On June 17, 1462, Vlad the Impaler led a night attack on the camp of Sultan Mehmed II besieging the Wallachian capital of Târgoviște, after infiltrating the camp disguised as a Turk, in an attempt to personally assassinate the Ottoman ruler.
After the Voivode of Wallachia Vlad III refused to pay a tax on non-Muslims subjects to the Ottoman Sultan, the notorious Prince attacked Ottoman territory, massacring tens of thousands of Turks and Bulgarians in a brutal campaign.
Vlad the Impaler leads attack on Sultan Mehmed II
Following intelligence reports revealing Vlad’s alliance with Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus, Mehmed II raised a great army in response with the objective to conquer Wallachia and annex it to his empire.
But after receiving no support from Corvinus, Vlad called for a mobilization that included Gypsy slave contingents and adopted guerrilla tactics, making several hit-and-run attacks.
As Mehmed marched on the Wallachian capital of Târgoviște, Vlad led a cavalry night raid into the Ottoman camp after infiltrating the camp disguised as a Turk, in an attempt to personally assassinate Mehmed.
Luckily for the Sultan, Vlad got lost and hit the wrong tent. The Ottoman troops regrouped, repelled the raiding Wallachians and chased them out of the camp.
“A diabolical understanding”
The next day, Mehmed and his troops continued their march before stumbling upon a forest of wooden stakes piled high with 23,844 skewered Ottoman corpses, the now famous Forest of the Dead – a number which is mentioned by Vlad himself in a letter to Matthias Corvinus.
According to a contemporary Greek historian, upon seeing the grisly scene, “the Sultan said that it was not possible to deprive of his country a man who had such a diabolical understanding of how to govern his realm and its people”.
The Sultan and his troops then sailed to Brăila and burned it to the ground before retreating to Adrianople. Both sides claimed victory in the campaign and Mehmed’s forces returned home with many captured slaves, horses, and cattle.
In the video game Age of Empires II: The Forgotten, the Night Attack at Târgoviște is showcased in one of the final Dracula campaigns. The 2014 film Dracula Untold includes an altered rendition of the Night Attack, in which Dracula blocks the sun with black clouds instead of the battle occurring at night.
Find out more about Central European history in our On this Day series.