#2. The People of Eger MacGyver Their Way to Victory
In 1552, the Hungarian town of Eger found itself in a tough spot. The Turkish force had been advancing into their 'hood, slowly but surely taking over Hungarian terrain. The fearsome Turkish army had already taken a whole bunch of bigger cities with precisely zero problem, so the vast majority of Eger denizens took their cue and ran like the wind. Soon, the town was down to a skeleton crew of 2,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilians. Before long, a Turkish force that outnumbered the remaining denizens of Eger freaking 6 to 1 started lining up outside the town.
Too many soldiers, not enough restaurants, way too few bathrooms. It was chaos.
A massive force with massive artillery, the invaders were facing just a few cannons and trench guns that passed for Eger's siege defense. The Eger folk had precious few people to man the weapons and were also low on ammunition. The Turks saw all of this and, anticipating an easy victory, started shelling the city.
This did nothing. In fact, despite their laughable arsenal, the ridiculously outnumbered defenders responded with an unfairly well-rounded barrage of cannon fire and random crap raining down the city walls.
Mainly stuff that they'd been planning to dump anyway.
Every soldier and civilian participated in combat, up to and very much including the ladies. When there wasn't enough ammo, they hurled rocks, boiled fat, and even hot soup at the enemy. The cannonballs launched at the city by the Turks were happily plucked out, loaded into the defenders' cannons, and fired back. Hot tar was poured, gunpowder barrels flung at the enemy. All in all, the thing was less of a brutal siege and more of a medieval Home Alone.
At some point, the Turks managed to figure out that there was no point in shooting at the city since they would just throw everything right back at them. Settling for an angry "We'll get you yet!" fist shake, their vast army withdrew, leaving Eger to bask in the glory of sweet, unlikely victory. Then some poor bastard presumably had to clean up all that crap they'd flung at the Turks.
#1. Khan Janibeg and the Corpse Catapult
In 1345, Khan Janibeg, the chief of the Golden Horde of Mongols, was doing what he was best at: conquering his enemies and wreckin' European shit. Janibeg had already raked in impressive swaths of Eastern Europe when he came to the next major city on his "things to seriously mess up" checklist -- the heavily fortified Caffa, a Black Sea port city ruled by Venice. Janibeg laid siege to the city, only to watch everything go to hell almost immediately. Not only did Caffa hold out, but a strange illness soon struck Janibeg's army, gleefully mowing down his men like a wrath from above. Meanwhile, the Caffan defenders were basically left scratching their asses and looking on as the Mongols dropped left and right.
And hoping itchy butts weren't among the mystery disease's early symptoms.
All in all, the situation was looking pretty grim for the Golden Horde. They could not conquer their enemy and were rapidly losing a fight against a goddamn microbe. Janibeg had literally no options left, except for the most insane one: On the off chance that whatever was killing his men was contagious to the other side as well, he started flinging the dead bodies of his men into Caffa with catapults.
This proved to be a fairly good strategy, as the corpses were infected with a little something called the goddamn bubonic plague. After inadvertently inventing biological warfare, Janibeg just waited until there were fewer and fewer projectiles and Monty Pythonesque insults flying out of Caffa. Then, when the people inside were too sick to fight him, he just up and stormed the place with his remaining army.
Walking gingerly to avoid the corpses, stumbling into other corpses. Giggling.
Janibeg might have won the battle, but the real winner in this particular war was the plague itself. When Italian mercenaries fled the city back to their homes, they brought the disease with them, letting the Black Death spread all over Europe and kill off over a third of the continent's population.
Thanks a ton, Janibeg!
Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't busy trying to train cats for nefarious purposes, he can be found on Facebook. Be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.
Related Reading: Speaking of people who won battles through sheer inventiveness, have you heard about Hannibal's snake catapults? Sometimes nature decides the issue: one battle in World War 1 was decided by a horde of angry bees. Finish out your study on military history with these insane underdog stories.