Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula is the legendary king of the vampires. Immortalised on countless cinema screens by Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman and many others. Stoker’s inspiration was a real historical figure. Vlad Tepes known as ‘the Impaler’ or ‘Dracula’ (son of Dracul) was Prince of Wallachia (in modern Romania) three times in the 15th Century.
In April 2004 the Editor and the Glasgow & District Wargaming Society presented a demonstration game at the Glasgow Wappinshaw wargames show featuring one of his most famous battles against the invading Ottoman Turks led by Mehmed the Conqueror.
The context is the Turco-Wallachian War of 1462. Vlad Tepes is being attacked by the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed the Conqueror.
The war started well for Vlad. The Ottoman Grand Vizier, Mahmud had been caught outside Braila and defeated, losing 10,000 men. Vlad held most of the Danube ports and destroyed the others. In May the Sultan left Istanbul with an army around 60,000 strong. He crossed the Danube in early June. Vlad harassed the Ottoman columns and adopted a scorched earth policy as the Turks marched to Bucharest then Snagov before advancing towards the Wallachian capital, Tirgoviste.
On the night of 17 June the Ottoman army encamped south of Tirgoviste. Vlad had around 24,000 troops and planned a night attack with the objective of killing the Sultan. The sources differ on the precise plan but it appears that half the army led by the Boyar Gales made a diversionary attack from the south whilst Vlad with 7-10,000 troops broke into the camp and tried to reach the Sultan’s tent. In error they reached the Grand Vizier’s tent by which time the Janissaries rallied to the Sultan. The inevitable counter attack drove the Wallachians from the camp.
After the battle Mehmed continued the advance to be met by the infamous “Forest of the Impaled”. Some 20,000 carcasses of Turkish captives impaled along the road for about three miles. The morale effect was significant! Mehmed decided to abandon the attack on Tirgoviste and withdraw to the Danube. Disease and attrition are more likely causes of the withdrawal. Ottoman historians tend to favour the view that it was simply a case of task completed as the Wallachian army was finished.
Vlad didn’t retain his princedom for long. The Turks supported his brother Radu who succeeded in bringing most of the Boyars to his side and Vlad fled to Transylvania and to his subsequent imprisonment by the Hungarians.
In addition to the sources quoted above the following websites are useful:
Dracula Homepage http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/tepes.htm is an excellent starting point on the fact and fiction.
Vlad Tepes Journey Log http://www.dunwich.org/draculea/draculea.html includes a historical background and photographs of places in modern day Romania linked to Vlad Dracula.
Wallachian Darabanti from the Old Glory range (Painted by Liam Entwistle)
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