Battle of Kosovo 1389 CE (Serbian-Ottoman Wars)

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Causes

The Ottoman Empire was the most powerful of its era and conquered many regions in a decisive fashion however their invasion of the Balkans was met with stiff resistance. The people of this region fought the intruders for almost 200 years and defied their rule long after that the bloody Battle of Kosovo in 1389 CE exemplifies this struggle for independence. This battle came to be the Celtic invasion followed by the Crusades completely changed the balance of power in the Middle East, the biggest victim of these events was the Byzantine Empire. It had started to lose lands to the Seljuks in the 11th century, then the Crusades despite helping the empire in the very beginning led to the sack of its capital Constantinople by the Latins. Anatolia was fractured beyond anything seen before the ethnic and religious makeup of Asia Minor changed as more Turkish tribes moved in as if it wasn’t enough the Mongol invasion of the Middle East started in the 13th century in 1241 CE. They made their first foray into Anatolia and in 1243 CE decisively defeated armies of the Seljuk Empire of the Rome near modern-day Seevi. The Empire became a vassal of the Mongols and a Byzantine successor state the Empire of Nakia used that respite effectively by 1261 CE. The Greeks took back Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire in the northwestern part of Anatolia and central Balkans unfortunately for them the Mongols pushed more terrific tribes out of Central Asia and the Iranian plateau towards Anatolia by 1299 CE.

Prelude

Shah Lazar

The leader of one of these tribes, Osman Ghazi was granted a small piece of land along the Byzantine border for his military service to the Seljuks in 1302 CE. He defeated a Byzantine army near Nakia then Osman Ghazi used the dissolution of the Empire in 1308 CE to gain independence. Unlike other Balak leaders, he didn’t care for the usual tribal infighting. Osman I and his descendants practiced a version of Islam that was stricter than that of the Seljuks and saw glory only in fighting against non-muslims. His son Orhan Ghazi took the Byzantine city of Prusa, the modern day Bursa and moved his capital there. Nakiya and Nikka media fell to his troops in 1331 CE and 1337 CE and a few successful raids into Byzantine lands in Europe were conducted by Ottomans as they were called by the Christians, took their first city in Europe in 1354 CE using the fact that the walls of Gallipoli were destroyed by an earthquake in the next decade. Adrianople, Lofty, and Komotini were all conquered and the new leader Murad I moved the Ottoman capital to Adrianople modern-day Edirne. It seemed that nothing could stop the Ottomans but to the west of their new Holdings, the mighty Serbian Empire was ready to defend itself in 1371 CE.

Location within Kosovo

King Lucas in attempted to use the fact that most of the Ottoman forces were in Asia to take Adrianople and drive them out of Europe with around 35,000 troops under his command, he moved to the valley of the Maritza River as no significant enemy force was in the area. The Serbian King did not send any scouts ahead and his camp was virtually unguarded but a small Ottoman army of a thousand or so riders attacks the camp during the night. Thousands of Serbs were killed in their sleep and even more drowned in the Maritza during the chaos. The king, his brothers, and many aristocrats died in this battle which destroyed the Serbian Empire. Almost all Serbian and Bulgarian aristocrats became the vassals of Murad I. Among them, the Prince of Moravian Serbia despite that when most of the Ottoman army moved to central Anatolia, Lazar rebelled alongside many other local feudal lords. His troops defeated a small army at the Battle of Plotnick in 1386 CE and pushed the Ottomans out of southern Serbia. This victory increased Lazarre’s Authority tenfold and he managed to form a broad Alliance consisting of Serbs, Volga’s, Bosnians, and Al Burns. Even some Bohemian and Hungarian aristocrats joined his army but this time around he was facing the best. The Ottomans offered Sultan Murad I alongside his sons Bayezid I and Jakob moved towards Pristina in the June of 1389 CE.

Troops Deposition and Battle

Lazar and his troops were waiting for them on Kosovo, the fields of the Blackbirds in Serbian. Murad I had continued in the footsteps of his father and grandfather expanding his Regular Army which meant that Ottoman troops were very different from those once fielded by the Seljuks. Still for Sultan did have a significant number of light cavalry called a Kim G. They were armed with composite bows, axes, and maces and usually acted as Raiders or a flanking force. The regular cavalry called Sipahi was a somewhat heavier horseman with lances and bows. The irregular infantry was represented by saps who carry bows and polearms or halberts. Ottoman Sultans also started a practice of using personal slaves and Christian people’s to form their elite Janissary troops. They also were armed with various weapons. Janissary served as the Sultan’s guard and have both cavalry and infantry units. The Ottomans also had early cannons in their service altogether. Murad I had 50,000 troops in this battle. On the other hand, the Serbs had a truly European army. Most of their cavalry was heavy with only a handful of light. Hasan’s in support serve infantry used both bows and melee weapons. According to the situation, Lazar had brought 30,000 warriors with him. Mountains surround the field of Kosovo to the west and east. Lazar knew that he would not be able to contain the Ottomans in the open plains to the north and hoped that the terrain would prevent his enemies from using their superior numbers.

Turkish Armor

The Prince commanded the center with 15,000 troops with cavalry in the first line and infantry in the second. The left was led by a flat Kovu Kovac while the right was under the command of a local aristocrat Rook Brankovic. Both had around 7,000 warriors. On the opposite side, the Sultan stayed in the center with 20,000 of his regular troops while Yakup commanded 15,000 Anatolian warriors on the left. The Ottoman front line consisted of archers who had dug a small protective trench and reinforced it with stakes. Most of the artillery was in the center for both armies. The battle began on the morning of June 15th with a volley from the Serb cannons which failed to reach Ottoman lines due to the distance. Ottoman cannons also weren’t effective and their archers were ordered forward. Those are responded by ordering his cavalry forward where this attack was stopped by the Ottoman center and right flank. The Serb cavalry suffered many casualties but on the right the attack was successful. The Serbs pushed the enemy all the way back to their camp, however, the Ottoman right was also pushing back the Serbian left. After some initial difficulty, still Lazar had the initiative and Murad I was close to panic.

Aftermath

Milosevic

This moment of the battle is still hotly debated in the Balkans. Leader of the right flank of the Christian army, Vogue Brankovic to the field with most of the troops under his command. Some say that he was a traitor and had an arrangement with the Ottomans to abandon the battle. Others claim that he saved the troops that allowed him to resist the Ottoman onslaught for two more decades naturally that freed up the Ottoman left which pushed forward and attached the Serb center from the flank. The Serbian left slowly retreated under overwhelming enemy pressure and soon their whole army was surrounded. we don’t have all the details but two events happened simultaneously at this point in the battle. First Murad I sent the majority of his troops forward to finish off the enemy leaving himself nearly undefended then a group of Serb Knights used that weakness to break the line of his bodyguards and assassinate the Sultan. Christian sources assert that 11 Knights sacrificed themselves to allow their comrade Milosevic to strike the enemy leader who was killed on the spot. On another side of the battlefield, Lazar died while fighting. Both Lazar and Melo’s are venerated as Saints by the Serbian church. After the death of the prince, the fight was over and turned into a bloodbath. Ultimately, the casualties on both sides were catastrophic but still the Ottoman invasion of Europe continued and many battles were fought.

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