Battle of Valea Albă
The Battle of Valea Albă or Battle of Războieni or Battle of Akdere was an important event in the medieval history of Moldavia. It took place at Războieni, also known as Valea Albă, on July 26, 1476, between the Moldavian army of Ştefan cel Mare and an invading Ottoman army which was commanded personally by the Sultan Mehmed II.
In 1475 the Ottoman's attempt to bring Moldavia under their control, at winter by using an army of Rumelian local levies, ended disastrously with a defeat in the Battle of Vaslui. During the proper military campaign season, the Ottomans assembled a large army under the command of the Sultan, Mehmed II and entered Moldavia in June 1476. Meanwhile, groups of Tartars from the Crimean Khanate (the Ottomans' recent ally) were sent to attack Moldavia. Romanian sources may state that they were repelled,. Other sources state that joint Ottoman and Crimean Tartar forces "occupied Bessarabia and took Akkerman, gaining control of southern mouth of Danube. Stephan tried to avoid open battle with the Ottomans by following a scorched-earth policy." In the process the Moldavians forces ended up being dispersed throughout the country, leaving only a small force of about 12-20.000 men, led by Ştefan cel Mare himself, to face the main Ottoman attack.
The battle began with the Moldavians luring the main Ottoman forces into a forest that was set on fire, causing some casualties to the attacking Ottoman army in the forest. According to another battle description, the defending Moldavian forces repelled several attacks with steady fire from hand-guns. The attacking Ottoman Janissaries were forced to crouch on their stomachs instead of charging headlong into the defenders positions. Seeing the imminent defeat of his forces, Mehmed charged with his personal guard against the Moldavians, managing to rally the Janissaries, and turning the tide of the battle. Ottoman janissaries penetrated inside the forest and engaged the defenders in man-to-man fighting.
The Moldavian army was utterly defeated (casualties were very high on both sides, and the chronicles say that the entire battlefield was covered with the bones of the dead, a probable source for the toponym (Valea Albă is Romanian and Akdere Turkish for "The White Valley").
Ştefan cel Mare retreated into the north-western part of Moldavia or even into the Polish Kingdom and began forming another army. The Ottomans were unable to conquer any of the major Moldavian strongholds (Suceava, Neamţ, Hotin) and were constantly harassed by small scale Moldavians attacks. Soon they were also confronted with starvation, a situation made worse by an outbreak of the plague.
Meanwhile, anti-Ottoman forces were being assembled in Transylvania under Stephen V Báthory's command, assisted by Ştefan's presumed cousin Vlad III Dracula; confronted with this army and with Ştefan's counterattack the Ottomans retreated from Moldavia in August 1476.
In the Romanian theatrical play Apus de Soare by Barbu Ștefănescu Delavrancea (set in the final year of Ştefan's reign), one can find a description of the battle in the form of a dialog between the daughters and widows of the boyars who had fallen in the battle, in which they describe how their respective fathers and husbands had to drag Ştefan out of the battle, as he desperately tried to keep fighting.
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- Kármán & Kunčevic 2013, p. 266.
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology, Volume 1, ed. Clifford J. Rogers, (Oxford University Press, 2010), 8.
- M. Barbulescu, D. Deletant, K. Hitchins, S. Papacostea, P. Teodor, Istoria României (History of Romania), Ed. Corint, Bucharest, 2002, ISBN 973-653-215-1, p. 157
- Shaw, Stanford J. (1976) History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey - Vol 1: Empire of Gazis, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-29163-1 p.68
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- Istoria României, p.158
- Kármán, Gábor; Kunčevic, Lovro, eds. (2013). The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004246065.