Battle of the Sajo, 27 April 1241 (Hungary)

Catastrophic defeat of the Hungarians by an invading Mongol horde, theoretically commanded by Batu, but in fact led by Subotai. The Hungarians had large numbers of light cavalry, including horse archers, themselves, and were perhaps the best suited of the Christian states to resist the Mongols, but poor tactics on the Hungarian side helped their defeat. King Bela had raised the entire Hungarian levy, and was intending to defend the river Sajo, which had very few crossing points. However, he concentrated his army in a narrow area in front of the only bridge over the river, and was not using his own cavalry to defend the fords over the river. Subotai sent large numbers of his troops upstream to cross the river where it was unguarded, while attacking across the bridge, where the battle developed into a stalemate. The Mongol forces that had crossed the river smashed into the flank of the Hungarian force, and while Bela was attempting to reply to this attack, the attack over the bridge was intensified. The Hungarian army was then handicapped by their own camp, and after some intense fighting scattered. King Bela himself was able to escape, but behind him the Mongol army inflicted a massive defeat on the Hungarian forces, of whom perhaps fifty percent died. After the battle, the Mongols were free to devastate the Hungarian plain. Fortunately for the rest of Europe, news of the death of Oktai Khan reached Batu, and with his army probably weakened by four years of campaigning away from his bases, he withdrew from Poland and Hungary. It is possible that the Mongol hordes would have proved less effective in the heavily fortified areas of Germany and Austria that they would have then had to attack, but the Mongol withdrawal certainly avoided much suffering.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (9 October 2000), Battle of the Sajo, 27 April 1241, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_sajo.html

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