On Čegar hill, only 6 kilometers away from the city of Nis, you can find a monument, to remember a famous, but tragic battle that occurred on site. In fact, that battle is a symbol of the First Serbian Uprising, complete with heroes, betrayals and bloody revenge.
A Shot into the Gunpowder Storage
On May 19, 1809 the battle of Čegar Hill was fought. On one side were Stevan Sindjelić with his 4 000 soldiers against Hursid-pasha with 36 000 soldiers. Nearby were more of the Serbian army, but, to avoid loses, they retreated and left Stevan Sindjelić alone with his band of soldiers against a powerful enemy. Ottomans expected they would reach the trench on the hill very fast, but the battle lasted all day long. It is thought that Sindjelić knew that he could not win the battle without the help of other parts of the Serbian Revolutionary Army, and when he heard about the betrayal, his hopes had collapsed. Others, however, think that ‘betrayal’ is a harsh and unnecessary word here, but what else to call a situation where a part of the army runs from battle, leaving behind their own soldiers and friends. On that day, on the Čegar Hill, the First Serbian Uprising has begun to fail. Everything that the band of soldiers with Karadjordje stood for before and during 1804, had collapsed in only one day. Going back to the battle, Ottomans tried to breach the trench four times, but the brave Serbian soldiers didn’t let that happen. During the fifth attempt, Turkish had breached the trench in one place. With so many casualties on both sides, the battle was getting near the end. Stevan saw what happened and firmly decided not to fall in Turkish hands. He waited for Ottomans soldiers to enter the trench in large numbers and then fired his flintlock pistol into a pile of gunpowder kegs. With that move, the battle had been abruptly finished, but, in the end, the Turkish had their victory. However, it was so bitter, with 15 000 Turkish soldiers having died in battle, against 4 000 Serbian soldiers, that it can hardly be called a victory. Indeed, any other word but ‘massacre’ can hardly be used.
After the battle, the Turks were so mad – because so many their soldiers ended up dead – and, in their anger, they ordered that skulls of Serbian warriors be put in a wall as a warning what will happen if Serbs start to kill Turks again. But the Turks didn’t know that the Serbs will continue to fight again and again for their land. When we speak about the battle today, we cannot understand what Stevan Sindjelić was thinking during the battle and just before he took a shoot at the gunpowder. Maybe he was so angry at the Turks that he wanted to kill as many as he could, no matter for his life and the lives of his soldiers. Popular thought is that he was at the same time scared and brave, and that he knew what the Turks will do to him and his soldiers if they catch them alive. Sindjelić couldn’t allow that to happen, so he was brave enough to kill himself and his soldiers just to avoid being executed by the Turks.
As you can see, this hill has a great importance today, it shows everything about one nation – a nation that always had been divided but brave, and a nation with a dream to live in peace. The Battle of Čegar hill was much more than a battle, that was – and still is – one of the most important moments in Serbian history.