to assassinate the Conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmed II. The attack itself was successful, creating confusion and inflicting serious casualties on the Ottomans, but the assassination failed, with the Sultan managing to escape. Four days later, the Turks reached the city of Targoviste but found it completely deserted and with its gates wide open. Moreover, just outside the city walls and covering an area of about 1.2 sq. miles, was a literal forest of over 20,000 Turks on spikes, worthy of Vlad the Impaler’s name. Looking over this appalling site, the Sultan turned his forces around.