Battle of Kosovo, 1389
Lazar Hrebeljanovic versus Murad I: A smaller but bolder Serbian army under Lazar strikes an Ottoman army under Murad across a stake-implanted ditch. Can Murad rally his young army and win the day or will Lazar’s heavy infantry slash it to pieces? Also known as the Battle of Kossovo, Kosovo Polje and Kosovo Field. Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
It is difficult to determine which faction actually won this battle; both sides claimed victory and subsequent events only further muddled the consequences of the actual battle. If anything, both sides lost. Both commanders were killed, both sides suffered grievous casualties and neither side fought well enough to be confident of victory in the next battle. However, the Ottomans held the field – important at this time – and the Ottoman empire and army would only become greater after this battle.
This battle was fought rather unimaginatively by each commander although Lazar used shock tactics Serbian armies were accustomed to, namely a great cavalry charge backed by heavy infantry. Murad failed to use nomadic tactics Ottoman armies were accustomed to, namely luring the enemy into a rash attack and then ambushing them when they broke formation. Uyar & Erickson attribute this and the infancy of the units involved as the reasons for the Ottomans’ poor performance (2009: 26).
I had originally planned on animating the second Battle of Kosovo which took place in 1448 but was overcome by the vast literature on the first battle and its celebrated stature in Serbian history. It is always a welcome challenge to animate a nationalism-charged day of battlefield and be able to confidently show others how my research interprets the battle.
Casualties were impossible to precisely state as usual. Primary sources list casualty figures greater than the strength of the armies present and Sedlar vaguely describes bother armies being “largely annihilated” (1994: 244). It is hard to believe any medieval army could lost more than 50% of its force unless pursued by the enemy, enveloped or fighting a desperate rearguard action which provides at least a limit. Based on how the battle was decided primarily based on attrition, I reckon the Florentine chronicler Mezieres’ conviction that each side suffered equal casualties even if his raw figures are impossibly high (Heath, 1984: 88).
- Jonathan Webb
Emmert, Thomas A. “The Battle of Kosovo: Early Reports of Victory and Defeat.” In Kosovo: Legacy of a Medieval Battle. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1991.
Heath, Ian. Armies of the Middle Ages Vol. 2: The Ottoman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Near East, 1300-1500. Sussex: Flexprint, 1984.
Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774. London: Osprey, 1983.
Pappas, Nicholas C.J. and Lee Brigance Pappas. “The Ottoman View of the Battle of Kosovo.” In Kosovo: Legacy of a Medieval Battle. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1991.
Sedlar, Jean W. East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Uyar, Mesut and Edward J. Erickson. A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Ataturk. Santa Barbara: Praeger Security International, 2009.
Bayezid I: http://lexicorient.com/e.o/s04-bayezid1.htm
Lazar Hrebeljanovic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazar_of_Serbia
Murad I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murad_I
Ottoman soldiers: http://chinahistoryforum.com/lofiversion/index.php/t18570.html
Serbian soldiers: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=348592&page=5
Tags: 1300s, archer, artillery, attack from a defensive position, Bayezid I, cavalry, envelopment of a single flank, infantry, land, Lazar Hrebejanovic, Medieval Era, modern day Serbia, Murad I, Ottomans, penetration of the center, Season 6, Serbians, Southern Europe
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