The Battle of Breadfield (Kenyérmező) 1479
King Matthias Corvinus had been fighting the Turks for almost ten years, we have talked about how he had taken back Szabács, Galambóc, and Jajca. You can read more about Jajca Castle here:
Yet, King Matthias had such a legendary commander as Kinizsi Pál. (Note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.) According to a legend, Kinizsi Pál was a miller boy who offered a drink to the thirsty king who was passing thru; he offered it on a mill-stone because he was quite strong. It was the beginning of his career. In the picture below, you can see Kinizsi as a side-figure on King Matthias’ statue in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg):
The Ottoman Turks attacked Hungary in 1475 and could break in as far as Nagyvárad (Oradea) but were driven out. The Muslims lost the castle of Szabács on our southern border the next year and suffered a sobering open defeat at Kenyérmező, Transylvania, in 1479 when General Pál Kinizsi scattered their superior army. It was our tenth war against the Turks. Kinizsi was chasing them deep into Serbia, gaining back territories again and again.
The victorious Battle of Breadfield (Hungarian: Kenyérmezei csata) was the most tremendous conflict fought in Transylvania up to that time in the Hungarian-Turkish Wars taking place on October 13, 1479, near the Maros (Mureş) River. The Hungarian army was led by Kinizsi Pál, Báthory István, Vuk Branković, and Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân.
Before, Ottoman marauders had attacked Transylvania several times between 1474 and 1475. It was the time when Hungarian Hussars became famous for their ability to defeat the Ottoman light cavalry:
After the Ottoman–Venetian War (1463–79) in the spring of 1479, a major Turkish army convened under Szendrő, above all Akıncıs. When King Matthias was alerted, he ordered Báthory István, the Voivode of Transylvania and his general Kinizsi Pál to mobilize.
The Turkish army entered Transylvania on October 9, near Kelnek (Câlnic), led by Ali Koca Bey. On October 13, Koca Bey set up his camp in the Breadfield (Kenyérmező), near Zsibót. Koca Bey was obliged into the campaign by the insistence of Basarab cel Tânăr, a Wallachian prince, who himself brought 1,000–2,000 infantrymen to the cause. Demeter Jaksics, one of the favorite military leader of King Matthias, was also there with his brother, leading 900 riders.
The Turks continued pillaging and taking prisoners of war for the slave-markets, while Báthory and Kinizsi made preparations to set forth against the enemy.
According to Matthias Corvinus, there were 43-45,000 Ottoman and Wallachian soldiers. Kinizsi’s army consisted of Hungarian, Székely (Szekler), Serbian, Transylvanian Saxon forces, and some Vlach volunteers, altogether about approximately 12,000 to 15,000 men.
Look at the map of the Battle of Breadfield (Kenyérmező); Turks are on the left, Hungarian, Saxon, Wallachian and Székely forces, aided by the Serbian troops are on the right:
Both armies were composed of three columns. The right flank of the Hungarian army was led by Kinizsi, the left was the Serbian light cavalry under Vuk Branković and Demetrius Jaksics with the Saxons and Báthori’s forces in the center. On the Ottoman side, Koca Bey took the left flank, Isa Bey the center and Malkoch Oglu the right flank.
Read about the role of heavy cavalry in my other article:
The battle commenced in the afternoon, Báthory fell from his horse and the Ottomans nearly captured him, but a valiant Antal Nagy whisked the voivode away. According to Bonfini, the Turks got behind Báthori’s forces but Kinizsi arrived and charged against the Turks with the Hungarian heavy cavalry and 900 Serbs under a Jakšić assisted by “numerous courtiers of the king”.
Ali Bey was forced to retreat. Kinizsi moved to smash the Turkish center and before long Isa Bey also withdrew, according to the Ottoman sources he got frightened seeing the heavy cavalry lining up against his Akinjis. Yet, Isa Bey fought until his death, valiantly and the battle lasted for several more hours. Kinizsi fought with two swords in his hands, according to the sources.
The hero of the battle was undoubtedly Kinizsi Pál, the legendary Hungarian general and a man of Herculean bodily strength in the service of Matthias Corvinus’ Black Army of Hungary. After the battle, he was said to have danced holding the corpses of two Turks with his teeth. The Christians lost 3,000 men and many thousands of Turks perished, about 30,000 of them. It was a crushing victory.
Our Romanian friends also claim Kinizsi as their hero, and there is nothing wrong with it; this illustration below is from a Romanian book, showing how the general was dancing with three Turks after the battle. (True story, we have the sources…)
In 1480, General Kinizsi raided Serbia and several times defeated Ali Koca Bey. The Battle of Breadfield was a great psychological victory for the Hungarians, and as a result, the Ottoman Turks did not attack southern Hungary and Transylvania for many years thereafter.
As the Turks had depopulated the Southern parts of the Hungarian Kingdom, having finished his campaign, General Kinizsi brought several thousands of Serbian settlers to replace the killed Hungarian population with new workers.
Here is an animation video of the battle, in the Hungarian language (your help is welcome to create English subtitles):
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