Introduction page Battles and campaigns 1450 to 1697 Army composition
main conflicts 1450-1697 Maps of Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth Army's development 1450-1697

Battles and Campaigns

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Gdansk Rebellion 1576 to 1577





Swedish Polish War 1600 to 1609

Overview of the War

1601 Spring-Summer Campaign

The fundamental factor in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's success during this period was Radziwill maintaining the initiative. Despite weak forces he did not wait with indifference for the relief army, but actively searched for battle with any potential relief forces before they could be properly ready.

Questions have been raised as to whether after Kokenhausen Radziwill should have struck at Gyllenhjelm at Burtneck to destroy the Swedish forces. This would have been imprudent bearing in mind the enemy's numerical superiority and fortified position.

The Swedes did learn as their operations progressed. The Summer operations were directed at their main target Riga rather than being distracted by other targets. They also found the best route, the coastal road. However one must question the timing of the attack on Riga, which would involve a significant siege, at a time when it was known that sizeable Royal forces would soon be approaching.

1605 Campaign and Kircholm

Hussars attack Swedish infantry at KircholmKircholm is not a simple success of masses of hussars like Lubieszow, Kokenhausen or Bialy Kamien. Here is not only a defeat but total destruction of the main enemy forces. Chodkiewicz was aware of the significant tactical superiority of his cavalry and so went further than Radziwill at Kokenhausen. He formed not one but two attack groups with the aim of not just breaking but also surrounding the Swedish centre after the destruction of both enemy wings. He organised one of the groups, his left wing, to be two times stronger than the other wing and only with this wing did he have local numerical superiority. This was a classic example of the economic use of force, even though the enemy had almost three times numerical superiority. This is however a consequence of the formation of not one but two attack groups and, though rather small, the reserve played a critical role.

Kircholm is one of the few examples in modern history up till W.W.II of a victory of the type of Canne, envelopment of the main enemy forces, and exceptional with forces so decisively disadvantaged in numbers.

The Swedish operations at operational level were effective when Lennartsson evaded battle in the open field and the Swedish intentions to utilise marshes, forests or fortifications to their advantage. The new Swedish battle order used at Kircholm embraced correct concepts so as to neutralise the superiority of the Polish-Lithuanian cavalry. However it had not been tested in practice. The use of significant depth and the mixing of cavalry and infantry would be successfully adjusted by Gustav Adolf. The Swedes were correct in their selected area of operations - Riga and the shortest route to her - by sea.

1609 Campaign

karol Chodkiewicz by Leon Kaplinski 1863 - Regional Museum TorunThe 1609 campaign had a transitional Character between the Polish-Lithuanian victories of 1601-05 and the later successes of Gustaf Adolph (1621-1629). Tactically the Poles and Lithuanians were significantly ahead of the Swedes but they could not repeat the destructive success of a Kircholm or Kokenhausen. The Swedes avoided open battle, carefully protecting themselves with defences or natural obstacles. However they also took advantage of surprise attacks, often under cover of darkness. Even where they were caught out, though defeated and disorganised, they managed to avoid total destruction such as that at Kircholm.

But the brilliance of Chodkiewicz still shines through. Operating with small forces in difficult conditions he achieved many successes. Surprising the Swedes with quick forced marches in unexpected directions. Even where he was surprised he was able to improvise and turn defeat into victory.

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