View Full Version : Janos Hunyadi: The Hungarian Saviour of Belgrade!

János Hunyadi
Monday, April 10th, 2006, 11:15 AM
Janos Hunyadi: The Hungarian Saviour of Belgrade


After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman sultan Mehmed II was rallying his resources in order to subjugate the Kingdom of Hungary. His immediate objective was a border fort (Hungarian végvár) of Nándorfehérvár, the town of Belgrade. John Hunyadi, a Hungarian nobleman and warlord from a Wallachian lineage, who fought many battles against the Ottomans in the previous two decades, expected just such an attack.

The siege eventually escalated into a major battle, during which Hunyadi led a sudden counterattack that overran the Turkish camp, ultimately compelling the wounded Sultan Mehmet II to lift the siege and retreat. The siege of Belgrade "largely decided the fate of European Christendom", and it successfully saved large parts of Eastern and Central Europe from Turkish invasion.

Siege of Belgrade

Date: July 22, 1456
Location: Belgrade
Result: Hungarian victory


Ottoman Empire vs. Kingdom of Hungary



Ottoman Empire: Mehmet II
Stregnth: 100,000
Casualties: About 50,000


Kingdom of Hungary: Janos Hunyadi
Strength: About 75,000
Casualties: About 10,000


At the end of 1455, after a public reconciliation with all his enemies, Hunyadi began preparations. At his own expense he provisioned and armed the fortress, and leaving in it a strong garrison under the command of his brother-in-law Mihály Szilágyi and his own eldest son László, he proceeded to form a relief army and a fleet of two hundred corvettes. As no other baron was willing to help (fearing Hunyadi's growing power more than the Ottoman threat), he was left entirely to his own resources.

His one ally was the Franciscan friar, Giovanni da Capistrano, who preached a crusade so effectively that the peasants and yeomanry, ill-armed (most of them had but slings and scythes) but full of enthusiasm, flocked to the standard of Hunyadi, the kernel of whose host consisted of a small band of seasoned mercenaries and a few banderia of noble horsemen. All in all, Hunyadi could build a force of 25-30,000 men.


The coat of arms of János Hunyadi


However, before these forces could have been assembled, Mehmet II's invasion army (160,000 men in early accounts, 60-70,000 according to newer research) arrived at Nándorfehérvár. On July 4, 1456, the siege began. Szilágyi could only rely on a force of 5-7,000 men in the castle. Mehmet set up his siege on the neck of the headland and started firing on the walls on June 29, 1456. He arrayed his men in three sections. The Rumelian (that is, European) corps had the majority of his 300 cannons, and his fleet of 200 or so river vessels had the rest. The Rumelians were arrayed on the right wing and the Anatolian corps was arrayed on the left. In the middle were the sultan's personal guards, the janissaries, and his command post. The Anatolian corps and the janissaries were both heavy infantry type troops. He posted his river vessels mainly to the northwest of the city to patrol the marshes and make sure that the fortress wasn't reinforced. They also kept an eye on the Sava to the southwest to avoid the infantry's being outflanked by Hunyadi's army. The Danube to the east was guarded by the spahi, the sultan's light cavalry corps, to avoid being outflanked on the right. These formidable forces were resisted by only about 7,000 men in the fortress, although the Serbian townsfolk helped resist Muslim attacks as well.


Siege of Belgrade 1456 (From a 15th century Turkish manuscript). When word of this got to Hunyadi, he was in the south of Hungary recruiting additional light cavalry troops for the army with which he intended to lift the siege. Although relatively few of his fellow nobles had been willing to provide manpower, it just so happened that the peasants were more than willing to do so. Cardinal Giovanni Capistrano had been sent to Hungary by the Vatican both to preach against heretics like Greek Orthodox Christians and to preach the Crusade against the Ottomans. He managed to raise a large, albeit poorly trained and equipped peasant army, with which he left for Belgrade. He and Hunyadi travelled together, but commanded separately. Between the two of them, they had roughly 40,000 to 50,000 men.

Fortress of Belgrade as it looked in the Middle Ages. Lower and upper town with the palace are visible.The outnumbered defenders relied mainly on the strength of the formidable castle of Belgrade which was at the time one of the best engineered in the Balkans. As Belgrade was designated to be the capital of the Serbian principality by Despot Stephan Lazarevic in 1404 after the battle of Angora, major work was done to transform the small old Byzantine castle to a strong enforced capital. As Ottoman raids were expected after they recovered from the heavy loss against the Mongols, advanced building techniques from Byzantine and Arab fortress designs were used, learned during the period of conflict that loomed from the middle of the 11th century with seldjuk and ottoman military operations transforming the near east.

The castle was designed in the most elaborate form as three lines of defence, inner castle with the palace and huge Donjon, the upper town with the main military camps with four gates and a double wall and the lower town with the cathedral in the urban center and a port at the Danube, were skillfully separated by trenches, gates and high walls. The endeavor was one of the most elaborated military architecture achievements of the middle ages. After the Siege the Hungarians enforced the north and eastern side with an additional gate and several towers, one of which, the Nebojsa tower, was designed for artillery purposes.

On the 14th of July 1456 Hunyadi arrived the completely encircled city with his flotilla on the Danube while the Turkish navy lay astride the Danube River. He broke the naval blockade on July 14, sinking three large Ottoman galleys and capturing four large vessels and 20 smaller ones. By destroying the Sultan's fleet Hunyadi could transport his troops and much-needed food into the city. The fort's defense was so reinforced.

But Mehmet II was not willing to end the siege and after a week of heavy artillery bombardment, the walls of the fortress were breached in several places. On the 21st Mehmet II ordered an all-out assault which began at sundown and continued all night. The besieging army flooded the city, and then started its assault on the fort. As this was the most crucial moment of the siege, Hunyadi ordered the defenders to throw tarred wood, and other flammable material, and then set it afire. Soon a wall of flames separated the Janissaries fighting in the city from their comrades trying to breach through the gaps into the upper town. The fierce battle between the encircled Janissaries and Szilágyi's soldiers inside the upper town was turning in favour of the Christians and the Hungarians managed to beat off the fierce assault from outside the walls. The Janissaries remaining inside the city were thus massacred while the Turkish troops trying to breach into the upper town suffered heavy losses. When a Turkish soldier almost managed to pin the Sultan's flag on top of a bastion, a soldier named Titus Dugović (Dugovics Titusz in Hungarian) grabbed him and together they plunged from the wall. (For this heroism John Hunyadi's son, the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus made Titus's son a nobleman three years later.)


Fortress of Belgrade as it looked in the middle ages. Lower and upper town with the palace are visible.


The next day something unexpected happened. By some accounts, the peasant crusaders started a spontaneous action, and forced Capistrano and Hunyadi to make use of the situation. Despite Hunyadi's orders to the defenders not to try to loot the Turkish positions, some of the units crept out from demolished ramparts, took up positions across from the Turkish line, and began harassing enemy soldiers. Turkish spahis (provincial cavalry) tried without success to disperse the harassing force. At once more Christians joined those outside the wall. What began as an isolated incident quickly escalated into a full-scale battle.

John of Capistrano at first tried to order his men back inside the walls, but soon found himself surrounded by about 2,000 Crusaders. He then began leading them toward the Ottoman lines, crying, "The Lord who made the beginning will take care of the finish!"

Capistrano led his crusaders to the Turkish rear army across the Sava river. At the same time, Hunyadi started a desperate charge out of the fort to take the cannon positions in the Turkish camp.

Taken by surprise at this strange turn of events and, as some chroniclers say, paralyzed by some inexplicable fear, the Turks took flight. The sultan's bodyguard of about 5,000 Janissaries tried desperately to stop the panic and recapture the camp, but by that time Hunyadi's army had also joined the unplanned battle, and the Turkish efforts became hopeless. The sultan himself was badly wounded and rendered unconscious. After the battle, the Hungarian raiders were ordered to spend the night behind the walls of the fortress and to be on the alert for a possible renewal of the battle, but the Turkish counterattack never came.

Under cover of darkness the Turks retreated in haste, bearing their wounded in 140 wagons. At the city of Sarona, the sultan regained consciousness. Upon learning that his army had been routed, most of his leaders killed and all his equipment abandoned, the 24-year-old ruler was barely prevented from committing suicide by taking poison. The surprise attacks caused heavy losses and much disarray. Thus, during the night a defeated Mehmed withdrew his remaining forces and returned to Constantinople.


His Legacy

John Hunyadi has often been regarded as a hero by all of the local nationalities; each in its own way has claimed him as their own. It's commonly said that he fought with his head rather than his arm. Among his more progressive qualities, he was among the first to recognize the insufficiency and unreliability of the feudal levies, instead regularly employing large professional armies. His notable contribution to the development of the science of European warfare included the emphasis on tactics and strategy in place of over-reliance on bravery (or foolhardiness) in battle. Though he remained illiterate until late in life (something not uncommon during the age he lived in), his natural diplomatic, strategic, and tactical intelligence allowed him to serve his country well. Although other leaders of the time were credited in their own right with having fended off the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the 15th century, such as Vlad III Dracula and Skanderbeg, none were quite as successful as Hunyadi.

News of this victory was greeted with fervent celebrations throughout Europe. Hunyadi, however, scarcely three weeks after his historic victory died of the plague, along with many of his Knights. Even in the last days of his life he was writing letters with the aim of recapturing Constantinople and driving out the Turks from Europe.




János Hunyadi
Tuesday, April 11th, 2006, 12:14 AM
János Hunyadi
"Hammer of the Turks"

Janos Hunyadi was one of the greatest heroes of the European struggle against Islamic invaders. His heroic defense of Belgrade saved large portions of Eastern and Central Europe from future Turkish/Muslim invasion.


Above: Janos Hunyadi, a great White hero of Hungary, breaking the non-White siege of the city of Belgrade in 1456. For this act and other deeds against the Turks, he is still remembered to this day as a national figure in Hungary.

Slovenian Nationalist
Monday, June 5th, 2006, 08:48 PM
Hunyadi was a great hero, I'm part Hungarian myself. :)

Thank you for your post!

White Falcon
Tuesday, June 6th, 2006, 04:21 PM
It's funny that Serbs participated even here on Turkish side,
not to mention others, Constantinople, Niccopolis , Kosovo II ...etc.

János Hunyadi
Wednesday, June 7th, 2006, 07:50 AM
His heroic defense of Belgrade saved large portions of Eastern and Central Europe from future Turkish/Muslim invasion..

But only for 70 more years. . . . . . . . :(

Unfortunately, the Kingdom of Hungary was later defeated by the numerically superior forces of the Ottoman Empire.

Louis II of Hungary


Louis II of Hungary had long opposed Ottoman expansion in southeastern Europe. The marriage of Louis to Maria of Austria in 1522 drew the kingdom closer to the Habsburgs and the Ottomans saw the need to break this nascent alliance; after Louis refused a peace offer, the Ottomans decided to use military power. In June 1526, an Ottoman expedition advanced up the Danube to attack.

Battle of Mohács


Part of the Ottoman-Hungarian war
Date: August 29, 1526

Location: Mohács, Baranya, south of Budapest, Hungary

Result: Decisive Ottoman victory


Ottoman Empire vs. Kingdom of Hungary


Suleiman I vs. Louis II of Hungary


Ottoman Empire: 50,000–60,000

Kingdom of Hungary: 26,000

The Hungarian army was divided into three main units: The Transylvanian army with its battle task of guarding the passes in the Transylvanian Alps, the main army led by King Louis himself and another smaller force, commanded by Count Christopher Frangepan. As a result of the Kingdom's geographical position the Turkish army's final goal could not be determined until it was crossing the Balkan Mountains. But at this point the Transylvanian army was further from Buda than the Ottoman were. Some theories says that Zapolya's army couldn't arrive in time, others that he had a share in the King's failure...

The Hungarian forces chose the battlefield, an open but uneven plain leading down to the Danube, with some swampy marshes. The Ottomans had been allowed to advance almost unopposed. While Louis waited in Buda, they had besieged several towns and crossed the Sava and the Drava. Louis had assembled around 26,000 soldiers and the Ottoman army was around 50,000–60,000. The Hungarian army was arrayed to take advantage of the terrain and hoped to engage the Ottoman army piecemeal.

The actual battle lasted only two hours. As the first of Suleiman's troops, the Rumelian army, advanced onto the battlefield at 13:00 they were attacked and routed by Hungarian troops led by Pál Tomori. But as the main Ottoman force arrived in the early afternoon (around 14:00) the situation quickly changed. At one time Suleiman himself was in danger, from Hungarian arrows that struck his cuirass. Slow to reinforce the successes on their right, the Hungarian advance became irretrievably exposed. They could not last and those who did not flee were surrounded and killed or captured. Louis left the battlefield but was thrown from his horse in a river at Csele and died there. The most decisive factor in the battle was the Ottoman artillery, which mowed the Hungarians down in their thousands. More than 16,000 Hungarian soldiers were killed in the initial battle and a similar number of Ottomans. More than 1000 of the Hungarian nobility were slain including the Hungarian King Louis II.

The Sultan, more expedient than chivalrous, gave orders to keep no prisoners. Two days later he wrote in his diary "The Sultan receives the homage of the viziers and the beys, massacre of 2,000 prisoners, the rain falls in torrents."

The victory did not give the Ottomans the security they wanted. The battle meant the end of the independent Kingdom of Hungary, but the Ottoman forces withdrew in September and the territory was contested by the Habsburg Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, Louis's brother-in-law and successor by treaty with King Ladislaus. While Austria dominated the northern third and portions of today's Croatia, the Ottomans obtained southwestern Hungary and suzerainty over semi-independent Transylvania, using these inroads to move against independent Hungarian nobles in the east and Austrian possessions in the northwest, beginning with the siege of Vienna.

This battle is sometimes compared to the battles of Nicopolis and Crécy in the 14th century, where slow knights in heavy armor suffered major defeats at the hands of less armored opposition equipped with ranged weapons.

With this newly secured base in eastern Europe, The Ottoman Empire's efficient light cavalry and cannon would continue to launch advances into central Europe for decades. Their influence in Hungary, beginning with their support for John Zápolya against Ferdinand, continued until the Treaty of Karlowitz.

Louis II is buried as a hero


Mohács is seen by many Hungarians as the decisive downward turning point in the country's history, one which would prove to become a national trauma. To this day, Hungarians refer to this battle over 400 years ago to remind themselves how bad things could be. Similar to the English phrase of "don't cry over spilled milk," Hungarians state that "more was lost at Mohács" (Több is veszett Mohácsnál) when they experience bad luck.


Battle Monument in Mohács


Over twenty thousand Hungarian soldiers were killed in the battle, by the numerically superior forces of Turkish Suleyman the Magnificent in 1526. The park is an eternal resting place of the unknown soldiers.

Louis II of Hungary's Coat of Arms

János Hunyadi
Wednesday, June 7th, 2006, 08:02 AM

During the Turkish occupation the local people wanted to get back their homes, which had been stolen from them by the Turks. Hungarian paesants dressed up in scary furs and put on frightful masques, which would frighten the Turks to death, which cuased many to flee the Hungarian basin as they ran away from those dreadful devils. In spite of all efforts, Hungary was occupied by the Turks and had been under the rule of the sultans for 150 years. On February 22, The 'Bushos' recall this tradition yearly, and at the same time they say farewell to winter.



The Bushos are gathereing from the whole town.





Busho with his kids :)


Buscho coffin commemorating the Hungarian dead who fell to the Turks at Mohacs.


The coffin is launched down the Danube symbolizing the end of Winter along with the loss of Hungarian indepndence.


Hungarian tourists paying respects to their ancestors who fought to the death in defence of their homelands against Ottoman Turkish agression.