The Battle of Kenyérmező (Breadfield), 13 October 1479
King Matthias Corvinus had been fighting against the Ottomans for almost ten years, we have talked about how he had recaptured Szabács, Galambóc, and Jajca. You can read more about Jajca Castle here:
The battle of Kenyérmező is associated with Kinizsi Pál, the legendary general of King Matthias. (Note: I use the oriental order for Hungarian names, where the surname comes first). According to the legend, Kinizsi Pál was a miller’s boy who offered a thirsty king a drink on a millstone because he was very strong. This was the beginning of his career. However, according to historians, he came from a lower noble family in Bihar County, but we can find the name “Kinizsi” in Abaúj-Torna County and also in the Székely-land in Transylvania. In the picture below you can see Kinizsi as a side figure on the statue of King Matthias in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg):
Before this battle, Ottoman marauders had attacked Transylvania several times between 1474 and 1475. They attacked Hungary in 1475 and managed to penetrate as far as Nagyvárad (Oradea), but they were driven out. The following year, the Ottomans lost the castle of Szabács on our southern border, before suffering the sobering open defeat at Kenyérmező (Breadfield), Transylvania, in 1479, when General Kinizsi scattered their superior army. The victory was significant for the Christians because the enemy was defeated in a large-scale battle. Since the Battle of Nicopolis (1396) and the Battle of Várna (1444), the Ottomans were considered an unbeatable enemy in the open field. During our tenth war against the Ottomans, Kinizsi Pál and Báthory István dispelled this myth at Kenyérmező / Breadfield.
In fact, this victorious battle was the biggest Hungarian-Ottoman conflict that had ever been fought in Transylvania, within the borders of the Kingdom of Hungary.
The battle took place on October 13, 1479, near the Maros River (Mureş). The Hungarian army was led by Kinizsi Pál, Báthory István, Vuk Branković and Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân. It was the time when Hungarian, Serbian, and semi-heavy cavalrymen, called Hussars, became famous for their ability to defeat the Ottoman light cavalry. King Matthias said, “…these are the lightly armed horsemen whom we call Hussars” (1481) Truly, they were lighter than a heavy cavalryman, but wore more armor than the ordinary light cavalrymen. You can read more about them here:
After the Ottoman-Venetian War (1463-79) in the spring of 1479, a large Ottoman-Turkish army was assembled under Szendrő (Smederevo), mainly Akıncıs. They were irregular cavalrymen, they were one of the first divisions to face the enemy in battles, and they were known for their prowess in battle. Unpaid, they lived and operated as raiders on the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire, subsisting entirely on plunder. According to the chronicle of Antonio Bonfini, King Matthias was informed of their intentions. The king ordered the Transylvanian voivode Báthory István to mobilize his army on July 11. Kinizsi Pál, the Comes of Temes, was also alerted. Among the soldiers of Matthias was Jaksics Demeter, one of the king’s favorite military leaders. His brother was also there, leading 900 horsemen.
You can read more about Kinizsi Pál here:
The Ottoman army entered Transylvania on October 9th, near Kelnek (Câlnic), led by Ali Koca Bey. Koca Bey ordered Basarab cel Tânăr IV, a Wallachian (Romanian) voivode, to join him, and he himself brought 1,000-2,000 infantrymen to the cause. On October 13, Koca Bey set up his camp in the Kenyérmező (Breadfield) near Zsibót.
The Ottoman-Wallachian (Romanian) army continued to plunder and take prisoners for the slave markets, while Báthori and Kinizsi prepared to move against the enemy. According to the letters of King Matthias Corvinus, the total number of Ottoman and Wallachian soldiers was 43-45,000. However, modern historians say that there were about 15-20,000 Ottomans, and they exclude the presence of Janissaries. It is also said that there were only 6,000 men strong. On the other hand, the contemporary Polish historian Jan Długosz says that there were 100,000 Turks, but other sources estimate their number at about 60,000.
Kinizsi’s army consisted of Hungarian, Székely, Serbian/Croatian, Southern Slavic, Transylvanian German-Saxon forces, including Wallachian (Romanian) volunteers. In total, there were about 12,000 to 15,000 men in the two armies before Kinizsi and Báthory met. Voivode Basarab III had about 1,000 men in the army: he was the enemy of Basarab IV and hoped to get rid of him. Some theories claim that there may have been Moldavians (also Romanians), Lithuanians, Poles, and even Russians in Kinizsi’s army, along with some artillery units.
Look at the map of the Battle of Kenyérmező (Breadfield); the Turks are on the left, the Hungarian, Saxon, Walachian (Romanian) and Székely forces, supported by the Serbian troops, are on the right:
Both armies consisted of three columns. The right flank of the Hungarian army was led by Kinizsi, the left by the Serbian light cavalry under Vuk Branković and Jaksics Demeter (alias Demetrius Jakšić) with the German Saxons of Transylvania. Báthory’s forces were in the center. On the Ottoman side, Koca Bey took the left flank, Isa Bey the center, and Malkoch Oglu deployed his men on the right flank. The Hungarian/Serbian heavy cavalry played a key role in the upcoming battle. Read about the role of heavy cavalry in my other article:
The battle began in the afternoon, Báthory fell from his horse and the Ottomans almost captured him, but a brave knight named Nagy Antal carried the voivode away. According to the Renaissance historian Bonfini, the Turks fell behind Báthory’s forces, but Kinizsi arrived and charged the Turks with the Hungarian heavy cavalry and 900 Serbs, led by Jaksics / Jakšić, who had “numerous courtiers of the king”.
Ali Bey was forced to withdraw. Kinizsi moved to smash the Ottoman center and soon Isa Bey retreated as well. According to Ottoman sources, Isa became frightened when he saw the heavy cavalry lined up against his light Akinjis. However, Isa Bey fought bravely until his death and the battle lasted for several more hours. According to the sources, Kinizsi fought with two swords in his hands. Here is more about his life:
The few Turks who survived the massacre fled to the mountains, where most of them were killed by the local men. The hero of the battle was undoubtedly Kinizsi Pál, the legendary Hungarian general, a man of Herculean physical strength in the service of Matthias Corvinus’ Black Army of Hungary. After the battle, he was said to have danced while holding two enemy corpses under his arms and one with his teeth. The Christians lost 3,000 men and many thousands of Ottomans perished, about 30,000 of them. It is said that half of the soldiers of the attacking Wallachian voivode died there as well. A large booty was taken and all the Ottomans’ prisoners were freed.
It was a crushing victory. Right after the battle, Kinizsi chased them deep into Serbia, winning back territory after territory. Our Romanian friends also claim Kinizsi as their hero (they call him Pavel Chinezu), and there is nothing wrong with that; this illustration below is from a Romanian book and shows the general dancing with three Turks after the battle, according to Bonfini. In fact, Bonfini wrote that Kinizsi picked up the third dead Turk with his teeth without even touching him with his hand.
It is said that in 1480 General Kinizsi invaded Serbia and defeated Ali Koca Bey several times. The Battle of Kenyérmező (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, except for one attempt.
As the Ottoman attacks had depopulated the southern parts of the Hungarian Kingdom, General Kinizsi, after finishing his campaign, brought several thousand Serbian settlers to replace the massacred Hungarian population with new inhabitants.
Here is an animation video of the battle, in the Hungarian language (your help is welcome to create English subtitles):
The next time it was another general of King Matthias, Magyar Balázs, who defeated the Ottomans in 1481 when he recaptured the city of Otranto, thus driving the enemy out of Italy, then he crushed another Turkish army at Becse, Hungary in 1482.
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